HAM Talks To J. Mitch King, President And CEO Of The Airgun Sporting Association
The Airgun Sporting Association (ASA) is a recently-formed trade organization which aims to promote the legal use of airguns for hunting and in other ways. Hard Air Magazine Publisher Stephen Archer spoke to J Mitch King, the President and CEO of the ASA to find out more.
HAM: Mitch, please tell us: how did the ASA come to be formed?
Mitch King: The airgun industry has tried to come together as an association in the past. But unfortunately previous attempts have failed to really come together in a lasting form. This time, six airgun manufacturers and importers started discussions about a new association in 2017. The result was the Airgun Sporting Association, which was formed in February 2018.
HAM: So who are the members of the Airgun Shooting Association?
Mitch King: The founding members of the ASA are AirForce Airguns, Air Venturi, Crosman, GAMO/Daisy, SIG SAUER Airguns and Umarex USA. As you can tell, these are most of the big players in the airgun industry.
HAM: Please tell us a little of your personal background.
Mitch King: I’ve spent my entire life hunting. Like most kids, I started shooting BB guns. Then I graduated to hunting with firearms and bows. Having worked for 50 years with the US Field and Wildlife agency, I have connections with many of the State Wildlife Agencies and their staffs.
HAM: As the Airgun Sporting Association is new, where is it looking to make an impact first?
Mitch King: The first main thrust for the ASA is to promote the legal use of airguns for hunting. Our emphasis is on big bore airguns, but hunting with smallbore airguns is also included. You see, typically, airguns are treated as an offshoot of firearms when it comes to hunting regulations. This means that it’s often difficult to find out exactly airguns are covered by state hunting codes.
HAM: So are State Wildlife Agencies anti-airgun?
Mitch King: No, I don’t think that’s the case at all. When I talk to these agencies about airgun hunting, they’re not negative or anti-airgun. It’s just that airguns are seen as somewhat of niche and they’re not explicitly included, or not included in state hunting regulations in a way that’s easy to find.
Also, we need to understand that state wildlife agencies are chartered to encourage hunting. They want to see more safe, legal hunters and they know that hunting with airguns is an entry point for more, new hunters. So they’re often pro-airgun once they understand what can be achieved by air powered arms.
HAM: But surely State Wildlife Agencies know about airguns?
Mitch King: In general, yes. But I think that many state agencies have been frankly amazed to learn about the capabilities of big bore airguns. Here is an area where it’s vital for the ASA to provide the appropriate education and set expectations.
Of course, they understand that airguns offer advantages in low noise, light recoil, shorter range and cost compared to firearms. But their mindset has primarily been centered on .177 and .22 caliber airguns.
It’s been a whole new experience for many agencies to discover the capabilities of big bore airguns – in particular – for hunting a wide range of game. In fact they’ve often been excited with what they’ve heard and seen!
And, just to be clear, when we talk about big bore airgun hunting, we generally specify .35 caliber as a minimum and PCP actions as a requirement.
HAM: How are airbows perceived by the agencies?
Mitch King: Really it’s quite simple. Agencies and the ASA all regard airbows as airguns that shoot arrows. They’s not archery equipment and this means that they are included in the ASA’s activities.
HAM: Can you tell us where big bore airgun hunting is legal right now?
Mitch King: That’s a little difficult! There’s several lists that are in existence, but I’m not sure that they are all completely accurate. The issue is that state hunting regulations change every year. They’re not big changes, for sure, but there are often slight changes to season dates and other tweaks. These may not be completely reflected in these lists.
HAM: How does the ASA relate to the NRA and the NSSF?
Mitch King: We’re working with both the NRA and the NSSF to alert both that the ASA exists and that it’s not in competition with them. The airgun industry has specific needs, however, and we’re working with all parties to that end.
HAM: Mitch, can you explain why other airgun companies should join the ASA?
Mitch King: The ASA aims to help all airgun companies by expanding our industry and the market. If more airgun companies join, the ASA gains stature and that enhances our ability to represent the whole industry.
We’re looking to expand the ASA with different levels of membership and with communications platforms to help companies within the airgun industry stay in touch with our activities.
HAM: Finally, can you explain how the average airgun shooter can help the ASA?
Mitch King: Going forward, I’m sure that there will be opportunities for individual airgunners to help the ASA. Their local knowledge and experience will be a great help in achieving the goal of achieving clear regulations for airgun hunting of all types in every state. And all shooters will benefit from enhanced clarity of the rules surrounding airgun hunting, both big bore and small bore.
HAM: Mitch, thanks for talking to us about the Airgun Shooting Association. I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about progress in the future.
Mitch King: Thanks Steve, you’re already helping a lot by publishing this story in Hard Air Magazine! We’ll speak soon…