The financial state of the NRA’s publications made a modest improvement from 2020 to 2021. However, the improvement was not enough to change the fact that they continue to operate at a significant loss.
The group’s internal financial report obtained by The Reload showed its overall publications revenue was approximately $13.4 million as of August 2021. That represents an improvement of roughly $753,000 from the same time the previous year. In addition to boosting revenue, the group also managed to slash spending on its publications by nearly a million dollars from the year prior.
Publications offered to members may be considered a service provided by the NRA, but the group at least attempts to offset the cost of providing them. It’s not clear how the group judges a publication’s performance, though. Amy Hunter, an NRA spokesperson, told The Reload the group believes the overall picture presented by the internal financial report was good.
“Naturally, the NRA is not inclined to discuss non-public business strategies with those outside the organization,” she said in a statement this week. “In any event, the NRA report is, as objective observers agree, very positive.”
But while the group’s publication performance improved on net by roughly $1.75 million year-over-year, the overall picture was less positive. As of August 2021, the NRA’s publications operated at a loss of nearly $3.2 million.
The financial struggles of the group’s publications department track with broader financial struggles experienced by the group overall. NRA members are offered a subscription to one of four primary magazines—American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s 1st Freedom, and Shooting Illustrated—upon joining the organization. But with year-over-year declines in both raw membership numbers and membership revenue overall, the circulation for the magazines has likely suffered. Since much of their revenue is derived from advertising, the financial health of the NRA’s publications was bound to struggle as well.
The internal report shows the losses were highly concentrated in certain magazines. The single largest source of net expense in publications was America’s 1st Freedom, the group’s political magazine. America’s 1st Freedom is “the magazine for NRA members dedicated to preserving our fundamental right to self-defense,” according to the NRA website.
“From breaking news on latest anti-gun schemes to in-depth investigations into explosive topics such as BATFE’s ‘Fast and Furious’ debacle, America’s 1st Freedom reports the news that impacts our gun rights,” it said.
As of August 2021, the magazine cost the group $1.8 million to operate but only brought in $768,000, creating a net expense of over $1 million for just the one magazine alone.
Another prominent source of operating loss came from the group’s shooting gear review and lifestyle magazine, Shooting Illustrated.
“From concealed carry and home defense to 3-gun competition and tactical training, Shooting Illustrated is loaded to full capacity with expert information on the subjects today’s shooters care about most,” the group’s site says. “Each issue offers in-depth analysis of the latest self-defense and tactical firearms and gear, along with valuable, how-to advice on shooting techniques and methods of personal protection.”
Shooting Illustrated cost the NRA $2.4 million to operate but only brought in just under $1.7 million in revenue for the group. American Hunter and Shooting Sports USA lost money with net expenses of $168,000 and $68,000, respectively. NRA Family, an all-ages offering that “provides ideas for family adventures and tips for hunters and shooters of all skill levels,” reported $0 in revenue despite costing the organization $81,000 in expenses.
In fact, the only magazine listed on the report operating in the black was the group’s flagship offering, and most prominent publication, American Rifleman.
“American Rifleman is the largest firearm magazine in the world, covering everything from the newest products off the manufacturing line to historical firearms, and keeps its audience updated on political events regarding the Second Amendment,” the magazine’s website says.
The magazine overperformed even the group’s own projections, which had it slated to lose over $600,000 in net expenses. Instead, the magazine managed to bring in $292,000 more than it spent as of August 2021.