Inside USPSA, My Favorite Shooting Sport
Today I’ll touch on my favorite competitive pistol shooting sport: United States Practical Shooting Association, or USPSA. I will not get terribly in-depth on all of the rules, or history. If you want to really dig into the rules or research history, you can go to USPSA.org for more information on USPSA.
USPSA grew out of an organization called the International Practical Shooting Confederation(IPSC). IPSC was created in 1976 after a meeting of international practical shooting enthusiasts met in Columbia, Missouri in an effort to share their visions and create an organization to measure their shooting skills and train for self defense. The meeting was led by the late great Col. Jeff Cooper. From that meeting came the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). In 1984 USPSA was incorporated as the U.S. Region of IPSC. There are roughly 400 affiliated clubs all over the United States and close to 30,000 members. USPSA is all about speed, power and accuracy with a firearm. The sport has a formula to measure those factors together, which they call the Hit Factor. The Hit Factor breaks everything down to points per second, as the formula is Points divided by Time = Hit Factor. There are also major and minor power factors based on your caliber and division, but we can touch on another time.
If you compete in USPSA, you will be running and gunning! That’s why I enjoy it so much. As a competitor in a USPSA match you will be competing in a number of different courses of fire, known as stages, to challenge your shooting skills. The goal is to run the stages safely and as quickly and accurately as possible. On average, a local match may have anywhere from four to eight stages. A number of skill sets come into play to become a top competitor.
First of all, memory will come into play. You and your squad will have 5 minutes to walk through a stage before shooting it. A USPSA long course can have up to 32 rounds in it. The paper targets generally require 2 shots on them and steel targets require one. So, you could have for instance 12 paper targets spread out over the stage and an additional 8 steel targets. A stage may include barriers like walls or hallways with only certain areas that allow the competitor access to see or shoot at certain targets. As you do your ‘walk through,’ so you can visualize your game plan before running the stage, you will need to remember the best way to navigate the course to shoot all of the targets as quickly as possible.
In addition to memory, you must have gun handling skills. You must be able to safely load your gun, draw it from a holster, reload, clear a jam or malfunction should one arise, all while shooting a stage and under the pressure of the timer. Finally, once you’ve completed shooting the stage you need to show the range office that you have safely unloaded your firearm and returned it to your holster, before the ‘range is clear’ command can be given.
You must learn to become a fast and accurate shooter. If you shoot super fast yet don’t get the best hits, it penalizes you. Likewise if you are extremely slow, but accurate it will be tough to keep up. When I started competing at age 10, my dad always said to me “be safe and have fun”. Now I’m 17 and much more comfortable and experienced in competitive shooting, but we still say to each other “be safe and have fun”. Safety above all, but as you get more comfortable with your firearm you will likely want to improve your times to be competitive.
As mentioned timing is a big part of your score, so you must learn to handle all sorts of various pressures, while under the clock, as you negotiate your course of fire. The timer will run until your last shot is fired.
If you decide to shoot USPSA it would be in your best interest to work on some skill sets before you compete in your first match. You will want to be proficient in safely handling a firearm under pressure, drawing from a holster, reloading, movement with a firearm and you should read over the rules of the game. USPSA.org has all the information that you will need.
In coming weeks, I’ll touch on divisions and categories, equipment, live fire and dry fire training. Until next time!
James DeLambert is a 17 year old competitive pistol shooter from Blair, Wisconsin. He began competing in the USPSA when he was 10 years old. He has also competed in IDPA and 3 Gun, but his 3 main shooting sports are USPSA (Grandmaster) in production division, Steel Challenge (Master) in production division and SASP (Grandmaster) competing in senior centerfire. His goal, beyond improving in his sport, is to provide readers with interesting and informative articles from the perspective of a junior competitive shooter.