If you think Europe doesn’t like guns, you’ve never been to the IWA OutdoorClassics trade show. The 43rd edition of the international exhibition was held last weekend in Nuremberg, Germany, and, according to this press release, it’s bigger than ever. Approximately 1,455 exhibitors attended the event to show off their guns and gear to some 43,500 visitors. Some have called it the SHOT Show of Europe.
It attracts both European and American companies, including 5.11 Tactical, Ruger, Aero Precision, Remington, Kimber, and Mossberg.
All this to say: despite draconian gun regulations, the firearms community in Europe is far from dead.
Even some American media outlets covered the event. Gun Talk hosted a fascinating interview with Austin Sheridan of Austin Sheridan USA, who explained that Europe has a large and energetic hunting community. Europeans, of course, have been hunting for thousands of years—much longer than the United States has even existed.
Europe, in fact, boasts between seven and nine million registered hunters, quite a few less than the U.S. (45 million registered hunters), but still nothing to sneeze at.
This all sounds great. Europe has its own SHOT Show and millions of hunters and gun owners—maybe Europe’s reputation is worse than reality?
Sadly, the reality may be worse.
Everyone knows European countries place more restrictions on guns—Sheridan admits as much at the beginning of the interview. What’s less well-known is the result of these regulations on the average European citizen. According to Sheridan, the average hunter in Europe spends between 25,000-30,000 Euro per year to hunt.
In case you’re not up on international currency conversions, that’s between 27,000 and 32,000 United States Dollars. Per year, every year. To hunt.
Hunting in Europe, Sheridan says, is a white-collar sport.
The numbers back this up. There may be 8 million hunters in Europe, but there are also 740 million European residents. That’s one hunter for every 92.5 people—almost literally the top one percent of the population. The U.S., by contrast, boats one hunter for every seven people.
Here’s just one example of many. In Germany, hunters are required to obtain a national hunting license, liability insurance, and a regional hunting permit. The national license is only granted after passing a rigorous test in which applicants must “show adequate knowledge of species, game biology and management, hunting management, game damage prevention, farming and forestry, firearms law and technique, gundog handling, inspection and treatment of game following hygiene measures, evaluating game meat, notably to determine if it can be used for human consumption, welfare of game and wildlife and nature and landscape conservation law.”
David E. Petzal of Field and Stream has been told it’s “the equivalent of getting a master’s degree and the failure rate is high.”
None of this is even counting the higher cost of firearms, hunting club fees, and land use fees.
It all adds up to one thing: blue collar Europeans can’t afford to provide for their families and enjoy the outdoors through hunting.
And if the anti-gun folks have their way, hard-working Americans are looking at a similar fate.
(Editor’s note: This article was a submission from freelance writer Jordan Michaels. Cover image comes courtesy of asuitthatfits.com.)