Tactical, Practical, and Dynamic Shooting Competitions
A (partial) survey of practical, tactical, and dynamic shooting events
Dynamic shooting events are shooting events that combine shooting with some combination of movement, fitness, decision making, and skills from other disciplines such as fieldcraft or tactics.
Dynamic shooting events are a rapidly growing category of shooting events. Dynamic shooting events incorporate some aspect (often multiple aspects) of practical shooting. Because of that, dynamic shooting events are good for training.
IDPA events specifically practice defensive pistol skills, making IDPA a good training vehicle for personal defensive preparedness.
Tactical shooting events often stress the shooter so that shooters can practice managing fatigue and aerobic stress while shooting. Tactical shooting events may also incorporate fieldcraft, decision making, or other skill requirements. Fitness shooting events focus on fitness and shooting. These events fatigue the shooter with a rigorous fitness requirement in each shooting stage.
Incorporating movement and these practical, defensive, and stress aspects distinguishes dynamic shooting from traditional “bullseye” shooting events. Bullseye shooters are focused on putting shots in the “X-ring.” Bullseye shooting is often done from a static position. Typically, traditional or bullseye shooting does not incorporate movement as a part of the shooting requirements.
Below, I survey some (not all) of the dynamic shooting event types available today. For each of the event types, I provide a brief explanation and a link for more information. This survey is necessarily incomplete. There are too many clubs, ranges, and events to possibly cover them all in one article.
I categorize the shooting event types into the categories below. Some event types fit into more than one category, but I only cover them once. I am not including shotgun events in this article, but there are dynamic shooting competitions for shotgun (e.g. sporting clays, five-stand, and more).
Cowboy Action Shooting
Tactical shooting events combine a work/fitness component with shooting. The reason for the work/fitness component is to stress the shooter. Basically, the work/fitness components stress the core, the extremities (especially the arms and the grip) and stress the shooter aerobically. This is an attempt to safely create stress that replicates the stress of actual tactical shooting.
American tactical shooting events are a modern incarnation of the biathlon[i]. The biathlon originated in Scandinavia as military training. The modern civilian version became an Olympic sport in 1924. At that Olympics, it was still called “military patrol.”
Biathlon is cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. Olympic biathlon uses .22 LR rifles with standardized targets at fifty meters. In Norway, there are versions of biathlon that use center-fire rifles with targets of varying sizes at unknown distances.
The biathlon is still an Olympic sport. The United States Biathlon Association (https://www.usbiathlon.org/) supports biathlon in the US, including sponsoring the US biathlon Olympic Team.
The Tactical Games
The Tactical Games (https://www.thetacticalgames.com/) is one of the more well known tactical shooting competitions. From their website, The Tactical Games “provide a platform to test the skills and readiness of tactical athletes from all backgrounds.”
The Tactical Games runs competitions throughout the year around the US.
I have done several Tactical Games. The events are rigorous, demanding, and test your ability to shoot while physically stressed.
The Proving Grounds
The Proving Grounds is a 2-gun (rifle and pistol) competition that tests marksmanship under stress. According to their website (https://theprovinggroundscompetition.com/), their competitions are 70% shooting and 30% fitness. I have done a couple of Proving Ground competitions and that is pretty accurate.
They put on a good competition at The Proving Grounds.
Green Beret Fitness
The motto of Green Beret Fitness (GBF) is “TOUGH.STRONG.FIT”
Green Beret Fitness (https://www.greenberetfitness.com/) emphasizes teamwork. The events are intended to test the limits of participants.
GBF runs endurance events and tactical shooting events. Their FaceBook page (https://www.facebook.com/GreenBeretFitness/) is a good place to learn more about GBF events.
The Gun Run
Theis is just what it sounds like. A “gun run” is a run on foot with shooting along the way. The runs vary from 5k (about three miles) upwards.
Basically, it is a running biathlon. Think of it as the Norwegian event mentioned earlier but running instead of skiing.
