Ox here and I’m excited to say that I placed 5th at the Smith & Wesson International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) Backup Gun National Championships last week in the Sharpshooter division.
The experience was a little nerve wracking. We went out on a limb and sponsored the championships and provided a deck of Dry Fire Training Cards for all ~285 shooters, not knowing how I would perform compared to national competition.
As a result, the most stressful part of the whole thing was being worried about not representing Dry Fire Training Cards and the awesome instructors that I’ve worked with as well as they deserve. In fact, that’s a big reason why I didn’t announce that we were sponsoring the event or that I would be there in advance.
My worries were helped a lot the first night I was there when one of the Safety Officers told me that he’d bought Dry Fire Cards a few weeks before, had only put about 100 rounds through his gun in the months leading up to Nationals, and all of the rest of his preparation was using the drills from the dry fire cards. At that time, he was 2nd in the Sharpshooter Division and ended up 8th by the time the rest of the shooters finished up 2 days later. Thanks, Neil. I owe you.
Fortunately, after thousands of repetitions of drills from Dry Fire Training Cards using my Glock 26, my SIRT laser trainer, and mental rehearsal, mastering the mental game with Matt Seibert & the Insight program, working low light with Ed Santos, doing vision and neurological drills with Eric Cobb, working with Dr. Incledon at Human Performance Specialists, and fine tuning technique with Chris Graham and Larry Yatch, my first big match went very well and Dry Fire Cards proved themselves out as a great training tool once again.
Even though the real time pulling the trigger was less than 2 minutes, the event itself was grueling. The match was about 185 rounds spread out over 40 strings of fire in 14 stages and went from 0800-1815 with a short break for lunch. Missing any one of those 185 shots could easily change someone’s ranking by 1, 2, or even 3 places.
To make things a little more interesting, I live in the Pacific Timezone and the match was on the East Coast, which is 3 hours earlier, so I woke up at 0200 the time I’m used to on the day of the match. No biggie…it just added another layer of preparation to the planning process.
Being a back-up gun match, it was all smaller frame pistols and revolvers and each string of fire was only 4 or 5 rounds. I shot my 10 year old Glock 26 and it ran like a champ. In an odd twist, there were no reloads on the clock and no drawing from the holster on the clock…I’ll explain that more tomorrow.
This was definitely an event where maintaining level blood sugar and preserving adrenaline was a huge factor in how people performed throughout the day and I was very thankful for knowing when, what, and how much I needed to eat & drink to keep my mind and body happy.
This is one of the beauties of IDPA and why I encourage everyone who thinks they may need to use a gun for self defense to participate or compete in IDPA, USPSA, or 3 Gun matches to learn to run the gun under “stress”, regardless of how self-imposed the stress is.
In particular, there’s 3 specific and valuable skills that shooting competitively against the clock on a regular basis will provide.
1. Stress Innoculation. I’m a big fan of stress inoculation and successfully dealing with the “imaginary” stress of competition, the timer, and satisfying your ego is a great way to train your mind to deal with real stress.
2. Controlling Your Mind. Multi-stage matches that are spread out over an entire day have the added benefit of helping you learn how to control when and how excited you get and how quickly you can normalize your pulse and brain/blood chemistry after performing.
This is an invaluable skill to master and is very similar to what special operations units who do multiple hits in the same night are so good at.
3. Skills Self-Check. Another huge benefit of competition is that it can be a self-check on the parts of your technique that you have truly mastered at a subconscious level and which parts you have to consciously think about.
Forget about how you shoot compared to others…this is a great way to find out how you actually perform under stress compared to how you think you’ll perform under stress.
Here’s a hit…you WON’T default to your training. You’ll either default to whatever you practiced the most or it’ll be a roll of the dice as to how you’ll perform.
In short, when there’s no stress, you’re able to consciously think through stuff fast enough to do things like drawing and shooting, reloading, malfunctions, moving and shooting accurately, and remembering to focus on the front sight.
Once you add stress induced cortisol, a little too much adrenaline, and an elevated heart rate, your ability to think through things is severely diminished and you’re left with the skills that you’ve done enough times that you’re unconsciously competent at them…or can do them subconsciously without having to consciously think about the individual component steps.
Most of the time, new shooters to shooting sports find out that they haven’t spent enough time on their gun to automatically get on the front sight after the starting buzzer goes off. As soon as the buzzer goes off, “POOF!” they forget their plan for how to attack the stage and they forget to use the front sight.
It’s a cheap gut-check that, if corrected with quality dry fire practice, could make all the difference in a real life-or-death self defense situation.
So, if you haven’t shot IDPA before, I want to suggest that you go to IDPA.com and find the next local match in your area.
Tomorrow, I’ll give you a rundown of the stages from the national championships, as well as a few videos to give you a taste of what it was like.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Were you there? If so, let me know by commenting below.