Easily the most common thread I see in the “competition” forum at TFL, and also one of the most common emails I get goes something like this:
I want to get started in competition shooting, but I don’t know what gun to buy, I already have a Glock 19/Springfield XD/Ruger GP100 that I carry sometimes.
My answer is invariably the same, and I’ll repeat it here for posterity: if you’re just getting starting in competition shooting, shoot the gun you carry for self defense. If you don’t carry, then shoot the gun that you keep in the nightstand/closet/gun safe for home protection. If you’re not sure what competitive division your gun will play in, don’t sweat it – go to the local match, and ask someone there because odds are they will know.
For example, say you have a Glock 19 that you carry for self defense/use for home protection. In USPSA, that gun would be a Production Division gun, and in IDPA it would be in Stock Service Pistol. You don’t need to do anything goofy to the gun, just get some extra magazines (5 is a good number) and go shoot.
The next question I get is “what about holsters/mag holders?” This is easy, actually. For IDPA you’ll need at least 2 mag holders, and a good holster. For USPSA you’ll need a few more mag holders. I use Blackhawk magazine holders – they’re durable and relatively inexpensive. However, any quality magazine holster will serve you fine, as long as it retains the mags during rapid movement.
Holsters are again pretty simple – like my mag holders, I prefer Blackhawk CQC holsters. If you’re not interested in a Blackhawk holster, I would also recommend Comp-Tac or Blade-Tech. All three of these are excellent polymer holsters which will be very resistant to sweat, heat, and other elements of competition shooting. Galco makes a great “Carry Lite” package, that is essentially a competition “starter kit”.
Not counting spare mags, you can get all the gear you need to shoot competition for around $100. Don’t sweat the gear too much – just get stuff that is safe and serviceable, and spend that extra money on ammo for practice.
If you end up liking competitive shooting, use your carry gun for a few months before you think about buying a special gun just to run in matches. I still shoot my carry gun regularly in matches; it also shares the exact same operating system as my other competition guns.