This week's article was submitted by X-Treme Bullets Team Shooter Adam Williams.
How many times have you met someone and through conversation the topic of shooting competitively will come up? Since I work in a gun shop plus I am a t-shirt hoarder when it comes to match shirts, it happens quite frequently. The conversation generally goes as followed, “That is so cool, I would love to do that however…” and this is where the excuses start. Most of the time the primary excuses is either I’m not very good or I don’t have enough free time. Once we get past those objections, the next common excuse is, “Well it’s just too expensive and I really can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, match fees, etc. This I can understand, it can be an expensive hobby. I am married; we are a two income middle class household. To be honest this is 99% of the competitive shooters out there. So, what I would like to share with you are a few tips on how you can compete without breaking the bank.
Let’s start with your gear. This is probably the largest investment you will make on your new hobby. Yes, it is very easy to spend thousands of dollars on tricked out firearms; the latest and the greatest that all the pros use. Here’s the first problem on using that mentality; you’re not a professional shooter. Going out and spending $5,000 on a brand new open gun would be the equivalent of giving a brand new Corvette to a 16 year old who just got their driver’s license. Why make such an investment into your new hobby when you may shoot only a handful of matches and find you don’t like the sport? Or worse, what if you buy all this fancy equipment then find out it’s not legal? We had this happen with a new shooter at our local club that showed up for his first match, wanted to shoot USPSA production, and had a brand new pistol that was ported. Unfortunately, that puts him in the same Open division with the full-on race guns. Needless to say he was pretty discouraged. When I started shooting USPSA I used a stock Glock 19 with 3 mags, and some very cheap mag pouches and holster and as I improved, so did my equipment.
Match fees are another area where you can save some $$$. Most local club matches allow shooters that come and help set up to pay either a reduced rate or in some cases shoot the match completely free. Helping with set up also gives you a great opportunity to learn about stage design as well as stage breakdown; how to shoot the stage in the most efficient manner. Once you began traveling and competing in State, Area, and National Level matches, you can also save match fees by working the match. Most majors will also cover your meals and lodging; some even provide reimbursement for traveling expenses.
While we’re on the subject of major matches, let’s also discuss the advantages of having traveling buddies. Car pools and sharing lodging expenses are both great ways to save. An added benefit is that road trips are a ton of fun with new close friends. I also look for hotels that have a kitchen in the rooms. A trip to the grocery store can be a lot cheaper than eating out for each meal.
We determined that equipment would probably be your greatest start up expense. Coming in at a close 2nd is your match and practice ammo, so many competitors reload. They do this not only for the cost savings per round, but it allows them yo customize their load to achieve the best possible performance for their individual firearm. When I began reloading my initial start up cost for a progressive reloading machine, dies, toolheads, powder, primer, bullets, etc was right around $1,000. I then charted my cost per round of reloading vs. purchasing factory ammo. From the savings I received per round by reloading my initial start up cost was recouped in 6 months. Buying in bulk always helps. X-Treme Bullets offers lower prices for higher quantities and will frequently offer specials such as 5% off a particular bullet weight or free shipping on orders up to $1,500. For those who can't reload, have no fear, there are still ways you can save. Purchasing in bulk from Freedom Munitions is a much greater value than picking up a box or two from your local sporting goods store. The spent brass can then be sent back to Freedom Munitions for credit on your next ammo purchase.
These are just a few ways I have found to save a few bucks. While I couldn’t tell you an exact dollar amount that I have spent over the past 4 years when I really became serious about this sport, I can tell you however that the memories I have, and the friendships I have made are absolutely priceless to me.