Steel Challenge Matches

Steel Challenge is a straightforward, draw-and-shoot competition where you attempt to hit steel targets as fast as you possibly can.  There is no reloading on the clock, minimal movement (you only move on the clock in one stage--the rest there is no movement at all) and best of all, there are both centerfire and rimfire divisions in which you can shoot.  (So you can come out with a .22 pistol and have a inexpensive good time.)

The following description holds for people shooting in any one of the centerfire handgun divisions--and we'll explain about the divisions later.  (We'll also talk about the differences between the rimfire division and the centerfire divisions--most of what is described below stays the same for all divisions.)

The basic idea:

On any given stage in Steel Challenge, you will start standing in a 3'x3' (or 4'x4') shooting box, with your handgun loaded and holstered, and your wrists above their respective shoulders.  (Called the "surrender position.")

A Range Officer ("RO") behind you will start a timer, making a "beep" noise, and on the beep you will draw and try to hit the five steel targets in front of you as fast as possible, taking as many shots as you need to hit them all.

One of the targets is the "stop plate"---and that means you hit it last.  Once you hit that plate, you stop shooting and your time is recorded.  Hopefully before you shot the stop plate, you had already hit all of the others---because if you have missed any, you get a 3-second penalty, and those hurt quite a bit.  So be accurate!  Hit the stop plate only when you've already hit all the others!

That completes one string of fire--so then you do it again.  And again, and again--for a total of 5 strings.  (So if you are perfect, you'll fire 25 rounds per stage.)  Each time, they'll record your total time for the string.

Once you are finished with your five strings, they'll look at your times, throw out the slowest one, and add up the other four.  And that's your score for the stage! 

You'll then head to the next stage, and do the same thing.

Official full Steel Challenge matches contain eight stages, though local matches sometimes hold less, or add extra non-official stages.  The ENPS matches held at the Eastern Nebraska Gun Club have 6 of the 8 offical SC stages, and we switch which stages we do each time so that we shoot all the 8 stages just about about equally throughout the year.

Here's a link to the official rules and stages: 
http://www.steelchallenge.com/steel-challenge-Rules-Home.php

You can see in the stage designs that most of the targets you are shooting at are 12" round steel plates.  However, occasionally you'll be shooting at 10" plates or the 18"x24" rectangles (our favorites).  The targets are set at distances that range from 7 to 35 yards. 

These stages don't change--every time you come to a steel challenge match, these will be what you are shooting.  As such, you can set up the official stages (using paper plates, if you have nothing else) and practice them on your own, if you wish.

Your ending score for the match is the total time it took for all of your stages.  (Again, remember that we throw out the slowest run out of the five on each stage---so your four best runs will be added together for your stage score, and your match score is all of those stage scores added up.)  Easy to score---total time, and you either hit the targets or you didn't. 

So, what do you need to play?

For Centerfire Divisions:
  • Handgun
  • Safe holster that covers the trigger guard  (Just a hint:  if your holster is made of nylon, it probably isn't going to work.  Also, no crossdraw or thigh holsters are allowed.  None of this is from concealment, so a basic Uncle Mike's kydex belt holster works perfectly well.  Matter of fact, drawing from concealment is not allowed.)
  • Preferably 5 magazines (If you have less, it means you may have to hand one back to someone so they can load it for you while you shoot a different one, and this can certainly be done--but it works best to already have a loaded magazine for every string on a particular stage.)
  • Ear/Eye Protection

...and that's it.


For Rimfire Pistol Divisions:
  • Handgun
  • Preferably 5 magazines (If you have less, it means you may have to hand one back to someone so they can load it for you while you shoot a different one, and this can certainly be done--but it works best to already have a loaded magazine for every string on a particular stage.)
  • Ear/Eye Protection
...and that's it.

You don't need a holster for Rimfire Pistol divisions, because the start position for rimfire pistols is:  holding loaded pistol in both hands aimed at orange cone (about 12 feet downrange of the shooting box) with finger off the trigger.  Between stages you'll just carry your handgun in a bag.  (If you have a holster, you can use that to carry the gun between stages, but you'll still start like everyone else in rimfire pistol.)

For Rifle Divisions, both Rimfire and Pistol-Caliber Carbine:
  • Rifle
  • Preferably 5 magazines (If you have less, it means you may have to hand one back to someone so they can load it for you while you shoot a different one, and this can certainly be done--but it works best to already have a loaded magazine for every string on a particular stage.)
  • Ear/Eye Protection
  • Rimfire:  Standard or High-velocity ammunition (explanation given below)

...and that's it.  Rifle divisions are similar to rimfire pistol divisions in terms of start position--rifle loaded, aimed at orange cone with finger off the trigger.

If shooting a rifle, you need to bring a case to bag your gun between shooting stages.  We don't have a long-gun rack on every stage, so you have to case them when you are done shooting a particular stage.

Remember---rifles should have magazine well empty and chamber locked open between stages.  Chamber flags are optional, but strongly preferred.  (Especially if your rifle has a tendency to close the chamber if it gets bounced around in the bag or case.)

Additional comment about rimfire rifles:
Remember, the timers are SOUND-activated.  Without sufficient sound, they won't activate.   The timers need to be sensitive enough to pick up your shots, but not so sensitive that they pick up shots from different bays.  As such, please don't use a suppressor, and don't use sub-sonic ammunition.  Standard or high-velocity ammunition only, please.  We've done what we can to make sure the timer picks up your shots. 

Here's a link to the official rules:
http://uspsa.org/SCSARules%202013.pdf

And here's the official Steel Challenge website:
http://steelchallenge.com/

And here's a link to the official appendix to the rules with the details of the new PCC division: 
http://www.steelchallenge.com/PCC%20Appendix%20for%20WSSC_DNROI.pdf

And here are the specifics for the different divisions (basically, what type of gun you are shooting, with what types of modifications, will tell you what division you are competing in...)

Rimfire Pistol:
Open to any pistol firing .22 Long Rifle ammunition (see "ammunition" rule 4.1.2). This event has two equipment divisions:
  • A.2.1: Rimfire Open (RFPO): This is the Rimfire race division. All legal rimfire firearms are allowed. Optics and Compensators are specifically allowed.
  • A.2.2: Rimfire Iron Sights (RFPI): Any Iron-sighted rimfire pistols without a compensator, barrel ports or optic sights. Fiber-optic sight inserts are specifically allowed.

Center Fire Pistol:
Any pistol firing (9mm/.38 Special) or larger ammunition (see "ammunition" rule 4.1.1). This event has multiple equipment divisions as follows.
  • Open (OPN): This is the race division! All legal firearms are allowed. Optics, Compensators, and any safe holster/position are specifically allowed.
  • Carry Optics (CO):  Pistols fitting into the USPSA Carry Optics division are shot in this division.
  • Limited (LTD): Any iron sighted pistol without a compensator, barrel ports, or optical sight. Fiber optic inserts are specifically allowed.
  • Production (PROD): Any double action or safe action pistol on the USPSA Production gun list. No Race holsters allowed.
  • Open Sight Revolver (OSR): Open revolver, with no restrictions for maximum rounds. Optics, Compensators and any safe holster/position allowed.
  • Iron Sight Revolver (ISR): Any iron sighted revolver without a compensator, barrel ports or optical sight. Fiber optic inserts are specifically allowed. No barrel length or holster restrictions. No restrictions for maximum rounds.
  • Single Stack (SS): Will be governed by the criteria in the USPSA handgun rule book. i.e. 1911 models only, no race holsters allowed.

Rimfire Rifle:
Open to any rifle firing .22 Long Rifle ammunition (see "ammunition" rule 4.1.2). This event has two equipment divisions:
  • Open (RFRO):  This is the Rimfire rifle race division. All legal rimfire rifles are allowed. Optics and Compensators are specifically allowed.
  • Iron (RFRI): Any Iron-sighted rimfire rifle without a compensator or optic sight. Fiber-optic sight inserts are specifically allowed.

Pistol-Caliber Carbine:
Open to any rifle or carbine firing 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W,
10mm, or .45 ACP caliber rounds with a maximum muzzle velocity of 1600 feet per second. The carbine must have a stock attached and be fired from the shoulder (AR pistols and SIG braces are specificially not allowed.)  This event has two divisions:
  • Pistol-Caliber Carbine Open (PCCO):  Optical/electronic sights, compensators or muzzle brakes, suppressors are all allowed.  This is the PCC race divisions.
  • Pistol-Caliber Carbine Irons (PCCI):  Iron sights only, no compensators, muzzle brakes, or suppressors are allowed.  Flash hiders are allowed.

Now, we said there is minimal movement---to be precise, there is only one stage (out of the eight official stages) that has any movement on the clock, and that is Outer Limits. On that stage, you shoot two targets from one box, move about 6 feet to the side, and shoot the other three from the second box.  Repeat.  (This is one of the 35-yard stages, and we actually only run this one four times instead of five--and luckily, they still throw out the slowest run.)

And that's it for movement.  There is no reloading on the clock.

In Showdown, you do shoot from two different boxes---however, you complete each string in only one box.  Basically, you shoot two strings from one box, two strings from the second box, and the last string from the box of your choice.  However, none of that box-to-box movement is done on the clock.

The ENPS matches have 6 stages per match--so if you are perfect, you can shoot the entire match in 150 rounds.

I note that I don't recall ever seeing ANYONE have a perfect match, so you'll probably want to bring more than that, just in case.  :)

The entire competition is completely straightfoward---how quickly can you draw and get hits on target?  And it is a ton of fun.

Here a video we made awhile back showing what the stages look like, and what it is like to shoot some of them.  This is several years old, now, by the way, and as I said, we now shoot six stages per match at the Eastern Nebraska Gun Club, instead of five.  Nonetheless, this is what it feels like...

Here's an Excel spreadsheet you can use to track your stage progress over time in Steel Challenge matches and calculate your Classification Percentage for each Division you shoot in:

Steel Challenge Classification Calculator