From arts to sports to hobbies, people enjoy being skilled and expressing those skills. Sadly, the social weight given to tasks makes some seem more valuable or acceptable than others. Competitive target shooting overlaps all three but often isn’t thought of as any of the above.
Which isn’t to say that target shooting doesn’t have an audience. In 2017 30 million people in the US enjoyed honing their skills in fierce competition. Despite the often negative press, competitive shooters are champions of safety when it comes to their tools.
Target shooting offers an outdoor outlet for a low-impact sport. Some of the best competitions stage events outdoors in remarkable scenery. Others use indoor venues for control and safety. It is a wid world of possibilities for target shooting.
This guide introduces the basic types of competitive events and also the equipment used for each.
Competitive Target Shooting Events
One of the exciting features of this pastime is the wide variety of types of shooting competitions. The Olympics features 15 distinct events across the men’s and women’s categories.
Target shooting isn’t always a low-impact sport, either. Some competitions involve running, hiking, or skiing. Others simulate real-world pressures to create dynamic and heated competitions.
EVents are scored across several metrics including accuracy, speed, and distance.
While some competitions use stock or set weapons, many allow heavy customization. Firearms and aiming tools vary as long as they fall within certain categories. Customization of guns is a specialty of groups like Wing Tactical.
Target shooting requires a host of different skills to be effective.
Competitors often fire more than once within a competition. To make a second shot count requires compensating for recoil or resistance.
Speed competitions require working with decisive thinking to prioritize targets.
Knowledge of physics and external conditions such as wind velocity down range need to be developed.
Firing precisely requires a combination of techniques. Breathing needs to be controlled to provide focus and stability. Trigger pulls need fluidity to not move the shot off-target.
The weight of the firearm throughout a set of shots will change and also needs to be adjusted for.
For those wondering how to get into competitive shooting picking a category is the first step. Different categories of weapons exist, each emphasizing different skills.
The following explains events related to each of the three categories of firearms. In the case of pistols and rifles, airsoft versions of competitions exist. For those that live in areas with firearms restrictions, you can find airsoft competitions.
Airsoft competitions provide the same benefits and require the same skillsets. However, they remove the of restrictions of traditional firearms.
Pistols, as short-ranged personal firearms, focus on speed and accuracy over range. The competitions for pistols tend to be more dynamic and about using the firearm in conjunction with other activities.
Pistols range in cost, so they may not always be the cheapest events to get into. With pistols competitions, compensating for recoil through technique is often key.
Pistol shooting competition types account for the type of ammunition and firing mechanism. Black powder, single action, and semi-automatic firing modes all have different categories.
This acronym stands for United States Practical Shooting Association. Internationally it is known as the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA).
Bot of these requires the largest batch of skills in one setting. They are the most dynamic of all shooting competitions
These events focus on using the pistol in self-defense situations. They work to mirror real-life scenarios.
These competitions involve win/lose conditions within scenarios. On top of this, points are awarded for accuracy and speed.
A more straight forward competition type is the bullseye. This is a long-distance pistol event. Keep in mind that the practical upper range of a pistol is 50 yards.
The competitions can have one or more events combining slow-firing and rapid-firing.
The rules may require double or single-handed grips or even a trade-off of both.
The pistol version of the rifle silhouette competition. A competitor stands in place and fires at a variety of moving targets. In some variations, the competitor runs to different stations to increase difficulty.
Rifles come in the same categories as pistols with black powder, single (or bolt action), and semi-automatic. Fully automatic rifles face too many restrictions for wide-spread competition categories.
Rifles come in a wide variety of calibers and styles. The usual limiter for a competition is the ammunition type. That said, serious rifle target shooting competitors have more than one firearm they train with.
It is a good idea to have a dedicated space for making modifications to fit into parameters for any given competition.
Bench Rest Shooting
The king of accuracy competitions is the bench rest. You fire a rifle attached to rests mounted on a table. The rifle mounting eliminates many of the subtle human components of hitting a target.
From there, it comes down to how well the competitor knows how to tune and customize the firearm.
Compensating for wind, gravity drop, and distance make all the difference in a shot.
You may see modified versions of this listed as sniper or longshot competitions. The difference in those is the lack of mounting of the firearm. The general points and rules remain the same.
Not unlike the carnival game in set up, silhouette shooting involves standing and firing at moving targets.
Competitions can include different limiters or parameters. Common variations include limited shots for score, firing from multiple angles, and flat time trials.
Smaller ammunition gauges are used for these to reduce recoil and decrease ricochet dangers.
A popular competition worldwide puts the competitor in multiple positions. Shots are fired from prone, standing, and kneeling positions.
Shots are timed and scored based on accuracy. Competitions include sighting shots and recorded shots.
Sighting shots are unlimited. Shots for record are limited to 20 for women and 40 for men in Olympic events.
Shotgun events work on a per-target basis. These events have a fast-paced atmosphere and provide audience appeal because they are more directly visual.
Shotgun events provide a cheap entry point in the equipment but cost more overall than other events. The cost per-event increases from the cost of the targets which also define the categories of competition.
In all three the shooter fires at clay targets (often called clay pigeons). These targets are thrown in different ways which define the event.
Trap targets move in the direction the shooter is facing. The trajectories on each target vary. This event capitalizes on instinct and speed as the shooter decides which target to fire at first and which second.
The most difficult event in terms of discipline. Sporting clay targets are thrown from multiple places and at different speeds.
This competition simulates real-life bird hunting, where an animal could appear from any direction.
The most common of shotgun events is the skeet shoot. The targets are thrown from opposite directions and cross in the center of fire.
The competition allows for trick shooting and more spectacular shots. The competitors have the chance to hit the targets in one shot and score is kept by rounds remaining to clear a wave.
In addition to single weapon events, multiple entry and dual events exist. These may allow competitors to choose a weapon type or force them to use a combination of types.
This popular western American competition type allows for pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Anything goes as long as the firearm fits within the Old Western time frame.
Competition is dynamic with targets arranged in Hogan’s Alleys or mixed Silhouette. The competitors attempt to clear an area and are scored by accuracy, time, and percent of targets cleared.
Breech and Clear
A modern variation of the Cowboy Action event, these simulate military action. Competition is often in teams.
Each team assigns roles to members to carry different primary firearms with pistols kept as a sidearm.
Competitors storm a building to complete objectives. Scoring is based on achieving objectives and performance of individual members.
These competitions use airsoft weapons as they often involve live targets and direct competition.
So you see, competitive target shooting provides a lot of options and opportunities. Whether you want to test your skills or get on a lifelong competition track, there are events nearby that will accommodate you.
Honing a skill and competing against others benefits the mind is so many ways. Get out there and find your niche.