How to Prep for a Major Match on a Budget

By Jessica Nietzel July 2016

I don’t have a lot of extra cash, so my prep for Production Nationals is probably a little different than most. I’ve found a few things that have worked for me so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned to help my budget-constrained cohorts!

Number 1: Dryfire

I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I do so much dryfire. And my answer is because it works. And anyone says it doesn’t is doing it wrong. There are (at least) two things you always have to remember when doing any dryfire practice. First, you have to keep it real. There obviously won’t be any recoil, but if you’re not gripping the pistol like you do in live fire when managing recoil and maintaining a good stance like you do in livefire, you’re not getting what you could be from the exercise. Second, you have to be honest with yourself about your hits.

I’ll say that again.

YOU HAVE TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR HITS.

Brutally honest. Of course you’re going to press the trigger faster in dryfire, because your sight picture will have little or no disturbance between shots. But if you’re not getting an acceptable sight picture before you break the shot, or if your muzzle is diving all over the place, you’re wasting your time.

In the dryfire training book I use, the suggested par times are tough. I mean, so tough that the first time I ran the drills I had to DOUBLE most of them. But that’s okay. The more I ran the drills, the more places I found to speed up and create economy of motion and knock my par times down.

I’ve seen results. I was shooting 30-60% classifiers at the end of 2015, and even having broken my leg and having zero live fire from Feb-May of this year, I’m now shooting 50-80% classifiers. My USPSA # is A85099 if you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself.

Number 2: Foot speed

One of the things I’m doing this year that I didn’t do last year was sprints. Okay, full disclosure: my Physical Therapist is the one making me do the sprints. Anyone who knows me would testify under oath that they were not my idea. And I honestly would have never thought to add it to my prep. But watching my times improve, and watching my most recent match videos, I’m seeing such better and more efficient movement that I intent to keep this as part of my match prep ad infinitum.

Two yard touches where you shuffle back and forth across lines spread two yards apart. Use a stopwatch to time yourself and see how long it takes to go across and back 10 times. Five yard dashes where you run 5 yards, set up in your shooting position, then break the position to run the 5 yards back to where you started, set up in your shooting position, then do it all over again. Down, back, down, back. Then do the same thing again but at 10 yards.

Trust me, it’ll suck. But you’ll be amazed how quickly you see results.

Number 3: Live Fire

I budget 1000 rounds for live fire practice. In the two weeks before I leave, I go to the indoor range two or three times per week after work and run anywhere between 150 and 300 rounds through the pistol. Dot Torture, A Zone Drills, Near to Far…anything I can think of that I can practice while in a single lane at an indoor range. I don’t have the ability to make it to a practical bay on a weeknight, so it’s the best I can do. I’m specifically concerned with my first 20-30 rounds. We don’t get warm-up time at most major matches, so I’m looking to see how my first shots fair. The more comfortable I get firing those first few shots in practice, the more relaxed I am on the first couple stage of each day of the match, which can set the tone for the rest of the day.

I also practice reload drills, malfunction clearing, slide lock manipulation, table starts, ammo on table, shooting off balance, and draw to first shots. All things I see occasionally at matches and practice in dryfire, but not enough to be good at them without a refresher.

Number 4: Reduce Opportunities for Error

Last year I showed up to Production Nationals with a pistol that hadn’t had any maintenance work done on it in over 10K rounds. My ejector bent half way through the first day and my confidence and my performance plummeted. This year, I’m being proactive. I’ve ordered replacement parts to make updates and test them before I leave. I’ve ordered extra parts for the things I can’t foresee. And I’m changing it all out now (a month in advance as of the time this was written) so I can shoot it here and feel certain it’s in good working order. When your equipment is neglected and you have malfunctions, it messes with your confidence, and it’s entirely your fault. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

These are the things I’m doing right now, but I’ve never claimed to have all the answers. If you’ve got additional ideas or suggestions, post them in the comments! I’m big on prep and would love to hear what you all do as well!

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