Are you looking to elevate your speed and accuracy skill level? Want to find a low cost way to continually practice? The Bay Area offers several places where you can hone your abilities through shooting competitions.
What are the benefits of shooting competitions?
*Participating in a shooting competition can help even the most inexperienced shooters gain important skills and experience unexpected benefits.
Even beginner-to-intermediate shooters can benefit from participating in shooting competitions.
Competition shooting can help you become better at your craft, and skills can increase with repeat competitions.
Some of the unexpected benefits develop into skills that can carry over into real-life situations.
For many beginner or intermediate shooters, the idea of participating in a competition may seem daunting. You may think competitions are only for the best of the best, and it would be a waste of time to try to participate. The benefits of competitive shooting extend beyond the idea of winning first prize. Even for a novice shooter, participation can prepare you for the next level and teach you how to operate your gun in a high-pressure, time-sensitive situation. If you have been reluctant to enter a shooting competition because you don’t feel like you have enough experience or talent, consider some of the unexpected benefits.
Increasing Focus While Shooting
If you are a recreational shooter, you are probably used to shooting at targets in the comfort of a shooting range or another location where you have time to carefully set up your shot for accuracy. Some shooting ranges have options that put a little pressure on you to help you increase your skills with timing in addition to accuracy. If you are accustomed to shooting a moving target, such as with skeet shooting, you may already have some experience with increased focus while shooting.
Participating in a competition pushes you to take this focus to the next level. Not only do you learn to handle the changing targets, but you also have to learn to tune out the distractions around you. The more competitions you complete, the more skilled you become at learning where to place your focus, and the better you get at ignoring distractions.
Remaining Calm Under Pressure
Similar to learning how to tune out distractions and focus on the task at hand, competing in a shooting tournament helps you develop the skills you need to stay calm under pressure. Practicing at a range can give you an adrenaline rush, but it doesn’t compare with a real-life situation where you have to think on your feet and avoid panic. During a competition, the stakes are higher, and you learn to control the adrenaline rush to use to your advantage.
Staying calm under pressure can help you improve your shooting skills and make you perform better at each competition, but this is a benefit that can also help you in your everyday life. Some individuals find that participating in competitive shooting events helps you learn to remain calm during other unrelated high-pressure situations that arise.
Learning More About Your Firearm
Practice makes perfect, but studying up on your firearm to learn how to manage it properly doesn’t hurt. No matter how much information you read, advice you absorb, or times you practice at the range, there is still more to learn about using your firearm that you can’t get in a practice situation. During a competition, you are forced to get to know your firearm in ways outside the box compared to typical target practice. Under the pressure of competition, you learn when you are making a mistake that costs you time and accuracy, how to correct errors on the fly, and how to perfect your grip for the best experience. Instead of practicing one skill at a time, you get a crash course on every skill you need all at one time.
Rethinking Your Shooting Methods
Many of the unexpected benefits of participating in competitive shooting are related to one another, and the tactical skills you gain are another benefit that can carry over into parts of your life. Competitions involve strategizing in ways that you don’t usually consider when shooting at targets or studying up on your firearm. The setup of competition means you have to plan your moves wisely, taking shots carefully and strategically.
Planning out your strategy takes higher-level thinking skills, and honing these skills can be used in more ways than just increasing the quality of your shot. Strategizing and tactical planning are useful in your everyday life, and you may find that the more competitions you try, the more situational awareness you develop. Learning to visualize a plan and implement it successfully can be beneficial to your work life as well as your home life.
Making Connections With Other Participants
Participating in competitions with others who share your hobby creates a camaraderie you can’t quite accomplish in other ways. Competitive shooting is no exception to this rule. You will find a wide range of participants at every competition, from all walks of life and of every type of background. Some individuals learned to shoot from a family member years ago as a child, while others never picked up a firearm until adulthood. Some people you meet shoot purely for recreation, while others developed skills because they were necessary for a specific career, such as law enforcement.
