The balkanization of the shooting community

There are give or take 80 to 100 million gun owners in the United States. That’s a pretty big number when you actually sit down and think about it. Now, let’s look at the top end of the shooting sports: there are 20,000+ IDPA members, and 18,000 or so USPSA members in the United States. If you assume a 5% crossover membership between the two sports, that gives us ballpark 36,000 members of the action shooting sports. I’ll spot 3 Gun Nation another 5k, and the Single Action Shooting Society will round us out to 100,000 total. That means that going with the low-end estimate of gun ownership, there are 79,900,000 gun owners who aren’t members of one of the “action” shooting sports.

idpa logo 2

That 100k number doesn’t take into account the number of people who aren’t members of any of the action shooting sports but are, for lack of a better term, tactical athletes – the people who attend tactical training classes and run around in plate carriers etc with carbines, despite the fact that their day job is an accountant. I’d imagine that the number of people in that group is probably 50-75% the side of IDPA’s membership. So that leaves us with several big buckets of gun owners:

  • People who own guns primarily for personal protection
  • People who own guns primarily for collecting
  • People who own guns primarily for hunting
  • People who own guns primarily for recreational shooting/non-action sport shooting

Obviously, you’re going to have loads of crossover between those groups. As an example: someone owns a Ruger Red Label 12 gauge for upland birds, but also uses the same gun to bust a round of trap for funzies. Or someone who collects S&W registered magnums, but also carries for personal protection.

The great thing about the internet is that it’s allowed shooters to find other like minded shooters. USPSA shooters can associate primarily with other people who shoot USPSA primarily, shotgun shooters can talk about whoa skeet skeet, and weirdos who like revolvers can talk about how the Model T was the best car ever. The downside of all of this is that it becomes easy to create tiny echo chambers where all you talk about the things that interest you, so when you’re confronted with someone’s interest that’s outside your scope of interest it’s a lot easier to dismiss it as “unserious.”

Another negative side effect is shouting down criticism with the phrase “stay in your lane.” This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves, because it’s most frequently used a tool to silence dissent because the dissenting party isn’t a GM/Former Operator/Pirate Ninja King.

How do we fight it? Get involved in more than just one thing. I’m not saying give up your primary shooting pursuit, but try something else. This year I went pheasant hunting for the first time, and I loved it. I’ll go again next year, and continue to hunt now because it’s a fun and engaging pursuit. Will I give up IDPA and focus on becoming The Pheasant Nightmare? Probably not, but it’s good for me to have shooting interests outside a narrow scope.

Keep an open mind, and keep shooting. It doesn’t matter to me if someone is a hunter, AR15 fanboy, competition shooter, so long as they support the 2nd Amendment and the continued to right to keep and bear arms. We all win if that’s the case.


  1. I have to agree on the ‘stay in your lane’ approach. Shooting bullseye (where my local club follows the structure of a competition fairly closely), I heard them talking disparagingly about another nearby club they had visited, only to find that they didn’t really bother with using a timer or anything, and just spent the night occasionally shooting at some bullseye standard targets.

    I pointed out that we really shouldn’t be bitching about a bunch of gun owners who get together and safely have fun shooting, even if it’s different than how we do it, but they seemed to remain unconvinced.

  2. To me, one recruiting barrier is cost. It is bleeping expensive to do any shooting sports these days including black powder, smokeless powder and archery. Add action sports and bowhunting together, holy moly!

  3. This post is rich coming from you Caleb.
    You actively seek out and disparage those who are fellow gunowners and 2nd amendment supporters because they don’t share your ideas, and then on the site delete their posts and kill conversation.

  4. dustyvarmint nailed it. Those 100,000 are the ones that can afford that much shooting, the rest of us, not so much, either financially or time-wise.

  5. I agree, the flaps to the tents must be opened.

    I’m often able to make it to my small club mid week, mid day – It’s always fun to give a senior citizen the opportunity to put down his Ruger No 1A 45-70 and squeeze off a few rounds out of my AR. None have ever me turned down, and at least one gent went out and bought his own. 😀 If we want support, we have to share the fun.

