Gearing up for an IDPA competition

January 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Competition, Equipment, IDPA

We’re big fans of competition as a means of testing yourself and your gear in something that’s more stressful than just punching holes in paper on a shooting range.

If you’ve bought a handgun for self-protection, I recommend shooting it in some form of competition. Massad Ayoob, one of the world’s foremost experts on firearms law, says it best, 

“A shooting competition isn’t a gun fight, but a gun fight is most definitely a shooting competition.” 

And a gun fight is one shooting competition you DEFINITELY want to win. 

You don’t need a lot of special gear beyond what’s needed for everyday concealed carry because an IDPA match is designed to shot with commonly used equipment. I enjoy shooting International Defensive Pistol (IDPA) competitions with my everyday concealed carry gear to see how it works under stressful conditions. I don’t win matches when I do that, but I learn what works and doesn’t work in the real world.

To shoot IDPA an IDPA match, you’ll need: 

  • A good, serviceable holster. Avoid nylon or cheap leather holsters, as they tend to collapse when the gun’s not in them, making them harder to re-holster your gun after you’re done shooting. I recommend a Kydex outside the waistband holster for a first competition holster (or first holster of any kind) because they’re inexpensive, rugged and won’t collapse in on itself after you’ve drawn your gun.
  • Magazine pouches to hold your spare ammo. Typically, you’ll need 3 magazines to shoot an IDPA match: One in the gun loaded to either it’s full capacity or the IDPA limit for your Division, whichever is less and two more for reloads during a course of fire. I use double mag pouches from Blade-Tech and they work just fine.
  • A cover garment. As IDPA is a *defensive* pistol match, it’s designed to mimic concealed carry, and that means keeping your gun and gear concealed as you shoot a match. I prefer to cover my gear like I cover my CCW gun and shoot a match with an untucked t-shirt, but most competitors end up using a dedicated cover garment because it allows for a fast draw and is comfortable to wear during a match. 
  • Eye protection and ear protection. This is a no-brainer. If you own a gun, you need something to protect your hearing and something to protect your eyes from ricochets.
  • A desire to have fun and learn something. I love shooting IDPA, and everyone I’ve taken to a match has loved it as well. 

If you have all that gear, I strongly suggest shooting an IDPA match. You’ll learn more about yourself, your gear and how both of you react to stressful condition than hours on a square range will teach you.

Training with a .22

October 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Competition, Equipment, IDPA, Mindset, Practice, Training

At last week’s IDPA match, it became abundantly clear that I needed some more practice

Because, quite frankly, I sucked. 

I’ve had trigger control problems for quite a while, and they’ve returned to haunt me due to a prolonged absence from shooting earlier this year. Controlling trigger jerk is easy in theory; keep a smooth press backwards from start to BANG, then smoothly let off until the trigger resets. 

That’s the theory. In reality, in middle of a shooting competition, things don’t always happen that way. Consider this simple IDPA stage from last week’s competition 

This is why muscle memory is so important. Because my brain was busy with sorting out the stage procedure, I had little to no bandwidth available for the basics of “aim, breathe, squeeze” required to make an accurate shot. Instead, I had to rely on my body knowing what was the right thing to do because I had repeated it over and over again in practice. 

Which brings me to .22 caliber pistols. 

 .22 is CHEAP. A box of 325 good-quality Federal .22LR rounds is under $20 at the local big-box store, which makes extended training sessions inexpensive and fun, and with the lower recoil of a .22, it’s easier to feel how your finger is moving on the trigger. 

I own a Smith and Wesson M22a with a red dot sight which is a great gun for isolating out trigger movement from the other actions of shooting a pistol. The trigger on it is… adequate. It’s about a 5 lb pull with a good reset, but the break is kind of non-existent, however, because it has a red dot scope on it, I can concentrate on the process of how my finger is moving on the trigger and leave the worry of sight alignment behind me. 

Here’s the results.

Using a .22 for practice

I set up this target at 10 yards and started out the practice session by shooting at the bottom right target and finished it by shooting at the top right target. You can see that as I concentrated more on how I was controlling the trigger, my groups improved until I was dropping them pretty much all inside the bullseye.

