Rob Leatham wins USPSA Revolver Nationals

Rob Leatham Single Stack Nats

Yes, you read that headline correctly, it says “Rob Leatham wins USPSA Revolver Nationals.” You’re probably wondering “wow, how did he do it? I bet the showdown between TGO and Jerry was amazing!”

You’d be wrong. Jerry Miculek, the greatest revolver shooter in the history of ever, didn’t shoot the USPSA Revolver Nationals. He shot a 3-Gun Nation Pro Series match instead. Roll that one around in your head for a minute, because it actually has pretty significant implications. The greatest revolver shooter in the world didn’t really feel like defending his USPSA title, so he shot a 3-Gun match. That he didn’t win. But he probably did better at the prize table for his 3-Gun finish than he would have winning Revolver Nationals.

We’ve been saying for a while that 3-Gun is the ascendant sport when it comes to “high-profile” shooting sports. IDPA has become the dominant handgun sport, with larger membership and more media coverage; Bianchi Cup is clearly the most prestigious sport with its huge prize tables and proper drama; meanwhile USPSA can’t even attract the king of revolvers to their own revolver championship? Additionally, the Steel Challenge reboot is 2.5 months away, and rumor has it that there are less than 30 entrants so far. 30 entrants…for what used to be one of the crown jewels of the shooting sports.

So what’s going on with USPSA? I’m asking because I deeply love the shooting sports – I want to see all the handgun sports succeed. It’s not a zero-sum game, where a successful IDPA takes shooters away from USPSA; there are plenty of shooters to go around and plenty of people with different sporting interests. But it seems like more and more, the shooters who want to really “race” their guns are turning to 3-Gun for their action fix. It makes me worry, because I personally don’t want to live in a world where USPSA isn’t around; we need the sport, because we need a handgun only sport to provide options for people who don’t want to shoot IDPA. NRA AP doesn’t have the club level presence or the fun factor to replace USPSA.

Maybe I’m just overthinking it and USPSA will be fine. But it’s not hard to look at the trajectory of the shooting sports five or six years down the road, and see USPSA relegated to the 2nd tier of shooting sports. I don’t mean this as a knock to ICORE, but USPSA could end up there – an organization with one big match a year, and a few regional matches, but not something at the top of people’s minds when they think “shooting sports.”

I categorically do not want that to happen. Like I said when discussing how USPSA has mistreated Steel Challenge, I don’t want any of the shooting sports to go away. I don’t want to see them poorly administered, either. I want us, all of shooters to have a thriving, vibrant shooting culture where we’re spoiled for choices on what matches we want to shoot. I worry that if things don’t change with USPSA, if they don’t do something to step their marketing game up, we could lose one of those choices. That would be a loss for all of us, regardless of whether or not you shoot USPSA.

To draw a final comparison, I remember a time when IDPA was struggling. Then they made the decision to go hard in the paint and market directly towards newer shooters and CCW holders, in an aggressive way they’d not done before. Suddenly their facebook page bloomed, they had major (firearms) media covering their national level events, and recruiting expanded. They made a conscious marketing choice about the shooters they wanted to pursue, and went after them with a vengeance. I worry that USPSA doesn’t know what kind of shooters it wants to pursue, and has no real effective marketing plan to pursue them.

Maybe I’m just talking crazy, and everything is going to be fine with USPSA. I can honestly say I’ve never hoped to be wrong more than I do when I write this.

41 thoughts on “Rob Leatham wins USPSA Revolver Nationals”

  1. Just to add to your IDPA point, more than one of the local clubs in Metro Detroit monthly match is usually full within 24 hours of registration opening.

  2. “…an organization with one big match a year, and a few regional matches, but not something at the top of people’s minds when they think “shooting sports.””

    You mean like IDPA is now? 😉

    IDPA has made a concerted effort to attract new/occasional shooters, and this is a good thing, but they have a *LONG* way to go before they are the ‘dominant’ practical handgun sport.

    As for Jerry, well, he’s been saying for some time that he can’t see iron sights as well as he used to. Might have something to do with him passing on the Revolver Nationals this year. Or it could be that 3-gun is just that awesome.

