by Caleb Giddings - Tuesday, October 26, 2010
One of the most popular topics among shooters and gun owners right now is practical shooting. With shows like Top Shot on History Channel showcasing IDPA Master Class shooters, 3-gun competitors and USPSA Grand Masters, many people are taking an interest in action shooting sports to help hone their skills with carry guns, or simply to have a good time on the range. While there are many different shooting sports—ranging from precision exploits like NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships to Steel Challenge—the action games bring together the ultimate combination of speed and accuracy. For everyone from the novice shooter, the concealed-carry permit holder, all the way to the long-time shooter, action shooting has challenges that will improve your skills.
What is Action Shooting?
Action shooting is a generic term that encompasses a wide range of shooting games, but the most widely recognized flavors are USPSA, IDPA, Steel Challenge, Bianchi Cup and 3-Gun. Each sport has its differences, yet it's more than possible for the average concealed-carry permit holder to buy one set of gear and compete in everything. If you carry a 1911, a Glock, an XD or any number of modern pistols in a service caliber and can get a good outside-the-waistband holster and several spare magazines, you're ready to go. IDPA and USPSA are the most common, and their divisions are reflected in Steel Challenge as well. For 3-gun, just add your home-defense carbine and shotgun to the mix, and you're ready to go. Here's a look at the divisions in IDPA and USPSA.
IDPA – International Defensive Pistol Association
IDPA was founded in the early 1990s by competitive shooters with the intent to get back to the roots of practical shooting, namely to sharpen the shooter's skills with realistic carry guns and gear. While in its nearly two decades of existence many things about it have changed, the insistence on no race guns, use of concealment gear and limiting the number of magazines to two (plus one in the gun) keeps IDPA grounded in its traditions of defensive shooting. IDPA has five competitive divisions, one for every gun you might be carrying:
If you carry a 1911, a Smith & Wesson Model 10, or a Glock 19, IDPA has a place for your guns.
USPSA – United States Practical Shooting Association
USPSA is the American sanctioning body of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), originally founded by Col. Jeff Cooper to focus on teaching the fundamentals of defensive shooting. In the time since its founding, USPSA/IPSC has retained two divisions that are suitable for your every day carry gear.
Additionally, USPSA has a third division good for carry guns called Limited-10. While it's not used as such right now, it has tremendous potential to provide a competitive home for the world of Glocks and other defensive guns chambered in .40 S&W and .45 ACP that aren't competitive in Production. USPSA is different from IDPA in that it doesn't require concealing garments and has higher round counts, but you can't go wrong shooting either discipline. In fact, you should shoot both! The more trigger time you get, the better prepared you'll be.
Steel Challenge has divisions that mirror each of IDPA's and USPSA's divisions, so your gear will compete across the board there. For example, if you have a Kimber 1911 you carry every day, five Blackhawk CQC Single Stack magazine pouches, an outside-the-waistband holster from Safariland and a good belt, you're ready to compete in IDPA's Custom Defensive Pistol and USPSA Single Stack. Carry a Glock 19? IDPA Stock Service Pistol and USPSA Production will be great places for you to practice and train. Whatever you carry, competitive shooting has a place for your guns and gear, and you'll certainly benefit from the additional trigger time. Who knows, you might even have some fun!
E-mail your comments/questions about this site to:
For questions/comments about Shooting Illustrated magazine, please e-mail:
You can receive/renew your subscription to Shooting Illustrated here:
Send me Shooting Illustrated
You can contact the NRA via phone at: NRA Member Programs
To advertise on Shooting Illustrated, visit nramediakit.com for more information