A new year and a new division.

Here is a video of my friend Steve Koski and myself shooting a IDPA match. This year I’m shooting in CCP with a Beretta PX4 Storm. We happened to win our divisions and have a blast in the process. The PX4 almost 2000 rds in has not produced any malfunctions or anything short of tremendous accuracy.

Practicing For The Fight

Gun games will get you killed! Sure they will. It is sad to say that this is a common opinion held on the interwebs. Somehow going out on a Saturday or two a month and getting a high volume of rounds on multiple targets, on a flat range that has been made as dynamic as safety will allow isn’t worth anyone’s time. We hear that fights don’t have rules or courses of fire. By shooting matches we are screwing ourselves by building in so called “Training Scars”. Now I do agree that practical shooting is not fighting and competitions are not places to learn how to fight in a dynamic situations, but what I really don’t agree with is that fights don’t have rules.

You’re a good guy, a “law / rule abiding citizen”. Because you are not a lawless dirt bag your actions in a fight will be regulated by Ethics and Morals. Not to mention Geography, Architecture, Tools and the Law of the Land. Every fight brings along it’s own set of rules, even if it‘s only one of the contestants that abides by the rules of Morals, Laws and Ethics. LEOs and the Military have procedures, Rule of Engagement, tactics, and training to better understand and exploit these rules. So we should also train to have these rules factor in and even hinder our decisions and options, thus making us work harder to produce a better outcome. This is where the square range falls short.

The truth is unless we are participating in some sort of Force on Force training we are being cheated from the actual fight experience. Think about it. Even in our defensive firearms classes we have range rules, drills, administrative procedures, range limitations, logistics and time restrictions. In a lot of respects it sounds like a match where we are not keeping score. Are the skills taught in these classes vital for self defense training? Hell yes! Should we immerse ourselves in defensive firearms tactics and manipulations? Also a resounding Hell Yes! We have training limitations which put us behind the proverbial 8 ball. We can’t safely recreate the fight so we must break our defensive skills down into drills, in which we can use to improve and document our progress. Practical firearms matches serve as a venue to forcibly put some of those skills to test.

Shooting stages that push our skill sets in areas we don’t want to practice or don’t have the necessary equipment to train with will  only be to our benefit. Matches may require weak hand shooting, shooting on the move, maybe shooting moving and even running targets. Those are skills that need to be practiced and perfected. I have yet to attend a self defense course that did not emphasize Strong or Weak Hand shooting as a vital self defense skill. Same goes with shooting on the move. So when we compete let’s not shrug off our poor performance by saying “it’s just a game” . If we take that attitude we are fooling ourselves into thinking that when our life is on the line magically those skills will be there, sorry gang they won’t be.

We all want to feel tough. We all want to think we can handle the gun like a boss. Most of us have found out that just because we attended a class or two doesn’t make us John McLane or even Bob Vogel. In fact one of the unwanted side effects of classes is we can get a false self image of our actual ability. Thinking we are more competent than we actually are is more dangerous than having a realistic self image of our ability. Shooting against others on a even playing field can check our egos in a hurry. I would rather know what shots I can make on command with my pride on the line and not the lives of my family, friends or myself.

Just try to remember to take the reps where you can get them. Most gunfights are short, violent and chaotic, so our skills most be as sharp as possible to prevail. Remember every gunfight is a competition, there are winners and losers. There is a time limit in gunfights, it’s just a unknown par time. Hits matter a lot. Most winners hit first. I’ll wrap this up by saying get good gear. Discipline yourself and dry fire. Learn to manage your mind and take the lessons competition will teach you. Attend defensive firearms training classes to learn weapon manipulation and tactics. Apply all the above, then dominate the fight.

Stay safe and click at the wall,

Tom Nelson

Match Debriefing


My 2014 IDPA season is over with having competed in the Utah IDPA State Championship. Like all the matches hosted by UDPL it was well put together and the COFs were well planned and executed. Now I actually walked away from this state match feeling okay, which is a big difference from previous large matches I have shot. Last year’s Utah State Match I put on a poor performance which left me well in the rear of the top shooters competing that year. This year however with a ton of practice and a better mental game things turned out a little better.(Third Overall)

Critiquing your performance is essential to your improvement. This year I have kept all the results of the matches I have shot on my tablet to compare with the previous matches. Also the in-match notes and post match thoughts I write down. The GoPro has been awesome in documenting the stages and helping me remember what I was thinking via a first person view. I review all the data to build my training regiment. I use mainly the mistakes during the match and leave the positives behind. I don’t want to fall into a “I’m so great cycle” and end up just doing what I’m good at. So let me break down my match for you.

IDPA is a awesome practical pistol game because of it’s scoring system. You don’t need to win every stage you just need to be consistent in your stage execution. So I will spare you all the stage run times and so forth but I will give you my stage rank and the ranks of the shooter ahead of and behind me to prove this point.

Stage Ranks

1st place ESP shooter- 2,1,1,1,2,2,1,1,1,3. Now that kind of consistency will win you a lot of matches. Almost all the elite shooters in the sport put up runs like this.

Tom 2nd place ESP shooter- 4,2,4,1,3,3,4,7,4,13. This is what you call a controlled crash. Just like Arby’s, it’s not the best but it’s also not bad enough for you to stop coming.

3rd place ESP shooter-3,3,2,3,12,2,17,3,17. Where I lost to him the damage was minimal but his stage losses to me were catastrophic. I trailed 1st by 40 seconds and beat 3rd by 15 seconds. Now It was a mistake filled match on my part but I didn’t fall apart on large stages or make enormous mistakes. 3Rd’s loss to me was based on two stages alone. Consistent execution was the difference.

My plan was to to make the best use of my accuracy and be way more aggressive in my stage plan than I have ever been before, but not to the point where I was writing checks my hands couldn’t cash. If you want to improve your stage performance start with little rolls of the dice and not betting the house. The bets I lost on Saturday where procedural based or recovering from a violation so I would not receive a PE. But in most cases when I recovered from the error the cure was worse than the disease. I would spend more time correcting the error than what the penalty was worth. The points down came from getting ahead of myself on the stage plan and not focusing on delivering the shot that was at hand. A friend noticed that I fired a lot of extra shots throughout the match. When I examined the video I noticed after a stage where I had large amounts of Points Down I would make sure on the proceeding stage to fire extra shots at medium to difficult targets to ensure minimal points down. What it cost me was extra reloads on stages that didn’t need them, thus increasing my overall time. The final thing I need to address is my footwork when setting up into a position and when rounding cover.

Once you have identified your match issues the next step is to work drills into your dry fire that put that issue into play. It doesn’t have to be the main focus of the drill but must be a noticeable step, then see how the cookie crumbles in match scenarios. Getting better in this sport depends on reps, confidence and strong mental discipline to put process at the top of the list when that buzzer goes off and not the plan. My goal is to deliver a perfect draw, then position myself, get a good sight picture, press the trigger without disturbing the sights and rinse and repeat until there is nothing left to shoot. Process is not shooting this stage faster than the previous guy. Process is speed math, not speed reading. Just work it one problem at a time.

Stay safe and click at the wall,

Tom Nelson