Precision Pistol shooter Tony Brong provides wisdom

http://tonybrong.blogspot.com/2016/08/during-entire-tenure-with-bullseye-ive.html

During my entire tenure with bullseye, I’ve heard nothing but how far the sport has declined. From a practical viewpoint, I really haven’t been around that long. And I don’t have firsthand personal experience about how things were back-in-the-day. Apparently, fifteen, twenty or more years ago there must have a lot more bullseye shooters.

I still hear stories about how the census of pistol shooters at the Nationals numbered around one thousand in the early 1980s. Today it’s generally about 650.

Time changes everything. In prior posts even I’ve lamented about how the shooting pie has been carved up by cowboy action shooters, practical guys, clay smashers and the benchrest dudes. I wouldn’t be at all surprised that even WWII and Civil War reenactors have had a slight drain on our census. From the 1930s through the 70s bullseye might have been pretty much the only game in town, but that’s not the case today.

Social transformation is like death and taxes, something everyone can count on. A lot of emotional effort has spilled over the turbulent ‘decline’ of Bullseye, and it’s been marked with the same breathless, excitable, often crude and always knowing style that typifies the old hardcore elite: by doing things the same old way.

My own experience getting into the sport wasn’t exactly easy. My kids went off to college and I searched for an interesting and challenging hobby. I now had some leisure time. It took me the better part of a year to find out that competitive pistol shooting was only four miles away from my front door. And I doubt with the passing of about a decade, access or visibility hasn’t gotten any better. Today, the general promotion of our sport to the public and potential new shooters is simply by word of mouth.

Many of us mourn the slow erosion of our sport, and ponder: is it too late to revitalize it?
I don’t think so.

There are a few success stories around. One bright spot is occurring now in New Jersey. It’s a quantifiable success story, playing out in a state that’s considered very anti-gun. Within the confines of the Garden Sate, individuals such as Ray and Mary Badiak, John Gemmill and Frank Greco are consistently blazing a trail by developing new bullseye shooters—both young and mature.
They’ve been successful in a state which has the most draconian gun laws in the country. It’s a process that reproducible, but no one seems to notice their success.

If you can do it in Jersey, you can do it anywhere.

After a little head scratching I looked at some of the other disciplines and noticed how they do things. One observation that’s fairly obvious, they compete, compete for new members and promote themselves to the general public.

So, what are the glaring things we don’t do?

It appears most state associations don’t know how to run a modern marketing organization—and whether they know it or not—that’s what they’re in business to do. They should be promoting (which means marketing and advertising) the shooting sports. After that’s established, as a secondary issue, handle their respective lobbing tasks.

How many news releases do they routinely offer to the local media outlets? Your guess is as good as mine.

Those same state organizations should attempt to forge regional coalitions for the promotion of various disciplines, since many of us routinely cross state lines to compete.

A national or regionalized websites should be crafted and have match announcements, results and signup functionality. As well, background information for consumption by the general public should be amply provided. Points of contact should be visibly listed so budding bullseye shooters can get started. And it should have good and consistently updated content.

Let’s consider the following:

• Who hasn’t been to an NRA banquet? Well, what’s being done to raise money for the orderly operation of our sport? The truth is the NRA no longer sees us as a priority. It would be nice to see not just bullseye but various other competitive shooting disciplines on the American Rifleman television show much more frequently. [That’s code for picking up the phone and calling Larry Potterfield and others like him.] Yes, money drives television programming. But keep in mind, individuals paying for programming have every right to maximize their investment by targeting their audience. Maybe they should be made aware we are their consumers too.

• Have there been any real efforts in recruiting bullseye shooters over the past 10 years? IPSC, CAS, USPSA, IDPA … they do. I can’t recall the last time any of us have seen the following: A dedicated NRA webpage for Bullseye Pistol; national leadership for the promotion of our sport; junior development; and a mechanism to recruit women.

• Even though there’s a historical claim, the simple truth is there’s no functioning leadership for our sport. We’ve relied on the NRA to do all of this in a vacuum. And as a matter of course, they’ve simply done things the same old way for the past half century. And in the process, they’ve lost their way.
I’m not suggesting they not be responsible for this mission. But we, as competitors, have lacked the will to actually lobby them. I highly doubt that the Competitions Division rarely hears from shooters except when they want something for themselves. And the same may be true of the state associations when they approach the NRA.

Walt Walters, an NRA board member, over the past two years has attempted to rework this model. He can recall a time, in the not so distant past, when the NRA had state and regional competitive shooting ambassadors. These individuals were readily available to provide guidance and insight to local clubs, state associations and government. Walt’s goal is to rebuild that old army of supporters so they can be of assistance throughout the country.

Even though Walt is a board member, he’s facing a tough uphill road with accomplishing his goals. Unfortunately, I think he’s looking at the past to address his present concerns about competitive shooting’s current neglect.

Here’s my basic observation. For a group of people who traditionally think of themselves as competitors, that’s precisely what we don’t do in the open marketplace of ideas. We all want to shoot (and I’m guilty of this too) but few of us want to roll up our sleeves. Over the past three decades we’ve allowed an enormous number of people to gravitate to other disciplines.

The other shooting sports embraced potential shooters, or we allowed them to leave our discipline even before they had an opportunity to arrive. They were marketed to, invited, sold—and best of all—greeted with open arms. For the most part the majority of those newbies didn’t even know we existed.
The future can be ours. All we have to do is be involved.

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