Friday, February 22, 2019

First-Timer's Primer


What follows is a blog post I originally made on another site of mine, years ago. I've modified it to suit Steel Challenge specifically. I highly recommend reading this article before showing up to your first match at the range!

So you’re going to shoot your first Steel Challenge match; that’s great to know! I’m always excited to see and help new competitors in the sport. But to get started correctly, there are a few things you need to know. I’ll break them down into categories:
Choosing a Division, Packing your Bag, Arriving at the Range,  & Basic Rules and Etiquette
 Choosing a Division
This is the place to start because you have to know where your gun and gear fit. Most new shooters test the competitive waters with the gun they already have – and in most cases is the one they carry. I will post another article detailing the divisions. Most people will shoot in the Production division because it’s most closely aligned with what gear they have now.
Packing your Bag
A shooter engages the targets while the RO keeps
the shot timer close by
There’s a lot of gear to take to a match! Sure, we think of the obvious ones – like the gun – but at times it can be easy to forget some things. A shooter I knew once said he visualizes everything he needs, working from the outside in and makes a checklist of it. It was something like this:
  • Ammo goes in the magazines
  • Magazines go in the gun
  • Gun goes in the holster
  • Holster and magazine pouches go on the outer belt
  • Outer belt attaches to the inner belt
Now, this shooter was using a two-piece gun belt, but the principle stays the same. The idea is to make sure you have everything you’ll need when shooting. There’s also the basic safety needs, i.e. ear and eye protection.
I'll note here that if you're shooting a rimfire pistol (.22LR) or an allowed long gun, these don't require holsters. They DO require bags or cases, or empty chamber flags must be inserted.
Dress comfortably, and according to the weather. Bring sunscreen if you’re the type that’ll need it – remember you’re going to be standing out in the sun all day. While we’re talking about dressing, please leave the tactical gear, camo outfits, etc. at home. Same goes for T-shirts of the “Kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” variety. The USPSA is very image-conscious and we have to be. It hurts our sport AND our gun rights if the game we play is media-sensationalized into ‘militia training’.
Also, bring water or Gatorade. Staying hydrated is important!
There are rifle classes too - for rimfire (.22LR) and pistol-caliber carbines.

Arriving at the Range
A common mistake first-time competitors make is to arrive at the range with their gun holstered or already loaded. This is a big-time no-no. Why? Because USPSA ranges are cold ranges, meaning all weapons are unloaded and only handled under the direct supervision of a Range Officer. The only exception to this is when you’re at a designated Safe Area.
It’s not that we don’t think you know how to safely handle a gun. The USPSA has an incredible safety record, and that is something we are very proud of and work very hard to maintain. Everyone follows the same safety procedures and it keeps us all safe. Please behave accordingly, because handing a gun when you’re not supposed to be is a ‘thanks for playing, now go home’ type of maneuver called a DQ (disqualification).
Show up to the range with the gun in a bag or box. After you’re registered and it’s time to gear up, put on your belt/holster/etc and grab your gun IN THE BOX OR BAG and walk to a designated Safe Area. If it's a long gun that you're not holstering, it must stay in its case or have an empty chamber flag inserted.
Once there, you can now handle your firearm. There IS a catch though… there’s one thing you CAN’T handle in a Safe Area. Any idea? It’s AMMO. The only time you can handle both is at the starting line, under the direction of the Range Officer.
In the Safe Area you can holster, practice draws, etc. Once you’re ready, holster that blaster and head on back to the range. Your gun will stay holstered at all times, and will always have an empty mag well and be hammer down or striker-forward.
When you’re not in the Safe Area you can handle your magazines, load them, etc. and put them on your belt. Remember to load your magazines according to the division rules.
It looks like you’re ready to go shooting!
Basic Rules and Etiquette
When you’re not the shooter, stand well clear of the active shooter and the RO. Don’t make excessive noise (i.e. loud noises that may break the shooter’s concentration). Once the shooter has finished the stage the scorekeeper will record the hits, misses (mikes) and time. 
When you ARE the shooter, stay calm. It’s hard to do your first time, I know. We’ve all been there. Let the RO know that this is the first time you’ve done this and they’ll help ease you through the process. The RO will make sure you’re in the proper starting position and will use these standardized range commands:
  • Make Ready  This is the command to insert a mag, chamber a round, even take a sight picture if you like. Then holster the gun or lower to low-ready (about 45° down) and wait.
  • Are you Ready? You don’t have to answer this one. If you’re NOT ready, then definitely say so, and loudly! If you answer yes, the RO will proceed. If you don’t answer at all, the RO will ASSUME you’re ready and proceed.
  • Stand By! The time has come. This command means to prepare yourself because the next thing you’ll hear (within 1-4 seconds) is:
  • BEEEEP! Holy cow, does that mean go? Yes, yes it does! When that buzzer sounds you’re off to the races. Draw or raise your gun and begin engaging targets according to the rules as laid out by the RO in the stage briefing. Good luck!
When you’ve completed shooting and it appears that you’ve finished, the RO will say:
  • If you are finished, unload and show clear. Note the *IF* statement. If you see a target you missed and decide to take a make-up shot, you can do so. Otherwise, drop the mag, retract the slide or bolt, and let the RO see that the chamber is empty.
  • If clear, hammer down and holster. Hammer down means pull the trigger. If your gun has a decocker, that doesn’t count – you MUST pull the trigger (EXCEPT for rimfires - we understand that can damage it. Let the RO see the empty chamber and bag it in front of him). If it goes BANG, then you go home – DQ. Once you snap the trigger on that empty chamber, holster the gun and the RO will declare:
  • Range Clear It’s all over! You’ve completed your first course of fire under the clock. Some shooters really feel that adrenaline rush after a stage. I hope you enjoyed it!
Other basic safety rules are always in effect, but a couple serious ones to mention: Never break the 180° imaginary line of the shooter and the bay. Basically, keep that weapon pointed downrange at all times. Pointing it back uprange is a DQ. Keep your shots aimed at the targets within the bay. Launching a round over the berm is a DQ as well.
Ok, so I think that wraps it up! I hope this primer helps you prepare for your first Steel Challenge match, and I hope to see you at the range.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Match Start Times

All steel matches except for the night match will begin with open registration at 9AM, with shooting starting at 10AM. 


