Did you know that August is National Shooting Sports Month? That’s right, it’s an entire month celebrating competitive shooting and shooting sports. America has a long history with shooting sports. It started with settlers who created competitions to hit the mark with their long rifles to improve their shooting skills. By 1885 Annie Oakley, Little Miss Sureshot herself was performing feats of marksmanship in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. From Olympic sports to good old plinking fun, shooting sports are a part of our heritage.
Today, there are plenty of organized shooting sports to choose from. Ranges all around the country offer ways to enter and compete in matches that test accuracy, speed, or both. I firmly believe there is a shooting sport out there to suit everyone.
If you thrive on focus and concentration, precision shooting sports could be for you. These sports test your ability to shoot as small a group as possible from as close as 10 meters with an airgun or rimfire firearm like those used in the Olympic games to long range rifle events with targets set out beyond 1000 meters. Benchrest rifle competitions put technology to the test by shooting some of the most accurate rifles in the world at great distances. The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association takes a traditional route with events featuring black powder rifles. The NRA’s Rifle and Pistol Nationals and numerous Civilian Marksmanship Program events use traditional bullseyes with a 10 and X ring to determine accuracy.
Are you into something a bit more interactive? Some sports feature steel targets shot at various distances. Silhouette competitions use steel shaped like chickens, turkeys, pigs, and rams. With banks of 10 of each type of target, the steel must fall to score. There are plenty of divisions to enter based on whether you compete with a rifle or handgun and centerfire, rimfire, or black powder. Steel Challenge and Rimfire Challenge sports both use short courses of fire using all steel targets with a stop plate. When the buzzer sounds, competitors make the steel ring as fast as possible.
If you’ve never busted a clay on a trap or skeet field or sporting clays course, you’re missing out. These sports use shotguns to break flying clay targets launched from traps. There are different levels and classifications to suit experience and ability levels. From local clubs to the Olympics, shotgun shooting sports are a great way to not only enjoy breaking clay targets but enjoy the comradery with fellow shooters as well as emulate hunting scenarios.
Love the idea of pushing your speed on targets while incorporating gun handling skills like drawing from a holster or reloading on the clock? There are plenty of sports to choose from here too. The United States Practical Pistol Association (USPSA) offers competitors dynamic courses of fire on both paper and steel targets. Not only do you get to move through multiple positions, but sometimes the targets move as well. In International Defensive Pistol Association events, you can compete in courses of fire that test your ability to shoot both quickly and accurately with your personal defense firearm. Blend both speed with precision with NRA Action Pistol competitions that blend the bullseye target with a draw and faster times than other accuracy intense events.
With so many shooting sports to choose from it can be hard to narrow them down. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has a website and app that can help you find a range. Head to wheretoshoot.org to learn more.
All this shooting sports talk may leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. Keep in mind you don’t have to shoot tiny groups or be able to draw from a holster and shoot 5 steel targets in under 2 seconds to take part. Organized shooting sports welcome newcomers and some clubs even offer orientations or beginner programs.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge into competitive shooting, there are plenty of ways to get out and celebrate shooting sports month. Head on over to letsgoshooting.org to learn more about opportunities and the Plus One Movement. Stay tuned for future posts on how to get started in the shooting sports here at the S&W Bench.
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