Aside from the fact that my wife and I have elderly parents, we are not concerned about Covid-19, the “Coronavirus.” Physical distancing, self-quarantine and limited social gatherings are something I’ve prepared for during my adult life. But how is this affecting our shooting community? After all, matches are typically gatherings of more than 50 people, which exceeds the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) maximum of “10.”
So far, four gun-related conferences I was scheduled to attend have been cancelled to include the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. Any matches I planned on shoot this season take place later this year, but what’s going on now? During this time of year, many popular matches are on the west side of the country in warmer locations where viral spread is thought to be mitigated by the sun. With restrictions on travel and quarantine changing daily, I turned to friends in the firearms community for more insight.
Local matches are being cancelled, but the major matches being shut down pose a logistical nightmare. Many shooters are not willing to take chances and travel, which goes against what we’ve been asked to do as Americans. Getting sick doesn’t scare most healthy competitors but bringing it home or being quarantined away from home for 14 days is enough to keep anyone away.
Ammunition concerns are also prevalent. Availability and prices are a hot topic with many who practice or compete. Competitor Tim Quirarte told me, “I don't reload anything, so I'm extremely limited on match and practice ammo since everyone and their grandpa is buying it. I'm sure the prices are going up, too.”
Not suffering from the ammo pinch myself, I stepped out into the world to investigate and found that he’s right. Ammunition is getting scare and prices are reflecting that.
Long-time friend and professional shooter Travis Gibson was first to enlighten me on the match scene. “I’d say most competition shooters are prepared enough that the ammo shortage doesn’t affect them much. Match directors were proactive and shut down matches ahead of time. That’s the responsible way to do things. While some will be upset that the match gets canceled, not offering refunds to people affected by this situation is not cool at all.”
“No refunds” is a pretty stiff policy for shooters who’ve invested a lot in travel and are now trying be obedient citizens. Major match fees aren’t inexpensive. They can range from the low $200’s to more than $400 depending on popularity. I understand that there are costs associated with setting up and running a match, but with the CDC’s directives against gatherings of 10 or more people, why shouldn’t fees be refunded?
Many shooters vet their skills in competition. So how do you make up for all the lost trigger time? Pro shooters shoot a lot, and there are many locals who rely on monthly events to stay tuned up. With mass gatherings on the back burner until the G-men give us an “all clear,” there aren’t a lot of options.
World shooter Brian Nelson summed it up best for me with a heartfelt and pragmatic response:
“I personally planned on not traveling to any of the matches I’d registered for once I realized the danger of Coronavirus. There are about a dozen people I have daily contact with who’d be at serious risk of dying from it. I plan on using the downtime to practice at home with airsoft, on outdoor multi-bay ranges or public lands where I can shoot alone.” To me, this sounds like sage advice from such a competent young man.