Understanding the USPSA Divisions
With a wide range of hand guns available to use in USPSA, the most asked question by competitors attending their first match is “What division should I be shooting in?” The typical response is “What gun are you shooting?” This is because each of the six divisions are set up with specific rules for equipment. Let’s take a quick look at each of the division:
The Production Division is the “NASCAR” division of the sport. This is because the Production Division strictly limits the shooter to the use of production handguns. These guns are typically of the “duty-gun” variant. Glock, Springfield, Smith & Wesson and just about every other handgun manufacturer produce several models that can be used in this division. These guns must have actions that are double-action-only, double-action/single-action or are striker-fired (no single-action only guns).
Most competitors select handguns in 9mm since all shooters are scored as minor power factor regardless of the caliber of the gun (unlike all the other divisions where there is a scoring advantage for major power factor). The only exterior modification are to sights and grips (or a limited use of “skate” tape). A limited amount of internal modification can be made since each gun must maintain their original factory weight.
Also, to maintain an even playing field, shooters in Production are limited to just 10 rounds in there magazines. Thus, many Production competitors will wear 5 or 6 magazines on their belts in order to complete longer and more elaborate stage. Holsters need to be the standard “duty” style and must be worn behind the hip (same for magazine pouches).
The Limited Division offers the competitor the ability to add more modifications to the gun compared to the Production Division but not as many as the Open Division. This division features double-stack, 1911 (or 2011) style handguns as well as modified production guns. External modification can include sights, grips, tape, slide cuts, magwells and mag release and slide-stop enhancements. Internal modifications can include barrel replacements, trigger upgrades, spring enhancements and heavier guide rods.
The magazine in Limited is restricted to an overall length of 140mm. Thus, there are advantages and disadvantage in shooting minor versus major power factor: Shooting minor potentially puts more rounds in the magazine compared to major, but shooting major provides better scoring for non A-zone hits on target. Most of the top shooters in limited are shooting custom handguns (usually of the 2011 variant) loaded in .40 S&W major power factor.
For the new shooter, Limited is a good division to start shooting.
This is because new shooters are able to use just about any production handgun he or she has at home but won’t be limited with the round count in the magazines (unlike starting in production). The higher round count in the magazines will give the new shooter more options on how to shoot a stage, there will be less magazine reloads during a stage (quicker stage times) and you will simply need less magazine to compete (3 to 4, 15 round or larger magazines). The Limited Division also typically has the largest number of competitors at most matches, so you should always be able to find somebody at your skill level to compete against.
The Limited 10 Division can be easily summed up: the handgun has all the rules of the Limited Division but only allows for 10 rounds in the magazine. This capacity limitation eliminates any capacity advantage that one gun model has over another.
If the Production Division is the “NASCAR” of USPSA then the Open Division is “Formula-1”. As the name implies, Open allows for the most modifications to the handgun. Along with all the modifications for Limited, handguns in the Open Division also allow ports, compensators, optical sighting systems and a few other enhancements which dramatically help control recoil and muzzle flip.
Magazine length in Open is also increased to 170mm and major power factor can be made in 9mm or .38 Super (all other divisions require .40 or larger to make major power factor). This leads to magazine capacities of 28-30 rounds.
These “race” guns aren’t suggested for the new shooter. They are often very expensive, aren’t very easy to purchase “off-the-shelf” and usually require purchasing or producing custom ammunition to make them perform reliably. However, when they work, they are a spectacle to be watched!
The Single-Stack Division is designed for the fan of the traditional 1911: Only single-stack Government model 1911 pistols are allowed in this division. Competitors are able to shoot both Major and Minor power factor, but have magazine capacity limits of 8 rounds for major calibers and 10 rounds for minor.
The allied equipment rules are very similar to that of the Production Division: Shooters are only allowed to use “duty-style” holsters and all equipment must be worn behind the hip. Many Single-Stack shooters will compete with 6 or more magazines on their belts.
The Revolver Division is intended for stock revolvers. Modifications are limited and optical sights, porting and recoil compensators are prohibited. However, shooters may change grips, enlarge the cylinder release, change sights, chamfer cylinders and tune the action as they desire.
The rules for the Revolver Division were recently changed to allow for some differences between power factors. Minor power factor revolvers may now allow for 8 shots before reloading but major power factor revolvers are still only allowed 6 shots before reloading.
For a detailed explanation of all the rules for each division, please refer to the USPSA Handgun Rules.
Please take a look at some of the other articles we have compiled for new shooters: Getting Started in USPSA, Your First USPSA Match, and Shooting Equipment for New Shooters. NEO Shooters also offers a New Shooter Mentorship Program.
If you have additional questions about getting started in USPSA or the NEO Shooters club, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name, email address and phone number. We will have a club member contact you to answer your questions.