CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Punching holes in paper is big business, especially when the objects used to punch the holes happen to be bullets.
A recent survey, conducted for the National Shooting Sports Foundation by Southwick Associates, revealed that Americans spend $9.9 billion a year on target shooting. That's in addition to the estimated $38.3 billion they spend on hunting.
Those are pretty formidable numbers, because they reflect money actually spent on equipment, services, travel and supplies directly related to recreational target shooting.
The survey's authors also calculated an even larger economic impact based on certain "multipliers," but frankly, I question those larger numbers because they assume that the money from direct expenditures will continue to "turn over" within the nation's economy, an assumption that might or might not prove correct.
So for purposes of this column, I'll cite only numbers that reflect money actually spent in 2011, the year in which the survey was conducted.
According to the researchers, there are 20.1 million target shooters in the U.S., and they're apparently not one-trick ponies. Participation in the four principal disciplines - rifle, handgun, shotgun and muzzleloader - totaled well over 100 percent, so there obviously was crossover.
Sixty-five percent of the survey's respondents said they shoot rifles. An additional 65 percent said they shoot handguns. Forty-eight percent shoot shotguns, and 18 percent shoot muzzleloaders.
Perhaps because of its reputation for being a place where hunting still is revered, West Virginia gets portrayed as a state populated by gun enthusiasts. That might be true as far as hunting is concerned, but apparently not so much for target shooting.
According to the survey, 8.7 percent of all Mountain State residents engage in target shooting. While that figure stands well above the national average of 6.4 percent, it ranks lower than the per capita rates of 18 other states.