Shooting sports enthusiasts relax with day at the range

As a rule, Nevada’s sportsmen and women tend to keep to themselves. It’s not that we don’t like others, we just prefer to keep things simple, especially when it comes to pursuing our outdoor interests.

That quiet simplicity might be found with a handful of friends or family members gathered round a campfire in a remote corner of Nevada, on the bank of a favorite fishing hole or at their local shooting range. Not that shooting a round of sporting clays is quiet by a strict definition of the word, but an hour or two spent breaking clay targets or punching holes through the bull’s-eye on a paper target can be a quiet respite from the deafening noise and chaos of modern society.

For those who don’t participate in shooting sports, the idea that spending time in the company of gunfire can be restful may seem a strange concept. Perhaps recreational shooting is best understood by thinking of it in terms of other hobbies people use to relax from the stresses of everyday life. Some people watch television or go to the movies, others go for a hike or bake cookies, others tie flies for fishing.

People have their own interests. And just because I don’t like yours doesn’t mean I should push for legislation to do away with it.

It happens that millions of Americans enjoy recreational shooting in many varieties. Some enjoy the shotgun sports, others prefer using handguns or muzzleloaders, and others enjoy new sports like 3-gun shooting. The latter requires proficiency with a handgun, shotgun and a modern sporting rifle, such as the AR-15.

As a side note, the AR in AR-15 does not stand for assault rifle, nor does it stand for automatic rifle. It stands for Armalite Rifle, the company that first developed the design. Through the years I have had the opportunity to shoot a few of these rifles belonging to friends and acquaintances. If you haven’t yet had the chance to do so, you should at least give it a whirl. You may be surprised.

“Each year, about 50 million American adults participate in some type of target or sport shooting activity, with the most popular activities being target shooting with a handgun, target shooting with a rifle, and target shooting at an outdoor range,” according to Responsive Management, a survey research firm specializing in attitudes toward natural resource and outdoor recreation issues.

For a local look at the popularity of the shooting sports drive by the rifle and handgun range at the Clark County Shooting Park on any given weekend, and even on many week days. It is always busy. Then drop by any one of the many indoor ranges scattered around the valley. They too are always busy.

A study completed by Responsive Management and commissioned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that between 2009 and 2014 there was noticeable increase in participation in every major shooting activity. One area of significant growth is target shooting with handguns, which grew from around 10 million participants to more than 14 million.

Overall, 21.9 percent of Americans participated in the shooting sports in 2014. Here in the West, that number was closer to 23 percent.

Though 31.7 percent of males went target shooting that year, the shooting sports are not a man’s domain. Women comprise the fastest growing segment of the shooting sports. In 2014, they accounted for 30 percent of all sport shooters.

In a summary of its findings about recreational shooting, Responsive Management points out that “Americans, in general, view shooting sports as acceptable. In a recent study, Responsive Management found that 79% of Americans approve of recreational shooting, with most of them strongly approving. Responsive Management research also found that 63% of respondents indicated that shooting sports are perfectly acceptable today.”

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at

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