Shooting Sports Participation Trends

Analysis of Sport Shooting Participation Trends in the United States 2008-2012, a new National Shooting Sports Foundation report, reveals that the face of America’s gun owners is changing. New target shooters—those who have taken up the sport in the last five years—are younger, female and urban when compared to established gun owners, or those participating for more than five years.

Just how this new segment of target shooters varies from established target shooters can be found in the report, the findings of which are based on a survey conducted by Responsive Management (, a public opinion survey research firm specializing in natural resource, wildlife, environmental, and outdoor recreation issues. The report is available free to current NSSF members as a member benefit. This study was conducted to analyze target and sport shooting participation rates and the proportion of sports shooters who are new to shooting since 2008 and entailed a telephone survey of 8,335 U.S. residents ages 18 years old and older.

The demographics of new shooters show they are:

  • Younger. 66 percent of new shooters fall into the 18-to-34-year-old category compared to 31 percent in the same age category for established shooters.
  • Female. 37 percent of new target shooters are female compared to 22 percent of established target shooters.
  • Urban. 47 percent of new target shooters live in urban/suburban settings versus 34 percent of established target shooters.

The report shows that one-fifth of target shooters in America first started participating in the shooting sports between 2008 and 2012. That means 20 percent of all gun owners began participating in the past five years. “The landscape of target shooters has shifted,” said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF’s director of research and analysis. “This is data that everyone doing business in our industry should be aware of.”

Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Response Management, pointed out, “While mentoring by family members in a generally rural setting is the traditional pathway for newcomers to participating in target shooting and hunting, the research shows that new shooters today include many who did not follow or have access to the traditional pathway.”

The expansion of younger, female and urban-based participants coincides with the surge in firearms sales that occurred over the same 2008-2012 period. The report also covers factors related to why new and established target shooters participate, as well as the types of activities they are participating in. NSSF members may access the full report by logging in to the Member’s section and selecting NSSF Industry Research.

Read more in our November 2013 issue. Back issues are available.

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