Keeping Our Clubs Alive Article in MB

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I had a club member tell me that when some of my gear was not PC. I was shooting a Lyman GPR from a bag using a brass powder container. I had some altoid tins and a plastic pill bottle to hold caps and tools. I didn’t go back.
I shoot a GPR Flinter and use the same brass type powder container. I have a horn just dont use it. I dress in Duluth trading pants and shirts and wear a ball cap with a BPMS button on it. Its period correct for right now and thats all I care about it. I have no issues with people who dress otherwise. Matter of fact I think some of the clothes are very cool. I just cant afford to do all those extras and keep shooting.
 
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I've subscribed to Muzzle Blasts for about maybe 20 years? I always look at the circulation statements printed now and again in the technical pages. Used to be about 15 thousand circulation, now down to about 11 or 12 thousand! There really is a shrinking population of subscribers, at least to MB magazine. Of course some get Muzzleloader and some not all at all.
 
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Does winning matter? The short answer is yes. The long answer is no. :)

First, some background on the kind of competition shooting I do. I've been shooting competitively for 10 years now with the North-South Skirmish Association. I've been team captain of my team for like 3 years now.

In the N-SSA, we have "individual" competition, where individual shooters shoot at paper targets for score. For Musket, Carbine, and Breech Loader, shooters compete at 50 and 100 yards. For Revolver and Smoothbore, they compete at 25 and 50 yards. Single Shot Pistol is 12.5 and 25 yards. At our Regional competitions (skirmishes), you can re-enter as many times as you like for $1 a target. Your best score is kept.

We then have "team" competitions, where teams of shooters (3-man Revolver, 4-man Smoothbore, 5-man Musket and Carbine) shoot 3-5 courses of fire at breakable targets. These are timed events (90 seconds for revolver, 3 minutes for Smoothbore, 5 minutes for Musket and Carbine).

At the Spring and Fall National event, as well as some of the larger Regional skirmishes, there is a classification system in place:

(1)---EXPERT [Top 10%]
(2)---SHARPSHOOTER [Next 15%]
(3)---MARKSMAN [Next 25%]
(4)---STRIKER [Next 50%]

If you have never shot before, you are unclassified, and will be considered Expert class. After your first shoot you will be classified into the appropriate skill level depending on your score. Both individual and teams are ranked this way.

This system makes it so that people shoot against people with similar ability, so that it's more competitive for all.

Unfortunately, at our Deep South Regional skirmishes, we only have perhaps 40 or so shooters turn out these days, and so it's not really feasible to shoot on a classification system. This does tend to mean that the same set of folks tend to win medals every skirmish. But not always!

So, about winning.

I have had shooters quit before because they were not shooting well. There is no doubt that winning a medal is a huge thrill and it does inspire people to keep coming out and trying again and again. And I have watched shooters who do not do well become disappointed and demoralized and quit. This is something I strive to squash on my team explicitly. As a team captain, what we are supposed to do is keep individual statistics, and when choosing your shooters for your teams you should pick your top shooters, so that your team has the best chance to win a medal. We do keep individual statistics, but I quit using them for picking shooters for our team(s) years ago.

The reason is, if I used our stats sheet to pick the shooters for our team (or teams, if we have enough to field more than one team), the same teammates would get to shoot every time, and the same teammates would not get to shoot every time (or they would be farmed out to other teams that need shooters, if there are any). This is hugely demoralizing if you are not a great shooter. I see my goal as team captain to make sure that everyone has a good time, so that they continue to be members and continue to come out and shoot. This is a priority that comes above scoring well. Now, if we had an excess of shooters to go to the Nationals, I would probably pick my best shooters for a National competition team. But we are lucky to have enough people to go to the Nationals to field a full team at all, so its not an issue for us.

So, the way I pick shooters for our team(s) is we literally draw straws. If I need 5 shooters for a Musket team and I have 8, we all draw straws and the 3 who don't make the cut will be farmed out to other teams as "pick ups" if there are spots available. This way everyone gets a chance to shoot and have fun, and nobody ends up feeling like the kid who gets picked last in dodgeball.

The other thing this does is our team is generally strong enough to win a medal in something at a Regional skirmish and so even if our stronger shooters carry some of the weaker shooters it's a big thrill and moral boost for everyone who got to shoot as everyone gets a medal to take home if they shot on a winning team.

