Picking a First Match
Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the plunge and enter the exciting world of competitive shooting. Now how do you pick what sport to play in?
First, take a look at what guns you own. There are few reasons to buy a new gun just to try a sport you may not decide to spend a lot of time with. Even if you fall in love with your newest hobby, buying a brand new gun before you get started could leave you stuck with equipment that isn’t ideal for the sport or the division you choose. Since most competitions will have a way for you to “run what ya brung”, take advantage of that and spend your first matches learning the game and what works best for you in it.
Even when using a gun you already own, you might still need to buy some gear. What you need will be minimized and can include items that can be used even if you don’t stick with a particular type of competition, like pistol holsters or rifle slings.
Next, find out what matches are available in your area. Ask your local shooting buddies – even if they don’t already shoot competitively, they may know of matches or have other friends who do (then bring your buddy along!). You can also ask at your neighborhood gun shop or range. In addition, there are several Internet resources, from local forums or Facebook groups to the websites for many of the major shooting sports.
If you are lucky enough to find many choices in your region, then you can narrow down by your schedule, what sports are friendly to the guns you already own, and your shooting interests and goals. Maybe you want to run with guns and shoot action sports, or perhaps you’re more interested in really seeing how consistent you can be with hitting targets: there are all types of competitions available to you.
However, don’t discount a shooting sport because it doesn’t seem to match up with what you want to do. Not only might you be surprised by a new found appreciation for a sport you were unfamiliar with, the shooting and gun-handling fundamentals in many sports cross over. Being good at sporting clays translates perfectly to flying clay targets in 3-Gun, for instance.
Some of you might be lucky enough to still have choices after going through the narrowing down process so far, so here are a two other things to keep in mind when deciding where to go for your first match:
While 3-Gun looks really cool, starting with a single gun sport is a lot less overwhelming and will still teach you skills that are needed for multigun matches. I particularly recommend USPSA as a “starter” action shooting sport because its rules are the basis of many of the other related sports and are generally consistently enforced across the United States.
Short matches are an excellent way to get your feet wet – look for weeknight evening matches or those that have 3-5 stages or low potential aggregate point totals. While it may be tempting to look for high round count “big” match early on, smaller matches tend to be more relaxed and a little easier to manage since longer or higher profile matches may have a more competitive atmosphere and can be a marathon slog to finish. Even though actual shooting time at a match may be limited, the all-day nature of many can be tougher physically and mentally than you think.
Beyond that, I'd encourage you to try as many matches as you can. While there can be crossover, the community of shooters at different clubs and in different sports can be diverse so if you don’t click with one crowd, you may find your home somewhere else. You might also discover, for instance, that while you loved the idea of a practical rifle match, the pace of NRA High Power suits you better. Any way you go, though, you’re likely to learn a lot about shooting and about yourself. See you on the range!