Any sort of list is somewhat subjective. One person’s number one may be another person’s three and so on and so forth. One may even argue eight is too many or too few reasons. Every person has their own experience – I can only speak from mine.
Over the almost ten years I’ve been shooting, I’ve learned valuable lessons I couldn’t learn better off the range. Sometimes, those reasons become fuzzy. You forget how much fun you had and how much something means to you until some object, person, or memory reminds you with such impact you cannot imagine how you let it slip.
1. Firearm Safety
Firearm safety is at the center of all types of shooting: competitive, plinking, defensive – you name it. Competitive shooters should have the firearm safety rules drilled into them, at least I did, at every practice and match I attended. Nowadays, I could give a safety brief in my sleep. ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. Do not point at anything you do not intend to destroy. Always keep the action open and finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire. Treat all guns as if they are loaded. Always be aware of your target and beyond.
2. Character Development
I learned more about myself, my personality, what made me happy and sad and how I handled pressure and disappointment from shooting than anything else. It gave me more confidence and made me a more patient person (though I’m definitely not the most patient in the world).
3. Skill Development
Shooting is a skill. Every time I go to the range I work on improving marksmanship, which can apply in hunting and defensive situations. How many times will hitting a baseball or throwing a football come in handy for anything besides sport and entertainment?
4. New Friends/Family
Shooting service rifle introduced me to an incredible community full of people I consider great friends and pseudo-family. You learn to pick one another up, celebrate successes and learn from failures. People of all ages from all over connect over love of the same sport. I’ve talked to competitors in a wide variety of shooting disciplines and all cite the people as one of, if not their favorite thing about the shooting sports.
Shooting is fun. Different types appeal to different people. Some prefer hitting reactive targets like steel or clays while others search for utmost accuracy on paper targets. I truly believe there is something for everyone with endless levels of challenge.
Competitive shooting matches have gone on for ages. When I first started shooting, I attended black powder matches at the Canal Fulton Ramrod Club. According to a history recorded in 1939, matches were held in the 1800s between Native Americans and settlers on the club’s property. My primary discipline, high power service rifle, hosts Nationals at Camp Perry, Ohio that have been held there since 1907 at Camp Perry and 1903 at Sea Girt, New Jersey. I’ve competed in these matches since 2015 and every year enjoy seeing trophies, streets, and ranges graced with historic names.
7. Open to Everyone
No matter your age, gender, or ability, you can participate in the shooting sports. Shooting is the one sport in which men and women compete side by side and can be on the same team. Some may say they are too old, too weak, etc. to participate, but there’s always a way. I’ve seen veterans from Camp Valor Outdoors shoot service rifle with no legs. Others learn to shoot with use of just one hand. I’ve shot on the line next to people years younger and decades older than me. One of the amazing things about shooting is the ability to meet and learn from all kinds of different people from all different backgrounds. On the range, everyone is equal, and no one really cares or knows what you do for a living or in your personal life, just that you’re out there competing.
8. Scholarship Opportunities
Though this is geared to younger competitors, being involved in shooting sports opens opportunities for scholarships, particularly for college. There are school-sponsored teams for many Olympic disciplines as well as more general scholarships from various organizations like the Civilian Marksmanship Program for excellence in the classroom and on the range.
Some people are hesitant to shoot a competition or attend one as they are afraid of failure or not being good enough. Others don’t have the proper equipment or know what to expect. The shooting community as a whole is generally incredibly welcoming and generous. I’ve had people lend me all their gear to give me the opportunity to try something new. Shooting competitively has had a huge positive effect on my life. Take a chance and see what it can do in yours.
About the Author
I started shooting in 8th grade, competing in monthly cast bullet silhouette matches at Tusco Rifle Club. I progressed to high power service rifle at age 16 and earned my Distinguished Rifleman’s Badge in 2019. I also hunt and compete in smallbore silhouette and airgun matches. I am proud to represent several companies: Sierra Bullets, Krieger Barrels, and Kelbly’s. I am very fortunate to work in the outdoor industry as an outdoor writer and have been published in many national magazines and well-known online publications. The pinnacle of my career thus far was my story and photo being featured on the cover of the January 2022 issue of America’s First Freedom.