Classification and Divisions


Attendance fall off at organized shooting events is the biggest problem facing advancing gun owner skill and improving the perception of gun ownership by the general public. Ignorant gun owners scoff about not caring what their non-gun owning neighbors think while ignoring the fact that pro-gun initiatives would be much easier if those neighbors had a reason to hold a positive opinion on it.

As it stands today, only 2% of the card-carrying NRA membership has ever attended a NRA Sanctioned or Approved event. Back in the early 1960s, this was over 30%. Worse, the raw number has declined from a high of over 130,000 participants to around 95,000 today.

Part of that attendance fall off is shooters deciding to take up a different discipline. Camp Perry attendance peaked in the early 1960s and that was when rifle shooters could only choose between High Power or Smallbore and Pistol was Bullseye (or perhaps PPC if you were a cop.) I know some shooters in traditional disciplines don’t like the new options but I’d rather have gun owners participating in something that appeals to them than not at all.

Equipment isn’t the biggest factor concerning score but it is a factor. I’d address this by expanding the Classification system and equipment Divisions. Five or six skill groups for all shooters isn’t broad enough. High school sports have more than this and that doesn’t take Little League/Pop Warner/Pee Wee leagues, Junior Varsity, and other local leagues into account. College, semi-pro, and pro are entirely different groups with their own strata.

A competitive shooter “disadvantaged” by equipment but consistently capable of shooting a given score is at no real disadvantage when assessed in a peer group of people consistently shooting similar scores regardless of the reason why.

Add to this recognition of different equipment. As an example, USPSA has about six recognized divisions (it might be more by the time I finish this email) and it makes for a diverse group of options where almost any handgun can find a competitive role.

To keep some sanity and avoiding a “trophies for everyone!” issue, I’d only recognize a given division or classification if there is at least a minimum number of participants (say, about 6 or more for local matches) so there is a sort of mini match inside the match that is competitive for each group.

FWIW, but experience indicates the NRA doesn’t seem terribly interested in furthering their shooting sports by increasing participation. Their own membership base is a 98% no-show

On Competition

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“Difficulty is a severe instructor … He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.”
– 18th-century philosopher-statesman Edmund Burke

That is, my enemy is my friend. Competition demands that I make myself physically and intellectually fit and that I strive toward constant self-betterment.

– John Tate

Training: The value of competition shooting to your type of shooting

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This is a great write up by Andy C at about the value of organized shooting as found at competitive events. If you’ve never been to a match or have gun-owning friends that haven’t, do yourself a favor and read this.

Some choice quotes:

I guess you might develop a “training scar” from habits like moving around an IPSC course without taking cover, but then, I might also forget to wear pants to the grocery store because I never wear them inside if I can avoid it.

While competitive shooting may get you killed on “the street”, some training looks likely to kill you on the range. (Photo: Everydaynodaysoff)

There’s a spectrum of investment with shooting, like any sport. My wife shoots IDPA with a hoodie, a holster she made and a police surplus S&W Model 10. She shoots next to a guy who spent thousands on his Sig X-Six, a custom Kydex holster, a 5.11 vest, and a camera on his head. There are certainly shooting games that let you use what you have, and if you like it, you can slowly invest in specialized gear.

Speaking of investing, I often find that the people who lament the expense of competitive shooting own dozens of different guns. Instead of buying another rifle that gets shot twice a year, why not invest that money in competitive shooting fees, ammunition and equipment?

The main reason is it provides a reason to go and shoot. There’s a date on the calendar that says “use your gun.” This is a pretty strong motivator to get said gun out of the nightstand. It also provides meaningful feedback with scores and rankings. Whether you try to beat personal records or develop a competitive edge, once values are assigned to the quality of your shooting, it’s a natural to try and improve those scores. That has a good chance of leading to more frequent range time and may even lead to that most secretive of arts, dry fire practice… For a lot of people, it’s more important that it’s “organized” than “competitive.”

Pro Gun People Can’t Count


It’s Time The NRA Stopped Acting Its Age

While this was a great interview on RecoilWeb‘s site, they made a misstatement.

While there are 76 board members, it’s safe to say the majority are older, well-established white guys. This explains why the NRA pumps the membership’s dollars into traditional, one-handed, timed-fire pistol matches while it’s slower to adopt more modern competition formats, such as three-gun and other practical shooting disciplines.

No, it does not explain this. In fact, it reveals the Recoil Staff is as ignorant of these events as the NRA board members.

There still are more classified NRA Pistol (bullseye) competitors than USPSA members. The National Matches at Camp Perry continues to draw more participants than national events for practical and 3 Gun competition. “More modern competition formats” are great events with highly-skilled competitors and worthy of attention and support, but conventional bullseye-type competition still has more total participants.

Regardless, it’s more important to support whatever events can get people to actually show up. No single event type will attract everyone, so find and support those events that do appeal to people.

The real reason the NRA board is “slower to adopt” is because the NRA board as a whole is ignorant or disinterested in such events. Yes, there are board members with solid competitive shooting experience and impressive marksmanship credentials, but they are the minority. Promoting organized marksmanship events is simply not a priority or interest for the NRA board and the NRA as a whole.

