For some shooters, the word "competition" may be a little intimidating. It conjures up images of athletes who, no matter what target they face, can place their shot in the bullseye with little to no effort. I hear this explanation many times as a reason for not engaging in the shooting sports or competitions. Another reason some give is that having their shooting timed makes them nervous. That little innocuous box with the loud beep tends to make shooter forget everything they had in mind before it went off. Yet, another reason I have heard is that someone new to the shooting sports gets nervous when people are watching them. Or, a shooter doesn’t feel ready yet. Sadly, all these reasons have kept beginning to intermediate shooters away from a sport that has many benefits.
Learn to Shoot Under Pressure
If you think that little timer is scary, think of facing a bad guy. Getting out to local matches on a regular basis and shooting under the pressure of the clock is a great way to cultivate your shooting skills with the presence of adrenaline and with a little less risk. From personal experience, I learned that this type of pressure practice created benefits in other areas of my life, not just shooting. Over time I was less prone to anxiety in stressful situations and was less likely to panic in the face of an emergency.
Learn to Focus
This may not happen at first, but shoot enough matches and you’ll be able to tune out what is going on around you as far as a distraction. You’ll learn that you won’t get the hits you need unless you are focused on what you’re doing, focusing on your front sight or focusing on the plan for shooting the scenario that is part of a stage. When you are fully focused on the task at hand, your shooting will become smoother.
Learn the Mechanics of Your Firearm
For me, this was one of the biggest benefits of shooting local matches regularly. Unlike standing still and shooting at the range, when you shoot action pistol matches, you are practicing all your skills at the same time. You learn how to do reloads quicker and how to clear malfunctions easier. You know how the trigger feels and where the trigger reset is. You know without looking when your grip is right. You get to know and bond with your firearm.
Learn to Think Tactically
For some, thinking tactically and strategically comes almost naturally. The rest of us have to learn it. I was never really great at games of strategy and thinking ahead. But when considering the best way to shoot a particular stage at a match, you learn to think tactically. Action shooting is not normally done from a single shooting position, so you have to plan for the next move you’ll make and when you’ll shoot and usually how many shots you’ll make. You learn to play to your shooting strengths and minimize your weakness, while planning how you’ll move from stage to stage and the actions you’ll take along the way. This skill is another one that I took from the range into real life. When I visualize my “plans” as far as situational awareness, I consider how I would move to a place where I could use something as cover.
Meet Great People
I have met some of the most awesome people during shooting matches. At a match, you are in a squad with other shooters who come from all kinds of backgrounds. From law enforcement to lawyers or entrepreneurs to plant workers. And best of all, you meet people from all manner of shooting skill levels, who are more than willing to share hints and helpful tips to make you better at the game. And what better place than a shooting range to meet and socialize with likeminded people!
A Word of Caution
Shooting matches should in no way replace or be thought of as real life training. For one thing, the targets do not shoot back at you at a match the way a criminal will. But it’s a fun and reasonably inexpensive way (depending on your accessory, caliber and ammunition choices) to learn and practice shooting skills!
So look into the action shooting sports like U.S. Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) for matches in your area. Then get out and get some Trigger Therapy!!
Tracy Hughes is a firearms instructor, competitive shooter, facilitator for A Girl and A Gun Women’s Shooting League and the owner of Brilliant Backstraps.