Action sports in the competitive pistol shooting world can be a daunting area to jump into. There are a lot of great shooters and walking into a match with their caliber of performance can feel a little discouraging. While many high-caliber competitors are very open to helping new shooters, there are matches out there that are designed around new and beginner-level shooters. These matches create an environment that is comfortable and very helpful for new shooters to participate in.
USPSA Level 1 Matches
The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) is one of the more popular associations involved in action shooting sports. Due to this, there are a lot of heavy hitters participating in these matches. However, each of these matches can adhere to a certain level of shooter and skillset based on what level the match is.
In USPSA there are three levels of matches, Level I, II, and III. A level one match is usually a monthly match at your local gun range. Level II and Level III matches are major matches or championships such as sectional, regional, or area championships. For a beginner shooter, the match that you will want to focus on attending is a USPSA Level I match. This won’t be a major or a championship. It will be a simple one-day USPSA match. Use USPSA.org to see a list of participating ranges.
For these matches, at the least, you will want a gun belt with a holster, mag pouches, multiple magazines, a gun, and an understanding of which division your gun falls into as you will need to state your division when you register. These matches include moving and shooting.
Steel Challenge and Falling Steel
Steel-type action shooting matches can be as competitive or beginner friendly as you want them to be. However, they are geared towards beginner shooters just wanting to have some fun. Steel matches are all steel. No paper targets, just simply shooting and hearing the ping of steel. How is that not fun? It’s a great environment to get people excited about action shooting.
Steel matches often require a holster, magazines, and mag pouches but there usually isn’t any movement. If there is movement, it is moving from one shooting area to the next without firing a shot.
During these type of matches there are usually two start positions. One being on the beep the shooter will grab their unloaded firearm from the barrel in front of them, load the gun, and shoot the steel. The other start position is gun in holster and on the beep the shooter draws the gun and begins shooting steel.
Steel Challenge Shooting Association
This specific match type is under the USPSA organization. The Steel Challenge Shooting Association is very prevalent across local ranges, just as USPSA is. Use the SCSA.org website to see the list of participating ranges.
These matches are non-sanctioned, fun matches. In Falling Steel matches the Steel Must Fall, not just be hit, so it makes it a little more fun. Oftentimes clubs will have Rimfire Falling Steel matches as well, meaning that .22lr rifles and pistols can be shot during these matches.
Non-Sanctioned Steel Challenge Type Matches
These matches do not directly fall under the SCSA organization but are instead run by your local range. This can be even a friendlier type of match as it is a simple local cash-money match. Your local range should have these types of matches listed as “club match” or “non-sanctioned match”.
Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF)
This is the friendliest match out there. Run by Glock, everyone who is a range officer there is a volunteer. They use paper scoring and multiple Glocks will be on the table for prizes but without the mean competitive nature associated with higher-end prizes. All you need is a Glock and ammo to participate, no holster or other gear needed, and a small $35 fee for a yearly membership. It only takes a couple of hours to shoot and the stages are always the same, no matter the match you attend. These stages are public too. This makes it nice to mentally prepare for the stages.
No holster is needed because your gun and magazines will be on the table in front of you while waiting to start the stage. After loading and making the firearm ready, you will start at the low ready position and on the beep.
There is a list of matches on their website, GSSF.pro.
Note that Glock runs these matches, not your local ranges. So these matches are a little harder to come by but still very fun. They are a nice way to ease into the action shooting sports.
Ran by Sig Sauer, Shoot SIG matches are very similar to GSSF matches as the three stages are pre-planned and publicized on their website sigsauer.com/shootsig. At these matches, they even offer their own Sig guns for you to use, which is genius marketing and a nice way to help beginners get out and shoot.
You will need to buy a membership to register for matches. Match locations and dates are listed on the website as well. They are harder to come by but have a very friendly environment.
Nothing is needed for this match except a gun and around 100 rounds of ammo. If you don’t have your own pistol you can even borrow a Sig gun.
Last but certainly not least, are non-sanctioned club matches. These types of matches can range from team matches, concealed carry matches, steel matches, white light matches, and more. They are usually more friendly because they don’t involve a leaderboard or prizes. They are simply cash matches and a way to get out and shoot with your friends.
Most ranges will have a calendar that lists upcoming matches. The match will usually say “non-sanctioned”. Be sure to read the details for what to bring as far as equipment and round count.
How to Find these Matches
There are two main ways to find the matches described above.
First is doing a “match search” on Practiscore.com using the match type such as “Shoot Steel” or “USPSA”. You can also find your local ranges and click their page to see what matches they have coming up. Once adding your preferred range to your dashboard by clicking “follow” on their range page, those events will now pop up on your own calendar, giving you plenty of options and time to register for them.
Another way is to find your local practical shooting group on Facebook. Oftentimes these are named by area or city such as “Fairfax Practical Shooting Association.” Within this group there will be posts about matches in the area. Groups like this are great because they don’t only show the events taking place at one range, but multiple ranges in the area.
Matches like Glock Shooting Sports Foundation or Shoot SIG are not usually listed on Practiscore. Their match dates will be posted on their website.
Mentoring and Practice
The matches listed above are great opportunities for all levels to get out and practice. Skilled and experienced shooters may be there, but they are in a relaxed environment allowing for more mentoring opportunities from those shooters. Many of these matches allow you to run through the same stage multiple times, meaning a ton of practice for new shooters.
Remember, the action shooting sports world is always needing to grow. There would be no growth without new shooters getting out and having fun learning the sport.