Shooting is usually a family affair. Most people learn to shoot at a young age from their parents or some other family member. I did not have this benefit. No one in my family liked guns before me. But I was always drawn to firearms. When I turned 21, I realized that I was finally able to start on my own, and I leaped in. 

I quickly learned that one of the best ways to improve your shooting skills was by competing. As fun as “blasting” is, after while, it gets boring to just plink. Having something to train for gives you a lot of motivation to improve. 

So, how do you get started in competitive shooting, especially if you don’t have a friend or family member to introduce you? Since I did it, this is what I recommend in six steps.

1. Watch Videos


A shooter fires a gun on the range
Before you even hit the range or buy a gun, you can start by doing a little bit of research to figure out exactly why you want to do for a shooting sport. (Photo: Don Summers/

When I started shooting, online video was nearly non-existent. What was online was terrible quality and took forever to download. Today, there are hundreds of beginner videos about all the different shooting sports. Videos are a great way to experience the sport from the comfort of your own home. The sport’s organizing body will probably have numerous introductory instructionals. 

Initially, you probably won’t even know which sport would be best for you. There are so many different shooting sports now. Watch a bunch of videos on any sport that vaguely interests you. You might find that what initially seems appealing has drawbacks while something you initially dismissed might be a great starting point for you. 

2. Join a Group

Shooters fire on a range at night
The shooting world is broad – and often pretty exciting – so there's something for just about anyone. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

When I shot my first match, Yahoo was the top internet search engine (Google had just been created). But even then, the internet was an excellent resource. At that time, interest-specific forums were king, and I learned so much from reading peoples’ discussions on various shooting competitions. 

Today, forums still exist, and they are helpful. But now you also have Facebook groups, Discord, Discourse, Reddit, etc. Visit some of these groups and start reading. Often, the sport’s main website will have – or will link you to – sites that discuss their sport. In the worst-case scenario, just call, message, or email the governing body, and they will probably tell you the most popular internet community. 

I would caution you to not be the newbie that joins and immediately asks basic questions. Chances are there are multiple resources within the group to help beginners that they created for you already. Also, use the community’s search function. Once you’ve been a member for a little while and have caught on to the group culture, then start asking. 

3. Visit a Match


A shooter competes in a match
You don't even need to be in a match to learn from it. Watching a match is a great way to start learning how to compete yourself. (Photo: Don Summers/

Nothing substitutes physically attending a match. Nearly all matches allow spectators. To be safe, contact the match director and ask about the protocol for visiting. Once there, watch and start asking questions. Usually, most competitors love talking about their sport and the gear involved. You will be able to get many different viewpoints at one time. You may also get people who just offer you their firearm to try it out. Competitors love bringing new people into their sport. 

4. Get Instruction

A firearms instructor teaches a class at The Machine Gun Nest
Find a mentor you trust who knows how to explain shooting techniques and fundamentals. (Photo: Don Summers/

I think one of the fastest ways to learn a new subject is to get professional instruction or find a personal coach. With the right teacher, you can learn in one hour what it would probably take weeks or months to research alone. However, I put this option fourth because you need to find the right class or coach. That’s why you need to explore the area a little bit to at least know some basics to discern who would be a legit teacher versus a “snake oil salesman.”

Also, remember that high performers are not always good instructors. I’d take a solid shooter who teaches well over a world-class competitor who can’t break down other people’s mechanics. And it doesn’t have to be a professional instructor. I’ve known many average sportsmen that will simply take new shooters under their wing to show them the basics. Or, if you see someone proficient and that explains things well, offer to pay them for some of their time. A small upfront investment in some good education can save you loads of time and frustration.

5. Find a Friend

Two shooters on the range
Nothing beats a good shooting buddy on the range. (Photo: Ben Philippi/

I feel that the social aspect of competitive shooting is often overlooked. Yes, shooting is fun, but joining a community of like-minded individuals who share the same passion is eminently rewarding. The friendships made can last a lifetime. Therefore, when you start, be friendly and look for people at similar skill levels. Other shooters at the same point on the journey can help each other train, commute, research, and grow. My best shooting friendship of over 20 years began because we wanted someone local to drive to matches with. 

6. Just Start

I don’t know anyone who has said, “I wish I would have waited longer before I started.” It’s always the opposite. Everyone wants to have started sooner. So, stop thinking about it and just start.