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Competing in Conventional Pistol Shooting

NRA Competitive Shooting Division 11250 Waples Mill Road | Fairfax VA | 22030 Membership Information: 1-800-672-3888 | | e-mail:

Conventional Pistol Shooting Conventional Pistol is a great place to start in competitive pistol shooting. It is challenging and yet the best way to learn and master the fundamental skills of pistol marksmanship that will help in all other competitive pistol disciplines. This brochure will help answer some of the questions you may have about what it takes to get started in conventional pistol competition. Conventional pistol shooting is fundamental based competition. The shooter must rely on his or her ability to apply the fundamentals of pistol marksmanship without having to worry about moving and shooting or target engagement.

Many people are under the impression that they need to spend a great deal of money to get started in pistol competition. This is not the case in conventional pistol shooting. All one really needs to get started is a .22 pistol, a desire to compete and the willingness to learn. The NRA Competitive Shooting Division stands ready to answer any question you may have about competing or hosting a match. You may contact us via e-mail at, or by phone at (703) 2671451.

How to get started… The best way to get started is to attend a local match in your area as a spectator. The dates and locations of these matches can be found in the back of Shooting Sports USA in the “Coming Events” section, or by checking out the Tournament Calendar on the NRA website at www. Once you find a match to attend, contact the sponsor and let him or her know you plan to attend to learn more about the sport. Remember while you are there to be courteous and do not disturb the competitors while they are shooting. In between matches is a good time to ask questions about equipment and accessories you need to get started. As with any competitive event it takes plenty of training to succeed. After attending a local match and speaking to conventional pistol shooters, find out when and where they train and make arrangements to

attend a practice session or open range day. This will give you a better opportunity to talk about equipment and maybe get to shoot a few different guns before you decide to purchase one for competition. A great place for a new shooter to get involved is in a Sanctioned NRA league. They typically meet once or twice a week and usually only shoot .22. The leagues follow NRA rules but are very informal. In the spirit of competition many leagues use a handicap system, much like bowling or golf, to allow individuals and teams an equal chance of winning. If there is not a league at your local range or club and you are interested in starting one, a NRA Sanctioned League handbook and application are available from the NRA Competitive Shooting Division at no cost.

Equipment As mentioned before the best way to decide what kind of equipment is best for you and your budget is by attending local competitive events and talking to other competitors. As in any sport everyone has an opinion and favorites about what is best. Gather all the information you can before you make a purchase, after all it is your gun and you have to shoot it. Keep in mind before you purchase a gun for competition you will need to make sure that it is authorized in NRA competitions. Section 3 of the NRA rulebook outlines authorized equipment and ammunition. Rulebooks can be purchased through the NRA Program Materials Center at, or you can view the rulebook online at Most competitors are shooting semi-automatic handguns in competition, but revolvers are also just as accurate. There is also a program designed for revolvers only. The Distinguished Revolver Program is another way to get started if you only have or want to compete with a

revolver, but these matches are only held outdoors and must be in conjunction with a Regional Tournament or State Championship. The limitations for revolvers in this program are different and are also outlined in Section 3 of the rulebook. The 2700 competition is a three stage aggregate match fired with a .22, a center fire, and a .45 caliber pistol. It is not necessary to have three different guns. Since you can use the same pistol for center fire and .45 most competitors’ only use two guns, as long as the second gun is a .45 caliber pistol. See the “Courses of Fire” section for more information. Spotting scopes - A scope is necessary as this will allow you to see your shots on your target in order to make sight corrections. A 20X-30X scope is generally used. They come in various price ranges, and you get what you pay for.

Ammunition You will need the proper ammunition for the pistol you will use. Match grade ammunition is available commercially and costs more than “regular.” This is manufactured under high standards and is more accurate for competitive shooting. Many competitors hand-load their own ammunition (except .22 rimfire). This is not only cost-effective but allows for reloads to be “customized” for a particular gun. In many cases, hand-loaded ammunition is more accurate than commercially produced match grade ammunition. If you use the hand-load route, be sure to follow all safety precautions.

