Getting started in the shooting sports - Part One
Maybe you recently bought a pistol or rifle, and you’re hoping to become a more proficient shooter. Maybe you have a hunting rifle and you’ve always wanted to know how far you can stretch your effective range. Or, maybe you’re looking for a new way to compete against other like-minded people in a fun, dynamic environment.
Whether you want to extend your effective hunting range, learn to handle yourself better in a self-defense situation, or spend some quality time on the range with friends and family, there’s a shooting sport to match your needs.
No matter the reason for your interest in the shooting sports, there’s a shooting sport out there that you will absolutely love, and it will make you a better, safer, more proficient shooter.
With this two-part blog series, we want to give you an overview of the shooting sports, some resources to get you started, and hopefully convince you that competition shooting is for you.
Why do you want to shoot?
In general, there are two categories of shooting sports: Action shooting, and what we’ll call static shooting. Action shooting involves a physical component—this can be running, hiking, and positioning your body to shoot from staged locations or while shooting on the move—while static shooting events are more focused on mastery of your firearm.
Let’s take a closer look at each category.
Adrenaline is a main ingredient
Action shooting events can involve different obstacles and targets, challenging shooters bodies and firearms skill at the same time—if you’re someone who likes adrenaline, you’ll be right at home. That can mean running quickly between shooting stations, or in the case of events like the Vortex Extreme, hiking through very rugged terrain and then making precision, long-range shots with a rifle. (Check out this video for a closer look.)
If you like adrenaline and the thrill of competition, action shooting will teach you how to handle your weapon and it will challenge your skills.
Sports like 3 Gun, precision rifle shooting, and practical shooting through the USPSA often involve these more physical, athletic components, and are incredibly popular with thousands of local and major competitions every year. If you want to compete in a dynamic environment that challenges you physically, action shooting is the way to go. They can involve basically any gun in your safe, from a handgun, to a shotgun, to your AR.
(While we can’t take a deep dive into every shooting sport, we can give you a quick glance: Check out this video for more on 3 Gun, this video for more on precision rifle, or this video on practical shooting sports.)
Getting to know your gun
You’ve probably heard of some of the most popular static shooting events, like trap and skeet shooting, which are classics in America. But in recent years, some static shooting events have exploded in popularity. Events like F Class (learn more on F Class here), where long range rifle enthusiasts stretch their skills to a thousand yards and beyond and NRL22 where competitors test their skills with precision .22 rifles, are getting huge in the US. Even the older static events like trap and skeet remain enormously popular: In Minnesota, for example, scholastic skeet shooting outpaced every other high school sport in terms of participation.
New to shooting? Static shooting sports are a great way to get to know your weapon and learn proper shooting form without the added stress of moving around.
Because of the lack of a physical component, static shooting can be a more welcoming environment for newer shooters, and families looking to join the shooting sports together. Like action sports, there are also sports for all types of firearms, from pistols to shotguns, rimfire and centerfire. One of the best parts about many of these events is they’re built around getting you started without a massive investment in gear: The National Rifle League’s NRL22 events, for example, require a .22 rifle, ammo, and an optic, then you’re good to go.
Which should you choose?
While it’s entirely possible to start your hobby with a sport like 3 Gun, the static sports can help ease you into competitive shooting. One thing they do really well is allow you to focus on the safe and accurate handling of your gun in a controlled environment—It’s a great way to get comfortable with handling weapons and learning technique before jumping into something that adds a physical element.
Also, consider your application: If you’re a hunter looking to improve long-range accuracy, you could get better running 3 Gun, but a long-range event like PRS or NRL built around mastering your weapon and your optic may serve you better. Conversely, if you recently purchased a pistol and you want to learn your weapon for better self-defense, many of the action sports—like USPSA, IDPA, or IPSC—will help you get faster at drawing, firing, and handling your weapon under stress.
No matter your level of expertise, the competitive shooting community is incredibly inclusive, and full of experts willing to help you improve.
However, we want to make one thing clear: The communities that support action and static shooting are incredibly welcoming and inclusive, with different divisions for men, women, and kids and many, many experienced shooters who want to help you become successful.
So … What’s next?
Go to a match, or to a range near where you live and start asking questions. There are a ton of awesome online resources out there, and you should absolutely jump in. (Here’s our own Reuben Aleckson, for example, offering a glimpse into getting started with 3 Gun.) Those online resources are an excellent starting point, but nothing can replace actually being close to the action and getting to handle the guns and tools it takes to compete.
Here are some places you should check out for more on competitions close to you:
United States Practical Shooting Association – Find a match, find a club, learn the rules.
Steel Challenge Shooting Association – Get all the info you need to hit a steel challenge event.
NRL22 – Learn more about long-distance rimfire.
National Sporting Clays Association – All things clay shooting.
United Shooting Sports Leagues – Find a league and test your skills in a variety of events.
Bring your ear protection and get out there! And, if we’ve missed a resource you love, let us know in the comments and we’ll update our list. Check back next week for part two, “Gear Up and Gun on a Budget.”
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