I learned this lesson the hard way making every mistake myself!
Competitive Shooting: What I wish someone had told me when I was getting started!
I’ll start off with a tiny bit about me, because who doesn’t like a bit of back story, especially on someone offering advise: I started shooting competitively around 6 years ago.
I have focused mostly on 3 Gun, but dabbled in other formats with a recent jump into The Tactical Games.
I have put a lot into it, training and shooting whenever I could.
I averaged around 13-14 major level matches a year for the last several years and snuck in as many local or monthly matches as possible.
In the last 3 years I have been blessed to achieve consistent top 5 finishes with quite a few major match wins.
I have been instructing for 2 years, specifically 3 Gun shooting.
And I made a lot of mistakes between beginning and reaching that first “W” … and here are a few of the lessons learned.
So what do I wish I had been told back when I was just getting into the sport?
Possibly the one thing I would choose above all else would be to focus on learning the sport and achieving some success before hunting sponsorships and a jersey.
Sadly this is the number one thing newer shooters ask me about, “How do I get sponsors?”… and not: “How to shoot better, how to train better, how to keep your guns running when it counts, not what guns ammo and gear are best?“
I learned this lesson the hard way making every mistake myself and without spending too much time on it ill just say that hunting sponsorships and a jersey early on is a waste of your time and will slow your progress and development as an actual competitor.
Any sponsorship a company might offer to a newer unaccomplished shooter is not a sponsorship worth taking.
Your time and effort are much better spent on getting better and learning the sport.
Rushing and trying to go fast early on is simply a bad idea
If I were to pick a piece of advice to put in second place, it would be to start out as if there is not a timer and scores don’t matter.
I know quite well how hard this is for the competitive people who are drawn to such a demanding sport.
It goes against their very nature.
However, trying to go too fast too soon is what leads to a large number of newer shooters getting disqualified in one of their first 4-5 matches.
Getting disqualified or DQ’d is not fun, but its never done maliciously. And folks are often pretty good natured about it, sharing their DQ stories to help the person feel better.
DQ’s come from breaking one of the standard safety rules and the shooter is stopped and not allowed to continue for the day, but always instructed in exactly what happened, so they can correct the issue and warmly invited back next month.
Obviously breaching safety rules is bad and therefore the action itself should be what we truly avoid not just to skip the DQ. The safety rules are in place to protect the shooter, the other competitors and the sport itself.
It takes a few trips around the block to get comfortable with the process. And to get to where following these rules is second nature instead of requiring constant caution and direct thought.
Therefore, rushing and trying to go fast early on is simply a bad idea. You haven’t had time to get to that comfortable point and you will simply forget.
Another big pointer I would like to have received is: You don‘t need all the fancy guns and gear to start… or even to continue for quite awhile.
I have watched so many beginning competitors shoot for months with guns and gear that’s nothing like what the standard might be for a top 3 gun set up and guess what, they still learn and have fun!
One of the things they are learning is what to actually spend their precious money on when they are ready to upgrade.
It is daunting to those who feel like they need to be fully set up with the best of the best before they hit their first match.
Its cost prohibiting for most people and the process of figuring out what “the best” really is can drive an interested potential competitor insane.
The online forums and social media groups are swarming with good intending folks who will jump in immediately to share how this gun or piece of gear they have is the best!
They often fail to mention that they have only had it 2 months and barely shot it or used it and it actually sucks… oh and when a newbie asks for such advice in public forums they will get 50 of these exact responses all advising different products.
It’s truly frustrating and I have heard this over and over from newer competitors in my classes and the only thing I can tell them is this:
When your ready to upgrade and make the investment in better equipment, talk to someone who is achieving the success you want to achieve. Its just simply the only way I know to help weed out the bad advice based on a lack of knowledge and experience.
So, go out and shoot with what you have!
Pump action 5 shot shotgun? OK!
.45 caliber pistol with 10 round magazines? Alright!
Loading shotgun shells out of a drop bag? Fine by me!
Just get out there and start learning.
You will find that there is little to no judgement from those who are farther along, because we all started in this knowing nothing, too.
The competition shooting community is 99% incredibly welcoming
I have one last tip for the newer competition shooter.
I see all the time that newer shooters tend to group together and squad away from the top competitors.
I know this is partly because they don’t want to look silly or embarrass themselves in front of these competition shooting veterans in their bright jerseys and top dollar guns and gear (color coordinated of course).
I know that, because that was my reason, years ago!
I know it’s also sometimes just out of fear that they will slow down the squad or get in the way.
Throw those ideas away!
You have just as much a right to be there and shoot as the guy who eventually walks with the top trophy!
In truth the competition shooting community is 99% incredibly welcoming, accommodating and mentoring of newer competitors.
And that’s due to the incredibly high caliber of people in this sport.
The real reason I am suggesting that newer shooters purposely squad and shoot with the more experienced and successful competitors is simple and true.
That’s how you get better the fastest.
Overcome those inhibitions and jump in there with those guys and gals and you will learn more in one match watching them, and yes, even asking questions (no not a crime), than you ever could staying in a group of all newer shooters.
This seems like a no brainer and quite obvious but its surprising how frequently I see this not only not being done but intentionally avoided.
Ok, that’s what I got for anyone just getting into the wonderful and challenging sport of competition shooting.
I am always happy to personally offer any help to any newer competitors, so don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Facebook at Daniel Jirasek — 3 Gun or Instagram at 3gun_daniel.
Get out to a local match and check it out.
Every match I know of allows spectators free of charge, just take eye and ear protection.
You can learn a lot just from watching and possibly make some connections with local competitors which can be of further help.
This article was originally published in GTI Magazine May 2020.
Free Download here:
Free Newsletter Subscription
It it is free! • No Spam! • Only new articles, interviews, new magazine issues, and important updates!