“I bought a pistol at a local gun shop, and the guys who worked there shot IPSC,” he says. “They had just returned from the IPSC World Shoot, and they were telling me how they were jumping out of cars and shooting targets, going through tunnels, climbing walls, typical IPSC stuff of that era. I was 17 at the time and thought that sounded pretty awesome.”
After borrowing a holster and magazine pouches, Koenig went to his first action pistol match. It was 18 degrees and snowing, but he loved it, and was hooked. He started practicing more and more, and pretty soon started winning. “I never did it because I wanted to get good and beat everybody,” he says. “I was just having a blast.”
Koenig soon came to the attention of sponsors as well and found himself in an unexpected but enjoyable situation—sponsors offering him gear to do what he was going to do anyway. At first it was free eye protection, then guns, and before he knew it he was shooting for a living.
Twenty-three years later he’s still winning, and as part of Team Smith & Wesson Doug Koenig knows just how important sponsors are to the sport. But unlike many professional shooters who specialize in one discipline, Koenig does just about everything, and does it well.
Koenig has won the accuracy-intensive Bianchi Cup 10 times and was the first person to post a perfect score at that match. He has won the speed-intensive Steel Challenge three times, the Masters International Championship 14 times and is an IPSC World Champion. It would almost be easier to list the titles he hasn’t won. So does he have a favorite shooting sport? Not really.
“I like them all because I can dedicate a certain amount of time to each one of them and then it’s like starting over,” he says. “If I just shot Bianchi all year long, I think it would take the enjoyment away. The same with Steel Challenge, or IPSC. I don’t think I’d be real happy stuck on one.”
To what does Koenig attribute his success? No secret there: practice, practice, and more practice.
“I don’t do a lot of dry-firing right now, but in the beginning that’s all I could afford to do. The only time I really dry-fire now is when I’m getting ready for the Steel Challenge where I have to do a lot of draws. At 42 years old, I just can’t do 0.8-second draws cold turkey. I’ve got to get the joints lubed up a little bit.”
He recommends dry-firing not only because it allows shooters to practice the fundamentals at home but because he realizes how busy we’ve all become. “From a competitive standpoint or even for concealed carry, dry-firing lets you make sure you have your holster set up right,” Koenig says. “You can work on your draw, sight alignment, and trigger control. Don’t do that at the range. When you go to the range, you want to be shooting, because your time at the range is limited.”
Staying in top form requires constant work, and when he relocated a while ago Koenig had an opportunity to pay for his own private range at a local club. He took it, and is glad he did. “It cost me three times as much as the estimate, but I don’t know how you could be a pro and not have your own spot to shoot. It’d be like being a lawyer and not having an office. How do you function, how do you work? That range is my office.”
How does he stay motivated after 23 years in the business? It’s tough. “You need a little extra stimulation, as it’s a self-motivating sport,” he says. “My son just turned twelve, and he’s shooting Steel Challenge now. Taking him to the range and teaching him what he’s supposed to be doing is fun.”
Koenig has also signed on with Sportsman Channel for Doug Koenig’s Championship Season. He’ll be providing shooting and technical tips, and the cameras will also follow him around the competition circuit. That’s one way to stay motivated.