    1. I disagree, but that’s because I’m following the important trend: the money. IDPA is pulling in sponsors while USPSA is losing major match sponsors. IDPA is pulling in more media coverage, and USPSA…isn’t. This is how we grow the sports. My concern for USPSA is that their marketing plan is basically non-existent. They’re not pushing against 3-Gun, they’re not battling back against IDPA, they’re just sort of…there. When your marketing strategy is “hey guys, we’re here too!” then you have a problem.

      1. Have to agree with you on this one. This years Nationals is set up for those going to the ISPC World Shoot. Seems like lately it has been Screw the average shooter and focus on GM’s. This years focus will be on 3gun instead of USPSA, its cheaper to upgrade gear shoot local, than fly across the country to shoot every month.

      2. Totally agree with you Caleb. There is a TON that can be done to improve the marketing of USPSA. I’ve been working with Jack Suber on his campaign ideas for that and if elected, I believe he will be the most diplomatic and assertive candidate that will get a board to work together and focused to move things in the right direction. Additionally, he will run USPSA like a business. That has to be an imperative. He has that experience, without any conflicts of interest from other work or sponsorships in the industry. The drive for more members is great, but membership dollars aren’t enough. There has to be massive improvement for sponsor ROI and changes in how USPSA is marketing, getting media, website info, and there has to be a better fix for the time consuming scoring systems, among other issues. Match directors and volunteers need consistent and timely marketing support for all local, regional and national matches. I know you have some great ideas…hit up Jack for a conversation about it sometime. I think you will be impressed! I know I was and am committed to his campaign. Check out http://www.jacksuberforuspsapresident.com for more.

  3. Honestly, I think part of the problem is that USPSA does almost no marketing. I found about almost by accident, and once I tried it, I got hooked on it big time. But the fact that I was on gun forums and such almost daily for a few years before I learned about it is troubling. In that same time frame, I heard a great deal about IDPA, but little about USPSA. Even when I first heard of USPSA, most people spoke of it in a negative manner.

    So, I think they need to get their name out there better, and also do a better job of educating the shooters out there as to exactly what they are about.

  4. I’d argue that most of the shooting sports are at some risk of “fading away” over time. The recurring COST to shoot (at all let alone the rounds required to compete and practice) will continue to become a larger road block. When a Day Pass at Vail or even a round at my local TPC course starts to look “reasonable” compared to ammo requirements, something is amiss…

    1. I actually agree with that. Let’s look at the cost of being a casual competitor, just from an ammo standpoint. Say you shoot 6 months out of the year, and shoot 2 matches a month, just club level stuff. Put your average monthly round count for matches right at 200 rounds, you’re looking at 1200 rounds for the year. For guys like me, that’s not a lot, but I do this for a living. If I’m a casual shooter, I look at spending $400 on ammo and think “eh, maybe I could spend this on something else instead.” Plus if you want to practice at all, the cost goes up. This also doesn’t take into account travel, guns, equipment, match fees, etc.

      It’s not a cheap hobby. My fear is that eventually the shooting sports will be here like they are in Europe: reserved for the upper echelons of the middle class and the relatively wealthy.

      1. But if you do travel the cost of that can easily be more than the ammo cost. I like high round days. If I am going to spend a day shooting then I like to soot a lot of ammo!!

  5. IDPA has a fantastic marketing team. They’ve painted themselves as the every man’s shooting sport, while many of their supporters have painted USPSA as the home of race guns.

    And it is easy to see how someone not involved in the scoring can say “How can I compete against those race guns that cost as much as a cheap car?” I know that for a fact, my mom wanted to see a match, and the entire trip home I had to spend time explaining how that I being in production wasn’t competing against the open guns, just people also shooting production guns.

    I am not sure how USPSA can fix that image. By I think the start would be to actively market it, particularly at the local level

    As far as steel challenge. They were really late in announcing the match in Utah. But compare the reported 30 entries for the Utah match, with the nearly full US Steel Nationals in Titusville. Particularly when it had absolutely zero marketing as USPSA pulled the link to it from the SCSA website, and there was never an official announcement on BE. I honestly think that USPSA should push Mike’s match (while staying hands off) as the yearly national steel challenge match and do the World Speed Shooting Championships on an irregular schedule like all the other “World” level matches.

