By: Chris Andersen, 3-Gun Nation Pro Shooter
USA –-(Ammoland.com)- Ozark 3 Gun Championships a few years back: I am having a very good match. I feel I am setting myself up for a chance at the 3-Gun Nation Shoot-Off.
While I am shooting our second-to-last stage, my shotgun bolt locks back when finishing a target array in the high-speed portion of a stage.
I ground it in a barrel and transition to my pistol and finish the stage with what I feel is a very competitive time. I stop, show clear, and holster with a smile on my face. Then, in my peripheral vision I see a crowd of people standing around my shotgun.
I think to myself that empty shotguns should not be that interesting. I know my safety is not engaged… I grounded the gun in a hurry to save time thinking it was empty, so now I am worried that there is a round in the gun. I arrive to find that a live round is still sitting on the lifter.
Stage DQ. 100 points down the drain, and I drop in the overall standings like a rock.
The saying goes that there are two kinds of people: those who have been disqualified in a match and those who will be.
Ask anyone who has been in the action shooting sports very long and they will tell you a story (or stories) about when they have been DQ’d.
It is hard to handle – even at a local match. You beat yourself up, thinking about all of the things you could or should have done differently, and all of your squad mates struggle with how to interact with you after it happens. You have just wasted an entire day or possibly weekend, and potentially a lot of money on a match that has basically turned into a really expensive practice session.
Nothing you can do is going to make it not sting. But in my experience I believe there are a few ways you can grow from the experience as a shooter if it ever happens to you.
A couple of years ago, my friend Phil Strader sent me a video of him shooting a major pistol match in Houston. An RO stopped him for violating the 180-degree rule with his muzzle and he was DQ’d from the match. My first reaction after seeing the video was “Wow, that was a questionable call.” But then my second was: “Man, if I ever get DQ’d, I want to handle it with that much grace and professionalism.”
Phil disagreed with the call and calmly made it known. But he also knew the rules of the match and gracefully accepted his fate with a smile and was courteous to the range official. Phil is the consummate pro, and it really showed that day. That really stuck with me.
A few months later at the Area 3 Pistol match, I had almost the exact same thing happen to me two stages into the match. I did my best to handle myself in the same way, knowing what I had done. I then had the entire weekend in Nebraska to think about how best to get your mind around a DQ.
I put together a few ideas on how best to hit the reset button in the event of a DQ disaster. I am not saying that you should plan to fail, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to think about how you would handle yourself if it ever happens to you. 3-Gun is all about managing problems, and how you manage those issues have a direct impact on how you finish.
At the end of the day whatever happened is probably YOUR fault. In the moment it might be easy to lose it and blame everyone within a 30-foot radius. Keep in mind that the range officers and match directors are volunteers and treat them with courtesy regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their call. Keep your cool and stay courteous. You will always get farther that way.
Show Integrity And Stay Positive.
Your match may be over, but something you may not think about in the moment is that your throwing a fit may affect your friends’/squad mates’ ability to stay focused and perform at their best, and that is not fair to them. Be the first person out to reset targets after the next shooter. Keep a smile and a positive attitude. Nothing you can do will change what has already happened. The faster you start letting yourself have fun again, the quicker you will bounce back, and everyone present will respect you more for it.
Use The Experience To Get Better.
Incorporate the mistake you made into your training routine. Ask yourself what went wrong. How can you avoid that mistake in the future? What can you change about your technique to make problems like these less likely. I personally now walk stages with more intensity, and confer with range officers before shooting a stage with questionable shooting positions. I also ground my shotgun a little differently.
Help Your Squad Mates If It Happens To Them.
The majority of disqualifications occur with new shooters. At this year’s Fallen Brethren Match one of my squad mates was shooting his first major 3-Gun match and grounded his rifle off-safe and was DQ’d from the entire match two stages in. He was understandably very upset with himself, and a little upset at the sport in general.
I think times like these are where it is important for experienced guys to step in, be an ambassador for the sport and help the new shooter handle the DQ. Don’t let a bad experience like that ruin someone forever on the sport. I spent a lot of time talking to him and sharing stories about the time it happened to me, and also explaining why it is so important that the rules regarding certain safety issues are harsh.
Whether you are dealing with a beginner or a seasoned pro, being a friend to them can help them turn thing positive more quickly.
After that Ozark stage DQ, I took a moment to myself as I was putting my guns away and reflected on all these things. Then I took a deep breath and got back out on the stage as quickly as I could to set steel. I also did my best to help friends break down the stage that were still trying to finish strong.
If you compete in this sport for very long I can promise that eventually you will have to have this same conversation with yourself. Just remember: Everyone chokes, what makes you a winner is how you respond.
Chris Andersen is a 3 Gun Nation Pro Shooter for Team Vertx and regular contributor to AR15.com and 3GunNation.com. Look for his articles and videos every month in the ARFCOM Newsletter to help improve your performance in 3 gun competition.