Your First USPSA Match

Your First USPSA Match

It is the goal of NEO Shooters to help grow competitive shooting sports and USPSA by actively seeking new members and introducing them to our wonderful sport. We understand that attending your first match can be a little daunting, so we have put together some tips for new shooters to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience:
Remember: Safety First
Firearm safety is ultimately a matter of personal responsibility and self-control; two key qualities stressed in Practical Shooting. The shooter is always responsible for his or her actions and safe gun handling. The basic principles of safe gun handling are in the Practical Shooting Code of Ethics:

• I will treat every firearm as a loaded one
• I will never point a firearm at anything I am not willing to destroy
• I will be sure of my target and what is behind it before firing
• I will keep my finger off the trigger until my sights are on my intended target

Arrive to the match at least 30 minutes prior to the start time for the match

This will allow you the opportunity to get registered for the match. Also, please identify yourself as a new shooter when registering. Most clubs have a designated instructor that will answer questions for new shooters and review safety procedures, rules and the match setup. Some clubs will even pair you with a more experienced shooter for your first match. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, we were all first-time shooters at some point.

Please leave your unloaded carry gun in your vehicle
All USPSA events are held on a cold range. This means no loaded guns are allowed on the range except for the active shooter on a stage who is under the direction of a Range Officer (RO). Having a loaded gun while not actively under the direction of a RO may result in disqualification.

Designated Safety Area(s) are the only place you are allowed to handle your gun …
when not actively shooting a stage under the direction of a Range office (RO). This is usually a table or bench with a backstop directly behind it that is accompanied with a sign that reads “Safety Area”. When arriving at the range, you may head over to the Safety Area where you may remove your gun out of its bag, case or pouch and put it in your holster. You may also work on your gun as long as it is unloaded and it is kept pointed at the backstop. Absolutely DO NOT handle ammunition or magazines in this area. If you do handle ammunition or magazines in this area, you can be disqualified from the match.

You may handle ammunition, magazines, speed loaders and/or moon clips pretty much everywhere except in the Safety Areas.
Absolutely DO NOT handle ammunition or magazines in the safety areas.

When you are not shooting, please help paste targets and reset steel for the other shooters.
USPSA is proudly recognized as a participation sport. This means we all pitch in to help reset the stages in between shooters. After scoring, the steel targets need to be reset and “paper” targets (actually cardboard) need to be taped (that is, the holes in the target are covered with little square stickers called “pasters”) to prepare for the next shooter. The match moves along much faster when everyone helps.

Listen for your turn to shoot and be prepared
The Range Officer that is keeping score will usually call out the shooters who are “up”, “on-deck” and the “in-the-hole”. It is OK to take a break from resetting the stage once you hear your name being called. Double-check that you have your magazines speed loaders or moon-clips loaded and that you understand the course of fire for the stage.

Know the Range Commands
These commands may seem simple, but they are there to help protect you and everyone else.

Make Ready – This is the signal from the Range Officer that the range is clear and you are allowed to unholster you gun, take a sight picture, load your gun, holster the gun and then assume the start position.

Are You Ready? – The RO is making sure that you are indeed ready to shoot. If you are not ready, please say “no” immediately. Not answering verbally means that you are ready to shoot and the RO will move on to:

Standby – This means that the start signal will be initiated in the next 1 to 4 seconds.

“Start Signal” – This is usually a beep from the timer, so start shooting. Move safely through the course keeping the muzzle of the gun pointed down range and engage all targets. If you hear the Range officer yell “STOP”, then stop moving, make sure your finger is off the trigger and follow to RO’s commands.

If You Are Finished, Unload and Show Clear – Continue shooting if you aren’t finished (unless the RO has yelled “STOP”). If you are done, then remove the magazine and eject the chambered round. Keep the action open so that the Range Officer can see that there is no longer a chambered round.

If Clear, Hammer Down, Holster – If you are positive there is no longer a chambered round, then keep the gun pointed down range and pull the trigger to prove the gun is unloaded. Holster the gun before moving or turning up range.

Range is Clear – This is the signal to all other competitors that it now safe to head down range to score and reset the stage.

Take it slow your first time
Concentrate on safely handling your gun through your first match. Experienced shooters will respect you for safely completing the match and will be more willing to assist you with your shooting or answer questions about the sport. Remember, nobody likes a “loose cannon”, especially when it comes to competitive shooting sports.

Focus on making good hits on the targets
Taking your time and getting all Alpha’s is much better than blazing through a stage and not hitting anything and racking up a bunch of penalties. When you become proficient with safely handling the gun and placing good shots, your speed will naturally increase. It may seem silly, but “Slow is Smooth, and Smooth is Fast”.

Enjoy Yourself
After everything is said and shot, this is just a sport and we are only competing at a local level match (there aren’t any prizes here, only pride). You will find that most shooters are very out-going, willing to help and pleasant people…especially NEO Shooters!

Please take a look at some of the other articles we have compiled for new shooters: Getting Started in USPSA, Understanding the USPSA Divisions, 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 Be sure to include your name, email address and phone number. We will have a club member contact you to answer your questions.