Journey to USPSA Regionals: My Best Worst Day of Shooting

There are times in our lives when a day of shooting falls apart. This past weekend’s local match shoot was one of those days for me. This is my journal entry on what happened and how I turned a “worst” day of shooting into my best day of shooting. You can too!

Local Match Tune-ups/ZSA

I am training up to be competitive in the USPSA competition format.  It is a huge goal for me and one that I did not undertake lightly, especially considering I have been “out of competition” shooting for over 20 years. When I say “out”, I mean for the bulk of that time (other than a few weekends wasting brass shooting at targets) I have not shot at all.

As part of my train-up, I recently attended and participated in a local  Zombie Shooters Association match. I have not shot ZSA before and was curious, and it was a chance for me to shoot with an  “action” pistol. I have to say, I will probably continue to shoot in more ZSA events and matches. As a format, there are some interesting requirements from ZSA that you may not always get from other action pistol formats. These include:

  • frequent/required magazine changes
  • target shot placement transitioning: targets where only head shots count (1 shot); targets where only body shots count (3 required); targets that are completely “bonus”
  • strategy combinations not necessarily seen in other formats

So, I highly recommend checking them out!

Bad Day

As I go up to the first stage, I proceed to make a really decent draw, a good trigger pull, and BANG… out of the corner of my lower vision, I witness my magazine falling out of my gun. WHAT A ROOKIE MISTAKE! For a fraction of a second, my brain freezes due to the fact that I have NEVER had this happen, even in all of my years shooting and during tactical or competition conditions.  NEVER!  Seriously.

My brain kicks back in and I clean the rest of the targets after reloading.

NOTE TO SELF: I do need to work on my magazine drops out of the gun drills, because when I reloaded another magazine I did not reload a new round!


After I score up, I ask the RO if I can go to the empty bay and check out some of my equipment. I check everything out and it is all (seemingly) working. I scratch my head and I figure that I just did not seat the magazine properly. I go up for the next stage, the buzzer goes off, I draw my pistol, and BANG (a well placed shot)… and once again, out of the corner of my eye, the magazine decides to taunt me as it falls away from my gun. I push and slap a new magazine in quickly (once again forgetting to reload a new round), I pull the trigger, and BANG… this time I swear I saw a demon’s face laughing at me as the magazine looked like a rocket booster falling away from the final stage of a Gemini rocket.


I reload again, as my reptilian brain stem kicks into “kill the damn rest of the targets quickly” mode.  I clean the stage, but I fail to notice how much faster than normal I am doing so. At the next stage, I do not have a single issue, but now we are instructed to down load to 6 rounds for a limited round sequence. Also, we are to shoot 2/3 of it with the strong/weak hand.

The fourth stage was multiple sequences of a quick draw, shoot 3, and holster stage.  In the first sequence I draw well, I pull the trigger fast, and BANG… this time I swear all of Hades was having a party on my magazine as it fell away from my pistol. I clear out my magazine and holster and give up!  This is not something I would normally do, but at this point, I am assuming that I have a really bad equipment problem.

I was actually shooting really well, that is, when I had bullets and magazines in my gun!

All of the way home, my mind is racing and trying to figure out what was happening with my magazines!


Since I have dedicated myself to becoming competitive, I have become anal and obsessive about making my basics completely right and natural. Some of you may have heard me complain about this before, but due to my big bear paws, I have continuously struggled with my grip. For weeks I have been emailing friends, coaches…anyone who would listen to me about my issues with my grip and to gain insight into making my grip better.

My grip has been my obsession for two reasons: 1) I am constantly adjusting my grip during shooting and it never feels “locked up”.  2) My recoil is nowhere near consistent and I am constantly chasing my sight picture.

Every night during the week previous to this match,  I was struggling and working with both my trigger pull and my grip. I was nearly feeling defeated because I just could not and did not feel as though it was “right”.

Good Day

On the way home, I decided to stop by a local range and to (hopefully) figure out the issue. I knew if I didn’t,  I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I walked out onto the range, put a magazine in my pistol, got my grip and took a shot. Magazine demons and all of Hell fall away from my pistol again – this time they were laughing loudly at me!  I attempt this again, with the same result. I am unsure why, but when I took a shot strong hand (only), the magazine stayed in.

So, I pulled the trigger 8 more times and “voila” the magazine is all good!

Next, I take a two hand grip and the magazine drops.

It was at this point where my bad day of shooting transitioned. To complete my “test”, I take a two hand grip and make absolutely sure my weak hand stays completely off and away from the magazine release. As I pull the trigger 6 times, two things happen:

  • no magazine drops
  • (for the first time) I see a controlled recoil sight picture for all 6 shots

Subtly, without my full recognition and after painstakingly working on my grip, it finally “learned” to make the weak side contact properly. The gun I was shooting with had an extended, tear drop shaped magazine release – in 3 years of shooting this gun, I never made any contact with it while shooting. Suddenly, because of the greater contact of my weak side hand and my control of the pistol, the magazine release was too much and was being activated.

In spite of the earlier frustration, I had found a grip I could build upon.

Truth is, I should have been able to figure this out during the match – I probably would have had my brain not been in WTH-ville over the malfunction. What should have been a big clue to me during the match was the way I automatically sped up without thinking. In other words, my recoil control was much improved (which is grip), since my brain could just kick into overdrive and my shooting followed.

Lessons Learned

  • ZSA matches are fun and bring new challenges to your action pistol experience. Shoot these matches!
  • Basics count. A grip is a core basic, so if your grip doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Obsess over this until you find that right grip.
  • If you are seeing an inconsistent recoil picture, it is probably an issue with your grip.
  • Small steps and improvements often stack up suddenly into a big improvement.
  • When your grip is proper and in control of your pistol, you can shoot faster. You will never shoot faster with a bad grip!

Read the other Journey to USPSA articles:
Establishing a Training Regimen
Rebuilding the Core Basics


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