USPSA Safety Brief

Safety Requirements and Consequences

The most crucial aspect of any USPSA match is SAFETY.  Violation of any of the safety rules will result in a match disqualification, and you will not be allowed to shoot for the remainder of the match. SAFETY is taken very seriously. 

All USPSA competitors are responsible for the Safety Procedures and may remind you of those procedures.  Don’t be offended. They know you are new to the sport and want to make sure you successfully complete your first match.

USPSA affiliated ranges, during competitions, are cold ranges, and gun handling is strictly controlled. 

Several things will result in a Match Disqualification. Follow these basic rules, and you will make it through your first match. Remember, you are not going to win, and the only thing that will impress the other people on your squad is if you are safe.

  • Do not handle your gun outside a Safety Area
  • Do not handle ammunition at a Safety Area.  
    • To be extra cautious, remove all ammunition and magazines from your person before approaching the safety area.
  • Follow all Range Officer commands
  • Always keep your gun pointed downrange
  • Always keep your finger out of the trigger guard unless you are pointed at a target and ready to shoot.  This includes when moving on a stage.

Safe Gun Handling

There are only two places that you can handle your handgun:

  • In a Safety Area. No handling of ammunition at the Safety Area
  • At the line after being instructed by the Range Officer

Handling your gun anywhere except in the previously mentioned areas will result in a match DQ.  If you drop your gun, do not pick it up. Call for a match official who will walk you through the procedure for retrieving your gun.

You can handle your ammunition anywhere on the range EXCEPT at a Safety Area. Safety Areas, at most ranges, are tables facing dirt berms and marked Safety Area. If you don’t see one at the range where you are competing, ask. Do not assume you know where the Safety Area is.

If you need to adjust your equipment or wish to remove your gun belt during the day, maybe to use the facilities, remove all your magazines and ammunition from your belt and proceed to the safety area. In the safety area you can handle your gun and adjust/remove your belt. If you are using the facilities, you can bag your gun and take it with you or ask someone to watch it for you at the safety area.

Unsafe Gun Handling and Accidental Discharge

Examples of unsafe gun handling include, but are not limited to: 

  • Handling a firearm except when in a safety area or when under the supervision of a Range Officer
  • Handling live or dummy ammunition in a Safety Area
  • Having a loaded firearm other than when specifically ordered to by the Range Officer.
  • Breaking the 180 whether the firearm is loaded or not.
  • Allowing the muzzle of a firearm to point at any part of any person’s body 
  • Accidental Discharge
  • Trigger Discipline – Failure to keep the finger outside the trigger guard while clearing a malfunction, reloading, or while moving on a stage.
  • Holstering an unsafe firearm

What To Expect When You Arrive

Failure to follow this guide could cause you to be disqualified for unsafe gun handling even before the match starts.

  • Arrive at the range with your UNLOADED firearm in a closed case.
    • No ammunition or snap caps in the gun.
    • Do not pack loaded magazines in the case with the firearm.
  • Do not handle your firearm.
  • If you are carrying a concealed weapon, let the registrar know so they can escort you to an appropriate area to unload your firearm.    


Pre-registration for most matches is done via PractiScore.  Pre-registration is not required but is helpful for the match organizers. If you don’t pre-register for matches in the Columbia-Cascade section, we will find a squad for you.  Other regions and sections may have different policies. 

Make your way to the registration desk and tell the person at registration; this is your first USPSA match. The registrar will ask about your experience to determine if you need a guide or mentor throughout the day. If you want one, just ask. 

During registration, you will need to pick a division. If you are unsure, tell the registrar, and they will help you choose a division for your first match. The registrar will assign you to a squad and, if needed, someone to guide you through the day.

Be sure to ask where the Safety Areas are.

Before Your First Stage

Do not handle your firearm.   

Before going to a Safety Area, put on your holster and mag pouches. 

