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How to Prepare for a Shooting Competition

I have always been the kind of person that likes to be ready for whatever comes along. I think it all started when I was 5 and learning to play the violin. Sometimes, I would play a single song hundreds of times in preparation for a show or recital. You see, I’ve always wanted to be ready for the task at hand whenever that task came along. The same can be said for the shooting matches that I attend. Preparation starts sometimes weeks in advance of whatever match I plan to attend. As an example, I will use rimfire matches and explain how to prepare for this type of a shooting competition.

Volquartsen Katie Pavlich Firearms

Cheyenne Dalton is sponsored by Volquartsen Firearms

I try to practice/train a few times a week throughout the year, but match training is a bit different. My Volquartsen guns don’t require much attention, but before a match I will disassemble them down to the last spring and check them over. Thankfully, I’m on the Volquartsen competition team, so I have spare parts if anything is needed, although it rarely is.

I have certain ammo that I like to use so I make sure that I have enough to use at the match. I save that, and then use the rest to practice. Of course, if I don’t have enough 22LR then it’s a mad rush to find and order what I need. Luckily, .22 ammo is starting to be available again, so that makes things much easier.

Cheyenne Dalton Competition gun

(Terry Dalton photo)

I also like to set up stages such as the ones I’ve seen in a past competition. Some of the targets at Rimfire Challenge matches are huge, but I like to train using 6-to-8-inch plates. I’ve always figured that if I could go fast on 6-inch plates, then the 24-inch plates at a rimfire match would be a piece of cake! Plus, when I started out, 6-inch plates were all we could afford, and my dad made a lot of the from scrap iron. As I’ve progressed, I’ve been fortunate to acquire some very nice steel targets, but I still prep for a match with the small ones.

I like to mentally prepare for a competition as well. In bed I envision the stages and how I’m going to shoot them. I like to envision winning too, and sometimes that’s all it is, is a dream! Hey, you can’t win them all, but it’s nice to try. I also think preparing ahead of time will keep me more calm the day of the match. I’ve gone over everything in my head so many times that when match day arrives, it feels like no big deal.

As match day gets closer, I start to look at all my equipment and make sure everything is good. I change the batteries in my red dots on my Volquartsen Scorpion and Ultralite rifle that I use in Open Class. Since I wear electronic style hearing protection, I check them over and make sure they’re clean and the batteries are fresh. I also take my magazines apart and clean them and replace any mags that don’t function well. My range bag always gets emptied out and refilled with all the gear I’ll need for the match ahead: Eye protection, ear protection, cleaning kit and spares of everything and stuff to loan someone if they need it. I always have spare stuff to loan, it’s one of the things I’m known for. I check the first aid kit in my bags as well, just to be sure nothing is missing.

Cheyenne napping at Competition

(Terry Dalton photo)

The day before we leave for a match, I will shoot a few hundred rounds and then disassemble my guns and give them an all-over cleaning again. Then, I reassemble them and run a hundred rounds through them, just to make sure they’re happy and ready to run fast!

The night before a match, we always have a good dinner, usually with friends, but sometimes just us. I try and get a good night’s sleep, and prepare myself for the next day or days.

On the day of a match I used to get really nervous and feel nauseated, but I have completely been able to overcome that. I believe it’s because I’ve gone over this day so many times in my head that it’s no big deal! I usually eat some junk food on match morning, and I almost never eat junk food. Donuts or Kolaches are a favorite of mine.

Cheyenne Dalton lunch competition

(Terry Dalton photo)

Be sure to bring plenty of water, or Gatorade, as well as high protein snacks with you. The food and water will help you stay focused, and you’ll avoid getting hangry! I’ve been hangry a few times and it’s not pretty, plus it affects my performance. I don’t have time for that. Time matters at a rimfire match.

I hope this helps you get an idea of what might help you prepare for a match. Everyone is different but this is how I do it, and it works for me. Remember, preparation is one of the keys to success in everything you do.

See you at the next competition!

  • About Cheyenne Dalton

    Cheyenne Dalton is an up-and-coming junior competition in 3-gun, USPSA, and Rimfire challenge. She writes a column about her shooting experiences, sponsored by Voquartsen Firearms. She's been competing for 4 years and has won state titles, along with the Limited Ladies Rimfire World championship 2 times (2014 & 2016). When she's not at the range, she is traveling with her Bluegrass band, "That Dalton Gang," where she plays mandolin and violin, along with singing lead vocals. Her future plans include lots of shooting and continuing her education with a focus on being a pharmacist. She lives on a family farm in Missouri.