For each issue, ORA Director of Competitions, Curtis Bohlman, shares about the various competitions available to participate in along with updates on ORA sponsored events.

In an effort to get some of you ammunition laden gun owners off of the couch (you know who you are), the Sharpshooter will feature, in less than 750 words, an informational article describing a shooting discipline along with a couple of places in the State where you can enjoy the competition. For most of these articles, I will offer little more than a cursory look at the rules and courses of fire, but enough explanation to hopefully whet your appetite. In my 36 years of competive shooting, I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what the shooting sports have to offer, so I’ll be relying on a little bit of internet research and some discussions with “experts” to fill in around the edges of my inexperience. If you happen to know the presented discipline inside and out and notice only an error or two in my writing, I feel like I’ve done well enough!

This month’s discipline is “Steel Challenge”- I have only minor experience with Steel Challenge but can tell you it’s a complete hoot! It’s fast paced, exciting, and a load of fun: it’s a great way to start practical pistol shooting or stay on the top of your self-defense commitments. Steel Challenge is governed by the United States Practical Shooting Association, and there is a ton of literature and resources out there that explains, governs, and regulates this discipline which has been described by some as little more than organized plinking.

Being perhaps a little overly simplistic, Steel Challenge is a timed event match wherein competitors shoot sets of steel targets called stages. Each stage consists of 5 targets, which must all be hit to complete the timed string. Each stage is shot 5 times with the top four times being combined to give the shooter their score for that stage. Most matches consist of 4 to 8 stages, and stage layouts are strictly defined in the rule book and will be the same whether you shoot steel challenge in Oklahoma or Amsterdam. Steel targets are as close as seven yards and as far as 35 yards.

It’s a great sport for beginners, focused on rapid firing on multiple steel targets, while standing still, rather than negotiating targets on the move. While it’s primarily shot with a center fire pistol, there are also .22 rimfire pistol and rifle divisions which can make it very economical. Younger competitors, not yet ready to handle pistols, will have a ball competing with their familiar .22 rifles.

Centerfire divisions start with pistol holstered, and in the “surrender position”, defined as both hands up at least ear level. Rimfire divisions start with pistol or rifle pointed at a “low-ready marker” which is typically an orange cone down range below the target line that serves as an off target starting point. There are only four range commands from the official to keep track of so let’s briefly run thorough the sequence: Make ready (the competitor un-holsters their pistol, loads and re-holsters, then assumes the surrender position”); Shooter are you ready? (to which the shooter replies yes, or no); Standby (everything is ready to go, and the shooter is listening for the official’s timer to beep signifying time has started and it’s ok to draw and fire). Between each of the 5 strings of fire, shooters reload and holster guns on their own. Unload and show clear (this final command after the entire stage is completed requires that the gun is cleared, verified by the official, and holstered). Easy enough, huh?!

Shooters are grouped into “Squads” which travel from stage to stage. One of my favorite things about competitive shooting is the people. These squads of 5 or 8 people offer a great opportunity to meet a person or two with shared interests. There’s certainly a social aspect to our shooting sports.

Equipment required: – Hearing and eye protection – Pistol, belt, and holster (or .22 rimfire rifle, rifle bag, chamber flag, or .22 rimfire pistol, pistol bag) – Magazines (at least 5 recommended) – Ammo (150 rounds absolute minimum)

Before you attend a match, please review the rules, or find a beginner’s guide. Arrive at your first match early and find an official, or the match director, and explain you’re a first timer. He or she will likely marry you up with an experienced shooter who can explain things in detail and put you under their wing for the day, which is something you’ll appreciate. I’ve never been involved in a shooting sport where there weren’t people willing, even wanting to help.

ORA Affiliated Clubs that offer Steel Challenge matches are The Oklahoma City Gun Club (Arcadia), Ponca City Rifle and Pistol Club (Ponca City), and Oil Capitol Rod and Gun Club (Coweta). The Stephens County Rifle and Pistol Club (Comanche) also offers Steel Challenge but isn’t an ORA affiliate. The average match fee is about $20. Now get out there and have some fun!

Curtis Bohlman Competitions Director, Oklahoma Rifle Association