Starting any new hobby or sport can be intimidating. It is especially overwhelming to get involved in the action shooting sports if you don’t know where to start, what to expect, are not familiar with the “culture,” and in many cases, are still a new shooter.
If you have ever thought to yourself, “I wish I could do that, but I’m not a good enough shot” or “I need more practice” and it is keeping you from trying action shooting sports, here is something that you should know: Nobody cares how bad of a shot you are; they only care that you follow the 4 Rules of Gun Safety and are ready to learn. As long as you are safe, you will enjoy your time at the range and will also be surprised how fast you improve.
The two most common mental barriers when getting involved in action shooting sports are: (1) you don’t know where to start, and (2) you don’t want to show up unprepared and be “that guy” (or girl) that has the wrong gun, gear, or breaks an unspoken rule. Let’s break down the barriers and get you started towards your first club match.
- Take the Plunge. Somehow there is this idea that competition is just for professional shooters, and to have fun you need sponsors and a fancy jersey. This is 100% false. Shooting sports are for anyone who wants to play, at whatever level they want to participate. For many people, this is ‘THEIR’ athletic sport. Whether you are investing hours into dryfire practice, several local matches a month and a full schedule of major matches, or just show up when you can and enjoy a local match, all are welcome!
**Side note on shooting jerseys and sponsors- it is quite an honor and responsibility to have a company want to put a logo on your shirt. Many companies allow you to use their logo if you just happen to like their brand. Designing your own personal jersey can be a fun experience, or you can personalize one like the AG & AG jerseys.
- Know the Game. There are several different variations of pistol, rifle, and shotgun sports, and each have their own set of rules and range commands. Pick one type of match to start with (most people start with a pistol-only match, like Steel Challenge, IDPA, or USPSA). As you become familiar you will most likely be enchanted by 3 Gun or Precision Rifle, maybe Sporting Clays and Trap/Skeet.
- Know your Guns! Get familiar with the basics: working the safety, loading, unloading, showing clear, and clearing malfunctions. Be aware that if you have trouble manipulating your pistol, rifle, or shotgun while keeping it safely pointed down range, you might need more practice or professional training before starting to shoot competitively. Safety is always #1, no matter what match you shoot. If you do not know how to manipulate your firearms, you will not have fun and risk embarrassment and ridicule.
- Research the Proper Gear and Equipment Needed. Ask questions of friends you know shoot matches, watch YouTube videos (beware of the “ninja squad” videos; keep your eyes open for bad advice/practices), and/or join social media groups that do product reviews and recommendations. Remember that you don’t have to break the bank to participate, and doing your homework will keep you form having a bin full of gear you don’t like or don’t need. Gear that is functional and will keep you safe is the goal.
- Know the Rules. Knowing the rules on the range is extremely important. Most club matches are run on a cold range, meaning that the firearms you are using in competition are to be unloaded and in a bag or case when you arrive and leave. If you are using the same guns in competition that you use for personal defense, there is a procedure to follow and a designated area to safely load and unload the firearms. When you arrive at the match immediately go to the registration table and ask about their procedures. See Etiquette on the Range, below.
- Come Prepared. Shooting competitions can last a while, so it is important to come prepared with comfortable shoes, suitable clothing, sunscreen, hats, water, and snacks.
One thing to remember is that you are among friends at the range. If you don’t have a friend to walk with you on this journey, find people who look like they know what they are doing, tell them you are new, and ask some questions. You will quickly find that most competitive shooters are eager to talk and share their lessons learned the hard way so that you don’t have to.
We’ve reviewed the basics. Next, review three areas that will help you ignite your excitement and limit your fear of joining the shooting sports: