What I Learned From My First USPSA Match

By Travis Johnson


With all of the training I have been doing this year I decided the next step in my progression as a shooter was to try out the competition stuff. I decided to start with a local USPSA match. Walking away from the match, I learned how competition is a great test of your overall shooting ability, the mental or "thinking" aspect of shooting plays a major role in your performance, and can provide you with a clear picture of what you need to work on. 

A Test of My Current Shooting Skills

As many of you know my goal is to become the best shooter I'm capable of being. Training on the range by myself or with a couple buddies, is essential to reaching that goal, however, it's easy to get comfortable, and "take it easy" when that's all we do. Shooting a USPSA match with the added pressure to "perform" or compete, pushed me to apply everything I have been working on across seven stages of shooting in one day. Working target transitions, shooting on the move, entering & exiting positions, as well as engaging swinging targets, all while under a timer with dozens of other shooters does add an element of pressure and required focus that pulled me out my comfort zone and forced me to pull from my training on demand. This was an excellent test of my current ability as a shooter and showed me where I have improved as well as where I am lacking and what I need to work on or adjust in my training. 

What I Need Work On

Probably the most valuable takeaway from this match for my continued improvement as a shooter was identifying my weak areas and a few repeated mistakes. This information is so important to improving as a shooter, and, believe it or not, what I was most excited about at the end of the day. Leaving the match, I recognized that I need to continue work on target transitions, increased trigger control when shooting longer distances, pushing my speed when I can, and slowing down when I need to, as well as challenging myself mentally during my training. 

Mental Performance & Mindset

As with any competitive environment, mental performance is obviously, a major factor in how we carry out our physical performance. If we go into something with a negative or fixed mindset, our performance will be negatively affected and we won't grow, but if we go into a challenge with confidence in our abilities and a positive mindset, our performance will almost certainly be much better & we can learn from any mistakes. During this match, I quickly recognized the importance of mindset, focus, and fast thinking. The element of pressure added in competition shooting (compared to my usual range days) required me to process information quickly, "think on the fly", and really highlighted the areas I need to work on in my training. 

Going Forward

At the end of the day, competition shooting is just a sport, it's a game, and will not replace my training. However, I think it's an excellent test to validate much of my training, recognize areas I need to work on, and challenge myself to keep growing and improving as a shooter. I plan to shoot many more USPSA matches and take it as far as I can, as I improve my shooting skills. 


Whether you shoot & train for fun, protection, or as part of your job, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and try out a competition match. If nothing else, it will be a fun challenge to apply your current shooting skills in a new environment. 

Article By Travis Johnson
Shooter's Journey
Travis has made the decision to not just be proficient with firearms, but to get as good as possible. His goal is to show you the process and document his journey through training and classes he attends.


Look into JJ Racaza's 90/10 principle for ideas on improving the areas you identified that you need to work on. Great article, on the same path, just further back. :)
awesome! what division did you compete in and why? i was thinking open since you can wear what you what as far as holster mag set up and no gun limits, more like i train . your thoughts please.