I've read the books, I've bought the gear, I've spent endless hours dry firing and pouring over the results of local matches. By virtue of being close to Phoenix, I get the opportunity to see some of the best in the world compete locally. Yet I'm going on 8 years in this sport and have never shot a major. Why? Life gets busy. And that's okay. USPSA is top fuel funny car racing of the gun world. This is where we throw out ambiguity of concealment and cover rules, minimize footwork violation opportunities, and don't penalize you for dropping a mag or two with tokens left inside. We don't typically wear vests, and we don't typically carry dump pouches. We do, however, clean our magazines between stages, we spend stupid money on our guns and gear, we spend weeks in load development, and we greatly enjoy getting out into the dust, gravel, grass, and especially here in AZ... the sun. We shoot semi-powerful rounds more quickly and accurately than anyone in the world... at least the best of us do. That certainly doesn't include me, but I definitely appreciate shooting with those that are!
As a beginner shooting a Glock 35... I felt waaaaay behind the other shooters shooting SVIs, STIs, CZs, CKs, and every other form of medium-to-top-shelf firearm, from 8000.00+ full custom guns with superb fit and finish, slide actions like ball bearings on glass, to super bizarre frankenguns--factory guns modified from 20+ super talented gunsmiths from here to Indy, LA and back. But guess what... there's a dark secret in here none of us want to admit to ourselves... the gear is what gets you the last few tenths or hundredths to the next class, and aren't going to take you from zero to hero. My Glock 35 got me to B in Limited, shooting factory ammo on a worn out recoil spring. After I classed, I dropped some coin to get into SS, but it took me a few more years to score a HF high enough to compare to my previous classifier performance. WHY?! Japan's most famed swordsman Musashi iconically stated; it takes 2000 hours for proficiency, but 10,000 hours for mastery... So... the well north of 2000+ hours of shooting/dryfire/practice with my Glock got me to B in a fairly short time. I needed to do another 2000+ to get there with my STI Trojan, right? But (un?)fortunately, I got bitten by the gear/gun bug. Also, I had more income than I had time in the past few years, so I've acquired firearms in varying calibers/chamberings in Open, Limited, SS, (with a backup in each caliber), production, NRA bullseye, among others (I hunt too... gotta get ready for deer and elk). Hey... who knew... folks that play in this sport like guns. But here's the rub... none of these gun purchases made me better--they actually contributed to making me worse. In a way, this recoil-centric identity crisis kept me from rising back to B, along with having kids and promoting at work... when time became my most precious currency. As it stands, I still haven't completed a coherent classifier to get myself to B in SS--the division I've been shooting almost exclusively in competition for over four years. As life stayed busy, I kept buying. Practice and match participation dropped. I bought a lifetime membership in USPSA. I would go a month without picking up a competitive gun. I'd shoot a match quarterly. I'd buy a gun every six months. I'd dry fire it for three weeks, and put it back in the vault for another three. Before too long, I spent more time tinkering, surfing, buying and installing fresh parts on different guns than I was dry firing, practicing, and shooting any one gun. While the vault looked great, the performance clearly plateaued... at best. It likely degraded, and by no small margin. When I'd get a chance to shoot a match, I defaulted to SS, since that was my woobie. Even then, the fiddling with other guns had disturbed my habit patterns enough to bring slide-lock reloads back into vogue. Not good.
So... if you want the advice of a guy that bought a bunch of gear and gained nothing... if you're new to the sport, shoot what you got. Factory Glock? Great. Bought a 1911? Awesome. Went into the sport shooting a bushing 9mm 2011 you've been shooting in IDPA? Excellent. Instead of spending money, spend time. The following qualities are what you need for USPSA:
1. Reliability. If you have to perform a remedial action drill, you've lost.... often dramatically. If you're competitive with the top locally, an immediate action drill will lose it for you.
2. Accuracy. Most all factory guns shoot well enough to compete. If you have a factory gun with a 196MOA sight post, invest in a nice fiber optic setup from Dawson or similar.
3. Simplicity. If something breaks, you can fix it. 1911s and 2011s are kind of complicated, and it takes a bit of finesse to detail strip one at the range and get put back together in time to shoot the next round. I'm sure many on this forum will disagree with me, but I contend that they will yield the point that a Glock is much simpler to work on. I've spent hours trying to get the damned sear spring to seat correctly on my top-fuel full-custom limited gun I have yet to shoot competitively. I can replace any part on a Glock in 5 mins or less. This counts for something on match day. If you have the time to get a PHD in 2011 sear springs, then by all means. If not, save your pennies for when you plateau and stick with what you got. Spoiler alert... 2011s are more finicky than Glocks.
So that's it. If you have excess income to spend on guns, by all means, buy them. Just realize that they won't make you better. The time you spend is what yields results on the range. Trigger squeezes are the real currency, along with mag changes, transition practice, draws from your competition rig, DRY FIRE... all will count as reps toward your 2k... and your 10k. In the mean time, your safe will swell, but do yourself a favor... shoot the one gun that possesses the qualities I listed above and shoot the hell out of it, lube and inspect it regularly. One of my best buds shot a dog's ass ugly G35 to high A-class. He plateaued there hard and hung there for a year. He practiced & competed like a madman to no avail. With that Glock, I don't think I saw him deal with a single malfunction. This allowed him to nail down stage strategy, footwork, etc. Then his infinity arrived after 18 months. He went through significant growing pains for another year as he acquainted himself to his new race car & new habit patterns. There was at least one DQ for ND for the trigger that was lubed by SV angel tears. After the honeymoon was over, and he'd found the perfect reload recipe, the perfect extractor tension, the perfect magazine feed-lip geometry, the perfect spring weights, and replaced his broken thumb safeties via warranty return, then... finally, he broke into Master. His tale is a great tale. He stuck with "Ugly Betty" until he reached his limit with her, and then he invested in the gear... as opposed to me, who went through a bunch of moderately expensive girlfriends while I had my own Ugly Betty sitting at home, yet never surpassed B. I am, however, happy with my collection, so there's that... so please don't read this post as regret, as I have none. I do admit that I'd most certainly have classed up by now had I stuck with my G35 all this time.
So... just like any sport, every participant is different. If you're here for the gear, there are endless lines of vendors prepared to make you very happy. If you're here to win, that's only going to be accomplished by training, experience, and grit. Gear isn't the least important factor, but it is less important than training, experience, and grit. Show up, ask questions, tape targets, and don't be a 'brass-hole'... Most of all, have fun and do what makes you happy with a realistic vision of what your gear can and cannot do for you.
Thanks for reading.