The Gun Run (https://thegunrun.us/) conducts gun runs throughout the US.
The Sawmill Showdown is, I believe, the first shooting competition to emerge where all the work components are based completely on CrossFit movements. movements. The founder of the Showdown is a long-term CrossFitter and the heritage comes through in the work components.
Many of the competitions use functional fitness movements while being careful to avoid the “CrossFit” label. The Sawmill Showdown is unapologetically CrossFit.
To say the least, this competition is physically rigorous. Basically, it is the intensity of CrossFit plus tactical shooting. Event stages use rowers, ski machines, sandbags, kettle bells, and other functional fitness apparatus to test your fitness and to provide physical and aerobic stress while shooting.
You can find more information at https://www.fullautofitness.com/sawmill-showdown.
The Sawmill FTX is a tactical shooting and endurance event with a focus on tactical fieldcraft along with tactical shooting. The physical stress work component of the FTX is inherent in the event rather than supplied by specific fitness exercises. The FTX requires basic land navigation skills, basic medical skills, and provides shooting stages that test the shooters skill with rifle and pistol.
Learn more about the Sawmill FTX at the Sawmill Tactical Training Center’s website (https://www.sawmillttc.com/) or at this article on my Substack (https://keithrutledge.substack.com/p/sawmill-ftx).
United States Practical Shooting Organization
USPSA is the largest practical shooting organization in the US. They say “practical,” I say “dynamic.” USPSA runs shooting matches around the US. Their matches have multiple equipment divisions and multiple age division. USPSA matches have movement, decision making, and stress built into the matches. There is not really a fitness component nor is there a work component.
If you are not a member, you should be. You can join at https://uspsa.org/.
USPSA is the parent of the Steel Challenge Shooting Association. They run International Practical Shooting Conference (IPSC) events, multi-gun events, and more. USPSA is a well-run organization that does a great job promoting practical shooting.
It is not possible to do justice to all they do in a paragraph or two. Visit their website (above) to learn more.
Steel Challenge shoots steel targets arranged in standardized stages. In each Steel Challenge stage, you shoot each target array five times and the best four scores count. Steel Challenge is a speed and precision discipline. Steel Challenge has stages with some movement but there is no fitness component and there is no work component.
The Steel Challenge Assocation (SCSA) is an organization (basically a subsidiary) of USPSA.
There are multiple weapon divisions. You can shoot Pistol Caliber Carbine, Centerfire Pistol (divisions for open sights and for optics), Rimfire rifle, rimfire pistol, and more. Steel Challenge has multiple age division as well.
If you like to go fast, this might be the discipline for you. My SFA chapter is a big sponsor of Steel Challenge. It is a great way to spend a Saturday morning and it builds speed from the draw and in transition. Learn more at https://scsa.org/.
USPA multi-gun is basically USPA sanctioned 3Gun. USPSA Multi-Gun matches can use rifle, shotgun, and pistol. USPSA ran their first 3Gun match more than thirty years ago. For more information, see the USPSA multi-gun rulebook at https://uspsa.org/viewer/USPSA-Rifle-Shotgun-Multigun-Rulebook.pdf
Typically, there is no fitness nor work component in USPSA multi-gun but there is definitely movement and stress.
You can find USPSA multi-gun matches on the USPSA website (https://uspsa.org/). You can also find matches there.
Falling steel is not a USPSA shooting discipline, but many of its practitioners describe it as a hybrid between Steel Challenge and Multi-gun, so I put the description in this section. The USPSA web site does not mention falling steel.
If you like to shoot a lot and shoot fast, this might be the sport for you.
Falling steel matches have several stages. Each stage will have several tens (twenty to maybe forty plus) of steel targets arranged in imaginative configurations. You can shoot centerfire pistol or PCC. There are divisions for open sights and for optics.
I do not know of a central sanctioning organization for Falling Steel and the internet could not find one either. You can find matches on Practiscore (https://practiscore.com).
