View Full Version : Thoughts on Shooting Competitions

January 20, 2002, 06:58 PM
I’ve been thinking lately about a couple of posts on TFL and on another board and comparing comments I’ve read to what I’ve experienced in pistol competitions. I have competed off and on for the last eighteen years. A little IPSC and some Bowling Pin matches and a few of the Glock sponsored GSSF matches. The last several years I have mainly shot IDPA, a hundred or so matches including several state championships. There are many more experienced and many more skilled shooters, but what I offer here are just observations and personal opinions from what I have observed during matches. YMMV.

Any competition will make you a better shooter. I have never seen anyone who began shooting any type competition and stuck with it that did not improve, sometimes drastically.

IPSC vs. IDPA. This has been argued to death so I’ll quickly give my .02. They’re both great and so are the people at the matches. They’re both sports and should be treated as sports. IDPA is more relevant to real life defensive handgun use but it is not training. The best IPSC shooters are also the best IDPA shooters and the best IDPA shooters make great IPSC shooters. I recently read someone make the analogy that IPSC is like the varsity and IDPA is the jv. I disagree. My analogy would be IPSC is baseball and IDPA is softball. Both are similar but the rules are different. It’s easier for most people to play softball but the best players are very, very good. Now that IPSC has the Limited 10 and Production divisions it also becomes more accommodating to more shooters.

What’s the most reliable semi-auto pistol? A good question that has been debated many times and will never be answered completely. However, competition is a good proving ground that helps to show what works and what doesn’t. Pistols I can’t remember ever seeing malfunction at an IDPA match:
Browning Hi Power
Any Ruger
Any Sig Sauer
HK P7 or USP

Pistols I have seen malfunction at a match:
S&W autos
Walther P99 and the SW99 (.40 cals.)
Witness 9mm and .45
A Beretta 92 that jammed constantly and was bone dry (a little oil on the slide rails and it never missed another lick).

All of the above are commonly seen but are not the most well represented types used in IDPA (at least not at clubs in this area) so the sample size is pretty small. Both Custom Defensive Pistol and Enhanced Service Pistol divisions are dominated by the Model 1911 type pistol. In Stock Service Pistol division the Glock is the most used type. So, with a much larger sample size what can be determined about the reliability of Glocks and 1911’s? I have never seen a G26, G34, or a G35 malfunction. I have seen a G17 stovepipe shooting weakhand with underpowered reloads. I have seen a G19 have several failures to fire with a weak (aftermarket) striker spring. I have seen two G22’s have failures to extract that were found to have broken extractors. Also several .40 and .45 cal. models stovepipe and fail to feed with faulty reloads. 1911’s? Well, you see the most malfunctions with them, but you’re also seeing everything from parts guns to Les Baer and Wilson Combat models and most of them are shooting reloads. But, I have witnessed a Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special stovepipe with factory FMJ ammo. Some opinions I have formed:
No pistol is ever 100% reliable though some come close.
The majority of malfunctions are caused by bad ammo.
Modifications to a pistol should be thoroughly tested before depending on it, including a different magazine.
Sig Sauer P-series, HK’s, Beretta 92’s, Rugers, and Glocks (especially 9mm’s) are very good.
1911’s are usually accurate and reliable but a good many are neither.
1911’s and S&W autos need to be kept clean.

The bottom line to this overly long post: If you like to shoot, try shooting competition. Take a reliable gun and good ammo and go to a match. You will have fun, you’ll become a better shooter, and you’ll meet some great people.

January 21, 2002, 09:31 AM
Thanks for your thoughts, Gene. I really enjoyed reading your summary of experiences with IDPA and USPSA.

I enjoy both sports. Because of the generally lower round counts I think it is a bit easier for beginners to get started in IDPA, but both require a lot of practice to get good at them. I'm happy I live somewhere where I can do both.

By the way, I shoot a Glock 17 and a 35. I had only one problem, nosediving in the G35 when I used hi-cap mags with extensions. That was solved by going back to the stock recoil spring. Since then I can rely on them to always work. The only "failures" I have now are when I don't get the mag fully seated on a reload. I've been tempted to buy an expensive $2000 1911-type gun, but have resisted.

Many of my fellow shooters love to fiddle with their guns and their ammo. I guess that's part of the "hobby" that many enjoy, but it sure seems to lead to plenty of malfunctions during competition. Maybe it's just me, but life seems too short to make more problems for myself than are absolutely necessary.


January 21, 2002, 10:14 AM
I liked the post Gene.

You are dead on about the differences (or lack there of)between the two(IPSC and IDPA). Living in Phoenix I often have the pleasure of shooting with some of the best shooters in the world(ie. Rob Leatham, Brian Enos, Don Golembieski etc.) Those guys win both types of matches simply becuase they are tremendous gun handlers. Anything that has a timed influence as part of it will always be a game.

January 22, 2002, 07:59 PM

i appreciate your comments. i am 'in training' and hope to begin competing IDPA this spring or summer. i am interested about your comment regarding that many of the malfunctions you have seen were due to faulty reloads.

i am in the process of setting up a dillon 650. my current favorite round is winchester's 185 grain winclean. i will be trying to come close to this load for competition.

would you have any tips to share regarding the 'bad ammo' you spoke about? any advice would be useful.

the 'in training' quip above refers to the fact that i am disabled (skydiving accident mixed in with 2-3 years of working 80-100 hours per week, don't ask, it's a 4 shots of tequila minimum story).

i am slowly rebuilding strength in my hands. i can currently shoot about 100 rounds per week, the 185 grain winclean was a Godsend for me -- its easy on my hands and it has a PF rating just above the minimum for my Kimber 45.

thanks again for your help.

January 22, 2002, 09:32 PM

I think the biggest error I have seen with reloading the .45 acp is not enough crimp, followed by incorrect overall length. A taper crimp measuring .469-.470 at the case mouth with calipers should work. I have not tried the 185 gr. Winclean. My favorite load for the .45 acp is a 200 gr. lead swc (the H&G 68 type) with 5 gr. of Bullseye and an O.A.L of 1.250. Though 4.7-4.8 gr. would probably make the power factor. Depending on the gun the O.A.L. may need to be .005-.010 shorter or longer. This is a classic old load and has been somewhat been replaced by some of the newer, cleaner powders, but it works great. Recoil is not bad but at a 170 PF it's a lot more than a 9mm. A 230gr. RN lead and 4.5 gr. of Bullseye is another favorite of mine but the bullet shape varies some from one manufacturer to another so it's hard to say about O.A.L. Something between 1.245 and 1.265 should work. Both these loads should work great with the stock 16# recoil spring of a 5 in. Kimber. Hope this helps. Sorry to hear about the accident. Best of luck to you.

Thanks all for the replies.

January 22, 2002, 11:45 PM
For what it's worth:

I, too, drove myself nuts over trying to get my various 1911's to function. Then, I asked a person who was shooting a .45 at the range. He was an older gentleman, and I noted that he was shooting bullets with the same profile I was using--the H&G 68/200gr. LSWC (cast from pure wheelweights, lubed with Javelina, and sized to .452.)

He gave me a simple yet effective solution: Load everything you use in the 1911 the same OAL as a round of ball ammo.

I now keep one round of Federal .45 ACP 230 gr FMJ, and set my seating die for that.

Haven't had a .45 jam yet from that--and the advice was given to me about 14 years ago!!

Good luck, and good shooting.