Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Introduction to USPSA: April, 2009

Once again we're looking forward to the next month, and the possible addition of New Shooters joining the Columbia Cascade Section of USPSA.

That means that, on the First Saturday of the month, I will be found from 1pm to 4pm at the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (ARPC) teaching an "Introduction to USPSA" match.

By now you understand how much I enjoy meeting these eager New Shooters, and you probably understand how enthusiastically I approach each class.

It occurs to me that, even though I've tried to share my syllabus with others who intend to teach similar classes, I've never codified the information which I provide to students.

Here then, is the note which I attempt to send to each student before the class:

My name is [My_Name]. I've been a member of (and a competitor in) USPSA since 1983. I will be your instructor in the [class_date], "Introduction to USPSA" class.

To complete the certification process, you need to do the three things which [Head_instructor] has already defined. My part is the "#2" thing: "Attend Live Fire Safety Session with one of our instructors."

We have provided this instruction (in my personal experience) for a single person, and for as many as 13 people. Sunny weather seems to bring more people to the range. The medium attendance seems to be 3 or 4 people. As a member of a smaller class (if that so happens), you're lucky because we have more time to attend to the nuances.

USPSA People LOVE to have new shooters. Expect to be welcomed by the 'old' competitors at your first match; we like to see new people.

We want you to feel entirely comfortable, so here's what you will learn on the first Saturday of next month, when you take the class, and (hopefully) the second Saturday of April, when you will complete your certification.

Here is some information so you know what to expect during the Class and during your first match.

Two Things You Need To Know:
  1. What the Certification class will be like;
  2. What you need to bring, both to the Class and to your First Match.

1: What the USPSA Certification Class will be like:

You will need to bring with you:
  • Your completed test
  • Handgun (minimum: 9mm)
  • Ammunition (minimum: 50 rounds)
  • Wear a belt which is wide enough and strong enough to support the 'stuff' you should carry on your belt.
  • At least two, preferably four (depending on your magazine limits) Magazines, and sufficient Magazine Carriers which will fit on your belt. You will need to reload at least once in the certification course; you will need to reload at 3 times at your first match. (Note that this varies according to which Division you declare for competition. This is because some Divisions only allow 8 or 10 rounds per magazine, and others have no limits on the number of rounds which can be loaded in your magazines.)
Your handgun must fit your ammunition, your ammunition must fit within reload magazines, all reload magazines must fit your gun. This probably seems obvious to you. We'll talk about this in the class.

We will meet at the designated bay on the North Range of the Albany Rifle and Pistol club ... probably bay 3 or bay 5. I'll try to put a sign out in front of the entry to the bay, before your expected 1pm time of arrival.

Bring your 'test'. The first hour of the class will be devoted to discussing the test question, and the various nuances of the test questions. Read the book, know the answers.

After the talking part is through, we will walk you through several scenarios designed to teach you what you need to know about safe gun-handling, and USPSA competition. Note that there will be plenty of opportunities for error. During these exercises, we will faithfully follow the three steps of successful training:

  1. Describe the training scenario
  2. Demonstrate the training scenario
  3. Walk the student through each stage.
You are ALWAYS encouraged to ask question during the class.

The scenarios used to teach you safe Gun Handling skills, and competitive skills (also etiquette and an understanding of the Squadding procedure) are as follows:
  1. Stage 1, designed to familiarize you with Standard Range Commands and revisit basic Gun handling skills: Engage one target with one shot. NOTE: also teaches range commands, and the appropriate shooter reactions to errors in understanding;
  2. Stage 2, designed to re-enforce previously taught skills, also to learn the skill needed to engage multiple targets. Engage two targets with at least two rounds each. The student may reload as needed. A mandatory reload requirement may be included, depending on the mood and whimsy of the Range Officer, to teach you how to reload during moments of competitive stress..
  3. Stage 3, designed to teach you the principles of safe movement, shooting behind a vision barrier, safe reloading and indexing from one shooting position to another: engage two cardboard targets with at least two rounds (see above), then move down-range to a shooting box behind a Bianchi Barricade (with a shooting box behind it.) . There you will be expected to engage one USPSA Steel Target, and one USPSA Pepper Target, from opposite sides of the Bianchi Barricade. (Note to yourself: always be certain that during movement, you make it obvious to the Range Officer that your finger is NOT on the trigger during these two events.)
  4. Variations on the above themes, as they seem necessary to the instructor.
(1a:) What you need to bring both to the Class:
  1. Handgun; caliber 9mm or larger
  2. Ammunition, at least 50 rounds.
  3. Magazines (if appropriate to handgun, assumed to be a semi-automatic pistol); at least three;
  4. Magazine carriers, at least two .. preferably three (for a match);
  5. Belt, sufficient to carry holstered pistol, magazines and magazine carriers. At least 1-1/2" wide, sturdy enough to support the weight of the pistol yet withstand the action of drawing the pistol without excessive 'give'.
Again; variations may be included, but these are the basics.

