Anyone new to practical shooting
We provide a “New Shooters” briefing at every match. This is for anyone that has not competed in USPSA competition before. Even if you have competed in other handgun sports, we require you to attend this briefing. An experienced USPSA shooter will provide you with the basics you require to know to partake in our sport. This will include detail on “what to do” and “what not to do”, so you will be able to safely partake and be around others without being a concern!
As a good place to start, please read the following.
Every Grand Master, National or World Champion was at one time, a stomach full of butterflies, sweaty-palmed, brand new shooter like yourself.
Cherokee Gun Club takes pride in our safety record. We have never had a firearm related injury and we want to keep it that way. Cherokee Gun Club has a basic Shooters Safety Policy.
New Shooter Briefing (NSB)
New shooters without a USPSA card or prior USPSA experience must show up by 9:00 am to receive a full briefing and to check their equipment and check for gun handling skills.
All equipment (firearm, belt, holsters, magazines, and any other accessories) used by shooters must comply with USPSA rules. If a holster is equipped with a retention device, it must be used. Holsters must be firmly secured to a belt using all/complete belt loops. Regular clips or snap clips are not permissible. Paddle holsters are OK. Equipment must be in good working order and demonstrate proper and safe function. The Range Master will have final discretion whether a shooter’s equipment is safe enough to shoot.
Disqualification Policy (DQ)
All USPSA rules will be enforced. If a shooter incurs a DQ, that shooter will be finished shooting for the match/day, but you are welcome to join us again at our next match with lessons learned. Repetitive DQs, including unsportsmanlike conduct, will be handled on a case by case basis.
USPSA matches are a sport played with loaded handguns and so there is an element of physical risk. Similarly, sky diving is a game played without wings and it too has risks. As does NASCAR, baseball, football and most any other sport.
In practical shooting, as in other sports, the risks are controlled by a rigorous application of time tested safety rules. Violation of any of these rules results in immediate halt of your shooting for the evening and match disqualification.
The rules are for everyone’s safety, including your own. Cherokee Gun Club does not compromise on enforcement of the safety rules so before attending one of our matches, please read and understand these basic safety rules thoroughly.
At a USPSA match there is always one or more designated “Safe Areas”. These are areas where Unloaded (make sure it is unloaded before getting to the range) guns may be removed from holsters, bags etc and handled, for the purposes of transferring your firearm from your bag to your holster. This area is also used for inspection, repair, or dry firing your firearm to test it’s functionality. The number one rule to always remember about the Safe Area is that there is NO AMMUNITION HANDLING ALLOWED in the Safe Area. The number two rule is that your firearm is not allowed to be handled outside the safe area except at the direction of a Range Officer (RO).
A Safe Area conforms to the norms for firearms safety in that it presents an impenetrable surface at which the gun must be pointed when handling. At Cherokee Gun Club, the back stop in normally railroad ties or similar.
Ammunition may be handled anywhere except in the Safe Area. You can load your magazines wherever convenient – tailgate of your truck, table, bench etc.
Range Officer (RO)
An experienced shooter/club member acts as Range Officer (RO). He will be the person with the timer in his hands issuing Range Commands and is the primary person responsible for helping you safely conduct the Courses of Fire during the match. The person acting as RO may change over the course of evening but they will always be accompanied by a secondary Range Officer performing scorekeeping duties and assisting with safety. This team is responsible for helping you safely compete in the match but ultimately all requirements for safety rest solely with the competitor. Follow all the safety rules and pay attention to the commands given by the Range Officers and you will have a safe and fun time.
The RO runs the shooter through the course of fire. Most obviously, the RO issues the commands to the shooter to load the gun, begin shooting, and clear the gun at the end of the stage. Most importantly, the RO monitors the shooter for safe gun handling practices and will warn the shooter if getting close to an infraction of any safety rules and will stop the shooter should violations occur or appear to be about to occur. In such cases the RO will call “Stop!”, at which time the shooter must immediately cease shooting, point the muzzle in a safe direction downrange, remove your finger from the trigger guard, and await further direction from the RO.
Note that it is the shooter’s responsibility to manage the gun at all times, not the RO’s. The RO is there to monitor and assist if requested, not instruct or direct.
There is a USPSA certification program for RO’s which everyone is encouraged to take.
At the Firing line
The Firing Line is the place to which the shooter is called when it is time for him or her to shoot. The Range Officer ensures that the downrange area is clear. If so the RO gives the shooter permission to “Make Ready”.
At this time and at this time only the shooter may remove the gun from the holster and, keeping it pointed in a safe direction, may load the gun if the stage briefing calls for such, as it may be an unloaded start.
Note that the shooter is given “permission”, not “instructed”. It is always the shooter’s responsibility to decide to load the gun and he should not if he has any question about procedures, or the stage description, or any concerns about the shooting area.