So, yeah, winning matters. It builds morale when you win, and it wears on morale if you don't. Yes, it's supposed to be about having fun, and it is, but there is no denying that winning matters, and I've seen first-hand of people quitting because they weren't doing well. And let's be honest - if it were really just about shooting against yourself you can do that at home at your home range. No need to go to a competition at all.

So, about not winning.

I have commented (and even written an article) before that N-SSA competition is the least competitive sport I know of. In most sports, you know at all times if you are winning or losing. But in N-SSA competition, especially during individuals, you'd have to go out of your way to know how other shooters are doing. All you know is how you did. Now, everyone knows that in order to be in a running for a medal you need to hit a certain score for certain guns, so you might have an idea of whether you are in the running or not. But you never know until the scores are posted.

Same goes for team competitions. While you can sometimes look at the target frames after a course of fire to see which teams cleared their frames and which did not, if they are all cleared or mostly cleared even this does not give you a firm picture.

So during the actual competition, really you're just shooting against yourself, doing the best you can do, and I find there is little pressure to measure against others.

Our team is also big on camaraderie. We all set up near each other in our own special part of the firing line at our Regional shoots. We are always chatting and cutting up and having fun all weekend long in each others' company. Very often a subset of us will go out to dinner after the day's shooting on Saturday. Or if the host team provides a meal we will hang out together there. Many of us camp together at our skirmish site. This is a big part of what keeps us together and going as a team.

So no, winning doesn't matter. You can't even tell if you've won until it's all over and they hand out the medals. And there is a lot more to having fun at a competition than winning medals or even shooting a gun!

Of course, the real answer is that what matters is having fun. If you can have fun while winning medals, great! If you can have fun not winning medals, great! But if you are in a position of influence or authority in your sport, you have a huge obligation to make sure that the people in your sport are having fun. Because if they aren't, then they will leave.

This is important now more than ever. At a Regional skirmish last year we took an informal polling of ages. The average age was 62. But 3/4 of the membership was over 70. The average life expectancy for a man in the USA is about 78 years old. That means that within a decade or less, we could potentially lose 3/4 of our region's shooters, either due to death or just poor health. We need a massive influx of new shooters - say 20 to 30 - within the next 5 years or there is a very high likelihood that there simply won't be a Deep South Region anymore. Today, we typically field six 5-man musket or carbine teams. So, roughly 35 shooters. If we lose 75% of them that leaves us with 8 shooters. That's enough for one single team.

So, if you're interested in shooting black powder firearms of the era of the American Civil War, check us out at:


 

sturmkatze

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I’d a told him in no uncertain terms to mind his own business and go snob it out with someone else! Don’t think I wouldn’t. I got a zero tolerance for people whose sole purpose in life is to belittle others. Not everyone can afford multi thousand dollar rifles and gear. I know I can’t.
And that's part of the problem. Just say "thank you for your concern" and keep on. Maybe he's just trying to help you and and doesn't know how to do it right.
 
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I read the same article and had similar feelings. The point that really stuck out to me is making the sport accessible to folks who have interest. I think if you can get a gun (like a club gun mentioned in the article) in the hands of a new shooter, and put them under the supervision and advisement of a good teacher, they will stay with it. BP shooting has a high barrier to entry, and anything we can do to make it accessible and fun for new shooters is going to help keep it alive.
I love the idea of shooter submitted prizes for shoots. Bringing an old pocket knife, and powder measure or some other simple curiosity to donate to the prize bucket is a cheap and easy way to put in a shoot. It reminds me of the fun hunts we used to do with beagles, competing for a bag of dog food. The stakes weren’t that high, but the level of fun sure was.
 
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I just last year joined a local BP club. They recently moved to a new venue and re-assembled the Woods Walk. I had shot 10-11 out of 12 a few times, and 6 out of 12 a few times too. We recently added a couple of targets to make 14 and moved some stuff around and farther back. It was too easy before. I would think now a good shooter should have no trouble with 2/3 of the targets, a few more they would need to take their time and a couple are kinda hard. There is one little bitty sucker I haven’t hit more than once or twice, and those were luck. It looks kinda like Ohio but I think it is a little chicken that got it’s head shot off. I brought home a 5” Diamond that is broken and needs welding and as soon as I fix it I am swapping it in for that damn little Ohio/Chicken. There is some room and I will move it back some to make up for it being an easier target.
 
