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View Full Version : How can I become a "really good" IPSC/IDPA shooter?


Rmack
June 20, 2004, 01:52 PM
My story, in brief:

I've shot less than 1,000 rounds through handguns in my life, to go along with less than 800 rounds through a shotgun and ledd than 100 rounds through a .22 rifle. But, I've become obsessed with competition shooting.

By nature, I'm a rather competitive person and I want a chance to compete in my new sport. I have little interest in hunting, and little interest in carrying for protecion (except maybe when I'm in bear country). I just want to be the Rob Latham of the south-south-west Chicago burbs, or some approximation thereof.

I don't suffer from the delusion that I have the natural talent or time to be a BSD on the national level, but I'd like to be able to wine things locally. Question is, how do I get there?

My assets are: (1) a pretty good natural instinct for shooting handguns, I think, at least comparing myself to others who wander on down to the range and punch some holes in paper, (2) an analytical and disciplined mind, and (3) fairly good financial resourecs and (4) a supportive wife who enjoys shooting also.

My liabilities are: (1) a limitation on my free time (time and financial resources, in my case at least, share an inverse relationship), (2) hand/eye coordination that may be well short of what is needed to compete at high levels, (3) a propensity to become so obsessed with things that I burn out quickly, and (4) unrealistic expectations that lead to frustration and bad habbits.

So, where do I go from here? I've got a nifty stock .45 (Kimber Target in .45), mags, holster, range bag, etc. I've taken a full-day IDPA seminar at Howell shooting club from Jack Manfrie (sp?), and plan to take them through the summer. I've signed up for a full-day reloading class and will begin reloading to cut ammo costs after the class. What next?

1. How often should I shoot? How should I shoot? Does standing in an indoor range shooting slow-fire help? Would my time be better spent on dry-fire exercises at home?

2. Where can I go for good instruction? What books and videos can I use to focus my practice?

3. If I were to buy a gun for my wife that I may use later, either as a frame or stock, what should I get? I was thinking of something in .38 Super since, (a) less recoil for her, (b) more mag capacity, which she likes and (c) it can be shot in IPSC.

4. How often should I shoot tournaments? What should be my goals? Scoring, placing, practice?

5. How can I measure my progress?

6. What should I look for in a club?

Well, if you've read this far, thanks for playing along. If you take the time to respond, thanks double.

CastleBravo
June 20, 2004, 04:51 PM
Actually, your best bet for a IDPA/USPSA dual use gun is a single-stack .45 ACP with a bushing barrel, adjustable sights and a magwell that isn't too huge. Use 8 round mags for IDPA CDP class and 10 round mags for USPSA Limited-10 class.

If you actually read the current USPSA rules, a .38 Super won't do you much good for the vast majority of classes now that USPSA has a ".40 caliber for Major" requirement for most of them. The only classes you can shoot .38 Super and score "major" are the megabux racegun classes last I checked.

Chris W
June 20, 2004, 06:46 PM
Rmack,

Have you found out yet what the resources for competition are in your area? How often could you compete if you went to all of them?

In my area, I can shoot 2 6-stage IDPA matches a month, as well as an informal local club shoot (2 to 4 stages) once a week. I also go to a range for my own practice about once a week. I've watched a few videos (like Matt Burkett's) and read a couple books (like Brian Enos's). I've gone from first competition to Expert SSR shooter in a year of this regime. The next step, to make Master from Expert, looks to me about as hard as all the other progress I've made put together. To become good at competition, I think you have to compete--get used to competition, and all the little hitches it introduces.

But enough about me. What kind of competitions have you shot, and what opportunities do you have to shoot more?

kdmoore
June 21, 2004, 12:11 AM
And I don't play one on the internet.

(3) fairly good financial resourecs

I've signed up for a full-day reloading class and will begin reloading to cut ammo costs after the class.

(1) a limitation on my free time (time and financial resources, in my case at least, share an inverse relationship)

The three of these don't mix.

While reloading makes sense for some, I'd say I'd skip it for now if I were you. Rather than spending your time reloading, I'd dry fire, practice, compete or take a shooting class. There's nothing like trigger time to make you shoot better.


Reloading doesn't take a lot of time, especially once you have your reloader set up and your favorite load worked out. But I'd wait a bit.

The path to getting better isn't always more lead down range. If you shoot .15 splits and take the IDPA classifier (90 rounds) that is roughly 15 sec's of shooting. Total time on the other hand is 90 - 150 seconds depending on how good you are. The analogy isn't 100% but the point is there's a LOT more to shooting than shooting :D Lots of little things that I'd never thought about. My group is lucky enough to have Todd Jarret shoot with us occasionally. One day he was mentioning that you should always take off on your weak foot (when you draw and move simultaneously) as your holster is much more still. Couple of years shooting (for me) and I'd never even thought about that. I think video of yourself will help a lot. Your wife and you could become a good team.

HTH, YMMV and all that stuff

Rmack
June 21, 2004, 01:53 PM
Thanks for chiming in. As to the available competitions, there are enough in the summer to keep me occupied every week if I had the time. How long does the usual comp go? Do I need to be there for the whole thing, or can I just show up, do my bit and leave if I'm short of time?

The point about loading myself is well taken. I think, though, that given my personality it isn't something I can avoid taking up - FWIW, I tie my own flies and build my own golf clubs - just how I am.

But, the more general point about time availibility is well taken. Because of that, I was hoping to learn how I can practice (usefully and with a goal in mind) at home. In other words, what sorts of drills are out there for loading/drawing/moving/target acquisition, etc.

One of the things I learned in golf was that picking up the fundamentals away from the course, heck, even away from the driving range, was much easier that going out there and whacking away.

Chris W
June 21, 2004, 02:08 PM
Go Here:

http://www.burkettvideo.com/

Buy and watch.

kdmoore
June 21, 2004, 02:55 PM
I wouldn't stay out of reloading forever, but you'll progress faster if you use your time for practice up front.

Lots of folks reload. Some do well and use their home rolled stuff all the time, some only for practice, preferring factory stuff for competitions. This way, it's one less thing to worry about. A good friend of mine, whom I consider VERY careful, anal, detail oriented, etc recently found a round that was primer only. Luckily it jammed his revolver and he didn't get the chance to chase the stuck bullet with with another, as it would have been a bad thing. Very rare, point is it's one less thing to think about. I myself use factory stuff during competitions, but have reloads for practice. I'm currently in a renovation, so I'm not even reloading any currently.

Another VERY GOOD source of gun information for COMPETITORS is brian enos' site. It's http://brianenos.ibforums.com/.

One gent over there was selling a "training regimin" that sounds like something that could really help. I've never tried it, but you might contact him to see if he thinks it's at your current level? Here's the link to a thread about it. http://brianenos.ibforums.com/index.php?showtopic=12952

RickB
June 21, 2004, 04:16 PM
Matt Burkett has some very good videos available, and you might start by getting a set of them, and a shot timer. The former will give you some direction and a reality check as to your expectations, and the latter will give you a means of measuring your improvement.
Winning, even locally, can be very difficult. I've seen match results for USPSA Area championships that did not feature as many Grand Masters as I see every weekend. Just because match is not a major one, doesn't mean you won't have some stiff competition. But, keep some perspective; you can become a very good shot (A, M, and GM combined make up the top 10% of USPSA Competitors), but still be wowed by the performances of top shooters.

Rmack
June 21, 2004, 05:13 PM
What is a good, inexpensive (relative term) shot timer?

Chris W
June 21, 2004, 08:11 PM
Go to the Enos site; he has well founded opinions, gives a clear discussion, and is set up to sell the PACT timers, along with lots of other stuff.

dukeofurl
June 22, 2004, 05:38 PM
Practice dosent make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect.

Another shooter once said - amateurs practice till they get it right, professionals practice till they cant get it wrong.

The only thing that will help your score is trigger time, trigger time, and lots of classifier practice. Your draw is a big part of the classifier, get the best holster that fits your need/speed. Practice the classifier in your spare time, practice your reloads, and practice your trigger control. The weak hand/strong hand shots on the classifier will cost everyone below SS time.

One thing about getting bumped to master - that means you'll have to compete against the Jerry Miculek's of the world. At a major match, you may come first or second in expert but last in MA.

1. How often should I shoot? How should I shoot? Does standing in an indoor range shooting slow-fire help? Would my time be better spent on dry-fire exercises at home?

Sometimes I've been known to have thousand round weeks. Slow fire is a start, but the real speed comes from shooting from cover, the draw, shooting on the move, and making the headshot only hits that other shooters will FTN on.

