Lessons Learned From Shooting The 2013 IDPA Nationals

Published October 24, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, IDPA

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Last month, I had the opportunity to shoot the 2013 IDPA Nationals.  This was my first national competition of any kind, and while I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to compete on a national level, I decided to check both my luggage and my ego to find out how my skills compare to shooters from across the country (and the world).  Not surprisingly, IDPA Nationals turned out to be an amazing experience, full of extremely challenging stages that forced me to find (and go past) the limits of my shooting abilities.  I also met some fantastic people and shared in a healthy dose of good times on and off the range.

Just as important as having a great time, I learned a metric ton of stuff about shooting and traveling to higher level matches by competing in the Nationals.  I learned a lot from watching others, and learned some things the hard way by not being as prepared for things as I could have been.  Here’s a few things I learned that might be helpful to you if you are planning to take your shooting to the next level and compete in a Regional or National Competition.

Fast is Fine, But Accuracy is Everything

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Action pistol shooting is basically an accuracy contest that happens to be timed, and the IDPA Nationals was a true test of accuracy.  There were only a handful of targets that weren’t obstructed by a no-shoot or some type of hard cover, which meant there were lots of opportunities for penalties and points down (each point adds a half second to your time, and you want the lowest time possible).  

I shoot above my weight when it comes to speed, but below it on accuracy.  Shooting several of the stages too fast to make well-placed shots cost me dearly.  For example, on the Standards stage, my times look pretty good, but I gained 14.5 seconds because of poorly placed shots. The lesson here is to take as much time as you need to make a good shot.  While this is always solid advice, it becomes even more important when you’re shooting with the big boys and girls.

Shooting Weather You Like it Or Not

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Unless the weather conditions are too dangerous to shoot in, the show will go on.  The squads that shot on Thursday had to take an extended break due to high winds and lightning, but still dealt with rainy conditions.  Those of us that shot Friday morning ended up getting lucky with the conditions, the threat of rain loomed all day, but never materialized.  The conditions on Friday were still a bit tricky, Thursday’s rain left the grass slick, and contributed to at least one shooter getting DQ’ed for slipping during a stage.

Check the weather conditions before you head to any big match, and bring rain gear, cold gear or whatever you might need to make sure you stay comfortable and safe in any condition.  It’s better to have it and not need it then not have it and need it. 

Life’s Not Fair and neither are some stages 

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Photo by Paul Erhardt

It’s very likely that there will be a stage or two that you will have a problem with for some reason, perhaps you think a stage is set up incorrectly, you have bad knees and have a hard time getting back up, or maybe you’re vertically challenged like me.   Bitching or complaining takes mental energy, and you really don’t have any to spare at a major match.  Let it go and shoot the best you can.

There were a few targets at the match that I saw very little of due to my shortness.  If I had let that get to me, my performance would have suffered (even more than it already did).  During the Air Marshall Stage (pictured at left), I could see very little of the last target.  When I got to that target, I put two nicely placed shots into the 3 points down area of the target, took my 5 second Failure To Neutralize penalty and moved on. 

Shooters are the Best People in the World

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Having the opportunity to meet and hang out with hundreds of people that love and understand the sport is worth the price of admission alone.  I got to spend time with awesome people that I’ve met at previous events and I made several new friends.

I’ve said it 1,000 times before, and I’ll say it again – the shooting community overflows with people that would do just about anything to help you when you’re having any kind of problem.  Before the first stage of the match, I had a Murphy’s Law moment – my electronic ear protection broke.  One of my squad mates saw it happen and immediately offered to lend me a pair (thanks Dustin!).  

The other lesson to be learned here is BRING TWO OF EVERYTHING WITH YOU TO A BIG MATCH.  If you don’t need it, you might be able to help someone else avert disaster.

 Eat your Wheaties

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 IDPA Nationals was 17 stages, shot over 2 days.  Make make sure you have enough fuel to get through each day, and try to keep your blood sugar up throughout the day.  I forgot to do that on Saturday and ended up crashing and burning hard on the last few stages of the match. Stash some high protein snacks in your bag and munch throughout the day (even if you think you don’t need to).

 

 

 

Even though I wasn’t sure I was ready, I’m really glad that I made the decision to shoot the 2013 IDPA Nationals. It was an amazing experience that I won’t soon forget.  I will definitely back next year – this time more prepared and ready to burn it down.  With accurate shots.

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