Better Shooting: Top 10 Reasons Competition Makes You Better

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A major benefit of competition is learning safety and gun handling skills from
an experienced shooter. Steve Welsh has introduced dozens of shooters to the
sport for no reward except the satisfaction of supporting his club.

It seems only a small percentage of handgun owners shoot in organized competition. At various times I’ve competed in bullseye, metallic silhouette, speed shooting and practical pistol — and I’ve found several benefits.

1. Meeting People Who Share Your Interests

A shooter I once met emigrated from an Asian country and joined all sorts of social and sporting associations to meet people. He said most groups had people whom he knew didn’t like him or, conversely, were out to prove their tolerance by collecting him as their “Asian” friend. He disliked both types equally. He said shooters were the only group genuinely indifferent to race, gender, religion or other differences. “All they care about is whether you handle firearms safely and follow the rules. Do those things, and you are one of them.”

2. Opportunity to learn from good shooters

Just being a competitor is no guarantee of skill, but odds are there will be a few capable shooters from whom to learn.

3. Opportunity to see (and maybe even to try) a wide range of firearms and gear

Etiquette tip: Don’t ask to handle or shoot someone else’s firearm. Wait until they offer, which they will after getting to know and trust you.

Techniques used by good shooters: This is how Julie Golob, one of the
all-time great champions, holds a pistol — except today, it would be an S&W!

4. Cutting Reloading costs

Every competitor I’ve known has been a reloader. We used to cut costs by getting together for bulk orders of components, buying 100,000 primers and 64 lbs. of powder, for example. When shooting 10, 20 or 30,000 rounds annually, even a small saving per round adds up.

5. Opportunity to measure your ability

It can work both ways. I’ve known people with “big frog/small pond” exaggerated ideas of their shooting skill who were shocked to find they really weren’t very good. I’ve known others who weren’t aware they were pretty darn good and had the potential to reach very high levels.

6. Build Safety habits

Competition has safety rules and procedures that become part of your routine. For example, in practical shooting competition, when a stage is completed, before holstering and leaving the line, both competitor and range officer check the firearm to be certain it is unloaded. Two sets of eyes are better than one. On an African hunt, I’d check the chamber on returning to the vehicle, then ask another person to double check it was clear before sliding the rifle back in the scabbard. The professional hunter mentioned he’d never seen this done before but liked the process very much.

7. Opportunity to shoot under pressure

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld had a funny routine about surveys showing what people feared most was speaking in public. The second greatest fear was death. I suppose if people were told they had to either speak in public or die, most would choose to speak. There’s no doubt, though, performing with others watching can be stressful. Learning to shoot even while under stress is a worthwhile lesson.

Equipment for practical shooting doesn’t need to be expensive. This stock GLOCK
pistol in a synthetic holster is capable of winning any stock division match.
Not a bad carry gun either.

8. Competition teaches discipline, external and internal

Externally, you must accept the discipline of safety requirements and procedures and the commands of range officers. Internally, if you wish to improve, you must develop the mental discipline to duplicate your practice scores under match conditions.

9. Enhances confidence

A police officer friend who was a Master-class shooter told me of an encounter with a shotgun-armed suspect. When he saw the sights aligned rock-solid on target, the certainty he could make the shot if necessary gave him a flood of relief. The incident ended with the suspect in custody, no shots fired and no one injured. Contrary to what you might hear in the news, this is the outcome police officers want.

10. Competition can be fun

Actually, I don’t like using the word fun as it makes it all seem rather trivial. It can be rewarding. Some people just aren’t made for spectator sports. I’d a million times rather be the worst player on the field than the best fan sitting in the bleachers. And best of all, maybe sometimes you win. A character in the movie The Reivers had a line I’ve always remembered. “And so I had my moment of glory — that brief, fleeting glory which of itself cannot last — but while it does, is the best game of all.”

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