2. Where can I go for good instruction? What books and videos can I use to focus my practice?

I watch the best shooters at my club (recently its been me!) and emulate what works. Example: Start the mover first whenever possible. I've heard that Matt Burkett's videos are some of the best.

3. If I were to buy a gun for my wife that I may use later, either as a frame or stock, what should I get? I was thinking of something in .38 Super since, (a) less recoil for her, (b) more mag capacity, which she likes and (c) it can be shot in IPSC.

You want a 38 super on the basis of mag capacity and less recoil? Fair enough, but I hope you have your own reloading press. The only division 38 super is good for in IPSC is Open. Limited/L10 has a .40 caliber/major rule.

4. How often should I shoot tournaments? What should be my goals? Scoring, placing, practice?

I believe that you should shoot on the clock whenever possible, and as a result you will get better. I started with 1 club match a month and went to 2 a month + lots of practice. About a year ago, everyone beat me now I'm beating the same shooters. I shoot as accurate as I can, with time speed follows.

5. How can I measure my progress?

Compare yourself to others.

6. What should I look for in a club?

Extra high berms, movers, and lots of steel for practice.

Jim Watson
June 27, 2004, 11:58 AM
Lots of good advice here. I can only add a little.

If you are tying flies, making golf clubs, and presumably fishing and golfing with the products; you are not shooting. If you want to be a good shooter you must shoot. Diletantes seldom excel. Drop the other stuff and you will find a lot of time opening up. Go fishing after you have your Master punch.

Shooting skill is built by repetition (just like casting and putting.) You can look at the right techniques in books and videos and a live coach can tell you if you are doing them right. Then you have to practice. There are a lot of IDPA techniques you can practice dry fire. The family will think you a bit eccentric for kneeling behind your easy chair snapping in at the villains on TV, but it will help. Draw from concealment, reload, maintain sight picture on the move, etc, don't require gunsmoke in the early stages. Indoor range practice can help even though they don't allow "rapid fire" or "fast draw." Shoot the ISU Duel. Start at low ready and, at the signal (PACT timer or spouse) raise the gun smoothly, get a sight picture, and break the shot. Get faster. Get hits.

Go to matches. There are things about rules and procedures you can learn only by doing. Then there are the effects I lump under "timer radiation." Stress does funny things to you, and apparently to your gear. Murphy will find flaws in your gun and ammo when score is being kept the day after a flawless practice session.

A .38 Super is a fine pistol for IDPA ESP; if you handload or have a large ammunition budget for your wife. Same gun in 9mm will do as well on Walmart or mailorder econo-ball. Minor scoring in IPSC is a handicap. I don't know whether your wife would be better served to learn extreme accuracy, learn to manage .40 or .45 recoil, or to learn DA (or Glock) managment and shoot in Production Divison where everything is scored Minor.

Handloading is worthwhile. It saves money (really lets you shoot more for the same expense) and lets you tailor ammunition to your gun and your needs. You don't need full charge .45 ACP to make Major power factor for IDPA CDP or IPSC L-10; a 200 grain bullet dependably over 825 fps is common and has substantially less recoil than hardball. Super (and 9mm) don't recoil much but I find that a "subsonic" handload with 145-147 grain bullet is more comfortable to shoot; due to less muzzle blast and to more gradual acceleration of the heavier bullet. But you have to make time for it, even with modern progressive loaders that can turn out hundreds of rounds per hour... once set up and learned. Time taken from fly-tying?

MX5
June 27, 2004, 11:28 PM
Ability level isn't necessarily determined by what is printed on your classification card. "Really good" means you can produce cold and on demand, it doesn't mean you practiced something like the IDPA classifier until you finally pull off one decent performance.

To get really good, shooting will consume your life. You will eat, drink, and breath shooting. The major resource involved is time. I dry fire every day, live fire at least 3 times a week in the summer months, and shoot a lot of matches. I shot a match 100 miles to the West last weekend, a match 90 miles to the East yesterday, and a local match today. In USPSA you will shoot a boat load of matches and classifiers for each division you get an M card in.

Even local heros (big frogs in little ponds) will need an M card if they are going to dominate the local scene when a GM isn't around. If time is a consideration, don't even go down the road to shooting excellence, you won't get far.