The Truth About Guns is the most popular firearms blog on the planet. The reason for our popularity is simple: we publish no-holds-barred firearms-flavored news, reviews and editorials, and lots of ’em. And we listen to our readers. We constantly monitor your comments and read hundreds of emails per day to give you what you really, really want. To keep faith with the people who put food on our table and give advertisers insight into our clientele, every year we invite readers to fill-out a short online survey. [Click here for 2012 and here for 2013.] Ladies (both of you) and gentlemen, here are the results for 2014 . . .
First up, demographics.
As always, most of our readers are males between the ages of 18 and 40. What always surprises me is the fairly even distribution of readers over 40 years old compared to the young’uns — this is an online blog, and as such I expect to see a higher proportion of younger tech-savy readers compared to the older generation. We get that a little bit with the 50+ crowd (their numbers seem to taper off at the top end), but it looks like we have a solid contingent of readers below the age of retirement.
One unfortunate fact: only about 2% of our readers are female. That proportion hasn’t changed and shows no sign of changing anytime soon. There are definitely more women joining in on the shooting sports these days, but they don’t seem to be reading the blog.
Just like last time, our readers tend to be highly educated and employed. 57% of our readers have successfully completed a college degree of some sort, most having a bachelor’s degree or higher. There’s also a large percentage (29%) who are current college students working towards their degree. In fact, only 1% of our readers have not completed their high school education.
What was that Bloomberg said about gun owners being uneducated rednecks?
Another statistic that is identical from last time is the proportion of readers with jobs. Most people who read our site have full time jobs, slightly more with desk jobs than “real” jobs. It makes sense: people with desk jobs can read TTAG while at work, but if you’re in the middle of an oil field or running a milling machine, your ability to just hit F5 on the site all day long is fairly nonexistent.
So, our readers are extremely well educated and employed men of roughly working age. But what about their backgrounds?
Most readers started shooting when they were between six and ten years old. Less than half of our shooters started over the age of eleven, so starting kids out early with guns seems to be the norm. “OMG! Kids! With guns!” Being taught by their parents, it seems. Over 50% of respondents said their parents were the ones giving them their first taste of chemically-fueled ballistic rapture, and a surprisingly small number (9%) started the way I did — Boy Scouts.
That early start in shooting seems to have caught on and carried through in later life for our readers. 67% of them get to the range at least once a month, often more. The largest reason why the range trips aren’t more frequent seems to be a lack of free time, with ammunition supply coming in a close second. This is a little different compared to last year, where the results indicated that a lack of ammo was a larger concern. It seems like ammo supplies have generally returned to normal, and the limiting factor is once again free time.
Training seems to be something that our readers are skimping on. There is a large percentage who take training classes (35%), but well more than half don’t, above and beyond that required to get a CHL in their area. Again, the limiting factor here seems to be that people just don’t have enough free time to take a class, not necessarily that they don’t have the means. Perhaps this might be a good niche for some enterprising instructor to try to fill? Shorter, more focused classes that work around people’s schedules?
Our readers are split on open carry. The vast and overwhelming majority believe that open carry should be legal, but the question boils down to whether it should be encouraged. Most think that concealed carry should be encouraged over open carry, but that majority is pretty slim.
Speaking of slim, here are two questions where “anti-gun” opinions are statistically zero:
I’m surprised that we had that many responses in favor of those proposals. Oh well, can’t please everyone. Moving on . . .
Almost all of our readers (97%) own at least one gun. We do have some readers who live outside the United States, so it makes sense that not everyone would own firearms. Of those who own a gun, almost everyone owns at least one handgun — and they prefer to shoot that handgun over anything else. Rifles and shotguns are next in line in ownership, and pretty close behind handguns. Shotguns are decidedly the least favorite thing for people to shoot. Only 14% of readers (not shown) say they prefer to shoot their shotgun over everything else.
Of the people who own a gun, 96% own an “arsenal” based on the New York Times’ definition (i.e., more than one). 67% own an arsenal based on the Chicago Tribune’s definition (more than 6). Only 15% own an arsenal based on Fox News’ definition (20+).
The one population I know we are under-serving as a news source is the hunting community. 65% of readers are either current hunters or want to hunt sometime in the future, and we definitely don’t have enough content focused on hunting. That’s something I will try to fix this coming year, poking Tyler with a sharp stick to produce more content and hopefully bringing some other hunters online as writers to support him.
