Dec 14, 2010

Organized Shooting in the United States

Competitive shooting events should be more popular in the US, but they are not. As a percentage of the vast number of gun owners and NRA members here in the States, organized shooting has little support. Here are the numbers.

Looking at the National Rifle Association Competition Division’s own numbers, less than three percent of the NRA membership has been classified in any NRA sanctioned discipline. Note you get a Marksman card simply by showing up and safely participating, regardless of final score!

The NRA’s American Hunter magazine boasts a readership of one million yet Sporting Rifle, an event designed for hunters, has roughly 2,000 classified shooters. That’s 0.2%, or only one in 500. I have not yet met a hunter subscribing to that magazine that has even heard of, much less participated in, Sporting Rifle. Even among serious High Power competition shooters the event is little known.

I have a copy of American Rifleman from June 1961. Starting on page 23 of that issue is a detailed report of Operations in 1960. With a membership of 418,000 total, the NRA in 1960 boasted 120,367 classified competitors and the Marksmanship Qualification Program had 374,112 participants. That is, roughly 29% of the membership was classified in formal competition and 90% participated in the MQP. Page 49 of that same issue details a drive for 500,000 members by using the Marksmanship Qualification Program and a push to get every NRA member involved.

Today, with a 4,300,000 members, a ten fold increase, less than 100,000 members are classified shooters (less than 3%) and the Marksmanship Qualification Program isn’t even tracked despite advances in information processing and computers.

Can’t blame this on the anti-gun media because this is the percentage of card carrying NRA members not participating and the failure to promote to them. This is a HUGE drop off in participation and a rather poor state of affairs for a growing pro-gun organization with more than a $100 million per year operating budget, not counting Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s million dollar annual salary. They should be capable of doing better than this, yet the NRA’s own published numbers show a large decline.

I’ve competed in AFSAM (an international NATO military shooting competition), Camp Perry, USPSA Nationals, IPSA Nationals, Single Stack Nationals, All Army and countless local events. Ask serious competition shooters about their opinion on this and you’ll find many of them echoing what I’ve written here.

This isn’t intended as a slam against the NRA. I’ve been a Life member most of my life. They have many great programs. I’m simply pointing out that there is much room of improvement and that not all our problems come from the anti-gunners.

I’m sure I’ll be lambasted for failing to toe the party line on this issue when I’m supposed to tilt the windmills but I am merely reporting the NRA’s own numbers to you. Considering how poorly gun owners receive organized shooting, perhaps part of our “anti-gun media” problem is our failure to keep people informed. We can improve a number of things for gun owners internally! Why aren’t more gun owners attending these events and how do we motivate them to do so?

Dec 1, 2010

How to Earn a Slot on a Shooting Team

“I am interested in competitive shooting. How can I get information on matches?”

When first learning about military-sponsored shooting teams many troops naturally ask how they can get a slot.

Step One: Go shoot!

Your first step in earning a slot on a shooting team is to start in competitive shooting. The best way to start in competitive shooting is to go find events, be it military or civilian, on your own and attending. Consider a player vying for a position on a team in the NFL. If he doesn’t already have years of solid background with high school and college teams, forget it! A couch potato who was never played a game is not going to be offered a tryout. Why bother?

Yet, you’d be amazed how many troops with zero competition shooting experience complain that they can’t get started because no team will give them equipment or fund their travel to a match. For every 100+ troops with no previous competition experience maybe one of them is worth a look. Even if/when you earn a slot you’ll still have to shoot and train on your own so already having places and venues to do so will help long term as well.

Find out what ranges are in your area and look into attending organized civilian events. is a great resource. Nearly every team shooter has a civilian shooting background and the best way to get started is to simply jump in. If you approach a team having already participated in matches and earning higher level classifications on your own any coach will want you to try out.

For military sponsored events, find a National Guard sponsored event in your state. Even if you’re not the Guard, you can shoot the EIC events. The Arkansas Guard, at Camp Robinson, is the national headquarters for this.

All Army is hosted by the Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning every year in the spring and is open to all Active, Reserve and Guard Army personnel. Even if you’re not on a team you can register in advance on your own and be able to borrow guns and get a free place to stay on post. The event is HIGHLY recommended!

Step Two: Train your Discipline

The USAR shooting team focuses on three disciplines. Two of them, Service Rifle and Service Pistol, are shot as civilian competitions recognized by the NRA and CMP. Shooting Sports USA lists events and is a free, on-line magazine.

The third discipline, Combat, is a NATO event that doesn’t have a civilian equivalent, however practical competition such as Action Pistol, IDPA and USPSA Multigun is close. This is also the style event you’ll find at National Guard hosted events.

The bottom line is, if you want to be on a military sponsored shooting team you need to be a competition shooter. You become a competition shooter by being a competition shooter. Shoot events on your own, attend All Army and you’ll earn a slot.