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Everyman's game (and every woman's): USPSA Production Division.

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Only a small percentage of shooting enthusiasts ever try competitive shooting. Should you try it? Competition is fun, it can teach several valuable shooting lessons, and it doesn't have to be expensive. I've been a life member of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) for many years. USPSA is the USA's representative of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), both great organizations. When I shot my first IPSC match about 1980, practical shooting competition was primarily a handgun sport. Handgun competition still predominates, but "3-gun" matches are rapidly increasing in popularity.

Why should you join USPSA? You will learn to handle a firearm safely and competently. USPSA isn't concerned whether you become a Grand Master, or just shoot a couple of club matches a year with your buddies. But they care very much about firearm safety.

The splendid safety record of practical shooting competition didn't just happen. USPSA long ago developed rules and procedures to ensure the safety of spectators, match officials and competitors. Rules are strictly enforced.

Safety skills such as muzzle control become ingrained habits under the watchful eyes of officials, instructors and fellow competitors. On a public range I can watch a shooter for a couple of minutes and have a good idea if he is a competitor just by how loads, holsters, and unloads his pistol.

My first lessons in firearm safety were from my dad and my grandfather. Dad had been the best shot in his unit of army during WWII. Grandfather was a firearm instructor for the last year of WWI, after being twice wounded in action and certified as medically unfit for further combat duty. Believe me, they enforced high standards. I'm sure neither ever heard the expression "zero tolerance," but they didn't need to.

I'm from a generation preceding mandatory hunter safety, so it was quite a few years before I decided to take the training and get my certificate. Among the people I truly respect and admire are the thousands of volunteer hunter and firearm safety instructors who give their time to train the next generation of safe hunters. Bless them all.

Practical shooting competition doesn't replace this solid basic grounding. It provides the opportunity to drill in safe gunhandling skills to the point they become second nature. It's the difference between driving with an instructor and actually driving for a few years.

When shooting a match you are watched every second by a trained and observant range officer (RO). IPSC-trained ROs in my experience are outstanding. They are not out to embarrass or humiliate anyone--they want you to have every opportunity to turn in your best performance. At the same time they are inflexible when it comes to safety. Any unsafe gunhandling, such as pointing the muzzle in a direction deemed unsafe, results in immediate disqualification.

Good habits stick with you, and they get noticed. On a recent African hunting trip, when returning to the truck from a stalk, after checking to see there was no cartridge in the chamber of my rifle I would always have the tracker or professional hunter (PH) check as well before sliding the rifle back in its scabbard. After a few days the PH commented that of the hundreds of clients he had guided this was only the second time he had seen that done. He appreciated it very much.

He also commented that if he saw any muzzle control laxness during the initial "check your sights" session, he wouldn't let the client carry the rifle while stalking. It would be carried by the PH or tracker, or else the hunting would be done from a blind.

Competition, and the practice hours necessary to compete well, make you a better shooter. Spare me the sneers about how USPSA just isn't tactical. Shooting skill is not a tactic, though it can be a component of tactics.

Tactics are important, but so are shooting skills. Learn to get the gun out of the holster (and back in the holster) without accidentally shooting yourself. Learn to hit the target on demand. Learn to reload smoothly. Learn discipline. A top instructor once told me most shooters do not have the discipline to shoot 10 straight A-zone hits on demand. I asked at what distance and he replied. "at any distance."

If you want to become a good shot you first have to what good is. I suspect the majority of shooters have never'. seen really good shooting. Some have unrealistic movie/TV expectations of shooting guns out of hands at a 100 yards from the hip. Others think because they once shot at a rock a long way off and raised dust darn close they must be world class.

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At matches they keep track of time and hits, and they write it all down. They post the scores and you see how you compare. Some people don't want to know. They would rather kid themselves.

It always astonishes me how generous shooters are with their hard-won knowledge. Most will gladly share information with anyone who genuinely wants to learn. Just don't ply them with questions while they are getting ready to shoot a stage.

Best Shots

There are a lot of good shooters around these days. It used to be southern California had most of the top shooters, and it still has plenty. Arizona is another hotbed of talent. Several of the very best can be found at Fort Benning, Georgia, with the Army Marksmanship Unit. But in almost any part of the country there are Master and Grand Master level shooters to watch and emulate.

That leads to another benefit of USPSA competition, the opportunity to compete alongside the very best. You can be a darn good golfer and never have the slightest chance of teeing it up with Phil Mickelson. But you don't have to be a great shooter, just a safe shooter, to compete in the same match as the greats like Max Michel, Travis Tomasie and Chris Tilley.

A cynic might say these guys aren't at the same level as celebrity athletes. Wrong. They don't make as much money, and they aren't household names, because the shooting sports just don't have the national audience of golf or tennis. But the top shooters are absolutely world-class athletes. Their level of skill, mental discipline, and competitive drive are incredible. It never hurts to hang out with the best.

Proving Ground

The competition arena is a tough proving ground. Any weaknesses m equipment becomes evident in short order. USPSA shooters want good equipment and they know where to find it. Members will help you find a gunsmith to clean up the trigger on your pistol, or install fiber optic sights you can actually see, or advise on extra magazines, holsters, shooting glasses, earmuffs, magazine carriers, bullets and primers.

You'll get good advice on selecting a reloading machine, maybe a chance to join in bulk purchases of reloading supplies at discounted prices.

