Practical shooting

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Action shooting
Open division master class competition shooter.jpg
An Open division competitor during a stage.
Highest governing bodyInternational Practical Shooting Confederation
First played1950s
Team membersYes
Mixed genderYes
TypeShooting sport
EquipmentHandgun, rifle and/or shotgun
VenueShooting range
Country or regionWorldwide

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 factor to score as many points as possible during the shortest amount of time (or sometimes within 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 exercises or set arrangement of the targets, and the courses are often designed so that the shooter must be inventive, and therefore the solutions of exercises sometimes varies between shooters.

International sanctioning bodies[edit]

There are several international sanctioning bodies:

  • The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is the oldest and largest sanctioning body within practical shooting. IPSC Open Division is sometimes considered the "Formula One" of shooting sports,[1] and is shot with handguns, rifles and shotguns.[2]
    • 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 Steel Challenge Shooting Association, founded as a separate discipline, was purchased and integrated by USPSA in 2007. In Steel Challenge matches, competitors shoot five strings of fire at a series of five steel plates of varying sizes at varied distances in an attempt to achieve the fastest time possible for knocking down the plates. The order of fire is dictated by a plate designated as the stop plate which must be shot last. The longest time is dropped and the remaining four times are averaged for a composite stage time.
  • The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) has a strong emphasis on concealed shooting and defensive scenarios.[3] 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 oldest and largest.[4] 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.
  • Multigun, also called 2-Gun or 3-Gun, are shooting events shot with a combination of rifles, handguns, and shotguns. While multigun has a lot in common with ordinary IPSC/USPSA matches, the biggest difference is that each stage generally requires the use of several different firearms and that the shooter has to transition between them. Among the largest annual multigun events in the USA are the USPSA Multigun Championship, the Rocky Mountain 3-Gun, the DPMS Tri-Gun Challenge, the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3-Gun, and the Larue Tactical Multigun Championship.
  • Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) is a competition sponsored by Glock and limited to participants using Glock pistols.[5]


These men are five of the "Combat Masters", the five most successful shooters during the competitions held at the South Western Combat Pistol League ("SWCPL") at Big Bear Lake, California, during the late Fifties. Left to right: Ray Chapman, Elden Carl, Thell Reed, Jeff Cooper, Jack Weaver. (The sixth "Combat Master", John Plahn, is missing from this photograph.)

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 in modern technique that had been going on at the Bear Valley Gunslingers[6] at Big Bear Lake, California[citation needed] and 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. The first IPSC World Shoot was held in 1975 in Zurich, about two years before IPSC was formally founded.

Some consider the previous Olympic event 100 meter running deer as the first practical rifle shooting competition,[7] which originated in Wimbledon, London in 1862. Other notable rifle speed shooting events are Stang shooting (stangskyting) which has been arranged since 1912, and Nordic field rapid shooting (called felthurtig, sekundfält and sekundskydning in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, respectively) which has been a part of the Nordic Fullbore Rifle Championship since 1953.

Finland pioneered IPSC Rifle in Scandinavia in the beginning of the 1980s,[8] and the discipline soon spread to Norway where the first competitions were held in Stavanger February 1984.[9] In 1987 the first official Norwegian Rifle Championship was held,[8] and the championship has been held annually since. South Africa has held IPSC Rifle and Shotgun matches since 1983, and IPSC multigun matches since 1984.[citation needed]

One of the first 3-Gun matches to be held in the United States was the Soldier of Fortune matches held in 1979 in Missouri,[10] but these matches were neither associated with USPSA nor IPSC. The first USPSA Multigun Championship was held in 1990 at Pike-Adams Sportsmen's Alliance (PASA) in Barry, Illinois,[11] but USPSA did not take on multigun full-time until around 2000.[10] In Finland multigun matches have been held since around 1992.[citation needed]

Australia held a Rifle and Shotgun Championship in September 1987,[12] and the first IPSC European Shotgun Championship was held in October 1987 at the National Shooting Centre in Bisley, England, a couple of days before the seventh IPSC European Handgun Championship at the same shooting range.

In the beginning IPSC Shotgun and Rifle competitions were run using the IPSC Handgun Competition Rules[13] with small adjustments. Adjustments were later formalized in supplementary rulebooks, e.g. UKPSA published a supplementary Rifle and Shotgun rulebook in 1989.[14] Since 1996[15] IPSC Shotgun and Rifle rules have been published in standalone rulebooks separate from the IPSC Handgun rules.


In 1976, an international group of enthusiasts, interested in what had become known as "practical shooting", met in Columbia, Missouri.[16] 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[17][18] and now the fastest growing.[19] 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.

Scoring methods[edit]

Various scoring methods are used:

  • Comstock, sometimes called hit factor scoring
  • Time plus
  • Virginia count
  • Fixed time (par time)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CZ -News - Ceska zbrojovka - PISTOL SHOOTERS - IPSC
  2. ^ - Rules
  3. ^ - About IDPA
  4. ^ Cowboy Action Shooting: Getting Started
  5. ^ Glock Sport Shooting Foundation
  6. ^ Bear Valley Gunslingers
  7. ^ Shooting at Moving Targets, R J Maddison, 19 April 2011, p. 12"Moving target shooting is the original 'Practical Rifle' discipline."
  8. ^ a b - IPSC Rifle Norway
  9. ^ Stavanger Sportsskytterlag - Grunnkurs i praktisk skyting - Revidert Mars 2009
  10. ^ a b The 3 Gun, Multi-Gun Report - James R. Morris SFC RET, page 1 "Kurt Miller [..] about the origin of 3-Gun: As far as I know the first of its kind was the S.O.F. World Championship 3-Gun Tactical Match. It started in 1979 and the first couple of matches were held at Freedom Missouri."]
  11. ^ PASA History | PASA Park "PASA has for 29 years also been home to a wide variety of national and international championship shooting sports events, including [... the] inaugural USPSA National 3-Gun Championship (1990)"
  12. ^ [Newsletter 1 April 1987 - International Practical Shooting Confederation]
  13. ^ First edition: "IPSC Rules for Practical Pistol Competition, by the International Practical Shooting Confederation and the American Pistol Institute, June 1978]
  14. ^ [First supplementary rulebooks: "International Practical Shooting Confederation Rifle and Shotgun Rules, July 1989, UK Edition 1.1"]
  15. ^ [International Practical Shooting Confederation, IPSC Rifle Rules, 3rd Edition, October, 1996]
  16. ^ Columbia Conference Minutes
  17. ^ South African Practical Shooting Association (SAPSA) - Introduction Archived 2011-02-15 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ UKPSA - The GB Region of the International Practical Shooting Confederation
  19. ^ Australian Capital Territory - Home