Introduction to Competitive Shooting
By: Morgan Garcia
EvoOutdoors Team Member
Years ago my husband and I wanted to get into competitive shooting, we just didn’t know how. We had heard of a 3 Gun match and thought that was really the only type of competition we could get into. Unfortunately we didn’t have the funds to get another shot gun and another rifle in addition to the ones we already had so that we could both get involved at each competition. Not to mention all of the ammo that we needed for each weapon.
We searched on Google but came up short. For some reason there didn’t seem to be any information that we could find about how to get into competitive shooting in general, 3 Gun or otherwise. We got discouraged and decided to forget about it.
Years passed, but the desire to shoot competitively was still strong.
One day I jumped back onto Google and tried searching again. I found a lot of information on competitive shooting, but nothing on how to get started, where to go for matches, etc.
After a while of frustrated searching, I decided to look locally. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before!
I came across a local shooting league called, Alpha Mike Shooters. I sent Mike an email and gave him my phone number, expressing my interest in wanting to get involved in competitive shooting and asking if he could speak with me. I didn’t have high hopes, but to my surprise, bright and early at 7 AM the next day he called me and we had a great chat about how to get involved. He was so inspiring, passionate and generally very excited about getting me involved. You could really tell that he loved competitive shooting and loved to get new people involved.
He encouraged us to go to a match that was happening that very weekend. He said over and over, “Do not come to watch, it’s boring, come to shoot!”
I was scared. I had wanted to get into it for a long while now, but it was all suddenly happening so fast!
But, there’s no time like the present. We went that very Sunday and shot the entire match. It was a huge eye opener to the whole sport. It was very laid back and everyone was so nice and encouraging and helpful. It was surprising, actually.
Gun owners are generally nice, but wow, these people were extremely welcoming.
The overall match was such a thrill! There were some people that had been to dozens, even hundreds of matches and they were SO FAST! But it wasn’t intimidating, in fact, it was like watching what we could become if we continued with competition shooting; it was encouraging.
Alpha Mike had warned me that I would come in dead last. And he was right. I came in dead last, my husband was one peg above me. But it was expected. There were a lot of professionals there. We went to learn and experience. And at the end of it, we were hooked and ready to keep competing with different organizations and at different ranges. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
Here are a few tips if you want to get involved in competitive shooting:
Always look locally. I made the mistake of looking nationally/too broadly, but the matches that you’re going to go to in the beginning, will be matches in your region. Many of our local shooting ranges advertised that they had shooting competitions, but sometimes they didn’t and sometimes you had to call and talk to someone. Sometimes you just learned about them through other shooters. But search locally, ask around and find out where people go to shoot competitions locally.
- Don’t be afraid! As I said in my story, there were a lot of professional shooters there, way faster, better gear, had been doing it for years, some of them were sponsored, etc, etc. But you have to start somewhere. Nobody will judge you. In fact, everyone is there to help you. Ignore the professionals and focus on your own pace.
- Take heed of safety. Safety is obviously important when operating a firearm, but it is crucial in shooting competitions. There are people hanging out all over the range directly behind you, so you want to be as safe as possible and make sure you pay attention to the safety rules that you are given. You will be disqualified if you don’t follow the safety rules. I know that sounds intimidating, but don’t worry, just focus on paying attention to the safety rules and then implementing those safety rules as you run each stage, and you’ll be just fine.
- If you can pick up brass, then pick up brass. If you can’t, then don’t. You’ll notice right away if you can pick up your brass or not by noticing if the other shooters pick up their brass. Feel free to ask if you can pick up brass, but I’ve noticed that only a couple ranges will let you pick up brass during a competition. It’s usually because it’s time consuming and they want to just get through the stage as quickly as possible.
- Listen. The range officer is there to help keep everyone safe, as well as to help keep the stage moving along without incident. Listen to the RO, pay attention and ask questions if you don’t understand. If you’re struggling, the range officer, or whoever is timing you, might whisper in your ear as you’re shooting to do something specific; listen to them. Everyone is there to help.
- Take it slow. There might be others there that are faster than you, but your goal starting off shouldn’t be speed, it should be accuracy. Get your accuracy down and slowly increase your speed. Take your time, focus and make sure that you’re getting the shots you want. I came in last with my very first competition, but ever since then, I’ve climbed the latter because I’ve steadily increased my speed, along with my accuracy.
- Get the proper gear. I’m not talking about the most expensive gear, or the most ‘cool’ gear, I’m talking about the proper gear. Most competitions require an outside the waistband holster and at least 3 magazines. Depending on how many rounds the magazines for your gun holds, will determine what class you’re in. But, regardless, get at least 3 magazines, as well as a magazine holder that can hold 2 magazines. Two magazines in the holder and 1 in the gun is how it works. Make sure you have appropriate clothing, as well. Close toed shoes, eye protection, ear protection, etc.
- Make sure you have ammo! I usually have about 200 rounds of ammo with me when I go to a competition. Even if they say you only need 100-150…bring more. While there may only be, let’s say, 10 targets per stage and you only need to shoot each target twice, you may miss a target and will need to empty an entire magazine just to hit the target. It happens! So bring extra ammo.
- Speaking of ammo, get the MagLuLa Magazine loader and thank me later! You have to reload all of your magazines after you’re done with each stage. Do you know how tough that is on your thumbs?! I do! Cause I did at our first competition. It was miserable. Get the loader that is appropriate for your magazines/caliber. Just do it. Trust me.
- Iff you shoot .22, make sure you find out if the match that you’re going to, allows .22. The minimum caliber that you can be sure will be accepted at any match, is 9mm. But there are lots and lots of matches that allow .22. Most calibers are generally accepted, it just depends on the type of match. Ask ahead of time to be sure.
- During a stage there may be a tough target that you’re just not hitting, move on! It’s okay to move on, especially when you’re just starting out. If it’s a target that you just cannot hit for whatever reason, then just move on, instead of wasting a bunch of ammo. You’ll get a miss, but in my opinion, it’s better than wasting time, as well as ammo. Many shooters will agree.
- Pay attention to what type of match you’re doing. Is it USPSA? IDPA? NSSA-NSCA? Other? Shooting all these different types of competitions is a lot of fun and highly encouraged. However, every type of competition will have different rules, so make sure that you understand what you’re walking into first. Ask questions before you get there and ask questions when you are there. Don’t worry, you’re not bothering anyone. Ask questions.
- You don’t have to go to every match. You may feel as if you have to go to every match, but that’s not true. You can come and go as you please. Go to one match a month, or all of them! It’s completely up to you.
- As Alpha Mike said to me, don’t go to watch! It is incredibly boring watching matches. If you want to get involved, then just go ready to shoot! You won’t learn anything by just watching. Trust me, you have to get in there and experience it and maybe even fail (or succeed!), to get the full picture.
- HAVE FUN! The most important thing is to relax and have fun. Shooting in competitions is incredibly exhilarating and you will be addicted. It can be easy to get caught up in wanting to get sponsored, etc. But just have fun for a while, maybe you’ll discover that you just want to do it for fun instead of as a profession. But no matter your goal, don’t forget to enjoy it.