We're thrilled that you are interested enough in practical shooting to explore how best to get started. You are about to take the first step on an exciting journey to a new world of safe, fair, family fun with some of the greatest people you will ever know.  Every top shooter was once a beginner. Every top shooter arrived at his first match with a stomach full of butterflies and wondered what how he was going to get through the competition.


Before You Leave Home:

Here is a list of things that you need to bring with you to your first match:

• Gun and magazines – ideally you should have at least four magazines.
• Ammunition (typically about two hundred rounds or more for a local match).
• Belt Holster, belt, and magazine pouches. (no thigh or shoulder holsters)
• Shooting glasses, earplugs and/or earmuffs (preferably both).
• Good boots that support the ankles. Hiking boots or baseball cleats are both good.
• Bag to carry your gear.
• Bag to keep your used brass cases.
• Sun block if it is hot.
• Pair of gloves if it is cold.


Arrive at the Range:

Always try to arrive early at the range on match day. The extra time will give you an opportunity to walk around the range and examine the stages before the match begins; and make some new shooting friends, too.

Safe Area:

After arriving at the range and installing your belt-ride holster and magazine pouches, locate the Safe Area, which is clearly marked. The Safe Area is where you remove your gun from your gun bag and holster it. Your other gear may be put on at any time before or after sign-in. Only handle your gun in a Safe Area or under the supervision of a Range Officer (RO). Do not handle ammunition in the Safe Area. This is against the rules. Feel free to load your magazines wherever you want, but not in the Safe Area.


If you plan to shoot with someone that you know, then try to sign-in at the same time as your friend. Typically, each match uses self-squading – grouping shooters together – and you stay with that squad as you move from one course of fire (CoF) to another for the entire match. If you sign-in next to your shooting buddy, chances are good that you and your friend will be assigned to the same squad. If you do not know anyone at the match, then mention this to
the person coordinating the sign-in, and he will recommend a shooter who can guide you through your first match. Every good club should go out of its way to accommodate new shooters, so do not be afraid to ask for help. Everyone is there to help, and wants your first match to be safe and fun.


There is usually a squad on one stage at a time, and each squad holds a similar number of shooters. For example, if there are 32 shooters signed-in for the match, there will be 4 squads that consist of 8 shooters per squad. The ideal number of people on a squad is eight to ten. Too few shooters and there is not enough people to handle the workload required to properly run a stage, and too many shooters makes it seem like an all-day affair to get through a match.

Scoring and Kindle Fires:
When you register you are verifying your correct name, division (if your not sure just ask the person you are registering with) power factor, and squad. The Kindles will be collected at the end of the match, and synced with master. After the last squad has completed the match the results will be posted on Practiscore under SMPS.


Match Briefing / Shooters Meeting:
There is a mandatory shooters meeting before the match begins. The Match Director reviews any pertinent information. For example, the Match Director could announce future matches. After the briefing, the squad list is read, and then it is time to head to your first stage.


You have made your way to the correct CoF, and the butterflies are doing acrobatics in your stomach; but do not worry, it is going to be okay.  RO for your squad collects each shooter’s score sheet. Each walk-through is written on a sheet of paper, and is available on every stage during the match so you can read it at any time to make sure you understand the process. Once the walk-through is read and all questions have been answered, each shooter has three to five minutes to “memorize” the CoF before the first shooter’s name is called to shoot. This is your opportunity to look at all the different angles and positions in which to shoot that particular stage. You are allowed to walk around the CoF to see where the targets are placed.



Once the walk-through is completed, then it is time to start the CoF. There is a RO and a Score Keeper at each stage. These people have experience with matches and are familiar with the rules. Some people have completed extensive USPSA training to become ROs. However, there is no training to be a Score Keeper, which is why you should double-check your score sheet after each stage. The Score Keeper calls out the name of the first, second, and third shooter. The first shooter is called the “shooter,” the second shooter is “on deck,” and the third shooter is “in the hole.” If you are called to shoot first, tell the Score Keeper that you would like to be moved down in the shooting order so you can have an opportunity to watch other people shoot the stage before it is your turn in the spotlight.

Terminology and Stage Workers:
USPSA is a volunteer sport, and there are many different duties that need to be manned.
• Range Officer (RO) – Runs the timer.
• Score Keeper – Scores and calls the next couple of shooters.
• Shooter
• Just Finished Shooter – Loads his magazines for the next stage.
• On Deck – A person who is walking through the CoF, memorizing the stage.
• Tapers and Setters – People who tape targets and set steel for the next shooter.
• Brassing – If a shooter wants his brass back after shooting, then several people pitch
in to pick up the brass and hand it back before the next shooter starts the CoF.

Its Your Turn to Shoot:
Now it is time when you get to do your thing. Do not worry about making a mistake, as long as you are safe. You should be familiar with the standard procedures, such as:

• “MAKE READY” – This command signifies the start of “the Course of Fire (CoF)”. Under the direct supervision of the Range Officer, you must face down range, or in a safe direction as specified by the Range Officer, fit eye and hearing protection, and prepare the handgun in accordance with the written stage briefing. You must then assume the specified start position. The Range Officer will not proceed with any further range commands until you are still and is in the correct start position.

• “ARE YOU READY?” – The lack of any negative response indicates that you fully understand the requirements of the CoF and is ready to proceed. If you are not ready at the “Are You Ready?” command, you must indicate to the Range Officer that you are not ready.

• “STANDBY” – This command should be followed by the start signal within 1 to 4 seconds

• "START SIGNAL" An audible beeeeeep! – draw your gun as you face downrange and engage targets according to the walk-through. When you are done shooting, the RO will say…


• “IF YOU ARE FINISHED, UNLOAD AND SHOW CLEAR” – remove your magazine and pull the slide back to unchamber the round, and after seeing the round drop out and checking the empty chamber.

• “IF CLEAR, HAMMER DOWN AND HOLSTER” – aim the gun at the rear berm and pull the trigger. Click! Now put your gun back in your holster, you are done.


• “RANGE IS CLEAR” – This declaration signifies the end of the CoF. Once the declaration is made, officials and competitors may move forward to score, patch, reset targets etc.

Do not try to set any speed records at your first match; the idea is to get comfortable with the
gun and to be safe. It is important to focus on the basics of Practical Shooting; do not try to
set the world on fire with blazing fast times. Instead, focus on safety and hitting each target.


Clean your magazines that you dropped on the ground and load them for the next stage. Cleaning your magazines is important because dirt, sand, etc. can work its way into the magazine and cause malfunctions. Help with Taping, Brassing, or Future Score Keeping Once you have prepared everything for the next stage, you will need to tape targets or brass. Helping to tape and brass keeps the squads moving and prevents delays in the match. Alternatively, you may want to follow the Score Keeper around to see how the score sheet is completed. After a few matches, you can perform this duty yourself.

End of the Match and Tear Down:
At the end of the match, proceed to a Safe Area, and put your gun in your shooting bag, and remove the rest of your gear and place it in your bag. The stages are dismantled, and all the props are put away. Please help tear down the match. If everyone does a little then no one has to do a lot. While tear down is occurring, someone is entering the scores into the computer to calculate the final positions of every competitor. The scoring process may take a
few hours, and then the results published and links are sent out.

You have completed your first USPSA match. The more matches you shoot, the more your confidence grows. Once your confidence has started to build, then feel free to experiment with different techniques for shooting stages and for moving from one target array to another.



Southern Maryland 

Practical Shooters