Steel Shooting - An Introduction
Since I’m involved with some sort of steel shooting or another on a daily basis, it’s easy to forget that not everyone has any idea exactly what I’m talking about.
So, what is this shooting sport called “Fun Steel”, “Speed Steel”, “Steel Challenge” or whatever it’s called? It’s going to take a bit of explaining, as it gets a little foggy in places!
To start out, there are many different “Flavors” of steel competition, but they all have a few things in common. Although most pistol competitions stress accuracy, and only limit your time in which to take your shots enough to keep it from taking all day to finish the match, steel shooting is all about speed. Some refer to steel shooting as drag racing with guns, and that’s a pretty good analogy.
With traditional target shooting you are scored by how close your shots are to the center of a bullseye printed on a paper target. In steel shooting competition your score is based entirely on how long it takes for you to hit all of the targets. Sure, accuracy IS a part of it, as you do have to hit the targets or else have penalty seconds added to your score for the misses, but still, it’s all about speed.
With paper or cardboard targets, each shooter must have their own targets, or, as with cardboard targets, after each shooter has perforated the target, pieces of tape will be placed over the bullet holes so the next shooter has a fresh target.
The targets used in steel shooting are made from heavy-duty steel plate, preferably armor plate, and with good quality steel the bullets don’t even leave a mark. The targets are usually painted white between shooters, so the “hits” can easily be seen in the paint. The targets are repainted, either with a spray can, or sometimes with a paint roller. It doesn’t matter where on the target the bullet hits, as long as it leaves a mark in the paint, even if it’s on the very edge (called an “Edger”) it counts as a hit. Since most of the targets are usually round and painted white, they look a lot like dinner plates, and for that reason they are usually called “Plates” rather than targets. The targets hang on some sort of a hook arrangement on a stand that holds the plate up off the ground.
Each steel match typically consists of from five to eight “Stages” or sets of targets. Each stage will have five plates spread set out at various distances from seven to thirty-five yards from the shooter. Often one of the plates will be designated as the “Stop Plate”. The first four plates can be shot in any order, but the stop plate must be shot last. Some local or club matches don’t designate a stop plate, so you can shoot the plates in any order you like.
The shooter starts either with the gun holstered and hands up, or with the gun at a “Low Ready” position, depending on the caliber and class. The range officer will tell the shooter to “Make Ready” and the shooter will get into the starting position, ready to start shooting. The range officer will ask “Shooter Ready?” and if so, after a few seconds delay a buzzer will sound. The shooter then tries to hit each one of the plates once and then the stop plate. If the shooter misses a plate, they are allowed to shoot it again, until it is hit. Once the stop plate has been hit, though, the run is over. The shooter’s time is recorded by a hand held timer that produces the starting buzzer and then records the total time acoustically by “hearing” the shots with its built in microphone. The shooter will shoot each stage fives times, and the slowest run of the five runs is discarded. The remaining four times are added together for the shooter’s total time for that stage. After shooting all of the stages, the stage times are added together, and that total is the shooter’s score for the match.
Steel shooting is a great type of competition for relatively new shooters, as any shooter with basic shooting skills can make the shots. There are no difficult shots that require master marksmanship. The difficulty of steel shooting is self-imposed by trying to shoot as fast as you can.
The rules used at any particular club can vary widely. That’s where the Steel Challenge Shooting Association comes in. SCSA is an International association that guarantees that wherever you may be in the world, if you shoot a SCSA sanctioned Steel Challenge match, you can expect the rules to be the same. Steel Challenge is a particular type of steel match, and to truly be a Steel Challenge match, it must be sanctioned by SCSA, and SCSA rules must be used. Fun Steel, Speed Steel, and the other match names I’ve mentioned are local, and the rules can vary widely from club to club, and will be whatever the local club decides they will be.
That briefly sums up what steel shooting is all about. I’ve left out a lot of details for now, but that should give you enough info that when you hear someone mention steel shooting you’ll have a pretty good idea what they are talking about.