Yes, you read that headline correctly, it says “Rob Leatham wins USPSA Revolver Nationals.” You’re probably wondering “wow, how did he do it? I bet the showdown between TGO and Jerry was amazing!”
You’d be wrong. Jerry Miculek, the greatest revolver shooter in the history of ever, didn’t shoot the USPSA Revolver Nationals. He shot a 3-Gun Nation Pro Series match instead. Roll that one around in your head for a minute, because it actually has pretty significant implications. The greatest revolver shooter in the world didn’t really feel like defending his USPSA title, so he shot a 3-Gun match. That he didn’t win. But he probably did better at the prize table for his 3-Gun finish than he would have winning Revolver Nationals.
We’ve been saying for a while that 3-Gun is the ascendant sport when it comes to “high-profile” shooting sports. IDPA has become the dominant handgun sport, with larger membership and more media coverage; Bianchi Cup is clearly the most prestigious sport with its huge prize tables and proper drama; meanwhile USPSA can’t even attract the king of revolvers to their own revolver championship? Additionally, the Steel Challenge reboot is 2.5 months away, and rumor has it that there are less than 30 entrants so far. 30 entrants…for what used to be one of the crown jewels of the shooting sports.
So what’s going on with USPSA? I’m asking because I deeply love the shooting sports – I want to see all the handgun sports succeed. It’s not a zero-sum game, where a successful IDPA takes shooters away from USPSA; there are plenty of shooters to go around and plenty of people with different sporting interests. But it seems like more and more, the shooters who want to really “race” their guns are turning to 3-Gun for their action fix. It makes me worry, because I personally don’t want to live in a world where USPSA isn’t around; we need the sport, because we need a handgun only sport to provide options for people who don’t want to shoot IDPA. NRA AP doesn’t have the club level presence or the fun factor to replace USPSA.
Maybe I’m just overthinking it and USPSA will be fine. But it’s not hard to look at the trajectory of the shooting sports five or six years down the road, and see USPSA relegated to the 2nd tier of shooting sports. I don’t mean this as a knock to ICORE, but USPSA could end up there – an organization with one big match a year, and a few regional matches, but not something at the top of people’s minds when they think “shooting sports.”
I categorically do not want that to happen. Like I said when discussing how USPSA has mistreated Steel Challenge, I don’t want any of the shooting sports to go away. I don’t want to see them poorly administered, either. I want us, all of shooters to have a thriving, vibrant shooting culture where we’re spoiled for choices on what matches we want to shoot. I worry that if things don’t change with USPSA, if they don’t do something to step their marketing game up, we could lose one of those choices. That would be a loss for all of us, regardless of whether or not you shoot USPSA.
To draw a final comparison, I remember a time when IDPA was struggling. Then they made the decision to go hard in the paint and market directly towards newer shooters and CCW holders, in an aggressive way they’d not done before. Suddenly their facebook page bloomed, they had major (firearms) media covering their national level events, and recruiting expanded. They made a conscious marketing choice about the shooters they wanted to pursue, and went after them with a vengeance. I worry that USPSA doesn’t know what kind of shooters it wants to pursue, and has no real effective marketing plan to pursue them.
Maybe I’m just talking crazy, and everything is going to be fine with USPSA. I can honestly say I’ve never hoped to be wrong more than I do when I write this.