Does your range have a tactical program? Is it dominated by Fudd-type shooters with no interest in action shooting sports? I know perfectly well how frustrating it can be to see all the great action shooting sports from behind a computer screen. Perhaps you live where the nearest range to offer these programs is more than an hour away? Luckily, I eventually moved within driving distance of an excellent facility that offers a variety of shooting disciplines. I was curious to learn how my local matches got started, and I decided to ask my local match director about how he managed to get a practical rifle program started at my local club . . .
Getting Things Started
Let’s call my local match director Mark. Mark is a knowledgeable and friendly range safety officer who runs a smooth practical rifle program at my local range. Our matches are run with a safety first focus but otherwise they are a non-pressure environment. Having a match director and staff who cultivate a safe and positive shooting environment has been essential to helping our practical rifle match grow. The practical program is also a brings in good club revenue which is important for any gun club.
I asked Mark what types of challenges he encountered in setting up a tactical program at our club. I personally thought the biggest roadblock would be simply selling the idea of club sanctioned “tactical” shooting. Mark pointed out that it wasn’t the initial start-up that was difficult, but it was the program’s success that proved to be the challenge:
“There really weren’t any initial roadblocks to starting it up, but once it got rolling full speed, the high attendance, enthusiasm, revenue, and increase in club membership led some to feel threatened by the program.”
It’s surprising and sad to see that a gun club’s politics can play a role in the success or failure of a tactical program. As a shooting community we should be capable of tolerating other forms of the sport, especially the newer trends in shooting. Many club members simply can’t accept the change in momentum from target-style sports to a more active “tactical” community of shooters. In our club’s case it wasn’t the start-up but the hurt feelings that came afterward that provided an ongoing challenge.
Mark was able to overcome the roadblocks set up by other club members by showing the rest of the club community that the animosity was truly a one-way street. Mark’s commitment to safety, his staff’s excellence in handling of club property, and monetary accountability of the program’s finances are what allowed the tactical program to thrive and grow. Despite some club members combing through the program with a fine tooth comb Mark was able to build the program into a total club success.
Let’s suppose your club is more open-minded about running a tactical program; there are going to be many general questions and concerns when first starting up. Some members of your club might not understand an action shooting program or they might not respect the value that these types of events offer to the club. Many may view action shooting as unsafe or simply out of line with their idea of what shooting sports should be. Mark explained some of the concerns that came up during the program’s early stages and his strategies to get the practical rifle program off the ground:
“One of the strategies I employed was to align the program’s safety practices with the NRA by establishing a population of NRA Certified Range Safety Officers within the program.
One of the principal arguments that come at you with a program like this is that it’s unsafe; aligning our safety practices with NRA doctrine answers those concerns. Especially if it rises from someone who has no certifications with which to support his claim. We make sure all of our courses of fire are run past a board member. The NRA now has its own practical style course of fire as well, composed of two parts: A long course to 500Y, and a short CQB course.
Another problem is misunderstanding. Certain shooting sports are more of a lifelong study, or journey in which excellence is pursued… and those are great! Practical shooting is the other side of the same coin. It’s the application of that study and excellence in a situational context. Consequently, those who only participate in one of those journeyman sports will look at a tactical rifle program as pointless; perhaps even insane. Some will never drop this attitude.”
As Mark noted, the NRA now has a program known as NRA NDM (National Defense Match) and it has a 500-yard course, and a short CQB course. Having the NRA producing literature and rules to these types of matches is astoundingly important. Having the weight of the NRA behind such shooting adds legitimacy to this growing segment of our sport. It will be easier to sell an official NRA sanctioned sport to a club then your own idea of a backyard tactical program: getting your foot in the club’s door is essential. The NDM style matches are a great way to test the waters at your local club because they need much less equipment for the average shooter: a semi-automatic rifle is all that is needed to give the course a try. To read the NDM flyer click here.
Mark’s matches attract a great deal of shooters. There is lots of small talk about gear, setups, slip-ups, and good all American Pro-2nd Amendment banter. Our shooters are composed of a variety of people from all walks of life, and we all have a good time. When members of the club witness the program in action, they get a good feel for the safety and atmosphere and they eventually dig out the AR15 to try the program for themselves.
Keep These in Mind:
Mark recommends these things for anyone wanting to start a tactical shooting program:
1 – Embrace official safety practices and certifications.
2 – Try to change hearts and minds.
3 – Account for everything.
4 – Keep it friendly, fair, and welcome new shooters cheerfully.
5 – Listen to your shooters. They are paying for it, so give them what they want.
6 – Cultivate and accept assistance. You do not need to be a great shooter to serve on the staff. Organizational and time-management skills are the most valuable currency.
7 – Clean up. Leave the premises better off than you found them. If you discover damage, disorder, or other unusual circumstances, photograph it and report it to club leadership.
Our club is fortunate to have a variety of shooting sports and I personally support every discipline even if I don’t have much interest in some of them. For some shooters it won’t be that way. When a new program pursues excellence from safety to the end-of-day range cleanup, others will take notice.
I wouldn’t belong to my club if it weren’t for its tactical shooting program and the positive environment cultivated at the matches. Despite the initial roadblocks and hurt feelings, the tactical program has been in full swing for several years now and generates lots of interest, excellent club revenue, and new memberships. Maybe it’s time to bring up tactical shooting at your next club meeting?