At some point in the last few years, I started taking competitive shooting too seriously. When I first started shooting competitively, every weekend was something to look forward to, and even a one-day local match that didn’t count for anything got me pumped up to play! I anticipated the challenge of the stages, the time spent outside, and the post-match dinner with friends. And a major USPSA match, especially one that required travel? Forget about it – this was the peak of the season, and something I would look forward to for months. Never mind the fact that I was terrible at shooting. I was having fun! . . .
Last weekend I shot the 3-Gun Nation Southeast Regional Championship in Clinton, SC. The match included a variety of stage designs and terrain – everything from close-and-fast stages in bays, to a shotgun jungle run through the woods, to a 50-yard sprint up a hill. It tested the shooter’s ability to quickly blast targets at distances of three yards, and to precisely reach out and touch targets at 300 yards – sometimes within the same stage. It tested the shooter’s mental ability to break down and execute a complicated stage plan, and it also tested a shooter’s fitness . . .
A couple weeks ago I wrote a post titled You Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em. It referenced Kenny Rogers’ famous song, The Gambler, in which he teaches a fellow train rider a valuable life lesson about knowing when to push through, and knowing when to let go. As a competitive shooter (not an operator), I suggested there are some times when things aren’t going right at the range, that it’s better just to pack up and go home. Comments ranged from supportive to critical, as I would expect. One particular comment criticized my mental game and my ability to work through adversity. Well, sir, whoever you are…this post is for you.
Professional 3-gun shooters are a strange bunch. Point in case: making up songs about how using your buddy’s hand-loaded ammunition in a competition stage without trying it first is a very, very bad idea. Or, generally using Jayson Smith’s lightweight .40 cal loads. Anyway, Di uploaded this yesterday, and it was just too good not to share.
For the average 3-gun competitor, things run pretty seamlessly at matches. You show up, you run through the stages with the help of the range officers and then, at some point, you see the final scores and go home loaded with prizes. But for those working the event, if you want to shoot in the match you need to do it during the “staff shoot” during the days preceding the competition. And while it’s the same basic outline, it’s a whole different beast . . .
At the overwhelming majority of shooting competitions, you will never see a truly slung rifle. Slings are commonly used for precision long-range shooting competitions, but seeing a 3-gun stage where the start position is with a slung rifle and your hands elsewhere is exceptionally rare. Still, at the 2013 FNH USA 3-Gun Championship there were a couple stages that had that exact start position, and it was just my luck that I was the one holding the timer when things went all pear shaped . . .
When you’re in a shooting competition, and especially when there are guns to be won on the prize table, there are no do-overs. If you completely and totally screw up a stage, you can’t call mulligan and try it again. You’re stuck with your score. However, if something goes wrong and it’s the fault of the match staff — like the targets weren’t reset or they lost your score — then you might get a re-shoot. But should you always take it, when given the option? . . .
The 3-Gun Nation Pro Series events are all individual competitions (someone leaves with a check after every meet) but they also lead up to something bigger. The culminating event is the 3-Gun Nation shoot-off held during SHOT Show week in Las Vegas every January. That’s where the 30 best competitors shoot it out against each other, head-to-head, for a $50,000 prize. In order to be eligible for the shoot-off, you need to prove your worth during the Pro Series competitions. And four of Team FNH USA’s shooters were on the bubble . . .
For the final day of the competition, we only had two stages left. My chances of a good finish had already flown out the window, so all I was concerned with was not making any more drastic errors. Thankfully, the Gods of 3-gun were smiling down upon me as I stepped out onto the first stage of the day.
The first day of the AR15.com 3-gun went…okay. There were some things I wish I’d done done better (like not hitting the damned no-shoot target), but all-in-all I was doing pretty well. By the end of the second day, theough, my hopes at a strong finish would be in the dumpster . . .
A good 3-gun match is all about making choices. Choices like whether to shoot a target with a handgun or a shotgun. Which side of a “V”-shaped couse to start on. And where to do your reloads. On the “pro” side of the AR15.com Pro/Am competition, there were no choices. Or rather, no choices that actually made a difference. Instead, the winner of the competition would be the person who made the fewest mistakes. And boy, did I make some darn fine mistakes . . .
The first night of the Crimson Trace Midnight 3-Gun Invitational didn’t end on a promising note. Any time you collect 30 seconds worth of penalties you’re having a bad day. But while that night ended badly, the second and final night was about to start off with a bang . . .