Competitive Shooting

How to Find a Shooting Partner

David Freeman and his shooting partner at a shooting live of the firing range

If you don’t have a good shooting partner, get one. How, you ask? Well, you could start with family members. A spouse may or may not make a good one. You know your own situation. In my family, my wife and I have done some fun and interesting shooting adventures together, but her life is busy with other things that are a priority.

I learned a long time ago to not pressure her to go shooting. She often goes when it’s more of a family outing. I have one grandson out of seven grandchildren who is a real shooting buddy for me. At least until he got married. Now, our times together at the range are somewhat limited, understandably.

David Freeman and his grandson testing pistols at an indoor shooting range
Another regular companion for the author (when shooting) is his Grandson who knows the author’s collection well. He even knows the combination to his gun safes.

Your shooting buddy will often be someone outside of your family. Perhaps you’ll find a coworker who shoots. Where are you guaranteed to find someone who enjoys shooting? How about someone you met at the range? That’s the case with my current shooting buddy.

We found ourselves talking in the range waiting area. It turned out we hit it off about things other than guns. It was church for us, but it could have been anything — cars, computers, sports, family. You get the idea. It’s one of those things that just happens, if you let it.

Back in the ’60s, there was a song by an artist named Melanie. “I’ve got a brand-new roller skate, you’ve got a brand-new key,” was a song which explained the idea of looking for a relationship. Enough on the idea. If you’re open to it, and have your radar operating, you’ll find a good shooting buddy.

Training Activities

What do you and your new shooting buddy do? You could take a class. Most gun ranges of any size have some types of class offerings. Even if you have a lot of experience and your new buddy doesn’t, taking a class puts you both at a similar level of understanding about something. Perhaps it will be a basic pistol class, skeet, or trap shooting. What about long-range rifle shooting. Whatever you can share is key.

What if one of you is more experienced than the other in a particular area? If you’re the more experienced one, but not an instructor, I would caution you about giving instruction. Sure, sharing tips or answering questions is normal, but so often people don’t know what they don’t know. They pass along bad information. That’s why taking a class together could be important.

Shoot-N-C paper target showing the results of the pistol test
Here are the results of the six semi-automatic series of tests.

Early in the relationship, when you’re shooting together, make it about the guns. Shoot each other’s guns. Try range rentals together. If there’s a noticeable difference in marksmanship, it will show up there but without a lot of pressure. Then, the one who’s missing a lot may ask the other for tips. If you’re both missing, that’s another indicator that instruction may be beneficial.

My current range buddy and I have a considerable difference in experience. I’m a lifelong shooter who is also a certified instructor in multiple disciplines. I have all the NRA Instructor ratings, plus I’m certified in Texas to teach the License to Carry and Hunter Education courses. He moved to Texas from California a couple of years ago, and though he has been to the class to get his License to Carry and participates in some other classes, his relationship with a gun is fairly new.

Before we shot together, I had already decided that the guns in my collection needed to be exercised, and that I needed to maintain a familiarity with them. It just happened that my shooting buddy Pat and I became acquainted near the time I was ready to start shooting my guns, and he was eager and anxious to help me with the task.

Ruger Mark III Hunter and S&W Victory pistol ready for Battleship competition
One of the competitive shooting games the author like to shoot is Battleship. Both shooters pick their favorite gun. In this case it’s a .22 battle, with one shooting a Ruger Mark III Hunter against a S&W Victory.

I maintain an Excel spreadsheet of my gun collection, so I started at the top. Pat and I shot 10 of my guns a week. Each time we went to the range, we rented two side-by-side lanes and put half the guns in each lane. After shooting at least five rounds in each gun, we exchanged lanes to allow each of us to shoot all the guns that were part of that day’s exercise. After shooting, we shared our insights about the guns over coffee along with discussions about other items that helped build our relationship.

After 10 weeks, we were through with handguns and a few of the rifles. We decided to save the rest of the long guns, mostly shotguns, for better weather and an outside range. Since we both wanted to continue shooting together weekly, we decided to go through the collection again, this time sorting the guns into groups of similar types.

