Let’s face it: shooting competitively costs money. And at some point, we may find the cost becomes prohibitive when considered against our reasons to compete. What can we do to defray or reduce the cost of our sport? Here are a few workable suggestions that may apply to you and your specific discipline.
A great many competitors agree that the person they are competing against isn’t other shooters, it is themselves. Always striving to shoot a few points better than the last match, perhaps chasing that Distinguished Rifleman badge, competitors will practice, shoot thousands of rounds per year, dry fire, buy new equipment, handload, change guns or triggers or cartridges and anything else that might help gain another point or two. The first step in trying to pinch recreational pennies is to ask ourselves what we are trying to accomplish in competitive shooting. We all know we aren’t going to get a national championship simply by throwing money at it, so like any investment pursuit, it’s wise to clearly understand what returns we expect for our money and efforts.
A team match can show you it’s time to lighten up and to focus less on the “serious” part of “serious fun.”
This one is pretty obvious, as all competitors dry fire, but it’s worth tabulating it as a no-cost method for practice. There’s no reason or need to burn up ammunition when focusing on the fundamentals (position, natural point of aim, sight picture, breath and trigger control). But dry firing, as beneficial as it is, lacks hard data feedback from the target. To get that, we need to outlay some cash to add an electronic tutor to our dry firing exercise, but we can count the return on our investment in fewer practice rounds (dollars) sent downrange and in higher scores posted at the clubhouse.
Every SHOT Show, we see more entrepreneurs with new ideas in applying digital technology to the shooting sports, including self-training devices such as electronic tutors. While earlier versions simply indicated where a shot would have struck a target, models today include tiny accelerometers that track muzzle movement and trigger break, and utilize smartphones or laptops to provide both feedback and correctional advice like a shooting coach.
The MantisX electronic tutor can help get the most from practice time.
MantisX is one we tested and liked. The unit easily mounts to a handgun rail, and a separate rail attaches the unit to the bottom of a rifle magazine or other flat surface on a firearm. The shooter gets instant feedback on a cellphone, and MantisX works both for dry and live firing. For about $100, you can get anytime-anywhere practice and advice without paying for range fees, ammunition—or a coach. Additionally, check out the MantisX Elite version.
Practice with .22 LR
For those who shoot centerfire cartridges in their chosen sport, practicing with rimfire ammunition can be a huge money saver. The .22 LR is the least expensive and most prevalent among rimfire ammunition types. While in years past there was nothing to choose in between plinking and/or hunting ammo and $14 per box match grade stuff, today several makers offer ammo that, while a step below their finest, most accurate ammo, is still more than adequate for precision work. As a price comparison, factory match grade .223 Rem. ammunition can run $1 to $1.60 per round, whereas match-grade .22 LR cartridges start at less than a dime each.
We found SK Standard Plus .22 LR ammunition to be a bargain among top-tier brands that performed very well in testing. SK’s Standard Plus comes off the same machinery they use for making their elite Long-Range Match ammunition; lot testing is what places it a small step down from SK’s very best. SK Standard Plus retails at around 13 cents per round/$6.50 per box of 50.
Practicing with .22 LR match-grade ammunition—or even switching to a rimfire discipline can cut ammo costs 90 percent.
Similarly, Norma TAC-22 is a step below Norma Match-22, and retails around $5-$6 per box of 50 (about 12 cents/round). Federal, too, has a bargain match grade offering in their Target Grade Performance .22 LR ammunition. Packaged 325 loose rounds per box, the $23.99 MSRP equates to seven cents per round. Federal says the ammo is particularly suited for semi-automatics, and at its price point it may be just what you need for your hungry 10/22.
Change Your Discipline
We may find it impossible to continue justifying the expenditure our sport requires, but that doesn’t mean we have to quit competing. Instead, we can look to a less costly but equally satisfying alternative.
As-issued Vintage Military Rifle (VMR) competitions are among the least expensive games, as the rifles themselves are not permitted to be “accurized,” which saves thousands of dollars on the single most expensive component of our equipment (though some rifle scopes today can claim that spot). VMRs are any magazine-fed bolt action rifles that were ever in general issue to any nation’s armed forces. Some milsurp rifles in the $300 range are still available, and shooting in VMR matches sanctioned by the CMP satisfies one of the requirements for purchasing a M1 Garand rifle from CMP starting at about $800. And your milsurp M1 Garand is useful for another less-expensive CMP As-issued game, the appropriately named John C. Garand Matches. As a bonus, many clubs across the country host informal 100-yard matches specifically for the Garand and VMRs, which makes for more shooting without travel costs.
Vintage Military Rifle competition is the least-expensive of all the centerfire rifle disciplines.
Long-range “tactical” style competition is the darling today, but compared to other disciplines, relatively few can afford the out-of-pocket expenses involved in buying high end rifles and scopes, ammunition and equipment, added to the expenses for training, travel, match fees and other ancillaries. However, Millennial shooters are discovering what W.W. Greener postulated at the end of the 19th century: that shooting smaller guns of smaller caliber at closer ranges is equivalently as challenging as shooting big bore rifles at longer ranges. NRA has been conducting .22 LR Smallbore competitions fired out to 100 yards for many decades. More recently, precision rimfire offerings from the National Rifle League have arrived as a way for the “Everyman” to shoot the equivalent of the centerfire Precision Rifle Series with the .22 LR. While 300 yards is pedestrian for centerfire match rifles, it constitutes “long-range” for the diminutive .22 LR, and the NRL tactical-style matches cost a minuscule fraction of PRS competition.
Rimfire metallic silhouette is another game of comparatively reduced expense, as are nearly all the rimfire shooting sports. There are many other games that don’t entail prohibitive costs, as well, regardless of income level. A little research and talking with other shooters will reveal that there’s something for everyone.
Carpooling to work isn’t a grand adventure, but sharing a ride to a distant match saves gas money in addition to offering an opportunity for a bit more shooter camaraderie. And that leads us into another aspect of competition, travel expense, which mounts up quickly when we include gasoline, lodging and meals in multiple trips afield every year. Especially if you’ll consider changing your discipline, it may behoove you to see what competitions are happening at your local ranges and clubs, and let that help you decide whether another game might better suit your pocketbook.
Finally, be sure to visit the Coming Events section of Shooting Sports USA every month to find a match near you.