Shooting Sports with Chris Spence

Shooting Sports with Chris Spence

If you’re anything like me, you’ve owned firearms for quite some time and enjoyed the casual visits to the shooting range a few times a year. After an hour of burning through your ammo, you celebrate any hits on the paper target. At the end of the session, there’s the obligatory picture to memorialize the moment and those firearms return to the safe until next time.

Also, if you’re anything like me, over the last decade you’ve seen an increase in more concerning events in society and faced the hard truth that law enforcement will do their level best, but they need time to respond. That made me transition my mindset from thinking of myself as a casual firearm owner to realizing that I was my own first responder. I recognized that I, and not the government, was responsible for my own safety. However, I had my own doubts, and a nagging question lingered in the back of my mind: “am I competent enough?”

As soon as I recognized it was time to take my responsibilities as a firearm owner seriously, I contacted the instructor whose business card I found on the bulletin board at my local range and enrolled in a course. I quickly realized that there was A TON that I didn’t know, but the instructor provided a supportive learning environment, and by the end of the session the gap between what I
wanted to do and what I was able to do was closing. This instructor also proposed several “what if” scenarios to the class that prompted us all to think about what exactly we would do if we ever found ourselves in the line of fire. This was my introduction to shooting tactics. After one class, I was officially a Tactical Operator, or so I thought.

I enrolled in a second course with the same instructor, but this time instead of standing at a bay with a large, paper target at 7 yards working on the fundamentals of building a sustainable grip, breath, and trigger control, he arranged a series of targets and erected walls between them. It looked like a smorgasbord of organized chaos, and I was both excited and intimidated. He took the time to walk us through the strategy we should employ to engage all the targets, starting with a walk through and progressing to live fire. The instructor explained to us that we had just competed in a Shooting Sports event, specifically the defensive pistol game. After the second class, not only was I a Tactical Operator but I believed myself to be John Wick or Jason Bourne!

Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I went down the rabbit hole on the Internet and devoured all the information I could find on the Shooting Sports and its various game formats.

  • IDPA ( is the International Defensive Pistol Association. It is the governing body for the shooting sports game format that focuses on defensive pistol marksmanship in the context of real world scenarios, such as engaging from cover and concealment, even re-enacting the Dicken intervention against the active shooter at the Indiana mall.
  • USPSA ( is the United States Practical Shooting Association. It is the local governing body that oversees the sport in the United States and falls under the direction of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (think USA Soccer and FIFA). USPSA is similar to IDPA in concept but structured for more assertive shooting rather than defensive. The parallel that comes closest to mind is the difference between NASCAR and Indy Car racing.
  • GSSF ( is the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation. Another pillar in Shooting Sports, this foundation was introduced by a group of enthusiasts to create a platform where Glock owners could compete against one another and hone their skills. The GSSF is quite different that either IDPA or USPSA, but offers great opportunity to enjoy your firearm, fellowship and have fun.

I compete primarily in USPSA format matches, and on any given weekend I can be found at my local Shooting Sports range with my handgun and carbine, competing against the clock to send as much ammo down range as accurately as I can. There are divisions for almost every handgun whether with iron or electronic sights, stock or aftermarket internals and frame modifications. I compete in the Limited and Pistol Caliber Carbine divisions and initially used the Sightmark Ultra Shot R-Spec red dot system on my carbine. At the time, my choice of optic was governed by my budget, and I wanted a system that was simple to learn, durable, and cost effective since I was just starting in the sport. I was thoroughly impressed with the Ultra Shot’s design and construction, and it looked and felt like it was as tough as a tank. The sheer simplicity of the unit was also quick to win me over, and after a quick peruse of the owner’s manual, I soon discovered the versatility of the design. This particular red dot allows users to select between red or green color options, and included a toggle switch that changed the reticle type through four different options with combination of presentations from 5MOA dot, 3MOA dot superimposed in 50MOA circle/ crosshairs and a 3MO dot within a hybrid 30MOA crosshair and circle combination. I primarily use the 5MOA dot for most matches; however, I will convert to the 3MOA dot within the 50MOA crosshairs when the stage may require shots longer than 50yards or when the target arrays encourage flat and fast transitions, a technique called “tracking the A-Zone" which we’ll discuss in a future article in this series.

Always remember that a tool is only as good as its user, and as a responsible firearm owner, you should commit to training and improving your marksmanship. Just like Eli Dicken at the Greenwood Park Mall, we must all be prepared to be our own first responders.

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Great article Chris, thank you.

Tom Dietrich

It’s been a pleasure watching you put the “real work in” which has paid off! Thank you for introducing me into this sport and, for being an inspiration in my journey down this rabbit hole.


So proud of u chris , great job my brother

Marvin Mitchell

Great article, just enough to wet an individuals whistle enough to get them out to a match.. nice job

Damon Wright

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