  6. More major USPSA matches have sold out faster and had waiting list this year than ever before. Monthly club matches are having bigger turn out and activity based fees are up.
    But there still is a marketing problem, and 3gun is getting the sponsors and the media and USPSA needs to step it up.

    1. Yeah, I’ll be honest that I don’t pay as much attention to the club level trends as I do the national/marketing trends. It is very good that club level participation is up, that means that more people are shooting!

    2. There’s a fix for the local marketing, but it has to come from HQ. Getting the funding behind it will mean some overhauls in how USPSA does business. It’s going to take a lot of diplomacy and club level support to make it happen. Again, I think Jack Suber will be the man to do it as President in 2015.

  7. I don’t think the Jerry/Revolver Nationals is a valid argument to make for USPSA being on the decline. There were over 300 shooters for single stack nationals.

    At the local level I’m seeing more new faces at matches evey month and full squads. I think there are enough shooters to support both sports.

    3gun is on the rise for sure. Locally here in KY out club matches are filling up within hours of online pre-registration.

    1. I don’t want people to get hung up on that as the central argument, it was more of a segue that got me thinking about the state of the shooting sports. Here are the trends that we’re seeing across the board:

      • Club level participation is up in all disciplines
      • IDPA is pulling down the lion’s share of the media coverage
      • 3-Gun is pulling down bigger and better sponsorships, and has bigger and better prize tables.

      Unlike shooter participation, media coverage and sponsorships are zero-sum games. There are only so many dollars and eyeballs to go around, and the trend is that those dollars and eyes are moving away from USPSA. I’d like to see that trend reversed, but I don’t know how aside from a comprehensive change in the way USPSA markets itself.

      1. Again, you’re totally right Caleb. To garner the media coverage though, there are several ‘good ol boy’ rules that may have to go by the wayside. They’ve known this for a while, but there continues to be push back. I’m looking forward to Sevigny’s Pro-Am, as this is one of the match formats that can increase both shooter and sponsor participation. Not to mention, its a place to show off your “cool guy” status. 2 – Gun is a possibility as well. Get Jack on your speed dial and put out some of his ideas for conversation here online…you’ll see what I mean. This thread is the best one I’ve seen yet to get the facts out on what people think and want to see happen. Thanks for putting up with me!

      2. I’m shooting USPSA this year to hone my pistol skills (as you probably know from PF) but my goal is to start shooting 3-gun in 2015. More than a few serious Bay Area shooters are somewhere along that path.

        I’d start 3-gun sooner, but it’s even more expensive than just doing USPSA, and frankly, I have no shotgun skills to speak of and don’t want to split my focus between pistol and scattergun.

    1. If I thought for even a second I could make as good a living as I do now just shooting SASS, I would quit all this in a heartbeat.

  8. Yeah, I’m not sure about USPSA being on the downswing. And I doubt it’ll just be for rich folks. I shoot maybe 2 or 3 matches a year so I’m no expert, but I’m also not rich. I’m not a member of a club, so I spend maybe 25 bucks to get into a match. I handload my ammo, so price for 1200 rounds is not anything near 400 bucks.

    I break it down like so:
    -1,000 9mm bullets: about 100 bucks
    -1,000 primers: 40 bucks
    -Brass: I don’t remember ever not having a huge amount of brass. And I pick it up, but we’ll say 50 bucks for giggles
    -Powder for 1,000 rounds: I’d say a pound should get you about 1,000 rounds of 9mm if you use something like 3.5 grains of titegroup and 147 grain bullets (a favored load for many production shooters) but likely more. 30 bucks we’ll say.

