column By: Steve Garbe | May, 19
Horror Vacui or “Nature abhors a vacuum” is most often credited to the philosopher Aristotle. The stated concept was that in nature nothing remains empty. You are probably wondering at this point, What in the world does this have to do with black powder cartridge shooting? I would argue that this wise saying represents what we are seeing take place in some of our black powder shooting disciplines, especially those historically connected with the National Rifle Association.
In the Spring issue (No. 105) “Letter from Readers” we saw the announcement by rifleman Robert Garibay of the newly formed Black Powder Target Rifle Association. His stated goal of the BPTRA was to be “bringing the matches to competitors that they deserve.” In this issue, a letter was received from well-known Long Range rifleman, Ray Hanson, informing us of the success of the recent nine-day competition at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Ray was greatly encouraged about the future of Long Range shooting by the positive experience he had at the matches, which had no support from the National Rifle Association. To add to this sea change, at least in my mind, is the continued popularity of the various .22 BPCR Silhouette matches around the country, run by volunteers, and not sponsored or recognized in any way by the NRA. Let’s also not forget the wildly successful “Quigley Match” which takes place at Forsyth, Montana, and is arguably the largest black powder cartridge rifle event in the world; again, doing so with no support or recognition from the NRA. Did I mention that these matches are staffed by unpaid volunteers?
What exactly is going on here? It seems to me what we are seeing is a reaction to years of perceived mishandling of both the sport and the competitors in the black powder cartridge shooting disciplines. People have voted with their feet and are simply supporting those shooting events, or starting new associations and shooting ranges which are relatively free from controversy and mismanagement. There has been a “vacuum” created in people’s perceptions about NRA-run events, so it has begun to be filled by those who believe the BPCR shooting sports are too important to let die.
This is not meant to be an NRA-bashing editorial, but the truth of the matter is that the NRA enjoyed being on the ground floor of the black powder cartridge shooting phenomenon in its infancy. Starting with BPCR Silhouette and Target Rifle competitions, the NRA was ideally positioned to make the most of these matches and the shooter enthusiasm that went with them. The fact that they didn’t, has now become painfully obvious. Opinions on why that came about are varied, but the end result has been the same.
The NRA Competitions Department has stated that when a match sinks to below a certain number of competitors, then it is simply not feasible to continue to hold the competition. I would argue that this is precisely the mindset that got the NRA into trouble in the first place. The competitors that hang on in the face of adversity are precisely who you want to encourage. Those are the shooters who keep a sport alive through the natural ups and downs of any competitive discipline. Not recognizing this fact is extremely short-sighted and almost guarantees failure.
To be fair, there are those in the NRA who see the deficiencies and are working hard to correct them – I wish them luck. They have an uphill battle to correct past mistakes. If they give up or “kill the messenger” by ignoring input from those shooters that are still participating in NRA-sanctioned events, we will simply see an even further “filling of the vacuum.”