BY: Amy Carducci
Browning Buck Mark? Check.
.22 Ammo? Check.
Ear Protection? Check
Eye Protection? Check
Ok, now I just need to breathe and wait for the buzzer. “Shooter ready?” Yes, I reply. No wait…did I just nod in agreement that I’m ready?? “Stand by.”
With a nervous stance and slightly shaky hands I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the sound of the buzzer to begin my first Steel Challenge.
Steel Challenge is a great way to enter into the world of competitive shooting and to become more familiar with firearms whether you are a man or a woman.. Since 1981 Steel Challenge has grown to become one of the largest pistol competitions in the USA. Matches are held on local, state and national platforms. You won’t find me in Piru, California competing with the professional “Big Guns” like Dave Sevigny, JJ Racazza or Jessie Abbate but at my local ranges competing on Saturday mornings.
Having never entered into a USPSA or IDPA match, I was apprehensive. My husband assured me that I would do fine and above all have a good time. I had spent time at our home range practicing stages but never in front of people or more importantly while competing against others.
Amazingly though the buzzer sounded and I took aim. I am not sure I remembered to breath during the short stage but I did shoot clean. It was not world record speed but I had no misses either. Now I just have four more runs to complete before moving to the next stage. Steel Challenge competitors shoot each stage five times with the top four runs counting toward their score. “Outer Limits” is the only stage where only four runs are shot with the top three counting. The winner is the person with the lowest overall score. As this was my first competition my goal was to NOT finish last!
I entered the Rimfire Pistol division with my Browning Buck Mark. My husband asked our good friend TEAM Glock shooter Randi Rogers about her recommendation of a gun for the Rimfire Division for a woman shooter. Two years ago for Christmas I received my Browning Buck Mark and the first thing we modified was to change to Tactical Solutions Trail-Lite barrel. This important improvement not only makes the gun more accurate but balanced as well.
With the different courses of fire from 7 to 35 yards and targets of various sizes, the match is challenging and fun. The Rimfire Division allows the shooter to begin from the “low ready” position. Perfect for a beginner like myself who is not accustomed to drawing from a holster. The low cost of .22 ammunition is another plus especially when you calculate the practice rounds I go through during a practice day at the range. However, .22 Rimfire isn’t the only division. From highly customized Open guns with electronic sights and recoil compensators to revolvers, stock service pistols and even single-action Cowboy guns - there is a division for everyone. My next modification is to add Optics to my Browning Buck Mark to enter into the ..22 optic division.
The skills I gain in shooting a Steel Challenge match are priceless. Learning to get a good sight picture was a lesson hard learned. Taking extra shots wastes not only ammo but time as well. In a match where hundredths of a second counts, you strive for one shot, one plate. Shooting faster and firing lots of extra shots may feel faster, but when the final scores are totaled it is not faster. Taking a aggressive forward stance and bending slightly at the knees took practice. Naturally I wanted to stand with my feel to close together and punch the gun out forward with stiff hips and arms. I’m still working on trigger control and taking up the slack in trigger as the gun moves between the plates. With an improved sight picture and trigger control I hope to lower the chance that I will pull the gun out of alignment before the bullet leaves the barrel and I end up with a miss.
Shooting Steel Challenge matches have improved not only my gun skills but my confidence as well. Another added bonus are the wonderful people you meet on the range. Our best friends are people we meet at a match or our local gun club. I will never be a top female shooter - Randi Rogers and Julie Golob have nothing to worry about - but I will be back at my local range for the next Steel Challenge. So grab your gun, shoot clean, don’t worry about the clock and above all have fun! Shooter Ready!