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Just Go!! My First Competitive Shooting Experience

Over the past weekend, I was finally able to scratch off one of my shooting goals for the year and get out and shoot in my first competitive match. I jumped in head first and shot in the Rocky Mountain Mayhem Precision Rifle Series match. The match was a national level match that stretched over 3 day starting with rifle zeroing on Friday evening with scored shooting throughout Saturday and Sunday. Since it was a national level match some of the best shooters in the country were in attendance. For me, I feel I would have been intimidated attending with proper preparation and training let alone in my ill-prepared state. I decided to just go for it on two days preparation prior (not my brightest moment for sure) but I figured what better scenario to just go for it and learn a thing or two on the fly. I went in with the attitude that I would learn a lot and fast. I wanted to just “cut my teeth” and really didn’t have high expectations considering the level of talent attending this huge match. It was a very nervous experience at first getting to the range and making sure my rifle was properly zeroed and squared away on Friday and not really knowing anybody and getting to see how seriously it seemed some of the guys at the zero range seemed to take their shooting. However, every guy I talked to were very approachable and in the end I was very glad that I decided to just go for it. I found it was a very welcoming atmosphere and I came away with a ton of new friends and learned so much over the two days I knew for sure I went up a couple hat sizes with all the information crammed into my brain over the weekend.

The match consisted of being “squadded” up with anywhere from 8-12 other shooters and shooting consisted of shooting 20 different stages over the two days. The actual scored shooting began Saturday morning and it was comforting to find that my squad was a pretty even mix between very seasoned match shooters and beginners like myself. In my experience, everyone who shares the shooting passion seem to be very welcoming, easy to approach, and eager to share knowledge. I have often thought that “gun people” are some of the best people around and it was definitely on display over this match. The more experienced shooters were very helpful with me on how to approach stages and maximize not only my chances for success, but for all of us “newbies”. They shared tips on how they were going to approach a stage, manage shooting in the wind, and equipment choice and made me feel one hundred percent comfortable asking all the questions I had. It was also a great to find that despite not being equipped with all the latest and greatest gear like some of the pro shooters attending the match, every shooter in my squad were more than willing to share what they had with me and I of course was willing to do the same with what limited equipment I had. All in all it was a very welcome atmosphere and despite my lack of preparation and practice, I felt very welcomed and can’t wait to get out to another match…with some better preparation of course!

Once scored shooting commenced Saturday morning I learned a lot of hard lessons fast. My two days prior of preparation really took a toll. I dropped a lot of shots due to mismanagement of time, lost targets once I got on the gun, bad wind calls, and just general unfamiliarity with my optics, gun, and equipment. My gun is only about a month or two old and I had some very basic DOPE put together out to 1000 yards headed to this match and found some of the stages were out to 1460 yards which bit me. A lot of the shooting was positional shooting which I hadn’t really practiced yet either, needless to say I did not perform up to what I would hope to expect under normal circumstances. Despite my poor performance I did take away a multitude of information that will help me prepare for my next match. Since I was able to commit and just go to a match, I got to see in the real world what worked for me and my style of shooting such as shooting bags/rests. We also packed nearly everything we needed from stage to stage and it was fairly quick paced so I was able to get an idea on how to organize and pack my gear where it is accessible and also what I probably don’t need to pack along on the next match. During the match we rotated shooting order where you may shoot last on the first stage and steadily move your way up to shooting first as you completed stages and the cycle continued throughout the entirety of the match. I came up with a checklist during the match in between stages of getting my ammunition ready, optics and dope squared away for the next stage, find my next targets, and just observe what other shooters were doing. My “checklist” will definitely need some fine tuning but it was experience I just wouldn’t get without seeing it firsthand. Just getting out to a match also gave me a chance to get familiar with the shooting from standard PRS styled obstacles which I had not done before. It really highlighted my weaknesses in building stable unconventional shooting positions. Now that I’ve had some exposure I definitely am planning to build a lot of these obstacles to practice with at my house and at my local range in preparation for my next match for sure!

Even though I got a complete smack down and finished towards the bottom of the pack in my first match, I absolutely cannot wait to get another crack at the next one. I gained a lot of knowledge that I don’t believe I would have in any other way other than getting to experience it myself. I also got to see some great shooting firsthand and to see what it takes to compete on a national level. I also had a great weekend getting to know a lot of other shooters from across the country and from my home state of Utah that compete. I met a ton of new people and built some new friendships which have already been a treasure trove of information. It also gave me a lot of perspective on the shooting community and how awesome everyone is with one another. I would say that if you’ve wanted to try your hand at competitive shooting no matter the discipline and just haven’t gotten up enough nerve, or have wanted to waited until you’ve had the perfect match gun, or have all the equipment……DON’T WAIT! Find a local match that you believe gives you enough time to realistically get prepared and make a commitment and just go! Not only did I learn more than I ever would have by researching on the internet, I got to spend almost 3 full days at the range and how can that ever be a bad time!

Lance Olsen