Why do you own a gun? Do you shoot for a living? Are you a sponsored hunter, marksman or competitive shooter? Maybe you are in law enforcement, or the military? If not, then you probably own a firearm for two simple reasons: Personal protection and the pure joy of shooting! For personal protection, there are plenty of courses to help prepare you for that scenario; CHL classes, home defense classes, tactical shooting classes; the list goes on and on. You’ll learn what sight alignment/sight picture is, principles of marksmanship, proper weapons handling, and the legal aspects of firearm ownership and carry. Eventually, you’ll square-off against your opponent: a static paper target.
Hey, this is a necessary part of the learning process; we all go through it. You’ll blow off box after box of ammunition at those paper circles and silhouettes, at various distances, working to perfect your stance, grip, trigger squeeze, follow-through, etc. After months of dedicated practice, you’re pretty good! You can hit your target more or less, where you’re aiming, and can load and unload faster than Jackie Chan. You’ve actually practiced in a mirror at home. Admittedly, being able to do a lightning-quick tactical reload is impressive, but now what? This is where many shooters get stuck. Shooting at paper targets soon becomes a bore. Trust me; I’ve been doing it for years! You try to challenge yourself; 10 shots in the X-ring, 5 shots in three seconds, two to the chest and one to the head…yawn.
Maybe you have access to some property where you have a little more freedom than at your local indoor pistol range, so what is the first thing you shoot at? Yep, a paper target—because that’s what you’ve been trained to shoot at. You’re eager to show your buddies your skills, and you tear it to shreds. A year later, you have improved even more, progressing from handguns to rifles and shotguns, but one day you’re out shooting your .223 rifle. You are at 300 yards, staring through your scope at the 20-something holes you’ve put into the X-ring, when you realize–you are bored. You need a more stimulating challenge.
As always happens when a person gets bored, you get creative. Soda cans, light bulbs, golf balls, milk jugs filled with water, anything that isn’t nailed down. Hey, let’s toss some things up in the air and blow them out of the sky! Your happiness grows in direct proportion to the debris pile; until you fire your last round, and it’s time to pack it in for the day. Ah, that was fun.
At the most basic level, all sports are metaphors for human combat. We have an instinctive urge to compete with each other, and sports give us a safe, fun way to do that without all the bloodshed. The sport of shooting is no different. We want to shoot well to prove to ourselves–and others–that we are capable as providers and protectors. It is preparation for the ultimate test; kill or be killed. Who says it can’t be fun, right? If the shooting isn’t fun, then it just becomes work.
Shows like Top Shot, Sons of Guns, and a slew of others have reignited the interest in recreational and practical shooting across the U.S. This isn’t shooting at paper targets anymore; it’s the next step in creative firearms practice. By designing fun, dynamic, clever, and visually stimulating challenges, the producers of these shows have caused an itch that almost all shooters want to scratch. Who doesn’t want to shoot at glass bottles filled with colored liquid? Targets that swing, run, spin, bounce or explode? Besides the mouth-watering attraction of these targets, they have also added another element that is very attractive to most of us; belonging to a team. Except in some competitive events, shooting is usually an individual activity. Not anymore.
There are many advantages to being in a tribe; strength in numbers, camaraderie, shared hardships, common goals, and so on. Belonging to a team brings out the best attributes of the individual sportsman. During competition, your strengths are celebrated, while other team members cover your weaknesses. Blended together, these elements represent the next step in recreational and practical shooting. A fun and dynamic set of ever-changing targets and shooting scenarios, presented in a friendly team-competition format.
Shooting is evolving. Check out my range at www.marksmanschallenge.com. We are the first Top Shot-style challenge course in the U.S., but we won’t be the last. I expect this to become a trend at shooting ranges across the nation, and I believe we will all be better shooters for it.