Shooter 1: 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 2:  2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 3: 2 Alpha; 1 Alpha, 1 Bravo; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

Shooter 4: 2 Charlie; 1 Charlie, 1 Mike; 1 Charlie, 1 Mike; 2 Charlie…

Shooter 5: 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha; 2 Alpha…

If this sounds like your idea of shooting at a competitive event (with you being Shooter 4), you owe it to yourself to go to a local competition. Unlike the perfect scores you imagine everyone else gets, you will find the “All Alpha” shooter is only slightly less rare than bricks of .22lr. At the local level, a large portion of the shooters are in the solid A and B category. A number of them even have the occasional Mike (otherwise known as a “Miss”). You will also probably find yourself shooting much better than you expect. After my first IPSC shoot, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Alpha called out a couple of times while my targets were scored. I think I was more surprised, however, to see one of the regulars put a hole in the roof of our indoor range. A negligent discharge while shooting a course is a disturbing experience for all (both witnesses and shooter). Watching the dust and debris settle to the floor I realized a very important life lesson: just because someone repeatedly participates in an activity does not make them competent at said activity. So don’t be intimidated. Unless your local competition is filled with sponsored, olympic hopefuls you will soon be shooting midrange of the pack. You will also soon discover that the competition is not really against the others but yourself.


I attended my first competitive shooting event nearly a year ago. That first event, I realized how rough my firearm handling skills were. The only kind of shooting I had done was standing still firing at a still target. I had never practiced tactical reloads, strong hand/weak hand shooting, or shooting and moving. I had also never practiced drawing with a loaded gun. Participating in the IPSC competitions helped me fine tune many of these skills. For this reason, I recommend other gun owners check out their local shooting competitions. The lessons you will learn not only benefit you in the competition, but will also benefit you in real-life lethal scenarios.

Skills Developed

Competitive events, such as IDPA and IPSC, are fun and challenging activities for those of us that enjoy the thrill of competition. However, even if you are not a competitive person I still recommend you try it out. You can learn and fine tune many weapon handling skills by engaging in competitive shooting.


~Shoot and Move: Unlike most ranges, here you are actually required to move. To see various targets you must change your position constantly and it is not uncommon to see a competitor running between stations. This movement not only reflects the realities of many lethal force confrontations but also helps mimic the physiological conditions (adrenaline, loss of fine motor control, etc…) inherent in those situations.

~Moving targets: I’m not sure how many of you have ever tried to hit a moving target but it is a lot harder than I expected (of course, trying to hit an eastern diamondback in tall grass at night may not have been the best introduction to moving targets). I would highly recommend first practicing with moving targets in a controlled environment, such as a competition, over waiting till you hear that “bump in the night.”

~Safety Awareness: Many shooters become much more aware of safety concerns once they begin to shoot competitively. I believe some of this is due to the constant reminders given by the range masters and fellow shooters, but it is also emphasized by point deductions for violations.

~Rapid target acquisition: The very nature of competitive shooting encourages a shooter to develop the skills necessary for quickly getting sights on target. The quicker you get on target, the quicker you can complete the course and the higher ranked you will be (assuming a constant degree of accuracy).

~Accuracy: while accuracy may also be practiced on a static range, there is a big difference between typical range practice and the stress of competition. At a competition you have the stress of the timer, other shooters, and the physical stress of movement. You will be surprised by how much one or all of those factors may affect your accuracy.

~Shooting Under Stress: By incorporating the stress of the clock, competition and the physical stress of that particular course, shooters can approximate real life encounters. We fight the way we train. It is vital to train as realistically as possible.


~Tactical Reloads: Many, if not all, of these competitions require you to reload your firearm at specific points. Again, this is to reflect the realities of lethal encounters. You do not want to be left holding an empty gun after dispatching the first threat… there may be a second or third threat.

~Malfunction Clearing: Same goes for malfunction clearing. It is better to be fumbling through clearing your first malfunction during a competition than in a real firefight.

