Doug Koenig is one of the phenoms in the competitive shooting sports. His remarkable abilities with a handgun over the past 30-plus years have earned him an incredible list of championships and accolades, and even his own television show. But, at heart, Koenig says he’s a “homebody” who enjoys simply playing or going to football games with his kids or going to movies.
Though Koenig and his three brothers would shoot a lot growing up, Koenig says he took it upon himself to get started in the shooting sports.
“I always had kind of an attraction to guns, and luckily had parents who, I mean, weren’t big shooters or hunters, but they facilitated,” he says, explaining how he talked his dad into buying a handgun from Behlert Precision in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. “Behlert did competition guns and stuff, and that’s who kind of got me into competitive shooting,” explains Koenig. “They invited me to a match. It was a local match. That was in March 1986, and here I am, 31 years later, still doing it,” he says of the simple gesture that launched an incredible career.
Camaraderie Seals the Deal
Though Koenig’s family shot rifles and shotguns and did some hunting, he was specifically drawn to pistols. “I just got hooked,” he says, “and what I think I got hooked on was it gave me, competitive shooting at the time, gave me the same feeling and camaraderie I had at hunting camp, except I could do it every weekend instead of a couple of months out of the year.”
For Koenig, it really wasn’t about competing, though. Once he started shooting every weekend, the same six to 12 guys would travel together or show up at some of the same matches and squad together. After shooting, they would go out to eat together. “You had that whole thing going, the social part of it, and then just the competition itself and getting that adrenaline and getting to shoot and be around the guns,” he says of the continuing allure of the shooting sports.
Shooting Sports All Year Long
Though he gravitated toward handguns, Koenig’s first firearm was a Marlin 336 in .30-30 Winchester. Today, his favorite platform is the 1911 pistol. “If I could only have one gun, it would be a 1911 pistol,” he says. “I don’t have a specific favorite one. I’ve got lots, and I’m working on some stuff for Ruger that is going to be a signature gun of mine and it’s going to be a 1911.”
As tough as it is for Koenig to choose a favorite 1911, he has an even harder time trying to pin down one specific shooting sport he loves the most.
“That’s a tough question, because I love all the shooting sports that I do, and I think the reason I love them all is because I get to shoot them all at different times of the year,” he says. In addition to handgun sports such as Bianchi Cup and USPSA where he’s a champion, Koenig also loves shooting sporting clays and says recently he has been shooting some precision long-range rifle.
“I love shooting and running the Sportsman’s Team Challenge,” he adds. “They’re all completely different, and they are all at different times of the year.”
Though experienced in many shooting sports, one that is still on Koenig’s bucket list is to shoot at Camp Perry. “I’d like to do that one time before I hang it up,” he says.
How Can You Not Love to Shoot?
Given his experience, there are two things that surprise Koenig about the shooting sports — one good, the other not so much. On the good side, Koenig likes the fact that good sportsmanship is simply in the DNA of shooters, and how ready they are to help each other.
“Everybody in the shooting sports is always so helpful, ready to lend you equipment, to give you advice, tell you exactly what they’re trying to do. There’s just very little negativity. They’re just open. They’re always there to help,” he says of shooters in general, recalling examples from a PRS (Precision Rifle Series) match he had in New Hampshire and a Sportsman’s Team Challenge in Missouri, where competitors were doing such things as sharing equipment and giving each other ammunition. “I mean, whatever it takes, people are there to help, and that just surprises me, even though everyone is there competing against each other.”
On the downside, Koenig doesn’t understand why more people don’t participate in the shooting sports.
“I’ve never taken a person to the range or seen someone at the range shooting for the first time not leave with a smile on their face, so I just don’t know why we can’t recruit more people. That just blows me away,” he says, noting that the shooting sports have given him the opportunity to meet so many great people.
Pro Tips to Take to the Bank
For new or up-and-coming shooters, Koenig offers two pieces of advice. One is to become familiar with how your gun works before going to the range. “All that stuff you’re doing at home so that, when you get that hour to go to the range, you get to shoot and you’re not fiddling with your gear or learning how your gun feels in your hand.”
His other nugget of advice is to “Practice, practice, practice.” While that may sound cliché, he points out that you don’t have to actually put 50,000 rounds a year downrange. “Everyone can dry-fire for free, and reps are reps,” he says. “Recoil is one issue, but learning sight alignment or trigger control — you don’t need to shoot live ammunition to do that. Actually, you’re better to do that dry-fire and get that muscle memory down, then, once you get to the range, it becomes easier.”
Seven Things You May Not Know About Doug Koenig
1. Koenig is formally trained as a carpenter.
2. He married his high school sweetheart.
3. He eats pasta the night before a match, followed by a couple of eggs and oatmeal for breakfast the next day.
4. He likes to keep things simple and just work hard.
5. He loves being involved with his family.
6. His “dream job” would be to shoot all of his matches at his home club so he could be around his family all of the time.
7. He’d like to own a Barrett .50-caliber semi-auto.