Fish and Wildlife Economics and Statistics

New Report: Fostering Growth and Reducing Drop Out Rates in the Shooting Sports

Path to Participation report coverAs is normal, people frequently take on new recreational activities while dropping others. Recognizing the business and conservation benefits from recreational shooting sports and their excise taxes, the concern is that current customers might drop shooting sports completely in favor of other outdoor activities. In a joint effort with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and numerous industry and NGO partners, Southwick Associates examined current shooting sports participants’ interests in other types of recreational shooting activities and how to best help them try these new forms of hunting and shooting activities.

Results show that the industry has significant opportunities to grow, but target shooters and hunters are looking for encouragement and support. Through an online survey, active hunters and shooters (those who have participated in the past three years) expressed their interest in twenty different types of hunting and shooting activities and types of firearms, including crossbows and muzzleloaders. Reasons why they haven’t tried activities of interest varies by activity, but they agree that greater support from friends and promotional programs and initiatives would be beneficial.

For example, one of the activities that garnered the most interest is target shooting with a modern sporting rifle (MSR). In fact, there are a significant number of them who want to either return to the sport or want to try it for the first time. However, access is a big problem for active target shooters and hunters. Finding a local range that offers MSR rentals and the shooting activities they are interested in has prevented them from trying the sport. Among those that want to try an MSR for the first time, less than one-fourth of respondents indicated not having enough time, expense or not knowing how to get started as reasons why they had not tried it. For those who wanted to return to the sport, not having enough time and not knowing how to get started was more of an issue.

How can the broader recreational and conservation community help? Efforts centered around convenient and safe places to shoot that offer fun, unique experiences will help inspire target shooters and hunters to try an MSR. R3 efforts can be developed or enhanced around the following:

•Easy Access: Promote mobile apps and online tools to help them find local shooting ranges, make reservations, rent equipment, etc. In addition, create beginner apps or voice-activated assistants, like Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa that answer questions, such as where to rent equipment, how to properly and safely use a firearm, plus advanced level apps to help perfect their skills. Promote these online tools through social media and popular websites.

•Be Simplistic / Convenient: Promote how it can fit in their busy schedules, such as “way to spend time with friends,” and position it as very easy to try.

•Social Encouragement: Hunting and shooting are social activities. Very few will participate if they do not see their friends or others like them participating. Leverage non-professionals’ hunting and shooting videos, photos and stories through social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube), blogs, magazines and share through television programs. Encourage friends to connect at the field or at the range.

•Promote “First Touch” Experiences – Collaborate with cross-industry retailers, organizations and manufacturers to create events or experiences that current customers will want to make time for.

Click here to access the free report.