Making the trip out to the gun range to shoot off some rounds is a great way to feel confident with your firearm, and it’s also just an entertaining way to spend your time. But after a while, you might start to consider making things a bit more interesting and look for things to do with your gun beyond just hitting the same target over and over.
If this sounds like you, you might try adding a little flair to your firearm with a protective and eye-catching vinyl skin, or tactical shooting competitions might be what you’re looking for. Get a chance to actually see how proficient you are with your firearm and how you do compare to others in a more exciting and fun shooting match than your range offers.
There are plenty of different levels of competitive shooting, so if you’re still relatively new to shooting and want to get into it don't worry about being out of place. While there are professional-level shooters, you certainly don’t have to be at their pace to compete.
Make sure you have the right gear. As a reminder:
- Shoulder pocket
- Comfortable pants
- Extra ammo
- Eye protection
- Optic sights
We’ve put together a list of competitions, separated by weapon type, for you to check out and find what you’re interested in. This is a pretty long list but by no means a complete one. Your local gun clubs might have their own competitions to check out as well if you don’t immediately see something you like.
Different Types of Pistol Competitions
First up, we’ll talk about different pistol competitions. Handguns are the most popular firearm for gun owners, which is why we created a universal pistol wrap to cover any handgun you might be packing.
If you’re one of the many competitors carrying a pistol, then you might be interested in one of the following:
Glock Shooting Sports Foundation
One of the few competitions that require a specific brand of a handgun is the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation. Can you guess what brand they require?
The competition itself is fairly simple and available across the country, and you won’t need anything besides your Glock, magazines, and ammunition. Best of all is that the winning contestant receives a new Glock as the first place prize; however, you do still need your own Glock to compete in the first place. This is perfect for Glock enthusiasts and new gun owners.
For those of us who don’t own a Glock, there are more options. The Rimfire Challenge is another great choice for beginner competition shooters who own .22 caliber handguns, though they do allow .22 rifles as well.
The competition consists of shooting five to seven steel targets, though the setup will depend on the range. Get familiar with your firearm and practice swift but controlled movements through your arms to prepare.
The Steel Challenge is similar to the Rimfire. However, there is no limit or specific requirements for the handguns used throughout the entire competition. You still have five steel targets to hit, and the setup is typically arranged the same way every time, which helps newcomer shooters to practice and get familiar with the layout of the targets.
Named after the organization that runs the tactical games, the United States Practical Shooting Association, the USPSA will have you up on your feet, aiming at a combination of paper and steel targets.
The goal is to shoot your way through stages, hitting targets in your firing line with speed and accuracy. You’ll be judged on those two elements, so to prepare, make sure that you’ve trained your hand-eye coordination and mobility. Both are important qualities for most tactical matches, but more so when you’re expected to move and shoot, unlike others that would have you standing still.
The International Defensive Pistol Association runs the IDPA and it’s geared towards simulating a real-world self-defense scenario. They regulate what type of firearm can be used in the competition more strictly than the USPSA, so make sure your firearm is on the list, and they also require shooters to draw from a concealed carry position.
This competition is great for shooters that want to train and be accurate operators in combat situations while still within the safety of a range.
NRA Action Pistol
If you’re more interested in focusing on long-distance shooting instead of fast-paced shooting, the Action Pistol might be the best fit for you. Run by the NRA, the Action Pistol competition has shooters aiming at metal and paper targets at 25 yards and 50 yards, respectively.
There’s a timer that keeps shooters from taking too long. To prepare for something like this, you’ll want to push your targets further back progressively and fine-tune your sights so that the extra range isn’t a problem for you.
The slowest paced of all the pistol competitions, the Bullseye might be one of the most difficult. Shooters stand still and fire at targets up to 50 yards away with one hand. The highest possible score on the target is just under two inches in size, thus the name of Bullseye.
