3 Competitive Shooting Events With Low Barriers To Entry

Want to give competitive shooting a try but don't want to fork over $10,000+ for all the IPSC gear? That's okay! There are plenty of events out there that are completely intended for beginners!

Each of these events can be participated in for a relative minimal investment in terms of buy-in, equipment and ammunition. Each are fairly popular and widespread, so you can do them almost anywhere.

What is the criteria by which we decided that? Relatively low round count (200 or fewer rounds per match) and loose (ish) requirements for equipment. Most require the same gear you probably already have, namely a gun, a holster, a gun belt, eye and ear protection. You turn up, register, pay an entry fee and get to it. That said, here are three shooting events to check out.

NRA Action Pistol

action pistol

One of the most widespread shooting sports is NRA Action Pistol. This competitive shooting event gives you a good mix, with multiple stages (usually four in a match day) and different formats for each stage. The NRA has about a dozen courses of fire designed for these events and the people putting it on usually pick which ones you'll shoot.

Each stage is different; you'll run and gun in one stage, shoot bullseye in another, falling plates or popper targets, and so much more, with speed and accuracy being scored. It is a real test of shooting skill as it requires the shooter be fairly well-rounded to do really well.

It's a good entry into other practical shooting sports such as IDPA and IPSC, and just like those series has an open division for the equipment-crazed. However, there is also a division for stock pistols, so you can basically run your compact or full-size gun and see what it can do in a somewhat more laid-back fashion.

Events are usually cheap to get into, often $20 or less though you may have a range fee ancillary to the entry fee. That said, each course has a predetermined number of rounds you'll fire (most are 48 rounds per stage) so you can count on not blowing too terribly much on ammunition. A four-stage match is under 200 rounds, which is not too bad if shooting 9mm ball.

Glock Shooting Sports Foundation Matches


The folks over at Glock came up with a heck of an idea, which became the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation and their matches. It isn't too different from NRA Action Pistol, but is even more laid-back.

You shoot a few different stages at various targets - paper or reactive targets like falling plates - and distances under a time limit. You start every stage from low-ready, so no need to practice the draw for this event.

The course of fire differs by match format. There's an Outdoor course of fire and an Indoor. The Indoor match is quite short, as you only shoot 10 rounds in three of the five stages and only five in the last two, though under a time limit. Overall, the GSSF Indoor Match is only 50 rounds. That's ONE BOX!

Outdoor matches are much more involved, however, though a little less common as fewer outdoor ranges host GSSF matches. Those are more like 200 rounds, which - again - isn't too bad if shooting 9mm.

However, your first match will cost you $35 to start, as you have to join the GSSF, plus any range and registration fees. You will need a Glock, but the thing is that a LOT of these take place at gun stores with indoor ranges. Plenty will be available for rent. Once a member, you don't have to worry about the membership fee anymore.

Oh, and it should be a GSSF member, you belong to a CMP-affiliated club, so you can order CMP firearms. You also, and this is the insidious bit, get some steep discounts on Glock pistols. Say what you want about Glock pistols, but that is wickedly smart.

Bowling Pin Shooting

pin shooting

Arguably the most fun of the three - but by no means the easiest - is bowling pin shooting. This is plinking for grown ups! The premise is pretty simple. You shoot a row of bowling pins and knock 'em down or - depending on the event - off the table entirely.

You face a row of five pins and shoot for time, with the fastest time winning. However, it isn't as easy as it sounds. Thing about bowling pin shooting is that it requires great speed, recoil control and transition but also great accuracy. The pins, you see, have to be hit in the right spot to fall over or fall off the table.

That takes time to figure out, and if needing to clear the table, you also have to shoot a downed pin off the surface.

Power factor comes into play here, as there are power classes for the various calibers. .45 ACP really comes into its own in this event, as it is one of the most popular calibers for this sport.

Round count is usually limited (start with a 10-rounder or less, or you can't have more than 10 rounds in ANY magazine) but the particulars depend entirely on who is putting the match on. It's a common event, but rules are not standardized.

Again, it depends on where you do it, but you can expect to burn 50 to 200 rounds during a match. Bowling pin shoots - also called Second Chance matches - are lower-tech than NRA Action Pistol, IPSC and IDPA...but no less a test of shooting skill.

Entry is usually cheap (about $20 in many cases) though a range fee of some sort may be required as well. The caliber and type of firearm determines the class you're in (Open Top, Concealed Carry - which requires a draw from concealment - and Major and Minor classes) but the good news is you can shoot with anything from the Ruger Mark 2 plinker to a Model 29 magnum revolver.

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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