~Holster Draw: Many ranges will not allow you to draw from a holster, for safety concerns, yet most real life encounters begin with a holster draw. The ability to quickly access and draw your firearm from a holster is a perishable skill and must be practiced continuously.

~Muzzle Control: Muzzle control is rigorously enforced at competitive events. The majority of people who come through our store on a regular basis would benefit from such continuous reinforcement.

~Recoil Control: At my first competition, I quickly realized that my biggest challenge was managing the recoil. The ability to keep sights on target (and not loose your sight picture as the gun flips up) greatly reduces your time between shots and improves your overall score.


~Weak/Strong Hand Shooting: While many of us acknowledge the importance of practicing one-handed shooting, how many of us honestly do it? I never did. I was intimidated by it. By participating in IPSC competitions I was forced to practice a skill I didn’t practice otherwise. (To offer a word of encouragement: I found shooting one-handed is nothing to be intimidated by. I actually tend to be more accurate with my weak hand than my strong hand.)

Gear Needed


A Race Gun

What you will need to bring with you depends on which competition you decide to participate in. Before rushing out to buy a whole bunch of supplies, contact the organizer of the event or one of the participants and ask them. As a general rule, you will need 2-5 extra magazines, a way to quickly access them (they should not be in pockets), and an OWB holster. IPSC competitions are focused on time and accuracy whereas IDPA was developed to facilitate the practice of realistic lethal force encounters. You will see a lot of “race guns” at IPSC but IDPA bans “competition only” equipment. Either way, you will probably need 50-100+ rounds of ammo. Again, it is a good idea to ask beforehand.

General Advice

In the long run, you really are not competing against others. You are competing against yourself. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t move up the scoreboard. The others may be improving at the same rate you are. Focus on improving one or two techniques at a time, and don’t let the others bother you. For your first event, take it slow. Don’t try to match the speed of the others around you. Focus on accuracy and forget about the clock for the first couple of times. I often am told, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” Focus on the mechanics: draw, aim, shoot, move, aim, shoot, move/reload, aim, shoot, etc… Once you get all of these down, your speed will naturally increase.


  1. Paul Blackburn says:

    Is there any type of shooting events at Autrey’s?

    • Hi Paul,

      It’s Ruth. Thanks for reading my blog. There is an IPSC competition every Tuesday night. They usually start setting up around 6:15 or 6:30. They’d be glad for you to come check it out one of these days.

      Hope you have a great day!

      • Well hello,
        I just stumbled upon your blog this weekend and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I was very courious about the identity of the author. The subjects are very pertinent, well researched, and extremely well written.
        Thanks for the info and for writing the blog. Glad I found it!


  2. Well hello,

    Thanks for the info and for writing this blog. Fortunately I stumbled upon it this weekend and have thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning. The subjects and material is very pertinent, well researched, and very well written. I was curious as to the identity of the author.
    Great job!


    • Thank you very much, Paul! I enjoy researching and finding out new information. One of the things I missed from my teaching days was the constant intellectual stimulation. I found a replacement in writing this blog. I’m just glad other people enjoy reading it.


      • You certainly are good at researching these topics and your blog is a way for others to benefit from your work and conclusions. What did you teach and what happen to your teaching days? A couple of things I am currently researching are; 1. Why are martial arts called arts? 2. When does the study of self defense become art? 3. Have my weapons become idols? ( this ones kinda personal)

        Anyway take care and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


        Sent from my iPhone


      • Hi Paul,

        I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

        Thank you for the compliments. I do appreciate it. My degree is Agriculture Education. I taught that for 3 years in public school, then moved to teaching kindergarten, middle and high school math, science and Spanish at a small private school. I enjoyed teaching at the private school, but the cumulated affect of teaching new topics every year for five years got to me. I burned out. That coincided with a move back to Georgia and it gave me a perfect opportunity to seek a new profession. I went looking for a 9 to 5 job and God led me to Autreys. I’ve been having a blast ever since.

        Those are excellent questions! You’ve got me curious now. Let me know what you find out. That last question is one I’ve struggled with myself… Do I trust in my weapons more than God? is another aspect of that same question.

        Take care,


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