View Full Version : Competition Skills

March 16, 2013, 06:45 PM
Hi guys and gals,

For reasons of my own, I'm compiling a list of competition-specific skills you need if you're going to win or even do well at gun games.

To keep this clear, let's make USPSA the game in question (that's not one I've played, other than very casually and occasionally). I'm thinking about skills beyond being able to hit the target, things like...

choosing equipment
choosing ammo
setting up the gear on your belt
using cover quickly

Lots more there, I'm sure. Probably a subheader or six under each item on the list above, and about a jillion more I haven't thought of. That's why I'm asking you!

Other than basic marksmanship skills (such as you would get standing in a stall at an indoor range on a casual weekend day), what does a successful USPSA shooter need to know, or need to know how to do?


March 16, 2013, 07:44 PM
To start with, understanding the rules, commands and general flow of the program starts you on the right path. I have seen Lotsofnew people show up and don't have a clue.
Organization and preparation are key. Have a plan
Stay relaxed and focused on next stages - don't dwell on mistakes
Don't just wait your turn but observe what is going on and talk with those who just shot if possible.
Practice, practice, practice.
Practice some more

March 16, 2013, 07:57 PM
Other than basic marksmanship skills (such as you would get standing in a stall at an indoor range on a casual weekend day), what does a successful USPSA shooter need to know, or need to know how to do?

Off the top of my head, and in no particular order:

- Calling your shot

- Moving efficiently

- Shooting on the move

- Reloads

- Arriving at a position ready to shoot

- Transitions (i.e. moving the gun from one target to the next)

Jim Watson
March 16, 2013, 08:07 PM
Use of cover is an IDPA thing, not a factor in USPSA.

The key USPSA skill is "breaking down the stage," analyzing the layout so as to shoot in the most efficient manner.

I shoot mostly IDPA so don't get much of a chance to do that, so you need a good USPSA shooter to go into detail.

March 17, 2013, 07:19 AM
Accepting that one needs to be safety conscious,know the rules and understand the marksmanship fundamentals the least practiced, but very important, factor is mental training. Everyone knows to focus on the front sight and be smooth operating the trigger. However, very few take into consideration a competitors' mental state. Confidence in ones ability weighs heavy in the results of a contest. Over confidence is key to frustration. Under confidence leads to the "I'm just not good enough" attitude. Finding a balance of focus, skill and confidence is a training method that the great shooters have mastered.

March 17, 2013, 09:37 AM
The equipment concerns are the least of it.
Draw and shoot two rounds at a single target, preferably using a timer.
Getting used to the start beep is important.
Double taps, quick and accurate, at various distances.
Reloading, both from slide lock on an empty gun, and with gun still loaded.
Transitions from one target to the next, generally with 2 - 4 targets at various distances.
Moving and reloading.
Moving and shooting.
Some of this can be done dry firing at home.
Watch online videos from matches, to help get the idea.
Slow them down to see the details.

March 17, 2013, 05:46 PM
Ammo: For competition you choose ammo based on performance and price. Better to have 2000 rounds of ammo that cycles your pistol reliably than 1000 rounds that groups a half inch tighter that also cycles your pistol reliably.

Which brings up "handloading" and the reason that most serious competitors (with a few exceptions such as the wealthy or the sponsored) reload on a progressive. For making holes in targets cast/plated is often as good as FMJ.

Pistols: In terms of a factory firearm, reliability is more important than accuracy. Clearing a malfunction eats up more time than a miss that causes an extra mag change. Hence a lot of Glocks on the line. Between pistols that are equally reliable (a heated debate in its own right) pick the one that fits your hand better.

Gear placement: this is really personal preference but I like mags on my waist, upside down, facing to the rear on my weak hand hip. A drop leg holster sucks to run in (at least with a pistol in the holster) and I haven't seen any advantage to a drop leg over a belt holster in terms of draw time (but USPSA isn't my game).


Jesse Tischauser
March 17, 2013, 09:09 PM
In addition to all of the other great things listed above.

All of your weapon manipulation must be automatic. You should have to even think about loading or reloading or clearing a malfunction it should just accrue when necessary.

Knowing what sight picture you need for every possible shot.

Shooting enough to know that your pace is good no matter how slow it feels in your head because the big lump on our shoulders always tells us we should be going faster.

March 18, 2013, 04:25 PM
Keep 'em coming, folks.

What about cadence, timing multiple shots? Does that matter?

What other tips keep you successful?


