Hobbyists vs. Hardcore Enthusiasts: The Gun-Community Divide

posted on July 12, 2019

This article, "Hobbyist?" appeared originally as a Handguns column in the August 2017 issue of Shooting Illustrated. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select Shooting Illustrated as your member magazine.

A couple of trainers have fairly recently started to use the word “hobbyist” to refer to, well, the sort of people they claim they don’t cater to. The normal pejorative in these circumstances would be “gamer,” but that’s not accurate in this case because plenty of the people to whom the epithet was directed only casually shoot competitively, if at all.

Instead, the targeted demographic consists of people who have taken on shooting in general—and perhaps self-defense-specific shooting in particular—as a hobby. People who get to the range more than once a quarter, take multiple classes on the topic, etc.

In fact, it can go well beyond just shooting. I know plenty of folks who not only shoot pretty seriously, but have taken up Brazilian jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts as a hobby, and who seek out training in various self-defense-related topics, like proper use of chemical sprays, use-of-force law, trauma medicine, conflict management and a host of other things—all for something that may not ever happen. But you know what? They do it because it’s fun, they enjoy it and it’s a free country. Hey, some people whack little balls around a pasture with clubs, so who’s to point and laugh, right?

So, yeah, I’ve embraced the “hobbyist” label. There’s not a thing wrong with making a hobby out of preparing to ruin some hypothetical bad guy’s day.

The only time it causes me agitation is when I let it overlap with my day job of offering firearms-related self-defense advice to people who maybe haven’t made a hobby out of it. I’ll give an example from a recent review here at Shooting Illustrated.

There I was, writing up my final thoughts on the Honor Defense Honor Guard 9, and I remember writing something along the lines of being a little puzzled by its intended audience, because obviously everybody who carried a full-size M&P was going to buy a Shield for occasional deep-concealment carry and everybody who carried a Glock G19 was going to buy a G43 for ditto and everybody who carried a Walther…and so on.

Because in my circles pretty much everybody does carry a full- or mid-size service pistol and buys these little guns as a very occasional backup for “non-permissive environments” and whatnot. I know from working retail as long as I have that plenty of people come into the store and buy a little gun as their first and only gun, without any consideration of whether the control layout and manual-of-arms matched some existing arsenal they already have.

And that’s OK.

That’s 95 percent of the gun-buying (and even the gun-carrying) public. Most people do not “dress around” a gun. Further, many people work in places where carrying a gun is not only not expected, but actually verboten. And to the facile response of “Just roll dirty! Carry anyway if it’s not against the law!” well, I’m not the person to tell them what level of risk they’re willing to take with their livelihood. And most folks who do take that risk don’t do it with a long-slide Heckler & Koch P30L with a weapon-mounted light and two spare mags; it’s usually a Ruger LCP in a pocket or belly band.

A good friend works someplace where a firearm would be an immediate crash-and-burn firing offense. So, the .380 ACP that’s normally in her purse gets locked in a lockbox in her vehicle in the parking lot (where it’s protected by NRA-backed guns-in-parking-lots legislation) while she’s in the office. Is it ideal? No, but I understand her not wanting to risk her retirement, and at least she has it with her if she has a flat in a sketchy neighborhood on her way to work the graveyard shift.

I love running into people who share my hobby. I love expanding it. I would love to see more people shooting and training and carrying religiously. I would love it if armed robbery became known as a good way of getting shot rather than as a good way of getting a cell phone and a wallet.

But if they don’t have a lot of training and a big gun with them all the time, then some training and a small gun with them most of the time beats no training and no gun at all. And who knows? If I invite them to classes and matches and the range, maybe they’ll catch the bug, and it’ll get just that little bit more dangerous for the bad guys out there.


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