Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Shooter's Bestiary:

A few thoughts on the various people that fall under the broader heading of "gun owner"...

By far the most numerous category of gun owners fall into the category best described as simply “Owners”. They may own only one gun, or they may own a handful. The gun may have been inherited, or bought in response to current events, such as impending legislation, perceived crisis (Y2K, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina), or a local crime wave.

Owners may never go shooting, or may find their way to the range once every couple of months. They may obtain a CCW permit and even carry fairly regularly and attend a training course or two. If asked what their hobbies were, “guns” or “shooting” probably wouldn't be listed among them. They are probably least likely to “vote their gun rights” although a politician that makes overt noises about registration or confiscation is likely to alienate them.

Hunters own guns to hunt. They may have one duck gun, or a battery of firearms for every game animal that walks or flies in North America, plus one or two for that “Someday Safari”. Hunting requires the least ammunition consumption of any of the major categories of gun usage, since a box of 20 rounds is more than enough to get the rifle sighted in before season and still fill the freezer. In addition to the NRA or GOA, a Hunter is very likely to belong to one or more conservation or outdoors organizations.

Shooters are much like owners, in that they rarely have a huge number of firearms. However unlike an Owner, a Shooter would definitely list “guns” or “shooting” as a hobby. They'll get to the range a couple of times a month, or maybe more, and probably spend a lot of time centered around the hobby, be it reading gun magazines, posting to online fora, or hanging around the local gun shop.

Trainers are what happens to Owners, usually CCW holders, who go to a couple of training classes and really get hooked. They look at shooting as their martial art, and try to get to as many classes as possible. A trainer is easy to spot at the range; they're the one repetitively practicing weak-hand clearance of Type I malfunctions. They consume a fairly large amount of ammunition and are quite likely to belong to several gun rights organizations.

Collectors are just that; more concerned with collecting the guns themselves rather than shooting them. An extreme example would be the guy who has two gun safes full of World War II Japanese military rifles, and only half a box of 7.7mm Arisaka ammunition in the house. Probably the least political subgroup, taken as a whole, unless their particular subspecialty of collecting is threatened. For example, a candidate wishing to ban semiautomatic pistols is unlikely to receive the enthusiastic support of someone with tens of thousands of dollars sunk in Colt's Government Models.

Gamers are people who have been bitten by the competitive shooting bug. Be it NRA High Power, action pistol, sporting clays, or cowboy action shooting, their weekends are likely to be planned around shooting. They tend to have the highest ammunition consumption of any of the types, and as a result are the most likely to be reloaders. In addition to usually belonging to national gun rights organizations, they are also dues-paying members of one or more sports sanctioning bodies.

There is, of course, considerable overlap between many of these categories, especially with Gamers. An active shotgun Gamer is likely to be an avid bird Hunter, a serious CCW-oriented Trainer is often an IDPA or USPSA Gamer, and a Collector of old military rifles may also be a Gamer that competes in vintage service rifle matches. I don't think I've met a gamer, at least outside of some clay bird games, that didn't fall into one or more other categories as well.

Myself? I'd say I was a Shooter and Collector who is in constant danger of becoming a Trainer and Gamer...


Anonymous said...

Many of us are in several catigories. I collect,shot and hunt. May we all keep our rights to do these activities!!!Support or right to keep and bear!

Unknown said...

I think you may have missed one small category.

The Spender:

Doesn't spend a lot of time shooting, hunting, or gaming -- but spends tons of money on the latest gadget because that gadget will make up for his lack of range time. Owns two AR-15's, just in case, one wears EOTech, the other Aimpoint (because the jury is still out, and you have to cover your bases). He swaps his 6.8 and 5.56 uppers weekly, and loses sleep over the decision.

Has 1000 rounds of M855, 1000 rounds of M193, and 1000 rounds of 45 ACP. At least, he's pretty sure that's what he has: he's never opened the boxes. His magazines are color coded.

