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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! . . .

I started getting better (or at least better enough that I quit embarrassing myself), which made me want to improve even more. I started to care about my classifier scores as I crept out of D class, into C class, and ultimately into B class. I compared myself to other female shooters and tried to beat them. But the size of the smile on my face was inversely proportional to the amount I cared about my performance. It wasn’t as fun as it used to be.

Then I discovered 3-gun and that big smile came back! I was officially terrible at this new sport, so every match was once again simply an opportunity to have fun. Major matches required road trips halfway across the country and were big adventures. I made new friends, gained new skills, and had a blast!

Then I got better and started caring about my performance again. And I got sponsored. And suddenly I found myself saying “I have to go practice” or I have to go to this match” or “I have to work this tradeshow” instead of “I get to.” I got exposed to industry business concerns and 3-gun politics and shot more major matches than I could count.

Don’t get me wrong – there are TONS of benefits to being a sponsored shooter, the most important of which is gaining a family of teammates to travel with, joke with, and practice with. But at some point, shooting stopped being a game and started being work. It stopped being fun.

So I took a break. I went from October to Christmas last year without even opening my gun case from my last match of the year. It was enough time off to get me excited to prepare for the 3-Gun Nation Pro Series. I shot a few matches earlier this spring but the drama was high and the joy just wasn’t there. So I took another break.

I left my guns locked in the case again from mid-May till August 1st, when I shot the local monthly Tarheel 3-Gun match in the pouring rain with the staff and a few other friends. There was no pressure to perform. No TV cameras. No stress over qualifying for something; no money on the line; no guns on the prize table. Just a handful of guys who were there because they wanted to be there, simply because they love the sport. It was a refreshing change of pace.

Frankly, I shot better that weekend than I have in a long time, but I don’t really care about that. What makes me happiest about that day is that I was happy. I had fun. I laughed, I smiled, and I stomped in the biggest mud puddles I could find.

Then last weekend I shot the 3-Gun Nation Midwest Regional in Kentucky. (One-handed because I had a broken pinky.) Even before the match started, I knew I was in zero danger of winning due to my injury, so I was able to relax and just have fun. Plus, there was no shortage of mud to stomp in, which made the kid in me a happy camper.

Why so serious? I really don’t know. But after these last couple matches, I’m gonna quit being so serious and go back to just having fun, hopefully with a few more puddles to splash in along the way.

[I’ve been silent on this website for quite some time, while I took a much-needed break from shooting.  But it’s good to be back!]

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  1. Good article.

    And I think it stands to reason that unless something is your primary form of income, if it feels like “work” that is never a good thing. Otherwise you’re just adding hours onto the job you already have.

  2. Many years ago, possibly before you were born, I was shooting local bullseye competitions. I was having fun, but most of the folks shooting were extremely serious about everything. And after a few years, I lost interest because it stopped being fun for me. Later on, I dabbled a little in bowling pin matches, and metallic sillouette matches, but never with the dedication or passion I had when I first started out. I am glad to read that you are enjoying shooting again, and having fun with it. If I could find a local range that offered something fun to do, I’d consider dusting off my stuff and getting back into some kind of competition for fun.

  3. It’s more fun when you’re not worried about competing. I’m in that mode this year, shooting different guns at each match, not joining the league, just shooting for fun. It has been a lot more fun this year. If weather is good I shoot, if it’s bad I just stay home. I don’t worried about points, league standing, classification, or anything. As it turns out, I shoot better when it’s fun.

  4. It is an ironic cycle.

    First one starts off shooting,and is at first content merely to hit the target.Next comes the fascination with the various options both for firearms hardware and shooting opportunities. Then one progresses to the ‘high pressure ‘ stage,where like a used car sales manager,every round you shoot comes with a performance metric. Going to the range by this point is holds lesser appeal then doing laundry or ones taxes,because now its about “self defense”, ” tactical manipualtion”,and “platform training under stress”.

    I used to be the guy with a Glock and a shot timer,trying to wring tenths of seconds out of my draw times and hit percentages. Then one hot day at the range I asked myself what the heck this was all for,and didn’t have a good answer.

    Self defense? From who,Army CAG?
    I’m not SWAT,so why should I be shooting like them?

    So here I am,shooting my 1911s once a month without a care to what’s considered ” threat oriented”.I’m not much of an operator,but I have a smile on my face every time I hit the firing line. Which,somehow,is more important then scientifically reducing my controlled pair split times.

  5. That’s kinda the reason why I don’t want to become an olympic shooter.

    I don’t want to turn something I love into work.

  6. Commit to only shooting lefty for one month (unless you are already lefty in which case, shoot only righty for one month).

  7. It’s probably the main reason I don’t compete anymore.
    Now I just grab a bunch of guns, head up into the woods and blast away. I challenge myself now. Playing with different loads, bullets. Trying the near impossible to where it becomes easy.
    Pheasant hunting with a ruger Mk II, long range steel shooting, clay birds with a .308. Golf ball shooting is a hoot.
    Having fun is the primary goal!

  8. I see a lot of local “competitors” that seem like they are always having an awful time in the shooting sports. All it takes is second place.


  9. This is, or can be, true of ANY hobby. I’m also into old Japanese cars (Flame away, I wear asbestos undies) and whenever we have a meet at a racetrack it is all fun and games until some jackhole breaks out the stopwatch. I usually just park it and enjoy looking at the cars after that point of the event.

  10. Karla,

    Come over to the dark side and try some long range precision shooting at Woody’s. We have cookies and some REALLY good BBQ! Next match is Sept 13th. Everything you have learned in 3gun is a transferable skill (except shotgun loading) especially stage breakdown, time management, and pistol skills.

