Make no mistake, shooting is considered a “martial art”, it is a discipline that requires concentration, strength and stamina. It can provide you hours of leisure and enjoyment, skills to put meat on the table or in the freezer, and can even give you the skill to defend your own life or the lives of other people.
When it comes to competitive marksmanship, it can be one of the most competitive and difficult sports on earth. It is a sport that requires a sharp mind, a sharp eye, and the stamina to hold a position until just the right moment to squeeze the trigger. Some people shoot for a living, others (myself included) instruct and/or just addicted to squeezing the trigger.
So whether you are desiring to blast sporting clays at your local gun club annual field competition, or seek the fields of glory shooting against North America’s best at Camp Perry. Let’s take a look at what it means to start shooting competitively.
Where to Begin
begin by deciding how you want to compete. There are so many different forms of competitive shooting. You can shoot long range, you can shoot open sight military rifle, western style cowboy shooting, 3 gun, pistol, trap and skeet, the list goes on. If you re reading this article, I’m willing to bet you may already be interested in the shooting sports, and you may already have an idea on how you’d like to compete.
The next step to competing is to purchase your main tool; the firearm, or firearms, with which you are going to compete with. This can also be tremendously expensive. Not always, but often. For example, that fancy over and under you want to replace your humble 870 on the trap range can cost you $2000. Remington 700 with a custom trigger for long range shooting, topped with a Leupold MARK IV, $3500. Want to purchase a nice Colt 1911 for the pistol course and customize it, $2500. What about an AR-15 set up for 3-gun, that could at least be $3000 with all the accessories and optics.
My point is not to discourage you, but to point up, you will need to invest. Until than, you can compete with your base AR, or Mossberg 500. In fact, you may need to start out with a basic firearm and upgrade as you can. There is no shame in that. But in order to shoot competitively, you need something to shoot.
Next, will be your tools of the trade beside the firearm. Holsters, shooting vest, clothing, hats, spotting scopes, targets, eye and ear protection, range bag(s), etc. You can spend almost as much on accessories than you can on a firearm. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Purchase items as you can afford to.
After you have a firearm for competitive shooting and at least a range bag. Start shooting. A lot. Shoot hundreds of rounds, and then shoot hundreds more. You may burn through barrels on rifles and pistols, rest assured, a rifle or pistol barrel can be replaced, and sometimes for not too much dough.
Shoot often. Shooting is a skill that you lose over time when you don’t keep your skill level up. Shoot at least twice a week if you can, better if it is 3-4 times a week.
If need be, ask an experienced shooter to coach you. Take shooting courses and classes until you blast clays out of the sky, until you hit the plate dead center every time until you have nothing but a big hole in your target’s bullseye. And then, when you have achieved this, shoot some more.
Budget every month for ammunition, and buy bulk when you find a good deal. Believe me, you will shoot it.
It won’t be hard to find your first competition. It may be at a shooting club, a local event, etc. You may even work up the courage to head to Camp Perry. The internet is a great resource. Joining a rod and gun, or shooting club should be a priority as many host small competitions that are great for getting your feet wet.
Be prepared to be embarrassed, you may have a great day, or you may miss every shot. Having a thick skin is also important. It is a competition after all. Many shooters are highly competitive. Some have been competing as long as they have been walking, well almost.
Be a good sport, shake hands. You’ll make friends that way. Friends are very important to have in the shooting sports community. Be courteous; don’t touch another competitor’s firearm or equipment unless invited to. Don’t even ask to. A lot of money goes into these things; you should be starting to see that. Don’t brag too much your first few times, nobody likes the arrogant newbie.
Above all, enjoy yourself. After all, you are participating in one of the best sports one earth!
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