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Handgun Sport Shooting & How to Get Started
Are you looking at getting into competitive shooting in Canada? Sport shooting comes in many forms and mainly depends on whether you plan to be competing with a rifle, shotgun or handgun.
Not knowing what shooting sports are available, what equipment is needed or how to get started is common for new competition shooters or those that are new to the firearms industry.
In this blog post we are going to go over some of the most common shooting disciplines, which category they fall under and what they consist of, as well as what you need to get started. This blog will be specific to shooting sports that use Handguns, if you’re interested in Rifle or Shotgun shooting sports, be sure to keep an eye out for our next blog posts which will go into detail on these as well.
- 3 Gun / MultiGun
- Cowboy Action
- International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)
- International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)
- Metallic Silhouette
- Police Pistol Combat (PPC)
3 Gun / Multigun
This shooting sport is exactly what it sounds like; it puts use to multiple guns such as Rifle, Shotgun and Handgun.
MultiGun matches are similar to IDPA or IPSC in that the shooter has different stages that they’ll move through to engage targets, often times shooting in different positions as well. Targets can include clay pigeons, cardboard silhouettes, steel targets, and more. The goal is to have the shooter hit as many targets in the least amount of time, while also avoiding ‘no shoot’ targets at the same time.
There can also be different divisions which provide the option for individuals to have variations in what they can or cannot use for equipment. For example, if you were to use a larger calibre, you may be put into a division specifically for calibre’s that are larger. Divisions for this sport include:
- Open – Allows nearly any legal modifications of the 3 guns allowed and are customized for competition. Multiple optics can be used on all guns.
- Tactical Optics – Only one optic is allowed on one gun; a practical choice for beginners.
- Limited – Allows only iron sights on handguns and shotguns; rifles are allowed one non-magnified optical rifle sight.
- Heavy Metal – Allows only rifles chambered in .308 or larger, 12G pump action shotguns and handguns chambered in .45 ACP with a single stack mag.
When it comes to the equipment you’ll need to compete, there are a few things you’ll need to put on your list to purchase if you don’t already own these. Keep in mind that you may need different equipment for one division as compared to another so do some research to find out if and what divisions there are in your area for 3 Gun/MultiGun and then you can go from there for specifics. We’ll start the basics:
- Mag pouches
The rifle will be based on the AR platform and you can get away with any basic model to get started. Rifles chambered in .223 is a good place to start, but larger is ok too.
For the shotgun, look at getting either a pump action or semi-automatic chambered for 12 gauge. Magazine capacity will be important with this firearm, if you can spend a little extra to get an 8 round tube or extensions it’ll pay off.
Most shooters will start out with a 9MM because theres so many options available for firearms chambered in this and they’re relatively cheap to get. You’ll need three magazines that will allow for a high capacity, if not more.
To learn more about 3 Gun/MultiGun and to find a club that offers this sport visit the 3 Gun Nation website. You can also take a listen to episode 12 of The Silvercore Podcast where Taka Kuwata talks about 3 gun competitions and how to become a sponsored shooter.
You can compete using air pistol, or air rifle. The most common competitions when it comes to airguns are the 10 metre air pistol or air rifle which is an Olympic shooting event thats governed by the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF).
You can also use your airgun to participate it what’s called plinking; this is done more recreationally than competitively and often times uses targets which are not typically used such as tin cans, pop bottles, or other non-standard targets.
The 10 metre air rifle and air pistol use what are called match diabollo pellets, these are wadcutters and allow for a clean round hole for easier scoring on the paper targets.
The goal of these matches are to score as many points as possible during the match, this is timed. Participants start standing in an offhand position 10 metres from a target down range.
When it comes to equipment needed to participate in this sport, you don’t need much besides the air pistol, but this has the following requirements:
- Air Pistol
Adults and youth can participate in this type of competition and it’s relatively easy to get into because it’s pretty common and can be found at many local clubs. To learn more about the 10 metre Air Pistol visit the ISSF website here.
Bullseye competition shooting can be done using a handgun or rifle and both platforms feature multiple disciplines available to shooters.
