Frequently Asked Questions
How many rounds should I bring to a pistol match?
Generally for the USPSA Action Pistol matches, a good rule of thumb is at least 200 rounds “just in case”, and bump that up to 250 rounds for Steel Challenge matches. It will never hurt to have more ammo than you need, but the opposite means you’ll be begging ammo off of your buddies at the match!
What do I need for equipment?
As far as equipment, there are three types of matches we run, USPSA Action Pistol, Steel Challenge and Multi-Gun. The equipment requirements are different for each of those, with a lot of overlap. If you have a center-fire pistol, you can use that for ANY of the matches, and it’s the most common gun you’ll find at a match. Steel Challenge also allows Rimfire rifles and pistols (.22’s). For Multigun (3-gun) you need 3 guns, a Center-fire pistol or revolver, a shotgun (12 or 20 gauge) and a semi-auto rifle (.223 AR-15 would be most common). Recently there have been additions for Pistol-Caliber Carbines also, so if you have a 9mm rifle for example you can shoot that at any of the matches as well. For USPSA and Multigun, you’ll need a holster for your centerfire pistol, and extra magazines, plus magazine pouches to hold them on your belt. A common “competition” set up for USPSA is a special velcro 2-piece belt, with a holster and magazine pouches mounted to it. These are nice because they’re configurable and adjustable for different competitive divisions, etc.
Do I need to join the USPSA to shoot the matches?
No, USPSA membership is NOT required for the “Level 1” monthly club matches, as well as the Steel Challenge and Multigun matches. Only the Level 2 (GP Sectional Championship) match at ENGC requires a USPSA membership.
What are the acronyms: USPSA, ENPS, ENGC
USPSA is the United States Practical Shooting Association. This is the national organization which sanctions matches, establishes the rulebook that we follow, and runs national-level championship events.
ENPS is Eastern Nebraska Practical Shooters. This is “us”, i.e. our local USPSA-sanctioned club which holds matches at ENGC.
ENGC is Eastern Nebraska Gun Club. This is the range facility where ENPS hosts matches. The club is a private membership facility, however you do NOT need to be an ENGC range member to shoot the ENPS matches, the matches are open to the general public. Many people in the ENPS club are also ENCG members, since range membership is required in order to go to the range between matches for practice if you’d like to do that.
http://www.enps.us (Our local volunteer club)
http://www.engc.us (The range facility we shoot at)
http://www.uspsa.org (The national shooting organization we affiliate with)
What division should I sign up for?
It depends heavily on what gun you will be shooting, as each division has equipment requirements. Divisions are the sub-categories of shooters who are competing against each other at the matches. The purpose of the Divisions is to have shooters with comparable equipment competing against each other. At the matches people are grouped into shooting Squads (the group that travels from stage-to-stage together for the whole match), but shooters do not need to be shooting in the same Division to be squadded together. Division is really just used for scoring purposes. The main divisions you’ll see at USPSA matches are:
PCC (Pistol Caliber Carbine)
At the local club matches, by far the most popular divisions are Production and Limited. PCC has gained popularity, and is probably #3 right now. Production requires a USPSA-specified Production-approved handgun to compete, the list can be found on the USPSA.org web site. There are also several other divisional differences and equipment requirements/limitations. All of those rules can be found on the USPSA.org web site. If you’re not sure which division you want to shoot, feel free to ask for assistance and we can help you pick.
How should I train/prepare for my first match?
Here are some tips to point you in the right direction:
Once you have your belt and holster, start practicing dry-run draws of your gun from the holster to make sure you can do so smoothly, safely and with your finger outside the trigger guard. Dry-fire training is by far the most important training for competition shooting, and you can do it at home any time. Even if you just do 100 reps of that the night before the match it will make a huge difference. NO AMMO in the room, gun completely empty, but have an empty magazine in the gun so the balance and weight of the gun is not too far off from live.
