Ask shooters why they got into precision rifle shooting and you’ll hear a myriad of answers. Some might point to the challenge that long-range shooting presents. Others point to the exhilaration of hearing the steel targets ring upon impact. While these are all good reasons, if you ask Gary Larson, founder of the Guardian Long Range Competition (GLRC), you’ll get a much different answer—one that is undeniably more compelling.
To understand why Guardian Long Range is such an amazing organization, you must first understand Larson’s story. It’s not one you’ll typically hear in the shooting community, but it’s still a horrific reality for many. As a child, he was the victim of neglect and abuse at the hands of his birth mother.
By the age of 12, was placed into the foster care system. It goes without saying that this was a less-than-ideal scenario for any young individual. He eventually made poor decisions as a teenager. This in turn meant Larson was moved from place to place in foster care, without any real home. Instead, temporary housing was the norm, and he could be moved once again at any time.
After several years, when Larson was about to age out of the system and risk homelessness or jail, a caseworker decided to adopt him; this gave him the stability and support he needed for adulthood. And now he’s all about giving back.
Guardian Long Range: On a Mission
Every GLRC match raises money for foster children. The proceeds from entry fees, raffle tickets and merchandise sold at the events and online all go to charity. Larson even sees the organization as a form of ministry, fueled by his deep-rooted faith and belief in taking care of those who are less fortunate. That’s why you’ll see “Psalm 82:3” in the GLRC logo. It reads: “Defend the poor and the fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” This is the core purpose of these competitions.
These matches are “for the kids,” always. The GLRC gives shooters of all experience levels the chance to come together and enjoy a favorite pastime with the purpose of helping others. It also removes the focus from the individual shooter’s performance. The funds that are appropriated “offset the financial cost for parents considering adoption or foster care.”
But there’s more to the story. As a kid moving from place to place, Larson experienced an emptiness that stemmed from the lack of a permanent home. In fact, he never had a key to any home he lived in. But the caseworker that adopted Larson changed all that. It gave him the permanence he longed for and solidified his position in his “forever family” with a key to their home. That’s why every GLRC trophy is shaped like a key.
The Atmosphere at Guardian Long Range Competitions
As a former high school and collegiate athlete, I fully understand what competition is all about. While it has its positive aspects, it also has some negatives. In fact, few things can ruin an enjoyable, lighthearted activity like sprinkling in a competitive ingredient, no matter how slight.
Many a date night has become a somber pout session by men and women alike, friendships have been strained, and regretful statements spewed in the spirit of competition. As a fierce competitor myself, it’s difficult for me to “have fun” and compete; my cranial processor can’t handle the polarity. It’s one of the reasons I don’t compete in rifle matches, or any competition, at this point in my life.
Amazingly, the GLRC match I attended had a character like none I’ve ever experienced in the shooting world. It’s truly an atmosphere of camaraderie, fun and helpfulness that is rarely seen when several individuals come together to participate in the same activity. In fact, there’s a relatively strict yet unwritten rule that if you bring a bad attitude to one of the competitions, you’ll be asked to leave.
As you move about the venue of any GLRC match, you’ll find shooters from all walks of life, genders, races and experience levels. New and less-experienced shooters are more than welcome at these matches. I doubt you’ll find a more encouraging environment to learn and hone your precision shooting skills. Everyone is extremely helpful and supportive, whether it’s handing you their rifle or other gear to compete with, offering up helpful tips or guiding you through a course of fire. The energy is hard to explain, and it feels completely genuine.
As you might expect, the GLRC has a long list of sponsors, with names both big and small. One of the top sponsors is McMillan, which has been engaged with the organization since its inception. And as many have come to expect at rifle matches, there is a massive prize table for the competitors. All of the prizes here, including complete rifles, stocks, ammo, optics, suppressors and reloading equipment, have been donated.
It doesn’t matter how well you place at a GLRC match, because the prizes are raffled and attendees can buy as many tickets as they want. Because of the cause, these events tend to draw people willing to buy a lot of raffle tickets at once. Some might even pay $500 for, say, a baseball cap, because it’s a raffle and the prizes aren’t the point. Those who compete are also recognized and given prizes for their efforts during the match. They might be rewarded for their positive attitude or trying something new. And when such individuals are recognized, the room erupts with applause and support—the way it truly should be.
Another interesting aspect of the match I attended is that on the second day, the first-place competitor was matched with whoever was in last place. This creates an atmosphere of inclusiveness and gives shooters who aren’t performing well a way to shoot with and learn from someone at a higher level. It also gives the higher performer a chance to teach and mentor. It’s simply genius.
So what is to come for the GLRC? Larson is in the process of finalizing the organization’s non-profit status. Once that is completed, it will be able to accomplish more without certain challenges.
Long-range shooting often comes across as an individual sport. You alone are responsible for your safety and performance, not to mention your learning, development and level of involvement. In this, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on yourself. This is one reason why the GLRC is necessary. It’s difficult to come in as an individual and get involved without coming away feeling that there is more to all of this—more meaning and purpose in our lives, even when it comes to pressing triggers and burning rounds.
Only the most hardened, oblivious and self-centered of individuals could not be positively motivated by the GLRC experience, especially after hearing the heart-wrenching childhood accounts of Larson. Many watery eyes accompanied his time in front of the competitors, giving the hows and whys of the GLRC and thanking everyone for their support. Even as I type, it’s hard to recall the impact without feeling something.
If you’ve ever wanted to shoot in a PRS-style match and are new to it, I can’t think of a better organization with which to start your journey. You will be welcomed and encouraged at every turn. If you’re seasoned and want to help and encourage other shooters while you compete, this a great place for you. But I warn you, if you don’t want to be moved by something greater while you shoot and know that your time and money spent on “gun stuff” can actually help others, then you should avoid the GLRC—because that’s exactly what will happen. In fact, I signed up for more matches. For even more info on Guardian Long Range, please visit guardianlongrange.com.