If you are anything like me, I wanted to get into competition shooting for years but I didn’t have the first clue as to how. I wanted to get into the sport for a couple of reasons, one I am a huge firearm enthusiast, I wanted to be able to expand my skills beyond what I can achieve at an indoor range, but mostly because it looked fun (and it is).
I would always see people doing pistol and multi-gun competitions on Instagram and Youtube but had no clue of the rules, organizations, where these matches were taking place, or how to sign up for them.
So, I thought I would do my best to aid in the process of getting to your first match and hopefully you will get out to a match a lot sooner then I did.
So where to start?
The first thing you need to do is make a Practiscore account. This is the website you will use to find 98% of matches spanning from USPSA, Steel Challenge, to USSL Multi-Gun. I’ll get into the different organizations a little bit later but let’s continue to cover the basics.
Practiscore is a free platform that allows you to search your area for matches and the information about them. For example, you can most likey find local USPSA matches, their round count, address, and the time and date for the match.
So, what is the world is USPSA?
United States Practical Shooting Association or USPSA is probably the biggest competitive shooting association out there and it is most likely for you to find these matches locally. USPSA has a primary focus on pistol shooting but you can also use a PCC or pistol caliber carbine to compete.
Most local matches you will find will be anywhere form 4-7 stages that require a balance of speed and accuracy to achieve a high score or what’s called a “Hit-Factor”. Your Hit-Factor is you points divided by the time it took you to complete any given stage.
This segways us into scoring so let’s hit on that and then break into the different divisions that you can compete in.
The scoring system in USPSA is relatively simple but has some differentiations. The main thing to note is whether you are in the major or minor power factor. Major power factor is anything above 9mm, this includes 38 super comp, 40 S&W, and 45 ACP to name a few. Minor power factor is essentially just 9mm.
So, what’s the difference? On the targets you have an A-zone, C-zone, and a D-zone. In major power factor the scoring goes as follows.
- A-Zone = 5 Points
- C-Zone = 4 Points
- D-Zone = 2 Points
Minor power factor scoring is slightly different as shown below.
- A-Zone = 5 Points
- C-Zone = 3 Points
- D-Zone = 1 Points
Here is what the targets look like.
So, you get more points for shooting larger calibers as basically a reward for handling more recoil. There is a whole science to the scoring in this sport that I will break down in a separate post, but I mainly want to give a wide overview here. So now let’s jump into the divisions and where you may fit into best.
There are eight divisions you can compete in and they vary based on what you want to be able to do to your gun. If you have a “Gucci” build with a compensator, optic, huge magazines, and a magwell you will be placed into the Open division.
On the other end, if you have a bone stock GLOCK 17 then you’ll be able to compete in the Production division. Let’s dive into the differences.
Open division is what it sounds like, there are basically no restrictions for modification apart from magazine length. These are the crazy over the top 2011’s you may have seen on Instagram.
Most of the competitors in this division are shooting a major power factor so just note that you will be at a disadvantage if you join in shooting 9mm.
Carry Optics is probably the most concentrated division and for good reason. Most people who enter this sport already carry a pistol for self-defense and without changing anything it is likely that it will fit into this category.
With slightly more strict restrictions on magazine length, not allowing for compensators or ported barrels, and no magwell Carry Optics is a bit easier (and less expensive) to jump into then Open.
As the name suggest the PCC division allows you to use a pistol caliber carbine. There are minimal restrictions for PCC shooters.
Here is what isn’t allowed, no suppressors, no binary triggers, no coupled magazines. That’s about it, there is no limit on magazine size, optics, lasers, lights, or slings.
I will link the list of specific rules below for all divisions as I just hit on the most popular that I see to give a quick overview.
Official Rules for USPSA: Click Here
Gear to Get Started
Let me start off by saying this, what you have is most likely enough to get started. With recent rule changes you can even use an appendix carry holster in competition. With that said there is some gear that will make your first match a bit better.
I recommend a decent OWB (outside the waistband) holster, and a couple of mag pouches. I started with a Comp-Tac OWB holster and two additional mag pouches on a normal belt.
I have since upgraded to a battle belt with three mag pouches and the same holster and it does me just fine.
You do not need all the fancy and expensive race gear to be competitive in this sport. The most important thing is to just go shoot your first match with what you have and see how you like it.
The culture within this sport is overall very friendly and supportive and we love nothing more then seeing new people get into the sport.
There is no need to be nervous, be sure to let people know that you are new to the sport, and someone is likely to help you through the match with everything from stage plans, to how to set up your gear.
I was so nervous to go to my first match and after I went, I was kicking myself for not going sooner. Don’t be like me and push it off, get out there shoot your first match, have fun and be safe.