How to Survive Your First Action Pistol Match

Published July 30, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, IDPA, USPSA

uspsamatch-riosaladoIf you’ve been reading our website for any amount of time, you’ve seen how much fun we all have shooting action pistol matches like IDPA or USPSA. Action pistol (also known as practical pistol) is a ridiculously fun sport, but getting started can be extremely intimidating for both men and women.  I waited almost a year after taking my first training class (that included the basics of USPSA) before shooting my first match because of the anxiety I felt about competing.  You don’t have to wait,  just remember a few basic things, and you’ll be well on your way to having a great time.

Just Do It – If you’re waiting until you’re 100 percent ready, you’ll never shoot a match.  There are a few things that are helpful to know before stepping foot onto the range.  Practice and repetition will make you a competent action pistol shooter, but for now, it’s best to stick to the basics:

  • Focus on the things you can control, like making sure your gun works and your ammo runs, malfunction drills are no fun when you’re competing.  
  • Learn the rules of the range you will be competing at  (hot or cold range, safety areas) before you go, that will save you some time and put you a little more at ease when you step on to the range.  
  • Make sure you know how to safely draw your pistol from a holster before heading to your first match.  This is easily accomplished with dry-fire practice at home (safety first – triple check to make sure your gun and magazines are unloaded first and move your ammo to a different room).
  • Add some reloading practice once you’ve got your draw down (check to make sure there is no ammo in the magazines first).  Don’t worry about your speed, take the time you need to be smooth and steady when pressing the mag button, reaching for your magazine pouch and inserting the new magazine.

Learn the Lingo – There are some basic commands that you can study before shooting your first match.  Make sure to learn the range commands of the sport you’re shooting (IDPA and USPSA commands are slightly different).  Knowing and following these commands will keep you from getting disqualified (it happens, even at big matches), which is the opposite of fun.  Here’s a comparison of the basic IDPA and USPSA range commands, you can also read the current IDPA or USPSA rulebook for definitions and an explanation of the scoring.

128_0187It’s Ok That You’re A Little Freaked Out – Just roll with it.  You’re going to be running around with a gun shooting things that you’ve probably never shot before under the pressure of time,  it’s pretty normal to be uncomfortable with that idea if you’ve never done it before.

You Will Have Bandwidth Issues – There’s only so much space in your brain, and with action pistol shooting, you will quickly fill it up with all the things you need to remember. Despite your best efforts, much of that information will leave your brain as soon as the buzzer goes off (we call it the Red Mist).  The most important thing to remember above all else is to be safe.  Watch your muzzle direction at all times (keep it pointed downrange at all times) and keep your finger off the trigger when you’re not shooting at a target.  Speed and accuracy will come with practice, right now is the time to concentrate on safe gun handling.  You’re going to mess up, don’t stress about it.  I still have my share (and sometimes more) of missed targets and penalties at pretty much every match.

You Will Not Embarrass Yourself – I hear this concern a lot from people thinking about getting started in action shooting sports.  First of all, check your ego at the door, you won’t need it on the range (it’s much more of a hindrance than a help).  Also, hardly anyone is watching you, and if they are, they’re either making sure you’re safe, or they’re looking at the course of fire, trying to figure out their plan of attack.   There’s always a few ways to shoot a stage, and many of us watch to see if we can pick up some clues that we hadn’t thought of.  We were all new to the sport once, and we are very aware of the mental energy it takes to shoot action pistol.  Follow the safety rules and be safe with your gun, and I promise that the other shooters will encourage you and help you out where needed. 

BE SAFE, don’t try to shoot too fast and have fun!

 

 

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