The most important part of shooting a match is doing it safely. Not only is this important for the immediate safety of yourself and the other competitors at the match, but it is almost assured that if you violate a safety rule, you will be disqualified from the match and will not get to continue shooting.
The 4 rules of Firearms Safety directly apply to shooting competitions:
- All Guns Are Always Loaded – This means you should never handle a gun recklessly. At a shooting competition, whether a local/club match or a large event, handling firearms will be done at the direction of a Range Officer or at a designated Safe Area (more about this later in the next blog). Range Officers, also known as ROs, will give you range commands prior to shooting. Unless you are in a Safe Area, you will not handle your guns unless directed to do so by the RO.
- Never Point the Gun at Anything You Don’t Want to Shoot – Also known as the “Laser Rule,” this is a huge part of competitive shooting. If you sweep your hand or break the 180(see blog entry: “http://www.apdmarksmanshipteam.org/blog/getting-started-competitive-shooting-0“) , you will be disqualified. While most shooting sports are in a shooting bay with 3 sides shaped in a U, and targets can be set out in different arrays at different angles all over the bay, your 180 does not change, and you are expected to not break it with your muzzle.
- Keep Your Finger Off the Trigger Until You are Ready to Fire – Many shooting competitions incorporate movement. That being said, it is very important that you be able to move from engaging shooting arrays (sets of targets) safely. This means a strong emphasis on trigger and muzzle discipline. Moving between ports, shooting boxes or fault lines requires great care to make sure the 180 is not broken and that your trigger finger is indexed off and out of the trigger guard as you move. Just like walking or running without a gun, everyone has tripped and fallen at some point in their life. Add stress, a strong desire to beat your buddies and uneven ground while running with a gun, and the need for indexing your trigger finger and muzzle awareness becomes even more critical.
- Be Sure of Your Target and Beyond – In competitive shooting, there is nothing down range but targets and props; however, this rule is still very critical. Most competitions require accuracy. This is achieved a few different ways. Targets have different scoring zones with the higher scoring zones being smaller, having physically smaller targets or adding penalty targets into the mix. Any shooter with a match or two under their belt can tell you how important it is to be accurate and that you engage your intended target, not a penalty target such as a “no-shoot.” In most competitions your score is based on time, accuracy or a combination of time and accuracy. Even if you don’t hit a penalty target, misses on a “shoot” target mean seconds added to your time.
Even though you see the top competitors shoot extremely fast, these rules and their implementation is ingrained in their minds while shooting. To be successful in a match, they have to be ingrained in yours as well. Regardless of how fast you shoot, if you break a safety rule, you are going home.
Bottom line: Be safe and have fun.