Did you know that the shooting sports are some of the safest recreational activities you can participate in? Ranges and firearms retailers across the country are staffed with skilled professionals and instructors who can explain the rules of safe gun handling and the basic skills needed to become a top shot. Classes and clinics such as NSSF’s First Shots abound for first-time firearms owners, and when you’re ready, advanced skills classes keep your motivation high while adding to the entertainment factor.
Few things you’ll own in your life come with the kind of responsibility that a firearm does. Whether you’ve purchased your gun for self-defense, recreation or simply as a collectible, you bear the 24/7 responsibility to keep that firearm out of unauthorized hands. Before you buy, explore the many resources for keeping your gun stored safely and out of reach. Your local firearms retailer is a great place to start, with a wide variety of solutions to meet both your needs and your budget.
With thousands of models and hundreds of calibers, the choice can seem overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be. Start with what you want to do with your firearm. Do you want to start competing in a particular sport? Is it for home-defense or concealed carry? Or do you just want to do some casual target shooting from time to time? Once you identify your need, head to your local firearms retailer to learn about the options, then plan a trip to the range to give a rental gun a try. With a little homework and help from your local experts, you’ll quickly find the one that’s right for you—at least the first one!
Handgun competition takes two general forms, action shooting and precision shooting. If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll find your home in sports such as NRA-sanctioned bull’s-eye competitions, steel silhouette shooting, and Rimfire Challenge. This is where your skills are honed to a razor sharp-edge and small groups reign.
Need a little more action? Need a challenge on the go? Then “run-and-gun” sports like IDPA, IPSC, Cowboy Action Shooting and falling steel plates are the places to explore.
Both genres have categories for rimfire and centerfire, all with classes based on skill level so the playing field is even across competitors. And while semi-automatic pistols are the top choice for most games, especially the action-shooting sports, you’ll find plenty of challenges for your favorite revolver as well.
The real question is, what can’t you shoot with your rifle? Steel silhouettes? Check. Fifty-yard targets with your .22? Check. A 1,000-yard plate with a .308 chassis rifle? Check, check and oh, yeah!
Rifle shooting sports are some of the oldest around, with a challenge for every skill and equipment level. The Rimfire Challenge is all about .22 rifles (and .22 pistols), as is NRA smallbore competition, while bigger calibers get the job done at all distances. And let’s not forget the multi-gun sports that have the rifle as their foundation, including lever-actions for Cowboy Action and the Modern Sporting Rifle in the raging hot sport of 3-Gun.
Near or far, fast or slow, small caliber or large, the rifle sports offer something for everyone.
“Shooting flying” is what the shotgun sports are all about. The bright-orange clay “bird” target rules the day here, though how you tackle it is up to you. Take ’em short and fast in skeet, or long and going longer in trap—oh, and you can really up the challenge in trap by shooting doubles traps and shoot like an Olympian!
If you can’t decide between skeet or trap, then you’re going to love sporting clays and its level-up cousin FITASC—some people call these two “golf with a shotgun,” because just like that game with the little white ball, these games are shot over courses, where you’ll tackle targets of all different sizes coming and going at all sorts of angles and distances.
Be warned- they’re all very addictive!
From safe handling and basics building to advanced skills and sport-specific instruction, there’s a wealth of courses out there taught by people passionate about passing their knowledge onto you. What You’ll Learn:
- Safe Handling—The first place to start, even before you buy your first firearm
- How They Work—Discover how today’s modern firearms function and what ammunition to use in yours.
- Skills Building—Grip, sight alignment, and trigger control for new shooters, holster draw, reloading and so much more as you advance.
- This is Fun!—Watch each group of shots get smaller, and the smile on your face grow bigger.
Developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and hosted by independent shooting facilities, the program provides participants with a comprehensive introduction to shooting by qualified range operators and instructors that includes firearm safety, ownership requirements, shooting fundamentals, hands-on instruction and how and where to continue.
- An educational introduction to the safe and recreational use of firearms
- An understanding of the local requirements for owning and purchasing a firearm
- Individual and group training
- A rundown of shooting sports opportunities for all levels of interest
My mom wants to buy a handgun for home protection. She used to compete in bull’s-eye when she was young, but it’s been a while since she’s owned or handled a firearm. Anywhere she should start?
Invite your mother to take a self-defense class at a local range. She’ll be able to discuss with the instructors and other students appropriate choices for both firearms and ammunition, she’ll get a refresher on safe handling, and she’ll learn about home storage options for any firearm she’ll purchase. That class will also introduce the range as a resource to her, something we bet will reignite her love for shooting competition.
My boyfriend took me to the range to shoot a rifle for the first time. I had a great time and hit the target, but didn’t like the pounding my shoulder took. He told me the rifle was a .308. Is there something else I can try?
Yes! In fact there are lots of other options. The first thing to do is seek out a firearms range that has a rental gun program, tell them about your first experience and let them work with you to get you comfortable shooting a rifle in a smaller caliber. While the .308 isn’t what most would consider to be a hard-recoiling round, it’s still a powerful centerfire cartridge. Once you’ve acclimated to shooting a smaller caliber and have a good foundation of skills in place, you can work your way up to the .308 or any other caliber you like.
I inherited a much-loved and good-quality revolver from my grandfather. It’s chambered for .38 Special. What’s a good ammunition choice for paper target practice?
Your local handgun range and firearms retailers should all stock something called wadcutters or semi-wadcutters in .38 Special. These bullet configurations have been used for decades for target shooting because they produce nice, clean-edged holes in paper targets, which make reading scores for shots that are “on the line” easier. The good news is that wadcutters and semi-wadcutters are among some of the most inexpensive rounds you can find for this caliber—just remember to do a thorough cleaning job after each shooting session with them to prevent lead build-up.
I’ve been shooting skeet for a while now, and I’ve gotten pretty good. I’ve heard some at my club talk about a new sporting clays range that opened in the area, but I don’t know much about the game. Do I need a different shotgun, different ammo, different gear?
Not at all. Whatever shotgun, ammo and gear you’re using for skeet will be just fine for your first time shooting sporting clays. The game takes place over a course, much like golf, with various stations to shoot along the way. You’ll shoot mostly pairs in various combinations at each station, and the targets are thrown at all sorts of distances and angels—it’ll be quite a different challenge than skeet, but the sport is tremendous fun. Absolutely make plans to visit the new range and give it a try—we bet it won’t be your last trip there!
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