Modern Gunner Series: Using Competition to Up Your Practice Game

From Modern Gunner Executive, Conrad Davenport

Why do you shoot?  Do you go to the range with the pure intention of shooting paper to blow off steam?  Do you arrive at the range to practice your accuracy and see how small you can make your groups?  Are you there with the intent of sharpening your skills in case of a self-defense scenario?  Maybe you are just getting ready for the next hunting season.  I’ve gone to the range for all of the listed reasons.  One thing that I’ve found is that shooting from the line, at one static target, at the range’s prescribed tempo, can get very boring.  A way that I’ve found to remedy something that is becoming boring is to add competition.  Whether it be with a friend at the range or an organized competition, including competition adds a challenge to the activity.  I have witnessed this added challenge lead to a shooter pushing his or herself in training, resulting in their being a much better shooter at whatever discipline they choose.

Competition comes in many forms in the shooting sports.  There are handgun, rifle, and shotgun disciplines, and a combination of the three.  There are static target shooting competitions, and run-and-gun shooting competitions.  Basically, there is a competition for however you like to shoot.   

With the popularity of legal carrying of concealed handguns, shooters found that they wanted a form of competition that lent itself to normal concealed carry.  In 1996, the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) was founded for just that reason: for people to compete using the tactics of concealed carry.  IDPA matches can be shot with a minimum of equipment and is available to shoot nationwide.  The Stock Service Pistol division is perfect for the new shooter and competitor.  Stock, out of the box handguns are the tool here, not the high dollar “Race-Guns” of other shooting sports.  A factory Glock, Sig Sauer, M&P, or XD is all you need.  That, a couple spare magazines, a holster, mag pouch, and a concealment garment and you are ready.  These local IDPA competitions are quite neighborly while still competitive.  It is not uncommon to see shooters lending equipment to other shooters (including pistols) when another shooter’s equipment is broken or forgotten.  Check them out at

Another form of handgun competition is USPSA, or the United States Practical Shooting Association.  USPSA is more run-and-gun, less everyday situation than IDPA.  There is no concealment in USPSA and the holsters go from everyday range holsters in SSP, to race holsters that look like they couldn’t hold a plastic cap gun, much less a $3000 race gun.  Like IDPA, there are multiple divisions in USPSA.  The divisions range from Stock Service Pistol and Stock Service Revolver, to the Open Class handguns.  These Open Class guns are the tricked out, usually 2011 model pistols with red dot optics.  While you can get into USPSA for about the same monetary investment (SSP), you can easily jump into multiple thousands in an instant.  If you like high paced, move and shoot style stages, then USPSA is probably for you.  You can find more information at

 Some shooters have no interest in running from shooting point to shooting point, getting their heart racing and their sweat rolling.  Some of these shooters want to stand still and shoot at a static target, trying to get the best repeated shot accuracy as possible.  For these shooters, NRA Conventional Pistol Competition or bullseye shooting maybe the best option.  Bullseye shooting consists of 90 shots, shot standing, single hand.  The regular match consists of 30 rounds from 50 yards, and 60 rounds from 25 yards, varying from slow fire to rapid fire.  Points are tallied from eight to ten on each target with a possible total of 900.  There are three divisions in bullseye: Rimfire, Centerfire (over .32 caliber), and .45 ACP.  The most common gun is a customized 1911 pistol.  Iron sights or red dot sights are allowed.  If accuracy is all you are looking for, this is probably your game.  You can find more information on NRA conventional pistol competitions at

Some shooters will not want to shoot with the elite shooters of the world, or even with medium level competitors.  If these shooters still want a little competition, they should check out their local range.  Many ranges have regular pistol competitions; many are directly associated with the organizations mentioned earlier.  The good thing about these local matches is that the other shooters will be competitive, but usually not world-class.  This is where you go when you just want to have fun with a little competition.

So if your training is getting a little boring or you are just looking to shake it up a little, consider giving competition a try.  Whatever you do, keep training; keep getting better at whatever discipline you choose, and always keep shooting and the shooting sports alive.

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