Over on p-f.com a question was posed about which is better for skill development, competition or drills (which I took to mean actual training). The conversation got me thinking about why a shooter should compete, and to what extent should competition be allowed to take away from actual training. If a local match requires 100 rounds and we only have 200-300 rounds to practice with in a month, is it really worth it? Especially if we are a relatively new shooter?
When I first started shooting at the very end of 2007 I had one friend who owned a handgun (well two actually, but I only knew about one at the time). That one friend let me borrow his Glock 23 and quickly showed me how it worked as he passed it off to me by his truck so I could go shoot it the next day. I hit the local public range the next day and sucked pretty badly, and understandably so.
Fast forward a couple months (and having bought my own Glock 19 by now), circumstances allowed me to get some much better guided direction from far more experienced shooters. I wasn't shooting IDPA at the time, I was just lucky to meet these guys. I didn't meet them at any of the local public ranges or anywhere else your average recreational shooter (which is what I would call myself back then) might frequent (i.e. the gunshop), so I consider my personal experience a-typical in that regard and having spoken to other people about when they first started shooting I think I am on track with that opinion. These types of guys are not the "mainstream" of shooters that you will see at most public ranges.
Fast forward again to the spring of 2011 and I start shooting local IDPA matches and see the same sorta guys that first pointed me in the right direction. Not everyone at the match was, but a surprisingly large percentage were. It is these experienced shooters that are willing to take a new shooter under their wing that I think really make competing in local matches worth it for a new shooter. You can get good instruction in a 8 or 16 hour firearms course, but in most cases you can't get long term direction and development in one. In my opinion, building relationships with other shooters more skilled than yourself is one of the greatest motivators to get better, and often times one of the most efficient paths to getting better. So if it cost a 3rd of our monthly ammunition allotment to go shoot a match, I think it is worth it. I think I would even go so far as to say that if it cost half it is still worth it, as long as we take the opportunity to get to know the other guys shooting the match who might be willing to take us under their wing more so than actually compete in the match. I think that is where the real value is.
If you can draw, reload, follow directions, and handle a firearm safely, go shoot a match and start meeting the other real shooters around your area.