Sunday, June 2, 2013

GNB: Tips for people attending action shooting sports for the first time

You have a handgun.
You go to a range.
You set up the target.
You shoot a nice group.
You shoot fast.

You've been doing this for some time and you hear about this IDPA/IPSC or some local competition. You hear how you can draw from holster and shoot targets that are in various positions.

You are interested.

So what should you do?

First let's talk about equipment. You probably have a range bag, hearing and eye protection so let's get to other things.

Usually, you need some sort of holster. Which one should you get?

My usual recommendation is something from G-CodeBlade-Tech or Comp-Tec. They are generally easier to find in a lot of gun stores, and kydex is an excellent material that is suited for variety of use. You can get leather holsters, but they do need a bit of break-in which might be cumbersome for some people.
Blade Tech


G-code OSH

If you are not a gear-oriented person, these will be a great purchase that will fill a lot of need for a long time. If you really get into holsters, you will find countless premium products that will fit your need. But for the first timers, there is no need for fancy expensive gear. Let's keep it simple.

Some people like to use nylon holsters found in Walmart or similar places. My experience with similar nylon products has been ok, but I eventually found out that kydex offers more. You can still use those holsters for competitions, but unless your finance is really tight, I'd suggest looking for something better.

You don't need retention holster for action games. But if you want to use it, no one is stopping you.

Some people ask about SERPA holsters. Personally, I'd stay away from them. There has been a number of problems with users not using it correctly, resulting in leg injury. While some like to argue that it's an user error. It is true, but the problem is that the design lends itself to increased chance to make mistakes. For beginners, I think having such retention system is not the best idea. (Note: I have one)

Magazine pouches
If you want a good sturdy magazine pouch, kydex once again is the king. My recommendation is something that is inexpensive. Uncle Mike's, Blade-Tech and 5.11 Tactical has double magazine pouch that costs around $20-30. Those will work well for a lot of competitions. There are single magazine pouches, but they generally are more expensive. I've had good luck with Uncle Mike's, but I am aware of others who didn't.

This is something that you could think about later. If you have a sturdy belt that is 1.25 inches or wider, most of the holsters you buy should work okay with it. But if you want a dedicated belt, there are many you can choose from. If you are of tactical flavor, there is the VTAC Battle Belt, but for average shooters, Wilderness Tactical Instructor belt($39.95) is more than enough.

If you want to wait a while before putting money in to belt selection, that is fine too. Personal experience tells me that as long as I have a good 1.25 inch or wider belt, I am good to go.

IDPA limits stage round count to 18 per stage, USPSA, 42 rounds. So if you have enough magazines to carry at least that much, you are good to go. However, it is recommended that you'd need at least 1 or 2 more for various purposes.

You might miss a few rounds or have some kind of mechanical problem with magazines. Sometimes you may lose a magazine, so it is a good idea to have a few more than you might need according to stage round count.

Factory magazines are the best, but if you are looking for better deals, Mec-Gar magazines are the best alternative since they make magazines for a lot of guns. For 1911 users, you have many choices - Wilson Combat, Tripp, Chip McCormick and many more. Try a few of them and see how they work with your 1911.

Other miscellaneous items

UpLula magazine loader
This gadget makes loading magazines a lot easier. If you have hard time putting that last round in, this will be a great help. They can be found for about $30.

Baby wipes
It is easier to clean your hands when you have baby wipes. Some ranges have a good restroom and you can wash your hands there, but having your own baby wipes makes it a lot easier. You can get cheap one from Walmart for $2 and it will last you quite a while.

After the game is done, you can simply wipe your hands, hearing protection, and eye protection and get rid of residues from firing your gun. It is a lot easier to clean your hands and keep things clean right on the range then to come home and do it later.

Lunch, snacks and water
Some matches last several hours. A local club I am familiar with sometimes has 80-120 people attending. That means when the match starts at 9am, you probably will be done after 1pm, the earliest.

Most of times you can go to your favorite eatery, but if that is not feasible, you can deal with hunger by going out to parking lot and eat the sandwich if you have some time. It is amazing how much a sandwich can help with keeping your energy up.

Also, you should bring water. Even if it is a cloudy day, you need water, and not having it is not a good experience. Get some large bottles(1 liter) from supermarket and that should be plenty. During summer or any hot days, bring double the amount or how much you need it. When it is hot, you will need water to prevent dehydration.

Weather appropriate attire
Most matches take places when snow melts away, but it still can get cold. Bring a suitable attire that will keep you warm. I sometimes bring hand warmers to keep my hands warm. You can use gloves and hand warmer for even better effect.

During hot days, I'd recommend sun block/sun screen lotions. It is better to avoid getting sun burns than to suffer through it. Even if it looks cloudy, apply the sun block if it is warm. For added protection, wear a cap. Any cap will do, but it's advisable to get something that covers back of your neck, if possible.

...and a really miscellaneous item...

Folding chair
Matches generally take a few hours and sometimes you have to wait for people to finish before your team/squad has to go. If that's the case you might want to contemplate on bringing a folding chair. It is not a must, but if you go to matches often enough, you might find it useful.

If you are still unsure about which equipment to use, my suggestion is to take a look at what other competitors are using. Stop by the range when the game is being held and strike up a conversation and get some tips. This is far better than wasting money only to find out it may not be the best choice.