Proper ammunition is crucial for having a successful match


• Eye and Ear Protection - These items are a must and should be the first accessories you purchase. If you normally wear glasses and they have hardened lenses, you are covered for eye protection. If not, you should acquire shooting glasses designed for that purpose. Ear plugs or muffs are necessary also. Some shooters wear both.

• Sights - All target pistols come with an adjustable rear sight. This is a must. However, various brands of adjustable sights are available, some better made than others. Again, experience will tell which one is better for you. Optical and electronic sights are available and are currently allowed in NRA Conventional Pistol competition. Those sights which project an image upon the target (laser) are not permitted. Individual shooters may find that they prefer iron sights to optic sights. Though many are keen to the thought that new shooters should start by mastering the fundamentals with iron sights, they both offer valuable

training that is relevant whether shooting iron sights, electronic, or optics.

• Grips - All pistols come with one of two types of grips from the manufacturer, slab grips or orthopedic style grips. Most .22 pistols come with an orthopedic style grip; while not custom, they do fit the hand better. This does not necessarily mean that they are better to shoot with. Some modifications may still need to be done for the individual shooter.

• Shooting Box or Kit - Some means are necessary to transport your pistol and accessories to and from the range. This can be as elaborate as a large box which holds everything to a simple cloth or leather case. The choice will depend on the type and amount of shooting you do. The box has an advantage as it can be used for storage at home.

NRA Classification System

Many new shooters do not enter competition because they feel they are not good enough and would not win anything. This is true to some extent as with most sports: the first time on a line generally does not prove productive as far as awards are concerned. The NRA developed the NRA Classification System many years ago to provide an equitable distribution of awards. This places all shooters in a particular class: Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, Master, or High Master. Tournament sponsors award prizes in each class and in some tournaments, depending on the number entered, second and third place. A new competitor must enter the first tournament in the Master class. Thereafter, he/ she may use a Temporary Score Record Book, which may be obtained from the tournament sponsor or at NRA headquarters. This book may

be used to enter match scores and compute the average for each match fired. The next tournament would be entered in the class which the average covers. After a minimum of 360 shots fired in NRA sanctioned competition have been reported to NRA by the tournament sponsor, an average is taken and an Official Classification Card is sent to the competitor. The competitor must then compete in that class until a new classification card is sent by NRA. For complete information on the NRA Classification System, see Section 19 in the NRA Pistol rulebook. Another system generally used by sponsors to distribute awards is the category system. Sponsors, using the category system, will give awards to winners of various categories such as Civilian, Service, Police, Junior, women, etc. Not all of these systems are used by sponsors.


Scoring targets at Camp Perry, Ohio

Rule 18.15(e) in the NRA Conventional Pistol rulebook states in part - “It is the competitor’s responsibility to frame the correct target for the specific match and distance.” As a new pistol competitor, you need to be familiar with what the proper targets are. NRA official targets are described in Section 4 of the NRA rulebook. Section 7 will give you the targets required for various courses fired.

Course of Fire NRA conventional pistol competition consists of firing slow, timed, and rapid fire. This is done at 50 and 25 yards outdoors and almost exclusively at 50 feet indoors. Generally an outdoor match will consist of 20 shots, slow fire at 50 yards (2 10-shot strings, 10 minutes per string), 20 shots, timed fire at 25 yards (4 5-shot strings, 20 seconds per string), 20 shots, rapid fire at 25 yards (4 5-shot strings, 10 seconds per string), and the National Match Course (10-shots, slow fire at 50 yards, 10 shots timed fire (2 5-shot strings, 20 seconds per string) and 10-shots rapid fire (2 5-shot strings, 10 seconds per string). This match consists of 90-shots

for a possible aggregate total of 900 points. For a 2700 aggregate this match is fired once with each gun: .22 caliber rimfire, centerfire, and .45 caliber. Many match programs call for only one or two guns, that is a 900 or 1800 aggregate. Most indoor tournaments are fired with .22 caliber rimfire only for a 900 aggregate. However, some indoor matches use all guns for a complete 2700 aggregate. Check the rulebook, or contact the NRA Competitive Shooting Division for the final word on courses of fire.

