Chris Tilley has complaints that will sound familiar to many shooters. He works 12 hours a day, Mon¬day through Friday--albeit at his father's shooting range in Raleigh, North Carolina. Between his work schedule and being a relative newlywed, finding time to practice is difficult. "After being at the range for 12 hours," he admits, "all I want to do after work is go home."
Tilley stays quite busy at the family business. "I teach about three classes a day, and they're basic classes--women, children, men who typically haven't shot very much or have never shot. We run the classes on the range and focus on stance, sight alignment, trigger control. The biggest thing, of course, is being safe."
Most likely very few of his students know that Chris Tilley is the youngest person to become a USPSA Grand Master at the age of 14, or the youngest person, at age 21, to win the USPSA national championships. Tilley won it again two years later.
Tilley began his career as an active shooter when his dad bought a shooting range when he was 11. "Before that we just didn't go out that often. I went out on the weekends with my dad sometimes€¦actually, most of the time it was when I was grounded and I had to stay with him," Tilley says with a smile.
It wasn't long before he took up pistol shooting and quickly moved into the competitive realm.
"The first kind of competition I started doing was IDPA, which was just starting the first year I began shooting competition, and that's how I learned about the draw, reloading, those kinds of things."
To learn, Tilley did what a lot of aspiring shooters do: He bought instructional DVDs and watched them endlessly. And he also started going to his dad's range every single day after school.
"One thing that was nice, when you're 13, you don't usually get a lot of compliments on things you do. Normally you're screwing things up. Well, I had not only my dad but other people at these matches telling me I'm doing a good job, and I was beating them. It really gave me a lot of self-confidence as a kid, a lot of motivation to do better and better, because I saw what success brought, how it made people act differently toward me."
It hasn't all been easy for Chris. "There were days when I was so upset with myself that I didn't have the self-control or the patience, whatever it may be. I would say, 'I'm never going to shoot again,'€‰" he says. "I must have quit shooting a thousand times, and I always found myself at the next match."
Tilley unexpectedly found himself a victim of his own single-minded determination. "After I won the national championships, I was sort of depressed because it had been one of my goals for a very long time. When I won, I said to myself, 'Now what do I do?'€‰"
Even though he's a national champion and a "professional shooter," Tilley admits it's a tough way to make a living. "My sponsors give me great gear and lots of support, and I've become friends with many of them, but nobody gives me money," Tilley admits. "By far my biggest sponsor is still my dad."