Has Hyper-Competitiveness Ruined Shooting Sports
Dr. John Woods 03.10.19
For certain it is human nature to want to win, to want to be the best, the top of the class. But in some cases has this gone so far that it has damaged the participation levels in some shooting sports? Indeed, has the competitiveness gotten so intense that sponsorships, equipment demands, and skyrocketing costs to keep up have kept most average shooters out of the game for which it was intended in the first place? One wonders.
Back in the 1970s, when I lived and attended college at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, a simple man by the name of Ray Chapman was building a new shooting game. Call it “Action Shooting” or whatever, he officially founded the International Practical Shooting Confederation or IPSC in 1976. He later began his Chapman Academy of Practical Shooting in 1979. I remember seeing Chapman on his first outdoor range well before that.
Friend Allen McElroy of Columbia was one of the first to sign up to shoot Chapman matches. He used a simple, stock Colt Commander 1911 in 9mm. I went to several matches just to watch, collect notes, and write it up. Within a few short years, Allen was literally priced out of the game when expensive, customized pistols took over the matches. He simply could not keep up.
Highly customized pistols costing thousands began to show up. I hear you saying, “The gun don’t make the shooter”, but it sure helps to have a fully decked out match gun with a special barrel, tightened bushing, lowered ejection port, high-viz sights, and other features that took away the competitive edge from the average shooter.
We all know where IPSC went years later and where these matches are today. It’s hard to recognize the pistols used in matches today amidst the sponsor banners, free gear, and cash incentives to promote the best shooters. You judge if it has ruined that shooting sport for “Joe.”
Take the simple shooting sport of “Cowboy Action Shooting Sports.” I joined that organization to see what it was all about. It, too, started out as a fun way to shoot a weekend match. Soon there were so many match rules, custom guns, and period clothing outfits, that Bubba and his stock Colt or Ruger single actions were shamed out of the matches. A straw hat, jeans and a cowboy shirt were no longer enough. Some made Roy Rogers look like a street bum.
Maybe I’m too harsh, but as a psychologist I know the worst of human behavior. Given an inch some will take two miles. When this happens in shooting sports, it ruins it. Start with simple rules, enforce them, and let everybody into the game with safety first.