These include the following for handgun:
- Small-caliber (.22 LR):
The objective of Bullseye shooting is to score points by hitting a round shooting target and getting as close as possible to the centre with emphasis on accuracy and precision.
The equipment required will largely depend on which discipline you plan to participate in. To get started in this shooting sport, first choose your discipline and then you can typically find the sport either at a local gun club, or via the governing body of the shooting sport.
Cowboy Action is a competitive shooting sport which typically features firearms from the mid-to-late 19th century like Single Action revolvers, Lever Action rifles that are chambered to shoot pistol calibre’s. Side-by-side double-barrelled shotguns and Pump Action shotguns with external hammers may also be used. To compete, you’ll need four guns; two revolvers, a shotgun, and a rifle that shoots a centre-fire revolver calibre that pre-dates 1899.
Shooters are required to put together an alias which is unique and a costume to go with it.
These can be built on a character, profession or the later 19th century, hollywood western star or fictional character, however the alias itself must be unlike any other alias so as not to get confused with others.
The costume is typically an old west or victorian era theme outfit and accessories. The only exception to this is personal protection equipment, eye and hearing protection is mandatory when shooting. Some sanctions in this shooting sport may only require an old west theme as oppose to victorian era.
When competing, only one shooter will compete while being timed for each stage. Each target missed will increase the time for each stage by five seconds and ten seconds for any penalties incurred relating to procedures. The shooter with the best total time wins.
Equipment required includes 4 firearms which consist of the following:
- Single Action Revolver
- Lever Action Rifle
- Side-by-side double-barrelled Shotgun
- OR a Pump Action Shotgun with external hammer
You’ll also need a costume as part of the alias you create. For more information and finding a club to participate in this sport visit the Single Action Shooting Sport (SASS) website for Canadian clubs.
International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC)
The International Practical Shooting Confederation, also known as IPSC, is the worlds largest shooting sport association. IPSC was founded in 1976 and is not only the largest, but also the oldest of it’s kind when it comes to practical shooting.
This sport is very dynamic and has the principles of accuracy, speed and power which are then balanced into a unique scoring system. It involves the shooter moving and shooting at targets which may be moving targets, multiple targets as well as drawing from a holster.
In order to get into IPSC, you’ll need to have training before hand, this is known as the Black Badge course. Students will be provided with a current Rule Book and must pay all of the necessary course and membership fees. Black Badge teaches safety, proficiency and the concepts of IPSC’s rules. After you’ve completed your in-person live fire training, you’ll then be required to complete a qualifier within 1 year of your training date.
As with other shooting sports, there are divisions within IPSC, these consist of the following for handgun:
There are also divisions for shooting IPSC with a rifle and shotgun.
The equipment you need will greatly depend on which division you look to join. There are also other divisions such as optical sights and iron sights. If you plan to join the Open division, then you’re looking at the following equipment requirements:
- A handgun (minimum calibre of 9×19 mm)
- Holster (must cover the trigger guard)
- Belt (must be secure & have at least 3 belt loops)
- Magazine pouches (should be low cut to allow proper grip & minimum of 3 pouches are required)
- Magazines (minimum of 5 – or 6 speedloaders)
The following restrictions or allowances will be imposed:
- Optic/electronic sights are permitted
- Ports/compensators permitted
- No minimum trigger pull
- No maximum size of firearm
- No restrictions on holster position
If you are a male competitor, your equipment (holster, magazine holders, etc) must be at waist level, while female competitors can have their equipment at hip or waist level. Positioning and equipment cannot be changed in between stages during competitions.
For more in depth information on equipment requirements for the different divisions, range safety, range commands and procedures, shooting basics and much more, we’d recommend visiting the IPSC website.
You can also listen to episode 3 of The Silvercore Podcast where we speak with Murray Gardner, a 9 time national International Practical Shooting Confederation champion, firearms instructor and firearms, range and ballistics consultant about how IPSC has changed over the years and what the future of the sport looks like to Murray.
International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)
IDPA focuses on defensive tactics with carrying gear. It’s meant to simulate self-defence scenarios and real life encounters.
