There is something extremely rewarding about making steel ring. The instant gratification of hearing your hits on target is addictive! That audio feedback is also one of the reasons that the Steel Challenge Shooting Association is not only a great sport for beginners, but one seasoned competitors enjoy as well.
A Steel Challenge match features 8 courses of fire with 5 steel targets per stage. Targets range in distance from 21 feet all the way out to the 35-yard line. The smallest steel targets used in the sport are 10-inch round plates, with the largest 18x24 rectangular steel.
The goal is simple. Shoot the plates as fast as you can. The fastest time, or lowest score, wins. Make up shots on targets are allowed but it’s important to note that every stage features a stop plate. You can choose to shoot all other plates on a stage in any order you like, but a hit on the stop plate ends your run. Any targets missed after a hit on the stop plate earn a time penalty that is added to your score.
Competitors shoot each stage 5 times with the exception of the stage "Outer Limits." "Outer Limits" is also the only course shot 4 times and requires you to shoot from 2 different positions. Each of the 8 courses of fire pose different challenges. Where "Smoke & Hope" tests pure speed with large targets set at close distances, courses like "Five To Go" and “Pendulum" test your accuracy with smaller targets set to greater distances.
One of the things that makes Steel Challenge unique from many other fast-paced shooting sports is that you get a "mulligan" run, meaning your worst run on each stage isn’t counted in your overall time. When pushing your speed on the courses of fire, that throwaway string is something you really appreciate.
There are plenty of options for competitors to use both centerfire and rimfire firearms. To compete with your .22, you can opt for either a pistol or a rifle. For each course of fire for rimfire competitors, the start position is at the low ready. For those shooting .22’s, holsters and belts are not required. This makes Steel Challenge one of the most beginner-friendly shooting sports.
For those wishing to compete in centerfire divisions, there are several handgun divisions to choose from. From Open which allows red dot optics and compensators to Production division featuring popular striker-fired and double action/single action, and divisions in between, it’s a sport that allows you to shoot what you have. Unlike shooting Steel Challenge with your .22, the sport's centerfire divisions do require that you draw from a holster for each string. To compete, you’ll need a sturdy belt with a safe holster that completely covers the trigger guard.
Whether you compete in rimfire or centerfire, it is best to have enough magazines to complete each stage without having to stop and reload your mags. In a pinch, you can ask a shooting buddy to load your mags as you shoot. 5 low capacity magazines or 3 standard capacity mags should give you enough ammo to complete a stage.
If you’ve ever watched video of Steel Challenge, top shooters are blazing fast. Sometimes competitors are so speedy it can be hard to follow the order they shoot their targets! For those newcomers to the sport, it can be easy to feel intimidated. Just remember, everyone starts somewhere. Steel Challenge also uses a classification system. Once you shoot a few matches, you’ll become classified and you can compare your scores with others who shoot similar times. The classification system also helps you track your progress and set goals for your steel shooting success.
Here are some things that will help you prepare for your first Steel Challenge competition:
• Know and understand basic rules of firearm safety
• Learn how to safely draw your pistol from a holster for centerfire or how to start from the low ready with your finger off the trigger for rimfire divisions
• Practice shooting a 10-inch target at 10 yards
• Review the Steel Challenge courses of fire to get an idea of what to expect
• Read the Steel Challenge rule book, paying special attention to safety rules for the sport
• Prepare your firearm and gear based on the division you plan to shoot
When you're comfortable with competing, the "challenge" part of Steel Challenge involves figuring out the fastest way for you to shoot each stage. Target order for some stages is obvious, but for stages where the stop plate is in the middle of the array, there is more than one way to shoot the stage. Practicing the stages using a shot timer will help you find out what's fastest for you.
With over 250 clubs around the country, chances are there is a range near you that shoots Steel Challenge matches. Visit scsa.org to find clubs and matches in your area and give this sport a try.
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