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Shooting Competition 101 – Accuracy-Focused Pistol Sports

4 min read

Shooting Competition 101 – Accuracy-Focused Pistol Sports

If you’re a little intimidated by the running and gunning associated with practical style shooting (like USPSA and IDPA), a good place to start is with matches that place the focus on accuracy, rather than movement. With these pistol matches, the positions are almost always stationary, and the challenges come from the targets themselves. 

Bullseye, Glock GSSF, and Bianchi matches are 3 different types of matches that are great for both new and experienced shooters. Here's a guide to each sport so you can learn more about them.

Bullseye Pistol

Bullseye Pistol CompetitionBullseye shooting has been around for decades. In an NRA sanctioned bullseye match, the shooter uses three different handguns to shoot a 270-round course of fire. The guns must be a .22 caliber semi-auto or revolver, a semi-auto or revolver of .32 caliber or higher and a .45 caliber pistol or revolver. It is possible to shoot this match with only two handguns since the .45 caliber can qualify for both the .32 and higher category and the .45. The courses of fire are separated into a slow fire stage, a timed fire stage and a rapid-fire stage.

During the slow fire stage, the targets are 50 yards away and shooters have 10 minutes to shoot 10 shots with each of the three firearms. During the timed fire stage, the targets are moved closer to the shooter at the 25-yard mark and shooters now have 20 seconds to fire a five-shot string, ten shots from each of the handguns. Rather than starting with a handheld timer, targets turn to face the shooter to start the string and then turn away from the shooter when the 20 seconds is up. In the last stage or rapid-fire stage, the distance remains the same but not shooters only have 10 seconds to complete a five-round string, ten shots from each gun.

If this all sounds really confusing, it might be at first. But after a couple of rounds, even beginners can get the hang of it and have a great time.

Glock Matches (GSSF)

The Glock Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF) oversees a match that can be either inside or outdoors. If you’re a Glock owner, you can check to see if this type of match is offered in your area.

Participants are broken into divisions based on the Glock they’re shooting. If the Glock is modified, they shoot against other modified Glocks in the Unlimited division. If the shooter is using a stock, straight off the shelf Glock, they will be matched against the same in the Stock division. And if a shooter is choosing to compete with one of the small Glocks with limited magazine capacity, they can choose to shoot in the Pocket Glock division.

The Unlimited and the Stock division course of fire consists of 50 rounds at varying distances. Rather than being timed, there is a time limit for each string. This allows for multiple shooters to be on target at the same time. For the Pocket division, the round count is 25 in consideration for the decreased capacity.

Scoring uses the Lewis Prize Allocation System, which divides the total number of shooters by three, then awards a trophy for Class A (the first third), Class B (the middle third) and Class C (the final third). This is an informal way of grouping people together by skill. Other categories receive prizes such as First Lady, First Senior, and First Junior.

The biggest draw for a Glock match is that an actual Glock firearm is given away each quarter. It is up to the host range to determine how the gun is awarded. Many do a random drawing to give more people a chance to win.           

Steel Challenge

Steel Challenge CompetitionSteel Challenge is an official sport sanctioned by the Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA) and some ranges run their own form of this type of competition. These matches are for the most part stationary shooting, but not actual bullseye shooting because shooters take on steel plates rather a target with a center bullseye. An official Steel Challenge match includes 8 standardized stages, each of which has five steel plates of varying sizes. This means that no matter where you go to shoot an official Steel Challenge match, the stages will be exactly the same.

In each course of fire, one of the plates is a "stop" plate. Shooters shoot the stage in any fashion they want but they must hit the stop plate last to end the string. Each participant shoots each stage five times, the lowest scores are thrown out, then your times are averaged for the final score. Steel Challenge is a terrific jumping-off point to start shooting competitively because there is very little movement and the stages are challenging, but not difficult. And of course, nothing beats the sound of a bullet hitting steel!

NRA Action Pistol

NRA Action Pistol, sometimes called Bianchi, is a structured handgun sport that combines speed and accuracy and is weighed heavily toward accuracy. But even though it's called "Action Pistol", there is not much movement! There are 3 different divisions - Open, Metallic, and Production, which are based on the type of gun you are shooting. This sport uses official NRA cardboard targets and 8-inch round steel for the plate rack stage. 

Match directors can choose from over a dozen pre-designed stages, so you are likely to see at least a couple of new stages every time you go to one of these pistol matches.

The Bianchi Cup is the championship match for Action Pistol and is held over 3 days every year in Missouri. The course of fire includes 4 events, the practical event, the barricade event, the falling plate event, and the moving target event. In these courses, the targets are placed 10 to 50 yards away and in the moving event, the target moves from the left side of the bay all the way to the right with only 6 seconds given to shoot at the target.

To find these matches, check your local ranges. They may offer the official versions of these sports, or an informal (non-sanctioned) version. And remember - any type of match you choose is good practice for getting better with your firearm and meeting other shooters!


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