The conversation starter series is an opportunity for members of our community to talk about a specific question or problem. We have readers and commenters from a wide variety of background. From high power competitors to military and law enforcement personnel. Each has their own take on things, and this is how we talk about it.

Over at the Firearms User Network, John Buol Jr periodically posts articles about the decline in participation with shooting sports. Coincidentally, this decline is also seen in golf and other sports that take time and dedication to master. 

So my question to you is this: do you participate in organized or outlaw shooting matches? 

If you do, what kind?

If not, what’s holding you back?

Remember, this is a discussion not an argument.

I’ll Start, My Answer…

So, to get things started I’ll go first.

When I lived in Montana, I participated in a local outlaw 2-gun and 3-gun match every other weekend. That’s really where I got my start with all of this. As far as I knew, there were very few sponsored qualifier matches in the state and they always had conflicts with my work schedule.

Once I moved to California, there were more opportunities for local club type events, but I rarely went to them. The ones closest to me at the private club I went to were all shotgun-based and took place during the workday. The rest were bowling pin shoots with guys who loved their cowboy revolvers.

I just never fit in there.

The best I managed to do was registering for and placing in the top 5 for an Excellence in Competition (EIC) match at the base CATM range. That earned me a few points for the CMP, but I haven’t pursued it further.

Now that I’m in Virginia, there seems to be way more opportunity for local steel shoots and action pistol matches. I’ve yet to make it to one, though. Granted, my life circumstances and family health concerns were a major part of that, but it’s not really an excuse.

So why haven’t I done it more? I love going to the range and honing skills and I enjoy testing myself. So I suppose the reason comes down to timing. It’s not that there haven’t been opportunities. It’s been more that these opportunities come with costs and time commitments that often conflict with other family priorities.

Gear Questions

I think a lot of people fear signing up for competition because they don’t have all the equipment they think they need.

I’m hard pressed to find a picture from a high power match where the person isn’t wearing an expensive shooting jacket.

Even though the rules changed a lot in the last few years, I also think people think they need a specific rifle before showing up to a match. Perhaps there needs to be a better discussion about divisions and what you can bring and run in each one.

Over to You

Ok, I got this one started. Now it’s your turn.

Do you compete? If you do, what kind of competition?

If you don’t, what are your roadblocks? What questions might you have that the other experts in our community can help you with?

Discussion

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The MarksmanAkm295Sunshine_ShooterJohan SauerJohn M. Buol Jr. Recent comment authors

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Ben Dover
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Ben Dover

I’ve started shooting IDPA this year. So far I’ve gone to 2 local matches. Its pretty fun but I’m not a huge fan of the rule set (engaging targets in ‘tactical priority’, can’t use an AIWB holster, which I use daily….. odd for a sport based upon concealment). I got into it since it seemed to have the lowest gear requirements. All you need is a pistol, 3 mags, holster, & mag carrier. In my opinion the biggest issue with people going to matches is match location, frequently matches are farther than most people are willing to travel.

With that being said, I plan on going to USPSA matches in the spring even though they are twice as far away. The downside to USPSA/3gun is an increased gear requirement & an increased ammo requirement. New/different holsters, belt setup, more mags etc. This could get expensive for those with limited resources in their ‘fun time’ fund.

Sunshine Shooter
Member

I think you’ll like USPSA. The really competitive divisions need lots of gear, but I always shot straight Production. A gun, a holster, 2 extra mags & pouches, and a belt to keep it all on me were all I ever ran.

3-gun, on the other hand…

BC
Guest
BC

Unlike shooting ranges, golf courses are pretty readily available and tend to be viewed as value added additions to a community rather than the loud, obnoxious and sinister shooting range that some would have you believe the are. As a result, ranges have been forced indoors or way out into the country with that rare exception that hangs on despite continued assaults from nearby neighborhoods to shut it down. Often times that exception is a private club with strict rules designed to prevent neighboring communities from obtaining further ammunition against them so public events are limited or non-existent. Indoor ranges are confined and don’t provide a safe and flexible environment for competitions so that only leaves ranges that require greater time and travel from large population centers. Then you have to decide if the type of shooting events held at the closer ranges are worth the investment in the gear necessary to get started and then ask yourself if that style of shooting would be something you would enjoy. If that close range only hold competitions where running and gunning is the name of the game and you prefer a different flavor of competition, you have to look further until you find something suitable and then we’re talking lots of miles and time. On the other hand, if you take a different approach and look at all the types of shooting sports involving rifles, pistols, shotguns or whatever else is out there and decide that one particular style sounds fun and that’s what you want go for, consider yourself very lucky if you find a venue close enough to practice and compete regularly. Otherwise, lots of miles and time again.

