How to Get into Competition Shooting
It isn’t as simple as picking up a firearm and heading to the range. There are many different styles of competitive shooting, all with different levels of commitment and expense. It may take a little investigation to choose what fits your lifestyle and interests best – or you may choose to dabble in many different things.
The first thing to consider is your experience. Are you a novice shooter or an avid hunter? Are you familiar with a wide array of firearms, or just getting comfortable? Before starting into any discipline, ensure that you have proper and safe firearm handling skills. If you are looking for additional training or instruction, do not hesitate to contact local certified instructors, look for a First Shots or another basic course to get you more familiar with firearms.
What kinds of competition are you interested in? Fast-moving and timed? Slow-paced but with a greater focus on accuracy? Do you prefer shooting rifles, pistols, or shotguns, or perhaps some combination? If you prefer shooting at stationary paper targets for the best groups, a benchrest, high power service rifle, or bullseye pistol may be a good fit for you. If you prefer something with immediate feedback, you may prefer busting clays with a shotgun in trap, skeet, or sporting clays. If you are looking for more defense and action-oriented competition, look to USPSA matches or 3-gun. Precision rifle shooting and long-range rifles are incredibly popular right now, though access to competition often relies on where you live and your willingness to travel. These are only a few and an overview of the many different shooting disciplines in existence. Local, regional, state, national, and international level competitions may have different rules and courses of fire.
Some sports are more of an equipment race than others and have a higher barrier to entry. Other disciplines are intended for nearly anyone to be able to participate in. In example, the National Rifle League’s (NRL) .22 league is designed so that anyone with a .22 lr rifle and access to a 100-yard range can participate. There are center-fire matches held across the country at further distances and a new hunter series beginning designed to test competitor’s skills at further distances on more challenging targets.
Start by doing some research. Evaluate what equipment you already own and what you are willing to spend to get into or keep up in a discipline. This depends heavily on the level you want to compete at. If it is just to go out to a local club or range every week to have fun with friends, you likely won’t put in as much money into equipment as an Olympic athlete. In the process, do a simple web search for local sportsmen’s clubs in your area and investigate the programs they have. Not all clubs have updated websites, so call and ask about the different programs and offerings. Even if a club nearby does not host competitions, it is still a potential training site. True competitive shooters are athletes. They understand the value and necessity of practice, training, and time spent developing and honing skills. Also turn to the governing body of the type of competition you are interested in. These include the Civilian Marksmanship Program, The National Rifle Association ,USA Shooting , USPSA , Precision Rifle Series , the National Sporting Clays Association and more.
There are countless videos and content on the internet about various competitive disciplines. Sometimes a sport may appear boring until you experience it yourself. Once you determine what programs are near you, or what you would like to try, find a mentor and others who will help you get started. This person may be a friend or a complete stranger you connect with through your local club, a governing body or even someone you meet through social media. Many disciplines have chat groups or forums and a presence online for sharing tips and gear.
Always be careful with firearms and around anyone you don’t know. For the most part, people in the competitive shooting community are eager to share knowledge and expand the sports they love. In fact, the sense of community and new friends made on the range is one of the greatest benefits of being a competitive shooter. In many cases, you will find someone willing to let you borrow his/her equipment and coach you along. This allows you to try the style of competition before investing considerable time and money. There are also mentorship programs designed to pair new shooters with veterans of the sport.
Every person has different reasons for competing. Some compete for fun while others have particular goals. Competitive shooting teaches patience, self-discipline, and builds character. You may have certain goals to achieve, like winning matches, gaining sponsors, or representing your country. Regardless, the steps to begin are the same – determining what you want to compete in, where you can compete, and finding a mentor.
Never be afraid to ask questions. People are generally more than willing to help. You should also never quit because you aren’t shooting the scores you would like. It comes with time and practice and seeing the results of dedication is infinitely rewarding. One of the most special things about the shooting sports is that there is something for everyone, regardless of age and physical ability.
I never expected to become a competitive shooter. It started with shooting a .22 lr rifle in my backyard and an invitation to a silhouette competition. Though it was not a sanctioned event, I learned a lot from the people around me and enjoyed both the camaraderie and challenge that shooting presented. Over time I wanted to spend more time on the range and joined a junior high-power team that introduced me to national level competitions. I have since ventured into other forms of competitive shooting, and would not have ever started without the help and guidance of amazing mentors who have become like family.