Getting into competitive shooting sports is easier than it may seem, but does require some minimal gear to get started in any discipline.
In our Competitive Shooting Guns & Gear Series of blogs, we'll go over specific shooting sports, what's needed to get started, what it costs to get involved, and a basic overview of the sport. The first shooting sport in our series is the United States Practical Shooting Association, better known as USPSA.
The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) is the national governing body of practical shooting in the United States under the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). Our over 31,000 active members and over 440 affiliated clubs make USPSA the largest practical shooting organization in the United States and the second-largest region within IPSC after the Russian Federation of Practical Shooting.
USPSA is a shooting sport that is about speed and accuracy combined. There are eight divisions you can shoot in USPSA, including revolver, pistol caliber carbine, single stack, carry optics, and more. Each division has a ruleset as to what gun is legal to shoot in the division, as well as other requirements for ammunition, magazine length, and more. A USPSA match consists of several stages, some standing still and some requiring the shooter to move to different positions to shoot at specific target arrays. There is a lot of movement involved in USPSA, which means your gun handling skills are put to the ultimate test to keep yourself and others safe on the range.
USPSA is new competitor friendly and has local, beginner level 1 matches that help orientate the newest shooter on how the game is played. There are higher-level 2 and level 3 matches, as well as a Nationals event held each year. There is also a classification system that ranks your shooting skills compared to other USPSA members. Everyone starts out as "unclassified," and can move up from there.
The best part about getting started in USPSA is that membership is not required for local, level 1 matches. You can see if you enjoy shooting the sport before signing up for a membership. For Level 2 and higher competitions, you must be a member of USPSA or a current member of your IPSC region. Local USPSA matches can vary in price and sometimes will allow first-time shooters to shoot their first match for free, and some don't charge for Junior or Lady competitors at all. These usually aren't higher than $20 per match, but the cost will be listed before you register for your local match, which we'll cover later on how to find this information.
You don't need to go out and buy a ton of gear or a new gun to compete in USPSA. The goal for your first match should be to run what you have, see if you enjoy it, and invest in it more if it's something you'd like to pursue. The easiest and simplest divisions to sign up for are Limited or Carry Optics. The Limited division will allow you more freedom with what modifications can be on your firearm and allow you to load your magazines to full capacity. If you have a red dot mounted on your pistol, you'll most likely want to compete in the Carry Optics division, but check the rules for what's not allowed in this division. You can also load magazines to their full capacity in this division.
What's great about USPSA is you can run your concealed carry holster, both IWB and OWB are permitted. USPSA is a great sport to practice with your carry gun, work on drawing from your concealed holster, and learn to reload from a spare magazine pouch on your body if it's needed. Bring a minimum of three magazines to the match, as some stages can require you to perform a mandatory reload, or will have a round count of up to 32 rounds. You'll need to have a sturdy belt to attach your holster and magazine pouches to. You can use the daily, leather, belt you use for concealed carry or whatever belt you have that can support the weight of the gun and magazines. That's it. That's all you need to go out and have fun!
There are two places you can go to find your local USPSA community. You can search on the USPSA website to view upcoming local matches both in a list and calendar view. The other place to search for matches is on Practiscore. Practiscore makes it easy for you to search by your geographical location and this is where you'll register for matches as well as see your scores from each match you attend. You can also just go and spectate a match before competing in one to get a feel for what to expect. Don't be afraid to reach out to your local shooting club, the range that hosts matches, or some of the local competitors to ask questions you may have. The shooting community is full of great people willing to help you get started!
Kenzie Fitzpatrick is a professional competitive shooter and an active blogger for many firearm websites. As an NRA-certified instructor and National Range Officer Institute Chief Range Officer, Kenzie trains new shooters on basic firearm safety, brings new shooters to competitive shooting, and works major matches across the country. She has a passion for teaching people how to concealed carry and is a positive ambassador for the Second Amendment.
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