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  • Post last modified:April 9, 2023

USPSA matches use a variety of targets, including cardboard and reactive steel targets.

The scoring and basic operations of a USPSA match can be a bit confusing for beginners, but it's essential to know the rules before you start competing.

Types of Targets Used in USPSA

uspsa target

There are three types of targets that we shoot in USPSA competitions:

  • Metric - Commonly used in the United States and looks like a silhouette. Target havs specific scoring zones A, B, C, and D. The further away from the center, the lower the score value
  • Classic - Commonly used in European matches
  • Steel Reactive - These are hinged popper style target or a rounder square plate that must be shot over to score. 


Scoring in USPSA matches is based on where your bullet penetrates the target. If your bullet penetrates the perimeter of two separate scoring sections, you get the higher score.

There is also a scoring line surrounding the entire edge of the target. If your bullet penetrates that line, it counts as a D and not as a miss.

Power Factor

When it comes to competing, accuracy, speed, and power are the three most important parts to your ammo.

The power of the bullet becomes significant because the heavier the recoil, the longer it will take you to bring your sights back on target and shoot again.

The idea is that the ammunition with a heavier recoil should have a leveling factor applied to it so that those shooting .45 ACP and those shooting a lighter 9-millimeter rounds are evenly matched.

The idea of a power factor uses a simple formula relating the weight of the bullet and the muzzle velocity to determine an energy rating for that particular round out of that particular handgun.

This number is then used to determine if you are able to make major or minor power factor for your scoring. Minor power factor is 125 and major is 165 in USPSA competition.

Production Division

Production division is the only division that forces all competitors to be scored minor power factor so that the other divisions are acutely aware of making sure that they get the scoring advantage of the higher recoiling ammunition.

But also notice that accuracy trumps them all in the end. If you can shoot a zone hits, it doesn't matter what power factor you score as you will always make five points for every hit.

Penalties: Mics and No-Shoots

Every shooter's worst enemy is engaging a target and missing completely, which is referred to as a Mic and is a penalty of 10 points. Hitting a white no-shoot target is worth the same 10-point penalty.

 Hitting one of those no-shoots can knock your score down significantly, and you will spend the rest of your match double timing to make up for it. Mics and no-shoots are the most common scoring penalties and yet are some of the easiest to avoid.


To avoid procedural mistakes such as failing to engage a target, failing to follow the course description, or stepping over a fault line, it's important to walk the stage before your turn to shoot.

Take some time to figure out the mandatory parts of the course and the least time-consuming way to complete the rest of the course around them. Walking the stage will help eliminate little mistakes that could cost you big in a match.

Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to anything involving guns. When holstering your empty gun before a match, make sure you're facing a berm and that the muzzle is as well.

At the beginning of each stage, the RO will instruct you to "prepare and make ready." This is the only time you should take your gun out of its holster. Load it, rack one into the chamber, and reholster. When the RO says "shooter ready, stand by," you can start shooting the stage exactly how you rehearsed it by walking it beforehand.

After you complete the stage, the RO will tell you to "show clear." Release your mag, rack your slide back to show an empty chamber, let your slide forward, and depress your trigger while aiming downrange before holstering your gun. It's important not to touch your gun until the RO instructs you to do so on the next stage.