Draw & Presentation Practice:
Start out with the gun in the holster, standing a few feet back from a blank wall, staring straight ahead to the wall. Let your hands hang to your sides in a natural stance, knees just slightly bent and shoulders just slightly forward in an “athletic” stance. Start by practicing just the initial movement of your hand to the handle of the gun so you can get a feel for where the gun is located. Do it 20, 50, 100 times until you can move your hand to the grip quickly and accurately while staring straight ahead. This will build muscle memory of exactly where the gun is located on the belt.
Once that feels good, then start with your open hand on the back of the gun in the holster, and practice curling your fingers around the grip as you pull the gun from it’s holster and pull it straight up with your elbow bent high, keeping your trigger finger indexed firmly against the side of the slide as you pull the gun out and NOT inside the trigger guard. Pause in that position, then put it straight back down into the holster, and let your indexed trigger finger slide on the outside of the holster as you insert the gun. Do that 20, 50, 100 times until you have a good feel for how the gun comes out of the holster. If it’s too difficult to pull the gun out (it “sticks”), then adjust the retention on the holster to be lighter. Ideally, you want the holster to grip the gun solidly enough that if you run the gun won’t fly out of the holster, but not so tight that it’s difficult to get it out.
Next practice starting with the gun in the “above the holster” position from the prior drill, with your support hand (the hand not on the gun) in front of your chest with the palm open and facing your chest. Practice pushing the gun up and out in front of you with your strong hand at the same time you put your support hand onto the gun to take your shooting grip. As the support hand grasps the gun while it’s moving up, push the gun out in front of your face so that the sights are lined up in front of you. Do that 20, 50, 100 times until it you can get a good shooting grip quickly while pushing the gun out to the shooting position with the sights right where you want them.
Once you’ve got those pieces all down and feeling good individually, then start string it all together by doing the entire sequence from flinch to draw to grip to sight alignment. If any part of it doesn’t feel smooth, then go back and practice just that one part again until it feels natural. When you’re done, you should be able to draw from a natural standing position and get your sights lined up and ready to shoot in less than 1.5 seconds. Finally, do it with the striker/hammer cocked on the gun, a small target of some kind on the wall, and pull the trigger to simulate firing a shot at the target once the sights are lined up. If you can get from start to “click” in less than 2 seconds you’ll be way ahead of the game. If you start training that way you’ll be way ahead of the “average” person who starts competition shooting. Most people get their gear and immediately head to the range to practice “drawing and shooting” with live ammo, which is really not the most effective way to train.
Make sure to review and re-review the match safety procedures!
Make special note of the “Safety Tables” being the only place on the range where you can take your pistol out of it’s case and insert it into your holster. Once it’s in the holster, it must stay there, unloaded, until you are on a stage and are the current shooter called to the line and told to “Make Ready” by the RO. Otherwise, the unloaded gun must stay in the holster at all times. If you need to take it out to tinker with it or something you must return to one of the 3 Safety Tables to do so. You can handle ammunition (load mags) anywhere on the range EXCEPT the safety tables. You’re welcome to load up your mags at home first so you can start your first stage without having to worry about it. Loaded mags can be placed in your belt-mounted magazine carriers and transported around the range with no problem. If you have loaded magazines on your belt while you’re at a Safety Table, that’s fine, just make sure you don’t touch or handled the loaded magazines in that area.
Goals for your first match:
- – Don’t get Disqualified (DQ’d)
- – Have fun!
- – Learn what your weakest points are as a competition shooter so you can prioritize future training goals
- – Plan to finish last and be happy with that
As for Goal #1, the most common DQ offenses at a USPSA match are primarily one of three things:
1) Breaking the 180-degree rule. This is an imaginary plane from your body perpendicular to the back of the shooting area (berm), at no time ever can the muzzle of your gun be pointed in any direction behind that 180 degree plane. The most common times this happens is when moving, especially laterally in the direction of your shooting arm, and/or when reloading. Always be aware of where your muzzle is pointed, and as a new shooter is a great idea to proceed slowly and cautiously through the stages in your first match so you don’t “rush” into making a mistake.
