I attended my first IDPA match this past weekend at the Bluegrass Sportsman’s League in Willmore Kentucky. I had a blast (no pun intended) and learned quite a bit. I will definitely be back for another match, but next time I will better prepared. Here’s some things to think about if you are getting ready for your first match:
1 – be prepared to learn something. There is no shortage of tips and advice that will come your way. No matter what level of shooter you are, you can always learn something new, so make sure you come in with an open mind and listen to what people tell you. If it makes sense, give it a try and decide then and there if its something that works for you. That gives you more free tools for your tool box.
2 – don’t go gear crazy. You don’t need a lot of crazy gear for your first shoot. Make sure you have a legal pistol, legal holster, ammo, magazines (at least 3, but more helps), legal mag pouch, a good belt, and eyes and ears. You’ll figure out what you need to add to each after you actually go to the match. The two things I am going to get between now and the next match I am in are some active hearing protection (better to hear the range commands) and some better sites for my Glock 22 (it still has the rather tired tritium night sites on it that it had when I bought it used). I’d really like to get a holster for my Glock 35 and use that, but there is a 12-13 week wait for new items from Raven Concealment, so I’ll likely be using my Glock 22 for my next match.
3 – Analyze each stage, but don’t over-analyze it. Have a basic plan, decide if this is one you can go fast on (lots close in) or need to slow down (more distance, more technical) based on your skills. The Safety Officer who did my new shooter walk through put it most succinctly “When the buzzer goes off, your plan goes to sh**”. So have a general plan, but don’t get too stuck up on executing it exactly like you imagined. Just hit the high points.
4 – watch the other shooters in your squad. This goes hand in hand with the first point: you will learn as much or more from watching how other people in your squad shoot a stage as from that you get told you could do to improve after your squad watches you shoot.
5 – you can’t have too much dry fire practice ahead of time. I realized this one pretty quickly. My draw could have been much smoother. Same for magazine changes. Getting ready to shoot a stage is no time to realize that you need to brush up on the basics. Make sure to get in your dry fire practice ahead of time – and of course, do it safely!
6 – don’t worry about what times other people are shooting. It’s a baseline that you want to improve from the next time you go. You will not be as fast as you want to be. You will not be the fastest in your group. Worry about your own time and since its your first time, there’s nothing to compare it too. Save that for your second time
7 – bring snacks / water. I did bring a little this time, but wish I had brought more. You can’t have too much water and food for one of these matches.
8 – remember the basics. In the end, its still about getting rounds on target as quickly and safely as possible. Having good trigger control, proper breathing, and using the appropriate shooting style (aimed fire, point shooting instinctive shooting, etc) for the circumstances presented in the stage will get you far.
All in all a great way to spend a few hours on a weekend. As I said, I will be back, and next time likely stay for the class qualifier.
PS – if you want to see how I did, the results are posted on the BGSL site. (they missed the second E in my last name).