Total cost? 50 rounds of .22 and a hour of my time. 

This is why using a .22 for practice make so much sense. Unless you’re flinching or having other issues with recoil, a .22 lets you correct most common shooting problems without breaking the bank. 

Randi Rogers On Getting Your Head In the Competitive Shooting Game

October 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Competition, Mindset, USPSA

Top female action pistol and cowboy action shooter, Randi Rogers is in Las Vegas this week for the 2012 USPSA National Championship, but before she left, she posted some great advice on her website about how to mentally prepare for a shooting competition.

I encourage you to head over to read the whole post, but here’s a quick overview of her suggestions and techniques:

  • Make peace with your current skills
  • Set a goal and a plan
  • Stay positive!
  • Stick to the plan

Whether you’re shooting a local club match or a “big” competition, these techniques are sure to help you improve your shooting performance.

This is Your Brain on Competitive Shooting

January 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Competition, Mindset, USPSA

It’s been about a year and a half since I dove head first into the world of competitive shooting, and while I’m making some progress with my speed and accuracy, there’s something holding me back, and I can’t seem to shake it. I’m no stranger to the stress, anxiety and pressure present when participating in sports (especially since my nature is to be ridiculously competitive), but there is an element of practical pistol shooting that I have never experienced before, and it’s making me look like more like Jerry Lewis than Jerry Miculek when I’m shooting a match.

3 gun Rio Salado 2011
Some call it the Red Mist. My better half has referred to it as bezerker. It is an indiscriminatory and unrelenting force that is laser-focused on sabotaging your performance. Ridiculously clever and devious, it will allow you to build up your confidence just until you step up to the line and into the shooting box. And then the timer goes *beep*, the red mist appears, and all careful planning and strategy disappears as if it never even existed.

If you’ve been watching Top Shot on the History Channel, you may have noticed that the Red Mist makes a cameo appearance in almost every episode. During episode two of season 3, it appeared during the elimination challenge and prematurely knocked my favorite contestant and WOMA home girl, Sara Ahrens, out of the competition.

During Sara’s commentary at the end of the show, she recognized the role the red mist played in her loss when she said, “I’ve had practice in friend and foe targets, it’s just a matter of I’ve never done that next to another person. I’m kind of being overcome by the intensity of the situation.”

Yep, that’s the unmistakable mark of the red mist. It doesn’t just effect your performance on the range, it also leaves a trail of amnesia and dumbfoundedness in its wake, making it that much more difficult to overcome.

So, is it possible to defeat the Red Mist, and if so, what’s the secret? Watching shooting greats like the Leatham’s and the Miculek’s make it pretty darn obvious that it can be overcome, but how does a mere mortal like me fend off this unwelcome creature that has the power to take over my brain at will?

I recently had the opportunity to ask World Championship competitive shooter, and all-around awesome woman, Eva Micklethwaite how she deals with the pressure and anxiety that builds up when she’s competing in a big match. Eva was kind enough to explain to me what she did to conquer the Red Mist when she found herself a bit “freaked out” by one of the stages at the recent USPSA Area 3 match:

It’s the preparation I do BEFORE I even step on the range that helps me with that. At this particular stage, though, I told myself to take your time and get through it. Don’t rush it, stay focused, and be patient with myself and the trigger. Basically a mental talk off the ledge. Once the buzzer goes off, instinct kicks in as well.

Experience helps a lot, you’ll get there. Mental strength is also a BIG part of this game. And if all else fails….breathe!

Looks like I’ve got some dues to pay to the Red Mist. If you’re looking for me, check the local ranges. I’ll be the one trying to reload my left thumb into the magazine well.

Reprinted with permission of


Run and Gun, Fun Gun

January 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Carry, Competition, Practice

Mz. VRWC from Great Satan Inc. got a a nice shot of her beau RO’ing me in tonight’s Carbine/Shotgun match at Phoenix Rod and Gun Club.

Proof that even the slowest of shooters will look fast if you drag the shutter speed enough…

Reprinted with permission from Misfires & Light Strikes