As noted in my 2016 Training Goals article here, I have had some interest in entering the competitive shooting world, most likely IDPA. My primary motivation for doing so is not because I want to win or even believe I would excel in any way. Instead, I would look at it as an opportunity to get extra repetitions shooting in ways that I cannot at the basic indoor ranges I frequent. I would not look at something like IDPA as “tactical training”, but simply a chance to get extra practice on shooting around obstacles, weapons manipulations, etc. Hopefully, a natural competitive spirit found in each of us would rear its head, putting some pressure to perform upon me.
Having never attended any type of competitive shooting match, I contacted an acquaintance of mine, Rick, who I knew from previous conversations shoots fairly regularly in a variety of shooting sports. Due to prior commitments, I was unable to see him shoot in a nearby IDPA match, but I was able to meet up with him to watch him shoot a multi-gun (3-gun) match fairly close to my home.
I met up with Rick at the range facility just prior to the pre-match briefing. We had enough time for Rick to walk me through the first of the seven stages he would be shooting that day. The match was scheduled for two days and I only planned to stay for a few hours on the first day to “get a feel for it”. Under my self-imposed time restrictions, I spent most of my time with Rick but did wander off a few times to watch different participants shoot all of the other stages as well. What follows are some observations I made throughout the day:
1. Everyone I met was very nice. There were, I believe, 84 competitors on this first day of the match, divided into 7 squads of 12 that would rotate through the seven stages. I did not talk to a large number of people, but everyone I spoke to was cordial. No one questioned why I seemed to be the only person walking around without a gun belt, holster, etc. I would say most of the competitors were men, but there were a fair number of women competitors as well. This also seemed to be a “family event” for many, and there were a number of teens/pre-teens wandering about.
2. Multi- or three-gun seems to be a very “gear-oriented” shooting sport. First of all, of the 84 competitors, most seemed to have AR-15s of one type or another (I did see one Tavor). Most were equipped with lower power variable scopes (1-6x or 1-8x). Many had bull or HBAR-style barrels, and muzzle brakes were almost universal (and LOUD!). Likewise, though I saw a few Remington 1100 or 1187 shotguns, I would say most of the shotguns I looked at closely said Beretta or Benelli on the side of their receivers. Long barrels and even longer magazine tubes were universal, and fiber optic front sights were almost universal. For pistols, the Glock 34 and 1911 were probably most commonly seen in holsters (many of them fairly well tricked-out in terms of finish, grips, etc.), but I saw a smattering of M&Ps, CZs, and even at least one FN FNS longslide.
Likewise, every competitor seemed to have his or her personal, somewhat unique, “answer” for reloads and such. Chest rigs and belt caddies of shotgun shells abounded. There were also plenty of extended pistol magazines, AR magazine couplers, shorter AR magazines for shooting from certain positions, and all manner of other “shortcuts to success”.
3. Due to the walking distances involved between some of the stages as well as the amount of gear each competitor needed (multiple firearms, ammunition, water, and many other personal comfort items), virtually everyone had a small cart to carry everything. Although a few people, like Rick, just used a simple four wheeled wagon, by far the most common conveyances for these items were repurposed 3 wheeled jogging strollers (see below)! Equipped with clamps so that the long guns pointed down toward the ground (they therefore did not need to be cased moving between stages), the shooters could quickly mount them to the strollers and then move to the next stage. Ingenious, really, and I imagine a lot of these types of strollers sold at yard sales and such end up so equipped.
4. Safety was emphasized throughout. Chamber flags were utilized to verify empty chambers, and penalties for safety violations were spelled out at the pre-match briefing. In short: if you screwed up with safety, you would be handed your walking papers.
5. I have often heard the expression as it relates to competitive shooting “plan your shoot and shoot your plan.” After arriving at each stage and given the instructions for that stage, the competitors were given approximately ten minutes to collectively walk the stage in order to “plan their shoot.” Because some targets were hidden from view from the start line, it was important to walk the “route” in order to identify them and figure out at what point they would be able to be engaged. It was cool to walk with Rick a bit and see his thought processes.
6. In terms of skills, there was a good mix. Some of the competitors could downright blaze with all three firearms. Others clearly were stronger on some guns than others. I tried to imagine myself running some of the courses of fire and I definitely would have had some struggles, particularly on the handful of moving targets that I do not have a lot of experience shooting. I also saw some “rookie” mistakes, such as one competitor reloading his AR on a closed bolt without the “push-pull” taught by virtually every “tactical” instructor. The result was an all too predictable firing of one round as the unseated, full magazine fell out of the magazine well. Better to learn that lesson in competition than when lives depend on it.
Overall, I had a good time over the four hours I spent at the match. In some ways, the general feel reminded me of the first time I competed in a mountain bike race, with people all geared up and trying to stay loose, the banners and flags for different companies hanging about, etc. Certainly, it would have been more enjoyable had I been shooting, but that wasn’t really the point of my visit.
Do I plan to shoot multi-gun? At this point, I would say no. While I could potentially compete with my AR with a 1-4x scope and a pump action shotgun, I would be SO severely handicapped by my gear that I would have virtually no hope of doing well. I could compete just to do it, I suppose (I met one Range Officer who told me he shoots multi-gun with a 1963 SKS and a Mossberg 500, so clearly it’s possible), but at this point I probably will not, and will continue to keep my main focus on the pistol. After talking with Rick, I plan to join IDPA and then keep an eye out for a classifier I can shoot relatively close to home. If this ball gets rolling, readers can expect future blog articles on that topic.
As always, thanks for reading. Are you a competitive shooter? What have your experiences been? Please feel free to share below.