Glock and Sig Sauer run shooting events to introduce shooters to their products.
Glock events provide an opportunity to try a Glock weapon before you buy it. Glock also has the Glock Shooting Sports Foundation which sponsors competitive shooting matches.
Learn more at https://us.glock.com/en/shoot/events
Sig Sauer runs the “Shoot Sig” event. The objective is to get folks to the range (shooting a Sig of course). Sig runs matches around the country.
Joining the Shoot Sig program provides access to member discounts. Find out more at https://www.sigsauer.com/shootsig.
Sniper events focus on precision shooting with a rifle. In some competitions, there is a brief “weapon of last resort” pistol requirement, but it is really all about precision shooting with a rifle.
Trigger time is trigger time and trigger time with a .22 is a great way to work on your shooting.
NRL22 is a .22 LR precision rifle competition. The courses of fire are all shot with a .22 LR rifle. The targets are challenging and fun to shoot.
The base class (division) in NRL22 has a requirement that the scope and the rifle must have a combined total cost of less than twelve hundred dollars ($1,200). Other divisions are not subject to that limitation. The point is to have a class where the equipment is accessible to starting shooters.
NRL22 matches are pure fun. The shooting is done from various positions but there is an “adaptive” division to accommodate shooters who have physical limitations.
Learn more at https://nrl22.org/
Precision Rifle Series
Precision rifle events focus on precise shooting at long distance. PRS runs bolt gun competitions and rimfire competitions.
PRS focuses on the “practical application” of precision rifle for military, law enforcement, and hunting. You can learn more at https://www.precisionrifleseries.com/
Guardian Long Range
Guardian Long Range is a charitable organization 501(c)3 that runs precision rifle events in support of children in need. They run events around the country. Learn more at https://guardianlongrange.com/.
Mammoth Sniper Challenge
Mammoth is the mac-daddy of sniper events in this country. It is an extremely rigorous three-day long-range shooting event. Participants live out of their rucksack for the duration of the event. Participants walk from stage to stage and must make the required time cut-offs (usually requiring a 16 minute per mile pace with all their gear.
It changes from year to year, but there are typically 12 to 16 stages, and the participants will walk 10 or more miles each day.
It is tough and it is meant to be. Learn more at https://www.g3dynamics.com/.
3Gun is what it sounds like. It is a dynamic shooting competition with three guns: pistol, rifle, and shotgun.
3Gun Nation was, at one time, the primary sanctioning organization for 3Gun competitions. Since it shut down in 2021, 3Gun matches have fallen into three categories. USPSA has multi-gun, International Multi-Gun Association has 3Gun matches, and the biggest category is “roll your own”. Ranges and other organizations run their own 3Gun matches without the benefit of approval from a sanctioning organization. Practiscore is the best place to find 3Gun matches.
The best 3Gun match in the country is the Memorial 3Gun match held every October at Gryphon Group in Maxton, NC. It is extremely well organized, and it benefits the Gold Star families of fallen special operators (Green Berets, SEAL’s, Rangers, and similar operators). The M3G website is https://www.memorial3gun.com/
Cowboy Action Shooting
Cowboy Action Shooting is three gun shooting but with cowboy weapons (revolvers, stagecoach shotguns, and lever action rifles). It is run by the Single Action Shooting Society. Competitors dress in cowboy attire and shoot cowboy scenario’s.
Learn more at https://sassnet.com/.
International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)
IDPA is dedicated to the skill of defensive pistol shooting. From their website, IDPA is “practical competitive shooting focused on defensive tactics.” The scenario’s are grounded in real life (IRL) possibilities. IDPA limits the number of rounds per stage – because IRL you never have as much ammo as you would use in a 3Gun match.
IDPA is excellent for skill building and it is fast, exciting fun shooting. Learn more at https://www.idpa.com/.
The practical shooting category is large and growing. Practical, tactical, and dynamic shooting competitions are a fun way to test yourself and to build skills.
[i][i] Biathlon on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biathlon