Once loaded the RO’s will ask the shooter “are you ready”, the shooter does not have to confirm (but a head nod is a good indication of readiness), if the shooters is motionless for a full second or two it is understood that the shooter is ready. At this time the RO will give the command “Standby” the RO will then wait 1-4 seconds at which point he will start the timer which emits a high pitched and loud beep/buzz. This is the indication to the shooter to draw and engage the course of fire within it description.
While most stages begin with a loaded gun in your holster, other starting positions are possible. For instance, loaded gun on table; loaded gun in bag; unloaded gun on table/bag/holster. The shooter must be sure to understand the starting position and understand the requirements of safe gun handling for that position. The RO is there to assist as needed.
The ‘180’ Rule
While handling the gun on the Firing Line, continuing throughout the course of fire shooting and reloading, and while clearing the gun and returning it to the holster at the end of the course of fire, the shooter Must Not point the muzzle of the gun rearward, whether it is loaded or not. “Rearward” means at an angle of more than 90 degrees to the designated down range orientation. At the Cherokee Gun Club the 180 line is always on the same plane as the back berm. The RO may point out the 180, but it is the shooter’s responsibility to know where it is, and ask if necessary.
The RO may warn a shooter if the muzzle comes close to the 180 plane by shouting “Muzzle”, (this is not a hard & fast rule, but will be used for newer shooters to help guide them), to which the shooter must pay heed and return the muzzle to a safer direction (down range). The RO may also physically direct the shooters arm/shoulder if deemed necessary, but this is a much more extreme circumstance and muzzle control is always the shooter’s responsibility. The RO will immediately command the shooter to “Stop” if the 180 line is breached.
Everyone else in the range is behind the Range Officers which are in turn behind the shooter. If the gun muzzle never points other than downrange, nobody gets hurt in event of an accidental discharge. To reiterate the point, at all times, muzzle control is of utmost importance and the responsibility of the shooter!
Completion the Course of Fire
At the conclusion of shooting a stage or whenever the RO commands “Stop”, the shooter must immediately cease firing, bring the finger outside of the trigger guard, maintain the muzzle pointing down range and await further instructions from the RO. At this point the timer has stopped and the following should be performed in a slow and thoughtful manner!
The RO issues the commands:
“If you are finished, unload and show clear” – the shooter removes the magazine and actuates the slide to eject any chambered round. The shooter holds the slide open allowing the shooter and the RO to visually inspect the chamber to ensure there is not a live round still in the gun.
“If clear, hammer down” – again the RO is asking the shooter to be sure the gun is clear (note the use of the word “If”). the shooter releases the slide and points the gun in a safe direction (down range) and drops the hammer by pulling the trigger.
“Holster” – the shooter must return the gun to the holster before doing anything else.
“Range is clear” – the shooter, RO and other members may proceed downrange to inspect and tape targets.
Even though the RO inspects that the gun is clear, it is always the shooter’s responsibility to make sure the gun is empty. If the gun goes “bang” on the “Hammer down” command, it is considered an accidental discharge and the shooter will be disqualified from the match.
Some guns such as S&W semi-autos have a magazine interlock which requires that a magazine be in place in order to drop the hammer by pulling the trigger. In this case the shooter should insert an empty magazine into the gun in order to drop the hammer, then remove the magazine before holstering the gun.
Note that the trigger must always be pulled even if, like some of the Sigarms semi-autos, the gun has a de-cocking device. This ensures that no unfired round is accidentally left in the chamber.
The shooter must not point the muzzle of the gun (loaded or unloaded) at any part of his own body. This is termed “sweeping”.
Sweeping can happen when a shooter attempts to draw the gun from the holster and uses the free hand to assist in releasing the gun. It can also happen while returning the gun to the holster or clearing a gun malfunction. It can also happen if a shooter disgustedly drops his arms to his side at the end of a course of fire, and sweeps his foot or leg. On some courses of fire involving manipulation of props (e.g. opening a door) the shooter also needs to be mindful of where hands, arms and legs are in relation to the muzzle. These are the exact situations in which sweeping often occurs.
Finger off the Trigger
During a course of fire, the shooter must keep his finger off the trigger except while targets are being engaged.
USPSA shooting frequently involves movement of the shooter between shooting positions, often running. During the course of fire, the shooter must keep his/her finger outside the trigger guard during movement unless targets are visible, he has an active sight picture on the targets, and is actively engaging them.
USPSA shooting frequently involves changing magazines. While the shooter is changing magazines, the trigger finger must be outside the trigger guard.
The shooter must keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times in accordance with the 180 rule; this is “downrange”.
Note that this is not “at the floor” nor “up in the sky”. Keep the up gun in font of your face where you can see it at all times, that way you KNOW where it is pointed, because you can see it. Additionally it is also easier to acquire and aim at your next target that way too!
The practice of pointing a gun up/down as seen on TV when not shooting criminals may be fine when carrying a loaded gun in a crowd of people where the only “safe” direction is up or down (assuming you are not upstairs). On a dedicated shooting range however, the only safe direction is downrange, pointed at the berm or backstop.