I started shooting competitively when I was about 32 and my son Wyatt was six or seven. I really don’t know if I suggested that he do it or if he asked, but I could see he was much more responsible than most kids his age, so I didn’t mind letting him give it a try. He started out with a 9mm pistol and when we’d go to the range, sometimes he’d ask to shoot, and sometimes he wouldn’t. If this was something he liked doing, I didn’t want to force him into doing it.
I could see that this was a sport that we could do together for a long time, if I didn’t turn into one of those parents that continually forced their child to “be the best”, making him get to the point he hated it. He shot his first sanctioned match when he was seven years old and did a great job. The focus for him at this event was to BE SAFE. He was very safe and all the people we shot with loved having him there and told him he was welcome any time.
As he got a little older and started shooting more, we had a deal. If he did dry fire practice (practice with no ammunition which increases firearm handling skills) three times a week for 15 minutes, I’d reload his ammo and pay for his match fees. If he didn’t practice, he’d load his own ammo and pay for his own match fees. Some weeks he’d practice and some he wouldn’t. He was fine with the deal.
Before long he could see that practice resulted in better match results. He started practicing a LOT and loading his own ammo. The rest is pretty much history. From pistol shooting he moved into 3-Gun competitions (like action pistol shooting but with rifle, pistol, and shotgun). By the time, he was 14 or 15 years old, he was winning junior championships across the United States. By the time he was 16, he was winning national championships overall, not just in the junior division.
As he got a little older, we started doing other things to make sure we didn’t get burnt out. Some of the other activities we do together are fly fishing, snow biking, motocross, and every now and again, he’ll talk me into golfing with him. Golfing is something I’m not great at (Wyatt is good at) so it takes a little arm twisting on his part to get me to go with him, but whatever we’re doing, I’m happy just hanging out with my son.
My father was the one that got me into competitive shooting and when Wyatt was just getting started, we would all shoot a lot of matches together. Not just the three of us, but my wife and mother as well. It really was a “family affair” and I cherish those memories as some of the best in my life. About five years ago, people started asking me when Wyatt was going to start letting me win some matches. I knew the answer was never again! I can honestly say he’s one of the most humble and gracious competitors I’ve ever had the honor of shooting with.
Hopefully one day Wyatt, his son, and I will be able to shoot some matches together.
By Travis Gibson
3-Gun Nation Champion & Father