The Guide to Shooting Competitions: Breaking Down Your Options


Tired of taking your 1911 to the usual spot and shooting the same old targets? Perhaps you're someone with a competitive spirit and a love for firearms? Do you want to refine your skills or learn some new tricks?

Then you should strongly consider jumping into the world of competitive shooting.

Here are a few good starting points to get you on your way.

United States Practical Shooters Association (USPSA)

One of the more popular options is the USPSA, and it serves as a great starting point for shooters of any experience level. USPSA includes a variety of competitions, so there are options for people who want to shoot with out-of-the-box factory pistols or highly customized race guns.

The USPSA splits the United States into eight "areas," or conferences, and features more than 400 clubs.There’s also a junior program aimed at refining younger members' skills, instilling the ins and outs of competitive shooting and building sportsmanship. Use this map to find a club near you.

National Rifle Association (NRA)

If you’re at all familiar with the world of firearms, you’ve heard of the NRA. The NRA features a competitive shooting division that organizes a wide variety of rifle and pistol competitions for youth and adults of all experience levels.

The NRA also organizes collegiate shooting competitions, with nearly 300 colleges offering a shooting program. For those interested in starting a scholastic shooting program, the NRA offers this guide to help you get started.

International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)

The IDPA focuses on using competitions to help shooters gain experience in self-defense techniques. Competitors set aside the customized, competitive hardware for standard handguns. Competitors are meant to build up skills with standard equipment instead of relying on special add-ons. 

As the IDPA puts it: “If you’re interested in using truly practical pistols to solve challenging and exciting defensive shooting problems, then IDPA is the sport for you.”

The IDPA currently boasts more than 20,000 members across 50 countries.

Many shooting competitions feature some degree of movement, but all stress the importance of proper technique and accuracy over speed and physical conditioning. Shooters should focus on safety and proper shot placement first and naturally build speed over time.

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