PHOTOS: My Year as an Amateur in Competition Shooting

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Dec 31, 2014 3:45 PM
PHOTOS: My Year as an Amateur in Competition Shooting

Throughout 2014 I had the pleasure and honor of participating in a series of shooting competitions around the country. As 2015 begins and before we completely say goodbye to 2014, I thought I'd take a look back at my year as an amateur in the competition shooting world. With the exception of the Gunsite GAS match, the matches briefly described below were all firsts for me. I learned so much about a sport that doesn't get enough attention and met incredible people along the way.

1. February: Smith & Wesson International Defensive Pistol Association Indoor Nationals - Springfield, Massachusetts (In case you missed my time with world shooting champion Julie Golob, you can check out the details here, here and here)

After meeting world shooting champion and Smith & Wesson Team Captain Julie Golob at the SHOT Show in January, she invited me to come check out the 17th Annual International Defensive Pistol Association [IDPA] Indoor Nationals to get a first hand look at competition shooting.

Coaching me through my stages, which is an incredible opportunity comparable to Michael Jordan teaching me how to play basketball (which never happened, by the way). She's a shooting legend. If you aren't familiar with her work, you can check it out on her website. Not only is she a shooting champion, both nationally and worldwide, she's also a hunter, fabulous cook, Army veteran, mother and author.


Photo Credit: IDPA’s Paul Erhardt, with world shooting champion Julie Golob

Photo Credit: IDPA’s Paul Erhardt



2. August: Crimson Trace 3-Gun Midnight Invitational - Bend, Oregon

The Crimson Trace 3-Gun Midnight Invitational is held in Bend, Oregon each year and is a match unlike any others out there. During the day (since it was my first 3-gun shoot ever), I "learned how to 3-gun," which means using a pistol, shotgun and carbine throughout the competition on different stages. At night, the real fun starts.

With Top Shot shooting champion Chris Cheng. 

3. September: GLOCK Shooting Sports Foundation Annual Match - Conyers, Georgia 

I was invited to participate in the GSSF annual match by longtime GLOCK firearms instructor and range officer Chris Edwards. I used a GLOCK 19. This specific competition was shorter with only four stages known as "The Gunny Challenge." 2014 brought in a record 3000+ participants for the annual event at different locations set up around the country.

Photo Credit: Harris Publications photographer Andre Dall'Au

4. October: Gunsite GAS/Alumni Shoot - Paulden, Arizona

The Gunsite (home of the famous Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper) GAS/Alumni match happens every year and is just a fun way for graduates of Gunsite classes to get back together for some friendly competition. Whoever shoots scores that land right in the middle wins a rifle. Buz Mills, the owner, puts on a great event.

The main things I learned about the competition shooting world this year: 

1. It's full of incredible, responsible people. 

2. To get really good at competition, you have to shoot/practice a lot. Just like anything else, it takes commitment and dedication to get better. 

3. Shooting competitions like IDPA are fun training for real life, everyday situations you may encounter (and should be prepared for). Participating in matches is a great way to keep your defensive skills sharp. 

4. There are all kinds of shooting competitions and organizations to participate in. Whatever your shooting or training preference is, you'll be able to find a match to accommodate: NRA, IDPA, USPSA, GSSF, 3-gun, defensive pistol, revolver, backup gun, shotgun, carbine, etc. The list is endless. 

5. I still have a lot to learn.

I consider myself well trained in firearms handling (I've spend dozens of hours at Gunsite Academy) and a competent shooter, but my ultimate goal isn't to be a top competitor. I call myself an amateur in the competition world for a reason (but I'm getting better!). Don't get me wrong, that doesn't mean I don't want to win. For me, it's all about the opportunity and doing the best that I can when I'm out there. Unfortunately I don't have the time available to get to a level of serious competition or to conduct the amount of practice required to get to top levels, but the good news is, showing up to these kinds of events and doing your best is good enough. Not to mention, they're some of the best times you'll ever have. Many local shooting competitions allow people with a number of different skill levels to participate and hey, you might just get good enough to move into a serious competitor position. I still don't understand how scoring for each match works, I just look for my name in results and hope it isn't at the bottom, ha! If you're intimidated to get started, don't be. In my experience, even the best shooters are willing to help out the newbies with coaching and helpful tips to improve your skills (and your rankings after the match!) You will make lifelong friends along the way, too. If you want to do some reading about shooting competition before heading to your first match, be sure to check out: 

Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition by Julie Golob

Shoot to Win: Tips, Tactics, and Techniques to Help You Shoot Like a Pro by Chris Cheng

My New Year's resolution: Get to the range at least once a week and continue to participate in as many matches as possible for fun and training. Maybe in 2015 I'll be able to upgrade my amateur status.