Competition Miscellaneous

Preparing for My First Major USPSA Match

Not long ago, the thought of competing in a major USPSA match was not something I ever entertained. Now, my first major match is on the horizon and it’s time to start getting ready for it. I have a plan. Not sure it’s good or bad, but it’s a plan nevertheless.

As I mentioned in the most recent email newsletter, which y’all can sign up for over here, I have my very first major USPSA match in about a month. This is actually my very first major match period. It also happens to be a level 3 area championship. No pressure, right? Well, there is pressure and there isn’t pressure. I’ll get into that in a second, but let me back up. With about a month left to prepare, I figured some of y’all may be curious as to what I am doing to prepare and that’s what this post will explore. Keep in mind that I have only a vague idea of what I should be doing given that I’ve never done this before. Nevertheless, I think sharing this now and revisiting it after the match might be a fun learning exercise. So at the risk of looking like an utter buffoon, let’s get into it.

I’m certainly feeling some pressure. It’s a big deal. There are over 150 competitors who are signed up in the Carry Optics division which includes 7 Grand Masters, 22 Master class shooters, 34 A-class shooters, 44 B-class shooters, 30 C-class shooters, 5 D-class shooters, and 9 unclassified shooters. I’m a C-class shooter and seeing that the number of higher class shooters is greater than the typical total attendance at the local matches I shoot is intimidating to say the least. Nevertheless, I’m not really feeling the pressure. I don’t really have any expectations. Thinking that I actually have a chance to get a division win would be very presumptuous of me so I’m not entertaining that idea whatsoever. Knowing that I walked away from local matches with a class win several times, I think there is a possibility that I can do that here as well. But I’m not really stressing the result. Instead I’m focusing on the processes. The preparation process that we’re about to get into puts an emphasis on establishing a process to do the best I can do on each stage one target at a time. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less. As much as I would welcome a class win, my main goal is to experience a major match and learn from it so that I can improve and perform better at the next one.

A month of preparation time isn’t very long. It’s about four weeks or 28 days. That gives me somewhere between 420 to 560 minutes of dry fire practice time, three local USPSA matches, two local IDPA matches, and one Steel Challenge match. Maybe, just maybe, given my day job and blogging commitments, I might also be able to get a couple of 200 round live fire sessions at the local indoor range. That might sound like a lot of practice and shooting to some, but given how much work I’ve put into pistolcraft over the past year and change, I can tell you that it’s not really all that much. However, I do think that it is sufficient to get intimately familiar with the pistol I will be competing with so that I can run it at the best of my ability and maybe even squeeze in a little bit of technical improvement assuming I am judicious and intentional with the time that I have and the approximately 1200 rounds of practice ammunition that I will fire during that time.

Intentional and judicious. What does that mean?

First things first. No gear changes with the exception of minor tweaks such as adjusting the angle of magazine pouches and the holster. A month isn’t enough time for me to learn a new system. Trust me, I was very tempted to switch from Carry Optics to Limited Optics, which just made its debut as a provisional division a few days ago, and shoot the Staccato. However, I’m not nearly as familiar with that platform as I am with the CZ Shadow 2 that I’ve been using for USPSA Carry Optics for several months now. As curious as I am about Limited Optics, I’ll wait until after this match to dabble with limited optics. For now, I’ll focus on Carry Optics with the Shadow 2 and the gamer rig that’s already set up. This will allow me to use my remaining practice time and local matches to dial everything in.

As part of that, I’m going to reduce the daily practice with the everyday carry VP9 to the bare minimum I need to do to maintain my current level of proficiency and familiarity with it. That means a few minutes of dry fire practice a few days a week and dedicate the majority of available time to working the Shadow 2. This also means competing in the NFC Outlaw division with the Shadow 2 in the next two upcoming IDPA matches rather than competing in the Carry Optics with the VP9 like I usually do. 

I’m planning on taking a broad approach with dry fire practice sessions – work the draw, reloads, transitions, and movement. I may focus a session or two on a specific mechanical skill if I struggle with something specific at one of the local matches, but otherwise I’ll keep it broad with the goal of maximizing my familiarity with the pistol and the supporting gear. 

Live fire sessions at the indoor range will focus predominantly on shooting groups at 25 yards. My rationale behind that is simple – if I can shoot good groups at that distance quickly and accurately, then engaging easier targets with a pair of shots becomes a walk in the park. As much as I’d like to work dynamic targets or practice multi-target drills, those simply aren’t options for me given the facilities I have access to. I have to work with what I’ve got. 

Again, the goal of all of the practice, the focus is on the process. Sure, I’ll push a little bit here and there. However, I’m after familiarity and consistency. Repeatable performance under pressure is the name of the game. 

Outside of working the mechanics, I’m going to place a heavy emphasis on stage planning and visualization at the local matches. I’ll study the stages as soon as they are published. I’ll show up early at the matches and walk the stages after helping set up. Once I have my stage plan, I will focus on visually rehearsing it over and over until it’s my time to shoot while avoiding external noise and influence. 

That’s the gist of it. I have no idea how well this preparation will pay off. Yeah, it’s better than nothing. However, I suspect it’s much better than nothing. Or maybe I hope it’s much better than nothing. There may be a missing element that could help me get even more out of the remaining preparation time I have available, but learning what I can do better is the primary goal of going through this experience and shooting my first major match. I’m certain I will have fun regardless and maybe, just maybe, I’ll come out of this a better competitor. 

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