Depending on the hammer "profile", it *may* take it out of Production. You can get "Production" profile race hammers.
As for 9mm in Limited not being competitive, I call that "hogwash"! Competitive being the operative key word. If you shoot all "A" zone hits, you would be scored the same as major. It is hits outside the A zone where you can lose points. However, if you shoot minor better and faster, and get A hits, your score is just as good. I shoot minor in Limited and strive for 90% A hits (which you should do anyway). Just my opinion though. I mainly shoot USPSA as extra practice for 3Gun..
As for what constitutes being ready to compete? Last year my 40 something g/f decided that what I was doing looked like fun, and wanted to try it out. She was a complete newbie; a non-shooter. I did some training with her, and she attended a clinic that our club put on for new shooters. I told her repeatedly to just focus on safety, the rest would follow. Our 3Gun match director was happy to see her come, and offered her a slot to a Night 3Gun if she wanted it. She accepted, and her first match was that one. Yep, she came in last place, and did so for half the season. Absolutely hooked on 3Gun, although we mix in other matches too. Now she is a regular, an ambassador, plus has helped other women feel comfortable enough to start. When she started, her father told her "girls don't shoot guns, etc..", but now is a big advocate for her after watching video that I took. Then he said she could not do long range with a rifle.. this weekend she hit an 8"x8" plate at 325yds on her second shot in a side wind with 55gr bullets. Should I mention that she bought a hunting license for the first time this year?
Just do it, with whatever you have. Focus on safety first. I drilled her on trigger finger out of the guard while moving, slow draws, and slow reloads. Once she had that down, the rest fell into place.