In the early 90s, when I was a younger deputy, I shot a fair amount of USPSA – like competitions, both indoor and outdoor matches. And a few years work of my state’s police summer games – individual and team stuff.

Being a competitive shooter helped me earn an instructor position at my office. Eventually, though, I stopped. There might have been a couple of good reasons. And there were some reasons that, in hindsight, were unacceptable.

Regardless, recently, I’ve gone back to shooting matches: one USPSA match and two with IDPA. I’m doing ok so far. Not great, but not bad either, not by a long shot.


The slide’s going back and the spent case is ejecting. Nice job by the photographer, another shooter.


The set-up I’ve been using for matches. M&P 2.0 9mm Compact with Apex Tactical internals, a Holosun 507C using a green reticle, Handgun Combatives’ holster, magazine pouches from Raven Concealment and Dale Fricke Holsters, plus Pro Ears all on top of my favorite general purpose training target from


Olympic-level athleticism is not required, but you will need to move from one place to another.



First, are there any drawbacks? Well, you’ve got to get up and going on a Saturday or Sunday morning. There is the cost of ammunition for practice (when you aren’t working it dry) and the match. The last drawback is that you’ve got to perform on-demand; wait, that’s not a drawback. It is a good thing.

Positives? Performing on-demand. In addition to writing for American Cop, I teach professionally. I must demonstrate in front of my students. Shooting a match is just another way to prepare for performing in front of others. These matches are fun; the people on either side of you want to be there. You are not just shooting a static course of fire that you know pretty well. You are working on a problem someone else designed, and now you have to solve it against the clock. And it is nice to hang out with some decent normal human beings – especially for me after a whole law enforcement career.

You don’t need a Gucci, tricked-out race gun to compete. Just use what you carry now or carried when you were working. My competition set-up is one of my M&P 2.0 9mm pistol with an optic and four magazines. I use a kydex OWB holster from Handgun Combatives and magazine pouches from Raven Concealment and Fricke holsters, all on a belt from The Wilderness. That’s it.

Here are the stages from this month’s match:


Stage 1: After loading, making ready, and holstering, turn and face up range. Turn around, draw, and engage all three targets freestyle (both hands on the pistol) with two rounds to the body on the beep. Then, do a reload with retention and engage all three targets again strong hand only; do another reload with retention and finish the run weak only with two more hits on each target.


Stage 2: Your pistol is unloaded on a table in front of you, along with at least two loaded magazines. To your front are two banks of three targets arranged near to far. On the beep, pick up and load the pistol. Then engage each target in the left bank with three rounds. Reload and the table your handgun. Pick it up and engage each target on the right with another three rounds on the following beep.


Stage 3 – The involved three targets side by side downrange. There was a barricade with a window in the center between you and the targets. When the beep sounds, move to the barricade and work from both sides and the center. The goal is to give each target two hits in the head and four in the body.


Stage 4 – involved nine targets with “hardcover” (the black painted portion) arranged in two two target banks on either side of the stage and a single target in the center. Barricades separated the inner and outer pair of targets on each side, so you could only “see” half of the targets from each side of the shooting box.

You moved from the start box to one side or the other of the shooting box on the beep. When you finished that side, you moved to the other side of the box to deal with the rest. Every target needed two viable hits.

It doesn’t matter to me, or anyone else, if you are shooting USPSA or IDPA, two-gun or three-gun, sanctioned or outlaw matches. Just get out there and shoot. Push your skills.