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G-ManBart

Tips for Newbies

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I figured this might fit in the Miscellaneous Beginner section sort of similar to the "what to expect at your first match" thread, but if the mods feel like it would better fit somewhere else, please feel free to move it where it belongs (Match Screwups?).

Okay, the idea is to list some of the more common pitfalls newer shooters experience, as well as the good things you may not think of, but should be doing. If you can learn to avoid the pitfalls without ruining a stage/match, you'll be that much farther ahead. I'm totally convinced that at least up through B class if you have a gun that runs, avoid penalties/mikes and avoid, avert of prevent the common blowups out there you can win your class, even at big matches, with only a reasonable amount of practice and skill. Why? Well, most of the "faster" people you're competing with will very likely have some sort of total blowup on at least one or two stages that they can't recover from.

I'm hoping that folks will chime in with their ideas and this will eventually turn into a pretty comprehensive list of things to avoid, and more importantly (and positively) things to DO to ensure your best chance of success. Maybe we'll eventually try to rank them, but at first a laundry list is a good start and we'll see how it goes.

In no particular order here goes:

- The most common question is probably "what's the best gun, holster, mag, etc". There really isn't an easy answer that works for everyone. Get involved with your local club, see what the folks there are using and ask questions. Hang out at a match, help set steel, paste targets, pick brass etc and you'll suddenly have a bunch of friends. Ask to try guns, look at holsters etc. I don't know anyone that won't let you shoot their gun or try their gear. Heck, they're just as likely to set you up with a full rig and let you shoot a match with it as just talk about it....take them up on their generosity and some day you can do the same for somebody else. In the past year or two I've had a friend loan me a gun to try for a couple of weeks (thanks pjb45!) and later loaned a different friend a gun for a couple of weeks...and that's not at all uncommon. I don't like gross generalizations, but for the most part, don't listen to anything you hear in gun stores. You might run into someone who knows USPSA/IDPA, but it's extremely rare. If they aren't active competitors, they probably don't know what works....the people in your club do know what works and what doesn't.

- Mags: I see lots of folks stuffing their empty/partially empty mags back in their mag pouches after shooting a stage. BAD idea. All it takes is to get distracted, be one of the first shooters on the next stage and you could be starting with too few rounds to finish the stage. At unload and show clear I take the mag out of the gun and put it in my left rear pocket (right handed). When I retrieve my dropped mags I put them in my right rear pocket so I know which need to be cleaned and which can simply be filled. Find some sort of a system, but don't put them back in your mag pouches.

- Mags 2: Clean them every time they hit the ground! I like to empty them completely regardless of whether they've hit the ground or not that way you know, exactly, how many are in each mag. Wipe down the outside with a rag, run a mag brush through the tube and quickly check for cracked feed lips or dents anywhere. Any sort of problem with the mag means it's out of the game until you can test/repair it. Single stack mags can run just fine with cracks at the back of the feed lips, but you don't want to test that for the first time in a match.

- Ammo: For most matches bring enough to shoot every stage twice plus the full capacity of all the mags you keep on your belt because you might have a couple of reshoots. If it's a ten stage match with a minimum round count of 250 it's not likely that you'll need 500+ rounds, but something like 350-400 would be a smart minimum. Say you have bad luck and have three reshoots during the first nine stages. Now you're at 250 plus maybe another 90 or so for the reshoots so minimum to complete the match is now 340. You don't want to walk to the last stage wondering if you have enough rounds in your ammo bag should you wind up with another reshoot.

- Ammo #2: Don't bring more than one load with you unless you are sure they can't get mixed up or combined. Keep the ammo you've set aside to chrono after the match in something totally different from where you keep your match ammo. Personally, I keep chrono ammo in plastic baggies with a data sheet so I can't possibly confuse them with anythng else.

- Ammo #3: Pick a load and practice! Some folks are constantly striving for the Holy Grail of loads that will let them shoot their best. It's almost always counter-productive. You're better off getting your timing down with a load that isn't "perfect" than you are switching all the time and not learning the timing on anything. The better you get, the faster you'll be able to switch loads and adapt, but at first it takes some time. Your body will learn how the gun reacts and will learn to deal with it simply by giving it enough repetitions. If you do change loads, you may find you're slower or less accurate with it immediately after the change. Give yourself several hundred rounds before you decide whether it's better or worse unless it's totally wrong, won't run the gun etc.

