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First match experience – How to start shooting competitions

If you're nervous about shooting your first match, remember that EVERYONE had to shoot their first match at one point... 

Once you get past that first match it will become familiar fast, but how do you get over that initial step??

Here are 10 tips to help get you started:

Be sure to check out my latest video where I show Kyle, a new competitor, the ropes of his first-ever USPSA match. 

  1. Get on PractiScore. Once you create a free account you can search for matches in your area. If you have questions on the types of matches, don't hesitate to reach out! You will also go back to PractiScore to see how you finished and track your progress.
  2. Show up! You don't have to shoot the first match you go to, just show up and watch... it's a great way to make connections. Bring your eye and ear protection and check in at the registration are to see if there is a waiver you need to sign. Most competitors are eager to get more people to shoot (after all, the more shooters, the more matches can happen)... Many competitors would be more than happy to take you under their wing to show you the ropes. 
  3. Get your gear in order. Most people boot-strap their first match. If you have a buddy who shoots competitions, ask if he has any older gear that he can lend you for the match. All you really need to get started is a quality holster (no cloth or leather holsters), and a couple of magazine pouches. From there you can look around and upgrade to a competition belt, mag pouches, and all the other cool gear that your heart desires.
  4. Know the rules. Competition and range rules are important, and knowledge is power. The most important rules to know are gun handling (next tip), understanding the 180, and moving safely while shooting the course of fire. Simply put, keep the muzzle pointed downrange all the time, and keep your finger off the trigger unless actually engaging a target. Sticking to those two along with the following tip will keep you from getting disqualified (DQ'd). 
  5. Gun handling. This is a CRUCIAL to maintaining a safe match. When you show up to the range, have your pistol in a bag/case UNLOADED with no magazine. Put your belt on and take your pistol to a marked "Safe Table" where you can then remove it from the bag, confirm it's clear, dryfire and holster it. While at the Safe Table DO NOT handle any ammo or loaded magazines. They can be on your belt but nothing on the table or in your hands. Once you're holstered and you leave the safe area leave your pistol in the holster unless directed by a range officer (RO). Before you leave, go through the same process (in reverse) to put your pistol away. 
  6. Run what you have. Don't worry about fitting your gun into a particular division for your first match. Run your favorite gun! As a rule of thumb, if it has a compensator you'll be in Open division. If it has a red dot you'll be in Open or Carry Optics. If you're using a magwell but no optics or comp, you'll be in Limited. If you have iron sights on a factory gun and only load your mags to 10 rounds you're probably in Production. That being said, there are caveats to each division and you can look it up in chapter 5 of the USPSA rules.
  7. Get out and shoot. Don't worry about the score, just focus on being safe even if that means you go slow and steady for your first time. I know this may come as a surprise, but guess what... You're not going to win. Shocker I know. Just be there there to learn the flow of the match, the ins and the outs of the rulebook, and soak up as much as you can. 
  8. RESET! One of the important points of match etiquette is being a good resetter. Make sure you wait until AFTER the targets have been scored and then help paste cardboard targets and set steel back up. 
  9. Ask questions. Ask for advice in between shooters, let everyone know you're a new competitor and you'll be pleasantly surprised how welcoming everyone will be!
  10. Have fun! Don't sweat the scores... like I said before, you're not going to win so don't put that pressure on yourself. Focus on having fun and being safe. Learning any new sport or skill is a process, embrace being a rookie and enjoy the journey.

Don't forget.... hop over to YouTube to check out my latest video where I guide Kyle through his first match! 

Cheers, Joe

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