    Maybe 240-280 dollars a year for about a thousand rounds. Probably more. Popping 400 bucks for ammo would leave me more ammo for practice (or I’d start saving for a progressive press so I could shoot WAY more matches), but like I said, I’m not rich. I graduate college next year, so I try to conserve money as much as possible. I just buy one or two things at a time. My reloading setup was certainly not cheap, but hey…people buy crappy guns for a lot more money than that, and after loading about 200 rounds of .41 magnum, it paid for itself. Now that I don’t have a .41 magnum anymore, I reload .45 for fractionally more money than 9mm, which I also reload for fractionally more money than .22 lr The cost is initially expensive, but it stabilizes at a lower cost as you reuse brass, pick more up at the range, and also the fact that a pound of powder will net you something like 1300 or 1400 rounds of 9mm.

    I digress, but as for USPSA going the way of the dodo, I don’t see that happening any time soon. They just don’t hand out prizes as freely as 3 gun because three gun is…for lack of a better description…just cooler. It’s a cool guy sport and the media and sponsoring companies recognize that people will think “Wow, I want to do THAT!” and they want them to think that, because then, said sponsoring companies will sell a lot more guns/optics/gear than before because guys want to buy an AR, with an optic, and a shotgun with an extended tube. That’s a considerable amount of money to be made on a per capita basis. To say nothing of the ammo companies making 3x as much money on the same guy. From a business standpoint, if you could only sponsor one event, between 3 gun and USPSA, you’d be a fool to pick practical shooting.

    USPSA on the other hand,is considerably more affordable and more based on the search for individual skill, not cool guy status (although successfully executing the flip and catch 100 times in a row is said to give you an honorary GM card), but it will persist because the average USPSA stage is consistently more challenging than the average IDPA stage and gives the shooter a significantly less amount of…for lack of a better term…asinine rules to put up with. Also, USPSA allows appendix carry. And lasers, and lights and RMR’s, which is something IDPA will never do. They should market that, but likely won’t because their membership still increases when compared to what it was last year.

    1. To me, the reloading thing is a part of the problem. I am new to USPSA, and I don’t have the time (or interest) to start reloading. I know it is considered part of the USPSA process, but it doesn’t draw me in to say that if I want to shoot USPSA, which is incredibly fun, I need to reload, which isn’t.

    2. Excellent comment, John.

      I’m shooting Limited-10 in USPSA because I can run AIWB, not because I think I’ll kick ass with a P30 against Limited guns. Though I’m thinking real hard about a G41 using the “Vogel thumb rest” (Glock light with batteries and bulb removed), just because…

  9. While I agree the USPSA should step up their marketing and recruitment. I do not think it is in any way fading away. If it is, why are matches filling up faster than ever? And with more entries? The “home of raceguns” may be just that, but thankfully a lot of us like to race. 🙂

  10. Caleb, the IDPA/USPSA stuff aside, I don’t think Rob frickin’ Leatham winning is a sign that Fimbulwinter is nigh. Until 3 weeks ago, he was the only other guy besides Bill Rogers to shoot a “possible” at that school, ever.

    If sponsorships and brand management wouldn’t inevitably get in the way, I’d say it would be interesting to ask JM how he decided which events to do.

  11. 1st If you are going to Wally World and buying your 9mm you end up with more than $400 in your 1300 rounds. If you go to one of the commercial reloaders you are in the $250 per k for 9mm that runs. Universal Ammo, Freedom, Atlanta Arms, etc. Our local club match shoots 6 stages and you go home with some of your 200 rounds you take to the match. So it’s $75 to shoot a 6 stage match. About the same as a round of golf at a cheep course. Sure can’t take the boat out for that.

    Our local club has 2 USPSA, 1 IDPA, and 1 Steel challenge match a month. The single IDPA pulls in the mid 60’s, both USPSA matches pull in the mid 50’s and Steel pulls in the low 50’s. They did a ProAm style match on the 5th Saturday and it sold out in a flash. So the locals are doing pretty well.

    The last 2 large USPSA matches, the Florida Open and Area 6, were sold out. The next ones, SC Sectional and Georga State, I am signed up for will sell out if they are not already. So I don’t think the mid majors are doing all that poorly.

    It the group you are talking about USPSA is the oddball in the fact that it is not a “for profit” business. IDPA and 3GN are for profit. If you make your living doing something you promote it better. For profit companies tend to have more consistent management as well.

