Practical shooting sports are on the rise and becoming increasingly popular within the shooting community. Competition shooting is the best tool you can have in your workshop to further your abilities behind your firearm. It gives you metrics for performing on-demand alongside your peers. The shooting sports are made up of like-minded individuals striving to improve their firearm handling skills and have fun while doing it.
I am a professional competition shooter and started my journey from scratch. What seemed like a daunting task at first turned out to be a much simpler process than I imagined. I am currently on the Taran Tactical Innovations Pro Team, A Dillon Precision shooter, and supported by many others. I am starting my 5th season in the sport with nearly 400 local matches and 35 major matches under my belt. Today, I will share my process with you so that you can begin your journey down the practical shooting path.
How To Get Started in Competition Shooting
When I started, I had no idea what I was doing and decided cold-calling ranges would be the best option. Although I fumbled my way into a match, there are better resources. PractiScore.com will be your best hub for finding matches in your area. PractiScore.com creates a centralized space for local clubs to host their matches worldwide. It is free to make an account, allowing you to enter all your registration information for each match.
Here are the first steps to finding a match in your area.
- Sign up for PractiScore.com.
- Select the “Match” tab at the top of the website.
- Update your location to where you are located.
- The pins on the map represent matches in your area.
- Find the match that best suits your needs.
- Click on the pin & fill out the registration to the best of your ability. (If you need more clarification on some categories, make your best-educated guesses.)
- Find the match director’s email. (It is usually in the match description, or you can follow the hyperlink to the local club’s home page, where you can find a good contact email or phone number.)
- Write an email or call the match director and explain that you are a new shooter looking to get involved with competition shooting.
- The final step is to show up and get your first match under your belt!
It is common courtesy to reach out to the match director to tell them you are a new shooter. During my first season in USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association), I directed my local matches; knowing who the new shooters were made sure I paired them with experienced competitors so they would get the most out of their first experience.
Almost every competitor is excited to bring new people into the sport; we love watching it grow as it becomes more popular. I have learned more in my conversations with fellow competitors at matches than in any class, practice, book, or YouTube video.
Let’s talk about the different types of matches. In shooting sports, you will find multiple disciplines with unique characteristics and rule sets. If you are reading this, you probably have an idea of what some may include, but we’ll cover it anyways.
USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association)
“The premier competitive shooting organization in the world. USPSA membership is your pass to compete in any USPSA or IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) match anywhere in the world.” – USPSA Homepage.
This will be the most common out of any of the disciplines. You are racing against yourself to gain the most points per second on a stage. This is one of my favorites because it balances speed and accuracy. Points per second is referred to as Hit Factor scoring. This discipline mainly focuses on pistol shooting.
IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association)
“IDPA is the use of practical equipment including full charge service ammunition to solve simulated real-world self-defensive scenarios using practical handguns and holsters that are suitable for self-defense use. The main goal is to test the skill and ability of an individual” – IDPA.
This uses a time-plus scoring method, so accuracy is heavily weighted in this discipline. This discipline also mainly focuses on pistol shooting.
PCSL (Practical Competition Shooting League)
“For those with competition shooting experience already, whether from Multigun, USPSA, IDPA, IPSC, or other events, PCSL will feel comfortably familiar but at the same time refreshing, exciting, and new. We’ve taken the best aspects from many practical shooting disciplines and modernized them, creating the best match type. Events of every size – from the most humble club matches to the biggest championships – will be the best in class experiences you can find at any event.” – PCSL Homepage.
You will use a carbine and pistol in this discipline for the multi-gun matches. It also incorporates the hit factor scoring method.
Other Notable Mentions
Steel Challenge, IPSC, Bullseye, NRA Action Pistol, 3-gun, 2-gun, Sporting Clays, and Trap & Skeet.
Safety is at the forefront of each one of these disciplines. I encourage you to read the discipline’s rule books that interest you. Some of them share some basic rules that you should know before going. All venues will operate with cold ranges, which means that the firearm remains unloaded until it’s your time to shoot. You will get explicit instructions from the Range Officer when it is your turn. Most ranges will provide you an area to unload your firearm before entering the facility, and this especially matters if you are using your EDC gun to compete with.
Once you begin your course of fire, all of the standard firearm safety rules apply, be mindful of where your muzzle is pointed. In most disciplines, this is referred to as the 180-degree rule, where your muzzle can not point up range. The shooter must remove their finger from the trigger guard while moving. This exercises proper trigger discipline since most shooting sports require movement during the course of fire.
Generally speaking, if you follow the rules, you will have a good time. They are put in place to keep everyone safe.
Competition Shooting Gear
Lastly, let’s talk about gear. Everyone always wants to make a big deal about the equipment, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I shoot the same gun in competition that I carry every day, and I’ve even hunted hogs with it. When you are first starting, bring whatever gear you have.
If you are shooting a pistol match, you will need a gun, a holster, at least three magazines, and some way of retaining the magazines. Do not worry about the division you are shooting; this can all be sorted out as you progress in your competition journey.
I made the mistake of going out and buying thousands of dollars worth of gear in the first three months of competition shooting. I did not use any of it by the end of my first year. A lot of the time, other competitors have extra gear lying around and are willing to help you get your rig sorted out so you can succeed. Spend time at your local club getting to know the community and gaining match experience to make the best-educated decisions on what gear you need. Until then, shoot what you have!
The Shooting Sports Journey
You can participate in practical shooting well into your old age. The first step is to attend your first match and get started. It is up to you to decide how competitive you want to be. Attendees range from the sponsored shooters to groups of friends looking to be social on the weekend and send some lead down range. I like to migrate between all groups because, at the end of the day, if you’re not having fun, why are you doing it?
Your first match should be about gaining experience and settling the butterflies you may have to perform in front of a group of peers. Focus on getting through the match safely and following all the rules of the discipline and the local club hosting the match. Competitive shooting is a tool to better yourself as a shooter and sharpen your skills.
If you have more questions, feel free to reach out via Instagram at @hunter_constantine. I usually get to DM’s within 48 hours. I am happy to expand on any of these topics. Thank you for reading.