One thing everyone seems to have in common is the willingness to teach others new skills and strategies to perform better. No one at shooting competitions likes to hoard knowledge, and part of the fun is providing tips and tricks to those looking for ways to improve the game. Since there are shooters of every skill level, there is always something to learn and someone to teach you.
Keeping a Clear Perspective
Sometimes it takes learning more about a subject to realize just how much you don’t know about it. When you begin to shoot competitively, you quickly learn that there is always another skill to develop and more ways to advance the skills you have already mastered. You also realize that no matter how tactical and strategic you begin to shoot, it’s no substitute for a real-life situation when you have someone who is returning fire. This healthy perspective makes you appreciate the power and responsibility behind using your firearm. Gaining perspective transfers over to real life and can help you better respect the choices people make under pressure.
**The Issues with Competition Shooting for Self Defense
Although competition shooting does help develop quick reflexes and makes you practice drawing from the holster, it does create bad habits. One issue with competitions is the lack of shooting from cover.
Many law enforcement and tactical trainers agree competition shooting like IDPA and steel competitions focus on quick shots but no cover-based shooting. Having even the slightest bit of cover or concealment from an attacker can give you the edge along with shielding you from potential gunfire.
Another issue can be the lack of danger incorporated into the drills. This can be hard to create in any drill, but competition shooting can sometimes make someone forget about the potential dangers. The biggest danger for carriers is the threat of gunfire coming at them
Training with sim rounds can really give the shooter a feeling in danger. Sim rounds do a great job of creating a sense of urgency as well. Threat training using simulation rounds is probably one of the most effective ways to train. "Force-on-Force" training with simulated rounds is available at several training companies in the Bay Area.
What's important to remember is that competition shooting should be PART of your overall training. As mentioned earlier, there are many good aspects of competition BUT you can develop training scars if you don't balance it out with other types of training. Tactical, static line, force on force, and dry fire practice are all valuable additions to you training regimen.
How to Get Involved
There are several ranges that offer competition shooting in different leagues around the Bay Area. If you are interested in competition shooting the first thing you will need to do is take a safety class. These classes are designed to teach you the do's and don'ts of competitive shooting. Richmond Hot Shots offer safety classes throughout the year at The Richmond Rod and Gun Club. Diablo Action Pistol offers safety classes for Steel Challenge events at the USI rifle and pistol range in Concord, Ca.
Once you have taken a safety class it is a good idea to become a member of USPSA. That membership number will allow you to keep track of the competitions you have entered and see how you are progressing through the ranking system. Being a member of USPSA also gets you discounts on match entry fees. USPSA membership fees are $25 per year. You can join USPSA here.
lastly, before you enter your first match, sign up for a free Practiscore account. Practiscore is where you can find all the matches in the area or for a particular club. Bay Area competition shooters often follow both Richmond Hotshots and DAP clubs to get info on all local upcoming matches. Practiscore is also where you will find match results for previous matches you have entered. You can sign up for a Practiscore account here.
Click on the map below to find shooting clubs in and around the Bay Area.
Practical Shooting attempts to measure the ability to shoot rapidly and accurately with a full power handgun, rifle, and/or shotgun. Those three elements – speed, accuracy, and power – form the three sides of the practical shooting triangle. By design, each match will measure a shooter’s ability in all three areas.
Spectators are welcome!
Shooters take on obstacle-laden stages requiring anywhere from six to 30+ shots to complete. The scoring system measures points scored per second, then weights the score to compensate for the number of shots fired. If they miss a target, or shoot inaccurately, points are deducted, lowering that all-important points-per-second score.
USPSA is run as a cold range, which means you may only handle the guns in specified SAFE AREAS, or while under the supervision of the Safety Officer.
Competitors move, negotiate obstacles, run, speed-reload, and drive their guns through each of several courses as fast as their skills will allow. The matches are held outdoors, in all weather, further taxing competitor skill.
Most practical shooters are just regular people that enjoy shooting on the weekends – much the way the average golfer enjoys golf. They offer competitive divisions for most handguns, from revolvers, to scope-sighted, recoil-compensated “race guns” developed just for the sport.
