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.
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.