Runs ballistics calculations compulsively, and has components to reload every obscure loading he's ever heard of. The press is still in its box.

ExurbanKevin said...

Great list, and I confess I'm a shooter with Gamer and Trainer tendencies.

I'd almost want to split up "Owners" into "Owners" and "Users". An Owner has their gun(s) just to have, like the .22 they had as a kid or the shotgun they inherited from their dad. The idea of buying a gun for a specific purpose just doesn't enter their head, they never visit the range to practice and are very unlikely to worry about 2nd Amendment rights. Indeed, they may look down on those who do as "gun nuts".

A User has their firearm(s) for a specific purpose, be it CCW, pest control or hunting in the fall. They'll go to the range one or two times a year to maintain some level of competency or insure their gun is still working and engage in little gun-related activity beyond that, They may not be an NRA Member or member of a wildlife organization, but are definitely sympathetic to their causes.

David said...

I started out as a HUNTER, then for a lot of complicated reasons, stopped hunting and became a very passive OWNER for way too many years. Recently I have used my young son as an excuse to turn myself into a SHOOTER. I have managed to turn made my son into a TRAINER and my daughter into a SHOOTER also.

Now we are all trying really hard to avoid becoming GAMERS. I took my kids to a watch a couple local cowboy action shooting events and we are all very interested. We all three realize that if we were to start, CAS would probably take over the little bit of time we have left each day that we usually try to use for sleeping.

pax said...

If someone who goes to a bunch of shooting classes and practices what they learn there is a "Trainer," what are you going to call someone who trains others to shoot?

BryanP said...

Hmm. If I had to limit myself to your classifications I'd say I'm a "Shooter" who only manages to get to the range about once a month or so, pushing me in the direction of "Owner."

tom said...

I paid for my $400 a year indoor range membership (14/hr otherwise) in under 2 weeks of rainy days, as I can also shoot on my land.

I own well more than 50 firearms, not counting handguns, and have firearms bought for particular safaris, not "someday safaris" and have the trophies and photos to prove it, as well as some recovered bullets from things not found in North America.

I hunt regularly. Sometimes I even get. :-)

I used to do IPSC and IDPA until I got bored and things turned into too much of a money/gear race for my tastes, same with Clays, though I still dabble once in a while.

Sometimes train, sometimes train others.

Build my own firearms as well as haunt firearms blogs, depending on mood, workload, and health status.

I collect rifles, primarily cartridge rifles from the golden age of the ivory trade and 19th century African wars, but I have some American flints, European matchlocks, and some Minty Garands.

What am I? (other than you once saying I was a "mall ninja" because you disagreed with me over something ;-)

I'm not all of the above but I'd say I'm darn close. Can I be Mr. Overlap?

Vaarok said...

I disagree wholeheartedly, Collectors are quite often very political because they recall the historical lessons of gun laws, Owners are often apathetic politically, and Hunters can be and often are otherwise anti-gun, save their deer-blaster.

Noah D said...

Owner/Shooter here, leaning towards the former due to finances. I'd love to get out to shoot more, but...

Maybe 'Gamer' sometime, if things loosen up.

WV: 'snatista' - uh...

Anonymous said...

Off Topic—
Tam have you considered that “swine flu” is just a government cover word for “Zombie Infestation” and that when they are taking about a “pandemic” they really mean “zombie apocalypse” I’m just waiting for the reported standing in Mexico to announce “The infected are eating the brains and flesh of the living”

Good thing Tam’s prepared.

Regolith said...

I'm a shooter/hunter, who wants to become (but doesn't have the time or money) a trainer/collector/gamer.

If someone who goes to a bunch of shooting classes and practices what they learn there is a "Trainer," what are you going to call someone who trains others to shoot?An Instructor.

Firehand said...

Subspecies: the Bent-Back Brass Picker; found at all ranges.

atlharp said...

"Subspecies: the Bent-Back Brass Picker; found at all ranges."More like rogues. LOL! Anyway, I would fall into that category. I usually offer to help sweep up their brass. I seem so much friendlier that way.

