There is an iconic scene in the 1971 film Dirty Harry that inspired generations. In it, Clint Eastwood is practicing his shooting skills at a unique training center designed to look like a city. Determining the ‘innocents’ from the hostiles at lighting speed, Eastwood takes down the targets as they pop up. How many of us saw that and dreamed that such a place existed? Time to stop dreaming. You weren’t the only one inspired by that concept!
The United States Practical Shooting Association was developed in the late seventies as a way for law enforcement and military professionals to sharpen theirs self-defense skills. More challenging than a traditional firing range, the courses were designed to keep these professionals ‘on their toes’ by forcing them to use real life strategies in a safe, fun environment.
Needless to say, this training method became incredibly popular very quickly. For the last twenty years, the association has been providing not only a challenging sport for firearms enthusiasts, but the kind of invaluable practice that challenges the skills of even the country’s most elite military and law enforcement units. In fact, many of the Americas leading competitors move on to become professional trainers for top operatives in the military! However, you don’t have to be a paramilitary expert to join, as their doors are open to anyone looking to push their abilities to the next level.
USPSA courses are comprised of 10 different ‘stages’. Each stage has been custom designed to test the shooter’s abilities as they move through unique environment, eliminating the targets as they go. Some of the stages are as simple as a basic line up of targets while others immerse the shooter in labyrinth like mazes with targets seemingly behind every corner.
Each stage is timed and scored depending on accuracy, speed, power and prudent use of competitor’s shoots. In addition, the type of firearm used is taken into account in the final scoring. Each firearm has a determined power factor. Competitors who choose weapons with heavier bullets and higher velocity are given higher points due to the effort it takes to utilize them. Less demanding firearms are considered to have minor power factors and don’t influence the final score in the same way. When the stage is complete, all the aforementioned factors are taken into account and then divided by the competitor’s time to get the final score.
Before beginning the course, each competitor is separated into divisions depending on the equipment they intend to shoot with. For example, the Production Based division welcomes anyone utilizing basic, non-raised components such as standard holsters and unmodified firearms straight from the assembly line. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the open division is comprised of people utilizing heavily modified or specialty weapons including ones with kits, different muzzles compensators and more. Don’t fall into these two camps? There are five divisions in total developed to accommodate almost any ‘style’ of competitor. All you need to do is equip yourself according to your desired division and you’re ready to begin!
One of the best things about shooting USPSA courses is the social element to the game. Not unlike golf, people are starting to use the competitions as a place to meet friends and spend the day in each other’s company. These groups of players are called squads and they pass through each stage together like a military unit of sorts. Of course, not everyone in the group will be shooting at the same level or even using the same guns. In order to keep things fair, the final score is calculated based on other people’s performance with the same equipment. Good news for both out of practice shooters and expert marksmen!
Men and women come from all over the country to participate in what is rapidly becoming one of the most popular sports today. Surgeon to carpenters, seniors to teenagers, the excitement of the USPSA attracts anyone wishing to test their skills in a dynamic, challenging environment. If you’re bored with traditional shooting competition and are looking to bring a little more excitement to your hobby, USPSA competitions are an excellent ‘pick me up’ both for your abilities and your sense of community as a gun enthusiasts. With chapters all over the country and a keen interest in gaining new members – all that’s standing in the way of taking your skills to a new level is a phone call.