    We occasionally have folks that take themselves a touch too serious, but most are just happy as a clams to be out and sending lead downrange. Very few sponsored shooters and other than the military guys it’s a hobby, not a job. 🙂

  11. Glad you took a break. I spent 30 years in a high stress career, and have no intention of putting myself back into such a situation, so that’s one good reason I’ve never even been tempted to enter any sort of competition shooting.

    I teach basic pistol to novices and then start them learning and practicing self defense. I shoot with them often, and now hold a free clinic once a week, open to anyone who wants to join me at the range. I offer coaching and encouragement and we have a great time, but competiton is gently discouraged, even for those who think they must compete with themselves seriously. I don’t want anything to make shooting a chore or a drag for my ladies.

    Those who desire to go into various kinds of competion once they are comfortable are, of course, encouraged to try it. Some of them have… but they usually come back to the clinics just for fun anyway. 🙂

  12. Before retiring from the military I shot for mission specific training and always had somebody yelling about shot placement, you just killed the paper hostage, you didn’t keep track of how many shots you fired in whatever scenario, you should have changed mags, etc….. After retiring and joining a club I let someone talk me into trying competitive shooting and once again I had somebody yelling about shot placement, you just killed the paper hostage, you didn’t keep track of how many shots you fired in whatever scenario, you should have changed mags, etc….. I dropped out of the team and go to the range when there are very few people around and shoot for fun. If there is competition among us it usually consists of who is going to buy breakfast next time for something we think of as a difficult shot. Like hitting a penny sized led slug at 300 yards with a .22LR rifle, or a clay pigeon with a .22LR handgun within five rounds.

    It’s all lighthearted fun and a lot of laughing and joking with the people that regularly show up, who are generally retired military or police officers and have been chased out of the house by their wives or in some cases their husbands. Despite the fact that we are actually enjoying shooting again, our skills overall are still very good and there is no pressure to help the team or improve our previous best score.

    Now if we could only find a reliable and affordable supplier of .22LR ammunition.

  13. Right on! Fun and practical. But thats why I quit shooting IPSC/USPSA…8hrs pasting targets and waiting to shoot and 5 mins of shooting…not fun. I would tell you what shooting sport I changed over to but then the samething would happen there, it would get too popular and my trigger time would suffer and again no more fun. The popularity of shooting sports is great for the sport and the gun industry but bad for this old impatient shooter.

  14. I never competed in shooting but competed fairly seriously in weightlifting and bodybuilding years ago. As I got older winning a trophy or medal didn’t seem like much fun for the work I put in. I had to make $ and was never good enough to. But I get it. I’m old now and I’d love to shoot in competition. Can’t afford to…

  15. If you’re not having fun, why bother?

    It is why I enjoy service rifle. It has history, the challenge of doing things old-school (iron sights and off the elbows), and a different distance and course of fire every week.

    We have a close-knit group of competitors and we have discussions on history, shooting techniques, reloading recipes,movies (mostly historical war movies, and more obscure the better), weapon design, aviation, etc.

    We do not shun new competitors but put time and effort into helping them and accomodate them with minor changes in the matches, so they have F-U-N and come back.

  16. So if your only goal is fun, quit when it isn’t. No harm, no foul. Everyone shoots for their own reasons, and that’s perfectly fine.

    But don’t ever equate that choice with the discipline and hard work required to be someone who accomplishes great things. Miculek didn’t just wake up one morning and decide he was a great shot for fun – he did a metric-effton of hard work to achieve that outcome. And keeps doing it every day.

    ‘I may not enjoy every second of this’ did not get us to the moon. Nor accomplish anything else of any historical import. Ever. So be a casual shooter, that’s great. But equating not wanting to work hard with those who wish to excel, is no more valid than saying Spicoli is the intellectual equal of Kaku.

  17. I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that a certain level of seriousness is required to just use a firearm safely. My experience indicates that when a high level of emphasis is placed on “having fun with a gun”, safety often suffers, as some folks then don’t take the safety rules seriously enough.

    With very experienced shooters, the safety level is already built-in (for good or bad; hopefully, for good); for new shooters, emphasis on safety is sometimes considered a buzz-kill, and then folks complain about this or that “not being fun.”

    I tell them I’d rather see then having less fun, safely, then having so much fun that things get goofy or stupid, and then someone gets hurt or killed, which is a real possibility. If they have a problem with that, I make sure they know where the door is. We run some really fun matches (indoor 3-gun with rimfire rifles and pistols, and centerfire pistols) using reactive targets like steel plates, rubber/synthetic knock-overs, and balloons, and outdoor matches doing the same with pistols, ARs, and shotguns. Safety is first, fun is a close second, but it is ALWAYS second to safety — no exceptions.

  18. When your having fun, it unlocks your brain from measured performance AND there in lies the rub, business doesn’t pay fun, only for measured performance. Old crews who been there done that with nothing to prove, have fun. What your learning is how much do you invest to achieve a particular goal, and what methods used to get there. You can go off the deep end, employing a life coach, pay for custom loads, copper infused shooting pants or plastic gadgets for your gun. Or you can list two columns (physical & mental) what you need to to reach a goal, hang it on the frig, and then let your friends know (keep the pressure on). Taking steps to reach your goal, but plan ahead for when you reach your goal….what next….? The difference between a above average shooter and an excellent one is less than 2%. The effort to close the gap defines who & what you are and a benchmark by others (future employers not necessarily in the arms industry). Comfortable with above for most folks, bridge the gap and you’ll walk knowing you excelled in the arena.

    Best Regards on which path you choose.

  19. The advice about not making a hobby a second job is wise.
    I used to mountain bike at least three times a week and loved it. There were other bikers that would be all kitted out with the Lycra togs, titanium this and titanium that and I could see that they took themselves way too seriously. To remind myself and others that we were out to have fun, my mandatory clothing included an Hawaiian shirt.

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