So this week we’re going to discuss the gear race. Believe me when I tell you the gear race exists. The gear race can be loosely defined as spending cash on different pieces of gear. The expectation is that in purchasing better gear you will score better and do better as a shooter. What I can tell you after eight years and counting in this sport is; the gear race is alive and well. The question becomes whether or not the money invested is worth the return. For some things it can be, but for the majority…not so much.
What is the Gear Race?
As we said above, the gear race is just what it sounds like. A race to get the best gear. The question you have to continually ask is whether or not the payoff is worth the price. Is there a performance gain between a $150 dollar tripod from Costco and a $1300 plus dollar Really Right Stuff tripod? You bet! How great is the gain? In this example, I’d say it’s quite significant. So you would think the gear race makes perfect sense in that case. I’m admitting a significant performance gain between the two above choices, what’s not to like?
There are many considerations to take stock of before a purchase like that. For example, how often are you encountering a situation where you need a tripod? If you do most of your shooting on a square range with your buddy from prone or a bench, it’s not worth it. You would spend way too much money for something you’re only doing once in a while. What if you already have a tripod setup? Maybe something like my photo above as an example. Is it worth trying to sell those items and invest more money to procure a better setup? That’s the part of the gear race I want to discuss.
Making Sense of the Gear Race
It comes down to the individual needs of the shooter. What makes sense for me may not make sense for you. I try to compete as much as humanly possible. Running a website dedicated to the precision shooting sports is a hobby. Writing an article every week on some aspect of this sport is a commitment I have made. So my needs are not the same as somebody getting started. You have to continually evaluate the cost/benefit ratio for purchases. You hear, “buy once and cry once,” a lot in this sport. That’s not bad advice. The problem is that people misuse it. The new shooter hears that and thinks he has to spend $1500 on a Sig Kilo 2400 laser rangefinder.
The first rangefinder I started with was a Nikon 1200 I found under the Christmas tree. Great gift, but the performance wasn’t there on a $400 rangefinder. Then I tried a Bushnell Elite 1600 ARC. We still have a review I did of that unit on this website. Much better performance for around $500 at the time. Next I upgraded to a Vectronix Terrapin. Industry leading performance. It came with a price, about $2000. Then we reviewed the Sig Kilo 2400. The Kilo 2400 will do most of what the Terrapin does for $500 less money. Here’s another secret. At the $500 price point a Sig Kilo 2200MR will do damn near everything you need it to do for a quarter the price of a Terrapin.
Gear Race Cautionary Notes
Be leery of the gear race. It’s really easy to get sucked into spending more money in this sport than is necessary. This is especially true for newer shooters. Again they hear our favorite saying, “Buy once and cry once.” Next thing we know they run out and spend $1500 on a rangefinder. A rangefinder that will lase targets to 2000+ yards. Do you shoot to 2000 yards? Do you even know where to find 2000 yards you can shoot on? Let’s do another example like rifle actions. I started with a factory Remington 700. Now, years later, I’ve upgraded to a Bighorn Arms custom action. The new shooter might be tempted to do that from the start.
Ask yourself what the performance gains are for a custom action over a factory action. You can buy a factory rifle for around half to two thirds the cost of a custom action. That’s a completely functioning rifle. Many of them can be tuned up and worked over when you have the time and money. The action above has printed up many groups under a quarter inch at 100 yards. I’ve got the targets to prove it. So while custom actions like my Bighorn are nice, and provide features factory actions do not, they’re not necessary. Especially at the beginning. Yes, the action above is anything but factory. Indeed for the money I put into it I could have bought a custom action. I’d also have to come up with a bigger chunk of money in one sitting.
I’ve always tried to approach articles on this website from an “everyman” perspective. I don’t think I’m somehow better or more important than newer shooters. I remember just starting out and this was an intimidating sport to get into. My hope is that discussing topics like this will help newer and more experienced shooters make informed decisions. The gear race is definitely alive and well. I’m speaking as somebody who’s participated in it long before I should have. I’m speaking as somebody who still participates to this day. However, I like to think I’m more careful about where my dollars go now.
For new shooters the single best thing you can do for yourselves is choose a good caliber. Even Remington has a factory 6.5 Creedmoor rifle now. The days of the starter 308 Winchester rifle are over. Beyond that I’d look real hard at an adjustable stock so the rifle fits you properly. Then start saving for some reliable glass. Worry about the cool guy gadgets and gear when it becomes necessary. Purchase that stuff when you have a need for it, because we all want it from the get go! Do you have comments or questions? Drop them below!