So the focus of today’s article is going to be competition shooting. Specifically, how to get started and what some of the benefits can be! A lot of guys are interested in shooting in a match and getting started with competition shooting. Unfortunately, a lot of folks are also not sure what to expect at a match. They aren’t sure it’s going to be worth their time and there are some good reasons for wondering. The idea here is to talk about the different levels of competition shooting and what goes on at the matches. This way anybody who’s interested in competing has a good sense of what to expect and what’s required to show up and get their feet wet!
Competition Shooting Levels
There are generally three levels of competition shooting. You have your local matches held at a local shooting range or on some private property somewhere. You tend to see less than 50 people show up to these and they’re often held on a monthly-ish basis. At the local level you don’t see a lot of industry or sponsor support. This means you aren’t likely to walk away with anything more than bragging rights or occasionally a small cash payout if you do really well. That’s not a bad thing. Since the scale of the local matches are smaller they tend to be much more personable than larger matches. You’ll almost always see folks that are at the same match month after month and it makes finding friends and getting to be buddies with people easier. I think of local matches as great practice for larger matches. The entry fees tend to be very affordable and it’s a way to get some trigger time in for larger matches. However, they also tend to be less dynamic. You’ll have use of one range at a shooting complex if you’re lucky so people get broken into strings or squads of fire. There can be some decent downtime at these if they’re not run very efficiently.
The next level of competition shooting match tends to be what’s referred to as a regional match. These are typically run very efficiently and the cost of participation goes up accordingly. Often a one or two day affair at a large piece of private property. Think of the regional match as a small version of the national match. You may see attendance in the 60-100 shooter area. You will start to see some companies sponsoring these events. There may start to be a bit of a prize table at this level. The difficulty and length of the stages will start to increase here. A bigger match is used to seeing more shooters and they will often tweak things to make it harder if there are frequent ties or high hit percentages. You may have to travel a ways to get to one of these as they’re fewer and further between. The nice thing is the scenery tends to be awesome on the properties and it gives you a great opportunity to test your gear and even gather dope for distances you may not otherwise have access to. Examples would be the T3 Monthly Match that Trigger Time Gun Club used to run or the Sporting Rifle Match at the Whittington Center in Raton, NM.
Your final level of competition shooting is the national level match. These are the big ones you hear about. The Sniper’s Hide Cup, the GAP Grind, Bushnell Brawl, Silencerco Quiet Riot, Steel Safari, etc. You’re looking at around $250-$300 for an entry fee. You almost always will have to travel unless you happen to be living right near the venue. Sponsorship participation in these matches is higher. The prize tables are pretty eye popping. There are lots of sponsored shooters participating, etc. You can expect anywhere from 80-250 shooters to show up to these depending on what the match director allows and is prepared to deal with. The stages you shoot are often scored by a third party, referred to as a Range Officer or RO. There’s enough points, money, prizes, etc. on the line at this level that having a third party do the scoring is wise. Distances can be as far as the property allows.
Great, Where Do I Fit In?
Honestly, anywhere! You’ll never really know what it’s like or what to expect until you try it. So just do it! I want you all to have fun so be honest about what your level of experience is when you decide where to start. If you’re using your dad’s hunting rifle and you don’t have any dope and have never shot past 300 yards I would start in competition shooting at a local or regional match. Most shooters are more than happy to help somebody new to the sport out. Just be honest about where you stand so they know what you need to help you out. If you’ve got a rifle with a scope that allows for dialing in firing solutions and some data out to distance, jump in anywhere! Even the big matches will be lots of fun if you have the right gear.
The most important part of this is your mindset everybody. You aren’t showing up to compete with other shooters the first few matches you shoot. You’re there to compete with yourself and your gear. To push your limits and get outside your comfort zone. The best advice I have for you is to roll with whatever comes your way. If you’ve never shot off a barricade or shoot house, jump in with both feet and do the best you can. When you’re done for the day take some notes. What went really well for you? Were there any weaknesses or problems with your gear? Then try to work on those skillsets or gear issues before the next match. Once you get your gear squared away and you’ve shot a couple matches you will start to relax. That’s when you can really start to enjoy pushing your limits and being competitive with your buddies. I’m going to try and do a few more articles in this series and talk about the gear you need for each level of competition and more about how to get started. Don’t let anything phase you, be fearless. If the only thing closeby is a National match, go for it! If your only goal is to shoot and have fun, you’ll always be a winner!