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Would love to just attend a shoot. I don't know of any in my area. I'm always shooting in the yard by myself. But I guess I usually "win" that way. I use to shoot IDPA until ammo went out of sight. So I do love good competition especially when good fellowship is involved. I always like getting in the groups with the best shooters, because I felt it was the best way to learn and most of the time they will give advice. Being nice doesn't cost a thing and helping out fellow shooters usually comes back around. At least that has been my experience.
 

Mustang65

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I'm going to have to agree with the article. Once the new shooter starts to develop his/her skills, they go to the next step and then to the next step. They develop their confidence more and more until they become the best that they can be, while also just having fun shooting.
I am in agreement with most of what you say. There should be fun involved. However, competition shooting is just that...competition of the best shooters. Now, most clubs do offer various shooting categories to entice the newbies, and they should if they want to keep this sport alive. That being said, there are many clubs that are strictly competition clubs, no harm, no fowl(LOL).

If the so-called low class shooter really wants to shoot competition, then that shooter needs to practice diligently and become proficient to shoot competition. There is a huge difference between a club that holds a competition shoot and just a fun woods walk.

If you look at your competition shoots with CF pistols and rifles, they aren't for the newbie, only the most accomplished shooters. How do you become proficient? Yup, get serious, practice, practice, practice, and become proficient. To competition shooters, that is fun...."to be the best that you can be"....so to speak.

The one thing I do have a question about is your statement about the 9" gong: A 9" gong is a fair size gong. If you can't hit a 9" gong at 100 yds, I trust you don't hunt at that distance, because at 100yds that deer, or whatever animal you are shooting at needs to be a clean kill.
 

Mustang65

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We always have a good mix of easy and hard shots. Our monthly shoots are very informal, and it's not unusual if we think a target is too easy, to shoot thistle heads or pine cones from trees instead. We don't keep score, so, Who cares?
That is just awesome. Nothing like having fun shooting.
 
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I'm going to have to agree with the article. Once the new shooter starts to develop his/her skills, they go to the next step and then to the next step. They develop their confidence more and more until they become the best that they can be, while also just having fun shooting.
This was a very good article. We are always talking about getting new folks interested in muzzleloading, this was right on the money. Like many clubs, we don't give big money prizes. We give the top three winners a colored bead. Do we give each other a hard time, sure, but we will help you out in a heartbeat if needed. If you are not having fun why do it.
Merry Christmas
 

Mustang65

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Does winning matter? The short answer is yes. The long answer is no. :)

First, some background on the kind of competition shooting I do. I've been shooting competitively for 10 years now with the North-South Skirmish Association. I've been team captain of my team for like 3 years now.

In the N-SSA, we have "individual" competition, where individual shooters shoot at paper targets for score. For Musket, Carbine, and Breech Loader, shooters compete at 50 and 100 yards. For Revolver and Smoothbore, they compete at 25 and 50 yards. Single Shot Pistol is 12.5 and 25 yards. At our Regional competitions (skirmishes), you can re-enter as many times as you like for $1 a target. Your best score is kept.

We then have "team" competitions, where teams of shooters (3-man Revolver, 4-man Smoothbore, 5-man Musket and Carbine) shoot 3-5 courses of fire at breakable targets. These are timed events (90 seconds for revolver, 3 minutes for Smoothbore, 5 minutes for Musket and Carbine).

At the Spring and Fall National event, as well as some of the larger Regional skirmishes, there is a classification system in place:

(1)---EXPERT [Top 10%]
(2)---SHARPSHOOTER [Next 15%]
(3)---MARKSMAN [Next 25%]
(4)---STRIKER [Next 50%]

If you have never shot before, you are unclassified, and will be considered Expert class. After your first shoot you will be classified into the appropriate skill level depending on your score. Both individual and teams are ranked this way.

This system makes it so that people shoot against people with similar ability, so that it's more competitive for all.

Unfortunately, at our Deep South Regional skirmishes, we only have perhaps 40 or so shooters turn out these days, and so it's not really feasible to shoot on a classification system. This does tend to mean that the same set of folks tend to win medals every skirmish. But not always!

So, about winning.

I have had shooters quit before because they were not shooting well. There is no doubt that winning a medal is a huge thrill and it does inspire people to keep coming out and trying again and again. And I have watched shooters who do not do well become disappointed and demoralized and quit. This is something I strive to squash on my team explicitly. As a team captain, what we are supposed to do is keep individual statistics, and when choosing your shooters for your teams you should pick your top shooters, so that your team has the best chance to win a medal. We do keep individual statistics, but I quit using them for picking shooters for our team(s) years ago.

