Let's face it… shooting paper can get downright boring and you can only shoot the same piece of steel so many times before you get tired of walking downrange to spruce it up with a fresh coat of paint. Shooting in a competition—regardless of whether it is part of the USPSA, IDPA, NRA High-Power or one of many other countless options—is an excellent way to not only challenge yourself, but also to become a better shooter.
Growing up in my part of the country shooting guns was about as common as buying toilet paper at the grocery store. (Well, maybe not as common in recent months with COVID-19 and the “white rolled gold” hoarders, but you get the point.) The invite to shoot my first match went something like this: “Hey, come shoot a match with me this weekend, I have a gun you can use.” Looking back on it, I don’t think I was even given the option of turning down the invite, but hey, that’s what friends are for…to push you to better yourself!
Well, the next thing I know I find myself holstering up with my buddy's .45 ACP prepping mags that I was told not to drop with ammo in them because we were shooting an IDPA match. (Talk about learning on the fly!) My only goal that morning was to have a safe shoot and not come in last. I’m thankful to report back that not only did I get disqualified—also known as getting DQ’d—I surprisingly did not end up dead last.
The point of that story is, do not be afraid to jump in headfirst. As long as you have a safe shoot, a positive attitude and a willingness to try, you are already heading in the right direction. I would, however, recommend preparing just a little bit more than I did for your first match.
There are a few things you are going to want to research before pulling the trigger (see what I did there?!). First off, take a look at the various competitions out there… IDPA, USPSA, NRA High-Power, Steel Challenge… the list goes on and on, but settling on a competition that interests you most will help narrow down the other decisions you will have to make. Once you settle on the competition you want to take part in, you now have to decide on the type of firearm you plan to use.
The handbook for the particular competition you plan to shoot will break down what is allowed, what is not allowed, and what modifications can be made to a list of eligible firearms. After you settle on a firearm, use the same handbook to determine which ammunition you plan to use, either store-bought or ammunition you plan to reload yourself. On our range day, we used 150gr Syntech Action Pistol 9mm from Federal. Specifically designed with the competition shooter in mind, this round was made to meet the specific power factor requirements of competition. This soft-shooting 9mm made rapid succession shots a breeze when I was whipping through a stage transitioning from target to target.
After you have your gun and ammunition, now comes the part highly enjoyed by many because of the level of customization it allows… gear! You will most likely need a shooting belt, holster and perhaps other accessories depending on which competition you are entering. My go-to holster for shooting USPSA competitions (although they make holsters for any specific need) is one of my custom designed beauties from 3i Holsters. Customization options are endless, as well as affordable, so be sure to keep them in mind for your future holster needs. Of course, there are a few other accessories that would be beneficial, such as a shot timer, targets that you would be using in your respective competition, etc. but the most important thing is to practice, practice, practice!
With all that said, just remember these last few things: You don’t have to be fast. You don’t have to own the fanciest, most expensive equipment available. Heck, you don’t even have to be good. There’s no use in worrying about remembering every last move, because once that buzzer goes off it’ll all go flying out the window anyway. (You’ll understand what I mean by that after your first competition.) The only requirement before shooting your first match—or anything in life for that matter—is just to be safe and have fun… the rest will come all in due time.