So You Want to Start Multi-Gun Competing…


When you think of beginning competitive shooters, most typically start with the pistol. Whether you've gone out to a United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) or some kind of Steel Challenge match, most people don't just jump right into multi-gun.

I find that, in order to really get a grasp of practical/action shooting, competing in a pistol-only match is the best way to get started.

Why Pistol-Only Matches?

Now, I know what you're about to say – “I thought this would be an article about getting started in multi-gun?” You are right; however, even as a fairly seasoned multi-gun shooter, I still regularly shoot the pistol-only matches. I do this because, in my eyes, the pistol is by far the hardest weapon to master, and it is the weapon in which you will see the quickest skill deterioration if you do not keep trained.

As for the new shooter who has never shot a competition before, the pistol-only match is the most ideal way to get yourself ready to eventually shoot in the multi-gun arena.

Steel Challenge

Steel Challenge is probably the best way to get someone started into shooting. It's the easiest competition in which to learn the course of fire, which means a lessened chance of mental error. It is mostly a stand-and-shoot style competition, so the shooter can concentrate on shooting. Competitors can get used to the typical range commands they would hear at any match, such as “make ready,” “are you ready?” and “stand by,” as well as “if finished, unload and show clear,” “if clear, slide forward, hammer down, holster” and “range is clear.”

It’s one of the best ways for a new shooter to practice his or her draw, grips, stance and firearm manipulation without having to worry about moving anywhere. And it provides an opportunity for an official to stop beginner shooters if they begin to do something considered unsafe.


Once a shooter is comfortable with Steel Challenge, I suggest a USPSA match. At these matches, the competitor will begin to learn the concepts of the moving-180 stage, dynamic movements throughout the stage, stage breakdown and planning and a whole laundry list of other important aspects.

This is a chance for the shooter to get comfortable running around with the firearm in his or her control at all times and to not only know, but also over-exaggerate safety. While the safety game is a high-speed, low-drag game, it will always be the first and foremost thing the shooter should always be executing.

Treat every firearm as if it were loaded – remember simple things, like keeping your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, never pointing the firearm at anything you don't intend to destroy and knowing your target and what's behind it. If you always practice those firearm safety rules and you can safely and consistently follow these rules while using only the pistol, then these skills will be much easier to transition over to the multi-gun arena. 

The Bottom Line

So why do most people start with pistol-only matches? They are initially fairly cheap in which to get involved, and not too much is needed in terms of customization. Not to mention, holsters, mag pouches, etc., are pretty readily available at your local gun store, or even off of the internet, for a pretty decent price. You could go out and buy your standard, everyday-carry (EDC) firearm; some extra magazines; a holster; a double-mag pouch; and boom – you're ready to go out and give it a try.

Start your journey toward multi-gun the right way – get your pistol-only game on first to master safety and the basics of competition shooting.

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