I was all geared-up and in the ready, with tactical belt and triple magazine pouch all loaded with a 9mm, competition Gen 3 Glock 34 in my holster waiting on the Pact timer to go off so I could engage my targets quickly and accurately. This was a Thursday night local IDPA-style match and it happened to be the first I was competing in, so I had nothing to lose and only to gain. Before I took the line, however, I thought about a few things like “this shouldn’t be too hard”, or “I was a dumb grunt for six years, and I know target acquisition like the back of my hand”, or “I’m the shooting sports director for the largest shooting program of any veterans’ organization. How hard can this be?” Well….I got smoked.
And it was at that shooting match that I found the inspiration for this blog post, and the importance of a) practice, b) getting involved with like-minded people that also practice, c) finding a club of like-minded people that I can practice with, and d) a lot more practice. I guess the best part about eating humble pie is what we learn in the process…
After I found the inspiration for the blog post you’re reading, I also decided that it would be in my best interest to find a good club to join or at least a few more shoots that I could participate in on the local level. Granted, I haven’t been back to that Thursday night shoot; however, I’ve taken part in quite a bit of other events near where I live. Personally, I love all disciplines of shooting: pistol, carbine/tactical carbine, shotgun, long-range and target rifle, rimfire/smallbore, and air gun, and I coach or instruct all of these disciplines. That being said, I also like being a student and not necessarily a teacher sometimes and the local events are where I learn the most. Recently, I took part in my state’s mid-range championship and I happen to know the group that hosted it very well. I looked at my friend conducting registration and let her know how happy I was that I wasn’t on her side of the table for once, and she just laughed at me. She gave me my firing point and I took all of my gear to the line. For this shoot, we were shooting 300-600 yards with bolt-action rifles and shooting for the record. I had my Savage Model 10T with a very nice 24X Vortex scope and plenty of competition .308 ammo for the weekend. I laid my gear down and then I happened to look down the line, seeing target rifles that start well into the $3K range and scopes that rival the Hubble Telescope (yeah, I’m done for…). I shot the event for the weekend, and while I had a lot of fun shooting it I also learned quite a bit about the event discipline that I was taking part in. I was also surrounded by other shooters that primarily shoot in this type of event all over the country and the world. However, as intimidating as it was, everyone around me was looking to lend me a hand and offer any and all advice knowing that this was only the second time I had ever competed in this event. Competing in the local events only builds confidence, and I definitely learned a lot more about longer distances that weekend from some of the best shooters in the world.
So, where might I start when looking for local events to get into? First, I want to realize which style of shooting I personally like best and want to learn more about. Where I live, there are plenty of IDPA/USPSA-style clubs, trap and skeet clubs, rifle clubs, and groups that even hold tactical and three-gun matches. I’m starting on the internet to find these clubs and email them looking for more information than what might be on their website. I’ll then want to make sure that I have all of the gear I need to go shoot with, as well as any fees I’ll have to pay for that specific event (most clubs only charge what it costs for them to host a shoot, and any little extra would probably go back into the club). I’ll then need to make sure of the one major hurdle that our members might encounter: is where I’m shooting wheelchair accessible? If you’re taking part in a PVA shooting event, we can pretty much guarantee the accessibility of the range and clubhouse. When I get to my event, I’ll want to meet people and get to know them a little more being that we all have something in common for the next couple of hours and this is where I might learn a little more about the gear and rigs that I’ll encounter people utilizing during the event. And while shooting the event is a lot of fun, getting to know the other participants and learning more is worth its weight in gold.
Here at the PVA national office, we direct a lot of sports events all over the country and throughout the entire year and I love co-hosting shoots with the chapters that I work with. I really enjoy having novice shooters come out, even if only to watch and maybe participate only a little bit knowing that I’ve “planted a new addiction”, so to speak. One of the best parts of our shooting sports circuit is seeing the camaraderie between members from different chapters, as well as some friendly smack-talk between the chapter teams. Getting involved at the chapter and national level gets one out of the house or the hospital and easily contributes to the well-being of our members, all while learning a new style of shooting that they might not have encountered during their time on active duty. And I know plenty of members that belong to their own local clubs and participate in quite a number of club shoots, and then take it on the road to participate in our events as well as other national events. The learning process as well as the interaction with other chapters and members are some of the most important aspects of what we do here at the national office, and it’ll only continue to grow with member participation and new and fresh shooting events.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice.
If you are interested in learning more about PVA’s shooting sports events, please visit www.pva.org/adaptive-sports/shooting-sports.