- Ammo #4: Use your best ammo at matches. Don't show up with "well, I hope this is going to work" in your ammo bag. If you reload, case gauge/chamber check every round that you'll take to the match. If you have old, worn brass that you use for practice, don't use it at a match. You want the gun to run 100% at the match and you want total confidence in it when you step to the line. Malfunctions not only kill your match, but they kill your ability to learn and experience the match in the most positive fashion. Hint, you'll often learn more during a 4-stage match than you will in five 500-round practice sessions....make that time precious and do whatever it takes to get as much out of it as possible.

- Big match fears: When starting out some folks don't want to go to "big" matches until they have more experience. If you're safe and competent to shoot a local match, you're safe and competent to shoot the Nationals! If you can get to a state, sectional, area, etc match do it sooner rather than later. You'll be exposed to things you haven't seen before, shoot with people you don't know and almost certainly learn more than you ever will at small matches. Some of the best learning I've had has been at a big match where I didn't know a single person on the squad. It does add a little pressure because you're not with your buddies, but it actually helps teach you to perform under pressure even better. Also, every club tends to have stages of a certain "flavor" and you get used to them without realizing it. Some clubs don't have deep bays so they don't have long shots while some clubs don't have as much money to spend on expensive swingers, bobbers, stars etc, so you don't get to practice on them. Sometimes it's just that one or two people do all the stage designs so you see a lot of the same things over and over...it's not bad, but it's reality. Get to a big match, meet the folks on your squad, watch and learn....you'll develop quicker than waiting to be "ready" for the big time.

- Match squadding: I know the social element to our sport is very important to most folks and that's something to be proud of.....for everyone really. With that said, make it a point to shoot with people other than your range buddies sometimes. You might see something new that you would otherwise miss if you were hanging with your friends. Last year I got to shoot a match in MD at a range I've never been to before, with people I didn't know. I wound up on a squad with all Production shooters....and I was shooting Open. Yikes...one of these guys is not like the others! I was planning the stages differently than everyone on the squad (obviously) and talking to the other folks opened my eyes about a couple of things I normally wouldn't have thought of....really eye opening stuff out of nowhere. I found myself really, really tearing apart my stage planning because I didn't have anybody to "compare notes" with. The good thing was that once I was sure of my plan I was really sure of it. There were about 100 shooters and I wound up HOA by a fair margin....surprised the heck out of me, but I'm sure a lot of it was just being absolutely committed to my plan when I stepped up to shoot. I wonder if I would have been quite so committed if I was with my buddies?

- Ask questions! If you see the best shooter at your club or on your squad do something and you're not sure why, ask them if the opportunity comes up. It might be while you're both taping targets or after the match, but ask...they'll be flattered and will almost always be happy to share why they did/do something. I once asked TGO why he shot an array a certain way...I was even more of a nobody back then :P and he went on for about five minutes on exactly why he did it the way he did. Short answer was that he'd run something similar on the clock and was always faster one way versus everything else. Sure, there are a few top shooters out there that are complete tools (like everywhere in life) but that is really the extreme minority and most will be more than happy to chat.

- Stage planning: Once you have a plan, stick to it and don't make a change just because you see someone else do something cool unless you have enough time to be certain you've reprogrammed it in your head. Worst case is you do half of one plan, half of the other and forget something really important in the mix...like an array of targets or something similar.

- Stage planning #2: Say you're on a squad and there's a big name GM shooting with you. If they're getting ready to shoot, are off to the side with their eyes closed air gunning the stage, or something like that, don't walk up and say "hey, how are you gonna shoot this?". There's a good chance you could mess up their pre-stage routine which might be very particular....they probably would be happy to help, but it's just the wrong time. Worst case is they get annoyed and then feel bad about it and walk up to the stage thinking they should have been more polite and trash their run because they're still thinking about it. This can also happen with lower classed shooters, but always seems to happen to the best shooters for obvious reasons. Plenty of people will share their plans with you, and you'll figure out pretty quickly who does and doesn't mind talking about it (probably most don't mind). Often a confused look or just saying "man, I'm lost" while checking out a stage will cause someone to say "not sure huh? I'm thinking XYZ" and you'll be off and running.

