Finding the Right Competition for Your Pistol Skills - NSSF Let's Go Shooting

Finding the Right Competition for Your Pistol Skills

Now that you have purchased your pistol and spent time at the range shooting or training, you may feel it is time to compare yourself to others—albeit in a healthy and constructive way.

There are so many opportunities to compete with your pistol. As Tom McHale writes, stress is a good thing to add to your training regimen.

First of all, what type of competition interests you? Do you think you’d like to participate in action pistol shooting or defensive skills shooting, or just target shooting? From air pistols to full-power handguns, there is something for every type of pistol shooter in this roundup below.

When you have decided which type of shooting you want to do, it would be a good idea to attend an event or two as a spectator. Talk to the participants and find out what type of gear and ammo you’ll need to invest in and the time requirements, too. Also, many clubs offer loaner gear so that you can try it before you buy it.


Action Pistol

The Rimfire Challenge introduces new shooters to the shooting sports through competitions with .22 caliber firearms.

The National Rifle Association will walk you through how to get started in Action Pistol (along with other competitions), where you learn to combine speed and accuracy while moving through various stages of fire. You may download a book that details NRA Action Pistol Course of Fire.

The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) offers resources for getting started and also a calendar of events. There are more than 400 clubs across the U.S. The organization boasts more than 34,000 members in 50 countries.

Do you enjoy shooting at steel targets? The Steel Challenge Shooting Association offers competitions throughout the country, and you can find clubs at its website. Here are Steel Challenge rules:

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) offers matches throughout the country using full-power handguns, i.e., those 9mm and larger. It is proud to have 90 active regions worldwide. Find out more about IPSC here:

If you prefer a revolver to a semi-auto, then the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICOR) might be just the right fit. ICOR combines elements from Steel Challenge, the NRA’s Bianchi Cup and IPSC into special competitive events. ICOR lists more than 65 clubs across the country at its website.


Defensive Pistol

The International Defensive Pistol Association simulates self-defense scenarios and real-life situations.


NRA Postal Matches

If you want to stay home on your own range, then you might enjoy shooting NRA Postal Matches. The NRA conducts postal matches throughout the country, in conjunction with 4-H programs or Boy Scouts of America and other organizations, but you can also set up the specialized targets and shoot at your own range. You must send in your fired targets for evaluation. Visit the NRA to find out more about its Postal Matches.

The NRA even affords juniors an opportunity to compete in the NRA Open Air Pistol Postal match, conducted annually from September through May 5.


Silhouette Shooting

The International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association holds matches throughout the country that require shooters to knock down metallic silhouettes in animal shapes—such as chickens, pigs and turkeys—at distances up to 200 meters.

There’s more to competitive shooting than what is listed here. Visit for more information.