Not all handguns are made the same.
You finally had enough razzing from your buddies and took the plunge to try competition shooting. Now you are hooked. Getting bit by the competition bug is a good thing. Not only is it some fun and fast-paced shooting, but you get some different kinds of trigger time.
So for your first couple of matches, you grabbed whatever gun you happened to have in the safe, but now you want to dedicate a firearm to the cause. While using what you have is great, having a competition-only firearm is nice since you can modify it however you want. Triggers, sights, barrels, magwells; it's all within your grasp.
Being the realistic person you are, you understand though that you may have to shoot on a budget, so all the major wizbang, space-looking guns that cost $5,000 dollars are out of your grasp for now. No problem.
Most competitive shooting sports have what is called a "stock" or "production division." This division is dedicated specifically for people who want to shoot a stock gun without modifications that they just bought off the shelf. There are some small things that you can do, for relatively cheap, to modify these guns and still keep them stock. It just depends on the rules of the sport you want to play in.
However, there are still some features that you can look for that you can get right away when you buy the gun that will give you some success right off the bat.
- Sights: Check the sights on the gun when you purchase it and see if they are sights that you can comfortably use. These can be the factory sights, or you could upgrade them to some better ones for under $100 dollars. Keep in mind, you won't need to spend the money on the high end night sights for this gun, unless you are going to be doing a lot of matches in the dark. Since this is not a defensive gun, keep it simple and use fiber optic sights or three dot sights. Whatever you need to quickly pick them up in your vision when you are moving.
- Long Slides: A longer slide will give you a longer sight radius and allows you to pick up targets a little faster. Plus the longer barrel adds some accuracy. The Glock 34, M&P Pro with a 5 in barrel and Springfield XD with the tactical barrel are favorites for this.
- Light Trigger: A light trigger and positive reset are very helpful for fast-paced shooting and getting lead quickly down range. A real good positive reset will help you feel when you can pull the trigger again without having to let it go all the way out.
- Stippling: An aggressive stippling pattern on the grip of a gun will be a huge help in keeping control of the gun and keeping it in your hands when they are sweaty. This is something you can always do yourself later on.
The most important feature of a competition gun, however, is whether or not it feels comfortable to you. If you don't like the gun, chances are you're not going to shoot it much and then you will have wasted money on something you will have to rebuy later.
Entering the word of competition shooting is a blast and there is so much to try and find. Buying a stock gun allows you to compete in almost all sports without having to worry about if this feature or that feature is legal or not.
Have fun and shoot fast!