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Practical shooting is a sport which challenges an individual's ability to shoot rapidly and accurately with a full-power handgun, rifle, or shotgun. To do this, shooters take on obstacle-laden shooting courses called stages, some requiring many shots to complete, and others just a few. While scoring systems vary between practical shooting organizations, each measures the speed with which the stage is completed, with penalties for inaccurate shooting.
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 2003, a new shooting organization, The Polite Society was formed. The organisation's events combine handgun shooting matches with actual training events to create a shooting "event" rather than just a shooting match, and are intended to be an "additional" shooting sport rather than a "replacement" for any existing sport.
In 1977 the U.K.P.S.A was formed to promote and regulate practical pistol shooting in the UK. The association proved very popular, gaining international respect within the practical shooting community, and hosted many National, European and International competitions. The UKPSA selects the National Teams, affiliates clubs, organises training and maintains discipline and rules. The UKPSA is England's regional affiliate of the IPSC.
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