Recreational shooting has been prevalent since firearms were first made affordable and readily available to the general public; mostly in the form of hunting. As firearm technologies advanced after the American revolutionary war, the abundance of firearms in civilian hands, furthered by the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution, permanently integrated the gun as an icon of the American life-style.
In the late 19th century, the cowboys made famous the cowboy-style action shooting, and shooting galleries. Recreational shooting further expanded in the 20th century with the advent of The Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, which aimed to teach civilians the fundamentals of shooting and to teach them to become marksmen, in case they would be needed to serve in the future.
Today, recreational shooting is enjoyed by hunters, competitors, collectors, and light users who may own just one or two firearms. While the competitive scene is quite large, especially within the United States, the majority of gun owners do not compete or do they ever attend any sort of professional training course. It’s these recreational users who keeps the industry relevant in today’s market.
All shooting ranges in the United States adhere to an accepted ‘code’ of firearm safety rules and regulations which, first and foremost, keep it well-known that firearms are not toys, should be treated with respect and care, and to be kept out of the wrong hands. Basic safety is either taught by new shooters’ peers, or by range safety officers, once they are familiar with the proper disciplines and etiquette, they’re prepared for their first shooting experience.
Recreational shooting can be done in several ways: shooting for accuracy, shooting for speed, or just shooting inanimate objects for the sheer enjoyment of it; all of which are great ways of blowing off steam and having a good time with friends.
Shooting for accuracy, or marksmanship, places emphasis on either achieving tight ‘groupings,’ which refers to the distance between 3 or more points of impact from fired bullets, or precision accuracy for small targets or long ranges. This style is one of the more challenging, as the slightest error in breath control, trigger squeeze, positioning, and handling of the firearm may result in a missed shot. The difficulty of precision shooting sometimes intimidates new shooters, but those who see it as a challenge to overcome enjoy every chance they get to improve upon their skills.
Shooting for speed could encompass clay pigeon shooting, where a round clay disc is ‘thrown’ by a machine or hand-held thrower by a shooting partner, and the shooter uses a shotgun loaded with bird shot to hit the clay target before it’s either out of range or hits the ground. As the shooter’s skill and reaction time advances, multiple clays may be thrown at once, and the speed/elevation of the clays can be adjusted for new challenges. Clay shooting is one of the most common social shooting events, whether for sophisticated business executives or college buddies spending an afternoon at the range. Another speed shooting style would be reactive targets, or obstacle courses. Although they are usually reserved for competitions, a shooter doesn’t need to be a professional to participate in 3-gun matches (fast-paced shooting courses utilizing a shotgun, rifle, and pistol where the shooter competes against the clock to score hits on an assortment of targets). Many more experienced 3-gun participants are always willing to assist newcomers to learn better techniques and to maximize the efficiency of their equipment to achieve better times and scores. 3-gun events provide an adrenaline rush which any shooter would enjoy.
The third category of recreational shooting described by this article would be the generic ‘shooting guns’ situation. Sometimes friends or family get together on their or their friend’s private land (with permission) and put out some ‘fun’ targets to shoot at: vegetables, fruits, soda cans/bottles, milk jugs filled with water, etc to blast away at. Since there is no real purpose to it other than enjoyment, people will usually end up shooting hundreds or even thousands of rounds of ammunition, as long as they have targets they can shoot at.
Recreational shooting is a great (although expensive) hobby to participate in with friends, both experienced and novice. The sheer thrill of discharging a firearm for a newcomer is sometimes all that’s required to get them to want to do it again. The challenges people create to overcome promotes positive communication among shooters and the responsible use of firearms.