We are slipping into the heart of summer. Shooting leagues, competitions and just good old practice is abounding everywhere. If you haven’t joined in the fun it is time to do so. Find a range or a good place to shoot and go for it.
I know you have been told the shooting sports are not as popular as it used to be, but evidence shows that just isn’t so. Fifty years ago, there was only the National Matches which covered Conventional (Bullseye) Pistol, Smallbore rifle and High Power rifle; the Grand American which covered trap shooting and the National Skeet Championships; and the National Black Powder Championships. Then, in the late sixties and seventies, a couple of shooting pioneers, Jeff Cooper and John Chapman, began “practical” pistol shooting. The Bianchi Cup came along, as well as the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), which included rifles and shotguns. These are still evolving into all kinds of shooting sports and championships. I tried counting them all, but gave up. Every time I thought I had them all, another one popped up. Let’s just say there are dozens and dozens of them, all filling a niche of some kind. More importantly, for every person who goes to a national championship of some kind, there are hundreds or thousands of shooters that do not go, and are perfectly happy staying home and shooting locally.
One exceptional development in the shooting world is the amount of training available today. When I started shooting there were no schools that I knew of. It was usually one-on-one training from a friend or relative. Some knew what they were talking about, but many didn’t. I was lucky that both my mother and father were excellent shots. My dad won several rifle competitions prior to WWII, but despite being partially blinded in the war, he was able to teach me. When I went to college, Illinois State University (ISU) had a rifle club with a good coach, Ross Mench, whom I will never forget. The first shooting school I went to was the Small Arms School at Camp Perry, Ohio. I knew of no others. I’m sure there were others but they were inaccessible to me. I eventually shot well enough to make it to the Olympic Center in Colorado Springs, which was great training for precision shooting. Still, there wasn’t much for the self-defense shooter.
Jeff Cooper started Gunsite and John Chapmen started the Chapman Academy; that was the beginning of the successful practical shooting schools. From these came the next great generation of instructors; Massad Ayoob, John Farnham, Rob Pincus and several others. Now we have great schools like Front Sight, Smith and Wesson Academy, Firearms Academy of Seattle, Sig Sauer Academy, Tactical Defense Institute, South Florida Shooting School and many more. Now we have local ranges that teach all kinds of classes, many of which are very high quality. No longer does the American shooter have to fly or drive hundreds or thousands of miles to get good training. I just wish more people would take more training, and that they would understand the importance of maintaining their skills.
The other phenomenon in the shooting world is the number of women involved in shooting. While their primary interest is self-defense, they now make up 20 percent of the new gun owners. I used to teach a women’s class every month; no men, other than a few hand-picked instructors. Most of these women were new shooters who had never before fired a gun. Now I only have time for a couple of classes a year.
We have come a long way in the shooting world. We are making progress, but we have to keep at it. I remember what humble beginnings we started with. We would not have what we have today if not for the stalwart groups of instructors and range operators who kept fighting to improve the shooting world.
Thanks for being a member.