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About that Prize Table

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It’s fun to compete, but it’s icing on the cake when awesome prizes are involved. Match Directors work incessantly to ensure the prize tables awe competitors. The prize table is actually not about the prize table or even about the match; it’s all about you. Now that you know the prize table is all about you, let’s talk about what that really means.

I have seen prize tables where the actions of others made me think “Wow… this is madness, these people have no manners…someone please put order to this mess!” Match results are read in order by finish; prizes are supposed to be picked in the same order. The appropriate action by the competitor is to fall in line after their name is called and pick up their prize. It is also not okay to prevent other shooters from selecting an item by hovering over several different prizes cause you cannot make up your mind. At the end of the day, even the prizes are just items that can be bought and are not worth others getting a bad opinion of you if a prize table situation gets sticky.

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Sponsors shine at the awards ceremony and prize table. There is more to match sponsorship than just putting guns, gear, and gift certificates on the table. Sponsors are able to gain exposure while actively showing support for shooting sports. This does not immediately translate into revenue for those sponsors. To show your appreciation, send the sponsor a quick letter or email. It is important to let the match sponsors know that they’ve made a good choice by sponsoring the event.

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Most competitors do not shoot matches with the expectation of walking away with an amazing prize. No matter what you walk away with, do it with grace by thinking of the sponsors and your fellow competitors. When is comes to prize tables, the etiquette is simple: take your turn, be kind, and say thank you.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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I’ve Been Adopted

15260270647_c956037f1f_z  CandiceNKarla

Almost two years ago, a competitive shooter told me “You need to shoot 3-gun. Just come watch a match.” I did as I was told and showed up to a monthly Tarheel 3-Gun match as a spectator. Following a squad for the day gave me insight as to what to expect during matches. Competitors were welcoming of my timid questions and encouraged me to show up the following month to shoot my first match. By the end of the day, I thought “This is awesome; I will shoot 3-gun.” I left the range that day with several points of contact who offered to help me get prepared for 3-gun.

I was amazed at how welcoming seasoned competitors were to a new shooter, like me. The same people who would become my competition were my biggest supporters from day one. I had no guns, gear, or knowledge of the sport. Several of the “regulars” at the Tarheel 3-Gun monthly matches followed through on their offers to get me squared away for my first match. In October 2012, I shot my first match using borrowed gear, guns, and ammunition. That match was a small, personal victory: I didn’t DQ, I didn’t come in last place, and I wanted to come back for more!

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In preparation for what would become my new life as a 3-gun competitor, I relied heavily on the help from others. There is camaraderie and friendly competition in the sport of 3-gun that I did not expect. Aside from the shooting aspect of the sport, I have made strong friendships with people whom I can depend on in any situation. I’ve been adopted into an amazing shooting family that I didn’t know I wanted or needed, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hindsight is 20/20, and looking back, I know that I would not be where I am today without the kindness of complete strangers. I am forever indebted to those who pushed me outside of my comfort zone so that I could grow as a 3-gun competitor. Now I look forward to matches as if they are a family reunion that cannot come fast enough. It’s wonderful to shoot matches, but it’s so much more meaningful when you care about the people you shoot with.

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My advice if you are thinking about getting into 3-gun, go watch a local, monthly match. Ask questions about gear, guns, and stage descriptions. Most competitors will readily let you check out their gear and guns of choice. Not only will you make great friends, but you will save yourself time and money when you’re receptive to those who have been shooting long enough to know what really works in competition.

I would like to give huge thanks to people in my shooting family who played a major role in my first year of 3-gun: Mike and Nancy Oberman, Charles Sole, Steve Wall, Rob Noel, Damon and Dana Woodall, Eric Eckhardt, Garrett Howell, Joe Satterfield, Joe Harris, Katie Harris, Andrew Barnes, Clay Martin, Jim Granger, James Gill, Will Hiett, Cody Nelson, Morris and Madison Thompson, J.J. Nuttlemen, Andy Horner, Karla Herdzik, and Clint Upchurch. All of those people gave me guidance and opportunities in one way or another which has made me a stronger competitor in an environment that I blindly jumped into head-first.