I would recommend doing IDPA if you are getting tempted by the gaming bug. It's a lot cheaper, and plus how many times in your life do you get to shoot through a barrel, at a desk, clear a shoot-house, etc....

Michael in CT said...

Oh, I am a gamer, with my preference being Cowboy. Cowboy is evil, addictive and FUN!
First it's the guns, then the holsters, then the clothes and then you determining what car you are going to buy based mostly on whether your guncart is going to fit

Jennifer said...

I definitely fit into the Shooter's category, but I've been invited to help in a class next month. I'm sure I will catch the trainer bug soon.

Noah D said...

Slightly OT:

Atlharp, Tam, et al., anyone who cares to chime in: what would your advice be for someone interested in IDPA? I've never done any competitive shooting before, if that matters.

Rio Arriba said...

Ah, label-fever. Usually afflicts the libs, but that's OK.

I looked and looked and couldn't find myself.

Felt kinda privileged actually.

atlharp said...

A good primer for IDPA would be this:

1. Get a good reliable pistol that is cheap(er)to shoot. Preferably something in 9mm. Glocks are good, XD's,M&P's are good too. If you are a 1911 fan there are some quality 9mm within that realm. There are a alot of options for starting out, but I am merely recommending the cheapest route. You can also go the revolver route if that tickles your fancy. Get a good reliable holster too. Blackhawk! makes great holsters. The SERPA is a good affordable holster to start with. Try Natchez Shooters Supplies for a good price on one.

2. Obtain about 3-4 magazines, preferably four in case on of them craps out. For the match you will need 3 magazines minimum. You also want 2 magazine carriers too. Blackhawk! makes good durable ones and they aren't that expensive.

3. Typically I would take about 150-200 rounds of ammunition. Most IDPA stages are typically between 9-12 rounds, but can go up to 18 rounds. The match round count is around 90-120 rounds, but bring about twice that much with you.

4. Get a concealment garment/vest. 5.11 makes a great little tactical vest that is durable, has tons of pockets, and is not terribly expensive. EOTAC is making some concealment garments.

Go to for a good idea of what to expect at your first match.

Have fun!

Gewehr98 said...

I refuse to be shoehorned into a simple category or three. :-)

Word verification: refurser. Close, so close...

Tam said...


"If someone who goes to a bunch of shooting classes and practices what they learn there is a "Trainer," what are you going to call someone who trains others to shoot?"

A really seriously addicted trainer. ;)

Tom (& Gewehr98 & Rio Arriba),

"Can I be Mr. Overlap?"

No doubt! It's a rare gun owner who fits only one, but it sounds like you like 'em all. Someday I hope to be there, too. :)

the pawnbroker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Assrot said...

Even though I am a Tofuista, I'd fall into the Collector / Gamer categories.

Nobody messes with me and my guns. The first thing I research on any political candidate is their voting record and history on gun related issues. If he or she's an anti, they will not get my vote and they will get my every waking moments effort to take their votes away.

I love the old military stuff and have quite a collection. I also have a fairly good size collection of modern guns (i.e. non-C&R).

If you don't shoot them, what's the point in having them? I never could understand such folk.

Molon Labe,

Noah D said...

atlharp, thanks for the info and advice - it leads, as ever, to more questions...

1. Right now, all I've got are 1911-type .45s. Getting another gun isn't going to be an option for a while, and I'd like to shoot what I carry (RIA .45 compact). Why 9mm over .45 for this? And am I crazy for wanting to use my IWB carry holster, too?

2 & 3. Gotcha. Must not wince at cost of 250 rds of .45 (or anything else, for that matter)...

4. If I've got a belt, holster and mag carriers, why the concealment garment/vest?

atlharp said...

There is nothing wrong with using a 1911 .45 for competition as long as you have the equipment for it and you can afford the ammo. I was merely stating as if you have had nothing to start with.

CDP (Custom Defense Pistol) will be the division you are looking for. It's the division made for 1911 .45 pistols. I agree with the 200 rounds of .45 (if you can get it nowadays). It is a price tag that can make you wince. That was the reason why I recommended 9mm due to the price, and felt recoil. No matter, if .45's are what you like then by all means shoot them!

The reason for the concealment garment/vest is that IDPA is scenario based and requires all shooters (minus law enforcement) to shoot from concealment. It's actually a little bit challenging, but alot of fun. THe IWB holster is perfectly legal and if you are comfortable shooting with that then by all means do it.

I would recommend perusing the IDPA rule book. Lucky for you it's online:

IDPA Rule Book

Also Caleb has a solid intro to the newer shooter to IDPA/IPSC.


Netpackrat said...

What, no "tinkerer" or "gearhead" category?

staghounds said...

I'm grateful that "shooter" wasn't followed by "misser".

Tango Juliet said...

I believe trainer fits me best but that might cause some to overestimate my abilities. I can help the rawest of noobies, but beyond that, I'm the student. (At least I should be, if my ego permits it)

Noah D said...

atlharp, thanks again - I'll check those resources out. Caleb's post was one of the things that got me thinking more and more about this.

(Also, my followups were to dispel my own ignorance, not to challenge your answers, if that's how they came across. Ah, the joy of pure text...)

SoupOrMan said...

What do we call those who sell firearms and train the Trainers?

Enablers, obviously!

Verification word: smshem. "What my 1911 does when feeding a poorly-crimped cartridge from the magazine."

Bram said...

In the civilian world I was an "Owner" for many years. When my wife convinced me to leave the National Guard (after 4 years there and 6 in the Marine Reserves) I moved up to "Shooter."

Ken said...

Shooter when I have the time and disposable income, owner when I don't.

Chris said...


I've always considered myself a shooter. I own some firearms... not as many as I'd like, but enough to qualify as a full on gun nut.

I do something involving firearms at least once a week. These days, most of that is for the Appleseed project, where I'm an instructor. I'll probably attend 13-14 Appleseed weekends this year, plus a 1 week 'boot camp', not to mention the time I spend promoting and assisting the program in other ways.

I also sometimes man a booth at gunshows for our local gun rights group, shoot IDPA once in a while, take friends and family to the range, et al.

I once called a cave-exploring friend of mine a spelunker, he quite seriously corrected me... a spelunker is a guy with a beer and a flashlight. He's a caver.

Yeah, I'm still a shooter.

Tam said...

"Yeah, I'm still a shooter."

"These days, most of that is for the Appleseed project, where I'm an instructor. I'll probably attend 13-14 Appleseed weekends this year, plus a 1 week 'boot camp', not to mention the time I spend promoting and assisting the program in other ways."

I think you may have started developing Trainer tendencies, which is pretty much the same, only more expensive. ;)

Next thing you know, you'll be out there shooting High Power and wondering where all your money and free time went...

bogie said...

I personally think that hunters are less apt to vote their gun rights if only becuase the politicians always assure everyone theat they don't want to take away hunting.

Of the people that I know, the only ones to say "no one NEEDS a gun like such-and-such and I'm all for them being banned" are hunters. Those that are casual owners or in other categories are much more interested in asking what it is like or comparing stories/manufacturers or the like.

My only creditials are that I seem to fit in the owner's category and find that my evil black gun only ellicits concern from hunters.

Alphy said...

I'd add "Yearner" to the list: someone who's become awakened to the importance of gun rights and self defense, has gone shooting a couple of times with friends, but doesn't yet own any guns, because of lack of money.

That's where I am right now. As for what I *would* be, I'd likely start out as an "owner" and "trainer" with a strong tendency to vote for gun rights, but then move on to "all of the above except for hunting" since I have no interest in going out in the wild to slaughter innocent animals. (I want to have a small farm, with chickens and maybe a lamb, to do that--but that's a completely different issue!)