The start time for the September night match will be determined at a later date when we have a better idea of relative darkness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The 2019 Steel Challenge Schedule is Up!




We couldn't get every month this year, as the event calendar was already jam-packed. I am hopeful that next year will be every month, but that will also depend on the turnout we get this season, so come shoot the ROCK with us!

Each match will include at least two classifier stages, so if you're a USPSA member you can earn your shooter classification.

The September date is a night shoot that will require a handheld or weapon-mounted light to compete. This is not a sanctioned event and will not include any official stages; it is a fun shoot.

Five stages, five shots fired in five strings means a minimum round count of 125. This will be the same for every match.

At this time, it appears match fees will be $20 for the first division and $10 for a second division if you wish to do that. Rockcastle Shooting Center members will get $5 discounts off both.

I am working on a reduced entry fee for junior shooters as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Shooter Classifications

Classifications are a way to allow USPSA members to see how they stack up against other members and allows them to compete against competitors with similar skill levels, instead of shooting against everyone.

When becoming a member of USPSA, it’s important to understand classifications. Your classification is what ensures that score-wise, you are shooting against competitors of your same skill level.

There are 7 classifications of shooters: U, D, C, B, A, M, and GM. Classifications are earned by shooting classifier stages at a match. Typically, a local club-level match will have one standard classifier stage along with their own stage designs.

Classifiers are created by the USPSA and must be carefully set up at each match to ensure that when you shoot the classifier, you’re shooting the exact same stage (target distances and placement) as everyone else. Otherwise, it would be difficult to assign a National classification without a baseline performance.

When initially joining (classification is only available to members) you will be an Unclassified shooter in all Divisions. If Production Division is your game, then once you have completed four different classifiers, your average will be computed. If you’re a C class shooter, then when viewing the match results you’d be interested in where you placed among C shooters in Production, instead of just seeing where you placed overall in the division.

Each division has its own classification so you can be a U in one class, a C in another, etc. To earn an initial classification, your four best classifiers in that division are used. After an initial classification has been earned, your best six of the last eight classifiers are used to perform the ongoing calculations.

Unclassified. The member has not shot enough classifiers in that division to have earned a classification.

D – 2% to 40% performance av
erage against other shooters nationally.
C – 40% to 59.9%
B – 60% to 74.9%
A – 75% to 84.9%
Master – 85% to 94.9%
Grand Master – 95% to 100%

Rarely, a club will host a special Classifier match where all the stages are classifiers. This is a quick way for a new shooter to earn an initial classification.

Shooting classifiers is typically a source of stress for me but earning a new classification, either in a new-to-you division or bumping up to the next class is a joyous occasion!

Equipment Divisions

I've been asked, "I only have X type of gun. Can I shoot in Steel Challenge?". If it's practically ANY handgun or rifle that shoots a handgun caliber, then yes, there's a division for you!

Let's start by talking about Divisions.

What does division mean? It's a way to ensure competitors are apples-to-apples, hardware-wise. It keeps a revolver shooter from competing directly with a semi-auto pistol, or a rimfire rifle. The divisions are as follows:

CO - Carry Optics This basically means an everyday carry pistol that may have a low-profile red dot on it.

ISR - Iron Sight Revolver A centerfire revolver with no special optical sights.

LTD - Limited For iron-sighted "race guns" with limited modifications

OPN - Open Full-on race pistols with red dots and compensators

OSR - Optical Sight Revolver This is for the same revolver mentioned in ISR, but with a red dot or other types of optical aiming device.

PCCI - Pistol Caliber Carbine Iron sights For carbine rifles chambered in pistol calibers

PCCO - Pistol Caliber Carbine Open Same as PCCI, but now you're allowed optics and compensators

PROD - Production This is where most double-action or striker-fired semi-auto centerfire handguns fall. Note this will be for guns that are NOT single action like a 1911; those go in the Single Stack division.
RFPI - Rimfire Pistol Iron Here's your .22LR pistols with iron sights. Don't even need a holster, but I recommend having more than a couple of magazines!
RFPO - Rimfire Pistol Open Same as above, but allows optical sights and compensators.

RFRI - Rimfire Rifle Iron Sights .22LR rifles, such as Ruger's 10/22, are the most popular choice.

RFRO - Rimfire Rifle Open - Same as above, but with optical sights and compensators allowed.

SS - Single Stack This is a category custom-made for single-action only, single-stack magazine 1911s.



So you see, there's plenty of divisions you can shoot in!

Steel Challenge is in the works!

I am hopeful we'll have something in place by Spring. The goal will be to produce monthly Steel Challenge matches sanctioned by USPSA/SCSA at Rockcastle Shooting Center located in Park City, KY.

The only way we'll pull this off is by generating support for bringing this shooting discipline to the area. Right now, if a shooter wanted to compete in a sanctioned match and get nationally ranked, he'd have to drive at least two hours away! 

You can keep up with where we are in the development stages right here or by following us on social media:

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Please Like and Share on social media so your shooting friends will find out about us also! We need to raise awareness that this match is coming to the area.