One of the things I greatly enjoy doing is uspsa competitions. For those of you few out there who have no idea what I am referring to, check out this video.
Uspsa stands for United States Practical Shooting Association. This is the run and gun “John Wick” style of competing that catches most people’s eye. There are many other types of pistol shooting competitions happening every weekend, all over the US. But since I compete in steel challenge and Uspsa matches, that is what I will focus on.
The first thing you should know about competing is you don’t have to be “good” at shooting before you give it a try. The only real requirement is that you be SAFE. There are many rules associated with USPSA specifically, but the only ones that will get you disqualified from a match are ones that violate safety.
The most important rule is very easy to remember, it is the “cold range rule”. This means the only time your pistol will ever have ammunition, or a magazine loaded is when a range officer “RO” tells you to make ready for the stage. After you are finished shooting a stage, the same RO will tell you to unload and show clear. At that point you will again unload you gun and will stay that way until you’re ready to shoot the next stage.
The second rule that you should be familiar with is commonly referred to as the “180 rule”. This is best though of as not pointing your gun behind you. As long as your gun doesn’t break the 180 degree line separating what’s in front of you and what’s behind you, you will be just fine.
As long as you can do those two things, no matter how many targets you may miss, you can shoot a USPSA competition. Over the next several paragraphs I will go into detail about how to find and sign up for a match, as well as what you will need to bring with you when you try it for the first time. Until then.
First, let me go into what you will need before you can attend your first match. The first thing is a handgun and a holster. Any pistol will work, as long as you have one that is reliable. Most people fall for the marketing of the gun manufacturers of today saying how they have developed the latest and greatest handgun every year. Once you start competing you will realize the gun is the smallest part of what equates to a good score at a match. I recommend choosing whatever you are most familiar with. If you are a police officer and carry a Glock daily, then shoot a Glock! If you have only ever shot your prized 1911 then bring it with you and shoot it! If you already have a holster for your gun then use it, if you are looking for one, then I suggest a Blade-Tech made specifically for your gun. They are relatively inexpensive and a lot of top shooters are using the same ones.
The next thing I suggest to new shooters is to read through the rule book. This is important to know how to not be penalized for foot faults or other penalties. The biggest reason I tell people to read through the rule book is for them to see the different divisions available to compete in and what equipment is legal in those divisions. DO NOT spend a lot of money on your gun and other accessories until you have a clear understanding of the different divisions. Your first few matches should be used to meet new people, see what they’re using and then build from there. Learn the rules and decide afterwards what you want to buy. You will need very little to get started and if you’re reading this article, that is your goal!
The next thing you need is extra magazines and a way to secure them on your belt. 3-5 magazines is sufficient for most divisions and you can always get more later on if you feel the need. There are many options for mag pouches. A few that I have used in the past that I recommend are Black Scorpion single mag pouches that can be ordered through amazon, or Ghost 360 mag pouches which I currently use and recommend. Anything will work as long as you can move around without losing your extra mags.
Ammo will be your greatest expense when shooting, but if you do your homework and shop around a good deal can always be found. I currently use chief armament ammo. He is a one man operation out of Florida and has great prices on whatever you need! If you aren’t local to Florida then going online will always give you the best prices. A fantastic option for anyone is federal. Federal primers are the softest on the market so if you’ve done any kind of trigger work on your gun making your firing pin not hit as hard this ammo will still function 100%.
Once you have your gun, extra mags, and mag pouches, you’re ready to compete. The easiest way to find a match is by using the website https://uspsa.org. Use the search feature to find a club near you. Typically a club will have 1 match per month and the cost will be around 25$. There is no need to join uspsa in order to shoot your first match. Most clubs will allow same day sign ups so you will just find out when and where the match will be held, show up with your money and equipment and begin shooting!
There are 7 different divisions recognized by uspsa currently. However, I will not go into revolver or limited-10 specifics. Revolver division is by far the least popular division. If you’re a revolver shooter, I applaud your commitment but I will not be going into this for this article. Limited 10 division follows the same guidelines as Limited, but you have a 10 round magazine capacity limit. So for our purposes, we will look into these divisions .
- Carry optics
- Pcc: pistol caliber carbine
- Production– usually thought of as the “beginner division” by most. This is far from the truth of the matter. This is Uspsa’s most popular division for good reason. In production, competitors are limited to relatively stock handguns and 10 round limits in magazines. This division is ruled by heavy da/sa guns such as Cz, and Tanfoglio, or light safe action polymer guns such as glocks. Scoring is minor, so using a 9mm calibered gun is the best option. With 10 round mag limits, you will typically see most competitors with 5-6 mags to start a stage. This is also the cheapest division to compete in due to the ammo cost and the availibility of competitive guns. This is the division I compete in.
- Limited– This division is typically ruled by heavy pistols chambered in 40 s&w. This division is scored either major or minor but if you want major scoring you must shoot a bullet at least .40 caliber or larger. Basically anything goes in limited with a few exceptions. There are no compensators allowed and you cannot use red dot electronic sights.
- Open– The flagship division of uspsa. Almost Anything goes here. 32 round mags, red dot sights and compensators are the norm and equipment CAN BE more expensive.
- Carry Optics– A relatively new division, this can be thought of as the most modernized pistol division. You can have an extended magazine, a red dot sight, modify your gun to a certain extent and this division is scored minor. There are weight restrictions and rules that must be thought out before building up a pistol to compete.
- Pcc– The new hotness, this is for rifles chambered in pistol calibers. The most common is an AR pattern field chambered in 9mm. If you’re in to taking a rifle to a pistol fight this is your division.
I should talk a little about how major and minor scoring works. Stage scores at uspsa matches are displayed as a “hit factor”. A hit factor is defined as your points shot decided by time. So the more points you shoot in a faster time gives you a higher hit factor. Targets are broken up into 3 scoring zones, alpha, Charlie, and delta. If you are shooting a minor caliber you will receive 5 points for an alpha, 3 points for a Charlie, and 1 point for a delta. In major scoring an alpha is worth the same 5 points, a Charlie is worth 4, and a delta is 3. So, if you are shooting a 9mm limited gun, and your competitor is shooting a 40, and you both have the same hits on target and the same time, he will beat you. For example, if you shoot 6 alphas and 2 Charlie in 10 seconds(6×5)(2×3)=36 points. Your points(36) decided by your 10 second time gives you a 3.6 hit factor. So your score for this stage is a 3.6. However if your opponent shoots the same exact hits and time. (6×5)(2×4) he gets 38 points. That decided by his time gives him a 3.8 hit factor and he will win the stage. Remember, in production, pcc, and carry optics, no matter what caliber you shoot you will be scored minor. So it’s better to shoot 9mm and have less recoil and cheaper ammo and still not be out scored by someone of equal talent. However if you’re shooting limited or open, you will want to think wisely about choosing your caliber to take advantage of higher scoring shooting a major caliber.
For specific rules regarding these divisions it’s best to read over the rules found at the link below. Do your research first and find what best suites you!
Just don’t want to compete against a bunch of “ringers” a take a beating. I don’t see the fun in that. This started off 40 years ago + for working class people with limited time and money for practice. It has really gone off the rails since then.