The reason is, if I used our stats sheet to pick the shooters for our team (or teams, if we have enough to field more than one team), the same teammates would get to shoot every time, and the same teammates would not get to shoot every time (or they would be farmed out to other teams that need shooters, if there are any). This is hugely demoralizing if you are not a great shooter. I see my goal as team captain to make sure that everyone has a good time, so that they continue to be members and continue to come out and shoot. This is a priority that comes above scoring well. Now, if we had an excess of shooters to go to the Nationals, I would probably pick my best shooters for a National competition team. But we are lucky to have enough people to go to the Nationals to field a full team at all, so its not an issue for us.

So, the way I pick shooters for our team(s) is we literally draw straws. If I need 5 shooters for a Musket team and I have 8, we all draw straws and the 3 who don't make the cut will be farmed out to other teams as "pick ups" if there are spots available. This way everyone gets a chance to shoot and have fun, and nobody ends up feeling like the kid who gets picked last in dodgeball.

The other thing this does is our team is generally strong enough to win a medal in something at a Regional skirmish and so even if our stronger shooters carry some of the weaker shooters it's a big thrill and moral boost for everyone who got to shoot as everyone gets a medal to take home if they shot on a winning team.

So, yeah, winning matters. It builds morale when you win, and it wears on morale if you don't. Yes, it's supposed to be about having fun, and it is, but there is no denying that winning matters, and I've seen first-hand of people quitting because they weren't doing well. And let's be honest - if it were really just about shooting against yourself you can do that at home at your home range. No need to go to a competition at all.

So, about not winning.

I have commented (and even written an article) before that N-SSA competition is the least competitive sport I know of. In most sports, you know at all times if you are winning or losing. But in N-SSA competition, especially during individuals, you'd have to go out of your way to know how other shooters are doing. All you know is how you did. Now, everyone knows that in order to be in a running for a medal you need to hit a certain score for certain guns, so you might have an idea of whether you are in the running or not. But you never know until the scores are posted.

Same goes for team competitions. While you can sometimes look at the target frames after a course of fire to see which teams cleared their frames and which did not, if they are all cleared or mostly cleared even this does not give you a firm picture.

So during the actual competition, really you're just shooting against yourself, doing the best you can do, and I find there is little pressure to measure against others.

Our team is also big on camaraderie. We all set up near each other in our own special part of the firing line at our Regional shoots. We are always chatting and cutting up and having fun all weekend long in each others' company. Very often a subset of us will go out to dinner after the day's shooting on Saturday. Or if the host team provides a meal we will hang out together there. Many of us camp together at our skirmish site. This is a big part of what keeps us together and going as a team.

So no, winning doesn't matter. You can't even tell if you've won until it's all over and they hand out the medals. And there is a lot more to having fun at a competition than winning medals or even shooting a gun!

Of course, the real answer is that what matters is having fun. If you can have fun while winning medals, great! If you can have fun not winning medals, great! But if you are in a position of influence or authority in your sport, you have a huge obligation to make sure that the people in your sport are having fun. Because if they aren't, then they will leave.

This is important now more than ever. At a Regional skirmish last year we took an informal polling of ages. The average age was 62. But 3/4 of the membership was over 70. The average life expectancy for a man in the USA is about 78 years old. That means that within a decade or less, we could potentially lose 3/4 of our region's shooters, either due to death or just poor health. We need a massive influx of new shooters - say 20 to 30 - within the next 5 years or there is a very high likelihood that there simply won't be a Deep South Region anymore. Today, we typically field six 5-man musket or carbine teams. So, roughly 35 shooters. If we lose 75% of them that leaves us with 8 shooters. That's enough for one single team.

So, if you're interested in shooting black powder firearms of the era of the American Civil War, check us out at:


 

Mustang65

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That was an awesome response. You know, competition shooting is definitely intense at times. Not everyone can be #1, and not everyone can be #1 forever. The thing is, when it comes to the point that it's no longer fun for you, well maybe it is time to re-evaluate why you are doing it. If you aren't shooting well, just have fun with the fact you are shooting, and maybe search for the reasons, like is it your stance, is it the powder, is it the projectile, is it the barrel, is it something that you are doing that you are unaware of? But the most important thing of all is: if you love to shoot, don't quit!!!
 