This competition certainly isn’t for beginners; however, this might be an excellent challenge for shooters who feel confident competing in the Action Pistol.
Different Types of Rifle Competitions
If you’re more interested in competing with your rifle because of recreational reasons or you have a passion for hunting, there are plenty of competitive options to check out.
Silhouette competitions are easy for beginners to jump into. They allow just about any rifle you can walk in with, but not the fancy scopes or devices that long-distance competitions allow. This means that newcomers can feel a bit more comfortable not being surrounded by precision-focused professionals.
The “silhouettes'' referred to in the title are the targets that take the shapes of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rams—the knockdown of the target when hit and can be a pretty fun experience.
Precision Rifle competitions are a bit more on the exciting end compared to the long-distance or beginner options you might have, so if you’re looking for something to get your blood pumping, then this might be a great fit for you.
Precision Rifles involve mostly bolt-action and semi-automatic rifles and requires the shooter to run around the stage, using objects as support for their rifle. There is no limit to how many rounds you can let off, but there is a time limit to keep in mind. The idea is to replicate a real-world situation, which is great for rifle owners looking to prepare for a combat scenario.
To prepare for Precision Rifle competitions, you’ll need to be extremely familiar with your rifle and be able to think quickly. Not to mention you’ll want to work on your cardio and breathing; anytime you get your heart rate up, you lose accuracy and stability, so try to work on getting those under control.
While the Rimfire Challenge also allows .22 caliber rifles, the Small Bore is more dedicated to them. Focused on longer ranges that go from 50 feet to 100 yards, the Small Bore competition involves the shooter typically laying down and firing their limited magazine at a target and trying to hit as close to the same bullseye spot every single time.
Most shooting competitions are highly focused on accuracy. The highest score you could get would be from hitting a target just under a quarter of an inch across, which would be pretty impressive even when you weren’t 100 yards away.
NRA High Power
If you’re more interested in larger rifles than a .22, then the High Power might interest you. The competition focuses on even further distances, some as far as 1000 yards with a five-inch target at the end of the range.
High Power competitions require an expansive knowledge of wind, trajectory, and scopes, but don’t worry- The 1000 yard is the furthest the target gets, but they have plenty of options for more beginner rifle owners.
If Small Bore and High Power competitions sound all too easy for you, you might consider Benchrest. The competition allows the rifle to be placed and fired from a bench; however, the shooter still aims and pulls the trigger at their discretion.
The time limits on all of these long-distance competitions are generally pretty forgiving since the shooter is hyper-focused on aim. To train for any of these, prepare yourself to get comfortable in a prone position and work on your breathing and heart rate.
When you’re aiming at something a few hundred yards away, even the smallest movements in your hands can make a difference.
Different Types of Shotgun Competitions
Firing a shotgun is exciting regardless of what you’re shooting at; however, introducing a level of competition can really step things up. There are typically two main types of shotgun competitions, tactical and traditional.
Tactical Shotgun Competitions are focused on just that: Tactical shooting. You can find yourself shooting at paper targets, steel targets, moving targets, and still targets. You’ll be timed going through a stage and be required to reload your shotgun quickly, so work on quick (and safe) reloading techniques.
You have the option of modifying your shotgun for these competitions. Modifying it allows for faster reloading or even extended shell capacity. However, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t do anything to your weapon that reduces its reliability—nothing worse than wasting time on a jammed gun.
While tactical competitions will have you running around, traditional competitions are more focused on shotguns in a hunting setting. Trap, skeet, and sporting clays will be your primary targets, launched through the air to simulate a bird that you need to shoot down.
Your main focus during these will be staying still and focusing your eyes on the targets. One thing to avoid is anticipation. If you hear the clay being launched and fire too early, you’ll completely miss your target. Avoid overthinking and simply wait until you see your target in sight.
The other thing to keep in mind while shooting at clay is paying attention to the wind. The discs will launch consistently; however, due to their weight, the wind is likely to shift them around.