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NSSA “Association of the Year” 2007-2008
“What to do when you decide to get into registered skeet shooting.”

Now that you can shoot skeet fairly well and are ready for nationally sanctioned tournaments, it’s time to get serious about learning as much as you can about this game. Such as, what are the standards that you’ll be expected to meet as set by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA).

Begin by downloading a copy of the Official NSSA Rule Book from the www.mynssa.com web site and READ it from cover to cover. There are many important details in the book and even seasoned shooters need to review it every year to learn about subtle changes enacted to improve the game. Like many sports, skeet is fairly self regulating with honesty and sportsmanship seen in the highest regard. That requires a substantial understanding of what the rules require a shooter to do so as not to take an unfair advantage or cheat someone more deserving out of their rightful title.

The Rule Book is also where you’ll find how to determine which “Class” you will probably belong to in each of the normal tournament events (Doubles, 12, 20, 28, and .410 gauges). Your Class is based on your average for 100 targets in that particular event/gauge and allows you to compete against shooters of fairly equal skills. Don’t be surprised, though, at a major national tournament when there may be more than a few of your fellow “Class-mates” who crank-it-up an extra notch for the big game and shoot better than their averages and leave the rest of the Class in the dust. You’ll be expected to do the same as often as you can since that’s how you move up in Class and compete with better and better opponents.

Another great resource for learning the game of registered skeet is the Referee’s Manual which is also available from the NSSA web site in .pdf format. Here is where the position of the shooters and referees are defined for when you are NOT on station and what sort of things the referee will be looking for and what are his/her responsibilities and limits. As mentioned before, this game is very self-regulating on the local level and as such it is important that everyone involved know the standards set for shooters, referees, and even the management.

To that end, take the referee’s test and become a qualified referee. Not only does it offer you a chance to prove your knowledge of the rule book, but it also gives you a skill that can be used to offset the cost of your shooting. Tournaments are always looking for local referees to help out and if you are qualified, you too can enjoy making a few dollars for yourself while you learn what it’s like from the “puller’s end”.

Taking the referee’s test also gives your state and other area clubs another name they can call on whenever they are planning for large events that their own cadre of refs can’t handle. This is in addition to being a way to give back to the game by occasionally volunteering your services to your club to help offset their expenses for a shoot.

In fact, it isn’t a bad idea to make a point to first offer to help out at a local shoot in any way your skills will allow, even if it’s just to take out the trash. Working as a food preparer, target hauler, or station sweeper can give you an appreciation for how much effort it takes to run a shoot and provide insights into where the shooter stands in this whole circus of events.

Cleaning up before or after a shoot, sending the results into the local press, or just learning to load targets and the safety procedures involved in going into a trap house are equally import contributions to the game and to your learning of how it is played.

However, let’s not forget the internet as a great way to gain information about skeet from the “American-centric” explanation of the game on Wikipedia to the videos of World Skeet Shooting Championships and skeet clinic lessons on YouTube.com/skeetshooting. Many states and many local clubs also have realized the importance of advertising their events and have home pages that can be found by links from the NSSA web site. For those who wish to carry skeet movies on their iPods, there are over 50 videos available on the Apple iTunes Music Store (search for “skeet”). Even if your state or club isn’t on the links list from NSSA, that just gives you another opportunity to help this game by volunteering to set up a web page for them. 

The internet also has many forums where new and old shooters alike can gather to discuss questions and areas of interest. Just remember that the internet and these forums in particular are populated by people who may mean well but whose credentials for answering your question may be lacking. Take their advice with the proverbial “grain of salt”.

“What to do when you decide to go to a shoot.”

First, pick a gun to compete in. You don’t need to start out entering all four guns and a good way to get your feet wet is with the 20 gauge. Not only can you shoot it in the 20 Gauge Event but if you really care to, you can also shoot it in the 12 Gauge Event as well as the Doubles Event. However, for a beginner, there is nothing wrong with showing up at a shoot and just shooting in the 12 Gauge Event as many shooters have done for years. Eventually many go on to shooting in the smaller guns, but there is nothing wrong with sticking to one gun or one event when you’re first getting started. Don’t let the pressure to be a four-gun-shooter hurry you before you’re ready.

Part of your readiness will include physical stamina. Shooting a hundred targets under competition rules takes about an hour and a half for the normal squad of 5 shooters. That’s 1 1/2 hours in the rain, the sun, the wind, or whatever the weather cares to throw at you short of lightning. Plus you need to lift the gun to your face over and over again where you will find that it seems to have added on a few pounds by the middle of the third round. To compensate, you need to practice shooting 100 targets or four games of skeet within that time frame without getting winded or tired and under any weather conditions. Nobody said it would be easy...

Next, get a copy of the program for the shoot you wish to attend by either finding it on their web site or by contacting the club and asking for one to be mailed to you. Club contact names and numbers are also available from the NSSA web site.

