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Switching guns in the competitive offseason

After two years of cycling to shooting a 1911 during the winter months, I’m pretty much ready to say that Single Stack (CDP in IDPA) is the perfect off-season division for Production (SSP) shooters.

The genesis of this pattern of changing guns around the time the leaves change comes from the simple fact that I’d finally picked up a 1911 in late 2012 and wanted to shoot it for a while. The main competition season (the 2012 IDPA Nationals and Carolina Cup) had come to a close, so I decided to take it easy and play with a different gun for a while. Since then, I’ve shot my Production gun when it’s warm and Single Stack when it’s cold, which has been very instructive for a couple reasons.

The most obvious way that it helps is that shooting the 1911 is slightly harder: there’s a little more recoil, the gun is a little bit thinner, the slide release is a little bit harder to reach, and the reloads are a little bit tougher. I go back and watch last fall’s match footage and see what my reloads with big, fat, double-stack magazines are like, and think how much better they’ll be after a few thousand repetitions this winter with skinny mags that like to hang up on the magwell. Ditto recoil control, slide lock reloads, and holster draws. Obviously, this applies in both IDPA and USPSA.

In IDPA, you get out of the rut of reloading to be able to fire your last shot on a 12-round stage, which gets a little repetitive. In USPSA, where you’re usually reloading every time you change positions, you end up getting really good at planning and executing three or four reloads per stage and dealing with not having many, if any, rounds to spare for makeup shots.

A good quality 1911 will, of course, be very accurate, which can be a bit of an ego check if you’ve succumbed to the idea of only needing “combat accuracy” or whatever, even in practical pistol sports. Take a 30 yard shot in IDPA, or longer in USPSA, and then talk to me about how your sights are “accurate enough.” While it may be tempting to think that the 1911 is  the key to shooting well, gear can only remove obstacles and make it easier for you to perform, it can never do the work for you. It will only reveal your available level of marksmanship, and leave you with the question of what’s stopping you from achieving that level with your Glock.

As a personal anecdote, after spending all winter shooting my 1911 with fairly tight sights (.125 rear notch, .125 front blade), playing around with the Warren/Sevigny sights on my M&P Pro (.150 rear notch, .115 front blade), I’m having trouble understanding how anyone can be as accurate. As soon as I can get my hands on them, I’m actually going to try and switch back to the stock sights that come with the Pros, which are similar to the sights on my Springfield TRP 1911. Maybe I’ll even open them up a bit like Luke did to his, which is easier to do than trying to “tighten up” an overly wide rear notch. At any rate, just changing guns and shooting something different for a while (3 dot Tritium sights, in this case) has given me a new perspective on my main competition gear that will help me going forward.

So this post isn’t carte blanche to go changing your competition gear all the time; it is still good to pick one setup and work with it and learn from it for a while. But don’t be afraid to put away your favorite gun for a while and play with something else. You might enjoy it, and you might learn from it too.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.

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