2: What you need to know and bring, to your First Match.

You will need the same equipment to our first match as you need to bring to your orientation class. However, expect that you will need a minimum of 150 rounds of ammunition to successfully complete the match. There will be six (6) stages at the match, with an average minimum round count of 25 rounds per stage. My personal criteria is to bring at least 50% more ammunition than the minimum, which suggests 225 rounds. For your own satisfaction, I strongly suggest that you bring 100% more ammunition than the minimum .. 300 rounds. You'll use it up eventually, so you should seriously consider bringing much more ammunition than you will need for the first match.

Depending on the Division restrictions for ammunition available in each magazine, you will need more magazines than the minimum required to complete a single stage:
  • Singlestack (8-rounds maximum per magazine) bring at least 5 magazine (40 rounds available);
  • Production or Limited-10 (10-rounds maximum per magazine) bring at least 4 magazines (40 rounds available);
  • Limited (either 18 or 20 rounds maximum per magazine) bring at least 3 magazines (54 rounds available);
  • Open (up to 30 rounds maximum per magazine) bring at least 3 magazines (75 - 90 rounds available).
The reason to bring MORE magazines than you expect to need is because if you lose a magazine, or experience a failure-to-feed jam, you may need to jettison a magazine. You should ALWAYS bring more ammunition, and more magazines, than you expect to need.

You should bring sufficient magazine carriers to legally carry the maximum number of magazines. Note that you can carry 'extra' magazines in your pockets, and use them after all of the magazines in your magazine carriers have been expended. If this financial investment is excessive to your ability, don't feel that you cannot be competitive. Bring what you have, and expect to "go to the pocket". Still, at least two magazine carriers are strongly advised no matter what Division you choose to compete in.


You should show up at the range by 8am, certainly by 8:30, for a 9am start to the match. This will allow you sufficient time to sign up for the match, and get your gear on and magazines loaded.

The match will start at 9am. There will be a Shooters Meeting, usually given by the Range Master (RM_Name), often followed by a "Walk-Through" of the stages. During the walk-through, the Range Master will describe the requirements for each stage. These requirements are described in you test. You will want to know, and be clear on, the requirements for each stage.

During sign-up you will want to make the statistician aware that you are a New Shooter. If the statistician does not do so, you will want to mark each score sheet (one for each stage) with the comment "NEW SHOOTER". This will help others in your squad to know that you should be the last shooter in your squad to shoot each stage. This is for your benefit; you will be able to watch the rest of the shooters in your squad engage the targets, so you have adequate time and experience to evaluate the best way for YOU to engage the targets on each stage.

Squadding: there is a 'squad sign-up sheet' available in the stats room when you sign up for the match. Find a group of people who you wish to shoot with, and put your name on the same squad sign-up sheet. Look for my name ([My_Name]), or the name of the demonstrator who assisted during your Certification Course. Usually, this is [Demonstrator_Name]. IF another demonstrator worked during your class, look for that person. If those squads are full, it doesn't matter what squad you join as long as they know that you are a New Shooter. Experienced shooters will almost invariably be happy to help you get through your First Match safely.

>From this point on, just ... coast. Your goal is to get through your first match safely. Do not attempt to shoot 'fast';, shoot SAFELY, and your second priority is to conform to the stage procedures. The third priority is to shoot accurately; hit each target with the first shot if possible. Be certain that you can at least engage ("shoot at") each target without running out of ammunition.

That's a lot to remember. Don't feel that you need to remember all of this. We will discuss every point, and demonstrate most of them, during your certification Class. If you have questions, don't feel shy about asking them during any part of the class.

This is suppose to be fun. It's not suppose to be as intimidating as this email probably suggests. Be assured that you will leave your Introduction to USPSA class with all of your questions answered, and you will have plenty of advice (much of it unsolicited) from the members of your squad at your First Match.

All you have to remember is (a) shoot safely, and (b) have fun.

You aren't expected to win your first match. The only expectation is that you will shoot safely, and will become irretrievably "hooked on IPSC" after a single match.

Ask questions. You can reply to this email if you have any concerns which are not already answered.

Looking forward to meeting you on [class_date].

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