Bill Szulga

Welcome! Welcome to the wonderful world of target shooting. You are now a member in one of the last true amateur sports left in the world. A sport that was in the first Modern Olympic games in 1896 and continues in the current Olympic Games. It has the greatest number of participating nations and, if not limited by quota spots, would also have the greatest number of participants.

Throughout our history marksmanship has always been both appreciated and admired. Whether the first rock or stick was thrown to hunt food or to protect ourselves from enemies, good marksmanship would make use of precious resources. The progression of missiles, from sticks and stones, through lances and bows and arrows culminated in the modern firearm, the most accurate derivative of those first few primitive weapons.

During this time, regardless of the implement, marksmanship was practiced so than when utilized, the missiles would be well placed. While archery is still practiced, the most accurate target shooting is done with firearms. Due to the comparative accuracy, the targets have grown progressively smaller and have managed to keep the level of frustration at a decent competitive level.

All the competitions, Pistol, Rifle or Shotgun are shot to the highest World standards. Obviously to achieve Olympic standards, the level of commitment required is quite high. There is little opportunity for fame & fortune in this field, as most shooters are not recognized much past their immediate locality. This makes it difficult to get sponsorship dollars, a necessity if one is to travel to International competitions.

When one starts to participate in target rifle shooting, the first few times are spent just trying to hit the target at first and then the target bull. As one grows familiar and the level of confidence builds, the level of accuracy one demands of oneself grows progressively higher until one is constantly seeking to hit the exact middle of the bull. And with proper application of the fundamentals and practice, hitting the center of the bull becomes a more frequent occurrence.

While it is satisfying to try and achieve these goals, the argument could be made that the Olympic standards are too high for the person who wishes to participate while holding down a job, having a family life or just having a live. In Pistol, they feel discouraged if they can only achieve an 80% or 90% result despite their best efforts. In Prone Rifle, one can approach ( or exceed) 590 ex 600 on good days. In Match 3-P and Air, the shooter who averages 90% + is doing well. And while these Olympic standards are laudable, they do tend to inhibit ordinary participation. As in all phases of human endeavor, it is satisfying to reach the top occasionally. The saving grace, is that you are shooting among and against other shooters of the same caliber, so the competitive spirit can prevail. Personally I find the Olympic disciplines very challenging , which is why on the range you often hear the truism, "You're only shooting against yourself". If you do your best, you will have achieved a goal, even though someone else may have beaten your score

Canada has its own rifle standard in a target rifle disciple called "Sporting Rifle" which was started as an entry level discipline, but now seems to be the main .22 target rifle discipline in Canada. The target in this discipline allows people to achieve the highest possible score, but is still quite challenging; without the frustrations of the Olympic disciplines. Admittedly, it does not require the level of precision of Match rifle, as it also is shot with more modest equipment. Incidentally, while a few individuals have shot a score of 600 in Sporting Rifle, the perfect score of 600 with 60 X's has yet to be achieved. I look forward to that day. (To score 600 you must hit the center, the 10, with each of your 60 shots. A "dead center" hit scores a 10 with one X).

To participate in any sport at a competitive level places quite a demand on your time among the rest of your everyday activities. It also places a demand on your physical and mental capacities. In shooting, unlike other sports, you cannot think about anything else when you are getting ready to fire the shot. If you start thinking about your work, your chores at home, anything else, the shot goes astray. You have to concentrate on the execution of the perfect shot, each and every time. You cannot depend on any of your skills to be automatic. You have to pay attention to everything all the time. Even the weather, if shooting outdoors, as the gentlest breeze can blow your bullet off course. This is not to mention the possible heat or cold, or rain or mosquitoes, etc. which generally affect the shooter more than the bullet, but can have even greater consequences on the final result. This requirement of concentration, is the aspect of the sport that allows you to complete a course of fire mentally exhausted but also completely refreshed.

The beginning shooter will get much advice, most of it well intentioned, but it is advisable for them to filter the advice through their own experience or that of shooters or coaches that they trust. Coaching has matured greatly in the last decade or so, and fewer misconceptions are about. Also not all techniques transfer between disciplines. Here I am thinking mostly between the smallbore, centrefire and air rifle disciplines, which each have vastly different rifle holding requirements and require different trigger techniques.

Many shooters enter the sport because of the technical aspects. However some get over enthusiastic and expect the equipment to do the job for them. A proper knowledge of the equipment and due maintenance procedures is vital, but most of us need more coaching and better practice. This is assuming, of course, that you have an equipment/ammunition package which is capable of delivering the best you are capable of. When it comes to equipment, you will get many opinions and much advice from other club members. Just ask.

Practice. This is where it all begins. You may be practicing to be a Club champion, a Provincial Champion or a National champion. Perhaps with talent, determination and a bit of luck even an International Champion. But practice is where it comes from

Will this shot hit the center or will it fall short? It's up to you. Whatever you may say about your ammo, your rifle, the rest of your equipment, you put it together. It is up to you.

© 2010 Ontario Rifle Association (ORA)

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