Shooters, hunters and gun owners in general are always searching for ways to attract youngsters to the shooting sports. It's definitely a focal point for organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Rifle Association and Youth Shooting Sports Alliance. And while the editorial staff at Guns & Ammo tries to cover all aspects of shooting and firearms, it's sometimes difficult to stress how important it is to convince parents to introduce their kids to the shooting sports.
Many companies have youth programs, but one company has taken that extra step. That extra step is one that many gun owners are very familiar with. Does the name "Red Ryder" ring a bell? Daisy, located in Rogers, Ark., still makes the iconic Red Ryder BB gun. Millions of people can relate to it as the very first "firearm" they owned and used.
"We did a survey several years ago, and Daisy had an 83 percent brand awareness — that's up there with Coca-Cola," says Daisy President Ray Hobbs. "It really seems like everyone learns to shoot with a Daisy."
How many Red Ryders do you think end up under the Christmas tree every year? I gave my granddaughter, Cali, a Red Ryder for Christmas when she was barely 4 months old (it's never too early).
"The Red Ryder is the icon of Daisy," Hobbs adds. "The Red Ryder is passed down from grandfather to father to son or daughter. We had a letter from a couple a [few] years ago stating that every Christmas they give their new grandchild a Red Ryder. They'd already bought a dozen of them and hoped they may have to get a dozen more."
The multi-tiered youth shooting educational curriculum Daisy has developed is part of its "Taking Shooting Education on the Road" program. It's already up and running in major outlets such as Cabela's, Bass Pro, Walmart, Tractor Supply and in "'mom and pop' dealer stores" (to use Hobbs' description).
"We've developed an entirely new program to teach kids how to shoot," says Hobbs. "We've partnered with programs like the 'Take Aim' Jakes program [instituted by the National Wild Turkey Federation] to expand our reach."
A brief overview of the program starts with what Hobbs calls "an inflatable shooting range." Thanks to the Potterfield Foundation (started by Midway owners Larry and Brenda Potterfield), which supplied trailers to haul equipment around the country, the mobile airgun range program now has hundreds of inflatable ranges being circulated to every type of shooting venue imaginable.
How successful has the program been? A conservative figure Hobbs offers up is that 100,000-plus kids a year are exposed to shooting via the inflatable range program. And ultimately, Hobbs notes, it can lead them to competing in the Annual BB Gun Championship for 8- to 15-year-olds. Last year, 53 teams from 28 states competed in the event.
"We've also initiated a pilot program or project with state game and fish organizations where we've developed a template in which shooting ranges are in place in, for example, nature centers," Hobbs says. "We're hoping to create enough interest to expand the program to as many states as possible."
Daisy's motto, "Teaching America to Shoot One Shot at a Time," has never seemed more appropriate. "We're set on teaching the enjoyment of the shooting sports," Hobbs says. "There's a business side to it, of course, but it's a lot bigger than that. It's about making certain the shooting sports are preserved for future generations."
A tip of the G&A cap to Daisy and Ray Hobbs for having the vision to establish such a wonderful program.