The competitive shooting sports are a fantastic way to improve your firearms proficiency, not to mention it’s tons of fun! The benefits are numerous and, the camaraderie amongst the shooters makes for an environment of sharing and learning. Choosing the right organization with which to become involved is an important decision. I’ll examine some of the most common handgun competitive shooting sports in this post. First though, I’ll give you a little background with how I became involved with competitive shooting.
It’s Spring 2011, I’m relaxing in front of the television and I stumble across an episode of “Shooting USA” on the Outdoor Network. Instantly, I am mesmerized. Men, women and, in some cases, even kids as young as 12 years of age, are running through these obstacle course-like setups and shooting targets. Their movements seem to mimic a gazelle’s graceful agility and speed, with the aggression of a hungry lion attacking its prey. I knew instantly, I had to try this. Less than a week later I was standing on a range, about to experience something that would ultimately change my life and become the most enjoyable hobby I have participated in to date.
The 3 most popular, handgun specific competitive shooting sports are, IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association), USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) and Steel Challenge. These are considered “action shooting sports.” I will elaborate more on each of the competitive shooting sports in future articles, this should serve as an overview of each.
The IDPA organization was founded in 1996, as way for shooters of all skill levels to improve their concealed carry skills. While IDPA is a competitive shooting sport, it was originally intended to address some of the shortcomings that many believed other shootings sports suffered. IDPA shooters are required to conceal their firearm and additional ammunition with a cover garment. This practice emulates concealed carry. When engaging targets, if available, use of cover is mandatory. Any object such as a tree, car, wall or barrel would be considered cover. Penalties known as “procedural errors” can be given out if a competitor does not follow these rules. There are scenarios presented to the shooter for each stage and it is the competitor’s job to eliminate the threats in a timely manner while maintaining accuracy. A Safety Officer shadows the shooter ensuring safety first, as well as penalty tracking and use of the timer.
The organization known as USPSA is the United States’ division of IPSC. USPSA was officially founded in 1984. A blend of speed, accuracy and power all culminate into a quick paced action sport. There is a lot of foot movement involved in USPSA and cover garments are not required. You are allowed to shoot from out in the open and no penalty for neglecting to use cover will be given. The phrase “run and gun” perfectly describes this action sport. With far less rules to follow, strategies differ in comparison to IDPA. While shot placement is still important, speed rules. Physical fitness plays a key role in the athlete’s ability to compete at a high level. Divisions separate shooters of different skill levels as well as different types of guns.
Steel Challenge began its organization in 1981. Shooting steel, as it’s often referred, is a great sport for competitors of all levels to begin. Most stages require no foot movement, and little to no athleticism. Solid steel plates of various sizes are used as targets and produce a ringing sound when struck with a bullet. These plates are positioned at varying distances to the shooter, with one plate designated as the stop plate. The stop plate is the final plate that should be shot for each run. On each stage the shooter will makes five runs with the requirement of shooting each piece of steel. The times for each run are recorded and the worst time (of the five) is thrown out. The other 4 times are then averaged. The object, after all stages have been added together, is to have the shortest time possible.
These are just three of the most popular competitive shooting sports that are available. Each has its own set of rules and nuances that bring a level of excitement to the game. Which of these competitive shooting sports works best for you?