The stars came into alignment where I didn't have any prior obligations, my wife was occupied and I had the basic equipment necessary to shoot a USPSA match. Bonus points that the weather was fantastic. The first real hurdle I had to overcome was my own expectations. We all have our own views of our skill set - USPSA is a litmus test. It was really hard to step up and see what reality holds. I got to the range a little after 8 with my Glock 19, cheap OWB kydex holster & double mag pouch, a can of ammo, eye and ear protection, water and a sack lunch. I found a registration form and filled it out as best I could (what's major or minor and production? limit 10 - um, I dunno). Much to my surprise the first couple of people I talked to were also new to the event. Soon I found some familiar faces and a line that looked official. I stood in line and paid my $15, then signed up to shoot in a squad. I was given 6 score sheets and told to put my name on each and write 'new shooter' on them. About 9 we were called out to the range where each stage was described - starting position, targets to engage, how many rounds etc. Once each stage had been described my squad collected the score sheets for stage 5, put them in random order and re explained stage 4. First shooter made an impressive run - anxiety is really kicking in now; am I in over my head? After the first shooter finished his run, the RSO cleared the range and everyone goes down range. The RSO is calling out scores (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Mike) and the score keeper echoes. Everyone else is taping targets or standing the steel back up. Pretty soon it was my turn - RSO tells me to load and make ready. I draw, load & chamber a round (you can top off if you want to at this point). Shooter ready - BEEP! Draw and run to the left. Keep your feet in the box, don't break the 180 (sweep the other participants), crane around an obstacle and put 2 rounds in the first paper target (brown, not black) 2 more rounds in another paper target (brown, not black), shoot a bunch of steel, don't forget that little 8" that activates another paper target - 2 more rounds there; CLICK! FTF - almost empty anyway so strip that mag out, reload - tap and rack; where was I? Keep shooting. Run to the other side (don't break the 180, keep your feet in the box, do I look like an idiot - fat guy running?) I just reloaded but I'm moving so that seems like a good time to reload - RELOAD. More steel, more paper, another little dot, more paper. "If you're finished, unload and show clear" - whew. No DQ and I at least sent rounds in the general direction of everything. Hands are shaking pretty good. Some experienced hands reassured me I did fine for my first run. Reminded me to always maintain muzzle discipline and recommended I move my holster position. Stage 6 was next. 5 targets shot in 2 strings. The first string was 1 round each from behind cover. At 6'1 I didn't have too much trouble with the craning around obstacles but some of the shorter squad members sure looked nervous about being able to see the targets. The second string was 1 round in each target from the left shooting box and move to the right shooting box for 1 more round in each target. I jerked the trigger pretty bad to the point that I thought I put a round on one of my other targets. As a result I goofed the round count up. Unless it's 'Virginia count' it doesn't matter how many holes you put in the target. The best are scored. I should have re-engaged the target with my properly aimed shot. Next we moved over to stage 2. Three shooting boxes, a whole lot of steel and a couple of paper targets. The nerves of shooting in my first competition have subsided but I'm worried about shooting through that little port hole at a plate rack and 2 poppers. Again, the old hands advise to take it easy because smooth is fast. The first steel I engaged bang, bang, bang, bang - the second to the last target was hit and falling before the first one hit the ground - Woo hoo! I then take 3 rounds to get the last popper to fall - Doh! Run, reload, shoot, run (you sure I don't look like an idiot running?), reload, plate rack - bang, bang, click, tap & rack, bang, bang, click, tap & rack, bang, bang, bang, click - again? Tap & rack. I'm running out of rounds so I shoot the last popper (don't want a penalty for failure to engage a target) and then come back to the last plate. Maybe factory reloads weren't the way to go today. Stage 1 was El Presidente - 4 targets, no obstacles, turn and shoot, mandatory reload, shoot them again. Others had been flummoxed by mental errors throughout the day but so far I had been golden - enter stage 1. Shooter ready? BEEP! Spin, draw bang, bang, bang, bang - Yes great run; oh wait! RELOAD and keep going - how many shots after the reload - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. I could have been a contender on this one - easily added 3 seconds to my time (out of 11) from hesitating. Oh well. Stage 3 was fun. You started out from a sitting position with a plate in your hands. Gun is on the deck and there were 5 paper targets and two poppers. 1 round each. Then a second string, 2 rounds each (paper only since the steel was already down) strong hand only. So far I'm happily competing with myself (okay, trying not to come in last or make a fool of myself). Several of the guys on my squad have real race guns and clearly this is their sport of choice. The shooter directly before me 'gamed' (cheated) the stage. Remember that it doesn't matter how many rounds you send down range they only score the best (in this case 3). So for the first string (any grip you want) he put 3 rounds in each of the paper targets and hit the two poppers. Then when his second string came (strong hand only) he put 5 rounds in the dirt in 3ish sec. His score reflected 3 Alpha's per target and one Charlie. It was 'legal' but it sure put a bad taste my mouth going into the stage. I had the most Mikes (misses) of the day on stage 3. Stage 4 was the last stage of the day. 4 targets, 4 rounds each - a wide 'no shoot' zone between you and the targets. Another one where you really had to crane around to see your targets. I probably did my best shooting on stage 4. I did have a conundrum on this one. Glock 19 holds 15 rounds +1; perfect for a 16 shot stage. I shot my stage and had 16 holes in the targets and I mentally counted 16 shots fired. When the RSO told me to unload and clear - a round came out of my chamber??? Best as I can figure I must have mashed 16 rounds into a 15 round mag but I'm at a loss. Scores haven't been posted yet so I have no idea if I made my goal of not coming in last but it was arguably the best training I've done in years. Draw, move, shoot, timer, no shoot targets, hard cover, obstacles, reactive targets. It was fantastic. Thanks to Fast Ed for walking me through the day. I am most definitely going to move this up on my priority list of events to attend.