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Practical Shooting

For those that have not tried practical shooting yet, you are missing out on a lot of fast fire fun.

Yes we do it with a smile on our faces.

Practical shooting was started back in the 1950’s headed up by Col. Geoff Cooper in the USA. He designed challenging combat based shooting scenarios (for military training) where accuracy and time are measured together to achieve the highest hit factor (gun score divided by time taken to shoot). The shooter with the highest hit factor is then given 100% of score and the rest of the field are measured or expressed as a percentage of his score.

Over the years the take up of practical shooting around the world has been massive and International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) was set up in 1976 as the controlling body. Those countries involved have their own practical shooting region allied to IPSC. Currently there are 85 regions/countries involved. Here in the UK it’s the United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association (UKPSA). Practical shooting is the second biggest shooting sport in the world.

The IPSC motto is DVC (Diligentia Vis Celeritas) Power, Speed and Accuracy. These are the founding precepts of the sport.

Courses of fire are arranged so that the individual shooter must solve the problem presented to him. There may be several different options available in that targets are presented in differing  positions, at different ranges and sometimes may or may not be seen from one point. It is a thinkers sport, as every competitor is given the opportunity to go over the course of fire prior to shooting. In this time he must calculate and remember a shooting order to achieve the fastest time. He must also decide where magazine changes are to be made, or reloading is to be done, whilst observing the range safety procedures.

All shooting is conducted under the watchful eye of an experienced or qualified Range Officer (RO). On the range he is God. Nothing is done on a practical shooting range without the direct instruction from the RO. You will be asked to load and when finished to unload and your gun will be checked as empty before holstering or putting away. If at any time during the course of fire your finger is on the trigger when not engaging a target or the muzzle of the gun is not facing the backstop or within the specified parameters you will be stopped and asked to correct your actions. This is for your and others safety.

The rule of course building is to present a practical shooting problem that will be shot in a practical and safe manner, hence the shooter will be forced into shooting positions that can sometimes be quite challenging. Standing, kneeling, sitting, prone, up a ladder, down a hole, in a boat, in a car etc. We are limited only by our imagination. Targets can also be moving as well as static. Generally targets can be shot freestyle, however, sometimes you may only be able to use your left hand side or right hand side, so adding to the complexity.

Targets are nearly always double tapped or shot with two shots unless otherwise stated (this is called Comstock). If  you think you may have missed you may top up. Either way the two highest scoring shots are counted. But remember you must shoot it as fast as possible, without missing, as misses are costly on the scoring system. Occasionally you will be asked to shoot a specified number of shots on a target and will get a penalty for shots fired above that number (this is called Virginia count).

All firing starts with the instruction from the RO to ’’load and make ready’’. Then ‘’are you ready‘’ then ‘’standby’’. At this point the shot timer is activated by the RO. You hear a beep a few seconds later which is the start signal. Your time ends as you make your last shot. This time is divided into your target score to calculate your hit factor. Upon completion the RO will say ’’if you have finished unload and show clear’’ at which point and if you are satisfied you have finished, unload the gun and show an empty chamber to the RO. Depending on the type of firearm used you will get another instruction. In the case of a pistol ’’if you are clear slide forward, hammer down, and holster’’. The dropping of the hammer being the final confirmation that the gun is empty. All this is done with the gun safely pointed towards the back stop. It is worth mentioning that at all times it is your responsibility to ensure the gun is loaded and unloaded. Even though the gun is checked by the RO.

Guns used for practical shooting in the UK are Airsoft or gas powered pistols, semi automatic .22 rifles, semi automatic shotguns and Long Barrelled Revolvers (LBR). These are divided into categories or divisions.

Standard Any standard production gun and magazines that are unmodified. It can have extended controls so long as it conforms to a standard size.

Modified A standard production gun and magazines that conform to a standard size but can have a compensator, optical sights and/or have extended controls.

Open Non standard gun. Can have compensator, optical sights, extended controls and/or extended magazines. Does not have to meet size criteria.

There are also Production and Revolver divisions for pistols.

These are just general terms as it does vary according to the type of firearm used. For distinction between Pistols, Minirifle, Shotgun and LBR please see and  also for all rules, targets, course building and scoring information.

All divisions are scored separately so competitors are measured against each other by division.

At BCRPA we have two practical shooting sessions per month at the indoor range. We also try and hold it at our Kimbolton shooting ground monthly.


Some members taking part in a Practical Session in the 25m range.


After the handgun ban, shooters who wanted to continue Practical Shooting switched to .22 semi automatic rifles. The targets were reduced in size but courses of fire remained very similar to pistol courses. The gun of choice is the Ruger 10/22 as loads of after market products are available i.e. extended magazines, stocks, optical sights muzzle brakes. etc.

Airsoft & Gas powered pistols.

Look and work just like real centre fire pistols but only shoot plastic BB. Holsters, belts and magazine pouches are the real thing. However due to recent legislation Airsoft Pistols only available to non skirmishers in colours (no black or stainless finishes). These are shot over traditional pistol courses of fire.


Semi automatic shotguns with extended magazines that hold up to 12 rounds. These are Section 1 firearms under the act and can only be used by the individual holding the licence for that firearm, so there are no club guns and you can’t borrow another members to shoot. However if you wish to try the sport prior to getting your own gun you may shoot using a semi auto Section 2 shotgun holding no more than three rounds. This can be borrowed from a member or you can use your own. It will make for good reloading practice. These are shot against IPSC targets and steel plates

Long Barrelled Revolver.

These are revolvers available in .22, 357, 44 and 45acp. Minimum 300mm long barrel with 600mm overall length. They are shot from a break front holster with pouches for moon clips or speed loaders. Also available are long barrel pistols these are the same as above but are .22 semi automatic actions. Like the shotguns these firearms can only be shot by the certificate holder for that particular pistol/revolver. These guns are shot against standard IPSC pistol targets. 

All our shooting in conducted under UKPSA rules and safety procedures. Full and probationary members can shoot as all shooting is done under the supervision of a RO. However, as mentioned above, certain firearms can’t be used by non certificate holders.

Whilst training is on going to all members that attend, we do encourage them to sign on to a UKPSA basic safety course providing 2 days of intensive training in safety and gun handling with a test at the end to gain your proficiency certificate. With that you can then join the UKPSA (which we actively encourage) and shoot competitions under their and IPSC control. The courses are held regularly at ranges around the UK and are for LBR, Airsoft and Shotgun. We do have a pistol safety course occasionally at Bedford Range.

This is but a brief insight on practical shooting. Please go to the UKPSA and IPSC websites for further information. 

If you’ve not tried practical shooting come along to one of our practical sessions and give it a try. Who knows you might end up smiling to.


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