If you come out and happen to observe a stage where an Open class A shooter is shooting, don’t get discouraged. You will fit into a class and compete against persons at your own level. Nearly everyone is very cordial getting new shooters started.
Typical matches consist of 5 stages totaling about 120 rounds, but always bring plenty of extra rounds, you will need a holster that covers the trigger, magazines and mag pouches (you will need to have up to 40 rounds on you for some stages). There are paper targets that are stationary, drop and twist, swing, turn etc. They have reactive steel targets as well.
A Steel Challenge match features 8 courses of fire with 5 steel targets per stage. Targets range in distance from 21 feet all the way out to the 35-yard line. The smallest steel targets used in the sport are 10-inch round plates, with the largest 18x24 rectangular steel.
The goal is simple. Shoot the plates as fast as you can. The fastest time, or lowest score, wins. Make up shots on targets are allowed but it’s important to note that every stage features a stop plate. You can choose to shoot all other plates on a stage in any order you like, but a hit on the stop plate ends your run. Any targets missed after a hit on the stop plate earn a time penalty that is added to your score. Competitors shoot each stage 5 times with the exception of the stage "Outer Limits." "Outer Limits" is also the only course shot 4 times and requires you to shoot from 2 different positions. Each of the 8 courses of fire pose different challenges. Where "Smoke & Hope" tests pure speed with large targets set at close distances, courses like "Five To Go" and “Pendulum" test your accuracy with smaller targets set to greater distances.
The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body of a shooting sport that
simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. It was founded in 1996 as a response to the desires of shooters worldwide.
IDPA offers an exciting forum for practical shooters in which truly practical equipment, techniques and courses of fire are mandated. Prior to IDPA, there was no place to compete with common service pistols. There were no shooting sports where your concealed carry holster could also be your match holster without handicap.
When you come to an IDPA match, you can not only use your duty/CCW equipment, you can be completely competitive with it! Other shooting sports have become equipment races; IDPA will not.
If you’re interested in using truly practical pistols to solve challenging and exciting defensive shooting problems, then IDPA is the sport for you.
Multigun, Multi Gun or Multi-Gun, often also called 2-Gun or 3-Gun depending on the types of firearms used, are practical shooting events where each of the stages require the competitor to use a combination of handguns, rifles, and/or shotguns. Multigun has a lot in common with ordinary IPSC/ USPSA single gun
matches, and matches generally have courses of fire where the shooter must move through different stages and engage targets in a variety of different positions.
Multigun in its oldest form is arranged by the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) as Tournaments, but doesn't require the competitor to transition between firearms during the stage. Instead tournaments consists of separate Component Matches for each firearm type with a combined scoring in the end.
3 Gun Nation
Getting started in 3-gun can seem intimidating because most of us didn’t grow up running around with an AR-15 in our clutches. It’s alien and fast-moving, and at first all the other participants will be much better at it than you. But if you toss
your ego aside and jump in the arena, you’ll find that it’s a very supportive community and that getting involved is very easy.
First, search around online to find a 3-gun match in your area that is open to the public and at least a few weeks away. A great place to start is -3gunnation.com. An emerging body that currently sanctions matches in more than 100 townships across America, 3-Gun Nation works to standardize the rules of 3-gun and to create a network of local tournaments whose winners can move on to bigger events. (The year’s top point accumulators compete in a final national event where a champion is crowned.)
Next you need to choose a classification (see below) and get outfitted. Depending on the class you select, it might be possible to use guns you already own. You’ll need ammo, and lots of it. Each 3-gun match listing will give a minimum requirement. Double it. Quantity is more important than quality, so buy inexpensive ammo in bulk.
*MGM Targets - Unexpected Benefits of Competitive Shooting - October 1, 2021 - https://mgmtargets.com/unexpected-benefits-of-competitive-shooting/
**Police1.com - Is competition a good training tool? - March 17, 2020 - https://www.police1.com/police-products/firearms/training/articles/is-competition-shooting-a-good-training-tool-JGYHUnpdjGfenrTa/