What is Practical Shooting?

What is Pratical Shooting? By CJ of 617

The UKPSA is the United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association and was started on the 29th October 1977, making the Association 40 years old in 2017. 

In this charitable organisation, which is governed by its own constitution is run by elected members from a position of a Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer, Public Relations and so on. 

Included in the organisation are Presidents and Vice Presidents with a Membership Secretary, the list goes on making this a well-run sport indeed. Tho many giving their free time to run these events like the Range Officers or (RO’s) as well as Match Directors and Regional Directors to. 

This is why people all over the world can compete together, from a level 1 as a club match to a level 3 with all 3 levels only being held in the UK. This being said at level 4 and 5 this is European and International level, and open to all at that level.


Where to start.

How do you take part? What steps do you need to go through to get to this level? Equipment and what Shooting Ranges or Clubs can I shoot at…

The first steps are finding and joining a local range that runs the safety course. In the case of this article, it was held at North Cotes Butts Rifle Range near Grimsby. The Instructor over the two days was Mr Savage who instructed Mr Teague and Mr Lambert. 

Held over the weekend, the two days of training instil the shooting fundamentals of shooting safety. From muzzle direction, course rules and ammunition, all the while looking out for anyone that may unknowingly stray into the line of fire.

Included in the course are the types of shotguns or .22 semi-auto weapons used in the sport. For the two guys on this course, it was for practical shotgun. 

You will, however, need a Firearms Certificate and Shotgun Certificate, as the shotgun or .22 LR you choose will be a firearm. Though people starting out and doing the course may just have a three-shot, shotgun. The shotgun certificate is for buying most of your ammunition, but the Slug can only be bought on FAC and not SGC.

What shotgun? 

There are different types or divisions of shotguns, this includes Standard and Standard Manual or the Open Division. This means shotguns straight out the box can be used from semi-auto to pump action, to the box fed all singing and dancing AR style shotguns. 

Many people you will see have large capacity magazines, making it easy to shoot a stage without reloading as many times. That being said no matter what gun you use, scoring takes into account what division you are in. This is to make it fair on people taking part.

Understanding the types of ammunition from Slug to Buck and to Birdshot is the key. The power and the range of all ammunition used is vital as some may not work in a shotgun you choose. The other safety concern is the minimum shooting distance at steel targets, including what targets you can shoot and ones you cannot shoot.


You will need to have sturdy boots and warm clothing maybe knee pads. In the different stages you may be getting down and dirty! Food and water is also important, keeping topped up is essential for keeping a sharp mind. If you don’t have a clubhouse or kitchen, taking everything you need is imperative.

Spares Spares Spares!

You need to carry everything, tools and gun spares like a seal kit for semi-autos or allen keys. Anything to keep that gun running, if not you may be out of the game to a lost spring!

Safety on the range.

Over the two days, you will be on the range. It is no good to be sitting in the classroom trying to take it all in, and not understanding the consequences of your actions. When shooting with others you need to watch out for everyone. 

No one is perfect an RO may miss something, and if you see it you need to say something. STOP STOP, as daft as it sounds and as a simple phrase it is understood by all on the stage. Everybody knows what to do, fingers come of triggers and point in the right direction. No one touches the guns or fixes problems until it is safe to do so.

Understanding how your own shotgun works in range conditions is crucial. If you have a malfunction you need to know how to clear it. It may be in a club match with people watching, or just being with the guys and girls on the safety course watching. It all goes a long way to keeping everyone safe.

On the second day of the course, one of the two guys had a malfunction with his pump action Benelli. It started off ok but then malfunctioned a few rounds into the 1st stage. Seeing this the stage finished and the RO and Shooter moved to the safety zone to fix the issue.

It’s malfunctions like these where accidents happen, by keeping a clear mind and assessing the situation makes things go smoothly and safely.


There is a saying “Smooth is Fast and Fast is Smooth.”

Running around like a headless chicken is no good to anyone. You miss steel and you may cause an accident, dare I say it a death! This goes against all the training you have learnt in the classroom. 

Safety also goes into every course of fire or stage. They are scrutinised for fairness and potential failures in safety. Every stage at every level is checked and checked again. They also chronograph your cartridges just to make sure all is fair and safe.

The Instructor needs to see that you have understood and learnt that, what you saw in the classroom has sunk in. This attention to detail on safety is why this is one of the most enjoyed and safely run sports in the country. 

Hopefully, after all that learning shooting and range time over the weekend, you will walk away with a certificate saying that you passed the course. Not only that you will have made some great friends.

If you wish to compete in the other levels you have 6 months from passing to apply for your competition licence.

For more Information on Practical Shooting go to www.ukpsa.co.uk where you will find all you need on joining and places to go on safety courses.

The pictures below are from a level 3 competition at North Cotes Butts. 

Match Director: Pete S

Regional Director: Kevin S

Range Officers in the photos are: Venessa D, Andrew H, Russell H, Dave P, Robert B

©2024 Firearms UK.


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