Personally, I like the idea shooting longer ranges and finding long range benchrest, F-class, or PRS style matches generally requires an overnight excursion. Locating a practice facility for these types of shooting is a whole nother issue in and of itself. To be competitive in most flavors of shooting sports, it takes deep pockets to make it towards the top of any event. Some can go out and participate in a match just for the fun of shooting guns on a pretty day and walk away feeling happy they beat their previous score even if they were dead last. I’m competitive and want to go into an event knowing I have a chance to place near the top but when I start adding up the cost required to compete in a style where money wins, I get frustrated and shy away from pursuing it further because of my limited budget.

While golf can be a convenient hobby for a lot of folks, shooting sports are not. It takes a real commitment of both time and money to participate in shooting sports on a consistent basis. That’s what limits me from actually going out and competing more than I do.

Sunshine Shooter
Member

I used to shoot a local indoor USPSA match until they closed it down (after over a decade someone decided that the air filtration didn’t keep people safe in front of the shooting bench, but I digress..). Now I shoot a monthly Rifle/Pistol match about 2 hours from me and a 5k run n gun about twice a year. There is definitely more stuff close to me than I’m taking advantage of, but the time commitment is a major factor.

The equipment issue is more molehill than mountain. There are ‘new guy with barely anything’-divisions in just about every shooting sport. If a person wanted to shoot Steel Challenge, all they’d need is a gun, 5 mags, and enough ammo. If all you had was a revolver, you could shoot ICORE with almost nothing else needing to be bought. It’s just that the open class race guns look cool in pictures and get all the attention. Open class anything is very gear-heavy, and 3-gun turns it up to 11, but I’ve got my own issues with 3-gun.

John M. Buol Jr.
Guest

>> I think a lot of people fear signing up for competition because they don’t have all the equipment they think they need.

I agree, with an emphasis on what new shooters THINK they need. The equipment difference is real but rather small, much smaller than most folks realize:

https://firearmusernetwork.com/high-power-with-issue-rifles/

Note, that ~10% difference in score applies only to *radical* equipment differences, such as the a rack-grade M16A2 with ball ammo shot while wearing a plain uniform compared to match rifle and ammo with shooting coat, or department issue handgun vs. Open/Unlimited racegun. Most equipment differences will have a lesser effect.

It’s also worth noting that Classification systems largely make up this difference. Say a shooter ends up with a Level 2 (C class, Sharpshooter, etc.) classification. They’ll compete heads-up with other Level 2 class shooters. The reason for why shooters are in a given Classification (skill,equipment, etc.) doesn’t matter as a given skill/equipment/experience combination results in a given score and puts all those participants on an equal footing.

Johan Sauer
Guest
Johan Sauer

Hi Matt
I compete regularly, have been for the past 40 years or so, many many smallbore matches, events, accumulating in participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Prone rifle. Switched to highpower a few years ago, currently focusing on long distance palma shooting, 308 win with 155 gr bullets. I have a High Master NRA card, and do most of my shooting in and around Seattle, Tric cities, Bellingham, Vancouver BC. Enjoying your website, especially the fitness and personal improvement / safety articles. Keep up the good work !
Regards
JS

Akm295
Member
Akm295

I think the gear issue is a big factor. No one wants to show up not looking like they don’t know what they are doing or having the right gear for the game. Going to my 1st USPSA match seeing guys running race guns and high end holsters and angled Kydex mag pouches wearing manufactureer’s branded competition polos makes an a regular Joe feel out of place. I ran a Serpa and Condor mag pouches threaded onto my regular old leather belt shooting Production. But the important thing is getting out there with what you can afford to so you can dip your toe in the water to see what you can do with what you have. If you like the game and do it more you can justify getting the kit you need after you have actual experience. Better to go out and try than sit with an expensive wishlist of gear you can’t afford waiting for some someday.

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