“You wouldn’t want to do that on the street,” my classmate pronounced. True dat. Standing at bad breath distance from concealment limits your maneuverability and, thus, options for escape.”This isn’t real life,” Brandon Wright countered, resetting a swinging target for the next shooter. “This is a game.” Brandon Wright should know. He’s an International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) Distinguished Master and Team Captain for International Training, Inc. Question: could the SWAT-guy-turned-Firearms Instructor teach a complete newbie les regle du jeu to avoid complete embarrassment at an IDPA competition? I’m thinking no. But I did learn three important lessons at ITI . . .
1. 80 percent is 100 percent
To say I shot like crap during my one-day IDPA .20 course would be like saying Tori Nonaka is a not an entirely unattractive (nor unsuccessful) IDPA competitor. In other words, I couldn’t hit squat and Glock’s teen sensation is the best thing to hit competitive shooting since Michelle Viscusi. Yes I know: Ms. Tonaka predates Ms. Viscusi as a Team Glock shooter. Anyway . . .
Whether or not you buy the
lame excuse explanation for my general inability to hit what I was aiming at during my Grand Day Out [see: below], Brandon made one thing abundantly clear to the assortment of OFWGs and OTWGs assembled in Virginia for his sage advice: the faster you shoot the more you miss. “You’ve got to find that balance between speed and accuracy,” Brandon said. D’uh, you say. But hearing that buzzer, shooting like a demon and not seeing holes “in the zero” (middle of the target) is believing.
I don’t think my classmate Wayne will mind me saying that his first run of the day [above] was an excellent example of an extremely fast fail. Clearly, inarguably, shooting at 100 percent of your maximum speed at an IDPA competition puts you on a hiding to nowhere (with nowhere to hide). The trick to avoid amphetaminitis: feeling that you’re going too fast. Controlling the urge to light ’em up—especially when the adrenalin’s flowing. Here’s a clue: completely blowing a stage is God’s way of telling you to slow the f down.
Brandon made sure we understood the psychological implications of shooting at 80 percent rather than going, how do I put this delicately? Balls out. “If you slow down and maintain your best accuracy you’ll score more points than if you’re shooting fast, missing zeros or hitting no-shoots. You’ll keep yourself from falling off a psychological cliff, getting into that vicious cycle of failure where you never recover. Remember: it’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon.”
Easy for him to say . . .
2. IDPA Champions are not like you and me
The chances of your average gun guy becoming as fast and capable an IDPA competitor as Brandon Wright are only somewhat higher than the odds that I’ll have six-pack abs before I turn 55. Which is to say it’s not impossible—just ridiculously improbable. At least not without a single-minded commitment to the goal and monumental amounts of work. Even then . . . nah. Not seeing it.
Literally. As our older readers will attest, when your eyes go you’re screwed. And go they do. Some of my classmates were lasik surgery survivors. Some wore special glasses. All were gentlemen of a certain age coping with the optical degradation that Father Time inflicts on all God’s creatures. Brandon? Brandon is a young man genetically engineered for IDPA. He has the visual acuity, height, health, coordination, yada, yada, yada. He’s a walking, well, running reminder that an IDPA competitor’s gotta know his limitations.
In other words, if you’re shooting IDPA and you remember the first Wrestlemania (or can’t see your wedding tackle when standing up), guess what? You’re doing it (IDPA) for fun. Mind you, if you follow ITI’s IDPA Instructor’s advice, if you practice gun handling skills in the privacy of your home for 30 minutes a day, getting that sight picture in less time than it takes to cycle a round, you’ll suck less than the average IDPA competitor. Depending on whether or not her read this article. And your class level. And what gun you’re using . . .
3. Don’t compete in IDPA with a Caracal C
Well of course you wouldn’t. Only an idiot would bring a compact gun with a tiny sight radius and a [relatively] mushy trigger to an IDPA match, practice or instruction. If you’re shooting 9mm (not .9mm) you’re gonna need a big ass Smith & Wesson M&P with a comfy grip, appropriate sights and a competition trigger job (with pre-travel adjustment). Or similar. Not a race gun or a carry gun. A reliable, full-sized competition-compatible firearm. Like the one this classmate used to get into the swing of things . . .
“Once you find a gun that works for you, don’t obsess about it,” Brandon advises. “Don’t constantly tinker with your set-up. I see people going crazy about the smallest technical details, trying to shave hundredths of a second off their time . . . The best way to improve your score is to slow down and shoot your own match.”
Lucky for your humble(d) correspondent a classmate lent me a Glock 19 with a Ghost trigger. After ditching the UAE’s modern masterpiece, assuming control of one of Gaston’s gregarious gats and willing myself to aim the damn thing, I finally put Brandon’s advice to good use. I performed to the point where I felt comfortable enough to hang around for the final debrief and score revelation. I didn’t. But I could have. In theory.
And that’s how I spent my one-day vacation from TTAG: learning to slow down and aim using something useful. Whether you’re a rank amateur or an IDPA Grand Poobah, I recommend ITI’s instruciton without hesitation. It’s basic stuff, but there’s nothing quite like studying at the feet (and behind the firing line) of a master. Someone who knows how to play the game. To wit: