Everyone has read articles about how the faster pace of living in today’s highly
technological and complex world has brought with it an ever increasing level of
stress. Experts attribute a whole host of physical and mental problems to the
effects brought about by stress.
In the world of shooting, stress is one of the biggest obstacles that you have
to overcome in order to shoot a good score. There are two primary areas in which
stress can manifest itself when you shoot:
1) Psychological Effects: fear, worry, doubt, and loss of focus, which in turn leads to
2) Physical Effects: elevated heart rate, dilated pupils, elevated blood
pressure, tunnel vision, diminished hearing.
The best way that I know of to minimize the effects of these detrimental
factors on my shooting is through extensive preparation and the elimination of
Preparation covers the entire gamut from making sure that the load you are
shooting is accurate to making sure that you have all of the “stuff” in your
Shooter’s Cart to take care of just about any situation.
Here are a few things that I would recommend you do prior to a match:
1) Have Confidence In The Load You Are Shooting:
If you don’t believe in the ammunition and rifle you are shooting, you might as
well stay home. Confidence comes from testing and knowing that your load will do
the job. At the last match that George and I shot at Lodi, Wisconsin, we were
testing loads and bullet hardness up until one week before the match.
2) Work With Your Equipment:
Make a checklist of all of the items that you want to have in your shooting
cart. Checklists are very useful to make sure that you don’t forget something.
3) Assemble All Of Your Equipment Prior To The Match:
Set-up your Shooter’s Cart just as if you were at the match. Then set-up all of your equipment on the ground just as if you were getting ready to shoot on the firing line. Lay out your shooting mat, adjust your cross-sticks to the height that is comfortable for you (tie a cord between the two legs to “lock” that position in place), set-up your spotting scope next to your shooting position and adjust the height so you can easily see the target
with only a minor movement of your head and then mark your scope stand with that
height using a piece of tape or a slip-on metal collar if you can find one that
4) Anticipate Problems:
At the match we shot in September, 2003, at Lodi, Wisconsin, the shaft on my MVA
Montana Magnum Hadley eyepiece broke-off when I went to make an elevation
adjustment, right in the middle of my 900 yard relay. Fortunately, I was able to
quickly borrow a single aperture eyepiece from another shooter to finish the
match. Now I carry extra rear sight eyepieces with me just in case something
like that happens again.
I also carry extra contact lenses in case I lose one or one blows away, extra
ammunition (in case I need an unusually high number of rounds to “get on paper”,
aspirin in case I get a headache during the match), etc…
In terms of eliminating distractions, here are a few tips:
1) Make Your Hotel Reservation Well In Advance:
If you have to travel to a match, wondering where you are going to sleep is not
something you want to be worrying about the night before a match.
2) Know Where You Are Going and When You Need To Be There:
Getting lost on the morning of the match or arriving an hour late is a
guaranteed way to elevate your stress level and destroy all hopes of doing well.
Visit the range the day before the match if possible. If not, then get good
directions from someone you trust. Verify the time that the match starts and the
time when you can pick-up your registration packet.
3) Arrive For Your Match Early:
Use this time to talk to the other shooters, check the condition of the range,
study the light and weather conditions, become familiar with the range layout and logistical
items (i.e. location of the Port-A-Potties, source for water or pop if
available, clubhouse amenities if any, etc…), review the scoring process and
forms, talk with your shooting partners, understand when you are scheduled to
shoot and when you are scheduled to pull targets in the pits.
The fewer things you have to deal with on the day of your match, the more you
can concentrate and focus on the job at hand — shooting the best possible score
you are capable of shooting!
By Darryl Hedges
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