The Southwest Pistol League (SWPL), the Practical Shooting division of the Gopher Flats Sportsmen’s Club, presents the Steel Challenge match series. The matches are sanctioned by the Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA).
|1||January 27||Steel Challenge – First Match of the New Year|
|2||February 24||Steel Challenge|
|3||March 24||Steel Challenge|
|4||April 28||Steel Challenge|
|5||May 26||Steel Challenge|
|6||June 23||Steel Challenge|
|7||July 28||Steel Challenge|
|8||August 25||Steel Challenge|
|9||September 22||Steel Challenge|
|10||October 27||Steel Challenge|
|11||November 24||Steel Challenge||Last Match For 2018|
|12||December 23||Happy Festivus!|
This Month’s Match – Saturday January 27, 2018
Please join us on the fourth Saturday of each month, for a SCSA sanctioned Steel Challenge Match. As always, dress for the weather and remember to install the Practiscore App on your mobile device.
From The Match Director
The SWPL Steel Challenge is back!!! The match dates have moved to coincide with the SWPL USPSA Match weekend. The Steel Challenge will be shot on the Fourth Saturday of the month. Some months have a fifth Sunday which plays havoc with the range scheduling. Please check the match calendar for the correct match date.
PRACTISCORE: Please download and update Practiscore on your phone or tablet before coming to the range. Online Preregistration will no longer be offered. Instead, simply show up at the range to register, download the day’s stages to your device, join a squad, then shoot away. After completing the match, please return to the registration area to sync your squad’s scores to the match tablet.
New Shooter Information
Wouldn’t you like to expand your skills beyond what is allowed at a traditional shooting range? Practical Shooting emphasizes movement, and The Steel Challenge adds speed shooting to that. SWPL’s outdoor ranges are designed for Practical Shooting and allow you to both move and shoot fast. Although SWPL is a private club, club membership isn’t required to shoot its matches.
If you’re new to shooting, we recommend either the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) First Shots Program or the National Rifle Association (NRA) First Steps Basic Pistol Orientation to get you started. Once you’ve mastered gun safety and handling, you’ll be ready for a Steel Challenge match.
The SWPL Steel Challenge matches consist of 150 rounds fired in Six Stages, each with Five Reactive Steel Targets. You may choose to shoot the match with either a centerfire handgun, a .22 rimfire handgun, or a .22 rimfire rifle.
Your First Match
Nervous about your first “public performance”? Most people are! Relax and enjoy it! Everyone you’ll meet at SWPL’s matches had a first match, too. You’ll find that both experienced shooters and Range Safety Officers (RO’s) are friendly and helpful to new shooters. We all enjoy Practical Shooting, and want to get you started right! Matches are just as much social gatherings as they are shooting contests. Here’s how we suggest you approach your first match:
First – Concentrate on Safety while handling your Firearm. Nobody wants to see you disqualified for a safety violation during your first match. This can happen, as the saying goes, if you run before you learn to walk. Learn safe gun handling first. Increased speed will come with practice. Slow or fast, you should always pay attention to where the muzzle of your gun points and where your trigger finger rests!
Next – Don’t worry about your stage times. Instead, slow down and concentrate on hitting the targets. Focusing on a clear sight picture and precise trigger control will make you a better shooter.
Finally – Get out on the range and have fun!
What Gear Will I Need?
You won’t need camo outfits and black face paint to shoot the Steel Challenge. But, you will need:
- Eye and Hearing protection! For your eyes, this means shooting glasses or industrial safety glasses. For your ears, ear plugs or ear muffs will preserve your precious hearing.
- A safe and serviceable, handgun (semiauto or revolver) chambered for 9mm/.38 caliber or larger, with which you are functionally familiar. Please leave your ultra-powerful bear, cape buffalo, or velociraptor guns at home, though. Calibers larger than .45acp will damage the steel targets and scare the living daylights out of your fellow competitors. Oh! Oh! Oh! No magnum loads, either.
- Or, an equally safe and serviceable rimfire (.22 Long Rifle) handgun or rifle.
- While 200 rounds should be enough to complete the match, we recommend bringing at least 250 rounds. It never hurts to have more than you need.
