FAQs

USPSA faqs
IDPA faqs
SCSA faqs

Do I have to be a USPSA member to shoot in a USPSA Approved match?

No. But if you like the sport, you’ll want to become a USPSA/IPSC member. More here.

What is the age/gender profile of the typical shooter?

At the typical club match the majority of competitors are adult males, but women and even kids are encouraged to participate. Even at the club level, there are separate classes for female, junior (under 21), senior (over 50) and super-senior (over 60). This is a great sport for the whole family!

How will I know I’m ready to shoot a match? I feel a bit intimidated and don’t want to embarrass myself.

If you have the correct gear and can exercise SAFE GUN HANDLING — you’re ready now! The Grand Masters of the sport had to start somewhere. Fact is, the atmosphere of camaraderie and friendliness is second to no other sport: experienced competitors offer advice, encouragement, and moral support to new shooters. WE WANT NEW SHOOTERS. No one expects you to be competitive, so don’t worry about it — just be safe. And don’t make the mistake of saying, "…I just need to practice for another couple months…" and miss out on a ton of fun. Some clubs even offer new shooter orientation classes and squads so you won’t have to shoot with the fast guys straight away. Read more here.

I don’t know anyone at the match, how will I know what to do and where to go?

Here’s how it works: show up at one of the matches listed on this website. There will be folks milling around in the parking lot—introduce yourself and explain that it’s your first match. You’ll find that someone will take you under their wing and show you the ropes. All matches share a few basic procedures: there’s registration—usually conducted in a stat shack, club house or on the tailgate of a pickup—where you’ll pay your match fee and sign up on a squad of 5-10 shooters. There will be 4-6 stages (courses of fire) set up and the several squads will rotate through which takes 3-6 hours. After the match you might want to help "tear down" the stages after which you’ll retire to the clubhouse or tailgate to lie, make excuses, and lament bitterly. Many matches have a computer on site and results are posted half an hour after the last shot. Then you have to go home.

I don’t have a fancy "race gun" or "speed rig"— how can I be competitive?

If you’re just starting, you won’t be competitive, so don’t worry about it. Just use the gear you have and see if you like the sport—then you can think about upgrading equipment. The fun comes from developing and improving your shooting skills, not from frittering over equipment.

I’m middle-aged, overweight so I can’t run very well. How can I compete with a teenager who can run fast?

Everything else being equal, the competitor that can run faster will win a big field stage that requires a lot of movement between shooting positions. Accomplished IPSC shooters develop other skills which are far more important than raw speed. The ability to develop an effective "plan" for shooting a stage and to execute it without mistakes, and the mastery of basic shooting fundamentals such as target acquisition, trigger control, etc.

Should I wear my SWAT outfit to look cool?

Wear your SWAT costume or camo and you’ll definitely NOT look cool. One great thing about the Practical Shooting sport is that no special clothing is required. Compare to cycling, motocross, even golf or tennis. You definitely don’t want to wear camo. For some reason, there are those who take a dim view of the shooting sports and wearing inappropriate attire doesn’t help our "image". You might want to consider wearing shoes that provide good traction on loose surfaces. Football cleats, which can be purchased inexpensively in the off-season, are ideal.

How do all the classes and divisions work?

Basically, there are categories for equipment and categories for shooters. Competitors are categorized in a division by equipment, and in a class by skill level. In major matches there are also classes for female, law, military, senior, supersenior, foreign, etc. But in club matches, like those listed on this website, you will shoot either Open or Limited division depending on the type of gun you use. Open guns have all the "bells and whistles", Limited guns are basically stock: iron sights, no barrel ports or compensators allowed. Starting in 2001, USPSA is recognizing several new Divisions: Limited 10 (load ten rounds maximum), Production (showroom stock double-action semi-autos), and Revolver (six round maximum, iron sights). These new Divisions make the sport even more attractive to new shooters by reducing the "buy in" expense. Read about the particulars in the USPSA rulebook.

The performance-based class system means you will be competing with shooters of your skill level. To receive a classification, you need to join USPSA ($40 a year) and shoot four classifier stages for score. Most clubs will shoot a classifier stage at their monthly match. As you improve, you will move up in class—that’s part of the fun!

How does the scoring work? It seems so complicated!

The match scoring is based upon your "hit factor", which in it’s very simplest terms is points scored per second. As you probably know, the targets have point scoring areas—much like traditional bullseye targets.

