You’re Not Competing? Maybe It’s Time to Start!

Whatever your gun of choice, take advantage of the summer competition season and try a shooting competition.

by posted on June 12, 2024
Deering Competitive Shootinglena Miculek 12
Shooting Champion Lena Miculek shows off a little three-gun action, which is a great option if you want to try a little of everything.

Most of us have a favorite type of firearm to shoot, and then we all have a type that we consider our weakest. Whether you’re seeking more trigger time with your favorite gun or you’re looking for a way to strengthen your weaknesses, entering a shooting competition is the absolute fastest way to take a deep dive and learn more than you ever thought possible. There’s a competition for just about any firearm platform you can think of:

  • Weekly trap leagues at your local club
  • Local, regional and national sporting clays or skeet competition through the National Sporting Clays Association or National Skeet Shooting Association
  • IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) matches to help you practice self-defense shooting
  • 3-Gun matches where you’ll be using a rifle, a shotgun and a pistol
  • Cowboy Action Shooting matches through the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) if revolvers, lever-action rifles and costumes are your jam
  • PRS (Precision Rifle Series) matches if you love long-range rifle shooting

And of course, there are many more options based on what you want to shoot, including a host of NRA competitions. I’m here to tell you, the benefits of competition shooting are myriad, but there are five primary benefits I think NRA women will love.

1. Serious Safe Gun-Handling Practice
If you are at all nervous about your gun handling and manipulation, entering competitions will drill safety and proper handling into your head like nothing else. All sanctioning bodies for any shooting competition I’ve been around take safety very seriously, and consequently, the shooting sports are extremely safe for everyone involved. Upon entering a competition or joining any sanctioning organization, you’ll be immediately introduced to the rules of safe gun handling in general but also to the rules specific to the competition you’ve chosen—everything from how to transport your gun safely from one stage to the next to how to hold it and carry it to what condition it must be in when you step into and off of the shooting stand/position.

Competitors police each other, as they should, not hesitating to correct safety violations. Even minor safety infractions are sometimes cause for dismissal from the day’s competition—no need to feel bad; just learn the lesson and I guarantee you won’t make that same mistake again for a very long time.

2. Loads of Trigger Time
Most of us can only spend so much time at the range by ourselves before punching holes in paper starts to feel repetitive. Competition breaks up the trigger time into different stages so you never get bored, and you can literally shoot all day. It’s not unusual to go through hundreds of rounds of ammo a day depending on the sport you’ve chosen. All of that trigger time is difficult to replicate at the range by yourself, and you’ll learn as you go.

3. Competition Breeds Improvement
When you start competing, you might stink. Heck, the first time I shot a Steel Challenge match, I accidentally shot the stop plate clean off its supporting stick and stopped the whole competition while it was fixed (shown here). I was slow, but I was motivated to go home and practice my dry-firing so I could get better.

You might be motivated to improve your skills already; I don’t know. I do know that adding some healthy competition only fuels that fire.

In addition, the people you’ll meet at a competition are usually willing to offer advice and assistance in between stages or after the match if you’re struggling with something. You do have to be careful who you take advice from, but when you’re just starting out, most competitors will be a good resource to help walk you through the basics.

4. You’ll Be Forced to Learn New Things
In most cases (skeet and trap excepted, maybe), competition will introduce you to new targets and new methods of engaging them. In sporting clays, you’ll see target angles and trajectories you probably don’t see at the club normally. In 3-gun, you might be shooting from behind obstacles you could never replicate at the range by yourself. In Cowboy Action Shooting, you could be shooting while moving, which probably isn’t allowed at your home range under normal circumstances. And if you get serious about competition, you might soon find yourself traveling to different ranges or clubs around the country, where you’ll encounter even more new targets and methods.

Competition also forces you to learn your gun or guns in a way you might not have known them before. If you don’t already know how to disassemble your firearm and clean it, you’re going to be forced to learn if you want to compete, because it can’t always wait until you get home. You’ll eventually have to learn how to do a few in-the-field repairs in the event a gun goes down in the middle of a competition. All of these are positives: The better you know your gun, the safer you’ll be with it and the better you’ll shoot it.

5. It’s Just Fun
Competition is a blast, even in those early days where you’re absolutely stinking it up and laughing along with the new friends you’ve made. You’ll learn to take gun handling more seriously than ever and take yourself lessseriously than ever. You’ll embark on a search for new and better gear, and eventually you’ll realize that you can’t buy your way to a perfect game. You might develop a relationship with a coach or instructor who can mentor you along the way. You’ll soon find yourself styling in a shooting jersey, a vest, or in the case of Cowboy Action, a fully authentic Old West-style outfit. You might even join an organized team or pair up with a travel buddy. And of course, shooting competitions are generally open to all ages and abilities—the whole family can get involved.

One thing I can promise you: The people you’ll meet in any kind of shooting competition are among the most genuine, all-around good people in the world. I’ve lost track of the friends my family has made through various competitive events over the years.

Whatever your gun or guns of choice, there’s a shooting competition that’ll let you shoot to your heart’s content and learn a lot more than you ever expected along the way.

Skeet: Registered skeet, trap or sporting clays competitions are great ways to work on your shotgun handling and wing-shooting. Photo by Lefty Ray Chapa/NSSA



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