- For semiauto handguns and rifles: At least four magazines. For revolvers: perhaps double that number of speedloaders or moon clips. You’ll shoot each stage five times, that’s five “strings” of fire. So it will be handy to have that much ready to go at the start of each stage. Frantically stuffing cartridges into magazines or individual revolver chambers between strings will play havoc with your concentration.
- We recommend a small shooting bag, to carry to each stage. Rather than stuffing your pockets with charged magazines, speedloaders, or moon clips, then leaving them strewn about when empty, your handy-dandy bag will neatly corral them.
- While optional, it’s convenient to carry a handgun in a holster on your strong side, one that covers the trigger guard of your gun. The tacti-cool and ultra stylish, cross-draw, shoulder, FBI cant, inside-the-waistband, or small-of-the-back holsters could result in pointing your muzzle at your fellow competitors as you move about the range. And when you draw from these kinds of holsters, you’ll certainly violate the “180 Rule”. So, please consider something more traditional.
- When you wear a handgun holster, a sturdy belt that fits through the loops on your pants or a double competition belt (a flexible inner belt through your belt loops that attaches to a sturdy outer) will keep your holster stable and distribute your gun’s weight comfortably.
- Along with a holster, magazine, speedloader, or moon clip holders are optional, but nice. Having all the reloads for a stage on your belt allows you to stroll happily along, with nary a care in the world.
- If this is your first match and you don’t have a holster for your handgun, it’s cool. You can start at the Low-Ready position on the stages. Remember to carry your gun in its case as you move between stages.
- How about if you decide to shoot the match with a rimfire rifle? Resist the urge to sling it over your shoulder, commando-style. Instead, please carry it in a case between stages.
Steel Challenge Divisions And Classes
The Steel Challenge has different divisions, for rimfire handguns, rimfire rifles, and centerfire handguns. These are then further divided into classes, depending on specific features of each gun. The classes are similar to those used in USPSA handgun matches.
There are two Divisions:
- Rimfire is .22LR – These are semiauto and revolver handguns, and semiauto rifles
- Centerfire – These are semiauto and revolver handguns in 9mm/.38 caliber, or larger
These guns start at the Low-Ready position, pointing at the aiming stake.
- RFRI = Rimfire rifle Iron sights
- RFRO = Rimfire rifle Optical sights
- RFPI = Rimfire pistol Iron sights
- RFPO = Rimfire pistol Optical sights
These guns are drawn from the holster, with the shooter’s hands in the surrender position (stick-em-up, reach for the sky, leemee see your hands, just like on TV).
- CFP = Production: Any Double Action or Safe Action (no external safety switch) handgun approved for used in the USPSA Production Division.
- CFL = Limited: Any iron-sighted SA-DA double-stack semiauto handgun without compensators, ported barrels, or red-dot sights.
- CFO = Open: Modified “race guns”, with red-dot sights, or compensators, or in a “race” holster.
- CFS = Stock single stack 1911’s.
- ISR = Iron Sight Revolver: Revolvers without compensators, ported barrels, or red-dot sights.
- OSR = Open Optics Revolver: Revolvers with compensators or ported barrels, or red-dot sights.
If you’re new to steel shooting, don’t worry about your division. The match staff will place you in a squad, choose the proper division, and make sure you’re headed in the right direction. Show up with your gun, plenty of rounds, magazines (or speedloaders or moon clips), and we’ll get you started!
It takes 25 rounds to complete each stage, and there are six stages, which comes to 150 rounds for a full match. If you don’t miss. As even the most seasoned competitors miss, you should definitely bring more.
Centerfire handguns start from the holster, hands in the “surrender” position.
Rimfire handguns and rifles start from the Low-Ready position, finger out of the trigger guard, with the muzzle pointed at an aiming stake 10 feet ahead of the starting point.
Each Stage is run five times in succession; the best four-out-of-five of these strings are totaled and represent your score for that stage. All six stages are added together for your match score in your division.
Five magazines, speed loaders, or moon clips are recommended for each stage. If you lack these, you’ll need help from others in your squad to load the magazines, speedloaders, or moon clips that you do have…between each string.
You’ll find the matches at the Lower Ranges of The Gopher Flats Sportsman’s Club. These are the first set of ranges, on the right-hand side of the access road. Enter the gate and park between the pistol berms and the registration area. If you reach the card-key gate at the end of the access road, you’ve passed the Lower Ranges. Sorry, parking on the property beyond the card-key gate is not allowed, even if the gate is unlocked. Parking for the matches is available in the fenced area within the Lower Ranges and in the overflow parking area just outside the gates of the Lower Ranges. Please do not park along the access road.
