Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newbies are more important than you are

If there was something I thought should get more attention from match producers it would be new shooters. The title says it all, but not everyone in the action pistol community gets just how important new shooters are.
We've all been on the range on match days and seen clusters of the more experienced competitors pretty much steering clear of the bumbling, inept new shooters. Sometimes there can be derision, even, snarking about how little this new person grasps the vital concepts of competitive shooting.
The practical aspects of this attitude take on serious implications when the old heads deliberately try to squad up avoiding taking on the new shooters, as if they would be some sort of problem for their enjoyment.
We were all there, once, even the hottest of hotshots, goofy-seeming, clueless, not getting it, asking the lame questions. Then, worse, we went out there and mishandled the guns, dropped the ammunition, froze in panic, and in some cases, lost concentration and threatened a bad discharge or sweep.
That's part of the process of getting good, and we shouldn't forget our own beginnings.
I was fortunate, in that at the first real match I happened to go to, there were people willing to go out of their way and help me with the baby steps. A couple, including the match director, were downright solicitous, taking a teaching stance right away.
That's the way it really is across much of our shooting sports, though, and I wouldn't want to characterize the whole thing as being that way.
The one point that I would want to make to my cohorts who do find the newbies off-putting is this: once you get them going, actually shooting and having fun, they'll never vote against us in the polling place.
Nothing gun owners might do is more important to the preservation of the sport and rights aspects of shooting than bringing in new shooters. More important than trophies or nailing the perfect split or cleaning the drop-turners while the steel's still going down.
Look across the shooters meeting at the next match, and I'll wager you'll see a rather mature crowd. Too mature, as far as Your Correspondent is concerned.
Yes, gray-haired guys who've been shooting for forty years (such as yours truly) have a "right" to go out and have fun shooting stuff, but the lack of a good, solid contingent of young adults, most especially younger women is troubling to me.
In the previous post, I remarked upon the novelty of having a woman win an action pistol match overall. That's what that was, too, just a novelty; SS won because she was better that day that the other shooters, and that's good.
But between those two matches put together, there was but one other woman entered, at but one of the matches. And, she was a wife, of a regular match-maven.
Not that that is a negative, and wives of regular shooters would be a most welcome thing to have become more common.
But the sport, and with it, the whole of gun ownership, has not in modern times seen women get up, go to the gun store, and get involved in any serious way in shooting. True, since 9-11-01, there's been a noticeable uptick, and of course, media both mainstream and special-interest have noted rather often anecdotal evidence of gun stores seeing more women buying guns on their own.
But we're still not seeing that at the firing line. Last month's USPSA match at the "home" club N had no female competitors at all. At club O, there was only one out of 55. That's not a lot.
Some clubs go no-match-fee for women (and often, juniors as well) but the effect isn't being felt in the actual numbers.
Yet, in the political realm where gun ownership and rights are in the most danger, it's women who usually represent the larger danger to those rights, as they tend to vote away from gun rights and candidates who support them. No, not always, but the tendency is there.
Get those voters to the range, make them comfortable with the real-world gun culture we here all know is friendly and safe, and get them having low-stress fun, and they'll never vote against us.
Case in point is Your Correspondent's own Significant Other: daughter of a Chicago cop, urban origins, graduate degrees, professional... a demographic we'd all agree might well be anti-gun.
Pretty much the case, too, until a visit to a steel match, where the guys all pitched in to make it comfortable. SO now agrees that of all of the outdoor sports and activities we've engaged in, the shooting sports people are the nicest, friendliest, and most welcoming.
Good job, guys, let's find ways to do that some more.

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