By Mark V. Lonsdale, Training Director
“To compete or not to compete, that is the question…,” to paraphrase Will Shakespeare. But then he wasn’t a competitive shooter.
I can state categorically that competition shooting will make you an all-round better shooter, whether your skills are required for military, law enforcement, or just hunting. But in reality, it’s the preparation for competition where the real heavy lifting takes place.
Once you make the decision to try your hand (and eye) at competition shooting, you will be at the beginning of a long and very satisfying journey. Emerging from the humble beginnings of a recreational plinker, you will rise to the level of “competitor” beginning with quantifying your skills through a series of metrics.
To aid in this journey, the following is a road map to competition success:
- Decide which form of competition you want to shoot. This will often be driven by the types of rifles or pistols that you like shooting, or by the availability of local matches.
- Check your budget because competitive shooting is not cheap. First there is the cost of a $2,000 to $6,000 rifle and scope. Then there is the added cost of shooting more than you have ever done before. PRS shooters, for example, shoot 200-300 rounds in every major match. (As a competitive pistol shooter I shot 50,000 rounds of 45 ACP every year. As an ELR rifle competitor, my rounds could cost as much as $10 each.)
- Apart from equipment costs, there are also the time and costs involved in traveling to out-of-state matches. Driving 1,000 miles to a match, laying down a $200 entry fee, and spending 4-5 nights in a hotel gets expensive, plus the time away from work.
- Do some research on what the top ranked competitors are using in the way of rifles, scopes, ammunition, and related accessories. Take the time to reach out to some of these folks for sage advice. My personal mantra is, “Buy the best and you will seldom be disappointed.”
- Study the match format and learn the rules. For example, if the match specifies a weight limit on rifles, you don’t want to turn up with one that’s 2 pounds over.
- Practice the match format, including positions, distances, and time limits on your local or home range. You need to become comfortable with the format to shoot well.
- If you have the opportunity, go and observe a match without actually shooting so as to become familiar with the format, range commands, and procedures. This will also be an opportunity to talk to top ranked competitors and collect info on their weapons platforms.
- Jump in, but don’t expect to do well in the first match or even first few matches. It usually takes about a year to become a seasoned competitor, so set your sights on doing well the second year.
Now, as Nike says, Just Do It!!