I have several, but because I have friends who love me (in a familial and sadistic way) I will only disclose one: I have this thing about drowning. My palms get a little sweaty driving over big bridges, fishing in a bass boat or relaxing in a hot tub. No, you will not catch me diving off the high board anytime soon.
Certainly, fear is what keeps some people from learning how to shoot. The media and television have convinced them that all firearms are bad and no one should touch them. Of course, we who are familiar with firearms know those things aren’t true, but how do we convince others who haven’t experienced what we have?
Well, we start by taking the fear out of it. We educate our non-shooting friends. We arm ourselves (no pun intended) with the facts about the safe use and ownership of firearms, which can be found on the NSSF website. We smile when we talk about how much we enjoy the shooting sports, and we invite those non-shooting friends to go shooting with us.
Before going to the range we talk about the rules of firearms safety, and we explain the parts of the firearm and have a dry-fire session, always emphasizing a safe environment with an unloaded firearm and having no ammunition in the area. At the range we introduce our non-shooting friends to shooting with a .22-caliber firearm. Because of the low recoil and report of such guns, the new shooter will be gently introduced to the sport, just as most of us were. Finally, as the new shooter starts to feel comfortable–maybe not that first session, maybe the next—we introduce them to larger calibers, a .380 or a 9mm, then the .40 or .45.
There are other fears, when it comes to firearms. For those of us who have participated in First Shots, maybe purchased our first guns and practice at the range, you may be fearful of taking the next step—competition.
Fear not. There’s a way to get over this fear too, but it’s a secret. Ready?
Get out there and do it!
What I hear most from people who want to shoot competitively but haven’t found the courage to give it a try is that they are afraid of making a mistake in front of people who have been shooting a long time. Don’t be. Every single one of those winning competitors had to start somewhere. Besides that, though, most shooters are the friendliest and most generous people I have ever met, always willing to share information, techniques and time.
Don’t just take my word for it. Many clubs regularly invite people to come and watch matches as spectators to see what it is all about. So go! Show up, ask questions and meet new people. Tell the match director you’re new and you want to learn—they will help you.
One more note. As a new competitor, you should not strive to compete with the person who has been shooting competitions forever. Your only competition is you. Your goal is to be safe, accurate with your shots and conscious of your muzzle at all times. Accuracy and speed (in competitions that are timed) will increase the more you participate—but even then your main competition should be your personal bests.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, be safe, have fun and remember: firearms safety depends on you!
Special Note To Range Managers and Match Directors
Looking to increase your match participation? Host a match information session that helps introduce new shooters to your shooting sports, your range and matches. Such a session should consist of two parts, with safety being the emphasis of both.
The first part is a classroom session where you talk about the game. Go over the history of the sport, then cover the basics of equipment needed to get started, rules of the game, range commands and information on your range’s match schedule.
For the second part, set up a mock stage or two and walk your new shooters through how they work during an actual match. Talk about how to walk through the stage, how to approach the targets, range commands they’ll hear and common rule violations they should work to avoid. When you’re done with the walk-through, have your new competitors shoot the stage untimed first, then for time. Talk about scoring and the friendly camaraderie they’ll find in a match, with shooters helping each other with approaches to taking targets and gear and ammunition recommendations. At the end of your introductory session, remember to invite these potential new competitors back to your range to attend your next match. Taking this kind of time to get new shooters interested in your range’s activities is a great way to increase not just match participation, but general traffic to your range as well.
For more information on how to get new shooters involved please visit nssf.org/firstshots and see how to host First Shots and First Shots Second Round events.