IPSC target

Your hit factor for the course of fire (a stage) is simply your points total divided by your time in seconds.

If a match were only one stage, the winner would be the shooter with the highest hit factor, but most matches have four to six stages and each stage may require anywhere from 6 to 36 rounds. We need a way to "weight" the stages based on the round count. This is done by calculating Stage Points and then Match Points using a computerized scoring program, although it can be done longhand.

For example: Stage 1 is a 12 round speedshoot with 60 points available (12 x 5). Joe wins the stage with a high hit factor of 10.000 and is awarded all sixty Stage Points. Dave has a hit factor of 9.000 or 90% of Joe’s winning score so he gets 90% of the winner’s points: 54. Mel has a hit factor of 5.000 (50% of Joe’s hit factor) and gets 50% of Joe’s points: 30.

The competitor’s Stage Points from all the stages are added to total Match Points and the Match winner is the shooter with the most points. With this system, A 36 round stage with 180 points available will have a greater "weight" than our example 12 round stage—as it should.

For an in-depth discussion of scoring, see the very excellent article on the USPSA website.

What’s this "DVC" thing I see everywhere?

"DVC" stands for the Latin: "Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas", the three principles of Practical Shooting: Accuracy, Power, and Speed. Practical competition must be conducted in such a way as to evaluate these elements equally.

What’s better…shoot fast or shoot accurately?

You’ll find that if you NEVER think about shooting fast or shooting accurately, you’ll be way ahead in this game. Execute the fundamentals: acquire your target, align your sights, and hold your sights on the target until they lift in recoil. Acquire your next target, etc. The trick is to know what constitutes an acceptable sight picture for the shot required, and that takes experience. Useful tip: don’t miss.

Now that you know the relationship of points to time in regard to hit factor (hit factor=points per second), it’s a simple matter to calculate the time value of a miss. In a 5 hit factor stage, a miss will be the equivalent of 3 seconds in time (15 points lost for the miss: 5 for the "A" hit you didn’t get and -10 penalty points): 15 (points) divided by 5 (hit factor) equals three seconds. A miss on a 10 hit factor stage would cost you the equivalent of one and a half seconds. If you have a miss on this stage with a time 1 1/2 seconds faster than the guy that doesn’t miss, it’s a wash—contrary tothe popular platitude, you can miss fast enough to win! A low round-count, low hit factor stage would put a premium on accuracy, and a high round-count, high hit factor stage would put a premium on speed.

Is USPSA competition a good way to train for defensive or "combat" shooting?

USPSA/IPSC Practical Shooting has its roots in defensive or combat training, but it has evolved into a pure sport and is referred to as a "game" by participants. We are not "training" to shoot anything except our paper and steel targets. The IPSC target has a "head", so does a glass of beer—so what? It’s a sport, like golf or Formula 1. You will develop valuable gun handling skills, but if you want "combat" training, check out a training facility like Thunder Ranch, Front Sight, or Gunsite.

IDPA: What is IDPA and how does it differ from USPSA Practical Shooting?

Find the authoritative answers to your questions about IDPA on their official website. The International Defensive Pistol Association was created by several founders of USPSA who felt that USPSA Practical Shooting had strayed too far from its original concept of practice or training for defensive handgun use to more of a pure sport or "game" requiring overly specialized equipment and technique. IDPA has classes for different types of handguns, but electronic sights, compensators, and a number of other "racegun" features are specifically banned. Approved carry-type holsters are listed in the IDPA rulebook, "speed-rigs" are not allowed. Match stages (courses of fire) are typically shorter and less complex than you’ll find at a USPSA match and the scenarios are intended to more closely represent "real world" situations. Development of technique is emphasised over competition.

SCSA: What is a "steel match"?

The Steel Challenge Shooting Association was recently founded by the originators of the Steel Challenge World Speed Shooting Championships: Mike Dalton and Mike Fichman. This is one of the simplest—and most fun—of the action pistol shooting games. There are seven standard stages consisting of five steel plates each. Stage procedure is simple: at the beep, shoot the five plates as fast as you can. You get five runs on each stage (four runs on "Outer Limits"), your worst run on each stage is tossed out and the remaining 27 runs added for your final score. Lowest time wins. There are lots of firearm and shooter divisions—even a .22 rimfire class. This is a great match for a beginner and still extremely challenging for the Master Class shooter.