One topic that generates comments from time to time at our shoots consistently is the importance of reliability over accuracy. A lot of shooters want a truly accurate firearm. Yet, with accuracy often comes the penalty of reliability. In order to achieve a high level of accuracy and precision, these guns tend to have tighter tolerances, which means they malfunction more often than their less pricey counterparts.
In USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) type matches, reliability trumps accuracy. Scoring is a combination of speed and accuracy. Yet, when the A-zone, the highest scoring region on a cardboard target, is about 8 inches in diameter we can get by with a lower level of accuracy.
Malfunctions of any type cost you precious time. A close examination of the hit factor, which is simply the total stage points divided by time, shows that the both time and accuracy matter.:
stage_points / time
10 points/10 sec = 1 hit factor
10 points/9 sec = 1.11 hit factor
9 points/10 sec = 0.9 hit factor
So, you can see that missing the mark or taking too long costs you in hit factor.
Most modern handguns are capable of hitting the A-Zone at a standard engagement distance of 25 feet consistently, even with lousy bullets. Next time you head out to the range and practice on a plate rack, consider this. The minimum safe engagement distance for steel is 25 feet. The diameter of a plate is 8-inches, about the same width as the A-Zone on a USPSA cardboard target. So, if you are able to engage the plates quickly then you will be able to engage the A-Zones quickly.
How to Find a Reliable Firearm
The Internet abounds with information on the hundreds of thousands of rounds fired through many different types of guns as well as how many times they malfunctioned. Because of the ready prevalence of information on this subject, I suggest a search with your favorite search engine.
That being said, I prefer the late model guns, such as Glocks or Springfield XDs, They run super-reliable and with very little hiccups, unlike some of the more expensive and finicky firearms, like the 1911s-style handguns. You can literally drop a Glock magazine into the desert dirt and reuse it without having to break out the magazine brush and dismantle the magazine, a frequent sight with some of the more expensive and higher-tolerance firearms. In fact, I remember only having to clean my Glock magazines once a year. And this is coming from a guy who used to shoot at least 3 matches a month for a year straight!
Malfunctions, Oh My!
You should still learn how to clear malfunctions, if even from the comfort of your home, using inert ammunition and against a good backstop! They can and will happen. You will want to learn how to quickly clear a malfunction and move on. I have frequently seen many shooters become quite flustered whenever a malfunction occurs. Subsequently, they lose track of what they were doing on a stage, re-engaging a target previous shot, walking past a target without engaging it, or giving up outright!
But think about this. What do you think will happen when you make it a habit to give up at the first sign of difficulty at a match? That’s right. Give up clearing a malfunction on the range and you will give up in a real gunfight. A habit is a habit is a habit. I frequently encourage people to clear the malfunction because if you develop this habit of giving up during a drill or just a stage, you will give up in real life. Drill these habits into you. They will also save your life in a real gunfight, which I hope you will never find yourself in.
Choose Reliability Over Accuracy!
So, the next time a burgeoning newbie just getting into the exciting world USPSA asks you what type of handgun they should purchase, suggest recommending reliability over accuracy! Again, the Internet contains a multitude of information on this subject. Your local gun store, especially one with in-house gunsmithing service, will also be knowledgeable in this field.