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5 Things To Know Before Starting In Competition

Today, we released an episode of the Q&A Podcast that asked for our top 5 tips for getting in to competition shooting. You can listen to the episode for the full explanation of each, but our 5 were:

  1. Most people are there to have a good time. Very few are there actually trying to win. This is something people get caught up on, thinking that they will stick out from the crowd being the new guy.
  2. Nobody cares about your shooting as much as you do. If you don’t want people to be annoyed at you, be safe. Nobody remembers the safe guy who doesn’t shoot well, but everyone remembers the unsafe guy.
  3. You might be telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, but in reality, the only way to get good enough is to go try it. You also don’t need to buy a bunch of gear.
  4. Don’t try to be fast and keep up with the other guys. Just shoot alphas (not brown) as quick as you can. Fast feels slow, what feels fast is often slow because you end up doing too many things fast instead of a few things slow.
  5. Don’t be afraid to get video. You’re the newbie, so you need it the most. And it’s pretty normal. Just ask nicely.

This list was largely driven by trying to dispel and break through the reasons and excuses we get around why people either don’t get started in competition or don’t have a good time when they do.

As this has spread around, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback of people telling us their own list, and I wanted to comment on a few.

One listener posted that the shooter new to competition should “have fun and enjoy the experience.” Unfortunately, this is not very good advice because it talks about outcomes, not processes. In our advice, we try to emphasize the steps to having a good experience, including having the right mindset. This advice, on the other hand, is comparable to someone asking “How do I become a good shooter?” and being told “Win matches.” Yes, that’s technically true and will be a byproduct of becoming a good shooter, but it’s an outcome, not a process.

A process, like setting up a practice schedule, or always approaching stages with a consistent mindset, or focusing on calling your shots instead of meeting some pre-determined speed goal, are the steps that lead to success, but are often not outwardly visible. But they are the factors that contribute to achieving your goals.

Additionally, there is peril in treating outcomes as goals. A side-effect of becoming a good shooter is that you will win matches, but if you only every shoot matches you can win, you’ll never challenge yourself. By the same token, enjoying a match can be a good outcome, but if it becomes your goal, you’ll probably find your performance stall out because growth and learning is hard and involves failing sometimes and constantly being critical of your own performance.

We also got a really good list of five tips from Kenny on Instagram:

  1. Know that everybody was new once and don’t be embarrassed that you aren’t very good and don’t know the rules yet.
  2. Don’t worry about getting gear right away, because you need to figure out what division you want to be in and try out varying guns and gear from that division.
  3. Show up early to help build stages and stay late to help tear down and meet people and BS about gear and shooting.
  4. When you’re shooting more than 2k rounds a year, you should start reloading, and you don’t need to start with a Dillon 650 to do it.
  5. Squad with the best people there, and take their advice to heart, but it’s ok to ask questions. There’s a local newbie shooter here that’s probably C or D class that shows up a lot and wants to make GM, but he argues with the GMs and Ms about silly stuff because it “goes against his Military training”. I told him that I’m sorry the military taught him the “…for Dummies” way, but that it isn’t too late to make a change. Don’t be that guy.

Dead on, Kenny. I have nothing to add.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.

One comment

  1. Ben
    Awesome post. Consistent with your message in all podcast episodes.

    Very useful that you reduced it to a writing. Super advice. I wish someone had told me all this when I started out. Would have saved me a great deal of frustration and money chasing gear solutions to software refinement issues.

    Great point about focusing on process. That needs way more emphasis in the community. Steve Anderson, Brian Zins, and Lanny Basham emphasize it well. Very few new shooters are exposed to any of them. The more we talk about the importance of process in competition (and personal security) the better we will make our community.

    Kenny’s instagramnis right on. And it links directly to the process issue. I have a boatload of military training. Beyond muzzle discipline and safety, little of it applies to competition or civilian concealed carry. The context is just too different. Process and context are inextricably linked. Always good to keep that little fact in your conscious training mind.

    Thanks again for writing this down. And thanks for the podcast. It is entertaining, educational, and inspiring.


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