    3Gun has a distinct advantage on the prize tables as they have 3 times as much stuff to sell to the shooters. Talk about an expensive sport. Entry level to get into 3Gun is pretty darn high. To get good hardware you will get in the 4k range pretty quickly. The guys at the top of the sport have a lot more than that in it.

    Your point is well taken but I don’t think the USPSA ship is sinking, just not riding as high in the water as it could be. We had the same guy at the top for a lot of years and I think USPSA got a little stale. We had a new guy come in and he did a good job with everything but steel challenge. He is not running again so hopefully the new president will pick up on the marketing end of the spectrum.

    The level of competition in IDPA is not at the level it is at USPSA. I am an OK B class USPSA shooter and shot the classifier for the first time, with a gun that I never shoot, have 3 malfunctions, and was 2 seconds off IDPA Master. Now that I understand the game a little better and I have the gun loading well from slide lock, I just calm down and shoot down zeros at a reasonable pace, and do pretty well at my one IDPA match each year.

    Take away USPSA and give me a choice between IDPA and 3Gun and I will have to buy some more guns. I shoot 1 IDPA match a year (a good match put on by a great group of folks) just to remind myself how much I don’t like it. Come on, how hard is it to get an 18 round stage in your head, even it you don’t get to walk it as much as you want.

  12. S&W be damned, could the poor turnout simply be a harbinger of death for competitive revolver shooting?

      1. USPSA has 18,000 members, 100 shooters competing for a National Championship seems a paltry turnout. This isn’t a dig at the quality of the competition or Rob Leatham’s achievement, rather, just some wondering aloud about the allocation of resources towards a division that is in decline.

        1. In 2013 they had over 100 shooters at Revo Nats as well. In 2012 they had less than 30. It’s a big upgrade, moving it back2back with SS Nats.

        2. How many revolver shooters at the last big IDPA match? It’s not a big resource hog as they run it back to back with the Single Stack Nationals. That match turns out 300 or so, then add 100 from Revolver with lots of guys shooting both and its a win for the club and the shooters.

          1. 30 something at the last big Nationals. There’s a revolver specific IDPA match somewhere in TN (I think) that usually gets about 100 shooters.

      2. Agreed it was a great turn out considering there only 130 slots for a full match. (13 squads of 10).

  13. Guys who choose USPSA because it’s cool or more fun than IDPA are moving toward Multigun, and the sponsors are as well. The expense of shooting Multigun will prevent everyone from leaving USPSA, but it becomes minor league by comparison.

    1. It’s not just the expense. I shoot to have fun. 3Gun is fun but it is also a lot of work. 3X everything, training, equipment prep, etc etc etc

  14. Interesting theory, but I think there is a much simpler explanation, Kay and Lena. Jerry is not all about Jerry.

  15. Does anyone else think it is super crazy that Jack Suber has hired a PR person to pimp his run for President? Not only that but laying it on a little think aren’t you Jill Trammell? Call me crazy but if this guy wants to be President so bad that he is trying to buy it that raises a major red flag…

  16. Caleb, i think you are way off here. Maybe some personal issue with USPSA? Reality is the matches are selling out faster than ever before. And there are so many more than ever before. Shooting sports for the most part are doing great. Just cause Jerry didnt show up when he had nothing to gain is not an issue. IF he won again, ho hum, no big deal, but if he lost it would be all the talk. He still remains the best revolver shooter ever , in everybody’s minds, even if he didnt show up.

    1. The club match argument is kind of a red herring, because it applies across the board. Shooter participation is up in every discipline. The problem is that USPSA isn’t growing as fast as the other disciplines like 3-Gun or IDPA. When everyone is doing well, you have to wonder why USPSA isn’t growing as fast as every other sport, and that points to a marketing/branding problem. Look at where the sponsor dollars are going, look at where the media coverage is going. It’s going to 3-Gun, and it’s going to IDPA. Everyone is living fat right now because every match is filling up, but I worry about the long game here.

      I don’t have a problem with USPSA. I think Phil is a great guy, and he’s someone I’d call a friend, not a close one, but I’d have beers with him any time, and even pay. I think that what he’s done to SS Nats and Revo Nats was brilliant, because he really did save revolver nationals.

Comments are closed.