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A Club Opens its Arm for New Shooters

July 12, 2012

My local shooting club showed they can adapt, improvise and overcome.  Good for them!  The range has held a monthly handgun steel shoot for years.  It ran pretty much the same for year after year from what I can tell.  That changed recently when the surge in gun sales brought a flood of new shooters.  They joined the event and learned how to run their guns.  They doubled the size of the monthly steel shoot from fifty to over a hundred participants.  Growth brought some problems.

For example-

-It took too long for each squad to shoot a stage.  Sometimes you’d get a slow squad and then the match could run over four hours.  Four hours is a long time to stand in the sun.

-New shooters had problems moving safely with a loaded weapon between firing points on the same stage.  Moving isn’t difficult, but some of them had not developed muzzle discipline yet.  They will with time, but they hadn’t yet.

-We want to help new shooters, but our existing system with a range safety officer and scorer on each stage was asking too much of these two rotating volunteers.  They had to queue the squad, time, score, monitor safety and coach while on the move.  That spread them a little thin.

What did the club do?  The experienced guys managing the meet changed their existing event rather than demand the new shooters conform or leave.  I give the club management credit for both their flexibility and their commitment to bring new shooters into the sport.  They accepted that the stages were daunting for new shooters even though experienced shooters can run them easily.  On the simplest stage, the new shooters have to learn the course of fire, make ready, draw a loaded weapon, shoot, reload, and make their weapon safe.  That challenged them enough with the stress of competition.  It is low key completion, but we still see the effects of buzzer brain on the line.

This is what they did-

-Management dropped the stages where the shooter moved between multiple firing points.  We run a flat range, meaning we don’t have berms between firing positions, so we were restricted to lateral movement anyway.

-They added more stages to the shoot.  This puts more people on the line at one time and cuts down the size of each squad.  The smaller squad spends less time on each stage and gets to shot more often.

-They shortened each string of fire from two reloads to one reload.  The stages are revolver neutral so each stage was down to 12 shots rather than 18.  That shortened the amount of time each person shot a single stage.

-Some of the stages were moved closer to the targets so new shooters could be satisfied with their performance.  There is an optimum degree of difficulty when you are learning a new skill, and the new shooters were working on too many things at once.

-They added shade tents near the line so we can hide from the summer sun.

I hope they will start a buddy system so the new shooters have someone to answer their questions on the line.  That will free up the range officer and score keeper.  Ideally the new shooter can have several minutes talking with an experienced shooter before and after their stage.  This also lets other people shoot the stage while the student is coached.  Getting good advice was always important to me and I bet it is important to many of the new shooters.

It works out well.  They don’t have a hundred new shooters at each event right now, but they are ready for them.  Maybe there were too many people at the events and that turned some of the shooters away.  I think these changes made the event better and I hope it grows as the new shooters come back.  At this rate the club will train and encourage several hundred new shooters this year.

May we all have the problems that an active and growing sport bring us.



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