Match Schedule, Start Time, Fees and Parking
- Matches are on the Fourth Saturday of every month. As with any outdoor event, matches can be canceled due to inclement weather. Always check here or our Facebook page for the latest match information.
- Matches start at 8:00am, but you may Register for the match between 8:00am – 10:30am.
- New Shooter Orientation starts at 9:00am. Please let us know if you are a new competitor when registering and we’ll take care of you!
- Match Fees:
- $20.00 for Members of SWPL and the Clubs at our range
- $25.00 Non-Members (Join SWPL and save $5.00 at every match!)
- $15.00 Re-entry for different classes
- $15.00 Juniors (17 years of age or younger)
- Parking for the matches – You are welcome to park within the gated range area, or in the overflow parking lot, just beyond. Please do not park along the road, as this will block access to the property beyond the Steel Challenge ranges.
- Please do not park in the property beyond the card key gate, at the end of the access road. Even when the gate is open, parking in this area is available only to the property owners.
- Please do not drive over, or stand on, the cylindrical hay bales in the range area. These are for our lead abatement control program. Flattening them will drastically reduce their effectiveness and result in lead flow out of the range area.
There are separate restrooms for Men and Women, running water, a covered registration/dining area with electrical outlets, as well as shade on each stage.
Food & Beverages
From 12:00noon to 1:00pm, Steel Challenge shooters are invited to join SWPL’s parent organization, The Gopher Flats Sportsment’s Club for a BBQ lunch on the private Upper Ranges. This is a short stroll up the road, to the Green Clubhouse, just past the cardkey gate. Lunches are $5.00/person, with soft drinks available for $1.00/each.
Steel Challenge matches are very safe, provided all shooters follow the basic safety rules. Whether you prefer the wording of the NRA’s Safe Gun Handling Rules, or of Jeff Cooper’s Rules Of Gun Safety, the principles are the same. The Steel Challenge adds some match-specific rules to ensure a safe environment for competitors. Though we’ll go over these safety rules in the sections that follow, it’s also a good idea to review the Official SCSA Rulebook before your first match.
New Competitor Skills Checklist
New Steel Challenge competitors should be able to demonstrate the skills needed in all forms of Practical Shooting. You should learn these skills before, and not during your first match. But, as in any other activity, it takes time to learn the ropes. So, if you are ever unsure about about how to handle your gear, or confused by any match procedure, please stop…then ask your match officials or fellow competitors. There’s never a penalty for being too safe. Your should be able to:
- Check your gun to ensure it is empty, and unload it, if it is not
- Load your gun before starting a stage
- Draw your gun from a holster, or hold it at the Low-Ready postion, at the start of a stage
- Reload your gun, if it runs empty during a stage
- Move down and across the range with a loaded gun, during a stage
- Clear a jam or other malfunction during a stage
- Unload and holster or case your gun, at the end of a stage
When You’re Not Shooting
The SWPL range is a “Cold Range” – This doesn’t mean arctic temperatures and blinding blizzards. It means you shouldn’t handle your gun anywhere other than the “Safe Areas” (see below) or under the direct supervision of a Range Safety Officer (RO) when it’s your turn to shoot. Fiddling with your gun anywhere else will result in an immediate match disqualification, or DQ. This means you won’t be able to continue shooting the match and won’t receive a refund of your match fees.
- If you’re a Law Enforcement Officer or are fortunate enough to have a Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) permit and you plan to shoot your carry gun, please ask a match official to direct you to a safe location to unload it before starting the match.
- Safe Areas – For everyone else, you’ll likely arrive at the range with your gun locked in a bag or case. To unbag or uncase and holster a handgun, please move to a designated Safe Area. If you don’t have a holster, or you’re shooting a rimfire rifle, keep your firearm in its bag or case while moving about the range. When it’s your turn to shoot, bring the bag or case to the starting point to prepare for the stage. If you’re unsure about any procedure, PLEASE ask a match official or your fellow competitors!
- Don’t Handle Ammunition In The Safe Area – One thing you shouldn’t do in the Safe Area, is to load your gun. The Safe Area is only for unbagging or uncasing a gun. Loaded guns are not allowed in the safe area.
