How should I train/prepare for my first match?
Free intro Class
If you can please attend the USPSA intro offered by the club for FREE at the beginning of each season.
Draw & Presentation Practice:
Practice using your holster BEFORE coming to the range! Especially if you have purchased a new holster to use for matches, you should be very familiar with it through practice. You'll want to practice not only your draw, but reholstering safely as well. Be sure you can draw your holster and begin shooting from various starting positions, smoothly and safely! And if you're practicing for a USPSA match, don't neglect practicing your reloads as well! Be sure you have your gear set up so you can comfortably reach your extra magazines on your belt. Simulate firing a shot, drop the magazine from your gun on the floor while reaching for the next magazine, then "look" that magazine into your magwell right in front of your chest. YES we drop our magazines on the run right on the ground and pick them up after we've shot the stage, so DON'T practice retaining your spent magazine as you might in a tactical training scenario!
Safety, Safety, Safety!
At your first match, SAFETY is the #1 priority and its advisable to not worry about speed at all, focus on doing everything smoothly and safely. Speed will come with time and experience. The main safety issues to work on during your draw and reholstering are: 1) Keep your finger outside the trigger guard, and 2) Don't sweep any part of your body with the muzzle at any time, including your support hand & arm.
Live Shooting Practice:
You should have enough live range training to feel comfortable shooting your gun, handling it's recoil, firing multiple followup shots, transitioning from target-to-target, and reloading. You'll also want to be comfortable clearing jams or other malfunctions on your particular gun.
Make sure to review and re-review the match safety procedures!
Make special note of the “Safety Tables” being the only place on the range where you can take your pistol out of it’s case and insert it into your holster. Once it’s in the holster, it must stay there, unloaded, until you are on a stage and are the current shooter called to the line and told to “Make Ready” by the RO. Otherwise, the unloaded gun must stay in the holster at all times. If you need to take it out to tinker with it or something you must return to one of the 3 Safety Tables to do so. You can handle ammunition (load mags) anywhere on the range EXCEPT the safety tables. You’re welcome to load up your mags at home first so you can start your first stage without having to worry about it. Loaded mags can be placed in your belt-mounted magazine carriers and transported around the range with no problem. If you have loaded magazines on your belt while you’re at a Safety Table, that’s fine, just make sure you don’t touch or handled the loaded magazines in that area.
Goals for your first match:
– Don’t get Disqualified (DQ’d)
– Have fun!
– Learn what your weakest points are as a competition shooter so you can prioritize future training goals
– Plan to finish last and be happy with that
As for Goal #1, the most common DQ offenses at a USPSA match for a new shooter are primarily one of three things:
(1) Breaking the 180-degree rule. This is an imaginary plane from your body perpendicular to the back of the shooting area (berm), at no time ever can the muzzle of your gun be pointed in any direction behind that 180 degree plane. The most common times this happens is when moving, especially laterally in the direction of your support arm, and/or when reloading. Always be aware of where your muzzle is pointed, and as a new shooter is a great idea to proceed slowly and cautiously through the stages in your first match so you don’t “rush” into making a mistake.
(2) Placing your finger inside the trigger guard (or even worse, on the trigger) before your sights are lined up at a target you intend to shoot. Be especially vigilant about finger placement during reloading and holstering. Practice keeping your trigger finger indexed against the slide all the time when you’re not actively aimed at, and ready to shoot at, a target. This is another great application for dry-fire practice at home. Practice drawing and holstering without having your finger inside the trigger guard. Also practice simulated shooting and then moving to a different position to shoot again, and keeping your trigger finger indexed against the frame/slide while moving.
(3) Sweeping your body with the muzzle of your gun. Always be aware of where the muzzle is pointed, and ensure that it never crosses any part of your body, including your hands/arms and feet/legs. There is an exception to this rule when holstering or drawing from the holster where the muzzle will naturally sweep the lower body but any other time if the muzzle crosses any part of your body that is a DQ offense. This includes your support arm and hand, keep that arm away from the muzzle!
I’m ready to get started, what should I do next?
We have several opportunities for new shooters, and there are multiple ways to get started. We have periodic practice days for new shooters at the range, If it works out to attend one of those before shooting your first match, that’s great, but if not you shouldn’t let that stop you from participating. We have a new shooter briefing before every match specifically for those who are shooting their first match, which is at 8:45 a.m. As a new shooter, you will let your squad Range Officer know that you’re new, and they will rotate you down in the shooting order so you can watch the others in the squad shoot first before it’s your turn.
If you’d like to observe a match before you participate yourself, that’s a great way to get a feel for it and you’re welcome to do so, all matches are open to the public, just make sure you bring eye and ear protection. For spectators, if you can be there by 8:45 that would be ideal as you could attend the New Shooter’s Meeting to hear the orientation details, and then watch the start of the match. The matches run from 10:00 a.m. until approximately 2:00 p.m., and you’re welcome to come any time as a spectator. There is no formal setup at the matches, you are free to wander around as a spectator and watch any of the different squads who are shooting, and feel free to ask any questions, everyone is more than happy to help out potential new competitors.