This guide is intended to give people the necessary information to shoot their first match and prepare for it physically and mentally. Many clubs offer classes for new shooters or mentoring programs, this guide is a supplement to these programs.
BASIC GUN SAFETY RULES
1. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded.
2. Never allow the muzzle to point at anything you are not willing to see destroyed.
3. Be sure of your target and know what lies behind it.
4. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are aligned on target
5. Be sure your guns are never accessible to unauthorized or untrained individuals.
RANGE SAFETY RULES
Failure to follow safety rules, will result in being disqualified…the shooter will not be allowed to shoot any more stages, their score will not count, and they may be asked to leave the range.
All Firearms are unloaded until the shooter is called to the line and instructed by the RO to load and make ready.
Administrative Gun Handling
- Do not handle firearms behind the firing line
- Holstering/Un-holstering of side arms is only allowed in safety areas.
- You may uncase your long gun behind the line and put them in the rack, or on the table that sometimes faces into the berm. Always be conscious of your muzzle and take care not to sweep anyone.
- Actions on long guns should be locked open when not being used.
180 Degree Rule
There is an imaginary line that runs parallel with the start position on a course of fire. If a shooter’s muzzle comes back past the 180 degree, they will be disqualified as their muzzle is facing up range and is a hazard to others.
Defined as the unintentional firing of the firearm while on a course of fire or putting a round over the berms/backstops and will result in being disqualified
Finger off the trigger!
The shooter must keep their finger off the trigger while moving through the course of fire unless they are shooting
Dropping a gun, loaded or unloaded during the course of fire and the loading and unloading process will result in being disqualified. The shooter must maintain control of their firearms at all times. If you do drop a firearm, do not attempt to catch it, as this dramatically increases the possibility of a negligent discharge.
Transitioning Between Guns on a Multi-Gun Stage
Procedures for this vary from match to match…it is the shooter’s responsibility to be familiar with them.
The most common method used is the gun being abandoned during the course of fire is cleared (magazine and chamber empty), and placed on a table or other location facing in a safe direction.
The Range Officer issues range Commands. At a local match the range officer might be another competitor filling the spot until he shoots, at major/national matches the Range Officer will usually be the same person for the entire match to ensure everything is run the same for everyone.
This is the order and procedure for the Range Officer to issue commands when a shooter is called to the line
RO Ensures no one is down range
RO: LINE IS GOING HOT!
RO: Shooter do you understand the course of fire?
This is the Shooter’s opportunity to ask any last minute questions or clarifications of procedure.
RO: Shooter, you are clear to take an unloaded sight picture (not required, and sometimes not allowed)
RO: Shooter, you are clear to load and make ready
Shooter Loads and makes ready
RO: Shooter, are you ready?
Shooters gives affirmative response
RO: Stand by….
RO Activates start signal on shot clock.
When the shooter is done, the RO will say “if you are finished, unload and show clear”
The following are standard start positions most commonly used at competitions.
Freestyle: However the shooter chooses
Surrender: Thumbs of the hands above the shoulders.
Low Ready: Stock of long gun in shoulder, muzzle depressed, and shooter does not have a sight picture.
Port Arms: Stock of long gun at or below belt level, muzzle facing up at an angle away from the shooter.
Different clubs and different organizations use different scoring methods.
There are two basic scoring methods. Both methods use timers that count from the start signal to the last shot fired to record time.
1) Time + Penalties added in the form of time
2) Accuracy on Targets for certain point values divided by the amount of time it took the shooter equaling hit factor. Penalties are represented by subtracting points thus lowering the shooter’s hit factor.
In Multi-gun matches, Time + Penalties added in the form of time is the most common in use at major competitions.
Types of penalties that can be incurred:
Failure To Neutralize: Target does not have enough hits on it, or hits are not in Scored Areas
Target Not Engaged: Not hits on Target at all.
No-Shoot: Non Hostile Target, usually representing a hostage, shot
Procedural: Not following stage procedure.
Un-sportsmanlike conduct: Not a common penalty, but may be issued for various reasons.
The amount of time added, or points deducted for any of these penalties varies from match to match. It is important that the shooter read and understands the rules for any particular match they will be attending.
The division, sometimes also called class in non-USPSA matches, a shooter competes in is determined by the equipment they use. Someone shooting a basic iron sight rifle, will not be competing against someone using a rifle with dual optics and a bipod. Over all scores are posted for the sake of interest, scoring only really matters within the division a particular shooter competes in though.
These are divisions commonly found in most multi-gun matches:
Tactical Iron/Limited : rifle, pistol, and shotgun with iron sights only, accessories allowed are limited. Many matches now allow optics with no magnification on rifles in this division.
Tactical Scope/Tactical : A single optic is allowed on your rifle, otherwise generally the same as Tactical Iron.
Open : Little to no restrictions on optics and accessories allowed on all guns.
He-Man/Heavy Metal : .308/7.62 NATO rifle with 20 rounds or less, 12 gauge shotgun with 9 rounds or less, .45 pistol with 10 rounds or less.
Trooper : See the Trooper page for details
There are often minor differences between these divisions from match to match, but they generally follow the same rules. If you have any questions about what class your equipment will put you in, ask the match director before you get there.
It is important that new shooters get out and use whatever equipment it is that they already have. Don’t invest more money before you even know if you like shooting competitively or not. Also once you gain experience you will be able to more intelligently spend your money on new equipment.
PREPARING TO SHOOT A MATCH
A match is not the place to find out if your equipment functions or not, or if your firearms are sighted in. Coming to a match unprepared is a sure way to have a bad time.
Before a match do the following:
1) Make sure your Rifle, Shotgun, and Pistol all feed ammunition reliably from all of the feeding devices you are using. Make sure the ammunition you are using works reliably and groups decently. Do not switch brands of ammunition before a match without reconfirming zero and function.
2) Zero your rifle and know holdovers and bullet drop for it out to 300 yards. Know how high you need to aim at CQB distances to make a head shot to accommodate for sight off set.
3) Pattern your shotgun, and zero it for slugs. Expect slug shots out to 25-50 yards at most matches…know how slugs shoot in your shotgun. Make sure your shotgun loads are heavy enough to reliably knock down steel targets.
4) Be prepared to shoot your handgun from 0-25 yards at varying sizes of targets.
5) Always Bring More ammunition than you need to a match. Always bring cleaning equipment and spare parts if you have them.
Skills you can practice at home, before practicing any of these make sure your firearms are unloaded, and no live ammunition is present!
1) Reloads from standing, kneeling, and prone.
2) Getting into shooting positions from standing, kneeling and prone.
3) Drawing your pistol
4) Going from port arms and low ready to on target.
5) Practice clearing malfunctions just in case your equipment doesn’t work 100%.
BUILDING SKILL THROUGH COMPETITION AND INCREASING PERFORMANCE
Shooting competitively induces degrees of stress not found in purely recreational shooting. The stress of trying to do your best to beat other people and the clock counting every second you are shooting, will make you perform differently than if you were shooting the same scenario just by yourself. Through experience you will become acclimated to this stress and it will no longer concern you as much, if at all.
Increasing speed is a natural by product of repetition and economy of motion. The more efficient you are in your movement and gun handling, the faster you will be. Reloads for your firearms should always come from the same locations. Ideally all your firearms should be similar in handling and operating characteristics to each other as switching between them will not require as much readjustment. The more you shoot and compete, the more second nature most of the tasks involved in doing so will become.
Equipment should be used to compliment skills you already have, not make up for skills you are lacking.
Increased performance should never be achieved through sacrificing reliability in your equipment. Equipment that works all the time will allow you to sometimes beat superior shooters who’s equipment does not work all the time.
Develop the will to prevail despite adversity. Everyone has a bad stage because things didn’t go according to plan. How you overcome this adversity is what will separate you from other competitors. Do not give up as long as you are able to continue shooting. Clear malfunctions, make your semi auto operate manually if need be, stay in the game. If a particular target is too difficult to hit and you’ve done your best to engage it, move on if you must to complete the course of fire.
Think fast and solve problems. The more shooting you do competitively, the easier this will become as you experience different problems and learn more solutions.
Take responsibility for your performance. It is easy to find excuses as to why you shot poorly on a particular stage. Maintenance, reliability, and accuracy of your equipment are your responsibility. If it does not perform well, do not use it. If you lack ability in a particular skill, acknowledge this and practice that skill more. Exercise good sportsmanship, people who cheat or bend the rules for the sake of winning are only cheating themselves of out improving their skills.
You are only competing against yourself. If your skills continually improve and your scores continually improve be pleased with your accomplishment even if your placement is last every time. You should never leave a match feeling that you gained nothing.
SHOOTING AS A MARTIAL SKILL
The mind is mankind’s primary weapon everything else is a tool. Shooting competitively we are practicing a martial art, the same as it was with Archery Competitions, Fencing, Jousting, and Wrestling before firearms existed. Never forget that firearms are lethal tools and how you train and shoot competitively might some day be a determining factor in defending your life, your loved ones, or fellow officers/service personnel.
Shooting competitively gives us the opportunity to learn the limits of our equipment and ourselves in a controlled environment. Having your equipment not work as it should or finding you lack particular skills at a match as much as it sucks is much preferable to finding out when more than your score and ego are on the line.
You will get out of competition shooting what you put into it. If you view all shooting as practicing a martial art, it will give you real world skills in gun handling and marksmanship. Shooting competitively will not teach you tactics, though tactics you have learned elsewhere can be practiced there.
The guns you use for competition shooting should be similar, if not identical to, the ones you would use as defensive firearms. Don’t carry a different firearm for defensive purposes than what you shoot regularly in competition, using something not as familiar could mean the difference between victory or defeat.