Name: William Stopforth
Years shooting competitively: 22 years
Shooting clubs and current affiliations: Port Elizabeth Rifle & Pistol Club (PERPC), South African Practical Shooting Association (SAPSA).
Accomplishments: Eastern Province Colours, Springbok Colours (2012), Eastern Province Champion 2016 (IPSC Production Division).
Current competition firearm: Grand Power X-Calibur 9mm, STI .40 S&W.
Q. What firearm do you prefer shooting?
A. I prefer shooting my STI .40S&W, as my record with this pistol is better. The trigger is better, and you can shoot it much faster. However, the X-Calibur is a nice pistol. I like that the IPSC Production Division is more of a level playing field as far as equipment is concerned. A shooter can buy a firearm cheaply compared to the other divisions, and still be competitive.
Q. Which division do you prefer?
A. I prefer the Production Division, as it is more technical, and you need to score. It makes you a better shooter. The Standard Division requires a lot faster shooting, as scoring is not as important as it is in the Production Division. Accuracy is key with the way that Production is set-up, as you can still shoot fast, but your scores will be lower compared to the scoring system in the Standard Division. Shots in the Production Division are scored as minor, while shots in the Standard Division are scored as major.
Q. In your opinion, what firearm modifications are essential?
A. This depends on the division in which you compete in. In the Standard Division, we went through an era where magazine capacity was everything. We changed the magazine follower and bases to increase the magazine capacity and used K-mag 2 magazines. However, you move away from that.
A good trigger is essential. The trigger must be refined by someone who knows what they are doing, and who has the proper tools, such as a competent gunsmith. I prefer a light trigger, but it has to feel crisp. A shooter has to be careful, as a trigger that is too light may become a safety issue, with accidental discharges. I find that adding weights to the dust cover part of the frame to make the pistol heavier reduces muzzle flip, which gets your sights back onto the target much quicker. A good magazine well makes it easier to ship a new magazine and makes magazine changes that much faster. Off-the-shelf magazine wells for the STI are high-end. Everyone uses them, with no gunsmithing required to attach the magazine well to the pistol.
Good sights are important. I do not like fibre-optics, and prefer adjustable sights at the back. I like a black front sight. I have left the optic front sight as standard on the production gun, as I do not want to fiddle with the pistol. However, I changed the front sight on my STI, as the fibre-optic made me shoot high. I would tend to line up the ‘dot’ in the rear notch, and not the top of the front blade. This caused me to shoot over plates at longer distances, especially if shooting fast. Removing the fibre-optic solved that problem for me. I came up with a recoil buffer system for the STI using an O-ring between 2 metal plates that worked very well. Grip tape on the slide of the pistol is essential for quick racking; stippling on the pistol grips allows you to get a better grip on the pistol. This, however, depends on the division in which you compete.Using the correct bullet is also very important. I was the last shooter in the Super Squad to use lead bullets. The move away from lead to CMJ bullets made a vast difference in target acquisition.
Q. Do you have any sponsors?
A. No. Q. How did you become involved with sport shooting? A. I shot a lot on the range, and have always loved firearms. On Saturdays, we always used to see the IPSC shooters competing, and being a member of the club got me interested. A fellow club member invited me to join them on an IPSC shoot, and that is how I got involved in sport shooting.
Q. Any advice for current shooters
A. Practice as much as you can. You have to put the work in if you want to get anywhere.
Q. Any advice for other shooters wanting to start out with sport shooting?
A. Obtain the correct equipment. Ask other IPSC shooters for advice, as some gunshop salespeople will sell you what they prefer personally, and what may be in stock at the time. Have a look at what equipment the top ten shooters are using. That will give you a very good indication.
Q. How often do you practice?
A. Depending on whether or not there is a big match coming up, and my motivation at the time, I go through training spurts. If there is something I need to fix, I will train every day. I prefer training in the early morning before work, with the bulk of my training taking place in summer early in the morning.
Q. What do you believe are the basic practice drills shooters should use to advance?
A. Accuracy drills, which build speed automatically.
Q. What is the most valuable lesson you learnt shooting internationally?
A. I have learnt most from my fellow shooters. Some shooters have a different way of reading a stage. However, I think you take something away from every match you shoot. I cannot say I have learnt one specific lesson.
Q. How do you prepare for a big shoot?
A. Doing strength training helps you get through long matches held over several days. While I practice before a match, my training is usually part of a larger programme I follow for myself. Many good free smartphone apps are available. I like using a training app that records my scoring over time. This shows how you improve over time, recording your growth as a shooter. It also means your training session is focused and does not just consist of plinking at the range. It is very important to structure your training. This is where an app can assist, or you can do it manually.