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Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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3-Gun Gear: Whatever Works

1780126_10203059412635578_1970967941_o Shotgun3GN

Getting into the sport of 3-gun can be overwhelming. The question I hear most often is “What gear do I need to get started?” When selecting 3-gun gear, decide what purpose it will it actually serve.

My bottom line when choosing gear is function, followed by cost. As long as my belt stays in place, my holster retains the pistol, my magazine pouches hold the magazines, and my shotgun shell caddies firmly hold the shells: my gear functions as intended. Spending money on top-of-the-line gear will not make anyone a better 3-gun shooter.

As a new shooter, I cannot justify spending hard-earned money on fancy 3-gun accessories. For example, a belt can cost anywhere between 30 and 250 dollars. Practice makes progress, and that price difference between the low-end and high-end belts can instead be used to buy much-needed practice ammunition. I learned that valuable lesson after spending money on items I did not need, and they did not make me a better shooter. Currently, I am back to the first inner/outer belt combination I started out with and the cheapest magazine pouches I have purchased to date. All that extra, unnecessary gear is now collecting dust in my garage.

At the bare minimum, a new 3-gun shooter needs: a belt that stays in place and can hold two pistol magazine pouches, one rifle magazine pouch, and a pistol holster. There are several different shotgun shell caddy options. If you are just starting out, get on track with the upward curve of fast shotgun reloading, which is the load-two or quad-load methods. There are several different companies who manufacture shotgun caddies for the load-two and quad-load technique. From day one, I have been using caddies manufactured by Carbon Arms and my shotgun reloads have been consistently fast. In regard to cost, caddies designed for the load-two and quad-load methods are not the least expensive option, but they do serve the higher purpose of cutting time on your reloads. In that case, it is absolutely worth the extra cost.

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

Photo credit: Becky Yackley

The best way to figure out what equipment to buy is to watch what other, more experienced competitors are using. Several of the top-level competitors are using some of the least expensive gear, and it works perfectly for them. On the other hand, there are competitors who have the newest gear on the market and swear by it. When purchasing gear for 3-gun, start slow and start cheap, you will quickly find out what works best for you.

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine

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From Dresses to Ammo

Disney Trip 2011   First shooting season, 2013

I have always loved dresses. Recently, I spotted a cute dress that would help me welcome in the beautiful sunshine that’s been trying to break through what is left of winter. I tried the dress on, and it looked great! I looked at the price tag: $89.95. Then a recurring thought entered my mind, “How much ammo could I buy instead?” The answer was: about 300 rounds of 9mm or 160 rounds of 5.56.

The question of “What does this equate to in ammo” has been dictating my spending habits for about a year now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Competing in the sport of 3-gun has been life changing. Most of my free time is now spent on gun related topics such as: cleaning guns, fixing guns, weapons manipulation, finding ammunition in stock, bullet trajectory and ballistics, reading about the new firearms and gear on the market, and actively shooting on the range. Getting into shooting is one thing, but getting into 3-gun requires an additional knowledge base. I had to familiarize myself with three different guns, gear required, and the rules of the sport. The best piece of advice I received as a new shooter, at my first match, was from Garrett Howell who said “At about your seventh match, everything will come together. This is just a game and you will learn it.” I took his advice as gospel and did not stress because I believed everything would come to fruition in time. With my acceptance of passively learning the game, I actively pursued educating myself on everything else that would make me a stronger shooter.

Last year was my first year of shooting; I devised a plan that would enable me to gain as much information about 3-gun as possible, meet meeting veteran shooters, and compete. With guidance, I worked as a Range Officer for several major matches during 2013. In an extremely short period of time, I was able to see and test various guns and gear that top competitors use. The opportunity to work major matches was not without adjusting what I used to know as my life before shooting. Traveling out-of-state for my new addiction meant less time with family and friends, but they understood and accepted my ambitions. Shooting 3-gun excites me and makes my eyes light up in the way shopping used to, so I put that cute dress back on the rack and saved my money for ammo.

War Sport LVOA3G with lots of ammo

War Sport LVOA3G with lots of ammo

Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine