Focus: Recreational Shooters

Research On Increasing Participation Within
Non-Traditional Audiences

By Rob Southwick and Cody Larrimor

Recent years have brought significant growth for the industry, though maintaining it may require extra effort. Past research shows the shooting sports skews toward older white males. However, the face of America is changing: Hispanic, African American and Asian American communities are expected to comprise the majority of the U.S. population by mid-century. Fortunately, this trend is not a threat to the shooting sports — instead, it may be a great source for growth.

To learn more about how to recruit new customers from non-traditional backgrounds, the NSSF examined Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and Caucasians in 2015 through a series of focus groups and a national survey (conducted by Southwick Associates). Except for sharp differences across age groups, there’s very little difference in these groups’ collective interest in trying target shooting. Virtually zero percent of respondents said they had no interest. Among those who do not currently shoot, Hispanics and African Americans are much more likely (26% and 27%) than Asians (15%) and Caucasians (13%) to show very high levels of interest in trying target shooting. With little difference between the sexes on interest levels — and younger people under age 34 almost twice as likely as people over 50 wanting to try — the potential for growth is significant.

If these communities are interested, why don’t we see them at the range more often? The major impediments reported by non-shooters are they don’t know where to shoot, they don’t have the right equipment or they have no one to shoot with. Expense is the biggest hindrance among younger people, while women are more likely to cite having no one to shoot with. However, the real reason was likely found through the series of above mentioned focus groups. In these focus groups, a common theme was mentioned among Hispanics, Asian Americans and African Americans: The perception they wouldn’t be welcome at a range, which would be full of stern white men who would likely resent intrusions by inexperienced people who don’t look like them.


How To Counteract Misperceptions

The best promotional campaigns to overcome misperceptions will show anyone can shoot and all are welcome. One way to do this is through ads with images of first-time shooters from these communities. Ranges and their promotional campaigns should focus on the reasons why these new participants are interested in visiting:

• To have fun and experience excitement (58%)
• To improve my shooting skills (47%)
• To learn how to protect myself and my property (49%)
• To better understand firearms (43%)
• To learn a challenging sport (41%)

Electronic methods may be the most cost-effective means for reaching these growth communities. Google (73%) was the preferred method for locating a range, followed by friends or word-of-mouth (50%) and online reviews (37%), especially for younger customers. Women are somewhat more likely to use online reviews and friends than men.

Providing the right information is important if non-shooters are to make the decision to finally visit a range, such as on your store’s website or social media page. Prices (80%), directions to the range (73%), types of shooting available (66%), services for beginners (64%) and operating hours (63%) are the top information items to share with new prospects. There were no significant differences between Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans and Caucasians in types of information preferred.

Incentives can work, too. Respondents say they would be most persuaded to visit a range by discount coupons (56%), a special beginner’s event (55%) and a beginner’s deal that included firearm rental, ammunition and safety equipment (48%). Young people are more likely than others to use almost any incentive except for a multi-visit discount. African Americans are more interested in special packages for beginners, Asian Americans are more interested in discount promotions online and Hispanics are more interested in events for first-time shooters, though the overall differences are slight for all of these incentives.

Traditional ways of presenting the shooting sports have generally failed in engaging America’s growth communities. It’s time we expand our promotional efforts to include new faces. To assist, the NSSF offers the full survey details at Other resources will continue to be added, as NSSF and Southwick Associates work to help the industry understand the interests, motivations, preferences and barriers associated with bringing non-traditional communities into the shooting sports. By working together, the shooting sports will continue to see significant growth well into 2016 and beyond.

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