- Find a mentor: Not too long ago a good friend of mine started out in USPSA shooting almost from scratch. He'd done a bunch of shooting, but it was more hunting oriented. He got involved with the club and struck up a friendship with a wonderful gentleman who is known and loved by a LOT of people in this sport. I'm paraphrasing, but he told my friend "for the first year, stick with me, do exactly what I tell you to and you'll do great". Man, did that advice ever pay off! His skills jumped by leaps and bounds and he's an incredibly solid shooter now who's probably a couple of decent classifiers away from his M card. A mentor will help guide you through the things discussed in this thread, but more importantly, will be able to tailor their guidance to your strengths and weaknesses. It's really hard to see the big picture of your shooting while you're in it. Your mentor will give you the feedback that's critical to get better. Sometimes things aren't how they seem and what's fast seems slow and vice-versa. I recall finishing one stage at a big match and said "man that was slow, but I know my hits were good". The RO looked at me and said we've only had two times faster than that in three days and then laughed. I wound up third overall on that stage but it sure didn't seem it while I was shooting....a mentor would watch that, break it down and help you make it even better.

Okay, at this point I've been typing for way too long so I'm going to ask everyone to jump on board, add your thoughts and mabye we can help answer questions for folks before they know they need to ask them :)

Edited by G-ManBart

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Great post Bart, I would also say it's a good thing for new shooters to help paste targets (after they've been scored) just to get feel for where the targets are.

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Awesome thread start. I've tagged this one to watch and incorporate into my practices. Include setting up and taking down stages. It gets you thinking about design and it will get some of the match fees waved sometimes. Now just to find a mentor or even a buddy at about the same stage as me to compete and learn with.

-Chris

Edited by Erucolindon

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You MUST be off today, I can't believe how late you were up typing this. :unsure:

Thanks for the effort though, it is good stuff.

Now, down to business......I would like to appoint you as my Mentor for two days during the DP match!! And if I can talk you into moving to Dallas, I would like to extend that by a year or two!! :cheers: Remember that if you move to Dallas, my imrovement will not only help me at the Range, but it could help me save your A** in a pich, because you could be working in one of my Counties!

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Great idea and some outstanding information Bart!

Perhaps the most important aspect for newbies is safety. This includes gun handling but also being aware of others actions if they are the shooter.

For yourself, make sure you are following the safety rules of USPSA as well as using your common sense. When you're getting ready to shoot pay very close attention to the RO. If you're not sure about a command just ask. Even though the RO is responsible, make sure that everything is clear down range yourself. Most importantly know exactly where your gun's muzzle is pointed at all times. This is particularly true if trying to clear a jam or negotiate a physical obstacle. I've personally witnessed four shooters DQ in just the last two matches because they either broke the 180 or launched a round over the berm when trying to clear a jam.

Also pay attention to the person shooting and don't just jabber away to your buddy. Don't assume the shooter will move through the stage safely, be prepared to move. We had one lose his balance last Sunday as he came to a stop while retreating back up range standing on a blank. He did a perfect pirouette and ended up facing a knot of competitors in the peanut gallery. Only a couple moved while several stood there with a perplexed look on their face. Fortunately the shooter had his gun in the low ready position but he did shatter the 180 and swept some lower extremities.

This is a great sport but you need to keep your wits about you to both learn and return home safe and sound. :)

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You MUST be off today, I can't believe how late you were up typing this. :unsure:

Thanks for the effort though, it is good stuff.

Now, down to business......I would like to appoint you as my Mentor for two days during the DP match!! And if I can talk you into moving to Dallas, I would like to extend that by a year or two!! :cheers: Remember that if you move to Dallas, my imrovement will not only help me at the Range, but it could help me save your A** in a pich, because you could be working in one of my Counties!

Yeah, I did take a day of leave....those five day work weeks are just too tiring!

I'd be glad to help any way I can at DTC and I know NM3gnr said the same thing. Between the two of us you're bound to get at least one decent answer!

