I like it when I achieve goals. Long-time readers of the blog may recall my 2016 Training Goals article. In it, among the goals I outlined were to explore competitive shooting in 2016, most likely IDPA. I have finally begun this journey.
The closest location to me that has regular club matches (several per month) is about an hour away. Before shooting at a sanctioned match, however, prospective competitors must complete a roughly three-hour long safety training program. Many (most?) facilities that host IDPA matches do not do this, but this club does so mainly because the setup of their ranges/pistol bays bring with them some unique challenges when it comes to shooting these types of matches.
There are two main issues that arise at this club when trying to shoot in these types of matches. The first is the relatively low height of the back berm. The berm looked to be no more than 10 or 12 feet in height. Because of this, and the fact that the club sits within a mostly residential area, the club is unwilling to have shooters lose rounds over the berm. Their solution, not surprisingly, is that the pistol must be kept pretty much no higher than parallel to the ground. Competitors will receive a verbal “muzzle” warning if their pistols point too high. Do it a second time, and it is a match disqualification. This will probably be an issue for me because I tend to reload the way pretty much EVERY “tactical” instructor teaches it: bring arm in until elbow touches ribs, with muzzle pointed up at about 45 degrees with the open magazine well pointed toward your pouches. If I do this, it’s a DQ. So I’ll have some “unlearning” to do (see “NOTE” below).
The second issue at this particular facility is that the pistol pits are separated by nothing more than sheets of plywood. This means that your muzzle can never really point towards the sides; only as far as orange cones placed at the far edges of the dirt berm in the downrange direction. Depending on the setup of targets for a particular stage, this could get dicey, and could also be an issue when performing some pistol manipulations.
(NOTE: I will address in a future article, once I begin competing, how I feel about “doing things differently” for competition, such as my manipulations, draw position [I’ll be drawing from 3:00 as opposed to from my usual appendix position], etc.)
The safety class was very good. In addition to pointing out all of the nuances of the range, the instructor also showed us the “safe area” (the only area where pistols can be handled off the line), location of medical kits and A.E.D., and the location of extra water and the importance of hydration. In addition to the safety concerns, we also got to watch portions of the match that was taking place and look at how the stages are set up, scored, the ranges policed afterwards, etc. There was also a classroom portion where he showed us useful gear to have (spare parts, cleaning/maintenance gear, boo boo kit), good vs. bad holsters, etc. He also provided a step by step look at how a stage gets shot, from the “load and make ready” command, through the start beep, how to draw properly, emergency reloads, reloads with retention, shooting around cover, etc.
We then got our guns (I brought my Glock 19), showed clear, and the instructor had us shoot some made up stages in dryfire only. He put us through three or four scenarios, each of which got more complex, eventually adding movement and reloads into the dry drills.
All in all, though some of the material was remedial for me (I know what the qualities of a good holster are), I also learned a lot about what will be expected of me when it is time to compete.
My Fellow Students
My safety class had 5 other students, and I would describe four of them as soup sandwiches. Sorry guys, but that’s the truth. Now, I’m not mocking these guys at all. I realize everyone has to start somewhere. I just fear that someone, at some point, told these guys that they should buy a pistol “for protection, and then go shoot some IDPA and you’ll be all set.”
Gear-wise, I saw plenty of subpar equipment, including thin leather dress belts holding up their suspect holsters, a Taurus pistol, and, in some cases, no magazine pouches. Ear protection was also less-than-ideal; myself and one other student were the only ones with electronic ear protection, providing safety while also allowing us to easily hear range commands. Skill-wise, it was abundantly clear that at least three of these guys had never drawn from a holster from concealment before. I can’t even begin to describe what some of the drawstrokes looked like, but they were bad. At least two of the students lacked full knowledge of how their pistols functioned in terms of safeties and decockers (both trying to holster DA/SA pistols with the hammers cocked!). I also saw one student—a security guard of some sort by trade—dry firing through his “stage” with his weakside thumb positioned BEHIND the slide of his Glock.
I have said again and again on this blog how my journey is not—and never really will be—complete. Indeed, I’m expanding my horizons by trying out some competitive shooting, mainly as a way to get some non-square range practice. Having said that, I think my fellow students would have benefitted from my article on taking your first firearms class, as some of them seem to have skipped some steps. Though the article is not geared toward competition (since I’m just now starting this myself), it has some relevant points. I still consider myself novice-esque when it comes to all of this stuff, but these students made me look like a Master Class shooter.
If all goes well with scheduling and such, I should be shooting my first club match in about two weeks. I am definitely looking forward to it. In the interim, I plan to work on my muzzle down-ish reloads, as it would really suck to get a DQ in my first match! Obviously, once the IDPA train gets rolling, you can expect to see some of my thoughts about it here on the blog. I am under no illusions about cranking out tremendous scores or anything like that, especially in the early going (if ever). As noted, I’m just looking forward to meeting some people and getting a different type of practice. If I also happen to do well, then that will just be a bonus.
Wish me luck!