How to Get into Competitive Shooting - A Beginner's Guide

Ever thought about giving competitive shooting sports a try? Imagine a high-energy game where the goal is to hit targets both quickly and precisely. It's catching on big time, and more people are jumping into the action every day! What's the big draw? Well, it's a blast to meet new friends, push your limits, and pick up some awesome skills along the way. If you're wondering how to get into competitive shooting, you've landed in the perfect spot! Let's walk you through the ins and outs of competitive shooting and show you how to get in on the action.

how to get into competitive shootingHow to Get Into Competitive Shooting

Just like any other sport, there are some things you need to know and do before you start with competition shooting.

First, let's understand what competitive shooting is all about. It's not just about hitting targets; it's about doing it quickly, accurately, and under different rules depending on the type of competition.

Now, being prepared is super important. For competitive shooting, you need to practice a lot and have the right equipment.

But there's something even more important than practice and gear: your mindset. This means how you think and feel about the sport. Being positive, focused, and ready to learn will help you a lot.

how to get into competitive shootingBefore you embark on your journey in competitive shooting, another crucial thing is to understand the etiquette at gun ranges. This knowledge not only ensures safety but also helps in creating a respectful and professional environment for all participants.

If you believe you can do well and are willing to learn from mistakes, you're already on the right track!

Understanding the Different Types of Shooting Competitions

There are different types of shooting competitions and in the next few sections we're going to break them down.

Practical Shooting

Practical shooting is like a real-life action movie scene! In this type of competition, shooters are given scenarios where they have to "solve" problems using their shooting skills.

It's not just about standing still and shooting at a target. Shooters might have to move between barriers, reload their guns quickly, or even decide which targets to shoot first. The goal is to complete the course in the shortest time with the highest accuracy.

It's called "practical" because it tests skills that might be used in real-life self-defense situations. So, if you like fast-paced action and thinking on your feet, this might be the one for you!tactical shooting

Long Range

Long range shooting is all about patience, precision, and focus. Imagine trying to hit a tiny dot from a distance that's so far away it's hard to see with the naked eye!

Shooters use special rifles with powerful scopes to help them see distant targets. The challenge? Factors like wind, temperature, and even the Earth's rotation can affect the shot. It's like a game of chess where you have to think several moves ahead.

If you enjoy challenges that require a lot of concentration and skill, long range shooting is a fascinating to get into competitive shooting

Action Shooting

Action shooting is a thrilling blend of speed, accuracy, and movement. It's not just about hitting the target; it's about how you get there.

Shooters might have to run between shooting stations, climb ladders, or even shoot from moving platforms! The courses are designed to be unpredictable, so shooters never know what to expect.

They might face pop-up targets, moving targets, or targets that are partially hidden. One pivotal skill to develop is the ability to master moving target shooting, which can be a game-changer in both accuracy and adaptability during competitions.

It's a test of both physical agility and shooting skill. If you're someone who loves dynamic challenges and a bit of adventure, action shooting is like an exciting obstacle course with added firepower!tactical shooting

How to Get into Competitive Shooting - What to Choose

There are some big competitions that many shooters dream of joining. One of them is the international defensive pistol competitions. It's a big event where shooters from all over the world come to compete. And then there are national championships, which are like the big leagues for shooters in their own country.

Each of these shooting disciplines offers a unique experience, and many shooters try out all of them before deciding which one they love the most.

What Equipment Is Needed to Compete?

1. Competition Pistol and Ammunition

For those just beginning their journey in competitive shooting, it's essential to choose the right handgun for starters, which not only fits your grip and shooting style but also complies with the specific regulations of the shooting discipline you choose.

The competition pistol should be reliable, accurate, and comfortable to use.

The ammunition, on the other hand, plays a pivotal role in the performance of the pistol. Using quality ammunition from reputable brands ensures consistent performance, reduces the risk of misfires, and can even extend the life of your firearm.

Some of the best ammo brands include Federal Premium, Hornady, Winchester, Remington, and CCI. These brands have been in the industry for years and have garnered trust due to their consistent quality and performance.competition pistol

2. Holster

The importance of a reliable holster in tactical shooting cannot be overstated. A holster serves multiple purposes.

  • Safety - A good holster ensures that the firearm is securely held in place, reducing the risk of accidental discharges. It also ensures that the trigger is fully covered, preventing any unintentional contact.
  • Comfort - For those who carry their firearm throughout the day, the comfort provided by the holster is paramount. A well-designed holster can make the firearm's presence barely noticeable, as opposed to being a constant source of discomfort.
  • Accessibility - In situations where every second counts, a quality holster ensures quick and reliable access to the firearm, allowing the user to respond efficiently.

One highly recommended holster is the "Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster". Why?

  • Comfort - This holster features a neoprene backing, which ensures comfort against the skin. It's breathable, preventing excessive sweating, especially during prolonged wear.
  • Adjustability - Users can adjust the cant, ride height, and retention to their liking, ensuring a perfect fit for their firearm and preferred draw style.
  • Material - The holster combines a custom-molded retention shell made of durable polymer with a flexible base, offering a balance between rigidity and comfort.
  • Concealment - Being an IWB (Inside the Waistband) holster, it offers deep concealment, making it an excellent choice for concealed carry.
  • Warranty - Alien Gear offers a 30-day trial period and a forever warranty, which speaks volumes about their confidence in the product's quality and durability.
  • Versatility - It's designed to fit a wide range of handguns, ensuring that users can likely find a version that fits their specific firearm.

how to get into competitive shootingWhen choosing a holster, it's essential to consider personal preferences, the specific firearm you'll be using, and the situations in which you'll be carrying. The Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.5 IWB Holster is a versatile and reliable choice that caters to a broad range of needs.

3. Eye and Ear Protection

When it comes to competitive shooting, safety is paramount. The loud noise of gunshots and the potential for ricocheting particles make it essential to protect both your ears and eyes. Without the right protection, shooters risk permanent hearing loss and eye injuries.


  • Advanced Noise Reduction: TradeSmart's earmuffs are engineered with a unique 6-layer noise reduction system, ensuring that harmful noise levels are effectively blocked out. With a Noise Reduction Rate (NRR) of 28, these earmuffs provide superior protection against loud gunshots.
  • Comfort: Designed with soft ear cushions and a plush headband, these earmuffs ensure all-day comfort. The universal sizing caters to a wide range of users, from teenagers to adults.
  • Pairing Capabilities: One of the standout features of these earmuffs is their ability to pair seamlessly with TradeSmart's NRR33 earplugs and ANSI z87.1 safety glasses. This combination offers maximum noise reduction, ensuring the shooter's safety.

shooting earmuffs

shooting earmuffs


  • High NRR: With a Noise Reduction Rate (NRR) of 33, these earplugs offer superior protection against harmful noise levels.
  • Quality Material: Made from German quality BASF foam, these earplugs are both durable and comfortable.
  • Versatility: These earplugs are not just for the shooting range. They're also suitable for other activities like sleeping, traveling, and DIY tasks, making them a versatile choice for noise reduction.
shooting earplugs
shooting earplugs

Safety Glasses

  • ANSI Z87.1 Certification: This certification ensures that the glasses meet strict safety standards, offering the shooter peace of mind.
  • UV Protection: With a UV 400 rating and the highest UV rating of ANSI Rated at U6, these glasses protect the eyes from harmful UV radiation.
  • Lens Options: Shooters can choose between clear lenses for indoor and outdoor use and tinted lenses for outdoor scenarios.
  • Premium Safety Glasses: For those looking for an upgrade, TradeSmart also offers premium safety glasses. These come with extra padding for enhanced comfort, an anti-fog feature to ensure clear vision, and are designed to be compatible with earmuffs.

Gun Safety Kits

TradeSmart offers various gun safety kits tailored to the shooter's needs. These kits include essential safety gear like earmuffs, earplugs, and safety glasses. Depending on the kit, shooters can also get additional items like a microfiber pouch or a hard carrying case. With different color options and glasses configurations, shooters can choose a kit that best suits their preferences and requirements.

premium safety glasses, earmuffs, earplugs & carrying case
safety glasses, earmuffs, earplugs & carrying case

4. Proper Apparel

In the world of competitive shooting, the right apparel can make a significant difference. It's not just about looking the part; it's about ensuring safety, comfort, and functionality.

Proper clothing can enhance a shooter's performance by allowing them to focus solely on their target without any distractions or discomfort.

TradeSmart's Tactical Hat

When it comes to headgear, TradeSmart's Tactical Hat stands out. Here's why:

  • Material: Crafted from 100% cotton, this hat ensures comfort throughout the day. Cotton, being an all-natural material, prevents itching and irritation, making it ideal for prolonged wear.
  • Design: The hat boasts a 'no-top-button' design, ensuring that shooters can comfortably wear earmuffs without any hindrance. Its thin design further ensures compatibility with earmuffs, allowing for an effective noise seal.
  • Additionally, the hat features an Easy-Clip Closure, which not only provides an adjustable fit but can also be clipped onto a belt or backpack for secure storage. The added Velcro allows users to personalize their hat, showcasing their values and interests.
  • Safety Glasses Compatibility: Designed with the shooter's complete safety in mind, the Tactical Hat is crafted to be worn seamlessly with safety glasses, ensuring full protection.

black tactical hat

black tactical hat

5. Other Essentials

Beyond the primary equipment and apparel, there are other essentials that can enhance a shooter's experience, ensuring they are well-prepared and organized.

TradeSmart's Tactical Backpack

TradeSmart Tactical Backpack is shooter's best friend - when it comes to storage and organization. Here's what makes it special:

  • Multiple Compartments: This backpack offers ample storage space, ensuring that shooters can carry all their gear, from ammunition to safety equipment, in one organized space.
  • Specialized Pockets: Designed with the shooter's needs in mind, the backpack features specialized pockets, including a middle pocket with 5mm thick padding for added protection.
  • TSA Locks: Security is a priority. The backpack features three separate TSA locks, enhancing security and preventing unauthorized access.
  • High Capacity: Despite its compact design, this backpack can hold over 50 pounds. Its dimensions (12in across, 19in high, 8.5in wide) ensure that shooters can carry all their essentials without feeling burdened.

black tactical backpack

black tactical backpackIn the competitive shooting world, being prepared is half the battle. With TradeSmart's range of apparel and essential gear, shooters can ensure they are always ready to give their best performance.

Preparing Yourself for Competitive Shooting

Competitive shooting is not just about having the right equipment; it's about honing your skills and preparing your mind. Both physical and mental preparation are crucial to excel in this sport. Here's how you can get started.

The Power of Regular Practice

Just like any other sport, competitive shooting requires consistent practice. To enhance your skills and experience the thrill of competitive shooting in a real-world environment, it's essential to visit top shooting ranges where you can practice under various conditions and get accustomed to different shooting scenarios.

Consistency is key. Regular practice helps in muscle memory development, ensuring that your body knows exactly what to do even under pressure. It also allows you to identify areas of improvement and work on them.

Tips for Improving Accuracy and Speed

  • Stance and Grip: Ensure you have a stable stance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, and your grip on the competition pistol should be firm but not too tight.
  • Breathing Technique: Learn to control your breath. Take a deep breath, let half out, and then hold while you take the shot. This stabilizes your body, reducing movement.
  • Focus on the Front Sight: While aiming, your focus should be on the front sight, ensuring it's clear and sharp, while the target and the rear sight are slightly blurred.
  • Dry Fire Practice: This is practicing your shots without live ammunition. It's a great way to work on your technique without the distraction of the gunshot sound and recoil.
  • Feedback: Consider recording your practice sessions. Watching them later can help you identify mistakes and areas of improvement.

how to get into competitive shooting

Mental Preparation

The Mind is Your Strongest Weapon

In competitive shooting, your mindset can be the difference between winning and losing. Training your mind is as essential as training your body.

