It isn’t uncommon for anyone to wonder how one becomes a professional in any field they feel they have an affinity for. Doubly so if they truly enjoy the hobby or sport they are partaking in, hence why it isn’t unusual for gun enthusiasts to get involved with competitive shooting trials.
Sometimes we just do it for the added challenge, other times to meet like minded people and expand our exposure to various firearms and shooting styles, but occasionally it is taken extremely seriously, and making a living in the field becomes an attainable dream.
So what, exactly, is needed to become a professional shooter? We’ll talk about some of the steps you can take to get started on such a venture.
If you are killing it at the range, weekend after weekend despite the current ammunition shortage, you might not just enjoy hitting the range for an hour or two of plinking- this might truly be a passion. And you might want to engage in competition in such a manner that it gains you an income of sorts via sponsors, perks, and cash winnings.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have earned the title of professional. To truly be a professional, you need to conduct yourself as one as well. This means that not only have you put in hours both at the range and off in reference to the sport, but also have behaved in a way that showcases sportsmanship, awareness and knowledge, as well as maturity. Taking these steps can help you decide if this is a path you truly want to follow.
Truly attend competition, as many as you can, and not just for your own shooting – but to observe and take part in the proceeding of the entirety of it. This is a great way to challenge yourself when you sign up for areas you may feel uncomfortable about initially, and also pit yourself against people you can learn from.
Your efforts will not go unnoticed, and you will begin to find others doing the same that are happy to share their experiences with you, as well as tips and tricks for improvement. Remember, you want to be somebody respected in the field, and respectable shooters are in a constant state of learning.
Performing well means doing your best. Even if you are out shot, have a bad day, or know you are getting into something bigger than what you are comfortable with- you can still perform well. Again, your efforts won’t go unnoticed, and since you will be learning, and should be taking new knowledge and experience to the range to practice, your performance will improve exponentially. And this too will begin to be noticed as you attend more and more competition.
Obviously, gun ownership comes with a lot of responsibility. For many, caring for, shooting, and cleaning a select few favorites is all they need- but for others they want to learn everything they can about the sport. Be that second person. Be knowledgeable about various gun manufacturers, the differences between similar firearms, and what types of modifications are worthwhile, and which are just showy. Also, take the time to get good at reloading. High level competitors prefer to load their own cartridges to ensure consistency and power, but it takes some time to master even though it isn’t a difficult skill overall.
Always be presentable, both in physical appearance and manner. Wear clean, acceptable clothing appropriate for shooting and the weather, avoid shirts with any type of inappropriate imaging or saying, since shooting sports are supposed to be family friendly, and try to avoid branding unless you are sponsored. Also, be friendly, approachable, and use acceptable language- even if you are having a bad day. Always clean up your shooting area as well. Basically, have a professional image.
Once you have become comfortably successful in your shooting and are competing regularly, it is time to reach out for sponsors. Remember, this is a business proposition, so you need to be able to provide them something in return for their support. It is also a step in the right direction to help build relationships and network your skills. Sometimes sponsors will approach you, and sometimes you need to approach sponsors. Don’t be discouraged if you are turned down, rather ask them what they would like to see in a representative of their brand, and learn from the experience.
Don’t avoid volunteering your time during a competition. Many times local shooting clubs are working to check in and set up for free. They also will be cleaning up afterwards and it definitely behooves you to be a part of the process. Everything from helping direct people to where they need to be, mentoring youth programs, and helping clean up stations afterwards will not go united. You never know who is watching, so always have your best game on.
If you truly enjoy shooting enough to put in the time to become a professional, these are great ways to get started. Even so, nothing is guaranteed, and all your hard work might not come to naught- but you sure will be a presence and have the respect of those you shoot with. Based on that, you may find yourself involved in ways you hadn’t considered, such as leading youth or beginner shooter programs, helping to set up new leagues, or being invited to privately teach people how to get better.