Competitive Shooting

SayUncle ponders whether those who can’t shoot, blog after getting beat by a law professor. There may be truth to this. I haven’t really been shooting since the job situation went crazy about two years ago, but even when I was quite active, and practicing and shooting regularly, the most I could muster was the middle of the pack in competition. To be a competent shooter doesn’t take a whole lot of practice. A trip to the range once a month or so will keep you competent. To be a good shooter, you’re looking at once a week. In my experience, to be a great shooter, you really have to live shooting, or just have a natural talent for is, which some people do. I can generally stay good without a whole lot of work, but I’ve never been willing, or had the time, to put in the work to be great, nor do I have the natural talent to get to the head of the pack without a lot of work to do it.

And so I blog.

What’s your experience in regards to the amount of work to go from just a good shooter, to a great shooter?

15 thoughts on “Competitive Shooting”

  1. I’ll let you know when I advance from “Safe enough to shoot without supervision” to “good shooter.”

  2. I only shoot maybe once or twice a year. I rarely carry a gun, either. I have to keep a roof over my family’s head, and ammo and range time is expensive!

    But I used to shoot once a week for years, and the skills I gained from that are not lost. I still shoot better than the average schmo.

    The most important thing to me (after safety, or course) is that I have fun. My limited experience in shooting sports tells me that the Cowboy Action Shooting people are much more dedicated to making sure everybody has fun rather than seeing who has the biggest dick. If I had more time I would definitely get involved in CAS.

  3. I don’t have the time to do competitive shooting. We’re looking at trying some here, but that’s because it’s literally the only way you can ‘practice’ draw from the holster, double taps, etc. The ranges here are so horrible I don’t even want to go out to shoot, which is very sad. The only good range is full and not accepting new members, so the only way to get in there is to shoot a competition.

  4. I once held records, that stood for a short time, but it was in a specialized kind of benchrest shooting where arguably engineering the rifle and ammo counted more than shooting ability. That said, everything else being equal, someone with an “instinct” for wind-doping, which I never did acquire, could beat me every time. I suspect their “instinct” really came from extensive practice and experience at that kind of shooting and conditions.

    I think the motivation for the necessary practice can only come from being very motivated to be a winner. When I was a winner, I loved it, and could gloat with the best of them, but still it never seemed to motivate me enough to make competitive shooting an avocation for me, and to some extent the people who were that motivated turned me off. I drifted away from it after not many seasons.

    One of my favorite Old Stories is, that when I entered the Army I thought I was a pretty good rifleman; and it disconcerted me to see how quickly guys with no experience could be brought up to speed. But when qualification day rolled around, and the shooting was under pressure (like competition) for the first time, most of the new shooters fell apart compared to what they could do in practice, and the two company high-firers were myself and another country kid, from West Virginia. He beat me by one point. The point of the story being, a lot of experience is what holds up under pressure, while the basics can be mastered in a few days.

    1. Our club is kind of lucky, at least among the Silhouette shooters, that the top competitors are all down to earth people that don’t have big egos. I’ve been meaning to get back into it, but I think I got a little bored with Silhouette. I’ve been wanting to try other shooting sports that our club doesn’t (or wouldn’t) do, like GSSF or IDPA.

  5. This year I really ticked up the amount of 9mm I’m shooting and the drills I run though. I’m shooting about 1300 rounds a month in the warm months (March-Oct) and about 600 in the winter. I’ve noticed that I’m much faster out of the holster and more consistent in my draw. My reloads went from decent to a routine that is blazing quick and fumble free. My time from the shot timer start buzzer to first shot on target is quicker with a much higher first hit percentage. My F.A.S.T drill time keeps dropping, now 2 seconds faster than last year at this time. I’ve placed in some competitive shoots (2nd place in division) and it wasn’t for the procedurals I get at IDPA, I’d be placing there too – I have a problem following all the rules.

    Like all things, shooting has a cost. $2000 for ammo for the year can buy you 10,000 rounds of 9mm (16,000 if you reload) or more .22 than you can shoot. Shooting 10,000 rounds a year will turn you from average to pretty damn good. Getting from pretty damn good to great takes a lot more money and lot more time – it becomes a job at that point.

  6. I’d add that those of us who can’t shoot and can’t write, comment. ;)

    1. +1. I technically have a blog, but I find that I tend to write comments, while I find it difficult to find time to write for my blog.

  7. I have some really bad habits (like anticipating recoil) that I can only shake through lots of practice, like a minimum of twice a month range visits. Anything less, and the bad habits jump back in. Frustrating at times, but that’s life.

    I always loved the way Chet Atkins used to rate his guitar playing “I’m a little bit above below-average”. Humble indeed.

  8. For me, it was more than a decade of informal practice starting in late kindergarten or first grade cemented by a couple of years on my JROTC smallbore high school rifle team (even lettered much to my amazement). That latter practice, with Winchester Model 52 rifles (accurate with a superb trigger but not super-ergonomic), 2 strings of 10 rounds in two positions roughly 4 days a week (plus a round or 3 at the beginning to make sure it was still sighted in), made a fantastic difference. So did a lot of wing-shooting; I never got the hang of that, but it made me real good at rifle snap shooting.

    Echoing Andy B., the one real competition I participated in but more, all the hunting I’ve done seems to make a big difference in not falling apart under pressure. I also seem to have a talent for it, or at least with good 1911s, I can go years without firing a shot and not lose anything to speak of. Even keep the rounds in the back when I shoot offhand, although the groups aren’t very nice.

    Note I’m not a great pistol shot, but I pretty much keep all my rounds in the “vital zone” black, and I make sure to include very close range, only focus on the front sight, and rapid fire practice when I can get to a range. Really hope I never have to use all this, but I’m reasonably confident if it comes to it.

  9. Additionally, since it seems relevant, the rule of 10,000 applies in shooting as much as anything else. 10,000 being the number of repetitions needed to become unconsciously competent in something, as opposed to consciously competent, consciously incompetent, or unconsciously incompetent.

    A trip to the range every so often, plus a class every so often, keeps me at the consciously competent stage.

  10. Shooting skill is a combination of inherent capability and practice (although practice matters most). Unfortunately, some of the inherent capability is biological. I remember reading an NIJ study some years ago that compared male and female police officers, and concluded that hormone levels played an important role in this, with menstrual cycle playing a part. Equally practiced, the marksmanship skills of female officers just before their period declined to the skill level that male officers had all the time. In short, females were biologically advantaged over males at least 14 days of each month. (I suppose that the same advantages women have in dealing with screaming infants apply to dealing with the sound and recoil of a gun.)

    If I lived in a place where we had much crime, I would probably work harder on practice. But where I live? Why?

  11. When I was much younger and still had good eyes myself & my shooting partner both worked nights. Being young we didn’t need a whole lot of sleep so we broke up our day by working out & reloading. You tend to accumulate a lot of ammo that way so on our days off we shot-a lot. at least 1000 rnds apiece. This was with single stack 1911s. We got real good at everything. Now 40 or so years later I long for the days when hitting the targets accurately was a given Instead trying to acquire a decent site picture wearing bi-focals. Youth & time youth & time.

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