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?


  1. Mostly it's just a question of getting the word out. Organized shooting sports needs more publicity.
    This can be word-of-mouth, a competition notice stuck to the bulletin board at your local Sportsman Warehouse store, a simple tri-fold brochure to hand out to shooters at the nearby public range, a call to the local newspaper to get coverage of an upcoming competition -- yeah, I know, but it *might* get covered by *some* newspapers -- and so forth.
    Talk it up.
    Drop a comment to acquaintances that "I'm excited about a big shooting competition I'll be shooting in next week."
    Ask a friend, "Hey, I'm going to the range next Tuesday evening. Would you like to give it a try?"
    Don't be shy!

  2. All very true!

    >> yeah, I know, but it *might* get covered by *some* newspaper

    You'd be surprised how often this works. Most people in the press are NOT anti-gun. The real reason more stories don't make the news is because few press releases for organized events are ever written and submitted.

    Your suggestions are all good. The problem is why aren't groups like the NRA helping more?

    Let's look at a registered NRA club hosting 12 sanctioned NRA events a year. We'll assume they average 15 participants per match.

    The club spends $30 per year to stay registered, each member spends $35 a year on membership and is charged $4.25 to $6 per sanctioned event.

    The club would have sent over $795.00 in fees to the NRA for the events and the members sent an additional $525 in membership fees. That's $1320.00 dollars per year for one small, but well run, shooting club hosting one type of NRA event. If the club hosts other NRA events, or events from other organizations, they generate even more fees.

    What are these fees used for? If the individual club wants publicity or administrative help or a web site or any other support they have to spend their own time and money to get it. The national "host" organizations are doing little to nothing for them.