Jim Watson
March 18, 2013, 05:28 PM
You bet. Cadence must be adjusted to the target presentation. You can run at a higher rate of fire if the target is large and close.

As Lazarus Long said, "Minimize your therbligs until it becomes automatic."

Therblig is a real term from early motion and efficiency studies. Minimize your therbligs means to accomplish the task with the fewest movements and activities.

Don P
March 18, 2013, 06:03 PM
Just to add in USPSA cover is not an issue. Accuracy and speed in foot work and shooting along with many of the other suggestions.
I'll add this in closing shoot the division that you have the gear for, most will have the gear for the production division.
Shoot the stage and if you did poorly let it go and move on to the next stage. if you dwell on it the rest of your stages will suffer from it. At the end of the match is the time to reflect and think about what you could have done better or differently and apply that to the next match. Staying positive even when the performance is poor will go along way.
Again my opinion, if you let the poorly shot stages eat at you then you are wasting your time and ammo. ABOVE ALL- SAFETY FIRST AND HAVE A GOOD TIME.

Don P
March 18, 2013, 06:21 PM
Pax, I guess it all boils down to attitude and what you/anyone is looking to achieve. I my self am a novice shooter in IDPA and a D class shooter in ICORE. time to practice and ammo are at a premium now, time more than ammo. If I ever up my classifications great, if I don't great. I shoot the matches for fun, comradery, and seeing all the friendly face at the matches and to further those relationships developed at the matches and slinging lead.

March 19, 2013, 06:22 PM
What about cadence, timing multiple shots? Does that matter?

Yes, but it isn't something that someone should be worried about right off the bat. The first training priority should be accuracy, second should be speed. When you get accurate enough fast enough to worry about cadence and timing multiple shots you will be well ahead of the pack.

Every once in a while it is also useful to step outside your game and try a discipline that focuses on where you are weak. Such as air pistol shooting to work on your accuracy. After working air pistol for a week see if your USPSA targets don't seem monstrously huge by comparison. In comparison I used to think 300 yards was a long ways to shoot with an M16, until I shot at 600 yards and 300 became exactly what it always should have been for me, point blank shooting.


March 20, 2013, 05:35 AM
a while it is also useful to step outside your game and try a discipline that focuses on where you are weak. Such as air pistol shooting to work on your accuracy
Air pistol is a great training aid. Certainly, it places a premium on follow through and focus in the front sight. Match shooting in that venue is a game of tens.

March 21, 2013, 08:00 AM
I started to formulate an answer yesterday then thought better of it.

The original question included the goal of winning.

Well, there are perhaps 10,000 little things that the winners do that make the difference.

To be competetive it might only be about 2,000 things.

To safely shoot the course it's probably less than 10 things.

Brian Enos, a top USPSA shooter, has a fantastic website with forums full of info and discussion about the 10,000 things. And there are books that they discuss and refer to.

Just one concept - "shoot the match like you don't care about the result" is one for the list but takes a LOT of explanation. I've experienced success with this myself but it's really hard to explain.

An easier one to understand is - enter the shooting box with your gun up and on target. (that's among the 2,000 things)

Keep your finger off the trigger while moving is one of the 10 things :-)

March 21, 2013, 08:36 AM
My experience comes from IMHSA, bench rest rifle and for the last 10 year archery. I have done my time in losing and a fair share of winning. My 2 cents as follows: Breaking down achievement goals into levels is important. Mechanics, gear, and limitations such as athletic ability all play a part. So finding the right level for your natural ability will keep you from going crazy and also from enjoying the natural abilities of others. Also it’s important to find a coach/mentor that can focus you on your real/actual limiting factors. Things that limit you at the highest level are most likely are not limiting you much at a lesser level. You should make gear changes when it’s clear that you are ready to take advantage of the investment made, and you understand why you made the gear choices and spent the money. IOW, the winner could most likely take your gear and beat you with it, and it’s possible the best gear is more important to you than to him/her, just based on natural talent alone. Many people get frustrated simply based on the idea that you can’t actually purchase the winning trophy. It’s a product of smart work and best use of your money and time.

March 21, 2013, 11:25 AM
It's hard to describe as anything other than being able to "call your shots", that is, knowing with certainty where your POI will be on the target once you get the chance to go back and take a look at the results. That takes familiarity with your eqipment, and knowing exactly how everything feels when the trigger breaks, how the recoil comes back through your arms, how you see the sights lined up, and everything else that goes into accurate shooting.