Building Discipline, Focus, and Resilience

  • Discipline: Set a routine for yourself. Whether it's your practice schedule, your diet, or your sleep, stick to it. Discipline ensures you're always at your best.
  • Focus: In the middle of a competition, distractions can be your biggest enemy. Train your mind to focus on the task at hand and block out everything else.
  • Resilience: Not every shot will be perfect. Not every competition will go as planned. Resilience is about bouncing back, learning from your mistakes, and coming back stronger.

    Strategy and Mindset for Shooting Matches

    • Visualization: Before the match, visualize the course of fire. Imagine yourself going through each stage, taking perfect shots.

    • Stay Calm: It's natural to feel nervous, especially if it's a big competition. Deep breathing exercises can help calm your nerves.

    • Positive Affirmations: Remind yourself of your training, your skills, and your passion for the sport. Believe in yourself and your abilities.

    What are the Benefits of Competitive Shooting?

    Competitive shooting is not just about hitting targets; it's a journey of self-discovery, camaraderie, and skill enhancement. The discipline required to train, the focus needed to aim, and the resilience to bounce back from misses all contribute to a holistic personal growth that transcends the shooting range. Here's a deeper dive into the enriching benefits of this sport:

    1. Personal Growth

    Building Discipline - The world of competitive shooting demands regular practice, punctuality at events, and a commitment to continuous learning. This instills a strong sense of discipline that often spills over into other areas of life.

    Focus - Amidst the cacophony of the shooting range and the pressure of the ticking clock, aiming for the target hones an unparalleled level of concentration. This ability to block out distractions and zero in on the task at hand is invaluable, both on and off the range.

    Resilience - In competitive shooting, misses and losses are inevitable. But they're also valuable learning opportunities. They teach you to analyze mistakes, adapt, and come back with renewed vigor. This resilience, this ability to face setbacks head-on, is a life skill that stands you in good stead in all challenges.

    benefits of competitive shooting

    2. Community

    Engaging in competitive shooting introduces you to a vibrant community of like-minded enthusiasts. From sharing tips and techniques to cheering each other on during competitions, the bonds formed in this community are deep and lasting. It's a space of mutual respect, shared passion, and collective growth.

    3. Skill Development

    Every session at the shooting range, every competition participated in, sharpens your skills. You learn to handle firearms with greater expertise, understand the nuances of different shooting disciplines, and continuously refine your techniques to achieve better accuracy and speed.

    4. The Joy of Competition

    There's something inherently exhilarating about competing. The palpable tension in the air, the challenge of outperforming oneself, and the camaraderie among competitors make every event memorable. Whether standing on the podium or just achieving a personal best, the sense of accomplishment is profound.


    Embarking on the journey of competitive shooting is not just about learning how to handle a firearm; it's about embracing a sport that challenges your mind, body, and spirit.

    If you've ever wondered how to get into competitive shooting, know that it's a path filled with excitement, growth, and camaraderie.

    Competitive shooting sports offer a unique blend of discipline, precision, and community. It's a world where each shot fired is a lesson learned, and every target hit is a triumph not just of skill but of perseverance and focus. Whether you're aiming to compete at the national championships or simply looking to improve your marksmanship, the journey is rewarding.

    3 Responses



    March 15, 2024

    Believe me, I wish I could find it enjoyable. I know that it is not 1984 and President Reagan is no longer in the White House. I know things change. IPSC, USPSA, and IDPA are not the same now as when they were first formed. I am glad that some folks can still enjoy it.

    TradeSmart Safety

    TradeSmart Safety

    January 15, 2024

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Ray!

    It’s such a downer when that fun, friendly atmosphere gets swapped for hardcore competition. Sounds like Skokie has a decent club scene, but it’s a shame it’s not the same vibe everywhere.

    Your take on the USPSA and IDPA member stats really puts things into perspective. Just goes to show we need more chill, welcoming spots in this sport.

    We really appreciate your honesty.



    December 29, 2023

    I used to enjoy it… many years ago. The friendliness of It disappeared and was replaced with a “win-at-any-cost” attitude. It seems likely that it varies from location to location. A guy in Skokie probably has a good club to go to. Where I live, not so much. It is regrettable. I begin to see why there 35,000 USPSA members and 25,000 IDPA members out of 110 million gun owners. I am glad that some people can enjoy it.

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