For almost as long as people have been shooting, there has been a desire for opportunities to showcase individual talents and to engage in competitive events. From archers in ancient civilizations to the earliest matchlock and flintlock shooting competitions in Europe and early America, expert marksmanship has been a much-lauded skill over time. Initially, public contests of shooting accuracy were often associated with festivals or celebrations, but the required skills were also born out of the necessity for defense and hunting. Being a lousy shot wasn’t going to help you keep your family (or village) safe or put food on the table. Competition was an effective way to sharpen your skills.
As firearm technology advanced throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries (including barrel design and the development of percussion caps), the scope and sophistication of shooting sports evolved into an international phenomenon. Public competitions were commonplace, but it was at the turn-of-the century that things really began to take off. Shooting events were featured prominently at the first modern Olympic games in 1896 and the organization of the sport became much more structured with the development of various national and international governing bodies. The NRA has been involved in promoting sport shooting since this time and in 1907, the International Shooting Union organized an event that included eight nations. Might not sound like much now, but in those days this would have been huge.
Sport Shooting Today
Sport shooting is massively popular as both a recreational and competitive activity, with over 30 million active participants in the US alone. From weekend warriors at the range to skilled elite shooters, the level of interest and new participants (especially amongst youth) just keeps growing. The NRA continues as a major player and resource for the development of sport shooting, in addition to organizations like 4H and a myriad of local, national and international groups and clubs that promote the sport generally and with discipline-specific focus. To put it in perspective, there are around 100 countries that compete in shooting events at the Olympic games. To say that it has global reach would be an understatement.
Variety Is The Key
A big part of the appeal of sport shooting is the wide array of options available. From trap and skeet to pistol and rifle (including air formats) at various distances, multi-gun, multi-position, defensive pistol and cowboy categories, there really is something for everyone. There are individual, team and para events aimed at youth, male, female and opportunities through high schools, clubs and colleges. Sport shooting is also a great family activity and is where a lot of competitors get their start. Plinking with tin cans on your own property can lead to focused (and fun) range practice and could be the beginning of something big.
Contributing To ‘Gun Culture’?
So could an argument be made that sport shooting will contribute to an unhealthy obsession with firearms, corrupt our youth and lead to some sort of increase in wayward or criminal behavior?
In a word, no.
It would have quite the opposite effect actually. Introducing youth to firearms early on, especially in an environment like sport shooting or hunting, teaches a healthy respect for guns and how to stay safe. It takes the mystery out of ownership, handling and shooting, and can clearly demonstrate that guns are not necessarily meant to be feared. Additionally, as sporting competition, shooting has a long history of practical application (the old days) and continues to evolve as a highly skilled, and well-accepted, global activity. It would be easy to get caught-up in the ongoing negativity that the concept of ‘guns’ might project, but it really doesn’t apply here at all.
There are a number of tangible benefits that sport shooting provides, for both recreational and competitive participants.
- Shooting accurately requires composure, skill, self-control and the ability to perform under pressure. All good attributes to possess.
- As mentioned, shooting is an ideal family activity no matter the age, gender or physical ability. Unlike other sports, you can practice and participate together for a lifetime.
- Again (and this is an important one), teaching firearm awareness and handling to youth helps to promote safety overall and an appreciation for what guns are meant to be used for
- Shooting teaches problem-solving skills, instills confidence and can help participants navigate pathways to success through self-discipline and consistency
- Although primarily an individual sport, there are team events and opportunities to work with coaches, peers and others in a social, constructive environment
- If taken seriously and with some dedication, shooting can lead to youth development and scholarship opportunities for further advancement
All of this is nothing new – but more of open letter to how sport shooting, with its history, global acceptance and continued growth, is a real corner stone for something that we all enjoy and work to support.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.