Oh man, I'll be thrilled if I wind up getting Dallas and not LA, San Fran, NYC etc (no offense to anyone living in those places, of course)...I'm not sure I'm up to full "mentor" standards, but any help I can give, I'm more than happy to pass along. Okay, I'm not staying up late tonight typing...match tomorrow! R,

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Great advice G-ManBart. I hope this thread stays up at the top. I know it will be a benefit to newbies. Mag #2 is great advice and needs to be a "mantra" that is instilled early in the new shooter.

My advice to a newbie would be to tell the RO what you are going to do before you shoot the stage. This reinforces the plan in the new shooters head and gives the RO an opportunity to comment and instruct. Doing this the first several matches really helped me with my confidence.

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Full fledged Newbie here and I am extremely greatful for the info. My first match is coming up in April and I am collecting all of the pointers I can get. This site has been great. The guys at my club have been really helpful when I've been there to practice, but I seldom know the right questions to ask. One thing (IMHO) that would be a great addition to your post would be a point or two about sights: aquiring sight picture, tracking, etc. Like I said I'm real newbie with the bare essentials to shoot a match, and I've met a few like me "just starting out." We don't have reloading equipment or knowledge and are stuck with full power loads. After dropping quite a bit of cash on a competitive Production Division weapon, extra mags, holster, etc, this first year I won't have the cash to invest into a reloader that I won't be disappointed in later. One of the guys at range let me try some his loads and the difference is clear, but I would appreciate some input on how to overcome the recoil and sight aquasition.

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Full fledged Newbie here and I am extremely greatful for the info. My first match is coming up in April and I am collecting all of the pointers I can get. This site has been great. The guys at my club have been really helpful when I've been there to practice, but I seldom know the right questions to ask. One thing (IMHO) that would be a great addition to your post would be a point or two about sights: aquiring sight picture, tracking, etc. Like I said I'm real newbie with the bare essentials to shoot a match, and I've met a few like me "just starting out." We don't have reloading equipment or knowledge and are stuck with full power loads. After dropping quite a bit of cash on a competitive Production Division weapon, extra mags, holster, etc, this first year I won't have the cash to invest into a reloader that I won't be disappointed in later. One of the guys at range let me try some his loads and the difference is clear, but I would appreciate some input on how to overcome the recoil and sight aquasition.

I'll save the sight tracking/picture for another post (and there are folks better able to address this as well), but there is one thing you can do immediately.

For folks who don't reload, get some Atlanta Arms & Ammo 9 or .40 minor ammo. It's great stuff and will be MUCH better than normal factory ammo. I know they have a "Team Glock" load that Dave Sevigny was using at Area-2 and he had nothing but praise for it. I have some video of him posted on my YouTube account (same user name) and you can see how soft/flat shooting it was (not that grip doesn't enter into the equation). Oh, if you happen to be law enforcement, I think they still ship free to LE. R,

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Reading:

http://re-gun.blogspot.com/2007/11/recomme...-practical.html

http://re-gun.blogspot.com/2007/12/recomme...l-shooting.html

Brian's book is wholeheartedly recommended, but you won't find much noob advice there - might be better off saving it until you have some trigger time under your belt.

Totally agree re: RO class... take one as soon as you can.

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Reading:

http://re-gun.blogspot.com/2007/11/recomme...-practical.html

http://re-gun.blogspot.com/2007/12/recomme...l-shooting.html

Brian's book is wholeheartedly recommended, but you won't find much noob advice there - might be better off saving it until you have some trigger time under your belt.

Totally agree re: RO class... take one as soon as you can.

XRe is right. I read Brian's book last year when I very first started USPSA and it was over my head. I'm about to read it again and I think I'll get a lot more out of it this time.

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More tips...

ON BUYING: When starting, every shooter I know (including me) bought stuff (guns and gear) because it was the gear of the week for some gunwriter or it was what the guy behind the counter at the local gun shop recommended. Well, whatever works for the gunscribe or whatever he/she was writing about for that issue of the rag is not necessarily what will work for you or will be the right stuff for the game you want to play. Also, more often than not the guy behind the counter at the gunshop has no clue about what works for practical shooting. Before spending your hard-earned $$, like G-man suggests in his first post, go to matches, get to know the shooters and don't be afraid to ask them questions or to see, handle and shoot their guns. It will save you money in the long run.

