My First Pistol Match in Over Thirty Years!

Load-out for my first ASI match: Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45, Holster, pouch with two extra magazines, hearing protection and 100 rounds of ammunition. My shooting glasses are shown because they are my regular glasses.

Mike Harris recently made me aware of Action Shooting International , a shooting league that holds move-and-shoot matches. It was interesting because the courses of fire are made to be suitable to anyone that can hit a target, and matches are designed to be fun and educational rather than competitive. Yes, stages are scored and technically it is a competitive sport, but scores are more for tracking your own progress. There are no ‘classes’ of shooters, no prizes- the idea is to have fun, socialize, learn where you need to improve and to track your progress.

Some thirty years back I shot USPSA/IPSC matches, but by the end of the 1980’s I had stopped, for a variety of reasons. Most of these come back to money; the cost of ammo, the cost of a competitive gun etc. But there was a part of me that didn’t relish the hyper-competitive atmosphere and the ever-increasing gamesmanship employed to be competitive. ASI, with it’s more laid-back attitude, was appealing to me. I decided to give it a try.

According to their website you need a handgun of 9mm caliber or larger (.380 ACP counts,) and I certainly had a variety of options available. I decided to go with one of my carry-guns, a Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45. I had a holster but needed a mag-pouch. I whipped one up Friday, so there wasn’t really any time to practice with it before the match- which certainly showed in my performance! I didn’t make things easier on myself by making a ‘match’ style high-profile pouch- this one is meant for concealment and works quite well for that.

The Match was due to start at 10AM and I showed up at Renton Fish and Game at about 9:15. My pal Pat Hillyer was due to meet me there early to settle any issues or questions since this was my first match. You can show up with a loaded gun, but you cannot carry one around the match for safety reasons. No problem- just find a range officer and tell them you need to unload and they’ll walk you over to a shooting bay to do so.

Next was filling out the waiver and paying the range fee. Helpful to know that they only take cash for the $20 range fee- or you can walk over to the rifle range when they open at 10 AM to use a card. After that there was a new-shooter’s briefing, which was basic gun-handling safety and range commands. Then you sign up for a squad; they started with a squad at each of the six stages, and you simply rotate through the stages from there. Pat put me on a squad with him and some other people he knew, so I was set. At 10AM there was a Shooter’s Briefing and then we dispersed to our stages.

Given the dual goals of ASI- to be self-defense applicable and to be accessible to anyone that wants to participate- targets were pretty close and the courses of fire were set up to include not more than one reload. Some stages had a mandatory reload, some didn’t. In six stages I went through 53 rounds of ammunition, and one of those was optional. It took about 2-1/2 hours to cycle through the six stages.

Engaging hostage targets around a barricade.

The atmosphere was very laid-back and everyone was super-friendly and helpful. There was none of the tension of a ‘serious’ league match. There were people shooting that, from their gear and they way they performed, were obviously IDPA competitors. At the opposite end of the scale there was a fellow who had bought his first pistol three weeks before, and this was the third time he’d shot it. About 70-80 people showed up for the match, which elicited some surprised comments from the range officers.

So, how did I do? I honestly have no idea; I haven’t bothered to look up the results. I did discover some areas I need work on- picking up the front sight quickly and magazine changes were the stand-outs. It also reinforced my dislike of three-dot sight systems; I found the ones on my gun rather imprecise and slow to pick up. Also the gun is less ‘grippy’ than I would have preferred. I learned eventually to relax, have fun and go for it; I was overly cautious on many of the stages, and on the last one I said, ‘What the hell- I’m going to smoke this one!” And I did- except for loading the wrong magazine, which meant the gun went dry unexpectedly. This resulted in some befuddlement and a very slow magazine change (about 8 seconds. Ouch!)

One-handed double-tap around a barricade…
…and a two-handed double-tap for the last target

The upshot of it all is that I had a great time with a great bunch of people, learned some things I needed to know and had fun. The best part is that the bar for entry into this form of competition is so low- basically hearing and eye protection, a gun with a reload and a couple of boxes of ammunition, These folks will be happy to guide you through things and help any way they can. I would heartily recommend this to anyone that shoots and wants to expand their skills but is intimidated by the seriousness and intense competition of some other venues like IDPA. If you can hit a target you can have fun at one of these matches, and you’ll have the opportunity to shoot in ways that normal range-time doesn’t allow.

My experience did inspire me to make two changes to my gun- first off, no more three-dot sights. I filled and painted over the white dot on the front sight.

The other modification- I used contact cement to affix a strip of 120-grit emery cloth to the front-strap of the grip. Simple, but it makes a huge difference.

I will definitely be attending ASI matches regularly. For the moment I will be relying on the Detonics, but there’s a revolver match coming up later this year, and at some point (after I am set up to reload the ammo) I very much want to shoot a match with my Mauser C96 ‘Broomhandle.’ Just for the hell of it, and why not? It’s all in good fun anyway.

If you are interested in trying this yourself follow the link above to find a match in your area. You won’t regret it!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14 May 2019

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