Any Game Is Improved When You Keep Score
Imagine playing poker without chips. There’s a saying in poker, you are playing against the other players, not their cards. That goes directly out the window the moment you take the chips away. There’s nothing to be gained or lost and so the players aren’t going to approach it with the same level of motivation to win. It’s no different to consider playing a quick pick-up game of basketball without keeping score. There’s no chest thumping victory that’s going to come out of either.
Shooting sports are the same. For people that haven’t had an occupational need to track and improve their performance behind the trigger there’s little in the way of score keeping outside competitive scenarios. Trap shooting is one possible exception. When I go trap shooting I eject the hulls from hits onto the ground and I keep the hulls from misses in my pocket. It’s an easy and effective system of score keeping and I can tell if I’m having an on or off day.
Early on I would track how many hits from each of the 5 positions on the trap line and which shots (away, right, left) specifically I was having trouble with. I found where I was having trouble and practiced a bit on those stations. I now shoot a very consistent score each time I go out. My standard score (the baseline that I compare each outing to) is 23 of 25. I usually drop 2 birds. If I get a 22 I’m likely to know why. Losing focus for a moment is usually the problem. If I get a 24 I have reason to be happy with myself.
The pistol disciplines have an abundance of representation in the competitive shooting world. You can get into pistol competition with almost any factory centerfire handgun. Similarly trap shooting can be done with just about any off the shelf bird shooter.
Rifle sports are currently dominated by tactical style competition and the equipment used spans from mild to wild. F/TR is one of those where the equipment leans toward wild but there are precision tactical rifle competitions all over the place both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Some of those can be done with a deer rifle. In such cases it usually has to be a special deer rifle and the scope tends to be pretty special. You should be pulling sub-1-inch groups at 100m with it or you just won’t be able to play well.
High Power Metallic Silhouette (there are several Silhouette sub-classes, Hipower is centerfire rifles of 24 cal or larger, non-magnum) can be entered into with almost any scoped deer rifle. It doesn’t have to shoot one-hole groups (that helps though). If it’ll hold 1.5 inches at 100m it’ll do. It was started with that kind of pedestrian gear and there are frequently guys on the line with stock retail rifles with a modest scope upgrade. You really do want a scope with target turrets to play the game because you have to dial adjustments repeatedly unless you are really good at doing consistent holdovers. Most deer rifle scopes don’t take adjustments repeatedly and accurately so target scopes are preferred. I’ve done it with a $300 SWFA 16×42 Super Sniper and a 10x US Optics tactical scope. Neither are perfect but they did the trick.
One sport that people should definitely check out and that you can get into with pretty pedestrian gear is rimfire rifle silhouette. You probably won’t be winning matches right away but it’s a great way to improve your skills and you can do it with a pretty run of the mill .22lr bolt action rifle. Semi-auto can work too. Nobody is going to judge you and it’s just fun and challenging as all get out.
Remember, you don’t compete against the other players guns. You don’t even compete with the other players. You only compete with yourself and your own goals. This means you can and should enter into shooting competitions as often as possible if you really want to fancy yourself as a good shot. There are few other ways to objectively measure your performance in the shooting sports. Without an objective measurement any claims that you’re a really great shot are simply unsupported assertions. It’s not to say that you couldn’t go out and provide evidence of the assertion being true upon being challenged on your claims but, if you’re going to make a claim you should really already have the supporting evidence. It makes being right so much more satisfying.
The best thing I ever did was enter a competition I had no hope of doing better than last place in. It was immensely relaxing to not care at all about how I placed. All I had to care about was doing my best. The setting being a competition meant that time and performance were tracked by an independent party and so there is no chance of doing the old stereotypical self-kidding golfer routine of taking 8 swings on a par-3 and saying, “Put me down for a birdie.” I got an honest assessment of my performance from an honestly kept score and plenty of points of comparison if I felt like I needed some more humility.
I have another high power silhouette match in 2 weeks and I hope to do better than tying for last place but I don’t expect to. I’ll be campaigning a new rifle custom built for the sport so the next several days are going to hopefully be spent practicing and deciding if I’ll switch to shooting left handed for this sport. It feels more stable to me. We’ll see. In any event I’m still new to it and so I don’t have to care if I do nail last again. I’ll be happy to hit 1 more target than I did last time.
Both of the above are very easy to get into with out much exotic equipment.