The good old days of getting things for free ended a couple of years ago for me. I ended them myself to be honest - Nothing comes for free, there's always a cost, and whilst that may not be monetary it's a cost nonetheless. It was a cost I decided I wasn't going to pay anymore.
Over my years being a sponsored competitive shooter I lost count of the support, [read: free stuff], I received. Gun parts like barrels and triggers, equipment, scopes, the guns themselves, projectiles, gunpowder, clothing and travel-assistance are all on the table for a sponsored shooter and what needs to be done in return? Here, just wear this shirt and mention our brand when interviewed...Hmm...It's never that simple in reality though - More must be given, a pound of flesh...Results and return on investment.
One must shoot well, represent the brand well, and one doesn't have margin for error. Wearing a brand name on one's back is similar to wearing a target there - Everyone wants to beat the sponsored shooters, to dominate, and why? To become a sponsored shooter themselves, to displace those who [seemingly] have more than they.
The cost of free stuff
That's a lot of pressure in a sport that is already highly-pressured and over the years it began to scratch away at the shine the sport held; It started to become a job instead of the hobby I had intended it to be. Yes, my fault for accepting the sponsorship in the first place - Live and learn right? Sometimes things simply aren't what we at first see. Make no mistake, it's kind of cool to be sponsored, until it's time to pay the piper.
I ended up pulling right back from the sport, long range practical shooting, and that meant telling sponsors I would not be shooting under their banner any longer - They took it well of course; There's always some hard-charger ready to wear the target, the brand, and send rounds downrange for free. Ego's are not in short supply in the sport.
Have at it I say, I was done with it - It's not real life anyway. This last means that it doesn't really matter, nothing counts on the actual shooting. It's just a game. In my case, a hobby.
Most of the equipment stayed with me which was really nice of the companies although one wanted their scope back which I was happy to return - I never really liked it anyway and no, I'll not say whose it was - A top-tier manufacturer though.
I took myself out of the mix which meant no more travelling around the country, no more performance-stress and no more having to wear a target on my back for others to aim at. I enjoyed the feeling of freedom to be honest and over time the love of shooting for the sake of it returned - My face even split into a half-smirk on occasions...Something that doesn't happen all that often.
I'd compete now and then but just for fun; I never took it seriously and whilst I'd always do my best, a condition that is intrinsic to my personality, I'd be there for the fun first - That easy-going approach turned out some really good results too and, more importantly, I was enjoying it which, of course, was the point of removing the sponsorship pressure.
And then the phone rang
Last night I took a call from a friend, and one of my former sponsors; Friend first, sponsor second. After the initial small talk he pulled the pin and threw the grenade - His reason for calling:
"I want you to shoot for me in July," he said.
"Fuck you," I replied.
"No fuck you , and yeah I'm serious. I know you've got my six bro."
Caveman communication at its best.
The event is a three-gun run and gun event that takes place over a few days - This means three different guns are used being, rifle, handgun and shotgun and the shooting is dynamic, done on the run, as one moves through the course of fire.
Each stage is set up to simulate a real-world scenario and there's multiple ways to complete it so the shooter is required to apply strategy. It's shot against the clock and the shooting is scored, points scored divided by elapsed time, so it requires accuracy and speed, like one would need in the field. It's a great deal of fun and the last time I shot it I had a blast!
My mate followed up the fuck you commenting with his proposal: Entry fee, travel, a couple of hundred rounds each for handgun, rifle and shotgun, branded shooting clobber [clobber is Australian slang for clothing] and a few bucks if I came in the top three.
Yep, there it is...Pressure to perform. Top three. That's the price of free shit.
We spoke a little and I told him how reluctant I was to do it although I was keen to shoot the actual event itself; A three or four day weekend away, fun course of fire, seared meat around a fire each night and sleeping on the ground; It's a great deal of fun, but being sponsored? Not so keen brah.
I also reminded him that I'm older than the dinosaurs and probably rusty as hell. He laughed at that, reminded me it's all mind over matter [he is mostly right about that] and insisted that I consider it - I'll be honest here, it felt good to be so highly regarded.
His words, think about it, echoed in my mind as I ended the call and I've been thinking about it since. I even took the rifle I'd shoot in the event to the range this morning and sent some rounds down range, running and gunning.
Yep, it's fun. Damn it! A step closer to a yes answer maybe? Shit!
If I'm going to do the event it makes sense that someone else pays for it right? The sponsorship package equates to over a thousand dollars and I've worked hard in life to be the quality shooter that attracts sponsorship interest but there's that pressure to perform; I don't take responsibility lightly so if I competed as a sponsored shooter I'd want to fucken win - That's just how I am. Damn it, sounds like I'm saying yes doesn't it?
I haven't made my mind up just yet but need to soon as I'll need to get into training: My movement will have to be fast but steady [stable], target acquisition sharp and my shooting measured but rapid, magazine changes smooth and strategy sound. These things take continual practice. Fortunately I'm physically fit [for a 51 year old dinosaur] but I'll have work on a few areas in the eight weeks leading in to hone my skills. I also need to get on the shotgun because I'm not great on the twelve-gauge - Passable, not good.
All of the above depends on if I actually say yes of course. I'm leaning towards accepting but part of me shies way from the competition of it and the fact I will
have want to perform. It's an ownership and responsibility thing. I'm not much worried about the shooting and all that, I'm rather skilled in that area...Having to perform, the pressure of needing to get results for a sponsor, is the sticking point.
Part of me really wants to do it; The challenge is something I feel would be good for me right now but another side tells me to say no and shoot the event just for fun, or not at all. If I can't come up with an answer by the end of the weekend I may just flip a coin.
Design and create your ideal life, don't live it by default - Tomorrow isn't promised so be humble and kind
Track: Because it's in my nature to have people's back - Got your six
Both images are of the rifle I would take into the event.
Got your six is a term used to suggest one has someone else's back, that they are in support. Think clock face...12 is front, 6 is back. It's a term widely used in military circles and has made it out into urban slang.