82% of our readers own firearms that would give Dianne Feinstein nightmares (modern sporting rifles or “assault rifles”). The main reason for owning such long guns seems to be self defense, with a heaping helping of “because I can” following right behind. Competition shooting only raked in about 4% of the responses, with investment purchasing bringing up the rear. Ever since the bubble burst on modern sporting rifles last year the market has been exceedingly flat, so that makes sense.
A lot of people (79%) own what are referred to in the media as “high capacity” magazines. And they own a metric ton of them. Well over 50% say they own more than 11 magazines, with 20+ magazines being the norm.
Moving on, let’s switch to handguns.
The vast majority of people own handguns for self defense. No surprise there. 51% claim concealed carry as their reason for ownership, and a further 31% state that home defense was on their mind when they bought said shooting iron. Compared to those huge numbers, everything else seems pretty irrelevant.
This is definitely in line with what we’re seeing from the manufacturers. There’s a decided focus on self defense and home defense handguns this year, and it looks to be relatively spot-on with what people want out of their guns.
The graph I didn’t include here was a question about open carry — about 18% of TTAG readers practice it. The rest seem to prefer concealed carry, and 68% of readers have a concealed carry license. 91% of readers live in a state where concealed carry is an option, and the standard 1% of readers follow the advice of those delightful bards of the 1980’s, N.W.A. … “f*** the police.”
Enough about you, what about us?
Most of our readers (60%) have been with us for over a year. We had a massive traffic spike right around the time when the AWB push was going on last year, so that roughly matches up. There’s a large percentage of readers who have been with us less than a year though, and given our ever-increasing levels of traffic that’s definitely to be expected.
As always, about 30% of our readers are what we would call “addicts.” These are people who sit at their desk all day and constantly refresh the page, waiting for new stories to pop up. Something that’s up from last year is the percentage of people who visit once per day, probably during a daily scan of news websites. These are people who are probably missing articles due to the prodigious publishing rate we keep up, and finding ways of getting them all of our delicious content might be worth a look.
The thing that people keep coming back to see: gun reviews. Gun reviews are head and shoulders above every other category, the favorite of people who read the site, and the fewest people picked it as their least favorite feature. Political posts are the most controversial, with an almost equal number of people who love and hate them.
Surprising change from last year: breaking news is more popular. It could be that last year breaking news stories were all about impending doom, but this year the news seems to be mostly good.
83% of our readers believe that TTAG’s reviews provide enough information to make a decision on whether to purchase a firearm. Of those who responded in the negative, the general consensus seems to be that while they value our reviews over everyone else, they simply never trust one source for anything. It’s a good policy, and I can’t say that I fault them.
So, how does the competition stack up?
52% of our readers distrust reviews in printed magazines. 38% are indifferent, which is still nowhere near a vote of confidence. Only 10% of readers believe that what they read in print magazines is the truth. In short, print magazines are the least trusted source for reviews currently available to buyers.
Out on the internet, things look much better. New media reviews (Military Arms Channel, FateOfDestinee, et cetera) seem to engender much more trust than traditional media, yet there is still a large number of people who are hesitant to trust anyone else but us. As for reviews by random individuals on the internet, the responses roughly conform to a standard distribution. It’s a beautiful thing.
Apparently our readers really do trust our reviews. 16% of readers trust our reviews totally and completely, but the majority (63%) are just one step below total and complete trust. Again, like I said, our reviews are the most trusted among our readers.
As a side note, I appreciate the trust you put in us and will endeavor to maintain or raise our standards to meet your expectations.
We’re getting near the end of the results, but I wanted to leave you with this last item . . .
Last year around this time, we had about 5,000 likes on Facebook. We basically ignored the page, never posting anything interesting and auto-submitting content from the site. Thanks to MIA social media guru Shelby Richoux, we started paying more attention to the site right around the time of this year’s SHOT Show. Since then we passed 315,000 likes and are still climbing.
The impact’s been substantial; between 10% and 20% of our daily traffic is now a direct result of Facebook. In fact, 38% of people who responded to this survey found out about it on Facebook.
That’s all I have for you guys this year. If you have suggestions for editorial changes or comments about areas where we can improve, please post them below. Meanwhile, thank you for your patronage and trust. We will continue to do all we can to deserve it, with every single post.
[Methodology: This survey was distributed via Facebook and the TTAG website over one week. Readers were encouraged to respond to the survey voluntarily. We offered a prize for participation. The winner was selected at random (winner #1 never responded, winner #2 hasn’t yet, so we might have to go to #3). Assuming approximately 2.25 million unique readers per month, the desired sample size (99% confidence +/- 2 points) was 4,153. When the survey closed there were 4,189 responses, making the survey statistically significant.]