EX2C Battleship paper shooting target
This game of battleship proved challenging for the author. His friend beat him again. In fact, the new shooter beats the ‘old guy’ often.

We sorted the guns into groups such as full-size, micro, and rimfire pistols. After the first two groups, we realized we were subjectively comparing the guns in each group. Nothing scientific, just observations about grouping, trigger pull, and how they felt in the hand.

It’s interesting how we found agreement for the most part. I bet you’re wondering what our top picks were. Out of 23 full-size 9mm semi-autos, our top picks were:

  1. Stoeger STR-9
  2. S&W Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E.
  3. Walther PDP

Out of 14 micro double-stack 9mm semi-autos, our picks were:

  1. SIG Sauer P365
  2. Smith and Wesson M&P Shield Plus
  3. Ruger Max-9

Later in the year, when we have good outside weather, we’ll do rimfire and centerfire rifles, and shotguns. All along the way we’ve supplied our own targets, now we’re into competition with some neat targets for that as well. Cruise on over to Cheaper Than Dirt’s target selection and you can find a lot of targets to keep your shooting interesting. Pat and I are just starting in on some of the competitive game targets as I write this.

Final Thoughts

This latest relationship is just one example of several I’ve had over the years. One thing I’ve discovered is that such a relationship will not work unless safety is a top priority to both parties. You cannot let egos or ultra-competitiveness compromise safety. It also helps if you have other interests upon which your relationship is founded outside of guns or shooting.

It should always be a two-way street, with shared expenses, and each of you providing input upon which the relationship is built. For example, Pat’s guns should be just as important when shared as mine. He’ll be getting more, and we’ll enjoy them together.

revolving dot torture paper target
These Revolving Dot Torture targets provide another way for the range buddies to entertain each other while testing guns.

What can you do to keep your adventures with a range buddy fresh beyond just firing a bunch of rounds down range? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Explore different ranges if you live in an area where there are multiple facilities.
  2. Enjoy coffee or a meal together before or after your range sessions.
  3. Go beyond just shooting into ammo evaluation and/or reloading.
  4. Introduce non-shooting friends to the joy of shooting, and encourage them as they learn.

Hopefully, I’ve given you some things to think about and act upon. Share your shooting enjoyment with family or friends, and I’m positive you will enjoy it more too.

Do you ever train at the range with a shooting partner? Do you notice the benefits? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

  • Shoot-N-C paper target showing the results of the pistol test
  • 6 semi-auto handguns laid out for testing on the shooting bench
  • revolving dot torture paper target
  • EX2C Battleship paper shooting target
  • Ruger Mark III Hunter and S&W Victory pistol ready for Battleship competition
  • David Freeman and his grandson testing pistols at an indoor shooting range
  • David Freeman and his shooting partner at a shooting live of the firing range

About the Author:

David Freeman

David is an NRA Instructor in pistol, rifle and shotgun, a Chief Range Safety Officer and is certified by the State of Texas to teach the Texas License to Carry Course and the Hunter Education Course. He has also owned and operated a gun store. David's passion is to pass along knowledge and information to help shooters of all ages and experience levels enjoy shooting sports and have the confidence to protect their homes and persons. He flew medevac helicopters in Vietnam and worked for many years as a corporate pilot before becoming actively involved in the firearm industry.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. For those who said that grip is not important makes me wonder how accurate of a shooter you are. The grip along with the trigger press made me a very accurate shooter. I used to be all over the paper target. Since then, I’ve become an excellent shooter. I also practice single handed with my support or weak hand as well as my dominant hand. I took a :
    “from the holster class” and this was one of the requirement to pass the tests. This class allows me to shoot from the holster at the indoor gun range. It allows me to practice drawing from Appendix Carry. Now, I feel very comfortable drawing from appendix with live rounds.

    JJ Racazza once said that plinking gives a false sense of grandeur. Paper target shooting humbles them back to reality. That’s a Fact.