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I design and run the shoots at the Talking Rock BP shooters. I do not care what yardage the target was designed to be shot at. I care about the content of the target. I vary the targets each month. Sometimes small and tough, sometimes large and easier. We are competing within ourselves.hitting a 100 yd bullseye target at 50 yards is hitting a bullseye. Shooting a 50 yd target at 25 yards is ok as long as everyone is shooting the same target. At least everyone can see it if everyone is shooting the same target. We are not submitting it to win a state or national championship. Who cares, hit the target and have pride in yourself getting to be a better shot.

I have 5 different sizes of steel plates. 10" down to 3". Three sizes of bowling pins. Top, bottom, full pins. Vary em each month, easy to hard. They never know what I am putting out and most if not all like that bit of mystery when they get there.

Our range is limited to 50 yards distance and most of us old guys have trouble seeing that far. It is more bout friendship and fellowship with a hint of competing within yourself. If you cannot see the target you are wasting lead. You would not shoot it if you cannot see it hunting so why when you are practicing. Our group is growing. We even have a bench grooup to shoot the same targets and enjoy the friendship and fellowship with all.
How many shooters do you get on average?
 

jdw276

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That was an awesome response. You know, competition shooting is definitely intense at times. Not everyone can be #1, and not everyone can be #1 forever. The thing is, when it comes to the point that it's no longer fun for you, well maybe it is time to re-evaluate why you are doing it. If you aren't shooting well, just have fun with the fact you are shooting, and maybe search for the reasons, like is it your stance, is it the powder, is it the projectile, is it the barrel, is it something that you are doing that you are unaware of? But the most important thing of all is: if you love to shoot, don't quit!!!
In looking at the responses they seem to be totally focused on competition and the individual shooter. Blaming the shooters for declining shoot attendance and not wanting to compete. I would ask what is the objective of your club and match. If it is to declare a winner, it is competition. If it is to practice for a match that can be done anytime anywhere. For example a club shoot has 3 or 4 shooters that like to shoot territorials, state, nmlra matches for ribbons, IE compete and 10 that want to just shoot. Is the club designing the monthly match to mirror those competitive matches thus it is effectively a practice for those 3 or 4? Or is it to gather in fellowship, friendship and enjoyment of shooting, then shoots need to be fun to encourage friendly banter. If that is how a club designs their match to declare a winner, the 10 others will go away and you end up with 3 or 4 shooters practicing.

If a club's shoot attendance is dropping, maybe it is time to evaluate your shoot program and club objectives to ensure your program is consistent with what your shooters want. Not blame it on the shooters who just want to shoot, not compete. The shooters will continue to shoot, they will just find some other place to do it. I would say to the competitors, enjoy your practices. Clubs you may notbe satisfying your customer, the shooter.
 

jdw276

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How many shooters do you get on average?
11 to 19 now. My first match was 3 and a dozen talkers to see if it fit their needs. I have over 90 on my email announcement and over 35 have shot with me in my 2 years since we were established. Last year i had 15 pay the annual dues, this year 23. 50% growth. I have held 19 matches. You can evaluate our program at www.trbps.com .
 
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I had a club member tell me that when some of my gear was not PC. I was shooting a Lyman GPR from a bag using a brass powder container. I had some altoid tins and a plastic pill bottle to hold caps and tools. I didn’t go back.
Like Brushy Creek muzzleloaders on Facebook. In March there’s a 5 day BP shoot. You don’t have to shoot all 5 days. Camping is available, I always stay inAdel in a hotel. Come on down and have a great time.
 
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Without going into my background/baggage, I only wish to add one word - "Inclusion". Whether it's designing events that take into account varied skill/experience/quality of equipment or asking a new person to "man" a task, the surest way to lose participants is not to use them.

Some events and groups fall into a trap whereby only a few people do everything. Even the "regulars" are never assigned a task, asked opinions, nor really made to feel as if their presence makes any difference. Our gunclub held periodic "work days". Sometimes it was building something, painting, cleaning up ranges, burning junk, etc. Everyone was invited and each did something. Guys we hadn't seen in years showed up to help and also started shooting again.

Same thing for matches or shoots. Include everyone, make it a point to ask their help doing something useful and many will return. Try to do everything yourself with a couple of cronies, not only will you be hard-pressed at times but others will gravitate to a past time where they feel a part of the event.

Added benefit - we learned one new guy owned a bobcat he liked to "play with" - rebuilt berms and other stuff, others had various items we needed and gladly donated lumber, etc., experienced certified range officers (2), etc.,

Short term - probably a very interesting event. Long term - good luck.
 
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