USPSA: Everything You Need To Know About The Different Divisions

Wondering which guns you shoot for each USPSA division and why? This article will help.

at USPSA posted on May 10, 2024
USPSA Divisions 4
In USPSA competition, competitors wield everything from revolvers and the classic 1911 auto pistol to modern service pistols, custom race guns and more.
Photos by USPSA

USPSA shooting is one of the most demanding forms of practical pistol competition on the planet. Which division is right for you to start your competition journey in? The choice often aligns with the reasons for shooting pistols in the first place: some aim to hone their skills for self-defense, while others enjoy customizing their firearms. Many will focus on the experience and learning to shoot each style of pistol. However, the best firearm for your first match is the one you already own. The right division for you is the one that brings you joy—there is no single “best gun” for USPSA. People choose one style over another based on the enjoyment it brings them, as USPSA shooting is ultimately about having fun with your firearm.


Sloan Sanders
Sloan Sanders is pictured above competing in Open division.


The Open division is akin to top-fuel drag racing for USPSA, where cutting-edge, high-capacity 2011s reign. Here, competitors can make all Limited division modifications plus more, including using extended magazines up to 171.25 mm, optical sights and recoil reducing compensators. Any caliber firing a .354-inch or larger bullet is allowed, with hand-loaded 9 mm and various .38 Super cartridges being popular. This division typically features custom-built race guns, open-style race holsters and gear.


This division is for approved production handguns with double-action triggers or striker-fired mechanisms. Popular choices include CZs, Smith & Wesson, Tanfoglios, Glocks, SIGs, Walthers, Berettas, Caniks and approved revolvers, like eight-shot versions. Shooters may modify sights, grips and internal parts, and swap small parts such as triggers, hammers, magazine releases and slide stops; slide modifications and swaps are permitted. Magazines are limited to 15 rounds, and all guns are scored as “Minor” caliber, regardless of the actual power of the load. Holsters and gear must be non-race-type, with most shooters opting for standard Kydex holsters on a double-layer belt.


The only permitted firearms here are 1911 single-stack Government model pistols from makers like Springfield Armory, Wilson Combat, Colt and others. Magazine capacities are limited to standard sizes—eight rounds for “Major” calibers (.40, 10 mm and .45 ACP) and 10 rounds for “Minor” (9 mm and .38 Super). Shooters adhere to Single Stack division guidelines for holsters and are allowed similar modifications as in the Production division.


Competitors in the Limited divisions often use double-stack 2011 single-action autoloaders chambered in .40 S&W or 9 mm. They can perform various minor customizations to enhance shootability, barring optical sights, porting or compensators. Calibers may be “Minor” (9 mm) or “Major” (.40 S&W or larger), with high-capacity magazines up to 141.25 mm in length. The Limited 10 division follows the same equipment rules but restricts magazine capacity to 10 rounds post-start signal.


Revolver Division is led by Smith & Wesson and Ruger revolvers in minor calibers. Shooters may fire eight rounds between reloads for “Minor” scoring or six for “Major,” with limited modifications permitted. No optical sights, porting or compensators are allowed. Shooters may enhance grips, enlarge cylinder releases, chamfer cylinders and tune actions. The “Major” scoring uses cartridges firing bullets .354-inch or larger, with six rounds fired before reloading. Recently, USPSA allowed eight shots before reloading in the “Minor” scoring, affecting points for hits outside the A zone.


Morgan Leonhardt
Morgan Leonhardt became the youngest ever USPSA Ladies Carry Optics National Champion at age 14 in 2021.


With the rising trend of red-dot optics on service pistols, Carry Optics has become the most popular USPSA division. It largely follows Production rules but requires optical or electronic sights to be slide mounted behind the ejection port. Magazines can be extended to 141.25 mm and scoring is “Minor” power factor only. The same type of commercial ammunition and similar holsters and gear as Production division are most common.


The Pistol-Caliber Carbine division has seen steady growth in popularity, with numerous manufacturers offering competition-ready carbines and accessories. Carbines chambered in 9 mm, .357 Sig, .40 S&W, 10 mm and .45 ACP are legal in this division, and must have a stock attached and be capable of being fired from shoulder position (AR and similar pistols with arm braces are not allowed). Red-dot optics are prevalent, while scoring is “Minor” power factor only.


The new “Limited Optics” division remains provisional for handgun competition at the time of this publication. It adheres to Limited division rules with the addition of a required optic mounted on the slide. Scoring is “Minor” only, same as with Carry Optics. Extended magazines up to 141.25 mm are permitted, as well as all Limited division customizations, including magwells for quick reloads and single-action trigger types found on high capacity 2011s. The use of race holsters differentiates this division from Carry Optics’ restrictions on gear.

Article from the 2024 Annual edition of USPSA’s magazine.


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