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Shooting sports – it’s like golf, but with hearing protection

I didn’t really know, until I started shooting regularly and in competitive formats, that competition shooting is a lot like golf. Meaning, of course, that it can be highly frustrating as well as highly satisfying on any given day.

The motivational theory of periodic reinforcement comes in to play in both sports, drawing people back time and again hoping for a reward on every swing or course of fire. That one tee shot that you send straight down the fairway 170 yards, or that shooting match where you crush a challenging target arrangement – these positive reinforcements keep you coming back for more. Like a rat in a Skinner box pounding a lever and hoping for a food payout, we step up and take our best shots over and over again.

A Skinner box and rat. The rat learned a variety of behaviors through positive and negative reinforcement in the box.

I’ve played golf in the past – I have a very dusty golf bag in the back of the garage and some grass-stained golf shoes under a bed somewhere to prove it – but lately I’m engaged in the shooting sports. More specifically, pistol shooting. The parallels with golf are kind of funny to think about, and the investment you can put forward in either sport is equally astonishing.

You can start with equipment purchases. How many different brands/types/quality of golf clubs are on the market today – drivers, woods, putters, chippers? Are they building computer chips into golf clubs now? Cause it kind of feels like you’re investing in a new iPhone with some of these clubs. Then you need golf shoes, golf balls (I need a lot of these), a golf bag (must be stylish), a golf shirt, a fashionable hat or visor, a glove, and maybe even a golf cart.

Some of the basic accessories one can purchase to enhance stature on the golf course.

Likewise in the shooting sports, you can invest tidy sums in equipment and accessories, starting with your pistol ($300-$4,000), a few holsters ($20-60 each), some spare magazines so you don’t have to reload as often ($25 each), safety glasses ($15-150), hearing protection ($40), a quality belt to support the gun and holster ($80), maybe some upgraded sights or a smoother-pulling trigger to aid your performance ($150 each), a year’s supply of ammunition (don’t ask), then a range bag to carry it all out to the shooting range ($50).  Oh, and a cleaning kit to clean the gun after a match ($20) and a shooting shirt ($60) because, hey, you need to be stylish even on the range. Then it’s time to buy more ammunition.

Some of the shooting accessories one might need or find useful.

In one of my first outings the shooting range some years ago, just learning how my new revolver worked, I came across an older gentleman shooting a $3,000 1911 pistol. I didn’t even know what a 1911 pistol was at that point, but he let me shoot it and I instantly fell in love.  Still am in love with that one, a Wilson Combat.

A Wilson Combat 1911…so awesome to shoot.

I eventually invested in a compact version of that style pistol that is easier to carry. Now I just need to get started upgrading the sights, scoping out a new trigger, adding a rail so I can attach a flashlight, maybe even a grip-mounted laser or a red dot sight to improve my accuracy.

With all of this investment, it’s like I’ve taken up golf all over again – but with loud bangs and hearing protection added. (Although some golfers I know generate loud bangs when their tee shots veer into the parking lot and start bouncing off parked cars.)

Some of the hearing protection and eye protection options available for the shooting sports.

I worked in retail marketing some years ago and golfed fairly often – a few times with the senior vice president running that business. I recall him giving me a hard time about the “piece of –it clubs” I played with. The image just didn’t fit golfing at that level. I eventually caved and bought some newer clubs.

Whichever sport you choose, have fun, do it safely and know that you don’t have to invest heavily to be in the game.