Imagine walking into a sporting goods store and approaching a salesperson with this:

Hello, I’d like to buy a ball for playing sports.”

After the inevitable strange look the salesperson would probably ask, “Which sport?”

I don’t know, but I’d like to play a sport.” This question is absurd as posed because it is incomplete. A reasonable person would assume you should already know what sport you were interested in before buying equipment. Except, if the sport is marksmanship. The very phrase “target shooting” is as nebulous as “sport ball.”

I’m well aware that, for many gun owners, “target shooting” merely means informal shooting, or plinking, or “having a shoot-about.” That is, any shooting at any object without any formal structure. There isn’t anything wrong with that. My definition of a good gun owner is anyone capable of keeping and bearing arms without causing vandalism or undue injury. It just ignores an entire world of possible activity.

There were ten unique disciplines (fifteen total medal events for men and women) for shooting in the 2008 Olympics and various International organizations recognize many more. There are a host of additional Internationally-recognized disciplines that are tracked by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), the organization that governs international shooting sports and is a member of the International Olympic Committee.

This is in addition to shooting disciplines that are shot in various countries but aren’t ISSF sanctioned. The Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM), or International Military Sports Council, has a half dozen unique shooting disciplines and the NATO militaries sponsor Commonwealth-inspired service shooting events with issue firearms, typically called an Armed Forces Skill at Arms Meeting (AFSAM). Within the realm of practical shooting we have the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) with eighty-seven (!!!) member countries.

Many countries have even more different kinds of formal shooting events. Within the United States there are a whole set of unique events. Both the National Rifle Association and Civilian Marksmanship Program have a number of separate disciplines officially recognized by Classification just within the realm of bullseye competition based on old military range exercises, dubbed the National Match Courses. The Nationals for rifle, pistol and smallbore (.22) have been held at Camp Perry in Ohio every year since 1907.

There are at least a dozen other national-level organizations formally recognizing other disciplines as well. The United State Practical Shooting Association, an IPSC offshoot in the US, has spawned Steel Challenge, NRA Action Pistol (Bianchi Cup), International Defensive Pistol Association, Single Action Shooting Society and others.

Don’t even get me started on shotgun disciplines…

Next time a casual gun owner mentions that all-encompassing phrase “target shooting”, ask him to name and describe as many disciplines that he’s aware of and when and where they are available to him to attend. Then ask him the same thing about ball sport disciplines and see which list is longer.

I’m convinced that this problem is crippling gun owners as much as anything Sarah Brady/VPC/etc. can throw at us. The sad part is this is is an internal problem of the industry and can not be blamed on outside influence or factors beyond any pro gun shooting organization’s control. For example, we can’t blame the “anti-gun media” when card-carrying members of shooting organizations, who are paying to receive information from headquarters, have no idea what sponsored shooting programs are available to them. And if this information is failing to filter down to members, we shouldn’t be surprised if casual gun owners, not to mention Joe Public, is just as ignorant.

You want a firearm for “target shooting?” Which sport?

Plinkers will likely say they’re not interested in even becoming aware that such activity exists or what the differences are. Given they can’t be bothered to even learn about such things, much less participate, is it any surprise the general population also doesn’t care? This is why pro-gun coverage is lacking. It’s not an anti-gun plot; it is our own indifference.