Target shooters are enjoying a new sport making the steel targets ring. Well maybe ring isn’t exactly the right word but “thud” just doesn’t sound like a much fun. The rapidly growing sport is Steel Challenge Shooting Association (SCSA). The sport uses handguns most of which are semi-automatic along with sets of steel targets. The concept appears simple enough. Steel targets laid out in various orders on the range with the object being to hit the targets as quickly as possible. It’s a game of speed and accuracy. The smell of gun powder soon hung heavy in the humid summer evening on the range.
There is a different presentation of targets each week and at each stage. There are five targets at each stage with four strings of shots fired at each stage. A competition consists of two stages. The size and the location of the plates within each stage will vary. one target is designated as the “stop plate” to end the timing for the shooter.
A mandatory safety briefing is held prior to each event. Most importantly the range is a “cold range,” meaning that the firearm is not loaded until each competitor is at the firing line. Concealed carry of firearms is not permitted on the range. There is a designated safety table for the loading of any magazines or speed loaders. All handguns are to be in the holster or a carry bag when not on the firing line..
The only time a firearm is handled is on the firing line. Safety is always at the forefront of the event. All shooting is done under the direction of the RO. The RO will instruct the shooter to “load and make ready”. Once that is accomplished, the RO will say “Shooter ready?”. When the shooter responds in the positive, the RO will sound the tone to commerce firing. Following the stage with the stop plate properly hit, the RO will instruct the shooter to clear the firearm of any ammunition. He verifies that the firearm is fully unloaded and safe prior to leaving the firing line
At each stage there is a 180-degree safety zone around the firing line to ensure the firearm is pointed down range. James Tweed, local shoot chairman and RO adds, “Should a firearm be dropped the competitor is not to pick the gun up. The RO will retrieve the firearm and verify the condition. If the handgun is dropped on the firing line it is an automatic disqualification. Controlling the firearm and direction of the muzzle is critically important.”
There are two approaches for competitors to use when preparing to shoot a stage. The first is known as the low ready position where the shooter has the handgun removed from the holster, held in both hands with the finger off the trigger and pointed at the ground down away from the shooter. This is preferred by more novice shooters. The second option is to draw from the holster. More experienced shooters and those wishing to practice the draw for concealed carry will use the holster draw.
Tweed, explains, “The shooter may shoot the targets in any sequence and can pick up any missed targets in any sequence so long as it is done prior to the stop plate. Of course having to pick up missed targets adds time to the score. If a target is missed and the stop plate has been hit, the missed target adds time to the score. If you miss the stop plate and run out of ammunition in the handgun it is a thirty-second penalty time.”
Centerville resident Noel Baldwin said, “It all boils down to five targets on the range. The stop target must be hit last in the sequence but, other than that, the target sequence is up to the shooter. The objective is to hit all five targets as quickly as possible. I wanted to try something different and new for shooting recreation. It is an advanced form of target practice and good for concealed carry practice. I am learning a lot from watching other more experienced shooters. The range officers and others, who have taken advanced training off tips “
Tweed notes, “We have a broad range of shooters in both age and experience levels competing. Some are very experienced shooters who compete in a variety of handgun events. Others are much less experienced. There is a trend that more women are trying the steel challenge.
This evening there were several shooters new to the Steel Challenge in attendance. Tweed explains, “We love to welcome new shooters. We will take the necessary time to ensure they understand the rules and how the range is operated. All the shooters are very good at welcoming any new ones. While it is a competition most are focused on personal improvement and becoming more proficiently with their firearm. In that spirit, they enjoy helping less experienced shooters. It makes the event more friendly and can even feel like an extended family.”
Locally the Greene County Fish and Game Association shoots the steel challenge each Monday through August. The events begin around 5PM. More information about the Steel Challenge Shooting Association may be found at http://steelchallenge.com/
Larry S. Moore is a Greene County resident, long-time outdoor enthusiast and columnist.