Make your way to a Safety Area. Remove your firearm from the case and place it in your holster. The hammer or striker must be down, i.e. pull the trigger.  If you are unsure, ask the registrar who will guide you. Do not handle any ammunition at the Safety Area. You may see others practicing their draw and reloads with empty magazines.  This is allowed as long as you keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. Again, do not handle any ammunition.

Before the match, the Match Director will make a few announcements. This will include where each squad begins. Make your way to the bay where your squad will begin. 

Your First Stage

When you get to your first stage, let the group know this is your first USPSA match. They will make sure you have a guide if you don’t already have one. They will put you last in the shooting order so you can see how the match flows and to allow you time to become familiar with the procedures.

Before shooting starts, the squad will have time to examine the stage and do a walkthrough. This is your time to find the targets and to plan your path through the stage. Don’t worry too much about the best way, just find the targets.

When it’s time to shoot, the scorekeeper will read out the shooting order. Listen for your name. If you are not last, remind them you are new and want to go last. What happens next is prescribed in the USPSA rule book and will happen exactly the same way for every competitor. Watch carefully and, if something isn’t clear, ask your guide.

  • The Range Officer will call the first shooter to the line.   
  • The Range Officer will verify the stage is clear. They will tell the shooter, “Make Ready.”  
    • This is the command for the shooter to remove the gun from the holster, load the gun, Apply the safety or decocker if so equipped, and replace it in the holster.    
    • If you are shooting PCC, please ask the Range Officer how and when to bring the PCC to the firing line. 
    • You may see more experienced shooters draw and dryfire before starting the stage.  This is OK as long as you don’t shoot. For your first couple of stages, avoid the temptation to do this.
    • Take your time performing these actions. There is no bonus for rushing.
  • The Range Officer will then ask, “Are you ready?” 
    • If you are not ready, say “No,” and they will give you as much time as you need.
    • It’s not required to respond. Silence is accepted as “Yes.”
  •  When the shooter is ready, the Range Officer will say, “Standby,” followed by a brief pause , then activate the timer.
  • “Beep!”  
    • The shooter will navigate the course and engage the targets.    
  • When they are done, the Range Officer will ask, “If you are finished, unload and show clear.”  
    • The shooter will remove the magazine from the gun, open the slide, visually verify the gun is unload, and show the Range Officer.  
  • The Range Officer will give the command, “If clear, hammer down, holster.”  
    • The shooter will point the gun at the backstop, pull the trigger, and holster the gun.  
    • If you are shooting PCC, the Range Officer will instruct you to insert a Chamber Flag.
    • Take your time performing these actions. There is no bonus for rushing.
  • The Range Officer will issue the command, “Range is Clear.”  
    • At this point, the squad will assist in scoring and resetting the stage.  

This cycle will continue until all the shooters have shot, and it’s time to move to the next stage.

Stages are reset between each shooter. While USPSA is an individual sport, when it comes to resetting stages an “all hands on deck” approach is appreciated. 


We are often asked, “What gun should I buy for my first match?” The answer is, don’t buy anything new. What you have is probably OK and will get you through the first match. After you’ve shot a few matches, you will have a better understanding of the sport, made a few friends, and they can help guide your equipment choices.

What you need for your first match:


  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Pistol – 9mm or larger
  • Strongside holster that covers the trigger 
    • Example Example
    • We do not recommend the Blackhawk Serpa holster.  The design of the retention device may lead to an Accidental Discharge.
  • Magazines (enough to carry at least 40 rounds) 
  • 200 rounds of ammunition


Note: Some of our clubs do not allow PCC. Please confirm before attending.

  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • PCC Approved/Permitted Calibers, 9mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, 10mm, .45 ACP
  • Chamber Flagf
  • A case for the PCC
  • Enough magazines to hold at least 40 rounds. Some stages will require the use of 2 magazines


This guide does not cover the depth of the USPSA rules. After your first match, you should familiarize yourself with those rules and divisions. For the complete set of rules see