What Does It Cost To Be A Competitive Shooter
Quite a bit if you do what all the other really competitive shooters do, which is try to win. I realize that’s pretty glib. Let me explain. Nobody is going to yell:
…without knowing what the cost is. The long and short is it’s somewhere between $50 and $500 for registered, sanctioned matches. Local pistol matches like GSSF shoots will generally be on the lower end of that for a number of reasons. State Championship level matches are likely going to be toward the higher end. Rifle matches will cost you more than pistol matches which will cost more than the average rimfire match.
Let’s break into some of the costs you might not consider: Beyond the cost of ammunition, which I’ll come to in a minute, there’s a not small cost involved in getting there and usually some cost in being there. You need food, fuel, drinks and lodging. You’ll need accessories and supplies like cleaning equipment, cleaning supplies, pain killers, maybe an extra gun and ammo for it, tools, match clothing, blah blah blah. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to do most of your match shoots close to home and you’ll be able to mitigate the costs of traveling to matches. That means you’ll only have to drop a little money on gas and food and the rest. You still have to drag all your competition shit to the match and it’s nice to bring an assistant to spot, get you drinks between relays, watch your stuff and lug crap around. Don’t forget that you need to feed and care for your range slave and it’s best to buy them a nice meal, not just Mickie D’s.
In an average away match I’ll drop 200-300 bucks. 100 for the hotel/motel, 50 or so on the gas, an easy 60 bucks on snacks and drinks for the cooler for the trip and then there’s food. On average it’s 20 bucks per person per meal. You’ll have 2 proper meals a day and one match meal (whatever you put in the cooler and can eat between line calls). So you’re at 80 bucks a day on proper meals. You don’t want to drive directly to the match from home if it’s far away. You’ll really want the hotel for a good nights sleep. So we’re nipping right at $300 for a 2 day trip. One day of driving there and one day of being there isn’t cheap. On match days where I’m shooting locally I still have to bring a spotter and I still have to provide drinks and 2 fast-food meals and some snacks and gas. The day usually ends up closer to $75-$100. Gas is maybe $20, food will be $40-ish, snacks will be probably 10 bucks and drinks another 10 bucks.
Match fees vary pretty dramatically. I shoot matches that are $5 to enter and some that are $50 to enter. There is the match fee itself and very frequently a range fee of $5-$20. You can easily be at $75 for match and range fees alone. It’s important to note that this specific set of costs is almost always payable in CASH. Don’t bring cash and you probably won’t compete. Many ranges don’t accept credit cards or checks and most match directors don’t have a card reader or merchant account. Most match directors are volunteers and they’re not likely to even have a useful amount of change on hand, so try to bring exact change.
Now then. About that ammunition cost. If you’re shooting from a retail box then you’re at 2-3 bucks a round and that makes the average 50 shot match another 100 or 150 bucks on top of the 300 you’ve put down already. We’re at $500 per away game without getting fancy accomodations or eating at steakhouses and that’s nothing to sneeze at. My ammo costs are generally about $.50 per round for High Power Metallic Silhouette. In F-TR where I use my .308 with Hornady pills it’s about the same half-dollar a shot. If I use Berger bullets it drives the cost up to $.75 per round. When we jump up to F-Open and certain other long range matches where I can/need-to use my 7mag rifles then the cost is very close to $1.00 per round, sometimes more if I’m low on components and have to hit the retail shop for more. The magnums use Berger bullets and eat gobs of powder. Sometimes I also use my .223 in long range matches and those rounds are $.35-$.50 each depending on if I use Berger bullets or Hornady bullets. My High Power Silhouette matches are 20/40/60/80 round matches. An 80 round match is usually at the State Championship level and are not common. Most of my matches are 40 round for Silhouette and 50 rounds for F-class and other long range precision. So it turns out the ammo cost is not more than half of the trip cost if I roll my own.
What do I do to keep myself in ammo? Well sometimes I forego competing for a few months and save up some shekels so I can buy enough powder and primers for 1000 rounds. Then if I need to I’ll forego competing for a few more months and save up so I can buy 1000 bullets. I have a TON of brass on hand but still occasionally need to replace some of it. Those are 60 cents to a buck a piece and I’ll usually just buy 100 of them at a time whenever I can afford to. Once you have 1000 rounds worth of supplies stocked up, start loading so you have 200-300 finished loads on-hand. Keep that much on-hand. After a match put together enough ammo to refill what you burned. I would seriously advise that you buy your powder and primers in big lots (8lbs of powder or more, 1000 primers or more, 1000 bullets or more) so that you can get the associated cost savings. When you get down to 300 rounds worth of supplies then you should already be preparing to re-up.
Now that you have supplies and ammo on hand, go compete. When you get home from the match load up as many cases as you fired and put them in back stock. You want a few hundred rounds ready to go because sometimes powder, primers, brass, or bullets can get scarce and you don’t want to end up missing a match because you couldn’t get 100 bullets. Sometimes those droughts can last a few months. This is why we keep enough for a few matches and practice on-hand. It also removes the pressure to load a bunch of match grade ammo the night before you leave for a match. Being in a hurry makes you suck. Having to make do with non-standard components sucks. Not having ammo sucks. Don’t let things get to suck.