Austin Chamberlain is a Team TANDEMKROSS competitive shooter from Missouri. Austin competes in Rimfire Challenge, Steel Challenge and USPSA matches. Read on to learn his thoughts on the benefits of getting involved in the shooting sports, and how it has changed his life, and the life of other members of the competitive shooting community.
Competitive shooting is better than any other sport for a person to compete in. If you have never been to a competitive shooting match, it may be in your best interest.
Even though the competitors use guns such as shotguns, rifles, and pistols, the actual sport of competitive shooting is one of, if not the, safest sports that there is to compete in. Another perk to competing in this fine sport is you will learn a lot about the mechanical parts and how the firearm that you prefer to use in your form of shooting, or discipline, operates. When you compete in the shooting sports, you will meet a certain kind of people that you may not have ever met in your life. When (not IF but WHEN!) you decide you want to become a part of their group, they will accept you and become great friends with you. When you decide to form relationships with these competitors, you will have the opportunity to make friendships that will last a lifetime. Competitive shooting is the absolute best sport that there is and when I go into more detail and describe it to you, you will see why.
The safety record in all of the shooting sports is unsurpassed by any other sport. In most scholastic sports such as football, basketball, and baseball, the players can receive blows to the head that can result in injuries such as concussions and brain damage. According to the Stanford Health Center, the highest rates of injury occur in sports that involve contact and collisions. Some people may point out that in some of the competitive shooting disciplines you are running around with loaded guns. The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) has created a school that teaches safety to RO’s, or Range Officers. Range officers are basically the officials of the competitive shooting sports who run the competitors through their stages. They are with you throughout the entire course of fire to ensure that none of the safety rules of the sport are violated. This institution that the USPSA has established is always making sure that the range officers are up-to-date on the current USPSA safety rules and regulations so they can help make sure that all the competitors and observers are safe the whole time that they are on the range.
I talked to the president of USPSA, Mike Foley, himself and ask him a few things about how they manage to keep a sport such as USPSA safe.
“Our safety record is impeccable compared to any other sport,” said Mr. Foley. “Much of this is due to the fact that we developed our own institution for safety, and constantly train certified range officers to ensure that we stay safe as we grow.”
Not only are there officials in this sport to ensure the safety of the spectators and competitors, but there are strict safety rules that competitors must follow during the course of the entire match.
Here are a few examples:
The 180 Degree Rule: There is a one-hundred and eighty degree border on the competitor that is parallel to the back wall of the bay that the course of fire is contained in. If the competitor points the muzzle of his or her weapon past this one-hundred and eighty degree border, they will be disqualified from the match and their scores will not count.
Accidental Discharge or AD: If a competitor accidentally fires the gun before the timer has sounded, during the course of fire and the bullet lands less than ten feet away from them, or if a round goes over the top of the berm, that competitor will be disqualified from the match and his or her score will not count.
Those are only a few of the rules that are strictly made for safety purposes. When you have so many safety rules to follow, and you are deeply interested in it, you really want to get to know all the aspects of the sport so you know how to follow those rules to the best of your ability. One of those aspects is the functionality of your firearm and the knowledge of how it operates so you can fix it if it becomes a problem during a match.
When I first started with the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) Rimfire Challenge, I was using a Ruger Mark III 22/45. That particular pistol is infamous for being more than difficult to assemble to a beginner gun-owner. That is very true. I remember sitting in the closet with all of my tools on YouTube with my dad trying to get it put back together before my mom found out.
Now, however, I can take apart one of those pistols in my sleep and can figure out what part needs to do what in order to take it apart to clean it and things like that. All that knowledge came from my experiences with my shooting career.
The knowledge of how your gun works is something that is essential to shooting and something that you can take away and use in your personal life. If, one day, you are out and one of your friends wants to show you his new AR-15 that he bought on the range, you are going to want to know how it operates so you can use it properly and in a safe fashion.
Another thing about competitive shooting is the type of people that you will meet. When I first started, I was nervous about the other people because I only knew my friends who brought me. I did not know anyone else there. Now I know tons of people through shooting. It seems like I can’t walk across the range without knowing a few people from each squad! I have friends from all over the country who are more than willing to help me with any problems I have. A big thing that stuck out to me was that most of the competitors are all willing to help in any way they can.
I got to interview a fellow shooter, Tim Herron, who is a Grand Master shooter and this is what he had to say about the people that you get to shoot with:
“It's an individual sport yet within a team atmosphere!” - Tim Herron, Grand Master
I could not agree more with what Mr. Herron had to say! Even though you are competing by yourself, the competitors around you, on your squad and even the ones that are just passing by, will give so much encouragement to you that you feel like you have a dozen coaches with you. All the knowledge that you have right at your fingertips on the range is nothing short of amazing. You can even take all of that knowledge and apply it to all aspects of life if you have the right perspective. Mr. Herron also goes on to say that things like hand-eye coordination and self-evaluation and coaching, for example, are great life skills that these sports can teach you.
Shooting can really change your life. If my dad hadn’t let me go that one day I would not have seen or experienced half of the things that shooting has showed me. It has taught me some important lessons that can only be learned on the range. The sky's the limit when it comes to shooting competitively. You can do everything from just making it a hobby to make an entire career out of it.
One of my personal friend’s lives has been changed because of it. His name is Bryan Haaker and he is co-owner and operator of TANDEMKROSS, one of the companies who has sponsored me in my competitive shooting career.
“For me it has provided a career in manufacturing and business,” Mr. Haaker said. “It has provided life long friends I never knew I had.”
The competitive shooting sports have different effects on different people. For one of my other friends and fellow competitors, Kolby Pavlock, it has helped him grow up a bit.
“Shooting has changed my life by gaining maturity and becoming a world champ,” he said.
This sport really teaches you to be humble and respectful. If you are a show-off and gloat every time you win in your division, no one will want to compete with you. It also will make you respectful because there are a lot of elders and veterans that will not tolerate disrespect. This sport in particular will change you a lot faster than most of the other sports that are available to participate in.
Competitive shooting is, by far, the absolute best sport that there is to compete in. The safety record for competitive shooting is unparalleled. The sport revolves around the safety of all those competing and those spectating. When you compete in this sport, you will gain a vast amount of mechanical knowledge about how firearms in general operate. Also, the people that you meet are another perk to the sport. They will give you support, advice, and some will even let you borrow guns and ammunition! Those people are also the kind of people that will even want to get together and hang out off of the range, too. They are all genuine people and are some of the best people I have ever been blessed enough to meet.
If you have never been to a match, or even a range, I strongly recommend that you go, because it may just change your life.