A Typical USPSA Stage
Are you wanting to shoot a competitive pistol match, but don’t know what to expect? Well, let me tell you. You can expect to be a bundle of nerves, but you’re going to have fun; you’ll learn a lot from experience and from talking with other shooters, and you’ll make new acquaintances.
What do you need to shoot a competitive pistol match? You will need a safe and reliable handgun that qualifies in one of the approved divisions; a good quality gun belt and a holster that covers the trigger guard of your firearm; magazines pouches or speed loader pouches; at least 3 magazine or speed loaders, but 4 or 5 is best; eye and hearing protection; 150 – 200 rounds of ammunition, depending on the organization. If you don’t have a range bag, you might want to pick one up and stock it.
Depending on which organization you’re shooting in, you’ll have to decide what division you will be shooting in. Read through the organization rules for the differences between the divisions. If you’re registering at the range, you can also talk with the Match Director as to which division would best suit you. USPSA, IDPA, and GSSF are some of the bigger organizations.
Our range (and most others from what I understand) is a cold range, meaning there is no handling of firearms outside the holster except in designated areas. One of these is the “SAFE AREA”. This is a designated area where you can take the gun out of a bag or gun rug. You can "dry fire," rack the slide, perform minor repairs, etc., provided the gun remains unloaded. You cannot load the gun or in any way handle ammunition in a safe area. While you can be wearing ammo on your belt, you cannot touch or load magazines in the Safe Area. So when you arrive at the range, if you normally carry a firearm or if you’re wearing your competition firearm, you’ll need to make sure it’s unloaded before entering the range.
The old salts don't mind helping the newbs
For your first match, it’s best if you can arrange to go with a friend that has shot a match at this particular club before. If you can’t, have no fear, these are some of the most friendly people. You just have to be brave enough to ask questions. Everybody was a new shooter at some point. The best thing I found was to get to the range early to help set up. This lets you break the ice with the Match Director and identify yourself as a new shooter, and it introduces you to some of the other shooters.
In part 2 we’ll pick up at registration.