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New Shooters at Matches

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Our club hosts USPSA/IDPA matches weekly, and is fairly small, with attendance ranging from 10-25 people. This year we have been trying to increase our attendance and have been noticing some potential safety issues as a result. We have had a fair number of people that have heard about the matches through a local gun shop or are friends of regular attendees, and it appears that generally these people are of course new to competition shooting, but also seem to be new to firearms in general. We have had 2 accidental discharges this season, and some pretty sketchy reloading situations as well, all of which is due to people being unfamiliar with the manipulation/use of their pistols.

 

I feel we are in a tough situation - the sport isn't super popular around here (northern Minnesota), and we want to keep it alive and well for years to come. But with some of the concerning situations we've seen, it feels like a more serious accident is inevitable. My question is, how do other clubs/match directors/range officers handle people that are new to firearms who want to come and partake in competition shooting at their club? What, besides a safety briefing and close ROing can be done to improve upon match safety without driving away potential shooters?

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My club does "Intro to USPSA" classes twice a year. Usually in the winter before matches start up in the spring. It helps but it doesn't really work as well as we may think. There are still issues when all the new folks show up to run and gun. You could offer classes like this to smaller groups of shooters who appear to have potential of entering and sticking with the sport. Make sure you charge a fee for any classes. I personally would charge a hefty fee and then refund it to them on their 6th match or something like that. If you don't all you get are a bunch of brand new CCW holders who want to learn more about the gun they now carry. They take the class slots and then you never see them again.

  And by all means, if the MD feels somebody is just not ready they are well within their rights to not let them shoot a match until they can get up to speed. If you want to "keep the sport alive and well for years to come" the last thing you want is for somebody to get shot. I would never put growth over safety. I would rather have those same 15-25 safe shooters around five years from now than 75 shooters who make you cringe every time they show up for a match. And by the way, your core group of 15-25 shooters probably won't stick around then either.

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We considered the intro classes, even requiring them in order to shoot. But we then determined that nobody would end up coming to them, and it would be far too restrictive to new shooters mid-season. Most of our new shooters are those that just got their CCW and gun and want to practice with it - the problem being they haven't practiced anywhere else.

You are wholly correct. Growth < Safety. And it's about finding that balance. I just saw an interesting "new shooter orientation" document in another thread on this forum, which has some interesting ideas for indoctrinating new shooters (https://forums.brianenos.com/topic/264771-new-shooter-info-packet/?tab=comments#comment-2953340)

Still some considering to do.

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Before my first USPSA match ( we used to call it IPSC matches back in the 80's),

 

I was required by the Club to attend one of their Orientations.

 

We had a good turnout of us "newbies" and I enjoyed it.

 

Spent few hours on the range after few hours behind a desk - didn't stop

us from "filling the ranks".

 

Here in Florida, my local club just spends 10 minutes before the match

going over the basics, and then pairs the "newbies" with the leadership

all in one squad.

 

Personally, I think BOTH are great ideas - Orientation followed by a Newbie

Squad.

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My IPSC Region requires a "safe shooter" course and test, before you can compete. Most clubs also require it before you can practice at the club range without close supervision.

 

The course is a day or two of classroom work and a written/multiple choice test, focusing on safety. Then you have to attend closely supervised range practice until deemed capable of passing a shooting test. The test is not hard if you are slightly competent with a handgun: draw and shoot, SHO, WHO, turn-draw-shoot, move-reload-shoot, etc. Do it without DQable offences, and hit the targets at typical ranges and you are good to go.

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The club I'm a member at has a special briefing for new shooters.  They usually don't allow more than two newbies on the same squad.  They are closely watched by the RO's.  A few of the squad members take them under their wing and walk them through the stage pointing out potential issues with 180's and safety concerns.  The majority of the new shooters are used to just standing and shooting.  throw in movement and they are lost and have no idea how to move with a gun in their hands.

Honestly  Steel challenge would probably be a good starting place for them since their is only one stage with movement. My 14 year daughter still doesn't feel comfortable with all of the movement involved in USPSA and she's been shooting for 7 years.  She enjoys steel challenge almost as much as i do.

 

 

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one local club squads all new shooters together and runs them in a separate squad with experienced ro's and lots of coaching.  short orientation before that.  seems like a good way to do it.

 

myself included, we all need to do a better job of identifying newbies and going over the basic safety (muzzle downrange, finger outside trigger guard, etc) and procedural issues so they have fun and don't go home early.

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8 minutes ago, davsco said:

one local club squads all new shooters together and runs them in a separate squad with experienced ro's and lots of coaching.  short orientation before that.  seems like a good way to do it.

 

myself included, we all need to do a better job of identifying newbies and going over the basic safety (muzzle downrange, finger outside trigger guard, etc) and procedural issues so they have fun and don't go home early.

We have tried that and found it backed things up too much. When you have 90 shooters you end up with 13-15 man squads. Things really have to be kept moving.

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Just now, Sarge said:

We have tried that and found it backed things up too much. When you have 90 shooters you end up with 13-15 man squads. Things really have to be kept moving.

when i said 'all' really it is just a couple of new shooters per match, and they move around and shoot in openings when available, so pretty unobtrusive and little to no holdups.

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That's what we do right now. Safety briefing/orientation and then they go in a new person/old guy squad. It does slow things up a bit - though that may be more from the old guys shootin' the breeze. And again, that works perfectly well for people that are new to competition but are familiar with firearms, even if they've only shot at static ranges. It works okay, but less well for new gun owners.

I'm starting to think a short "safe gun handling test" and an assigned "coach" may be the way to go if I can get buy in from our other club members.

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any chance you hold practice days?
i.e. 1 stage/bay, run as many/little times as you want
- this should be an easier/cheaper way to train people on safety, in a somewhat less competitive environment

 

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Your matches are pretty small, that may be a good thing.

