A) A small number of guys who are excellent shots
B) A whole bunch of guys who are average or mediocre shooters but can put a lot of lead in the air?
Something we have discussed before is the changing face of American gun culture. A post almost a year ago, The Age Of The Pistol Is Over, The Day Of The Rifle Is Upon Us, generated a lot of good conversation as well as some hilarious comments from a self-declared gen-u-wine, internet certified shooter. Those comments still make me laugh out loud.
A post from a different blogger named got me thinking about that again: Whither Gun Culture 3.0?. His point was that we have moved from Gun Culture 1.0 to Gun Culture 2.0 and wonders what Gun Culture 3.0 might look like.
The previous gun culture, version 1.0, was all about hunting and calm, contemplative shooting sports like the clay shooting or Camp Perry. Gun Culture 2.0 is about personal defense and more action-oriented sports like 3 Gun or USPSA. Version 2.0 has been the dominant narrative in guns for at least 30 years, so much so that a 2021 survey found that 72 percent of American gun owners said that personal protection was why they owned a gun.
I am not sure that 30 years is accurate, 30 years ago would have been 1993 and at least in my experience of that era we were still in more of the 1.0 culture but that would quickly change when the Clinton “Assault Weapons” ban went into effect in 1994. Still I mostly agree with the premise and I made many of the same points in my aforementioned post last September.
While it didn’t do anything to reduce crime, the AWB did have the effect of making people want the weapons banned by the bill, before, during and after the bill expired 10 years later. Subsequent to the expiration of the AWB in 2004, the market for “assault weapons”, mostly AR-15s and AK variants, has exploded. The names you know began to come together after the AWB expired. Palmetto State Armory started in 2008. Daniel Defense started making their own rifles in 2009. CMMG was founded in 2002, a couple of years before the ban expired. With CNC machining becoming more advanced, the parts that make up AR-15s could be churned out in enormous numbers. In my post about Anderson Manufacturing, Manufacturing Freedom One Lower Receiver At A Time, I noted that Anderson cranks out something like 800,000 lower receivers every year. Add in everyone else, PSA, S&W, Ruger, etc and you have tens of millions of AR-15s in civilian hands since the AWB expired.
You can also see the change in gun culture represented by the gun rights groups. While the NRA is still the bogeyman invoked by the gun grabbing Left, groups like the Gun Owners of America, Firearms Policy Coalition and Second Amendment Foundation are doing a lot more useful work than the NRA. My comment on Kevin’s post…
You could also look at the difference in gun rights group. GC 1.0 was the NRA, focused on hunting and gun safety, and tended to be sort of reactive and reliant on the political process (legislative). GC 2.0 is GOA/FPC, a whole lot less passive, very in your face, filing lawsuits (judicial) and going on the offensive. What I hope to see from GC 3.0 is a recognition that there is more to the gun rights issue than simply focusing on specific attacks on the 2A and includes other issues that indirectly impact gun rights, like immigration.
The NRA relied on forming relationships with people in Congress and endorsing candidates for office. The GOA/FPC are more prone to filing lawsuits by the dozens, going after gun laws via the courts rather than the legislative process. The NRA still does important work in Congress preventing new laws from being passed but the GOA/FPC is going after the laws already on the books, at the Federal and state level. Not only that, while the NRA is more genteel and proper, with Wayne LaPierre in his very expensive suits, GOA/FPC are more down and dirty, getting in the face of gun-grabbers on social media and mocking the ATF. Unfortunately even GOA/FPC are still caught up in the single-mindedness of the old gun culture (see: The Single Issue Focus Of The Gun Rights Lobby: Both Their Greatest Strength And A Fatal Flaw).
The average gun guy today is also far more militant politically. Compromise is out, from my cold dead hands is in. Whether that is what would happen if push comes to shove is a different topic but the people I talk to day in and day out in the gun market are angrier than I can ever remember. They seem to have figured out that compromise only ends one way: complete disarmament followed by camps and cattle cars.
The gun culture has been slowly changing into what Kevin calls Gun Culture 3.0….
Gun Culture 1.0 was focused on hunting, Gun Culture 2.0 is focused on personal protection, Gun Culture 3.0 will be focused on neighborhood protection, as the structures we have relied on to keep the peace start to disintegrate. Gun Culture 3.0 will have more martial elements than either previous versions, with night vision optics and body armor** playing a role similar to how the modern defensive pistol and the AR-15 plays a large role in today’s gun culture. Some of the more… imaginative versions of this future assume a competent and powerful Federal government, such as how the Brits ran Northern Ireland. However, I foresee a less competent .gov, like the Federales in Mexico or at worst, no .gov, like the former Yugoslavia.
This is already coming into play. A large percentage of “gun guys” today are more likely to have nightvision, a plate carrier, more than one AR-15 and a shitload of mags and ammo rather than just a deer rifle, revolver and shotgun for ducks. We all still have the pure self-defense guns and with half of the country now living in states that are constitutional carry, plus the advancement in double stack micro-compacts, the American population is now carrying an awful lot of firepower out in public, but the guns that really sell today are firearms like AR-15s.
Sure lots of people tout the AR-15 as their home defense weapon but I suspect that if push came to shove, most people are still reaching for a handgun if something goes bump in the night. Pistols are also of course what people carry concealed. What is more, virtually all of the gun homicides in America are committed using a pistol. Still, the gun control debate focuses on scary AR-15s. Why?
For one simple reason: They know and we know that most of us don’t own AR-15s for home defense or target shooting, we own them because we anticipate a future setting in America where a 9mm handgun won’t be adequate. At up close, self-defense ranges the 9mm is awesome but at farther engagement ranges, like 100 yards? You can’t beat an AR-15.
Getting back to the question at hand. While there are more guns and better guns in private hands than at any time in history, with many guys owning more firepower than a rifle squad from World War II, a lot of those gun owners are at best mediocre shooters. I suspect a lot of the AR-15s I sold during the panic buying days of 2020/2021 have never been fired or at most have had a single mag run through them. Even people that shoot with some regularity like me don’t spend nearly enough time putting in work at the range.
My point being that gun culture has changed from “shooting” to “buying”. While there are still guys doing custom handloading of ammo and extreme long range shooting has become popular and accessible, many gun guys are just stacking guns and ammo with expensive accessories. I include myself too often in that latter category. Having the gear is critical but not sufficient. You need to be proficient with it as well. Just like exercising with weights and cardio is important, so is getting out there and becoming more dangerous to bad guys with your pewpews.
I like the angrier, more militant gun culture we are living in, now we just need to really ramp up the training. Not everyone needs to be a professional level gen-u-wine certified shooter but all of us need to be competent at shooting, at close engagement ranges, at intermediate carbine ranges and as much as practical at longer ranges. What good is a $8000 set-up if you can’t shoot it accurately? Sure you can put lots of lead in the air but all the better if that lead goes where you intend it. In other words, if you are protecting your family and neighbors it would be better if you don’t accidently shoot your family or neighbors because you aren’t proficient with your firearm.
The message is more for me than you. Get out there and get good. You can get good at shooting or you can get good at dying.