August 7th, 2007

Editorial: Let's Learn Something from the Shotgunners

Is it time for the precision shooting community to “raise its sights” and explore ways to attract more shooters and increase major manufacturer and sponsor involvement? Does it make sense to look at ways our sport can be more “media-friendly” and attract big corporate sponsors the way golf and tennis does?

Right now we have three different 1000-yard Benchrest organizations, operating under three different sets of rules. A recent 1000-yard “National Championship” attracted less than 80 shooters, with almost no media coverage, and the prizes totaled less than $8,000 in collective value.

Consider what’s happening in the shotgun world by contrast. This month, From August 6-18, the 108th Grand American World Trapshooting Championships will be held at the new Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois. This year’s “Grand” will consist of 26 events spanning over 12 days. New events that have been added to this year’s Grand American include the Budweiser Handicap, and the Federal Premium shoot-out. In addition, all events from previous years will return. Collectively there will be over $1,000,000 in event monies/trophies and $100,000 in promotional give-aways.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if rifle shooting managed to attract that kind of prize money, and major participation by Fortune 500 companies? Should there be a “Grand American” for rifle shooters? Something that, unlike Camp Perry, could include Benchrest shooting, 3-Gun, Varmint comps, and maybe a combination of position and bench shooting with a true “factory class”?

There are MORE rifle shooters in America than there are trap and skeet shooters. Way more. So why can the Grand American Shotgun event attract seven-figure sponsorship and prime-time television coverage, while most major rifle events generate no such interest. Likewise, we should ask ourselves why is Cowboy Action Shooting growing so rapidly (77,000 registered members of SASS and counting), while participation levels in some of our precision shooting disciplines are declining?

Is there a way we could create a “Super Championship” where top shooters of various disciplines could compete in the same venue? Would it draw media attention to have Tony Boyer, David Tubb, and the 600-yard and 1000-yard Shooters of the Year all in the same place? Perhaps shooting the same type of rifle marketed by a major manufacturer such as Remington, Beretta (SAKO), or Springfield Arms?

Please understand, I am NOT advocating that existing disciplines be erased. However, when you look at what the shotgun world has accomplished, there are lessons to be learned. Trap and Skeet shooting is widely perceived as a high-prestige pastime–a sport associated with successful (read wealthy) men and women who have leadership roles in our society. I think the precision rifle sports could benefit by cultivating the same kind of perception for our activities.

This is important because rifle shooters currently face some very real challenges. Every year politicians pass more restrictive regulations, and more of our rifle ranges are closed. We can start to reverse these trends if we do a better, more creative job in promoting our sports and making rifle shooting more interesting and palatable for the average citizen as well as corporate marketers.

People may say “Who cares what the shotgunners do? We don’t need the likes of Budweiser and GMC at our matches, and the Kelbly Firearms Industry SuperShoot and Camp Perry National Championships are plenty big already.” I understand that sentiment, but I still think it makes sense to study the shotgun sports (and the golf industry). The shotgunners have been very, very successful in cultivating the right image for their sport, an image that attracts new shooters, placates politicians, and makes the big corporate sponsors want to affiliate their companies with trap-shooting.

We could learn some important lessons from that. We need to look at the big picture, explore ways to exhance the general appeal of competitive rifle shooting, and bring the various disciplines together.

Similar Posts: