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Practical shooting, also known as dynamic shooting or action shooting, is a set of shooting sports where the competitors are trying to unite the three principles of precision, power and speed, by using a firearm of a certain minimum power (caliber) to score as many points as possible during the shortest amount of time (or sometimes a set maximum time). While scoring systems vary between organizations, each measures the time of which the course is completed, with penalties for inaccurate shooting. The courses are called "stages", and are shot individually by the shooters. Usually the shooter must move and shoot from several positions, fire under or over obstacles and in other unfamiliar positions. There are no standard exercizes or set arrangement of the targets, and the courses are often designed so that the shooter must be inventive, and solutions of exercises varies.
There are several international sanctioning bodies:
- The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is the oldest and largest, and is sometimes considered the "Formula One" of shooting sports. IPSC is shot with handguns, rifles and shotguns. While the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) is the U.S. regional affiliate of IPSC, many of USPSA's rules differ slightly from those used internationally.
- The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) has a strong emphasis on concealed shooting and defensive scenarios. Many aspects of the stage engagement are dictated to competitors, and penalties are given to competitors whom the Safety Officer determines attempted to gain a competitive advantage or engaged in a forbidden action with a "guilty mind" - that he knowingly failed to do right.
- Cowboy Action Shooting is quite similar to IPSC-shooting, but with an Old West theme. There are multiple international sanctioning bodies, with Single Action Shooting Society being the largest of the sanctioning organizations. Firearms must be either original or reproduction "cowboy guns" such as Colt single action pistols and Winchester rifles. The competitors must also choose and go by a cowboy nickname, and are required to look the part by using cowboy and cowgirl garments in late 19th century period dress.
- 3-Gun shooting events are events where the stages are shot with a combination of a rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Each stage will generally require the use of different weapons and require the shooter to transition between different firearms. Among the largest annual 3-gun events in the USA are the USPSA 3-Gun Nationals, the Rocky Mountain 3-Gun, the DPMS Tri-Gun Challenge, the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun, and the Larue Tactical Multigun Championship.
Practical shooting evolved from experimentation with handguns used for self-defense. The researchers were an international group of private individuals, law enforcement officers, and military people generally operating independently of each other, challenging the then-accepted standards of technique, training practices, and equipment. The work was, for the most part, conducted for their own purposes without official sanction. Even so, what they learned has had a great impact on police and military training forever.
Competition had begun with the leather slap quick draw events of the 1950s, which had grown out of America's love affair with the TV westerns of that era. However, many wished for a forum that would more directly test the results of the experimentation that had been going on at the Bear Valley Gunslingers at Big Bear Lake, California and many other places. Competitions were set up to test what had been learned, and they soon grew into a distinct sport, requiring competitors to deal with constantly changing scenarios.
In 1976, an international group of enthusiasts, interested in what had become known as "practical shooting", met in Columbia, Missouri. From that meeting came the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). In 1984, the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) was incorporated as the US Region of IPSC. After many years of established IPSC competition, some shooters, including some of the original founders, became dissatisfied with IPSC, as more specialized equipment was allegedly required to remain competitive. The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) was formed in 1996 with the aim of returning to the defensive pistol roots of practical shooting. Soon after this split, the USPSA devised a series of competition "divisions" with varying limits on type and modification of equipment, including a "Production" division with rules similar to the IDPA's regulations. Today USPSA and IDPA matches are two of the most popular forums of practical handgun shooting in the United States, with more than 25,000 and 11,000 members respectively.
In 1977 the UKPSA was formed to promote and regulate practical pistol shooting in the UK, and became England's regional affiliate of the IPSC. The association proved very popular, gaining international respect within the practical shooting community, and hosted many National, European and International competitions. Despite the 1997 Firearms Amendment Act in the UK, worldwide practical shooting is currently the second most popular international target shooting discipline and now the fastest growing. Most pistol shooting in the UK suffered severely after the handgun ban, which wiped out many shooting disciplines by removing the ability to participate. Practical shotgun has gained much popularity since the handgun ban, with numerous graded matches each year, and large entries to the European Practical Shotgun Championships.
- Columbia Conference Minutes http://www.ipsc.org/cconf.htm