Getting into competition shooting is easier than you think, but there are a few things to consider before a match that will help it go smoother and make for a more enjoyable time. I’ll break these down into 3 sections: the week before, the day before, and before a stage.
The week before:
I’ll start off with the obvious point from a holster maker:
Make sure you have a suitable holster.
The holster needs to cover the trigger guard completely, as well as be able to retain the gun through moderate movement. Nylon “tactical” holsters or even many leather holsters are not ideal because they generally fail at these things. We offer several top quality competition holster options.
Sight in your guns before the match:
It seems obvious, but many folks forget to do this. Either they put a new scope on the night before a match, or simply haven’t verified their zero in a while. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing where your gun is shooting while on the clock. The same goes with your shotgun. Pattern your gun with your choice of birdshot and know where it hits, and sight in for slugs.
Learn what your hold overs should be at various ranges from 3 yards to 500 for your rifle, and out to 100 yards for shotgun slugs.
This is essential to success for any competitive shooter. If you aren’t that competitive and just want to shoot and have fun, that’s great! But you still need to be able to move with and operate a firearm safely. So even if you aren’t concerned with having a sub second draw, you should still practice moving and manipulation your guns, safely. This means maintaining safe muzzle direction while moving or reloading, keeping your finger out of the trigger guard while moving, and being able to operate the safety on your guns at appropriate times(anytime you are moving, while dumping a gun into a dump station etc). And practicing a good solid draw is a good idea.
Make a checklist for items you need and get them ready so you aren’t panicking the night before:
This includes making sure your guns are working and that you have the required ammo. Pro tip:bring extra ammo
Get your holster, mag pouches, belt, mags, ear protection, eye protection ready.
Check over your gear for fit and function:
Make sure any optics and optics mounts are secure, screws on any accessories are tight, baseplates on magazines are properly in place. Make sure your battery in your optic, if it has one, is not dead. And This will sound funny, but make sure your front sight is still on your pistol.
Taking a few minutes to check over these details can make for a much more enjoyable experience when the clock is running. Loose optic mounts have burned many a shooter. Doing this a few days before the match can help you if you have loose optics screws, because it can give you a chance to verify your guns zero, and correct if needed.
Take a few minutes to go over the rules.
Almost any match will have some sort of rules/ scoring posted online. Familiarize yourself with them and reach out if you have questions. There will likely be plenty of people willing to help. You don’t have to be an expert, but make the effort to know what you are getting into.
The night before your match:
Gather up your gear and double check that you have everything:
Make sure that you have proper clothing for the match and bring some snacks and water. Some matches have food and water provided, some have concessions available, some have nothing at all. So be prepared.
Double check your ammo count and load mags:
If you have enough mags to load up extras, it will just save time on match day, for resetting, watching others shoot, etc.
Avoid swapping out gun parts the night before the match:
Resist the urge! This is a common trap. I get it. Sometimes your new trigger or scope or new grips show up the day before a match and you want to try them out. But running untested equipment in a match is asking for trouble. Work the kinks out and test your setup before you show up to shoot. Trust me, you will shoot better with gear that you know runs than with gear thats a 50/50 chance of increasing speed incrementally and slowing you down if it doesn’t work right.
Match day/before you shoot:
Get your sh*t together:
Before it’s your turn to shoot, get yourself ready by gathering up your gear ( mags in mag pouches, ear pro on, eye pro on etc) but don’t load your guns until it is your turn and you are instructed to. Having loaded guns at any time except when you are giving the command to is unsafe in a competition setting and will earn you a DQ.
Tuck in your shirt:
Make sure that your shirt is tucked in and out of the way of your holster and magazine pouches. Not only can this get in the way of your gear causing slower reloads, in can get in the way of your draw. More importantly, in can get in the way of holstering your gun. Loose clothing can get into your trigger guard while holstering and cause a negligent discharge while in your holster. Very bad.
Make sure your belt is secure:
I have seen multiple people loose their gun/gun belt because they took off running and their gun belt came loose and fell to the ground. This is generally grounds for disqualification from the match and creates a safety hazard. If you are using a normal belt to secure your gear, make sure your buckle is secured. If you are using a competition 2 piece belt, make sure you have a belt keeper. This is typically a piece of fabric that comes with the belt with hook and loop sewn on that wraps around the ends of the belt to keep them secure. I’ve also used a Ty-Wrap(or zip tie/zap strap) to secure my belt in a 3 gun match when your belt is weighed down by a lot of gear.
Double check your pouches/ holster are secure on the belt:
If you have tek loks, ELS mounts or other similar types of mounts, make sure they are locked in place. Losing a mag pouch on the run sucks, but losing a holster or gun will get you a DQ. Ideally you have checked for loose screws prior to the match, but these things can come loose in transport.
Pay attention to the stage brief:
If you have questions, make sure to ask. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. While this is “competitive” shooting, you’ll find 99% of people more than willing to help you out.
Don’t get stressed out over being fast:
Competitive shooting is a great way to test your skills, but don’t get too caught up in going fast. Make your shots count and get your hits. You can’t miss fast enough to win.
Don’t forget to have fun!
What it all comes down to is competitive shooting is a lot of fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive side of it, but the reality is we wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t fun. Keeping a positive attitude, encouraging other shooters, and helping reset stages makes the whole experience much more enjoyable for everyone.
So there you have it. It may seem like a lot to worry about but if you are anything like most gun guys, the prep work is fun too, and following this advice should set you up for success and a fun experience.
I hope this helped you out, and if it did, share it with a new shooter or someone interested in getting involved with the shooting sports.
See you on the range.