Part 1 – Skill and Experience
Getting started in competitive shooting can be an intimidating proposition, especially if you don’t have a friend that is already doing it to show you the ropes. In this multi part blog we’ll walk you through the reasons commonly given when people are reluctant to try out the shooting sports as well as some advice on how to overcome these concerns.
Many people express interest in competitive shooting only to back away when offered a chance to try it out. We will start by addressing some of the common reasons given by people who want to try out competitive shooting yet don’t take that first step. There are a variety of reasons given but they typically boil down to two things:
- I’m not good enough to compete
- I don’t have the equipment necessary to compete
The first one is the most common we hear. People are worried that they will go out and make a fool of themselves. They aren’t used to having other people watch them shoot. It is like stage fright, they don’t want to be embarrassed by a poor performance on the range.
It doesn’t help that they watch videos, like those we post on our Facebook page, of seasoned competitive shooters running through a course at high speed. A good run by a seasoned competitor is impressive to watch. To a new shooter, or even a seasoned shooter new to the realm of competition, it looks very intimidating. One look at a video like that and the thought, “I can’t compete with that!” leads to them looking no further into the idea. To the uninitiated going to a match with no experience seems like climbing into a race car and going out on track without any experience or training.
While I completely understand that concern I can genuinely tell you that it is unfounded. Nowhere have I found a less judgmental group of people than in the shooting sports. They want to see new shooters. In fact, new shooters are present at nearly every local match so you won’t be alone your first time out. The veteran guys go out of their way to make new shooters feel welcome. None of them care if you score well or how you place at the end of the day. Of far greater importance are a set of concerns for every new shooter that don’t revolve around performance. When my daughter began shooting competitively at age 10 I told her to concern herself with the following things, in order of importance:
First, shoot safely. This trumps everything else. Being unsafe or violating the very strict safety rules that revolve around competitive shooting will get you disqualified from a match, and for good reason. Accidents are remarkably rare and it is due to the strict adherence to these safety protocols. It is in everyone’s best interest to keep accidents rare. The first rule is to shoot safely, if you do that you will be welcome back. As a new shooter you will be walked through exactly what these rules are and you will shoot last so that you can see everyone else do it first and know exactly what is expected of you before you fire a single shot.
Second, have fun. This is a distant second to safety, but what’s the point if you don’t have a good time? Don’t expect to win your first time out, you won’t. Simply go out with a good attitude and an eye on safety, have fun, and learn. I was one of the better shooters on my police department the first time I shot competitively. I assumed I would do well, and I was wrong. I got my butt kicked, by an accountant! One of the things I learned that day was how much I still had to learn. Shooting among seasoned competitors will humble you but it will also help you learn what it is you have to learn and improve on. Getting into competitive shooting sports has improved my shooting more than anything else, and it has been fun getting there!
Third, shoot accurately. This is a distant third, but starting out I always recommend an emphasis on accuracy rather than speed. Competitive shooting, at least the types Team Applied Ballistics is involved with, are always about balancing speed and accuracy. Speed comes with time, time spent shooting accurately. Spraying rounds and missing doesn’t win matches or gunfights but it can be reckless to the point of being dangerous, and safety is rule number one. Shoot accurately first, let speed come with time and practice as you get more comfortable with the mechanics of the shooting sport you choose.
Fourth, forget time. When you first start shooting competitively your stage plan (how you picture yourself shooting the stage) has a tendency to go right out the window when the buzzer goes off. Ignore time starting out, focus on learning how to shoot accurately and within the rules of the sport you are engaged in. Only after you have some practice under your belt should you start worrying about the timer.
I give this advice to any shooter trying competitive shooting sports for the first time. Nobody cares how well you shoot, they only care that you conduct yourself in a safe manner.
In part 2 of this post we will look at equipment, and how to get started on a budget.