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On the mark

Target shooting generates millions for Arkansas’ economy

By Keith Sutton

This article was published April 6, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

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Target shooters spend money on firearms, ammunition, range fees, shooting accessories and much more as they participate in their sport throughout the year.

Last fall, I visited the Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Firing Range near Mayflower for an afternoon of shooting. The intent of my visit to this popular central-Arkansas Game and Fish Commission facility was sighting in a rifle for deer hunting. But I couldn’t help noticing that a wide variety of shooting-sports enthusiasts were at the range that day.

A man and his two teenage sons were practicing their shotgunning skills on the skeet range. Nearby, several women were enjoying a fast-paced round of trapshooting.

The 50-yard pistol range was jampacked with folks testing their handgun skills, using everything from big Clint Eastwood-style .44 Magnums to light-as-a-feather concealed-carry pistols small enough to fit in a boot.

Lines were long on the rifle range, too — mostly hunters sighting in guns for the upcoming deer seasons — including flintlocks, in-line muzzleloaders and a wide variety of modern firearms.

Like the people at the Mayflower range, millions of Americans go target shooting each year. Some practice religiously at a range or shooting club each week. For others, target shooting is an occasional weekend activity in the countryside with friends. Regardless of how frequently they participate, however, all these people are target shooters because they enjoy having fun afield with each shot at a clay pigeon or paper target.

But with each outing, they are also part of an economic force at work. In fact, America’s 20 million recreational shooters generate $9.9 billion in spending each year through the purchase of shooting-specific products and services. They also create hundreds of thousands of jobs directly associated with the sale and manufacture of those goods and the provision of those services. Target shooting provides fun and enjoyment for millions but ultimately benefits millions more through its positive economic impact.

The specific facts regarding the importance of target-shooting activities to the economies of Arkansas and the nation are available in a major new report just released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. NSSF is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting-sports industry.

The report, Target Shooting in America: Millions of Shooters, Billions of Dollars, was released in January in conjunction with the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), the largest trade show of its kind in the world and a showcase for the firearms and ammunition industry.

The report provides a first-ever look at U.S. target-shooting-related expenditures. Also included are state-by-state statistics for the number of target shooters, retail sales, taxes and jobs. The target-shooting report complements the Hunting in America report released by NSSF and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies in March 2013.

When I received a copy of Target Shooting in America, I turned quickly to the information about Arkansas and was amazed at what I learned. Here in The Natural State, 362,152 participants spend more than 8.7 million total days at firing ranges each year, an average of 24 days per shooter. Most of those participants — 266,800 — are rifle shooters. Handgun shooting ranks second with 228,400 participants, muzzleloader shooters are third at 201,000, and shotgun shooters — to my surprise — bring up the rear with 164,600 shooters.

Those numbers include thousands of young target shooters, too, thanks largely to the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, which is overseen by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. More than 7,000 students participate each year, including students from both public and private schools, as well as 4-H, Boy Scouts and other community organizations. The junior division is made up of sixth- through eighth-graders, and the senior division is made up of ninth- through 12th-graders.

Together, in 2011, the target-shooting-related expenditures of those thousands of participants contributed a whopping $262,707,033 to the state’s economy and supported 2,942 jobs. Their spending also generated almost $22 million in state and local sales taxes. One cannot deny the positive economic impact that has on our state.

Nationally, the money spent by target shooters in 2011 resulted in $23 billion being added to the nation’s economy and supported more than 185,000 jobs. Direct spending on their sport by the nation’s target shooters amounts to $9.9 billion annually, more than the National Football League’s annual revenue. That is a per-shooter expenditure of approximately $493 annually.

“More people target shooting is good news for the industry, and it is equally good news for America’s economy,” said Steve Sanetti, NSSF president and CEO.

Nationally, rifle and handgun shooting are the leading contributors, followed by shotgun and muzzleloader shooting. California and Texas are the top two states ranked by retail sales.

Combining data from Target Shooting in America and Hunting in America shows that target shooters and hunters together poured more than $110 billion into the nation’s economy, fueling more than 866,000 jobs.

“Communities and businesses of all sizes benefit from these activities,” Sanetti said.

Target shooters ($8.2 billion) and hunters ($8.4 billion) spend nearly equal amounts on equipment common to both pursuits, such as firearms, ammunition and accessories. Overall, hunters spend more than target shooters when factors such as fuel, food, lodging and transportation are included.

“The Target Shooting in America and Hunting in America reports give us a more complete understanding of the economic importance of the shooting sports to America,” Sanetti said. “We’ve long known about the recreational benefits of these activities, and now we know how much they contribute to our country’s financial well-being.”

To read a complete version of Target Shooting in America: Millions of Shooters, Billions of Dollars, visit nssf.org/PDF/research/TargetShootingInAmericaReport.pdf.

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