The association was founded in 1996 because of the demand of shooters across the world and the organization now has a membership base of more than 25K.
IDPA consists of 7 divisions for competition, and similarly to IPSC, each division has its own restrictions on equipment. Divisions include:
- Stock Service Pistol
- Enhanced Service Pistol
- Custom Defensive Pistol
- Compact Carry Pistol
- Stock Revolver
- Enhanced Revolver
- Back-Up Gun Semiauto
- Back-Up Gun Revolver
- Pistol Calibre Carbine
- Carry Optics
Required equipment to participate in IDPA will again depend on your division, but if you plan to go into the Stock Service Pistol you’ll be looking at the following equipment:
- A handgun
- Belt (must be sturdy)
- Magazine pouches or speedloaders (as required depending on division)
For more in depth information on IDPA and to get signed up into competing we recommend going to the International Defensive Pistol Association website.
Metallic silhouette shooting started from an old Mexican sport back in the early 1900’s and consisted of live game animals being put out at varying distances and used as targets. Nearly 50 years later metal cutouts were being used in place of live animals.
The metal cutouts are of a chicken, pig, turkey, and ram with the goal being to knock down as many targets as possible out of a total of 40 targets. You’re given a time limit of 2 minutes and 45 seconds for banks of 5 to shoot at.
Today, metallic silhouette can be shot with large bore rifles, or large bore handguns, however in Canada it’s just shot with Rifles at this time. For more information on this sport with a large bore rifle, keep your eyes open for an upcoming blog post on Rifle Shooting Sports & How to Get Started.
Para, which was also formerly known as Para-Shooting refers to Paralympic competitions and consists of shooting sports which have been adapted to allow for competitors with disabilities to compete and are open to all individuals with physical disabilities. Since 1976 this sport has been part of the Paralympic games in Toronto with as many as 50 different countries participating in it today.
Competing can include rifle and pistol from distances of 10, 25 and 50 metres. There are 12 Paralympic shooting events, 6 of which are open to men and women, while the other 6 are divided between men and women only equally (3 each).
Para shooting with rifles can be read in our upcoming blog post on Rifle Shooting Sports & How to Get Started. With handgun for Para shooting there are 5 different disciplines, these consist of the following:
- 10M Air Pistol (Men)
- 10M Air Pistol (Women)
- 10M Air Pistol Standard (Mixed)
- 25M Pistol (Mixed)
- 50M Pistol (Mixed)
The objective of this sport is to place a series of shots inside the centre ring of the bullseye on the target. Targets consist of 10 scoring rings scoring from 1-10, starting with the outside ring and moving in. The centre ring earns the shooter 10 points if hit. In the final round, the rings are subdivided into more scoring zones with 10.9 being the highest possible score.
To get started in this sport visit the Paralympic Website here.
Police Pistol Combat (PPC)
Police Pistol Combat, also known as PPC, was developed around 1957/1958 when the Department of Police Administration at University of Indiana in USA developed a handgun course more suitable to police training and replaced the prior training which was more ‘civillian style’ using a bullseye target.
In 1958 the first international Police Pistol Combat shoot was held in Indiana USA and by 1961 Winnipeg Police hosted the first Canadian PPC competition. It wasn’t until 1989 that civilians were able to participate as full members.
PPC is a precision based shooting sport with matches that consist of 150 rounds using both strong and weak hand and shooting between 7-50 yards from numerous shooting positions (standing, kneeling, sitting and prone).
Previously a revolver shooting sport, this has now expanded and competitors may use semi-automatic handguns.
To get into the PPC shooting sport visit the Canadian Police Combat Association Website. You can also listen to episode 6 of The Silvercore Podcast where we speak with Mark Horsley who had recently returned from Australia where he and his shooting partner won silver in their division at the world PPC championships.
Liability Insurance & ATT Coverage
If you own a restricted firearm, make sure you’re properly covered for all your shooting related activities by joining the Silvercore Club which includes North American wide liability insurance and meets RCMP requirements for your Long Term Authorization to Transport (ATT) throughout Canada!
Thanks for reading and good luck in your journey to competition shooting with handguns!