At dinner last night, the topic came up again about how I've gotten a great deal of satisfaction out of shooting USPSA, but that I've never really made friends (in the "hang out and drink beer together"/"help you move"/"bail you out of jail" way) through USPSA. I've met lots of interesting USPSA people and had good internet conversations, but that only goes so far.
All of the shooting friends that I've made were made shooting either IDPA or Parrish's Action Pistol matches. Small, informal matches. One feature of them that helps with friendship formation is the social aspect of going out to dinner afterward. And, of course, since it's not as intensely competitive as a USPSA match, you spend more downtime between shooting socializing instead of visualizing complex stages.
But a third thing that just occurred to me is that USPSA draws people from a long distance away. Around here, people will drive 1-2 hours for a good USPSA match, and I'm told the numbers are higher out west. It's a lot more rare to drive that far for an IDPA or outlaw match. And even these days, it's hard to really build a solid friendship with someone who's more than, say, 45 minutes away. Any longer than that and it's quite a distance to drive before and after any get together.
In a strange way, USPSA is a victim of its own success like that. The product is so good that people will get up before dawn on the weekend, drive two hours to shoot, and drive two hours home. That's great for the competitiveness of the matches, but I do think often about how anonymous the whole sport feels sometimes. Lots of acquaintances, not that many deep friendships.
I don't know what we do about that. But I think I just figured out another piece of the puzzle.