Pro shooters redefining marksmanship

Three-time Olympic medallist Kim Rhode announced in May that she'd been selected to join the sports world's most elite beneath the Nike banner. NSSF.org

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Firearm industry leaders say more corporate money than ever before is flowing into sponsorship of pro competition shooters, creating an unprecedented class of marksmen now sought as trainers for U.S. military and police.

It's a trend that could turn a familiar sports marketing strategy into an unexpected boon for national security, says Chris Dolnack of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

"Companies that make sports equipment, from golf clubs to tennis rackets to fishing rods to shotguns, are constantly improving their products. The best way to market these products is by getting them into the hands of professional competitors with a knack for winning tournaments as well as brand loyalty among fans," explained Dolnack.

He added, "Across shooting sports, guns and gear have never been better. Ammunition is better. Training tactics are better. Purses and endorsements are more lucrative. All the commercial interests are working together to develop the finest shooters who ever lived."

Many industry-sponsored pros now moonlight as trainers for military and police, budget-strapped professions where marksmanship skills may be trending the opposite direction.

Police are required to periodically "qualify," proving that their shooting skills meet or exceed local standards. But how big is the gap between average qualifying skills versus average competition skills?

"It's really not even a gap — it's more like a canyon. Today's competition shooter is a far superior marksman," said Dave Lauck, a Gillette, Wyo., law enforcement officer and shooting pro. Lauck also operates a training academy. Last year, he received a U.S. Army Special Forces Certificate of Appreciation for his work teaching competition shooting skills to soldiers.

Dave Sevigny, a pro shooter-turned-trainer sponsored by Glock, agrees.

He said, "The difference in average skill levels is off the charts. Law enforcement qualifying skills, in most cases, require an understanding of how to line up the sights and deliver a good trigger press. To be a top practical shooter, on the other hand, requires shooting on the move, shooting at moving targets, strong- and support-hand shooting, and, above all, speed and accuracy."

Learn more about competitive shooting today by reading "Firearm Industry Builds Pro Shooters, and Vice Versa" online at www.nssf.org, click here.