How to Get Started with Competition Shooting

Almost always, people think that competitive shooting is for the pros only, which is wrong. Come to think of it, these pros were also newbies first, right? Doubting your abilities, saying you need more practice, or there’s no room for the little guys, that’s normal. Don’t let these fears consume you! Go ahead and try it out! People are hooked to this; there’s a reason behind that, right?

To get you started in competitive shooting, here are some steps to get you kicking:

  1. Safety first.

Prioritize your safety and for everyone around you. In ranges, there are designated safe areas where everyone’s guns are unloaded and holstered. When registering for a match, leave your unloaded, cased, or bagged pistol in your car and ask for instructions or assistance with a range officer.

Always keep your pistol unloaded, no magazine, and no ammo. It should still be holstered at all times. You can only take it out and load it when a range officer tells you so. You can expect that people share the same interest in a range as you are, talking about guns, belts, etc. Since you are handling dangerous items, you should be responsible for the safety of yourself and everyone else.

  1. Know how to use your pistol or rifle.

As mentioned in number 1, you need to know how to load, unload, show clear and clear malfunctions. You have to learn how to manipulate your pistol safely. If you’re not yet really good at it, master your pistol’s safe handling first before joining a match. You might end up stressing about it during the competition. That won’t really be fun at all, right? 

  1. Find out which competition you would like to join in.

Pick a competition which you are comfortable with. If you prefer rifles, then a long-range rifle match would be perfect for you.

  • Action pistol – USPSA or IDPA
  • Long Range Rifle – Designated Marksman
  • Multi-gun – Tarheel 3 Gun
  • Rimfire – Ruger Rimfire or Zombie Shooters Association
  • Tactical Style – Gunfighter League
  1. Learn common range commands during matches

No one knows all the rules at first, but it’s good to keep in mind a few things to prepare yourself.

  • Load and make ready

This is when the officer will tell you to load your pistol. You can now insert a magazine, chamber a round, and then once you’re done, you can place it back to your holster. Your finger should be away from the trigger at all times.

  • Stand by

Once you tell the officer that you’re ready, you will hear him say this. In a few seconds, the timer will start meaning you have to ready yourself at this point. Once you hear the timer beeps, you can now begin shooting.

  • Cease Fire or Stop

Immediately stop when you hear this. Ask directions with the officer so that you’ll know the reason. It could be crossing the firing line, or a range officer heard a squib load in your pistol.

  • 180 rule

There is an invisible plane from your left to right where you are allowed to point your muzzle. If your muzzle points beyond the 180 rule, you will be disqualified. This is a safety precaution set by ranges for everyone to stay safe. If you have questions, you can always ask a range officer.

  1. Bring essential equipment.
  • Holster

A dependable standard style holster is just perfect for getting you started in action pistol matches. Either a paddle or belt will do. What you need for a holster is you can draw and re-holster the pistol using only one hand.

  • Safety glasses

Bystanders and shooters are required to wear one at all times. You can opt for a clear one or sunglasses. These are not the regular ones, okay? They should be ANSI rated and made exclusively for shooting.

  • Ear Protection

The standard orange earplug or classic ear muffs will do. But there are electronic ear muffs available now, they have built-in microphone and speaker where you can hear the range officer’s commands.

  • Extra gun and ammunition.

You don’t really need to buy a new gun just for the sake of having an extra. But only in case, your other pistol acts up, you’ll have a backup up ready. For ammunition, you really need to stock up a lot. Some stages need 2 rounds in each target. Personally, I like the performance of 6.8 SPC and 6.5 Grendel. I carry stacks of them in my bag.

  • Backpack

You want to carry your stuff in one place. Also, to avoid getting mixed up with other shooter’s things.

  1. Explore and have fun!

Don’t be afraid, and don’t stress out too much. You have to experience being in the match yourself. Then from there, you can sort out your thoughts and think if this is really for you. If you’re still in doubt, watch and observe a match to help you feel better. It will help you better understand how things work.

In conclusion, your doubts and fears will be answered when you step foot on the firing line and start shooting. Most shooters will really tell you that it’s addicting. Maybe the same goes for you! You’ll never know the feeling unless you try!

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