>> Adam Kraut: I think the biggest threat will be the complacency amongst gun owners.

Excellent observation. Shooting is outpaced by golfing because golf club owners are much more active:

Complacency and inactivity is much worse than any other threat. Just look at the numbers:

Rifle Marksmanship: Competition Shooter vs. Military

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A very good bit of instruction from Patrick E. Kelley

Offhand Rifle Shooting Tips

A 10-inch steel plate at 170 yards is about 5.8 MoA. As you can see in the video, the Burris XTR II reticle used has an interior dimension of 1.75 mils (about 6 MoA) which appears just slightly larger than the target.

For reference, basic Army and Marine rifle grouping standard is a 6 MoA group (4cm at 25 yards) fired prone supported. Mr. Kelley is performing this demo offhand unsupported. That’s the skill difference between military-trained personnel and a good competition shooter.

Botswana Defence Force Marksmanship Programs

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CPT Letsomo of the Botswana Defence Force–Authorities/Ministries/State-President/Botswana-Defence-Force-BDF/

An overview of marksmanship programs in the BDF.
“You have to start right now!”

Competition Makes the World Go ‘Round

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“If the question is whether you should compete, then the answer is yes. If the question is when, the answer is now. NOTHING will take your training to the next level the way training for a competition will.”

Competition makes EVERYTHING better. Period. The simple act of someone trying to do a job better than another person leads to dramatic increases in work productivity. It drives performance in business, causes students to “compete” in education for awards and scholarships, instigates guys to fight over the most attractive women, has given us the Super Bowl, and has led to the $1 double cheeseburger – all great things.

Our history has been painted with the importance of competition. There was a day when our lives depended on it. We competed with other men for the best women. We competed to kill food to provide for our family. We competed to be predator and not prey.

Competition is what our country was founded on. Capitalism, democracy, an entire government, built upon the shoulders of competition. It has contributed greatly to the United States being the most powerful nation in the world. Consider also, ironically, that in the few places where competition was allowed to thrive in the Soviet Republic, it succeeded. Communism and Socialism are founded on a non-competitive world view. It is the antithesis of Democracy. And while a society, government, and economy built upon a lack of competition failed, the two places where competition was encouraged – the space program and the Olympics – succeeded incredibly well for the USSR.

We now live in a country where everyone has a sense of entitlement, part of which is learned though the “everyone is a winner” mentality. We no longer keep scores in elementary-level sports, and every kid on the team gets a trophy and a ribbon. We actually had the mom of a 3rd grade kid who participated in our “field day” last spring call up the superintendent of our school, infuriated because her son did not receive a ribbon when she saw that only 1st through 3rd place students were awarded ribbons in their various events. Anti-competitive viewpoints such as this, coupled with the pussification of America, is leading us down a dangerous and emasculating path.

Lack of competition is the single biggest problem with our public school system. There are no incentives for one school district to be better than the next district down the road, no incentives for teachers to be excellent, and no incentives for the students to compete and perform. As a middle school Industrial Technology teacher, I became frustrated a few years ago with the quality of the balsa wood bridge projects my students were building. The simple act of changing the project to a competition – where the bridge that held the most weight got the highest grade in the class and a small gift certificate to a restaurant in town, and the one who held the least got the worst the grade – dramatically improved the design, quality, and craftsmanship of the bridges all-around. Competition gave the project a purpose.

– Matt Reynolds

Click to access competition_reynolds.pdf

Special Operations Find Competition Shooting Valuable

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Competition produces better performance. Special Operations personnel know this. Everyone in the know does as well. Only the ignorant or people with an agenda wrongly claim otherwise.

Master Sgt. Scott Satterlee says the military could learn a lot from civilians
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Well Regulated

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verb (used with object), reg·u·lat·ed, reg·u·lat·ing.

  1. to control or direct by a rule, principle, method, etc.: regulate shooting activity, to regulate household expenses.
  2. to adjust to some standard or requirement, as amount, degree, etc.: regulate skill, to regulate the temperature.
  3. to adjust so as to ensure accuracy of operation: regulate marksmanship, to regulate a watch.
  4. to put in good order: regulate shooting events, to regulate the digestion.


Sam Woodfill

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Captain Sam Woodfill
Competition Marksman and Pershing’s Favorite Doughboy
by Darryl Davis

Rifle Marksmanship is an imperceptible process with results visible only to the practitioners and understandable only to other practitioners. Marksmanship is nearly impossible to describe to others. [Note 1]

General Pershing did not want American soldiers to learn to be cave-dwelling trench denizens. He wanted cross-country fire and movement to be the major calling, with trench adeptness as sideline. But “fire,” “shooting,” “marksmanship,” have no standard meaning. Those with equipment familiarity think it applies to what they can do. Those with rifle marksmanship skills (e.g., who have fired more than 1500 rounds, each carefully aimed, each result carefully inspected) hear it as referring to their much higher capacity. Pershing thought of it in the latter sense, hence his regard for Captain Woodfill, who had been a target shooter for many years before the war and had skills accordingly. He also was a skilled hunter.


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