Living in Southwest Florida this past year has made me realize just how good I had it back in Arizona. I had access to the pistol bays at Rio Salado on a first-come, first-served basis, and I could shoot a match every day except Friday. Even in Missouri, I had a range pretty much to myself except for a few days each month and could go shoot anytime I wanted.
Here, however, that’s not the case. The ranges here are either indoor ranges which don’t allow drawing from the holster or they’re outdoor ranges that don’t rent out pistol bays during the day. This means I do a lot of dry-fire in-between shooting matches, and it’s also made me more sympathetic to new gun owners who want to do more with their guns than go to the range and punch holes in paper.
Hunting needs a welcome mat, and so does practical shooting. Participation in practical shooting suffers, I think, because everything about it is driven by competition. You can’t really participate in the sport in any way without going to a match. Imagine how popular jogging would be if the only reason people did it was to run marathons, not get in shape. Thousands and thousands of people ski, yet only a few hundred compete.
Competition is good for long-term participation in a sport: There is really no such thing as competitive scuba diving, and what happens in that sport? The vast majority of people try it, enjoy it, and then give up after two years or so, because there is no reason to push themselves beyond what they already can do. Rob Leatham is trying to solve this with his “Intro to Steel” matches, which are fun, easy and lightweight, but they are still a competition. Here in Southwest Florida, Step By Step Gun Training puts on a bimonthly “shoot and scoot” event, which is a low-key move and shoot event where the RO is there to help you get better, not be an impartial judge and timekeeper. Scores aren’t tracked officially, and it’s quite popular in this small town, with two dozen people showing up on a Sunday morning, paying $40 each. In this neck of the woods, it’s essentially the only time that local people can draw and shoot from a holster without the pressure of a match.
There really isn’t an on-ramp in-between a booth at an indoor range or a stall at an outdoor range and practical shooting. There are very, very few public ranges that allow drawing from the holster, and ZERO that allow moving with a loaded gun: You have to learn how to do that the first day you show up at a match, along with all the other 1,350 rules of the game (triple that number of rules if it’s IDPA). The .22 sports, (Rimfire Challenge, Scholastic Steel) which are designed (in theory) to get people into practical shooting don’t address the issues of movement and drawing from a holster, as they’re essentially bullseye with target transitions. The problem is, anything that doesn’t address carrying your gun in a holster does not address the needs of Gun Culture 2.0. For today’s urban gun owner, who can’t bip out to his backyard and shoot and doesn’t have access to Forestry land or a pistol bay, you either take a class, or shoot a match. There is nothing else set up for regular live-fire practice for drawing from a holster and moving for someone who lives in a city, and that needs to change.