2) Placing your finger inside the trigger guard (or even worse, on the trigger) before your sights are lined up at a target you intend to shoot. Be especially vigilant about finger placement during reloading and holstering. Practice keeping your trigger finger indexed against the slide all the time when you’re not actively aimed at, and ready to shoot at, a target. This is another great application for dry-fire practice at home. Practice drawing and holstering without having your finger inside the trigger guard. Also practice simulated shooting and then moving to a different position to shoot again, and keeping your trigger finger indexed against the frame/slide while moving.
3) Sweeping your body with the muzzle of your gun. Always be aware of where the muzzle is pointed, and ensure that it never crosses any part of your body, including your hands/arms and feet/legs. There is an exception to this rule when holstering or drawing from the holster where the muzzle will naturally sweep the lower body but any other time if the muzzle crosses any part of your body that is a DQ offense.
I’m ready to get started, what should I do next?
We have several opportunities for new shooters, and there are multiple ways to get started. We have periodic practice days for new shooters at the range, If it works out to attend one of those before shooting your first match, that’s great, but if not you shouldn’t let that stop you from participating. We have a new shooter briefing before every match specifically for those who are shooting their first match, which is at 8:45 a.m. As a new shooter, you will let your squad Range Officer know that you’re new, and they will rotate you to the bottom of the shooting order so you can watch the others in the squad shoot first before it’s your turn.
If you’d like to observe a match before you participate yourself, that’s a great way to get a feel for it and you’re welcome to do so, all matches are open to the public, just make sure you bring eye and ear protection. For spectators, if you can be there by 8:45 that would be ideal as you could attend the New Shooter’s Meeting to hear the orientation details, and then watch the start of the match. The matches run from 9:00 a.m. until approximately 1:00-2:00 p.m., and you’re welcome to come any time as a spectator. There is no formal setup at the matches, you are free to wander around as a spectator and watch any of the different squads who are shooting, and feel free to ask any questions, everyone is more than happy to help out potential new competitors. You can see the match schedule here:
USPSA Action Pistol – This is our core pistol match type, centerfire pistols and pistol caliber carbines. Requires movement and reloading during the course of fire. Targets are both paper and steel.
Steel Challenge – This is a separate shooting discipline, lots of fun, and simpler than the action pistol. Centerfire OR rimfire pistols and rimfire or pistol-caliber rifles are allowed. No movement during course of fire, and reloading is not “on the clock”. All targets are steel, no paper.
USPSA Multigun – This is the “3-Gun” type of match, where you will shoot pistol, rifle and shotgun (2 of them on any given stage), requires more specialized equipment, and you will shoot and swap weapons on the move during a course of fire.
Starting tips: You want to have at least 4 magazines for your pistol, preferably 5, and if you’re shooting a centerfire pistol you need a belt-mounted holster and magazine carriers. Depending on what you’re shooting, you can choose the appropriate class to start out in. (We are be happy to help with equipment/division questions, just ask). Steel Challenge allows more types of guns, including rimfire (.22LR) pistols and rifles, whereas USPSA matches are only for centerfire (9mm+) pistols and pistol-caliber carbines (rifles). We also hold USPSA Multigun matches which require a more complex set of equipment, and utilize 3 guns (centerfire pistol, rifle, and shotgun).
You can pre-register and pre-pay on the web site (we really appreciate that, but it’s not required). Then when you show up for your first match, leave your gun and equipment in your vehicle, come to the registration shack to get signed in, and then attend the New Shooter’s meeting at 8:45. During the meeting we will point out where the “Safety Tables” are located, which is the ONLY spot on the range where you can take your gun out of its case (unloaded) and handle it (unloaded) to get it into your holster (if you’re shooting a centerfire pistol). You can handle ammunition anywere on the range EXCEPT at the Safety Tables, and it’s ok to pre-load your magazines at home before you arrive, just don’t arrive with a loaded gun.