I didn’t shoot my first firearm until I was an adult. But, like most women, I first learned to shoot with my dad.
For my dad, shooting was a hobby and a way to spend a Saturday afternoon. For me, that first trip to the gun range at 18 was something I just could not get out of doing. But after I shot my first handgun, I loved it. I started out feeling scared and nervous, but ended up feeling exhilarated, empowered and just plain giddy that when I lined up my sights and pulled the trigger I could hit my target.
I got my start in competition shooting bowling pin matches and man-vs.-man steel matches, both of which remain some of my favorite styles of shooting. Nothing gets the blood pumping and the adrenaline flowing like trying to knock down all your targets while hearing rapid-fire rounds going downrange from your opponent.
Setting A Goal
As an instructor, I come across many females just getting into shooting. Whether their motivation is simple fun or self-defense, their numbers are growing. I always ask them what their objective is; basically, what do they want to learn. Self-defense and passing a CCW test, feeling comfortable around your husband’s guns, prepping for a family hunting trip, and understanding basic firearms safety are all standard answers. Firing a gun because it was “on my bucket list” is surprisingly common too!
“Here’s the secret about shooting competitions: It’s not just about being competitive, it’s about testing your skills under stress.”
Shooting, like any other learned skill, must be practiced if you want to be able to perform it on demand. Once a woman learns the fundamentals of marksmanship, she must ingrain them with regular practice sessions at the range. And if she is learning how to shoot for self-defense, a particularly great place to practice all of her skills is in a shooting competition.
Don’t worry if you think you’re not competitive enough. I honestly didn’t think I was, either; I rarely played sports growing up. But here’s the secret about shooting competitions: It’s not just about being competitive, it’s about testing your skills under stress. And that skill can carry over very well to a self-defense situation.
Can you make the shot when you feel like everyone in the world is watching you? When the pressure is on? What about when the cameras are flashing? I know what it’s like to be in that position; I’ve been there hundreds of times. I’ve made the shot when it has counted the most.
Sometimes I’ve missed. Luckily, in competition, missing has never cost me more than my pride. On the street, it can count for more. So, practice is a must.
Competition puts you in high-pressure, high-intensity, fast-paced situations. Once the buzzer goes off, you have to keep track of the target and where you are in relationship to it, all while focusing on your objective and managing your adrenaline. Most importantly, everything you do in competition must be done using safe gun-handling skills. If you’re looking at having a gun for self-defense, it’s better to learn how you react under pressure when it’s just your pride on the line and not your life. This could mean the difference between life and death.
In competition, you will learn how to feel comfortable with your equipment and confident in your skills. You’ll learn how to manage your adrenaline. You’ll find that muscle memory, your responsive movements acquired from training, the learned reactions of your body, along with a desire to succeed, all kick in. It’s exactly the same things you draw upon during a self-defense scenario, but you get to test yourself first in the safety of the competition environment.
If you continue in the sport, you’ll see your skill level grow. Your confidence with your gun will increase, and your reactions will become automatic. You’ll learn how to adapt and overcome in new and intimidating scenarios. Yes, it’s true that you’ll most likely never need to use any of these shooting skills in a “real-world” situation. But then again, you just might. Why did you get that home-defense gun if not to be prepared for anything and everything?
The last thing you’ll realize is that, as great a shot as you’ve become, you could always be better. You have to practice to shoot competition, and shooting competition will make you want to practice. It’s the great shooting circle of life!
If you are ready to try honing your skills in competition there are several national organizations you can join. Some of the most recognized are the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and 3-Gun Nation. These are all “practical shooting” style competitions with a focus on accuracy, speed and power, with the competitor often moving through field courses.
Each of these organizations have a “club locator” on their website where you can plug in your zip code and find a local match. Most of the time, you’ll find a club contact with phone or email listed, too. This person can give you information more specific to your local range, including any new-shooter requirements. Don’t worry about not having all the right gear or knowing all the rules, your club contact can help you get ready for your first match.
If “practical shooting” or “action shooting” doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, there are many other types of shooting sports out there. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a great website, wheretoshoot.org. This can help you find the website for your local range, and from there you can see what other types of shooting sports are available in your area.
I hope you’ll make shooting a competitive match part of your bucket list. Your first match will be nerve-wracking, but you’ll be exhilarated when you finish. It’s funny to me that it was as an adult that I found my competitive, sports-loving side. As a kid I never knew I had this passion. Every match I shoot I am driven to find the next challenge and strive for perfection in every new skill. But what’s the greatest part of competition? Knowing that I’m learning valuable skills that transfer to all aspects of my life.
For More Information
International Defensive Pistol Association
United States Practical Shooting Association
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