How I Became A Competitive Youth Shooter
This is my first article on youth shooting sports, so I thought I’d touch on my evolution in the practical shooting sports. When I was around six or seven years of age, I tried out a variety of sports. I dabbled in several activities like Boy Scouts, football, baseball, basketball, golf and karate. I stuck with karate the longest, but none of those sports really got me overly excited. At least not enough to want to eat, sleep and play that sport. At around age 7 my parents gave me some airsoft guns and I really enjoyed shooting them. My dad and I would go out in the back yard and plink at targets for hours. I loved it. I would buy an airsoft type gun whenever I had some extra money.
My folks then got me a bb gun and my dad and I continued regularly plinking at pop cans for hours. My dad drilled safety into me. If I forgot to put the safety on, or did anything even remotely unsafe, we were done shooting for the day. If I remained safe and acted mature, he would shoot with me, until it was time to go in or it got too dark out to shoot safely. We never quit early.
One day my dad suggested that it was time to move beyond airsoft and bb guns. He said “Let’s get something that will hold up and that you can have for a lifetime.” By this time I had a pretty good sized pile of non-working plastic airsoft guns and I was all on board to get a real gun. I had saved up $50 and we went to a local gun store to see what that would get. My dad told me that we weren’t likely to find a ‘real gun’ for $50. Amazingly, we found an old .410 shotgun for $49.95. I had my first gun! Shortly after that my dad’s best friend gave me his first rifle, which was a .22 Marlin model 60.
My dad bought a family membership at the closest range, which was the Holmen Rod and Gun Club in Holmen, Wisconsin. We would head out and plink on their .22 range whenever we had time. While shooting one day, a bunch of people showed up for a shooting match, so we went over to see what was up.
It turns out it was a USPSA match and, although I didn’t know it at the time, that day we were introduced to the sport that would become my sport of passion. The people we spoke with were very friendly and they were patient in explaining how the sport worked. It was very exciting to watch! USPSA is the United States Practical Shooting Association. It is an organization that promotes the practical fundamentals of handgun shooting. USPSA is a competition sport that combines speed and accuracy with a firearm. When I saw that first match, I was blown away. People were actually running with guns! I grew up being told not to run with scissors or even a pencil! Once we watched a few matches and saw how safe they were handled, it began to sink in that this is something that really interested me.
So, the next step was getting a handgun. In the Spring when I was 9 year old, we bought a .22 Sig Sauer Mosquito pistol. I loved it! About that same time, my dad bought a 9mm Springfield XDM. So, that entire Summer I spent training with the .22 and the 9mm. We trained shooting paper targets and we trained while moving, in preparation for eventually competing in the USPSA. We shot a lot that Summer and Fall, and by Winter a couple of club members suggested I begin competing in the Spring. By then I would be 10.
In the USPSA you must shoot at least a 9mm, so I traded in my .22 for a Glock 34 in 9mm and by Spring I was ready to compete! That March, I shot my first match at 10 years of age, at the Holmen Rod and Gun Club and I was hooked! One great thing about the sport is that fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, etc. can all compete together. My dad was excited to be able to compete with me, but he had planned not to shoot my first year. Not until I was comfortable doing everything independently, at least. As it turned out, I had no issues my first match, and by my second match in April, Dad was shooting with me. I had found MY sport!
In the coming weeks, I’ll discuss the pistol shooting sports and training to compete in them in more detail. Until next time….
Series Part 2: Training: Taking The Sport To The Next Level