 

Assuming it isn't like 50% newbs do a 15 minute new shooter orientation. Go over the safety rules, grab a prop gun, demonstrate the 180, including how reload form can easily break it, as well as pumping your arms well running and all the common things. Give a brief run down on stage operations. Guessing you only run 2 or three squads, spread them out, introduce them to someone willing to mentor.

 

I also go to a small outlaw match where the MD runs all the newbs in his squad with a couple experienced folks to kinda monitor the crowd. He coaches all day and doesn't shoot. Because there's typically 5 bays and three squads the other squads move along ok.

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Accept the fact that most new people, even with an introductory class, will scare you and do something unsafe. More than once. To expect that you can get new shooters to be totally safe and competent before they hit up your match I think is unrealistic. Becoming safe at a match is basically all "on the job training" for most new shooters.

 

That said, a specific new shooters meeting and stage brief/demo for the actual match is a good start. Secondly being squaded with a good mentor, who will actually be personable and help them. At a match of less than 20 people I bet you could find all sorts of one on one teaching moments to really help a new person during the course of a match.

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Our local club requires all new shooters to take a safety class, usually lasts about 4 hours and they pretty much cover all the basics of proper gun handling and aspects of a match.

They ask that you bring your firearm and equipment (No Ammo) and at the end will  run you through procedures...load and make ready, reloads with fingers out of the guard and such, and then they observe the match that is going on. They do not shoot on this day. Once they have completed the course they are a go to sign up for matches.

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I remember one new shooter showed up with his gun, loaded, 

in his waistband …   :eatdrink:

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5 hours ago, Hi-Power Jack said:

I remember one new shooter showed up with his gun, loaded, 

in his waistband …   :eatdrink:

LOLOL We has that happen too. An older guy showed up at registration and had a mag in his holstered G19. We noticed it and said he couldn’t have a mag in the gun. Before we could say another word he drew the gun pulled out the mag and racked the round out of the chamber. 30 people yelled stop while diving for cover. He said we all acted like we never saw a loaded gun before and left. Never saw him again thank goodness.👍

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I think having new shooters paired up with someone(s) willing to show them the ropes and walk them through the basics is more useful than a separate introductory class.

 

Everyone wants new blood in the sport so spending the time to make sure someone new feels comfortable being safe in a match environment should be a priority.

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I think we'll try a more comprehensive intro for new shooters, and then pairing them with someone. Hopefully there's enough people at the club that will be willing to do it. This also seems like it would serve the purpose of building community, which would increase the possibility of them coming back.

Thanks for the feedback.

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A tough topic; most new shooters actually think they're pretty darn good, and have no need of education. 

 

There have been threads on how to grow match attendance over the years, and the threads that stick in my "brain" are those that question the compelling need to have MORE shooters. More does not necessarily equal better when it comes to club matches that, in many cases, are already at the 60+ shooter level. 

 

I've done a lot of firearms training over the years, and another thing that sticks out is that we put all this effort into this New Shooter. This New Shooter will show up, shoot, come back, shoot, join USPSA, shoot, become an RO, shoot, help run matches, and so on. 

 

The reality is different; sometimes we put a lot of effort into bringing in a new shooter who shows up, waves his gun around for 5 stages and then leaves, never to be seen again. 

 

Anecdotally it doesn't seem that we get much ROI on all this effort to bring in new shooters. 

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^ The other side is: without new shooters, the sport will be gone in a few decades. There needs to be new people coming in.

 

60+ sounds big to me, for club matches. Our monthly club matches are small, but people are traveling an hour or four to Level II Matches that are always fully booked.

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My local match as a 15 to 20 minute orientation with an emphasis on safety, then they squad them all together with one of the MD..

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My concern with our club is that shooting, or rather USPSA, will fizzle out. Up in Northern Minnesota there's not a ton going on with this. IDPA is much better attended, generally averaging mid 20s vs. the 10ish for USPSA. Mid 30s would be the largest I'd want to deal with. So it's not like my goal is to try and make this area some Mecca for the sport. I just want to keep it alive and healthy.

And my reasons are mostly selfish. I like USPSA and want to keep doing it close to home. And I need other participants in order to have the resources to do so. :) 

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Would anyone that puts on a new shooter class have an outline of the things covered that I could plagiarize?  

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One of the local clubs I shoot 3gun has a set of unwritten rules that everyone follows. The day is 5 stages with about 12 to 14 people per stage. First thing in the morning we have a shooters meeting and they ask for all new or first time shooters. They take the new shooters off to the side and give them a 10  minute  briefing. Then they set the squads so there are 3 or 4 less experience shooters per squad and they go last. It’s understood by the more experienced shooters that they should take the newer shooters under their wing and give then coaching. As the first few people shoot the stage there is always someone with the new guys explaining why they shot the stage the way they did and where you have to be careful about 180, changing firearms and basic safety. It’s also understood by the regulars that it’s important to tell the new people NOT to try to set any speed records and do things at THEIR pace and DO NOT try to keep up with the semi pros and pros. There’s sort of in inside joke at the club, they tell the new shooters”no one here is going to win a  Ferrari at the end of the day so be safe and have fun.” You still have problems with one or two people through out the year that think they know more then god himself and they do wind up getting a DQ or just stop coming but for the most part it works out pretty well. I should also mention that the club does bend the rules a little. Like when someone has their finger on the trigger when moving but does not have a AD, instead of a match DQ they will be given a stage DQ. Then they are pulled off to the side and given some “strong guidance” by one or two people on the squad and if they do it again throughout the day then it’s a match DQ. It’s actually surprising how many people learn from that one mistake and are good about it afterwards and are not pushed away from the sport. 

Edited by blacklab

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