In this part of this series, we will go over finding a local club and gathering the appropriate gear for your first match.
Finding a Local Club
Probably the easiest part of preparing for your first match will be finding your local club. To find a registered club with the USPSA, you don't have to look any further than the "Find a Club" Page on the USPSA website. There you can search for all the registered clubs in your area. For each club you will generally find an address, contact person, and website for the club.
For every club in your area, you should check their website to find their match schedule and new shooter requirements. Most clubs are always accepting new shooters, but some will require that new shooters to their club to have either taken an approved USPSA beginner course or to have already been classified with the USPSA.
Even if it's not required, I would highly recommend attending a beginner's course if your club offers them. There you will generally have first hand experience with the safety procedures of the range and how the club runs the matches.
If your local club doesn't offer a beginner's course, just going to one match to observe would help a lot to see how the match is organized. Just make sure to bring your own eye and ear protection and let the match organizers know that you're there to learn and observe.
Preparing Your Gear
Finding the gear you need to start competing does not have to be a very costly endeavor. For the most part, you will be much better off shooting what you already have for your first match so that you don't invest a lot of money in a division you don't end up enjoying.
Personal Safety Equipment
To attend a USPSA competition, you will need to have eye and ear protection. A good set of protective glasses and hearing protection (ear plugs or muffs) should always be first on your equipment list.
Generally, you can compete with any semi-automatic pistol, double action revolver, or pistol caliber carbine that is a caliber of 9mm or larger. You will generally be fine going as large as 45ACP or 44Mag, but you should check your club for limitations on any calibers that are larger or more powerful.
You will want to have enough magazines or speed loaders/moon clips with your firearm to carry approximately 40 to 60 rounds on your person for any stage within the match. You can definitely have more if you'd like, but that is a good amount to get started.
A good stiff belt should be the basis to any holster rig. If you are planning to spend some money before your first match, this would be a good place to start. While a leather duty belt or nylon instructor's belt should suffice, most competitors choose a Velcro buckleless duty/competition belt. This is a two belt setup that consists of an inner belt to wear through the loops of your pants and an outer belt for attaching the holster and mag pouches. Some popular brands for this type of belt are CR Speed, Double Alpha, and Safariland.
For your holster, you will need one that will fully cover your trigger guard while retaining your firearm during rigorous movement. There will be equipment rules that dictate what holsters you can use for a division, but you will generally be fine using a kydex or plastic molded holster that is specifically made to fit your pistol.
Just as the recommendation for magazines and speed loaders/moonclips, you should have enough mag pouches on your belt to carry about 40 to 60 rounds on your person for a stage. You are usually allowed to carry some of your magazines in a pants pocket if you aren't able to find enough mag pouches, but you will find that loading from a pocket to be very cumbersome and may take away some of the fun of shooting a stage.
You will want to have ammunition from a trusted source that is of the right caliber and rating for your firearm. Preferably, you should test several rounds out of the firearm before the match to make sure the ammunition works well with the firearm.
For a local level 1 competition, you will generally want to bring 100-150 rounds more than the match's minimum round count. This is to account for makeup shots, stage design changes, and possible re-shoots in the case of a stage malfunction.
In the next part...
We will be going over what to expect going to your first match as well as general match terms and stage procedure.