Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Defense of USPSA

There's been a fair bit of chatter of late across the gun blogosphere and the shooting TV universe about IDPA.  There's no denying that IDPA is "teh hawt" right now as it outwardly markets itself as being the shooting sport for the average fella (or gal).

In the world, I find myself oftentimes listening to screed X or scenario Y about how IDPA is so much better than USPSA and why IDPA is more welcoming to new shooters.  Hogwash, I say.  Here's why...

Argument - IDPA is better-suited to the new shooter as it's slower and less expensive than USPSA.
Response - Nope.
USPSA Production gives any shooter, new or experienced, the opportunity to join a "run what ya brung" division -- most stages can be completed by a person with a box-stock defensive handgun and just a couple extra magazines.  As with any sport, advancement to the higher levels (A and higher) require a significance investment in equipment as well as training and experience, but the same can be said about achieving Expert or Master classifications in IDPA.  For most beginning shooters, especially those on a budget, Production is the perfect place to start a long and rewarding experience in competitive shooting.

Argument - IDPA is designed to build real-world defensive shooting skills and offers a more slow and measured approach, being defensive-shooting-oriented.
Response - How?
What does forcing me to reload only behind cover, retain a magazine, or run a stuffed animal through a simulated bedroom do that I can't equally focus on in a "run and gun" USPSA match?  Defensive shooting situations out in the real world are typically over with in seconds and the victor is rarely the one who didn't let a mag hit the ground or safely got the toy penguin from the briefcase nobody carries anymore to the bedroom that magically appeared at a gun range.  In truth, USPSA focuses more on the skills that matter -- creative problem solving, rewarding speed WITH accuracy, and constantly moving to solve the course without getting stuck in one place.  Yeah, we're "gamers" but shooting matches are precisely that!  They are competitive games held by competitive people in a fun, safe, and constructive setting.  We don't wear silly vests out in the real world, so why bother when we're at a match designed to test my shooting ability, not my fashion sense?

Argument - USPSA is filled with very competitive, serious people.
Response - And that is precisely where I've grown and learned the most!
Nearly every skill or ability I've honed as a competitive shooter has made me into a more efficient and open-minded (with respect to situational awareness and threat recognition) Concealed Handgun License holder.  USPSA matches tend to draw the more serious competitor, and I see that as a positive! We have our share of recreational shooters at USPSA matches and we draw those whose skills are on another plane of existence entirely.  Most of my fellow shooters enjoy being around world-class shooters and competing against like-skilled friends alike.  I cut my teeth on local club-level matches where I regularly expect to place in the top 3 out of 30 shooters and find myself happy to make the top half of the pile in USPSA matches simply because it's where the skill level currently lives at the amateur ranks.

And, in conclusion, Mas sums up exactly how I feel about shooting competitions in his book Combat Shooting with Massad Ayoob:
"History tells us that the person with more experience in fast, accurate shooting under stress has an edge when the stress goes all the way up to life-or-death stakes on the table.
Which is why I keep saying that a shooting match isn't a gunfight but a gunfight damn sure IS a shooting match."

I would much rather strip down my competition experiences and focus on becoming both fast and accurate across a broad range of problems and situations, conditioning myself to think outside-the-box and not become hung up on rules and behavior which have little bearing on winning a competition or critical stress encounter.  Real life is "run and gun," and so is the competitive league I choose to shoot. 

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