Not Doing As They Say

The DuPont corporation has conducted numerous studies of consumer buying habits over the decades. Typically, this type of research aims at tracking products purchased and attempts to correlate that to advertising and marketing efforts, in-store signage and layout, customer demographics and a host of other factors. The idea was to help retailers make better decisions on how to better address customer needs and ultimately move more product.

In one particularly interesting study DuPont employees, dressed in a distinctive but non-descript clothing and armed with a clipboard, were placed out front of a variety of retail and grocery stores and approached customers with a quick survey as they entered the store. Receptive consumers were asked a brief series of questions about their favorite brands and the sorts of goods they came to the store to purchase that day. Unbeknownst to these survey respondents, the DuPont crew marked each survey with the consumer’s description. Once these folks completed their shopping and exited the store a different survey was attempted to ascertain what the consumer actually bought.

In all, statistically-valid sample data from 5,000 people was collected and it found that seven times out of ten consumers will answer a survey with statements and claims different from what they actually do! No, this does not mean that random people deliberately lie or are trying to be deceptive seventy percent of the time. Sometimes it means that an otherwise polite and honest respondent, busy and harried with other life issues, flippantly answers questions in quick attempt to help the person conducting the survey. Other times the survey reveals what the respondent believes is the right answer or correct response, even though it might not actually represent his/her true habits. In other words, the respondent is answering with what he feels he should be doing as opposed to what he really does.

While volunteering as a hunter education instructor in Wisconsin, I read a National Shooting Sports Foundation-generated survey claiming that nearly three out of four hunters engaged in target shooting between hunting seasons. With over 700,000 licensed deer hunters alone, this indicated some half million folks attending shoots at least once every year. During this same period I was on the Wisconsin Rifle and Pistol Association board as the director of field marksmanship events. Despite forming as a state-level branch of the National Rifle Association, WRPA embraced all forms of target shooting, including those not recognized by the NRA. Yet, membership hovered around 3,500 total and not all of them attended shoots. Meetings primarily revolved around boosting participation. In fact, “Field Marksmanship Director” was a position invented by the WRPA for me because I was running HunterShooter events and they hoped I would attract more hunters. I did, to a small degree, but we were about 495,000 people short of that NSSF survey and still have no idea where or what those folks did to constitute “target shooting.”

I will present survey data as collected by organizations such as NSSF and NRA here on occasion. As an indicator of political mood or an overall general public feeling, such surveys can be useful. However, if the goal is to track something more tangible, such as actual participation, then surveys like this are likely useless unless the results can be backed with the means to measure real participation as opposed to respondent claims.

Read more in our July 2011 issue. Back issues are available.

Don’t miss a single issue. Subscribe today!


  1. I have noticed in the last few years a change in the word definition in many so-called in-the-know people. When I say I went ” target shooting” it doesn’t mean the same thing it did 40 years ago. Today I must say “I went informal plinking”. So because of some strange method of change in the words. Most of us do not go to an organized “target shooting” event. We just go shooting and use targets.

    I’m not sure when the word change happened. I must have been out target shooting or splitting wood or took a nap.

    So if you know people who do surveys please let them know that most of us out here have not made the jump to “their ” new definition of “target shooting”. I think it would help them in the survey business.

  2. >> When I say I went “target shooting” it doesn’t mean the same thing it did 40 years ago. Today I must say “I went informal plinking”.

    There has been no change to the meaning, just that you don’t appreciate the differences or the variety of organized marksmanship events available. Gun owners are increasingly failing to understand the full gamut that “target shooting” entails having done nothing more than random, unorganized plinking. It would be like a basketball owner that shoots hoops in the driveway or plays the occasional game of “Horse” not realizing NCAA College Basketball and the National Basketball Association exists.

    I have no aversion to plinking and occasionally indulge myself, but there is a HUGE world of organized shooting that is largely ignored by most gun owners. If pro-gun people don’t care, why should we be surprised if the general public doesn’t either?

    This was addressed further here:

    I have a copy of American Rifleman from 1961, more than 40 years ago. In it, the NRA presents the 1960 annual report, with a breakdown of Classification numbers by rank (Marksman through High Master) and discipline (High Power, Bullseye and Smallbore, the only three recognized at that time.)

    Back then, 1/3 of the NRA membership held a current Classification in at least one recognized discipline. Today, despite having more options, less than two percent does. The only thing worse than this step back in participation is the lack of concern and effort to address the problem.

    Organizations like the NBA made their mark by hosting and promoting organized activity, not with occasional, random, informal games of “Horse.” Marksmanship is no different. Go plinking as you like. However, if you can’t find a reason to be more interested in marksmanship than that, don’t blame the media for sharing your lack of interest.

Leave a Reply to Target Shooting « Firearm User Network Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s