When I started competing in 1980 I could still be competitive, and even win occasionally, with a box-stock Colt Gold Cup .45. That was about the time when innovative (and usually expensive) concepts began being introduced. A full-house gun was already an expensive item, what with match barrels and accuracy jobs, slide/frame fitting, sights, trigger work, extended this and that, frame checkering,

Then came barrel weights, expansion chambercompensators, multiple chamber compensators, the .38 Super cartridge, and finally the biggies, optical sights and high-capacity frames. During this era all guns competed on an equal footing. If you were serious about winning it became a case of spending a couple of thousand every year or so just to keep up. There's no doubt the expense kept many shooters from trying the sport.

Production Division

Limited division was an important step, though a full-house, custom Limited pistol is still not an item purchased lightly. One of the best things USPSA ever did was to introduce Production division. More than anything, Production division leveled the playing field.

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Production division is an arena for most of the splendid service pistols coming along in the last couple of decades. If you are interested enough in firearms to be reading this magazine, there's a good chance you already own a suitable pistol. If you're a law enforcement officer you can probably compete with the equipment you wear on duty.

Don't know what to buy? Join a USPSA-affiliated club and you will likely find shooters with all the popular models. You'll get to see, and maybe shoot, more models than you dreamed even existed.

Agree to provide the ammunition (or let them use your gun in exchange) and most will let you take their gun around the track for a lap or two. Beretta, Glock, SIG SAUER, S&W, Springfield XD, Taurus--try them all and find the one that feels just right.

The intent of Production Division is to promote the use of standard production handguns such as those often chosen for police duty and personal defense, and to prevent the "equipment race" which developed in the 1980s and 1990s. The 9x19 cartridge is popular due to its light recoil, though with the 10-round magazine limit there is no "high cap" advantage. A .40 or .45 could be loaded to meet the 125 power factor and would have comparable recoil, and might even gain a point or two on occasion by cutting a higher scoring line.

Find a local USPSA club and check it out. Maybe you'll find lifelong friends and an engrossing sport. Maybe you'll decide just to practice and learn and not even compete. Either way you'll find it worth the time and effort.

PHOTOS: CHUCK PITTMAN

USPSA Production Division

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IMPORTANT GUIDELINES (From the USPSA Rulebook)

Handguns can be revolvers or autopistols, standard production models with at least 2,000 units produced.

Minimum caliber is 9x19/.38 caliber and minimum power factor (weight x velocity divided by 1,000) is 125.

Maximum of 10 rounds loaded in the magazine after the start signal.

Standard notch-and-post iron sights, no optical or electronic sights allowed.

No barrel porting or compensators allowed.

Holsters must be suitable for everyday use.

Only minimal after-purchase work allowed, such as sights, polishing and fitting, grips if of factory style.

No modifications intended to reduce recoil (weights, for example).

No magwell attachments or external flaring of the mag well.

No single-action only handguns (1911 style, for example).

USPSA

P.O. BOX 811, SEDRO-WOOLLEY, WA 98284

(360) 855-2245, WWW.USPSA.COM

PACT

P.O. BOX 535025, GRAND PRAIRIE, TX 75053

(800) 722-8462, WWW.PACT.COM
G35 (G34)

MAKER: GLOCK INC.
6000 HIGHLANDS PARKWAY
SMYRNA, GA 30082
(7701432-1202, WWW.GLOCK.COM

 ACTION TYPE: Locked breech,
 semiauto
 CALIBER: .40 S&W, (9mm)
 CAPACITY: 15, (17)
 BARREL LENGTH: 5.32"
OVERALL LENGTH: 8.15"
 WEIGHT: 24.5 ounces,
 (22.92 ounces)
 FINISH: Tenifer
 SIGHTS: Fixed 3-Dot
 GRIPS: Polymer, integral
 PRICE: $679

M625
MAKER: S&W
2100 ROOSEVELT AVENUE
F SPRINGFIELD, MA 01104
(800)331-0852
WWW.SMITH-WESSON.COM

 ACTION TYPE: Double
 action revolver
 CALIBER: .45 ACP
 CAPACITY: 6
 BARREL LENGTH: 5-1/4"
OVERALL LENGTH: 10-1/8"
 WEIGHT: 42 ounces
 FINISH: Stainless steel
 SIGHTS: Fully adjustable
 GRIPS: Rogue rubber
 PRICE: $1,365

XDM

MAKER: HS PRODUKT D.0.0.
M. BOGOVICA 7,
47000 KARLOVAC,CROATIA
IMPORTER: SPRINGFIELD ARMORY
420 WEST MAIN STREET
GENESEO, IL 61254
WWW.SPRINGFIED-ARMORY COM

 ACTION TYPE: Locked breech
 semiauto
 CALIBER: .40 S&W, 9mm
 CAPACITY: 16+1, 19+1 9mm
 BARREL LENGTH: 4.5"
OVERALL LENGTH: 7.5"
 WEIGHT: 32 ounces
 FINISH: Stainless slide,
 polymer frame
 SIGHTS: Fixed 3-dot
 GRIPS: Polymer, interchangeable
 backstraps
 PRICE: $749
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Article Details
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Author:Anderson, Dave
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:1935
Previous Article:An enduring cartridge: the historical 9x19mm.
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