NRA Action Pistol Shooting is open to all individuals who are interested in Action-type courses of fire, which combine speed and accuracy with shooting at multiple targets.
The purpose of this page is to give general information on how to get started in the sport of action pistol competition. The information given will answer the most often asked questions that a beginner will have.
How To Get Started
If you have an interest in trying action pistol competition, it is recommended that you contact the NRA Pistol Department and obtain a complimentary copy of Shooting Sports USA. The "Coming Events" section of Shooting Sports USA lists NRA sanctioned tournaments for several months following the publication date. Find a tournament being conducted near you, contact the listed sponsor and request a program. Attend this tournament as a spectator; this will give you an opportunity to observe how it is conducted and talk to the sponsor and competitors. Be sure you don't disturb the competitors during the match - the time between relays is a good time to talk to them.
You will see a variety of equipment and accessories. Every competitor has his own opinion as to what is best. This may sound confusing, but remember, you're there to gather information.
If there is a club in your area, make arrangements to attend one or more of their practice sessions. This will serve the same purpose as attending a tournament except a practice session is not always conducted under match conditions. However, this will give you a better opportunity to talk about equipment. Also, you may have an opportunity to actually shoot one or more types (brands) of pistols which will help you to decide which seems best for you.
An excellent way for a new shooter to start in competitive shooting is a league. Although NRA rules are used, a league is generally informal. Usually a handicap system is used so all individuals or teams have an equal chance of winning. A Sanctioned League Handbook and application to have a sanctioned is available at no cost from the NRA Competitive Shooting Division.
Should you decide that competitive shooting is the sport for you, you may find that you wish to join a local club (Call 1-800-NRA-CLUB or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Ask three questions of your prospective club leaders; 1. Does the Club have a range or access to a range? 2. Does the Club have an active action pistol program? 3. Is the membership open? If you can answer "Yes" to all three of the questions, then you have found a good starting place (most shooting activities are sponsored by local gun clubs).
The beginning shooter does not need a lot of specialized, high priced equipment to participate. There are, however, many custom gunsmiths offering tuned-up pistols for this style of shooting. It is possible for a beginner to compete with an out-of-the-box autoloader or revolver, the key factors of any gun are safety and reliability. Probably the most important piece of equipment for Action Shooting is a safe holster, which will hold the firearm securely while moving, yet allow a rapid draw. Auto pistol shooters will need spare magazines and magazine carriers which also offer security and speed; revolver shooters will find speed loaders a good investment. There are currently several companies offering fine holsters and accessories for the Action Shooter.
Section 3 of the NRA Action Pistol Rule Book defines authorized equipment and ammunition. This section is not meant to restrict equipment, but to define limitations. Generally, there are few restrictions on pistols and their accessories, except for safety concerns. Various types of sights may be used, from standard metallic (fixed and adjustable) to optical and electronic. However, a sponsor may, at his option, restrict a given match as to type of sights allowed. A new firearm category has recently been added to the Action Pistol program, Rule 3.1.2 Open Modified Firearm provides for essentially out-of-the-box guns with only specific modifications to enhance accuracy and reliability. Tournament sponsors may provide separate awards for this category, or restrict a match to metallic sight firearms only. This new category offers extended opportunities to shoot Action Pistol with moderate expense for equipment.
There are some specific rules for the type of ammunition used in Action Pistol competition. The lower limit of caliber shall be 9mm; all ammunition fired in a tournament must meet or exceed the power floor as described when checked by chronograph using the formula:
bullet weight x muzzle velocity = not less than 120,000(Example: using a 158gr bullet, the muzzle velocity must be at least 760fps to achieve the power floor of 120,000); any ammunition used must be loaded within safe limitations for the handgun to be used; all ammunition fired by a competitor in a tournament must maintain identical bullet design, weight and velocity. Rule 3.17 further defines procedures for testing ammunition at a tournament.
Handloads may be used, provided they meet the specifications of the rule. Many competitors load their own ammunition, as this is not only cost effective, but allows for loads to be "customized" for a particular gun. In many cases, hand-loaded ammunition is more accurate than commercially-produced match grade ammunition. If you chose factory ammunition, be sure it meets the power floor. If you reload, be sure to follow all safety procedures.
The official NRA Action Pistol Shooting Targets are rectangular, with the top-end rounded. These targets were designed for use in the Bianchi Cup Tournament and through arrangement with John Bianchi, will be printed by NRA licensed manufacturers, in both cardboard and paper. They will carry the Bianchi Trademark and NRA Official Seal.
The second "official" target is an 8 inch diameter round "plate" made from .375 (3/8) inch thick steel. It is normally painted white. The plates may have individual bases and may sit on a stand in a series of six, or they may be fitted with hinges on metal frames as a more elaborate, permanent fixture. In order to score a hit, which is 10 points, the target must be knocked down.
The third "official" target is the speed plate, which is made from .375 (3/8) inch steel. It is painted white. In the speed event, 4 of the 5 targets must be knocked down to score, while the 5th (stop-plate) must be hit to stop the clock.
The fourth "official" target is the NRA B-18 Target used for the Combat Event. The top edge of the scoring area begins at the upper midpoint in the 6 ring and ends at the lower midpoint of the 6 ring at the bottom of the target. It is divided into 5 scoring zones, (hits outside the 6 ring are scored as misses). The 10 ring is formed by two vertical lined 5cm long, 10cm apart and joined at the top and bottom by semicircles with a 5cm radius. The 10 ring is therefore 10cm wide and 15cm high. The 9 through 6 rings are similarly shaped with their widths successively increased by 10cm (5cm on each side) and their heights by 15cm (7.5cm at the top and bottom). The center of the 10 ring must be 37.5cm from the top of the target. The 10 ring is not numbered. The B-24 target is used for firing at 50 feet.
A list of NRA Official Target Manufacturers is available at www.nrahq.org/compete/licensed.asp
Courses of Fire
There are currently 16 recognized courses of fire for record, plus a Tyro course. The Tyro course is designed, as an option, to allow tournament sponsors to test the proficiency of a brand-new shooter, who must complete this course before participating in any of the record courses. The following courses of fire have been approved by the NRA Action Shooting Committee.
- The Tyro Course is divided into three stages with three targets per stage, a total of 24 shots. All firing is from 10 yards. This course of fire must be successfully completed by all newcomers before advancing to record matches.
- The Los Alamitos Pistol Match is divided into 5 stages for a total of 42 shots fired at 7, 10 and 25 yards.
- The Flying "M" is conducted as man against man: Targets are placed at 7, 10 and 15 yards. The 7 yard target is a metal plate. Four strings are fired, two strings to the right and two to the lift. There is no time limit, and the 7 yard target stops the clock.
- The Moving Target course is shot in three stages, for a total of 24 shots, from 7, 15 and 25 yards.
- The International Rapid Fire (Modified) consists of 30 shots at 25 meters. The course is subdivided into six strings of five shots each; two in 8 seconds, two in 6 seconds and two in 4 seconds.
- The Advanced Military Pistol course is divided into 6 stages for a total of 50 shots fired from 10, 25 and 50 yards.
- The Practical Event consists of four stages, each with three strings and 12 shots per stage (48 shots total) and fired from 10, 15, 25 and 50 yards.
- The Barricade Event is divided into four stages, with two strings per stage and 6 shots per string, for a total of 48 shots. All shots will be fired from behind a barricade.
- The Moving Target Event (Modified) course is divided into 4 stages 12 shots each, for a total of 48 shots. The target will travel 60 feet in six seconds, between two barricades.
- The Falling Plate Event is divided into 4 stages; each stage will have 2 strings, with 6 shots per string, 48 shots total. The targets will be 8 inch round medal plates, fired at 10, 15 and 25 yards.
- The Speed Event is conducted as a man against man match, utilizing speed plate (steel) targets with firing done from 10 yards. The course is divided into two phases; Qualification and Finals. Firing is done from left and right side firing positions each containing a fan of one stationary time stop-place and four knock down plates. Maximum of 6 shots fired at targets. There is no time limit and the stop-plate stops the clock.
- Crawford Barricade Event is divided into four stages, with two strings per stage and 6 shots per string, for a total of 48 shots. During each 6 shot string, shooter must fire 3 rounds at the right target and 3 rounds at the left target from matching sides of the barricade. All shots will be fired from behind a barricade.