    1. JimS,

      “It’s always fun to give a senior citizen the opportunity to ….squeeze off a few rounds out of my AR”. What a condenscending remark. Many of us “seniors” were humping what you only know as an AR, M16s, in the boonies of Vietnam, the snows of the Fulda Gap and the sands of Iraq before you were born.

      Your remark is insulting and disrespecful to those of us who did what you did not. “….give a senior citizen….”. Perhaps you should “give” some respect.

      1. Lighten up Francis!
        My dad is 60 years old this year, he voluntarily enlisted. Despite a war being on, he never deployed. And he fired an M-16 once. He was quite excited to go out and shoot my AR.
        A member of my family was a BAR gunner in Korea. He was very happy to shoot the AR.
        I’m sure some Vietnam and newer vets are happy to say hello to an old friend that served them well in darker times too.
        Besides, I always consider it a treat when a shooter of any age gives me the opportunity to shoot their gun.
        Everybody has the right to not be offended. Try exercising it.

        1. “Voluntarily enlisted”….that’s an oxymoron for you.

          Seems to me I was addressing a remark made by someone else. Perhaps you should mind your own business. “Try exercising it”. Since it is Christmas Eve I won’t tell you to take your smart ass remark and shove it.

          1. Actually Dan, “voluntarily enlisted” is correct. If he’d said “voluntarily drafted” that would have been an oxymoron.

          2. Dan, I meant voluntarily enlisted. I know what it looks like. I did it myself nearly two decades ago. I’m proud of my service, but I know that many others have done much more than was required of me.
            I have spent the better part of the last seven years as a civilian in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting those men and women doing hard things in rough places. I do not take their hard work and sacrifice for granted, I apologize if my wording made it seem like I do.
            I hope you have a very merry Christmas. I spent mine in Kabul with the men and women we both very much admire.

  6. no matter what sport you follow or your income we will all discover that we bleed the same color when trod under the boot of the tyrant

  7. I don’t see the balkanization as a bad thing, we all seek the things that interest us. I love gun rights, gun politics, the Second Amendment and my two guns. Others are more interested in gunsmithing, tactical rifles, blackpowder weapons, pistols, revolvers, etc. That’s why we have different blogs, different gun ranges, it’s illogical that we should all go to the same place. Even the NRA has three different magazines (I get America’s First Freedom) because the membership has different interests. Unity is a myth, as a fan of Ayn Rand I glorify self-interest and trade value for value. Joining the NRA is not a sacrifice or a duty but a way to protect my self-interest. I love guns, the NRA (and GOA) protects them. Thus a mutually beneficial relationship is created. Blogging is the same, visitors come when they like the content of your blog, nobody’s being generous or sacrificing anything. With that said, I try to avoid arguments with my fellow 2nd Amendment supporters, our enemies are Bloomberg, MAIG, MDA, and the Brady bunch. I rather fight with them than with y’all.

  8. I am starting a trip into the shotgun sports from my USPSA world. So far it is very different.

  9. I have to agree somewhat with David. It would be giving you a pass to say you haven’t made disparaging remarks about “tacticool” Tims and Tinas and a host of other petty in-group (i.e., “cool” group) rants that have nothing to do with being right or wrong about “stuff“ but a personal critique of what is acceptably trendy or not. Even so, why disparage at all? Simply make your best cogent, intelligent argument and leave the social bitch-slapping to the sophomores. With that having been said, your post, if sincere, would indicate that you are growing (maturing) as a shooter, gun owner and writer. That’s encouraging.

  10. The fact is that defenders of the 2nd amendment come from all these shooting groups that Caleb points out, and that is all that matters. What bothers me most is how many gun owners I meet who have all the latest and greatest tacticool toys, yet don’t belong to the NRA or any other political group. That makes me angry. I have met many who will spend several thousand on a carbine and optic, but won’t spend 25$ a year to defend their right to own it. Those are the people in the shooting community that I have a problem with.

    1. That’s a great point, Salvatore, I give my NRA $35 a year plus several contributions of $5 or more when they write me. I don’t always contribute, but I try to because they’re defending my rights. These gun owners need to know the NRA is a great organization, the magazine alone, America’s First Freedom, is worth the price of the memberships. My favorite section is ‘The Armed Citizen’ of course.

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