Be aware that NSSA is really only interested in the individual scores (to compute your Class standing and fees) and the winners who may be entitled to further recognition or awards for accumulated honors. Everything else in a program is whatever the shoot management believes the shooters are interested in playing. There are lots of little money side bets in skeet as in most clay target games and a shooter should be aware of what they are before he/she commits to playing these side games.

Most shoot programs use short hand to describe the games and the percentage of each pay-out. This short hand is fairly easy to understand and an example of a shoot program and the definition of its side games will follow at the end. Please read them carefully as some are useless bets if you can’t shoot perfect scores and some are just a fun gamble that anyone can win.

Any late changes to the published program are required to be posted at the shoot for all to see so look for any when you show up to register with cash or checkbook in hand. Notice that no mention was made of using a credit card as most shoots are run by clubs far too small to have such an account with major credit card companies and checks and cash are what will be expected. Whatever winnings you expect from the shoot will be mailed to you by check within the next 2 weeks per regulations, so have patience.

Next, before actually going to the shoot, ask others who have attended this shoot in years past how it goes and what to expect. You’ll get valuable advice on where to eat, sleep, or get more ammunition from if need be in that local area. Do you stay at the club for lunch or is there a 5 star Amish restaurant just down the street that is a memory in itself? Do you get a hotel/motel room if you’re spending the night for a multi-day shoot and who has the best rates and lets you carry your expensive shotguns into your room at night rather than having to leave them in your trunk? Where do you go locally if your gun breaks or if you’ve forgotten to bring enough shells? These can all be answered by those who have gone to the shoot before or who know the club well. Use them to get as much information as you can to best prepare yourself for what “might” happen as well as finding out a realistic time frame to look at for getting to and from the shoot. Ask about any new detours you may need to take to get there.

Finally, if you still have questions, call the club or shoot manager. A number is usually somewhere on the shoot program. These people want you to come and have fun and so they will be more than willing to answer just about any question you may have. This one-on-one contact also will give you a name to put a face to when you show up at the shoot and instantly gives you a new friend to learn more from.

“What to do when you finally arrive at the shoot.”

First off... don’t park in any of the special parking spots usually reserved for the handicap, shoot management, sponsors, etc. Not even to just run in and look around. This is not only a sign of bad sportsmanship but is considered a crime in most states and does nothing but diminish everyone’s view of you. If you are actually entitled to one of these spots then please remember to bring the credentials needed to park in such spots or just offer to donate a large sum of cash to the shoot and buy a sponsor’s parking spot for the entire tournament.

You should make a point to also bring your completed shoot card from NSSA with current scores and up-to-date averages over your last five tournaments (details in the Rule Book), your NSSA plastic membership card, your state skeet association membership card, a copy of the program for your own reference, and the most important item of all - money. This plus your gun(s), shells, and eye and ear protection are the minimums required of you to bring in order to shoot a shoot.

Once you’ve found the “sign-in” counter and have gotten in line, be sure to review your shoot card to see that it is current or be prepared to complete a form at the counter where you will join the NSSA and possibly your state association at the same time. As a brand new shooter, this will allow you to shoot the events you came to shoot while your paperwork is being processed at National Headquarters. An NSSA membership card and more information about NSSA will then come in the mail in a few weeks and you’ll be a part of this great game if you already aren’t.

There are even times when special memberships such as “Try it you’ll like it” are offered and information about them can be found at the NSSA web site mentioned above. 

However, at the counter and ready to sign up is no time to be looking into what your options are. With many shooters also looking to sign-in before going to shoot, you need to be ready with what you want to play and how you want your money to be delegated. Do you want to play the “optional purse” or “Lewis Class”? Explanations of these games are given in the glossary at the end of this and shooters should be aware that you are not required to play any of the side games unless you so desire. They will add some additional cost for the shoot to you but may be a bet you’re willing to take.

Finally... once you’re at a shoot and all signed-in, just sit back and enjoy the experience. You’ll meet lots of nice folks who enjoy the game as much as you do and who will be more than willing to sit down and discuss whatever  points to the game you still don’t understand. Then when it’s time for you to shoot, you’ll be prepared, ready, and able to do the best you’re capable of doing... but always with future room for improvement.

Have fun, shoot well, and remember that we take our turn on station following some great legends of the game that came before us. Live up to their standards and you’ll go far in the game of competitive skeet shooting.

NOTE: This page is incomplete and is a work in progress. If you’d like to contribute suggestions for topics to be included, simply contact the web site through the email address in the bottom right corner of this page.http://www.mynssa.comhttp://www.mynssa.com/CMS/NSSADisplayPage.aspx?ContentID=75&PageTitle=2008%20Ruleshttp://www.mynssa.comhttp://www.mynssa.com/CMS/NSSADisplayPage.aspx?ContentID=75&PageTitle=2008%20Rulesshapeimage_4_link_0shapeimage_4_link_1shapeimage_4_link_2shapeimage_4_link_3
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