- Combat Event - An aggregate of the following stages: Stage 1) 7 yards - 12 shots from the standing without support position; eighteen seconds, time starts with loaded gun in holster and includes reloading for second 6 shot string. Stage 2) 25 yards - 6 shots kneeling, 6 shots standing left side from behind barricade, 6 shots standing right side from behind the barricade; sixty seconds, time starts with loaded gun in holster and includes reloading for subsequent 6 shot strings. Stage 3) 50 yards - 6 shots sitting, 6 shots prone, 6 shots standing left side from behind the barricade, and 6 shots standing right side from behind the barricade; two minutes, time starts with loaded gun in holster and includes reloading for subsequent 6 shot strings. Stage 4) 25 yards - shots standing without support; ten seconds, time starts with loaded gun in holster.
- The Ambidextrous Match is shot in three stages, using the 8" plate target: Stage 1) 10 yards, 6 shots freestyle; 6 shots each, strong hand and weak hand only, unsupported. Stage 2) 15 yards, same as Stage One. Stage 3) 20 yards, two 6 shot strings, freestyle.
- The Unsupported Standard Match is divided into four stages, with two strings per stage and 6 shots per string, for a total of 48 shots. There are three D-1 targets, fired at 10,15, 20 and 25 yards. All shooting is done with alternating strings of weak hand and strong hand unsupported.
- The Speedload Challenge Event is divided into four stages, 2 strings per stage with a reload, six shots per string. There are three D-1 targets, fired at 10, 15, 25 and 50 yards. Shooting includes strong hand and weak hand unsupported.
All courses require a competitor to start with a holstered pistol and, on command, draw and fire at one more targets. Some of these courses limit the use of only the "strong" hand or use of the "weak" hand. One advantage for new shooters, however, is that a two-hand hold may be used in most of the course.
Although the Matches start with a draw, safety is stressed at all times. The trigger finger must remain outside the trigger guard during the draw and until in actual fire position (which is generally standing).
While in Action-type shooting the emphasis is on center-of-mass, rather than relying on a specific sight picture (i.e., 6 o'clock hold on standard bullseye), proper sight alignment and basic marksmanship principles are of great importance.
Indoor courses are now available for Los Alamitos, International Rapid Fire, Advanced Military, Practical, Barricade, Crawford Barricade, Combat, Unsupported Standard, and Speedload Challenge, using the D-1 and D-2 targets.
To recognize excellence in NRA Action Pistol Competition. The NRA Action Pistol Distinguished Program is similar to the programs for Conventional Pistol, High Power Rifle, Smallbore Rifle, and Police.
a. No limitation on firearm used so long as it conforms to NRA Action Pistol Shooting rules
b. Points toward the Distinguished Badge may only be earned at NRA State Championships, Regionals and the National Championship
c. Competitors may compete for points in only 2 State Championships, 1 Regional and the National Championship in any calendar year (1/1-12/31)
d. Recognition for award of the Distinguished Badge is retroactive to 1985 for Open and 1998 for Metallic. Individuals may petition for this by providing official results from qualified tournaments. Burden of proof of qualifying scores is on the petitioner
e. OPEN and METALLIC scores will be counted separately for medal purposes.
Course of Fire:
a. Aggregate match containing at least two of the following matches:
1. Practical Event (Rule 10.13)
2. Barricade Event (Rule 10.14)
3. Moving Target Event (mod) (Rule 10.15)
4. Falling Plate Event (Rule 10.16)
b. Minimum Qualifying Score: In order to earn eligibility for Distinguished Points, competitors must fire a minimum score equal to at least 95% of the match aggregate in OPEN and 85% in METALLIC. (e.g., in a 1920 point aggregate, the minimum score required to qualify would be 1824 in OPEN and 1632 in METALLIC).
The NRA Action Pistol Distinguished Badge will be awarded to those individuals who earn a total of 30 points through unassisted individual competition in qualifying events. Credit Points will be awarded as follows:
a. 10 points to the highest scoring non-distinguished competitor who fires a qualifying score.
b: 7 points to next highest scoring 10% of non-distinguished competitors who fire a qualifying score.
c. 5 points to next highest scoring 15% of non-distinguished competitors who fire a qualifying score
d. Fractions of .5 and over will be resolved to the next higher whole number. Smaller fractions will not be considered.
The first time an individual earns Distinguished Points they will receive the NRA Action Pistol "Excellence in Competition" Medal and a certificate indicating the number of credit points earned. Each time additional points are earned, a certificate will be issued. No other medals will be issued by NRA until the 30 points have been earned, at which time the NRA Action Pistol Distinguished Badge will be awarded.
Action pistol competitors who feel they have achieved this level of competition should let us know.