Your First Pistol Or Rifle Shooting Match

Every Competitor Shot A First Match

I would love to be one of those people who use the old cliche; “I’ll never forget my first shooting match. Boy, those were the days...” but to be perfectly honest with you–I don’t remember it at all. I do remember arriving to the match, getting set up, loading my mags and nervously chattering with other shooters around me for last minute advice that I could completely ignore. But the match itself? Actually shooting? Not a thing. I was too worked up, too nervous and just wanted it to be over with so I could say that I did it and that would be that. Maybe I would hate it so much that I would give up shooting altogether? It would certainly make finances easier, not having to buy guns and ammo anymore.

Fortunately, none of that happened. While I cannot remember any of the details of the match itself, I do have a memory of driving home that afternoon, completely and utterly hooked on the sport of precision pistol shooting.

I should be honest and say that it wasn’t my first match ever. I had already shot several rifle (Garand), Steel Challenge, IPSC and USPSA matches at my local club and had tons of fun at those after overcoming the first time jitters. But Precision Pistol–back then we still called it “Bullseye”–it was something else. It was so frigging hard. So impossibly easy to screw up. So utterly frustrating in almost every way back then. 

I just couldn’t get enough.

Your first match

Here are a few simple facts to keep in mind while approaching your first shooting competition in a new discipline for you:

  • It’s okay to be a little nervous, but there’s no need to be. You have nothing to prove and you are only setting your baseline. All you can do from here is improve.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I have never met anyone in the shooting sports who doesn’t love to talk about their sport and offer more advice than you asked for.
  • Never make assumptions about rules (especially safety rules). Again, ask questions.
  • You may be missing a vital or helpful piece of equipment. Never fear, there are ALWAYS fellow competitors who have extras.
  • Your scores will most likely be just awful. Accept that and have fun with it.
  • If you enjoy the match, offer to assist with cleanup and/or even setup the next one. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn, having the ear of match directors.


Once the first one is out of the way, you’ll be amazed at how easy they get from that point on. One of the biggest obstacles that new shooters or new competitors find is the fear of judgement. Over the years I have watched competitors come and go, be it Juniors whom I coach or adults I shoot shoulder to shoulder with, and it’s almost always the same. The fear of judgement based on the way one shoots and the scores they get are far more terrifying to most people than any other reason for leaving a sport.

Shooting competitions are not about others measuring your scores against theirs. Instead, they are about one thing only–measuring personal accomplishment and improvement against your previous personal accomplishment and level of improvement.

Go have a match.

Coach Rich