The AR15.com 3-gun match in Kentucky is billed as a “pro/am” match. Shooters are divided into two groups, with the shooters themselves self-selecting their preferred association, either “Pro” or “Amateur.” I had expected that the competition would run like the Hornady zombie match in Nebraska, which I thought was brilliant. Instead, the AR15.com match was more like a recreation of 1950’s era segregation . . .
The shining example of how to integrate pro shooters and amateur shooters is the Hornady match. The two groups shoot side by side in the same squads and running the same stages, but the amateur shooters have their own equipment division to make sure that they get a shot at some good prizes. That setup, where pro and amateur shooters mix, allows the newer shooters to absorb the tips and tricks of the pros on their squad, watching their runs and learning from their example. It’s like a free 3-gun clinic, which lets the amateur shooters come away from the competition not only having had a good time but also having learned some new skills to work on and better themselves.
The AR15.com match is the exact opposite. Not only are pro and amateur shooters segregated on different squads, but they run two completely different sets of stages. This sucks for multiple reasons.
First, the amateur shooters don’t learn anything. There’s no pro shooters to absorb tips and tricks from, and the segregated format means that the two classes of shooters don’t ever really meet. For someone hoping to be able to shoot with their idols or learn some new techniques to improve their game, it’s a huge let-down.
Second, not only is it impossible to learn directly from the pros, but the use of two completely different stage designs for pro and amateur shooters means that there’s no way to learn from videos of the pros posted after the competition and no way to compare their scores to the pros. Some of the amateur shooters would have definitely placed favorably when ranked in amongst the pro shooters, but because of the divided nature of the competition they will never know where they stand and may be intimidated into avoiding some of the larger matches.
To bring my minor rant to a close, the format of the AR15.com match sucked. It segregated the newer shooters from the more experienced shooters, encouraging a divide among the groups and keeping the newer shooters from learning as much as they could. 3-gun competitions should be about encouraging those newer shooters and helping them along, not about keeping the “great unwashed” away from the “chosen few.”
The counter-argument is that there are simply too many shooters who want to compete to have a unified match, and to that I say “tough shit.” Change the number of stages, drop the number of slots for shooters, lengthen the number of days it takes to shoot the match… whatever it takes. The Hornady 3-gun match is proof that it can be done successfully, and anything less is unacceptable.