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Are you thinking about taking your shooting to the next level? Are you trying to step out of your comfort zone? Are you wanting to get involved into the sport of shooting competition? What do you do, where do you start, what next?

Competition isn’t just for sport

Just because it is called “competition” does not mean you are doing it to win.  Sure, that could be up your alley and if so, that’s fine. However, competition is a great place to work on your draw, to work on moving and shooting, to work on doing things on the clock (timed), to work on how you react under pressure (again of the timer).

Regardless of where you are, for the love of all things, it is freaken FUN.  And be prepared, it will be frustrating at times, especially because you are learning something new, but that is always the case with new things, right? But, oh my goodness, it is addictive too, so just a little heads up.

So, wanted to give you a short run down of how to begin to prepare.

How to prepare for competition

Let’s keep this simple – you just need two things established before you jump into competition. You need to have the gear and you need to know where to go. It doesn’t get much more straight forward than that. And luckily for you, I will briefly cover these two.

This goes without saying, but obviously you will need to know HOW to shoot and do so safely.  If you need to learn how to shoot and discuss basic firearms safety, one, I can help you and two, the safety officers (further noted as SO’s) will ensure you are safe too.  But we will cover this a little too.

Gear for competition

Obviously you need a gun and magazines – at least 3 is a good idea. You will need a outside the waistband (OWB) holster and usually us ladies like a drop holster. This just means the holster drops down a little to help with the fact we have curves.  You will have an option for paddle or belt attachment, I prefer belt attachment less chance of movement, but that may be personal preference. You need a good sturdy belt. You will need a magazine carrier/pouch/holster.  You might want to consider buying them in twos – connected to each other, but again, that will depend upon each person and the sport (IDPA, USPSA, IPSC, etc). You will need ammo and then you will need eye and ear protection. I discussed ear protection in a prior blog – Selecting Ear Protection. You also may want to wear a hat to help keep the flying brass out of your face and less to worry about. Wear proper attire (tshirt not vneck, pants with belt loops, tennis shoes of some sort).

  • Gun & holsterHow to get started with firearms training
  • Magazines (3 minimum) & carrier
  • Ammo
  • Eye & ear protection
  • Belt

Where to go

You can’t draw from a holster at most ranges so finding a place to shoot competition is usually the other thing.  Depending upon where you live, there are likely matches going on at indoor and outdoor ranges, public and private. An app and website called Practiscore is where most places post the matches and the scores. Go ahead and create an account, it’s free and will save you having to do so later.  Remember, it’s free so being super robust, it is not.

You can sort by Matches and then use the filtering options to find something a little closer than you.  Remember I said there are different sport types – IDPA (which I prefer), then USPSA, then Steel Challenge, GSSF (Glock shooting match) etc.  Each has it’s own rules and it’s kind of like Android users v Apple users. Each claims they are better than the other, but at the end of the day, it’s still good live shooting practice.  Don’t forget, you can dry fire at home, free. Here are some tips on that – What is Dry Fire & How to Do It.

Then, something else to look at, the match level. Local matches are usually designated as a Tier 1 or Level 1. You will want to stick with one of those and steer clear of the Tier/Level 2-5.

Local matches (to me)

If you are local to me, you can search for Big Kountry (they are in Alvin, off 35) and they have Monday night matches, starts at 630, be there no later than 615 unless it’s your first time and you should be there no later than 6pm for a safety brief and walk thru of the range commands, etc by one of the SOs. I try to go 2x a month.

There there is another place that has matches, near me, and it is a private range but if you go to their match, you can get in.  It is in Friendswood and is called PSC Shooting Club. They mostly register on their website and then post scores back on Practiscore.  So check their matches out on their website and register under Events Booking for the match you are interested in.  I try to get to their IDPA monthly match and if not then hit up their USPSA match. They have a Steel Challenge match too but I don’t do that one often, but it is good for practice as well.

How to shoot and do so safelyshooting in a match around a barricade

Action shooting (competition) is definitely different than standing in a lane, in a bay, of an indoor/outdoor range and shooting at your target at the other end. You will be in front of the line, with an SO walking with you (behind you) to ensure you are safe for you and everyone else, that your finger is off the trigger when you are not actively shooting, that your gun is always pointed at a safe direction and will be there to get you loaded and ready and then unloaded before proceeding to score your target.

So, what do you need to remember?

  • keep your finger OFF the trigger until you are ready to shoot, ride the slide every other time
  • keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, that is down range towards the targets, not up, not down
  • move at a pace that is comfortable for you to do so safely and it’s okay to walk til you get more comfortable
  • don’t point your gun at anything you aren’t willing to destroy – that’s you – don’t sweep your body with your gun when you are holstering, drawing your gun or reloading the gun
  • this was supposed to be fun, don’t worry about anyone else but you, being safe and have fun!

Range commands for competition

The SO will go over these with you but will be super patient with you, so take your time and listen for those commands. Some commands are standard range commands but helpful reminders too.

  • STOP – anyone can yell this command, it means something is not safe and everyone should stop what they are doing and wait for instruction.
  • Range is Hot, eyes and ears – the SO says this before every person goes hot (loads their gun) as a reminder for everyone to be sure they have their eye and ear protection on. Just keep them both on, simple.
  • Load and make ready – the SO says this to the one shooter who is getting ready to shoot. You will take your gun from your holster, without sweeping your hand while doing so, put your magazine that has ammo in it, into your gun, and put one in the chamber, then re-holster your gun. Again, ensure that you don’t get your support hand in the way. LOOK at the holster, that is okay, there is no race into the holster.
  • Shooter are you ready?  Beep – that is the SO giving you a second and advising that the timer is about to go off and when you hear the beep, you draw your gun and then shoot the targets.
  • IF you are finished, unload and show clear, slide, trigger, holster – when you are finished, stay right where you are. Then you will release your magazine (put it in your pocket) pull the slide back, you visually check to be sure there isn’t another round in the gun/chamber, then release the slide, push the gun out and give yourself a dry fire by pulling the trigger (in a safe direction) and then holster the gun, again, all while not sweeping yourself


I will NOT bore you with the details of this right now because the goal, is to get you into the sport and feeling comfortable while moving and shooting all the while doing so safely and having fun.

So, hopefully this has been helpful in getting you a little ready for competition because I know most women want to know more about it before dipping their toe in. Sure, there are gals like me who dove in head first, didn’t have someone holding their hand along the way, but I am here should you need a push for the head first dive, a review of your competition videos, some one on one to get you better or some hand holding. Contact me for any and all of the above.

Here is a stage video to give you a little idea of what it is about, and notice the range commands as well.