71.5 Million People Are The Market

Now, what are we going to do to reach them?

In 2013, it was estimated that approximately 71,500,000 people worldwide watched competitive gaming. The increasing availability of online streaming media platforms, particularly Twitch.tv, has become central to the growth and promotion of eSports competitions. Demographically, Major League Gaming has reported viewership that is approximately 85% male and 15% female, with 60% of viewers between the ages of 18 and 34.

That is seventy one and a half MILLION people who play video games and sit and watch other people play video games, . What if 10% of them shot? What if 1% of them shot practical pistol? Are we even capable of thinking what 70,000+ new, excited, MOTIVATED new shooters would do to USPSA/IDPA/3 Gun?

3 Gun teams are the new Blue Angels.

Or rather, they should be.

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Video games are driving an interest in gun sales. What video games are NOT doing is driving an interesting in competitive shooting, and that’s hurting the sport.

Why not make 3 Gun more like Call Of Battlefield Honor, or whatever the kids are playing these days? I can say from personal experience that some of the most enjoyable three stages I shot were ones that had a heavy military influence. Hanging from a repel harness or moving through the fuselage of a helicopter is FUN, so it follows then that it’s easier to show how much fun it is on TV if the experience itself is fun.

These days, recruiting centers use posters of Tier One operators decked out in full battle rattle as much as they do shots of their their formation flying teams and pictures of strapping young men in dress uniforms. Maybe it’s time for a shooting competition that appeals to the people who join the military because of the desire to be a “elite operator” that lurks within the hearts of every teenage video game player.

What if 3 Gun Nation ditched the Armalite sponsorship and went after the AMU as a sponsor? A 12 episode series with stages based on videos games would cost WAY less than just one Blue Angels performance and it’d show off the capabilities of today’s warriors much more than a bunch of smoke trails in the sky would, plus it would give the Army a seat at the Blue Angels / Thunderbirds PR table way beyond the Golden Eagles jump team they have now.

Win/win/win.

In order to prosper, 3 Gun needs to go back to its roots.

I watched the first episode of the new season of “3 Gun Nation” this month, and I was struck as to how pared-down and repetitive it’s become. The stages no longer feature awkward shooting positions, shotgun reloads or feats of athletic splendor: It’s pretty much a 25 yard sprint with one vaguely interesting target, the Death Star. I guess trading FNH for Armalite as a sponsor has a negative effect on what whiz-bang stages you can run. On the plus side, it looks like they’ve set things up to work on a 100 yd bay, and that’s a good thing, because not every range has a 300 yard rifle course.

3 Gun started out as the Soldier of Fortune match and it was very heavily influenced by tactical and military shooting of the day. Since then, 3 Gun has moved away from the “tactical” world (except for Trooper division) and evolved into more of a pure sporting event.
But does it need to be a pure sporting event in order to succeed? Let’s consider two of the more popular shooting shows in the last few years, Top Shot and Shooting Stars Stars Earn Stripes.

We all know about Top Shot: The show proved that personalities + athletic shooting prowess = $$$ and ratings, and it probably did more to unite shooters and non-shooters alike than any other show. It was FUN to watch, even if you weren’t a gun owner, and it launched the careers of at least a half-dozen participants on the show.

Stars Earn Stripes was a wholehearted, full-bore military training show, and it was on a major network. It was, in essence, “Battle of the Network Stars” with more firepower, and it was popular enough to get the usual crowd of anti-gunners in a tizzy and have it cancelled before it got a second season.

What if 3 Gun were more about the tactical and less about the gaming? More thoughts on that later.

Whining at the door, scratching to get in.

My Kel-Tec is getting repaired at the shop, so I have to wait to install all the new toys onto it.

I’m waiting on an ambi mag release and bolt catch from Troy so I can upgrade my competition AR to something that is truly ambidextrous (and then write a story about it for one of the biggest gunblogs out there).

My new CZ is still at CZ Custom, getting a new hammer, trigger and sights.

I do like the Taccom shotgun rig, though. I just need the time to go out and shoot a match with it.

I have all this new stuff, but I can’t play with it! So frustrating!

Five… Four… Three…

I finally figured out my Cerakote 3 Gun Color Scheme.

I’m going with something that’s a treasured memory from growing up in Canada, something that reflects my years living in Arizona, and something that echoes my lifelong interest in aviation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!!!!!!

