Many new concealed carry permit holders have limited experience in both handling and shooting firearms. Often, the training class to obtain a permit is the first time they are exposed to range commands and concepts, like flagging themselves or others with a firearm, and even the basics of loading and unloading their firearm.
One way new gun owners who plan to concealed carry can experience a different learning environment—where they can gain confidence, solidify the rules of firearms safety, and also making friends—is by attending a local shooting competition.
Everybody Starts Somewhere
New gun owners might feel intimidated or shy about competing—but they shouldn’t. It’s the perfect environment to learn to become more proficient, and to be strictly held to the rules of safe firearm handling. So by attending a match: You learn; you have access to a range; and you do the type of shooting that is much more enjoyable than standing in a lane at an indoor range in close to proximity to other shooters, all the while loud exhaust fans run in the background. It’s a whole new world!
Here’s Your Map
To find a match, head to practicscore.com/search/matches. Search by state, match type or other options. Find something close to you. If contact information is provided, call or e-mail ahead of attending. Confirm the time and location, and if you’re really new, ask if you can observe before you shoot. This is the best way to find local people with whom you can build relationships.
Observe a match like Steel Challenge, or a club-level USPSA or IDPA match. Don’t feel like you need a lot of fancy gear either. When you call ahead, explain what gear you have and ask if it falls within competition guidelines. It’s a good reason to observe; you should be able to bring your gear and ask someone with the event if they can let you know if your holster, belt, etc. is permitted. Where I shoot, we sometimes have local shooters who use their concealed-carry set-up for a weekly league night. It’s fine. It doesn’t matter if your holster is “legal” for a particular division, as long as it’s safe. The people running the event might have rules you need to abide by, so always check.
If you pick something like Steel Challenge, it’s mostly static, meaning you do not shoot while moving. And there are only a couple of stages that have movement from box to box. So practicing the basics, like keeping your finger off the trigger if you do move, is very simple. You can walk from one box to the other, finger on the frame and away from the trigger. It’s that simple!
Note: some clubs have steel matches called “falling steel” or something siimilar, due to the official Steel Challenge stages requiring clubs to abide by certain regulations. If you see a local steel event, call ahead and find out what it is and what’s involved.
Skills you can work on at your first match:
- Loading and unloading the gun
- Drawing the gun or bringing it up to eye level from the low ready
- Obtaining a sight picture
- Learning muzzle awareness and reinforcing the rules of firearm safety
- Changing magazines
- Dealing with stress or performance anxiety by meeting it head-on
- Learning to shoot, but also pay attention to your body and what is around you
Make Friends and Influence People
Keep in mind that you don’t have to shoot an entire match! Perhaps there is one stage that you want to shoot. Tell your squad that you are probably just going to shoot that stage because that’s where you are most comfortable. Maybe certain targets or parts of stages are overwhelming … just skip them. Tell the range officer you are only going to shoot a portion. They should not have any problem with it.
If you chose to complete only part of a match or a stage, you still need to commit to helping reset for the other stages. It’s just good manners. And you will pay for an entire match. But it’s probably comparable to an hour or two at an indoor range. The difference is that you will learn! People WILL help you!
The best advice for anyone who wants to become better skilled using a firearm is to go shoot it.The best place to shoot is at a range and an event that allows for a lot of variety, where people will give you feedback and help you learn to critique your own skills and mistakes. You will see a lot of growth and you’ll never want to shoot at a lane on an indoor range again. So get out there and try! The worst that happens is you make mistakes and a group of safety-oriented and knowledgeable people help you fix them … and maybe you make friends and find a new sport!