"Way too many shooters focus on the 'trip' and not the 'destination.' The destination is about the TARGET, the trip about the GUN and being right is grossly overrated!"
by James Tarr from the October/November 2011 issue of GUNS&AMMO
For those of you who have been wanting to attend an IPSC/USPSA match but weren't sure where to start, here's a brief walk-through. And to make sure everyone's up to speed on the acronyms, USPSA stands for U.S. Practical Shooting Association, the U.S. arm of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). In other words, USPSA runs IPSC here in the States.
FIND A MATCH
Click the Find Clubs tab at the top of the USPSA home page - USPSA.com - and enter your zipcode to find clubs that run matches in your vicinity. Contact information is provided for each club. While USPSA requires shooters to be USPSA members to shoot sanctioned matches, most local clubs will let you shoot a match without joining USPSA-in hopes that you'll enjoy it and want to shoot more. Contact the club you want to visit before heading out there; a few clubs require new shooters to undergo a safety check before the're allowed to shoot. If you just want to watch, no problem - just remember to bring eye and ear protection.
COURSE OF FIRE
Local USPSA matches can have from four to upwards of eight different courses of fire, or stages. You might need 50 rounds to complete a local match, or you might need 200. That's something to find out from the club contact before you go. Bring more ammo than you need. The brown cardboard targets have perforated scoring rings, which are deliberately hard to see from a distance. Generally the two best hits on each cardboard target are scored. White cardboard targets are "no-shoots," and you get penalized if you hit them. Steel targets come in all sizes and shapes and must be knocked down to score. Scoring is by "hit factor," which is expressed in points per second. Highest hit factor wins!
RULES OF THE ROAD: THE ENTIRE USPSA RULEBOOK IS POSTED ON ITS WEBSITE, BUT HERE ARE A FEW THINGS YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO KNOW HEADING INTO YOUR FIRST MATCH.
NEVER HANDLE YOUR FIREARM OR TAKE IT OUT OF THE HOLSTER OR CASE EXCEPT IN DESIGNATED SAFE AREAS.
THESE SHOULD BE WELL-MARKED, BUT IF YOU CAN'T FIND ONE, OR AREN'T SURE, ASK SOMEONE. GUN HANDLING OUTSIDE OF THE SAFE AREAS IS PERMITTED ONLY AT THE EXPRESS DIRECTION OF A RANGE OFFICER. YOU CAN LOAD YOUR MAGAZINES OR HANDLE YOUR AMMUNITION ANYWHERE YOU WANT - EXCEPT IN THE SAFE AREA.
A TIP FOR FIRST-TIMERS: THE NATURAL TENDENCY FOR NEW SHOOTERS IS TO TRY TO GO FAST, USUALLY TOO FAST, TO KEEP UP WITH THE VETERAN SHOOTERS. THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE IS TO STAY SAFE. THE SPEED WILL COME, WITH PRACTICE.
BE SAFE, AND HAVE FUN!
HOW IT WORKS
At each stage the range officer will read the course description to your squad (the "walk-through"), but after that it's up to you how to shoot the stage. When it's your turn, the range officer will have you step into the box/shooting area; then you'll hear the following series of range commands: "MAKE READY." Load your pistol, safe on and reholster it, or do whatever is required to assume the start position for the stage. "ARE YOU READY?" No response required unless you aren't ready. If you are, do nothing or follow the range officer's directions. "STAND BY." A second or two after that the range officer will activate the beep of the electronic timer, and then the fun begins.
The range officer will stay right behind you until you are done shooting. If he says "Finger," it's because your finger is on the trigger while you're moving or reloading - a no-no. If you hear "Muzzle" it's because you're coming close to the "180" (pointing the gun backwards) or sweeping a part of your own body. Break the 180 and you'll get sent home. If the range officer says "Stop," do so immediately.
When you're done shooting, the range officer will say, "If you are finished, unload and show clear." Take the magazine out and work the slide to ensure there is no round in the chamber. The range officer will then say, "If clear, hammer down and holster." Point your pistol downrange, pull the trigger to demonstrate it is now empty, and reholster it. You are now done.
GUNS & GEAR
Guns are segregated into divisions. Open, Limited and Limited-10 divisions are generally ruled by custom, high-capacity 1911s, and Production division is home to everyday duty or carry-type autos. There's also a division strictly for revolvers. Open, Limited and Revolver divisions have few restrictions on holsters other than they cover the trigger guard, be at belt level and keep the gun pointed at the ground. Production and Single Stack require "real world" holsters and must be positioned behind the shooter's hip bones. The same goes for mag carriers. There is no approved-holster list, but USPSA's rulebook will give you a good idea if what you're using qualifies.
Courses of fire can be as few as six rounds or as many as 32, so depending on which division you wish to compete in you probably should have at least five magazines (or speedloaders/moon clips), and enough carriers on your belt for three or four.