Competitive pistol shooting is an intriguing adventure, particularly for recreational shooters seeking a change of pace. It can be fast-paced and intense, providing highly spirited competition for all participants. It’s also a way to reach out and learn more about your local shooting community, as well as to travel and find competitive opportunities across the country. There are numerous organizations that offer competitive shooting programs, with competitions and even awards.
The NRA, or National Rifle Association, is perhaps the best known firearms organization in the nation. This organization’s Competitive Shooting Division offers a number of different activities both for beginners and world-class competitors in the world of riflery. The association sponsors more than 50 national competitive pistol shooting championships every year and sanctions more than 11,000 shooting tournaments—so even the bare bones beginner is destined to find something that works.
Many NRA competitors are even collegiate or school-level shooters or shooters with disabilities. Participants can enjoy friendly, low-key competitions like postal matches or attend the NRA Bianchi Cup and other National Rifle & Pistol Championships.
IDPA stands for the International Defensive Pistol Association. This organization hosts competitions that are designed to build real world experience to help shooters learn self-defense practices for real-life encounters. The IDPA’s competitive pistol shooting events feature non-competitive handguns and equipment. The organization focuses instead on practical gear and pistols, emphasizing competitors’ skills and abilities rather than the grade of their equipment.
The IDPA hosts weekly and monthly competition events, extending its reach far beyond the United States into more than 50 foreign countries. The popularity of the organization’s events is based on the focus on "real world" scenarios with common service pistols, using them to solve challenging defensive shooting problems. The sport tests shooters’ time and accuracy rather than physical condition and offers self-defense, standard exercise and other matches for multiple levels of competitive pistol shooting.
The USPSA, or United States Practical Shooting Association, is a great organization for novice competitive shooters who want to try out something new, like steel shooting. This sport is an excellent place for beginners to start. The USPSA also hosts a shooting competition for younger members through the USPSA Junior Program, designed to hone shooting skills, encourage sportsmanship, and build community. The organization even offers tips for new shooters to become acquainted with the sport of practical shooting.
For those interested in learning more about the world of competitive shooting or finding more information about programs for multiple skill levels, the NSSF directory is a great place to start.