The pistol: Thunderbird One

thunderbird-1-mb-2-2

The shotgun: Thunderbird Two

Thunderbird-2-M3-4

The rifle: Thunderbird Three

thunderbird-3-mb-4

The Thunderbirds was my favorite TV show as a kid, and the Thunderbird is a reoccurring theme in the Phoenix area where I lived for so long, and of course, let’s not forget the USAF Thunderbirds.

Now to get the darn things into production…

Good things come in threes

Ok, now that I’m cerakoting the new CZ, it’s got me thinking about doing my 3 AR and shotgun as well, but I need a theme. Allen was talking about doing an Avengers theme (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor), and no, a Father, Son, Holy Ghost thing is RIGHT out (there’s only so much tweaking of the noses of my faith I can handle), so your suggestions are appreciated: What color schemes are out there associated with the number three?

This is how the media SHOULD be talking about practical shooting

Take a few moments to read this story on Wired.com about a big-time “Big Buck Hunter” video game contest, and ask yourself what it would take for Wired or Stuff or some other trendy media outlet to talk about USPSA or 3 Gun with the same amount of enthusiasm.

Some select points from the article:

“It’s all patterns,” he’d say. “If you want to win, just know the patterns.”

Patterns are key. Bucks appear in specific places at specific times. Knowing the patterns requires practice. Practice requires time. Time requires money. But my friends and I are young. We can find time and money.

Sounds a lot like Steel Challenge to me…

“Andy (a gamer in the article) touches on the growing trend of players owning personal Big Buck machines. “You used to be a douchebag if you did that,” he says. “But then those people started winning championships. So.”

Waiting for the inevitable “Playing Big Buck Hunter will get you killed in the woods” comments…

“The stereotype is that most of the people who love BBH are Republican, pro-gun, NRA members. That’s true, but only to an extent.”

No comment.

“By the time I get to The Pourhouse, (the site of the championship), the atmosphere is much as I remember it from Friday. Same faces, same outfits, same rodeo energy. The emcee implores the crowd to drink Old Milwaukee, because it’s the sponsor and it’s free. A hype video introducing “Big Buck Hunter HD Wild” plays on a screen. It has lots of new animals.”

Think about how SOCIAL playing this game is, and then think about how social the average USPSA match is. Sure, the guys on the squad trash talk with each other and have fun, but when’s the last time you were at a match that a) had spectators b) had facilities for spectators or c) encouraged spectators to be social and root for their favorites.

The finals offer a three-trek format, a change that benefits Tower, who tends to be a faster shot. He pulls away early, blasting at bucks even as they materialize. He hits them all. It’s freakish, and unstoppable. He takes the match. Green and orange confetti falls from the rafters. Tower raises his arms in triumph.

I catch up with him a little later. He’s glowing with excitement and perhaps alcohol. “Only had four beers all day,” he says. I have trouble believing him. Then he says he’s the fastest Big Buck Hunter shot in the world. I have no trouble believing him. I ask if he’s got any advice.

“Aim small, hit small,” he says.

I have no idea what this means, but damned if it doesn’t sound good.

Hey, look, a competitor who can differentiate his type of performance from everyone else out there! How fresh! How exciting! How completely absent from USPSA! We call Rob Leatham “The Great One” (and he is) but WHY is he the great one? What makes his style so dominating versus Max or Eric or Jerry? How do we expect to stimulate interest in our sport if the people who shoot it aren’t interesting?

Playing a video game in a bar is exciting, social and popular. Shooting a match is exciting, and if we can figure out a way to make it social, we can make it popular.

The question is, is that what we want to do?

Competition Will Get You Killed On The Streets Of Iraq, Part Deux

First it was the Army, now it’s the Marines.*

The most dramatic recommendations from the fiscal 2015 Marksmanship Symposium at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, in October call for studying the overhaul of the Corps’ service rifles.

But those comprise only a small fraction of the overall approved and proposed changes that affect everything from ammunition to ranges and basic tables of fire used for annual rifle qualifications.

Some changes already have been approved, including revisions to the tables of fire for rifle training and qualification and the launch of three-gun style competitions for Marines throughout the fleet.

Parting thought: If you shoot 3 Gun with a service rifle, does it invalidate the “This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for fighting, the other for fun” rule?

* Yes, I know, the Marines actually started this kind of program before the Army did, but I wrote about the Army’s program first, Mr. Pedantic Know-It-All.