I plink, therfore i am

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The SHERIDAN PRESS
The SHERIDAN PRESS

The logic, as faulty as it may be, goes something like this: Firearms are used to hunt animals; hunters hunt animals; therefore, hunters use firearms only to hunt animals. It’s like that other, old syllogism: God is love; love is blind; Ray Charles was blind; therefore, Ray Charles was god, yeah, yeah, what’d I say.

Hunters do represent a considerable force in this country. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation, hunter numbers across the country, after years of decline, showed a 10 percent increase since the previous survey in 2006, and an even more impressive increase in expenditures by those hunters of 47 percent to $33.7 billion.

In a premier big-game state such as Wyoming, we can see the economic impact hunting has on the state every fall, not just in license and possible guide fees, but in food, lodging, retail sales, and last but not least, taxes, to name a few. And that impact can be expanded nationwide. What is overlooked, though, in that original illogical argument above, is that hunters do not use firearms just to hunt with, but they, and millions of non-hunters besides, also use firearms to shoot at targets.

Earlier this year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, released a report, Target Shooting in America: Millions of Shooters, Billions of Dollars, that looks at the target-shooting community and its effect on the U.S. economy; and the numbers it itemizes are worth noting.

According to the report, the number of recreational shooters, both hunters and non, who go after targets is between 20 and 40 million. The wide range of the estimate, the NSSF explains, is because of different methodologies, age criteria, and the way people define target shooting and themselves as target shooters. What it says, though, is that somewhere between the approximate populations of Florida and California takes part in target shooting.

On the money side, target shooters spend nearly $10 bil- lion every year (that’s less than hunters, but remember, target shooters usually shoot close to home, so spend less on transportation, food, lodging and licenses). In comparison, the amount spent on all spectator sports in this coun- try with over 100 million attendees, is only about twice that, suggesting that target shooters are nothing if not extremely dedicated. In Wyoming, target shooters total 112,000 and spend $55 million on retail purchases annually. They pay an additional $12 million in taxes. If you take that $55 million, and apply the multiplier effect to what it contributes to the state’s economy as a whole, you come up with over $71 million. Nationally, retail sales to target shooters are multi- plied to $23 billion. And in taxes, localities, states, and the federal government receive some $3.5 billion (and keep in mind that an 11-percent excise tax on firearms and ammu- nition purchases, amounting to $3.5 million per day, goes directly to wildlife restoration under the Pittman- Robertson Act, making all those shooters who buy guns and ammo contributors to wildlife, even if they never take any game). It only makes sense for a trade group like the NSSF to hone in on the economics of target shooting. There is more to it than that, though, much more. Some of the other numbers presented in the report indicate that the large majority of the shooting done by riflemen (and women) and handgunners is not benchrest, metallic silhouettes, competitive or training, but good old plinking. As we had to walk before we could run, hunters had to shoot before they could hunt. Many of us can recall the unadulterated joy there was to be had in a 50-round box of Long Rifle cartridges and a bolt-action 22 and nothing more to shoot at than a row of tin cans. For many of us, the memory of the first time we flipped off the safety and squeezed the trigger on a small-caliber rifle, an adult standing close behind us, or maybe even helping us to sup- port the rifle, is as indelible as the first deer or antelope or greenhead we ever took. The pleasing weight of the experience can be judged by the way we keep returning to it throughout our lives. Among the other statistics in the NSSF report is the number of days we spend in target shooting.

In Wyoming, target shooters total 112,000 and spend $55 million on retail purchases annually. They pay an additional $12 million in taxes. If you take that $55 million, and apply the multiplier effect to what it contributes to the state’s economy as a whole, you come up with over $71 million. Nationally, retail sales to target shooters are multi- plied to $23 billion. And in taxes, localities, states, and the federal government receive some $3.5 billion (and keep in mind that an 11-percent excise tax on firearms and ammunition purchases, amounting to $3.5 million per day, goes directly to wildlife restoration under the Pittman- Robertson Act, making all those shooters who buy guns and ammo contributors to wildlife, even if they never take any game).

It only makes sense for a trade group like the NSSF to hone in on the economics of target shooting. There is more to it than that, though, much more. Some of the other numbers presented in the report indicate that the large majority of the shooting done by riflemen (and women) and handgunners is not benchrest, metallic silhouettes, competitive or training, but good old plinking.

As we had to walk before we could run, hunters had to shoot before they could hunt. Many of us can recall the unadulterated joy there was to be had in a 50-round box of Long Rifle cartridges and a bolt-action 22 and nothing more to shoot at than a row of tin cans. For many of us, the memory of the first time we flipped off the safety and squeezed the trigger on a small-caliber rifle, an adult standing close behind us, or maybe even helping us to support the rifle, is as indelible as the first deer or antelope or greenhead we ever took.

The pleasing weight of the experience can be judged by the way we keep returning to it throughout our lives. Among the other statistics in the NSSF report is the number of days we spend in target shooting. In Wyoming the total is over 1.16 million, an average of 10 days per year. This is actually rather low compared to the national average of 22 days per shooter, and the high of 38 days for shooters just across the stateline in Nebraska. This may, though, have more to do with the abundance of hunting opportunities we enjoy here, rather than a lack of passion for punching neat holes in stuff.

Plinking, sighting in, long-range shooting, skeet, whatever strikes our fancy are not only significant contributors to the economy, or even valuable practice for hunting. For any number of perfectly inconsequential, probably frivolous reasons, we happily shoot because we can. Even at cans.

TOM MCINTYRE is a contributing editor to Sports Afield and Field & Stream magazine
PAGE B8
THE SHERIDAN PRESS – OUTDOORS
www.thesheridanpress.com

THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2014

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