Drinking the Night Before a Match?

Let me just get this out of the way first: there is no circumstance where handling guns while intoxicated is a good idea. But Caleb speaks of whether drinking the night before a match has a detrimental effect on performance. I haven’t been going to matches for about a year now, but when I was shooting Silhouette one or two times a week, I developed some experience with this topic — have a cookout with copious amounts of beer and liquor Saturday night, and at the butt crack of dawn Sunday, you’re out on the range.

Metallic Silhouette is not a run-and-gun game, but precision shooting, in my case with a semi-auto pistol (which of course have no sporting use). I tend to think shooting after having been drinking to excess the night before is highly detrimental to your game. For one, you’re unsteady. For two, your involuntary muscle movements are more erratic. I had difficulty hitting any of the animals, and I’d get impatient and fire when I really shouldn’t have.

That said, I’ve found the worst thing for my performance, even worse than drinking the night before, is showing up to a match having not eaten anything. When I’ve done that, I’ve noticed marked improvement in my scores after the match broke for lunch. I’ve shot an A score in the morning only to turn around and get in a Master score after lunch. I tend to agree with Caleb, that it’s best to follow your normal routine. But I’d add if your normal routine is skipping breakfast, which mine is, I’ve found that it’s important to have a bite before getting on the range.

Now to further this line of discussion, what do you think the effect of caffeine is? I’ve never found it to affect me all that much, but others think it does.

8 thoughts on “Drinking the Night Before a Match?”

  1. The US Army Pistol Marksmanship manual recommends against consuming caffeine before hitting the range, I’m assuming because they want to avoid the “jitters” excessive caffeine can cause.

    That said, my normal routine is to have a cup of coffee or two in the morning, and I find I’m more jittery without it than with. I’d not overdo it before hitting the range, maybe have a bit less than normal, but as you said, it’s better to stick to your normal routine. It’s what your personal physiology is accustomed to.

  2. “Drinking before a match” does not necessarily mean “drinking to excess.” :-) As a fan of quality brews, I don’t drink to excess, before a match or otherwise. I don’t think there’s a problem with beer or two the evening before a match, IF that’s your usual routine. (Folks seem surprised to learn, that even though I blog about beer, I rarely have more than one or two in a week.) Of course, it needs to be far enough in advance of the match time that there is NO alcohol left in your system. I would not shoot after a binge the night before.

    Same goes for coffee. If your normal routine is a cup or two of coffee in the morning, my feeling is to stick with it. The idea is to NOT put your body through a new routine the morning of a match.

    Two cents, keep the change. :-)

    1. Back in the Scheutzen days, beer was available and consumed as the matches went on. That was German tradition. I’ve never attended (blush) a modern ASSRA match, but I suspect that part of the tradition hasn’t been carried forward.

      As a slight nod to that, we used to have kegs of beer at our Cast Bullet Association matches, but they weren’t tapped until the shooting was over. Then my club banned alcohol on the grounds altogether, so we had to stop doing that at our local matches.

  3. “Now to further this line of discussion, what do you think the effect of caffeine is?”

    I never tested it with shooting. But one thing I stumbled over, empirically, is that my typing goes to hell just as fast after a few cups of coffee, as after a few beers.

  4. I personally have found that caffeine does not make me wired at all; it just makes me have to urinate a lot more so I try to avoid it while I’m at a match for that reason. I usually drink water and have some snacks with me to keep my energy up. If it’s going to be hot out I will bring Gatorade because I found that when it’s really hot water isn’t enough.

    1. “I personally have found that caffeine does not make me wired at all”

      I used to believe that, but since I’ve largely given my cola habit the boot I’ve noticed that I get extremely wired whenever I have some. On the whole, I don’t find it to be a particularly pleasant experience.

      Honestly, it seems more likely that I just didn’t NOTICE how wired it made me.

  5. If I’m going to be practicing self defense technique at the range, I load up on caffeine and do a few push-ups. That way my arms will be about as shaky as they would be if someone was kicking in my front door.

  6. I understand that there’s quite a bit of study on how drinking well before flying affects the ability of pilots. I gather that simply shooting a gun is not hardly as difficult, although there are the long range forms where math (at least for a sniper not at a formal range) and educated wind doping are required.

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