In this installment of our Getting Started in Competition Shooting series we’re going to discuss some skills and topics of discussion for different levels of competition. Things like managing your time and having your DOPE ready can really matter. Different stages are set up in different ways and some can be real time crunchers. There are places to save time and there are places newer shooters make errors. We’re going to discuss some of those. The idea being to prepare those of you interested in getting into competitive shooting for what you are likely to encounter!
Competition Shooting Time Management
I’m starting with this for a reason. It’s important. I see newer guys at matches struggling with it constantly. It’s normal but you can better use the time for shooting. Here’s what it boils down to at the basic level. Guys wind up experimenting on the clock when they first get into competitive shooting. Don’t do that! The goal of competitive shooting is to have fun but I see a lot of frustration emerge from poor time management. The time to experiment with different positions and ways of supporting yourself is at home with dryfire. Or even better, at your home range with live fire. Don’t try new ways of doing things on the clock. It eats up too much time!
The next logical question becomes, “What should I expect?” If you don’t know what you may encounter you can’t be expected to try it ahead of time. So I’ll break it down for you quickly here. Then, in another installment I’ll put some photos together of some common props and positions you’re likely to encounter. In short you’re likely to encounter prone shooting and shots from a high prone or low seated position. There will be shots from a low kneeling or higher seated position to contend with. You’ll like encounter several props at various kneeling heights and standing heights. Try all four a bit on your own and experiment with a large support bag to find ways of steadying your shots!
The Gear Race
I talked about this a bit in last weeks article during a match after action report. There’s always going to be new gear. You will see guys with new whiz bang tripods and bags and widgets at competition shooting events. Don’t get caught up in it. Most of it isn’t even necessary. I suggest you buy gear to address problems you encounter. If you encounter something like a ledge and it forces you into a high kneeling position see how you do. If you struggle and think, “Man…a big rear bag for under my elbow would have been great;” That’s when you go buy a big rear support bag. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars on a tripod setup until you encounter (or are about to encounter one for sure) a situation where you know you will need one.
The second part of my rant on gear goes back to the first topic of time management. When you get a new piece of gear, experiment with it at home. Don’t eat up your time on the clock trying to figure out how a tripod saddle works. You have precious time to make your shots and you want to be able to use as much of it as possible. I especially think your time is best spent waiting for the wind to settle or your crosshairs to stabilize. That’s opposed to spending half your given time trying to figure out how to build a position. So gear is good but don’t practice on the clock. A good sling, rear bag, and a larger support bag will be enough to deal with most of what you will encounter.
Competition Shooting Is Hard For Everybody
When you get into some of these compromised shooting positions you have to remember they suck for everybody. It’s not an easy shot for the Pro’s either. So why do they succeed where newer shooters struggle with competition shooting? It comes down to practice, dedication, and experience. The experienced shooter has seen weird stages and positions before. They have a plan for how to address the obstacle. They also are likely putting time towards practice on a regular basis. I understand everybody is new in the beginning. I understand trying things the first time can be hard. My point is no matter how the stages are set up you typically wind up in one of the four positions mentioned above. You’ll either shoot from prone, sitting, kneeling, or standing. Remember that.
Don’t let a prop or stage design psych you out. At the end of the day it’s going to be one of those positions you use. If you experiment with them at home you will be a step ahead. It’s just a matter of practicing how to use those positions best and apply them to the shooting problem laid out before you. Stay positive. If you have a bad stage, let it go and move on to the next one. Don’t scald yourself mentally. Thinking to yourself, “I really blew that stage,” will put you in a bad state of mind. With a bad state of mind comes bad performance. You’re much better off thinking, “I’m happy that’s over, I’m going to do well on this next one!”
Economy of Motion
This is another thing you will see a difference emerge between novices and professionals in competition shooting. It boils down to this, move fast and shoot slow! Have a plan for how you will address a prop or positional shooting problem. When the buzzer starts counting, move it! Get up there and get into position and stable quickly. If you lollygag and waste time there it will hurt you. I’d rather hustle onto a rooftop and get a position made up hastily then take my time on the shot. Those extra seconds can be spent slowing my breathing down or waiting for the crosshairs to drift onto the target. Pay attention to the shoot slow part of this topic. FACT: You can not shoot fast enough to make up for misses.
Think of it another way. Is it better to take your time and hit three out of ten targets or to rush and miss ten out of ten? Try to structure your movement so that the smallest amount of time is used setting up or changing positions. You want to maximize the time you have to make steady, accurate, shots. This will be easier with experience. In future segments I’m going to take photos of different positions and ways I like to address them. You may have a better way or you may discover one along the way. The idea is to give guys that have never seen it a place to start. This way they don’t have to experiment on the clock and have at least a basic plan to address the prop.
These are some initial pointers for guys getting started in competitive shooting. These are errors I see a lot with lesser experienced shooters. I don’t say that in a bad way or to try and make myself out to be better. Quite the opposite. I’m writing about them because I’ve done it. I’ve made the same mistakes and I’d rather you didn’t repeat them. That way you spend more time shooting and having a good time and less time irritated or frustrated with your performance. At the end of the day…it’s a game. It’s for fun. So have a good time and try to shoot a little better each time. Progress and not perfection!