Modern Sporting Rifle Owners Are Most Active Shooters

by John M. Buol Jr.

Or, so says a NSSF/Responsive Management Survey, the first comprehensive survey to look at ownership and use of modern sporting rifles. This study about MSRs, typified by AR-15 platform rifles, reveals that 8.9 million Americans went target shooting with MSRs last year and that participants using this type of rifle were the most active among all types of sport shooters.

The statistics related to modern sporting rifles were part of a wide-ranging survey that revealed a new high-water mark for annual participation in formal and informal sport and target shooting. The study showed that 15 percent of the U.S. population, representing 34.4 million people nationwide, go target shooting at least once a year. This number surpasses all other previous survey estimates of annual sport shooting participation.

“These findings underscore that modern sporting rifles are becoming commonplace in America and are among the most desired firearms by sport shooters,” noted Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “Those who want to ban these civilian sporting rifles simply because they look like military rifles must acknowledge after seeing this study that AR-style rifles are exceedingly popular with millions of Americans. These rifles are our industry’s high-tech, cutting-edge product – rugged, accurate, versatile, fun to shoot and easily accessorized – and they’re here to stay.”

The study on Shooting Sports Participation Survey in the United States was conducted for NSSF by Responsive Management through a random digit dialing telephone survey of 8,204 US residents ages 18 and older. To avoid confusion, the term “modern sporting rifle” was further defined as an AR-style rifle. Mark Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, explained the survey’s methodology, saying “This was a highly scientific study with the sample meticulously developed on a state-by-state basis to construct the national number. Both landline and cell phones were utilized in the actual proportions they exist within the American population.”

Duda said this type of telephone survey yields a 95 percent confidence level. The report’s sampling error is plus or minus 1.08 percentage points.

No doubt Modern Sporting Rifles are popular and for good reason. Top level marksmen have described them as “gas-operated bolt guns” in reference to the accuracy potential and the AR-15 platform is the basis for the longest-serving rifle in US history. However, as discussed in a previous editorial “Not Doing As They Say” (July 2011) how is this data compiled and tracked?

The survey showed that an estimated 8.8 million people shot a modern sporting rifle last year while involved in “target shooting” but the basis of this scientific data gathering rests on unsubstantiated claims made over the phone. What constitutes “target shooting” in the minds of these anonymous respondents, or is it just another “sport ball” defined by folks with no concept of organized shooting disciplines?

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

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The table referenced for taking measurements in your trigger work.