Getting Started In Steel Challenge

posted on May 15, 2020

Steel Challenge is one of the most exciting action shooting sports in the world. In addition to the competitive nature of the sport, an added bonus is that the whole family can get involved for a reasonable amount of money. The barrier to entry into the sport is fairly low. Let’s walk through topics such as where to find your first Steel Challenge match and what you will need to participate.

The Steel Challenge Shooting Association updated its website last year, check it out at In order to find a local match or any of the major matches, go to the website and click “Matches” in the top right-hand corner of the website. From there you will see the “Find SCSA Matches.”

Steel Challenge guide | Finding a Match

You can click on either “View List” or “View Calendar.” For the purposes of our discussion, click on “View List.” You will then see a list of all sanctioned Tier I or what we commonly refer to as “local” Steel Challenge matches.

Steel Challenge Match calendar example

If you would like more information about a match, go ahead and click on the “Match Name.” You will find the date, time, location of the event, contact information for the director of the match and the cost of the match (usually).

Steel Challenge website match listing example

You may have heard that a lot of people shoot more than one division (or gun) in a match. As a new shooter, I recommend shooting one division. In our example, we will need to bring $25 for the Veterans 3-Gun Team 1100 match located at the Talladega Marksmanship Park in Alabama.

As for what you need to bring, let’s start off with the two key essentials. You may be thinking a gun and ammunition—no, not yet, but we will get there soon. For your first match, you need to bring:

  1. Eye protection.
  2. Hearing protection.

When you arrive at the shooting event, always make sure you have your eye protection on before you exit your vehicle. These events are held at gun ranges with active shooting going on; you only get two eyes, so let’s be diligent in keeping them. When shopping for your safety glasses, look for a pair that is tested to the ANZI Z87.1-2015 standard. This means eye protection for a ¼-inch steel ball traveling at 150 fps. These can be purchased for as low as $20.

Next, make sure you have your hearing protection in your hand in case shooting is already going on. When you purchase hearing protection, you will want a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of at least 25. With a proper fit, foam ear plugs can offer a NRR of 32. If shooting larger caliber guns, inner ear and over ear combinations are recommended. For shooting rimfire, foam earplugs are a great start—not to mention cheap—they can often be found for as low as a buck a pair.

Your next question should be, what kind of gun do I need to bring? I recommend you bring what you have. Most outdoors enthusiasts have or know someone with a Ruger 10/22 or 22/45 in their safe, or maybe a Glock G17. If you don’t, email the match director of the Steel Challenge match and ask them if they know a club member who has equipment for you to borrow. Worst case scenario, you can purchase a Ruger 10/22 or 22/45 Mark IV or similar setup for $300, or even less if you shop around.

To begin, I recommend starting from the low ready and not drawing from a holster. When asking to borrow equipment, see if they have five magazines to use during your first match. If you are hooked the way I was, you will want your own equipment. Having five magazines helps the shooting squads move along quicker. When you borrow or purchase a gun for the match, make sure you have a bag to bring it to and from the firing line in an unloaded and safe condition. Additionally, be sure that when the “Make Ready” command is given, the muzzle end of the gun is pointed downrange. If shooting a rifle, you will need a chamber flag, which more than likely will come with the gun. If not, a simple zip tie will get you through your first match.

The only other thing you need for a match is to make sure you have enough ammunition. To be on the safe side, bring 500 rounds. For rimfire, you can find ammunition on sale for about 5¢ a round (for a total of $25).

When you get to the range, most times the formal “check-in” is at a clubhouse, but every range is different. Again, check with the match director or the web site to get the check-in time, directions, check-in point and match fee.

To recap, the costs of getting started in Steel Challenge are (if you are able to borrow a gun and magazines):

  • Eye protection: $20
  • Ear protection: $1
  • Ammunition: $25
  • Match fee: $25
  • TOTAL: $71

You should have ammunition to bring home with you after the match, and your eye and ear protection are reusable if you take care of them. If you want to purchase a gun, I would add around $300 and a bag for $10, a total of $310 plus tax. Most guns come with two magazines, so you will want to buy three more for about $20 each, a total of $60. Your own setup will be less than $400 to get started—and you can upgrade components over time.

It may seem a bit daunting, but I recommend reading the Steel Challenge rules that are located here.

Finally, remember that you do not need to be an expert. There will be Range Officers in charge of your squad, and they will be able to answer any questions you have.

We all started at the same starting point. Don’t be nervous. Get to the range, be safe and have fun.

Article from the May/June 2020 issue of USPSA’s FrontSight magazine.

See more: How To Avoid A Sweeping DQ


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