Do you know what month it is? If you answered August, you are correct. However, you are not completely right. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), has designated August as National Shooting Sports Month.
Why does that matter at American COP? In an era when law enforcement continues to be under attack, one of the things that gets slashed quickly is training budgets. Meaning we aren’t getting as much range time. At the same time, getting funding for new ranges isn’t easy, never mind the property and space. One way to maintain the profession’s access to ranges is to continue encouraging the sporting side. That’s one argument for supporting shooting sports.
It’s fun, it’s a game, but it gets you to manipulate the gun and into the positions.
Here is another – an educated populace. One that has some actual understanding of firearms and their uses.
You can celebrate the month in several ways – for starters, just take someone shooting. Nothing formal, nothing extravagant. Just get them to the range. Talk with them about firearms safety first. Cover the four safety rules. Cover any rules specific to that facility, then show them how to use the firearms you brought.
If they are a new shooter, ensure they have eye and ear protection too.
What are some options?
The shooting positions and barricades used at a NLR22 match.
Plinking at cans with a BB gun or a .22 caliber pistol and rifle. They get to shoot a relatively quiet firearm with minimum recoil. Also, they get rewarded for hitting the can.
There are several handgun-centric sports you can be involved in. I first competed in local USPSA-like matches that would now be called “outlaw” – because they aren’t sanctioned. When I competed, I shot the pistol I carried on duty in my work gear. I was not setting any records, but it made me much more familiar with all that gear. It set me up for future success, and, most importantly, it was fun.
For the past few years, I have been shooting IDPA matches – with less emphasis on the number of shots, appropriate use of cover, and limitations on the type of equipment.
All the gear I need to shoot IDPA.
The shotgun sports include trap and skeet as well as sporting clays. While you need some experience using a shotgun on various moving targets, shooting a round of any of these is a blast. If your agency fields shotguns, this is great practice for operating the shotgun – both the action and the safety – and keeping it loaded.
I contacted former FMG digital media producer Shari LaGate, a retired competitive shotgunner who has done color commentary for the Olympics, to ask her thoughts on competing and shooting sports.
Shari’s competitive shooting led her around the world.
She replied, “Shooting sports competitions were an important part of my life, and even though it’s been quite some time since I last competed in a match, it’s something I’ll always remember and be thankful for. As a member of the U.S. Shooting Team for over 12 years, I competed all over the world, and those memories will stay with me forever. I learned a lot about shooting sports, competition, and myself. See, learning how to compete and how to win goes beyond the shooting range. It extends into your everyday life because when you learn to be a champion on the field, you learn to be a champion off the field.
Her experiences go her into doing color commentary for the Olympics.
Now we get to rifles and the National Rifle League. Two of their programs are Hunter class and 22.
Their Hunter class involves you loading your rifle, ammunition, optics, water, and whatever else is needed before carrying it all through the rural course. You can run your first few matches as a student, and the staff will aid in locating and engaging the targets. Aside from the obvious connection to hunting, this can prepare officers for employing their rifles in a rural environment.
No need for large, heavy steel targets rated for center-fire rifle rounds.
I talked with David T, a local NLR-22 match director and he told me, “ first off, you can get the moms to try their hand at shooting as the rifles and gear are smaller, lighter, do not recoil, and have very little muzzle blast. If you can get the moms to come to a match and have fun, you get the kids.
“Kids are the future of shooting sports, and that’s what NRL22 is all about. Growing the future and having fun! Shooting really small targets far away is a pretty cool thing to do. Anyone can do it with the ubiquitous 10/22 and a small scope. Good people and good times!”
The NLR22 targets can get pretty imaginative.
But wait, there’s more.
There are two and three gun matches – pistol and carbine, or both plus the shotgun. These are a lot more action-oriented. Depending on the organization, the location, and the match – you could run a stage with one weapon and all three on the next.
A relatively new player in the two-gun style of things is PCSL – the Practical Competition Shooting League. They only have two divisions. From their website: “Practical division is very non-restrictive in terms of optics and modifications on either carbines or handguns, but has a few key limitations to keep the spirit of the division “work” or” duty” gun focused. Competition division is less restrictive and allows “race” style carbines and handguns to compete.” PCSL has designed and adopted its own target, which is shorter from top to bottom and places a much greater emphasis on hits that would neutralize the threat.
The bottom line, many of us train for work. Every so often, though, consider having some fun with those firearms. Bring a non-shooter with you while you are at it and get them interested in it.
Nat’l Sporting Clays Assoc