Want to give competitive shooting a try? Here’s how you can get started!

SPEARFISH, S.D. — Target practice at the range is plenty of fun, but you can take your skills to the next level in a friendly, safe competition. Here in western South Dakota, United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) matches are held often by Prairie Thunder Shooting Club at the Spearfish Rifle and Pistol Range.

What is a USPSA match?

“It’s an action pistol competition series and organization. So a lot of moving and shooting, a lot of different skills that a lot of people don’t partake in during their average range session,” explains Bob Nash, Vice President of Prairie Thunder Shooting Club.

Stages of the match often consist of movement and reloading your gun, as well as engaging moving targets.

How many stages are in each match?

The amount of stages in each USPSA match varies. This one had five different stages, which were all completely different. Some were long, others required movement, and still others had no movement allowed

In some cases, you’re able to shoot as many rounds as you want, with only your best hits being scored, and in others, you’re limited to a certain amount of shots.

Nash says that “you’ll almost never see two identical stages in a USPSA match no matter where you go. They’re always different. They’re set up individually match by match. And the idea is to present a lot of different challenges…moving and shooting…different target presentations, moving targets, things like that.”

What are the general rules?

In a USPSA stage, everyone starts from the same spot, but can (usually) engage targets in any order. The gun must be pointed downrange at all times, and competitors have to empty the firearm and prove that it’s empty after each stage.

We use boundaries to to maintain some semblance of order – barricades, hardcovers, different things like that. We shoot cardboard targets, steel targets, a variety of different distances and target presentations,” Nash adds.

Uspsa MatchHow are matches scored?

Each stage is scored based on both accuracy and speed. This means you have to find a balance of shooting quickly, but not so quickly you lose accuracy, and accurately, but not so accurately, that you lose speed.

For me, my biggest challenge is speed. I had the most “A Zone” hits but was also the slowest, which put me low on the scoreboard.

Is it hard to get started?

Honestly, I was so nervous to shoot in my first USPSA match, but every stage was easier than the last one. Plus, the first USPSA match for all women is free!

Try not to be intimidated,” Nash says. “Everyone here is very friendly, very open to new shooters. The sport can be as difficult or as easy as you want it to be. “

If you want some target practice time, the Spearfish Rifle and Pistol Range offers a $30 membership for a year for a family, and Prairie Thunder Shooting Club posts their upcoming USPSA and Steel Challenge matches.

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