Other Activities

Competitive shooting is in itself a great hobby. However, this activity is generally done on weekends with maybe a practice session during the week. NRA has a program whereby the practice session and matches can be used to earn attractive awards. This is the NRA Qualification Program. In this, a shooter tries to equal or beat a “par” or “set” score. For complete details on the NRA Qualification Program call (703) 2671505, or e-mail The NRA also sanctions leagues. Leagues must be fired in a 12-month period but does no have to fired in the same calendar year,

which is great for shooting indoors during the winter. Information about sponsoring a league can be found at NRA also offers membership in three honorary clubs - The “2600, 2650 and 2670 Club.” Membership is obtained by individuals firing a score of 2600 or better for the “2600 Club,” a score of 2650 or better for the “2650 Club,” and a score of 2670 or better for the “2670 Club.” Scores must be fired in an NRA-Sanctioned Registered 2700 aggregate tournament either indoor or outdoor.

Where can I get… Many new competitors often ask where to get various equipment and accessories. In order to help answer, this partial list of manufacturers is provided. However, it is also recommended that you contact a firearms dealer in your area first.

check the advertisements in the American Rifleman magazine and other publications that deal with shooting.

There are many firearms dealers who specialize in competition shooting equipment. Since it is not possible to list them all, you should

The naming of a manufacturer in no way implies that the manufacturers not listed are less worthy. Further, the mention of a manufacturer does not imply that such manufacturer has been approved or recommended by the National Rifle Association.

NRA Rule Book


References have been made to the Pistol Rulebook. We strongly recommend that this book be read. It is not necessary to try to memorize it, but all competitors should be familiar with it. A general understanding will stop many problems before they start. Rulebooks can be purchased from the NRA Program Material Center. They can be reached by phone at (800) 336-7402 or on the web at:

Mountain Competition Pistols

Pistol Rulebook

Item #CP16650

Champion Shooter Supply P.O. Box 303 42 North High Street New Albany, OH 43054

201 International Blvd. LaVergne, TN 37086

Brenzovich Firearms

Tannerville, PA 18372

Bob Marvel Guns

2203 Country Road GG Crete, NE 68333

Springfield Armory

Miscellaneous Equipment Champions Choice

26 Mountain View Drive

Training Center 22301 Texas 20 Forth Hancock, TX 79839

420 West Main Street Geneseo, IL 61254

Larry’s Guns

56 West Gray Road Gray, ME 04039

Les Baer Custom

34th Avenue Hillsdale, IL 61257

Kimber Mfg., Inc.

1 Lawton Street Yonkers, NY 10705

Rock River Arms

1042 Cleveland Road Colona, IL 61241

Sams Custom Gun Works 254 Columbia Road Cartersville, VA 23027

Shooting Sports USA

Shooting Sports USA is your number one source for competitive shooting information. To keep up to date with the latest shooting news, sign up for the mailing list at: Shooting Sports USA Digital is completely free!


• ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction. • ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot • ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Be aware that certain types of guns and many shooting activities require additional safety precautions Keep pistols cased, holstered, or boxed until at the firing line. Follow commands from the range officer.



• Be sure the gun is safe to operate. • Know how to safely use the gun • Use only the correct ammunition for your gun • Know your target and what is beyond • Wear eye and ear protection as appropriate • Never use alcohol or drugs before or while shooting • Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons

To learn more about gun safety, enroll in an NRA safety training or basic marksmanship course, NRA hunter clinic or state hunter education class. 5/2011

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