- It’s okay to load your magazines, speed loaders, or moon clips anywhere EXCEPT the safe area.
When It’s Your Turn To Shoot
Finally, you’re standing at the starting point of a stage:
- Don’t handle your gun (draw from the holster or remove from a bag or case) until the Range Safety Officer (RO) gives the command “Make Ready”. The RO’s job is to ensure everyone’s safety on a stage as well as ensuring competitors follow the stage instructions.
- Watch Your “180” – As Steel Challenge stages often involves movement with a loaded gun, you must ensure that your gun is always pointed in a safe direction. Your gun should never swing past the imaginary 180 degree line that extends to your left, and to your right, when you are facing directly downrange. If the muzzle of your gun, whether loaded or unloaded, ever passes outside this line during a string of fire, this is considered unsafe gun handling. The result will be an immediate Match Disqualification…the dreaded DQ…and you will not be allowed to continue shooting the match.
- Keep your finger of the trigger unless actively engaging targets – This is an extension of the rules of gun safety, since you will likely be moving, or reloading, or both, during a course of fire. To avoid an Accidental Discharge (AD) resulting in an immediate Match Disqualification, remember to keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you are actively shooting at targets.
Stage Scoring With Practiscore
Fellow luddites! Stage scoring at SWPL is now paperless. You’ll need a new-fangled smartphone or tablet to score your stages. Install the (Free) Practiscore App for your Apple iPhone or iPad, or your Android phone or tablet. While there will be a local WiFi network to connect with the Match Tablet, there is no Internet access. So download Practiscore before match day, then experiment with the App and become familiar with it. After signing-in at the registration table, you’ll download the stage files from the Match Tablet. Enter your squad members and scores on each stage, and when you’ve completed the match, send your scores to the Match Tablet. If you don’t install the App, you will have to join a squad where someone has already done so. Again, please install Practiscore on your phone or tablet before arriving at the match. Some things to remember:
- The SWPL Steel Challenge matches are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), with no loaner devices available. Please don’t expect others to give their electronic gadgets to you.
- There must be at least one person in your squad that has Practiscore installed on their smart phone or tablet. If not, your squad must disband and join another squad that does.
- Ensure that your device has a decent amount of battery life left or bring your power cable and charge it between stages. To help extend battery life, enable “airplane mode” on your phone or turn off Bluetooth, GPS and Wifi until your squad has finished the match. You’ll only need to enable WiFi when you sync to the Match Tablet at the start, and at the end of the match.
Avoid post-match heartburn about posted scores by following these procedures:
- At each stage, confirm your times and any penalties. When you tap the “Approve” button in Practiscore, you’re saying that the data entered is correct. There are NO modifications to scores once your squad’s scores are synced to the match tablet. Period. End of story. It’s your responsibility to ensure the validity of the scores before then.
- Why did I get a “DNF (Did Not Finish)” on a stage? If there was no record of your score found in the match tablet, it’s likely a scorer error (did not save score, etc), however if you did shoot the stage and heard hits and stage times called-out, then you missed tapping the “Approve” button on your squad’s mobile device. That was your chance to ensure all your stage data was correct. Again, you are the only person responsible for ensuring the validity of your scores.
- I was put in the wrong division/class – what should I do? Email the Match Director with the correct information. Your match results will be updated within a few days.
In The Steel Challenge, as In all Practical Shooting competitions, the Range Safety Officer (RO) ensures that competitors comply with the stage instructions and range safety rules. When it’s your turn to shoot, go to the start point of the stage and await the RO’s commands. The RO will stand close to a you (usually behind, and on your strong side) and hold an electronic timer near your head. The timer will sound the start signal (*Beep*) and also listen for each shot fired, to determine when you have finished shooting. The RO will also answer any questions you have about the stage, about safety procedures, or about problems with your gear. The RO will, then issue these commands:
- “The Range is Hot” – The RO might make this announcement, to spectators and other competitors, to warn them that you are about to shoot the stage, and that everyone should put on their eye and hearing protection.
- “Make Ready” – Face down range and prepare to shoot: load and holster your handgun (if you have a holster), or bring your rifle or handgun to the Low-Ready position. If you have any questions about the stage, ask the RO before you go any further. This is also the time to take a sight picture of the targets with your unloaded gun. Take a comfortable starting stance (there’s no need to go all Johnny Ninja, just stand at ease), and take a few deep breaths. You’re nearly ready to go.