ON SAFETY: PLEASE BE SAFE!! It gets REALLY SCARY when an inexperienced shooter gets to the line and tries to go crazy fast many times compromising safety. If you are starting in the practical shooting games, please pay very close attention to:

  • FINGER OFF TRIGGER WHEN NOT SHOOTING
  • MUZZLE DIRECTION AND CONTROL (180)

If this means you have to slow it down a notch, so be it. Safe speed will come in time and with practice. In the beginning shoot slow and do everything else fast.

ON RANGE ETIQUETTE: Be polite and corteous. If someone offers advice listen even if you don't intend to apply it. Help paste targets, set steel and pick up brass... It goes a long way.

That's if for now. Stay tuned.

Edited by Nemo

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very well written with tons of helpful information. Thanks!

+1

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Full fledged Newbie here and I am extremely greatful for the info. My first match is coming up in April and I am collecting all of the pointers I can get. This site has been great. The guys at my club have been really helpful when I've been there to practice, but I seldom know the right questions to ask. One thing (IMHO) that would be a great addition to your post would be a point or two about sights: aquiring sight picture, tracking, etc. Like I said I'm real newbie with the bare essentials to shoot a match, and I've met a few like me "just starting out." We don't have reloading equipment or knowledge and are stuck with full power loads. After dropping quite a bit of cash on a competitive Production Division weapon, extra mags, holster, etc, this first year I won't have the cash to invest into a reloader that I won't be disappointed in later. One of the guys at range let me try some his loads and the difference is clear, but I would appreciate some input on how to overcome the recoil and sight aquasition.

It's far from necessary. We have a local who's taken a couple of high-overall's in major IPDA matches with a factory stock G34 (nothing but sights) and WWB ammo. Trust me, it will be a long time before your ammo is the only thing holding you back.

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Just thought of something else. Aside from trying to learn the rules as best you can, keep a copy of the current edition in your range bag. If you ever run into a situation where you believe a call was made incorrectly it's a lot easier to protest when you have the exact rule in your hands!

Oh yeah, and to get a copy of the rules JOIN USPSA

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thanks for the message. i am new to shooting and this information is going to be tremendously helpful. will be going to a match today at blackcreek and will look to incorporate some of your suggestions. db btw... 1st post and first message read

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will be going to a match today at blackcreek

Good Luck, Stay Safe.

A.T.

P.S. Welcome!

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I would like to add about mag's. If you are getting into a SVI/STI platform get tuned mags at least a couple that will run with 20rds. Don't ask how I know this. :rolleyes:

BK

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Another thing to do at the match is ask around for any group practices. We have a Wednesday night practice for our local club. Every year we introduce lots of people to the basics of USPSA. It is a great opportunity to watch, learn, practice, converse with shooters, and gives you an idea what to expect on match day without the pressure.

Something we tell all of the people that come to wednesday night is "shoot what you got". There is a category for just about every pistol commonly owned. If all you have is a snubby 38 special 5 shot revolver, you can still shoot and have fun in the revolver class with a nylon holster and with/without speed loaders. We had a gal shoot with us that had a factory glock 19 with two magazines. She ended up shooting Open so she could load her mags full to be able to complete the courses of fire. She did not win, but she had a great time. After you have shot some matches, you will get an idea the direction you want to take your shooting.

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As I was reminded in another current thread make sure your shirt is tucked tightly into your belt. If not, it can interfere with your draw or reholstering either of which could result in an accidental discharge and perhaps serious injury.

Wear a tight shirt with a good long tail and make sure it stays in your pants and under your belt. If you have a CR Speed or equivalent belt and have it on reasoably tightly this usually isn't too much of a problem. However, if you're new to the sport and are just using a stiff belt and/or have some love handles it often occurs. Believe it or not a pretty effective corrective action is to tuck your shirt into you underwear. ;)

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There are neat ideas and there are good ideas. Neat ideas are rarely good ideas. Seems obvious, but I see lots of people obsessing about trivial details. For example, on an "unloaded gun on table start", they fuss with getting the gun in just the right spot, propped up on their magazine at just the right angle, standing in an awkward postion to start leaning towards the direction they will be moving, then when the buzzer goes off, they insert the mag but forget to rack the slide. Unless you are finishing in the top 10, all that nonsense really doesn't matter. Focus on the shooting.

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Awsome Post G-Man I will use some ideas of yours. Thanks!!!

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