We routinely encourage Exercise/A1F readers to search out competitive venues for a variety of reasons. While good, clean fun may be the most accessible of these, it’s far from the only reason: Rarely will you get such encompassing practice of shooting skills, but also of safety skills. And make no mistake—the so-called “mainstream” media seizes on any mishap in either with a vitriol we can ill-afford. They constantly reinforce the notion of supposed civilian incompetence to move their disguised—or blatant—confiscation arguments forward.
Two of our favorite ways to work on skills, safety and fun while enjoying Second Amendment protections are the United States Practical Shooting Association and Steel Challenge Shooting Association. As a result, we grab whatever chance we can to catch up with Mike Foley, president of USPSA. A congenial, well-spoken ambassador of the highest quality, he’s a darn fine shooter, too, with a top-ten finish at USPSA PCC Nationals.
Mike Foley. Photo courtesy of USPSA
A1F Daily:Thanks for taking the time to get back with us for another “Exercise Your Freedom.” It looks as though you’ve been busy since we last talked in March (USPSA Optics Nationals). 2018 USPSA Nationals are now on the calendar for Oct. 20-28, 2018, and again at Universal Shooting Academy in Florida, right?
Mike Foley: Yes, USPSA is extremely excited about hosting our National Championships Matches at Universal Shooting Academy. In addition to having a premier range facility with enough space to host our event, the team at USA has the most relative experience in producing USPSA National Championships, largely due to its weekly production of events year-round. In addition to USA's attributes, the Polk County tourism community is hosting three awards banquets in a beautiful indoor facility, complete with food, beverages and entertainment. The concept for the 2018 Nationals includes 18 courses of fire in each of the matches, but only six of the courses are planned to be consistent across the three, and will include new USPSA Classifier courses of fire. Another six stages will be somewhat similar, but highly modified, and the last six will be unique to each match. This requires a facility that has the room to build eight to 12 extra courses of fire, and Universal is the only range up to that challenge.
… but only last year did Steel Challenge start to see the growth and momentum needed to take its rightful place as the fastest shooting sport on the planet.A1F:Some folks don’t know that our other favorite discipline—Steel Challenge—and USPSA are now under the same roof. How’s the integration of the organizations and disciplines proceeding?
MF: Steel Challenge has been a part of USPSA for several years, but only last year did it start to see the growth and momentum needed to take its rightful place as the fastest shooting sport on the planet. With a relaxed requirement on the number of official stages an affiliate club is required to host in each match; a new national program coordinator; a revamped classification system; and more large, regional events, the Steel Challenge Shooting Association more than doubled Steel Challenge activities in a single year. Membership in SCSA is included in all USPSA memberships, and affiliate clubs can add a SCSA affiliation at no additional cost as well.
A1F:One of the best things about Steel Challenge, in our view, is the “set” stages. You can optimize both your equipment and training to perform within those known parameters. At the highest levels, it demonstrates the remarkable quality of both gear and skill present in our sport, but it is also the best “introduction” to competition for shooters who’ve never competed. Set stages, and the inclusion of four rimfire divisions, keep things simple—and inexpensive—for regular folks to try within the same safety parameters that made USPSA the envy of all other shooting sports. Is that accurate?
Because of the low barrier to entry, people of all ages, skill levels and body types are put on a level playing field.MF: Yes, the game is quite simple in form: eight stages, a designated stop plate, best four of five runs count for score, fastest overall time wins. Two things in practical shooting that don't lie are the shot timer and a steel target. Because of the low barrier to entry, people of all ages, skill levels and body types are put on a level playing field. The classification system allows you to compete solely with yourself, if that is your goal. You can constantly race against your own best time, and SCSA tracks it for you. All the rankings are based on the top times from the two most prestigious matches in the world, so SCSA shooters can also see how they stack up to the pros.
A1F:Is there any discussion about adapting SCSA for indoor competition? Modified/proportional targets, and/or proportional distances, that sort of thing? With the burgeoning of indoor clubs in the last few years, this would seem a natural way to grow participation. Along these same lines, we often wondered about “split” matches as a way to get folks classified? Your thoughts?
MF: The only barrier, currently, to indoor competition is the range facility itself, and [range managers’] willingness to use steel targets indoors. The approval of matches to set up only two of the eight stages, mixed with outlaw stages, and the initial classification at four stages, support the split-match classification process perfectly. My home club in Kentucky, the Blue Grass Sportsmen's League, started in SCSA this year by having three weeknight matches where 2-3 stages were shot in each of three evenings over three weeks. BGSL then hosted two weekend matches with four stages each, yielding another quick opportunity for classification of new members. They will host the first Kentucky Steel Challenge Championship in November, and have over 160 registrations at the time of this interview.
Frank Winn has been studying arms and their relationship to tyranny, meaningful liberty and personal security all his adult life. He has been a firearms safety/shooting instructor for more than 20 years, and earned state, regional and national titles in several competitive disciplines.