- “Are You Ready?” – You have several options at this point. (1) If you’re not ready, clearly say “Not Ready”, and the RO will pause for a few moments. (2) You can say “Ready”, or “Yes”, or nod your head. (3) If you don’t respond at all, the RO will assume you are Ready.
- “Standby” – This command will be followed by the start signal (from the electronic timer) in the next one-to-four seconds. Some RO’s prefer a short delay, others a long one. If you move after the “Standby” command, but before the start signal, you could be assessed a procedural penalty for “Creeping”…as in a football game, when a player jumps offside…
- “Start Signal” – *BEEP* This is the signal to begin the stage. Move, shoot, and ring that steel!
- “Prepare for your next string” – Since you’ll be shooting each stage five times, you’ll have to move back to the start point and reload after each “string”. This command will be issued until you’ve shot the stage five times.
- “Stop” – This command can be issued by the RO at any time during the stage. You should immediately stop shooting, stop moving, and keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. Then wait for instructions from the RO. This command is usually issued if a target has broken, a spectator has blundered onto the stage, or an alien spacecraft has landed. Just kidding. If the RO yells “Stop”, something needs fixing. Cool your jets and catch you breath.
- “Muzzle” – If you hear this command, your muzzle is about to point in an unsafe direction…outside of the 180 degree area downrange. Depending on the situation, the RO may not have enough time to issue the command and could skip directly to “Stop”.
- “Finger” – If the RO sees you moving, reloading, or adjusting your gun, while your finger is on the trigger, you’ll hear this command. You should immediately remove your finger from the trigger to prevent an Accidental Discharge, or AD, which would result in your immediate Disqualification. If this happens, you won’t be allowed to continue shooting the match.
- “If You Are Finished, Unload and Show Clear” – When the RO issues this command, it’s because he see’s that you’ve finished the stage. Point your gun in a safe direction, remove the magazine and lock back the slide on a semiauto handgun, swing open the cylinder and push the extractor on a revolver, or remove the magazine and open the action on a rimfire rifle. Then, remove any rounds from the chamber, and hold the gun open for inspection. Always make sure that you inspect the firearm along with the RO.
- “If Clear, Hammer Down, Holster” – This command is given after the RO is satisfied that your gun is unloaded and safe. The “Hammer Down” portion is the final check to ensure that your gun is indeed unloaded, so point the gun in a safe direction and dry fire it…pull the trigger. Do not use the decocker lever, even if your gun is equipped with one. If your gun has a magazine safety, insert an empty magazine before pulling the trigger. It’s entirely your responsibility to ensure that your gun is unloaded, even if the RO mistakenly declares your gun empty. If your gun fires during the “hammer down” procedure, you will be immediately Disqualified and you will not be allowed to continue shooting the match. Once you’ve completed the “hammer down” procedure, holster or table your gun, before retrieving magazines, speedloaders, moon clips, or unfired rounds.
- “The Range is Clear” or “The Range is Safe” or “The Range is Cold” – This tells everyone that it’s safe to move onto the stage to reset and paint the targets. Eye and hearing protection can be removed at this point.
- Regulation size steel plates are used for match stages.
- Initially, the SWPL Steel Challenge range will have six bays to accommodate the eight stages of the SCSA standard course. This will change as the range is upgraded. Until then, two of the stages will be eliminated.
- Some match etiquette:
- When shooting Multiple-Divisions or making Multiple-Entries, you’ll have to complete all six stages for each division or entry, before starting the next one, like playing multiple rounds at a golf course. Shooting a stage more than once, before moving to the next one, obstructs the flow of the match and causes bottlenecks. Using the golf analogy again, it’s like playing more than one ball on a hole.
- Please don’t sight-in or zero your sights on any stages! This disrupts the match flow for shooters waiting behind you. Please do this prior to arriving at the match.
- Please don’t pick up brass other than your own while on a stage. Excessive brass collecting is fun (and possibly profitable!) but, it slows the match dramatically, keeping other shooters waiting behind you.
- The tray of paint and roller provided to reset steel targets should be returned to the stage start line for the next shooter. Bullet splatter from target hits will puncture the paint trays, if left near the targets.
Still Have Questions?
Contact the Steel Challenge Match Director for more information.