  2. For those who said that grip is not important makes me wonder how accurate of a shooter you are. The grip along with the trigger press made me a very accurate shooter. I used to be all over the paper target. Since then, I’ve become an excellent shooter. I also practice single handed with my support or weak hand as well as my dominant hand. I took a :
    “from the holster class” and this was one of the requirement to pass the tests. This class allows me to shoot from the holster at the indoor gun range. It allows me to practice drawing from Appendix Carry. Now, I feel very comfortable drawing from appendix with live rounds.

    JJ Racazza once said that plinking gives a false sense of grandeur. Paper target shooting humbles them back to reality. That’s a Fact.

  3. Rockit, I’ve shot and do shoot a lot of handguns. I don’t recall ever thinking “this grip is wrong” about any of them. The two things I find fault with when shooting a new gun are the trigger and the sights. If I can line the sights up and smoothly work the trigger through its break then I can shoot the gun well. IF the sights or trigger give me an issue, I’ll note that about the gun, but grip angle? No. That’s never been an excuse for me not shooting a gun well.

  4. Mr. Freeman, if you don’t mind I would like your experienced opinion on something. It is said the Glock grip is just the wrong angle. That said, I have been wondering if Mr. Glock didn’t figure out something, others may have missed, as I have never had ANY issue with Glock Magazines, even in non-Glock platforms of other manufactures, even in straight blow back Pistol Caliber Carbines, also don’t know anyone, or even heard of anyone having any issue with a Glock magazine. They may look cheap, are mainly plastic wrapped stainless steel, and they sure can take a beating. It kind of gives the impression that “wrong” angle on the grip just may be a well kept secret when it comes to feed angle out of a magazine?

    The Glock 44, 22LR magazine may seem to have some issues, until one applies what the manual says for proper loading, or better yet, watch the Glock video for proper loading of a Glock 44 magazine. I have also learned the video applies to other manufactures as well, if anyone is having Failure To Feed issues on another brand .22.

  5. @DAVID B FREEMAN. I totally get it, as for me, the angle just doesn’t seems to throw me off either, I have to laugh when it is used as an excuse, and why I get a kick out of jabbing Sgt. Davis (Sgt Davis can dish it out, AND take it). 🙂 I actually do something similar to the article, but probably on a much smaller scale than you do. As for revolvers, I am not so sure there are any two grips the same, even within the same brand, and as I started out as a revolver guy, grips just never bothered me when I started into semi-autos. For me lately because I am constantly working on accuracy, and eyes getting older, that FRONT sight focus has been more my priority making the trigger probably slightly second.

    Really enjoyed the article. Thank you

  6. Many years ago back when revolvers reigned supreme, I had such a friend.

    We were a very rare set of girlfriends for the times. Our husbands were not gun enthusiasts but avid fishermen. They fished anything freshwater when it was still safe to keep and eat that day’s catch.

    My girlfriend and I were avid gun enthusiast. We shot .22lr, 25, 32, 38 Special and once in awhile 357 Magnum. We also shot rifles mainly .22lr, and 20 gauge shotguns.

    Together over time, we improved our shooting skills using paper targets, plinking (which we enjoyed the most), and different shotgun venues. Afterwards, we too would have coffee together, eat together, shop together, and did family things together.

    I miss those times now that I am in the winter of my life.

    And for those of you who are wondering, of course you know who cleaned all those fish the husbands caught!!!! And it wasn’t them.

    It just does not seem fair that they never cleaned our guns afterwards. Such is life. Smiling.

  7. Rockit, While there are some guns I shoot better than others, I’ve never noticed the grip angle making much difference. For me the trigger is the most critical component for getting off a clean, accurate shot. I shoot enough that working the gun is not an issue, no matter what the gun.

  8. WOW! Nice article, and a great way to spend quality bonding time with a grandchild, David.

    Nice procedure, and a great way to cycle through, share, and enjoy your whole collection.

    I couldn’t help notice the wide variety of semi-autos in the pictures, which seem to include all the various grips, and angles, both right and wrong angles, at least that is per Sgt Davis’s memo, which appears you either didn’t get, or chose to ignore, as I by the pictures of the targets, you, and your grandson, are proficient in all the grip angles (right and wrong). LOL

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