Action Pistol

This sport focuses on the speed at which a competitor can hit one or more stationary or moving targets starting from a position in which the handgun is securely holstered. Firing may be on paper targets with scoring rings, metal plates that fall when hit, or even bowling pins that must be completely swept from a table. Action courses may include both scored and falling targets within the same match. Scoring is either by raw time (the exact number of seconds it takes the competitor to complete the course of fire) or by a factoring system that adds the total point value of the targets hit on a particular range and then divides that total by the time (in seconds) it took the shooter to complete the course. 

There are currently 15 recognized courses of fire for record, plus a Tyro course. The Tyro course is divided into three stages with three targets per stage, making a total of 24 shots fired at a distance of 10 yards. This Tyro course must be completed before one can participate in any of the record courses.


Action shooting is a direct outgrowth of the "fast draw" contests popular in the late 1950s. In those events, shooters demonstrated blazing speed, but little attention was given to accuracy. Courses of fire were developed that retained the need for speed, but also stressed accuracy and full-power handgun loads.


The beginning shooter does not need specialized, high-priced equipment to participate. The beginner can compete with an out-of-the-box handgun. For the most part, however, these events are dominated by semi-auto, centerfire pistols, due to their speed of fire and ease of reloading. The most popular caliber choices are 9mm, .45 ACP and 10mm. Autopistol shooters will need spare magazines and magazine carriers; revolver shooters will need speed loaders. Probably the most important piece of equipment for Action Pistol is having a safe holster, which will hold the firearm securely while moving, yet allow a rapid draw.


There are some specific rules for the type of ammunition used in action pistol competition. The lower caliber limit is 9mm; and all ammunition fired in a tournament must meet or exceed a specified power floor within safe limitations for the handgun to be used. The power formula, when checked by a chronograph, is: bullet weight X muzzle velocity = not less than 120,000. (Example: using a 158 gr. bullet, the muzzle velocity must be at least 760 fps to achieve the power floor of 120,000.) 

Rule Book

The best way to learn about all aspects of the sport is to obtain a copy of the rules. The NRA Action Pistol Shooting Rules book, catalog #CA16330 may be ordered for $2. each from: NRA Distribution Center, P.O. Box 5000, Kearneysville, WV 25430.

Further Information

United States Practical Shooting Association
P.O. Box 811, Dept. GG
Sedro Wooley, WA 98284
Phone:  (360) 855-2245
Fax:  (360) 855-0380.  

National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF)
11 Mile Hill Road
Newtown, CT 06470-2359
Phone:  (203) 426-1320
Fax:  (203) 426-1087

The NSSF publishes a Directory of Public Shooting Ranges which offers information on over 900 gun clubs nationwide, many of which offer Action Pistol shooting facilities. To obtain a copy, send $2. to NSSF. 

National Rifle Association, Competitions Division
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA 22030
Phone:  (703) 267-1000

(Material courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)