USPSA: Learning The Rules

Curious about USPSA rules and the hierarchy of match officials? This article will help.

posted on May 17, 2024
USPSA Rules 3
USPSA matches are mentally and physically challenging for competitive shooters. Figuring out the easiest, fastest way to safely complete a course—within the rules—is a big part of the game.
Photo by USPSA

Rules are the backbone of any game, and as Director of the National Range Officer Institute (NROI), it’s my job to interpret those rules for USPSA, and to assist in the training of Range Officers at all levels.

The majority of USPSA rules deal with safety on the range. USPSA is a dynamic sport that requires competitors to use full-power handguns (and rifles and shotguns at times), to solve a competitive shooting problem under the clock. Movement is often required, as is reloading your gun on the move, so safe gun handling skills are paramount.

USPSA competitor shooting
Most USPSA rules are geared towards safety on the range.



Most USPSA safety rules are derived from four basic rules of safe gun handling:

  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  • Never point your muzzle at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.
USPSA officials
USPSA’s volunteer officials come in several types, all of which are trained and certified by NROI.


The National Range Officers Institute trains and certifies range officials for USPSA-sanctioned events. NROI-certified range officers will be seen in uniform at the larger Area- and National-level events, safely assisting competitors in their endeavors. The entire Range Officer cadre also competes actively, but at times they put aside their guns to help run events. Range Officers form the backbone of the volunteer infrastructure at a great many clubs, where you will see them competing and officiating at the same event. The best ones are often asked to travel to major events, and our people are frequently tapped by IROA (International Range Officer Association) to officiate at major matches worldwide (including the world championship matches held every three years). National Range Officers Institute certification carries a certain cachet within the USPSA and IPSC world, particularly if the Range Officer develops a reputation for being calm, fair and knowledgeable.

To become a Range Officer, we ask that you compete actively in USPSA matches for a period of time, long enough to get comfortable with the basics of the sport and its terms. Prospective Range Officers then attend a Level 1 certification class (usually over a weekend) where they are taught the nuts and bolts of being an official, and are tested on their knowledge of the rules. Chief Range Officer status can be gained by attending a Level 2 seminar at a later date, and all officials at all levels are tested on the rules annually.

NROI seminar
Whether you want to become a Range Officer or Chief Range Officer to help your local matches, or just learn the rules, attending a USPSA National Range Officers Institute’s seminar is a weekend well spent.



  1. RANGE OFFICERS. Certified by NROI, Range Officers perform most of the “refereeing” seen at a USPSA match. They carry the timer, check equipment, score targets and help make sure the competitor plays in a safe manner.
  2. CHIEF RANGE OFFICERS. These officials are the Sergeants of the Range Officer corps. Chief Range Officers have supplemental training in course design and range operations. They normally serve as the Chief Range Officer on a stage, overseeing the activities of the Range Officers under them.
  3. RANGE MASTERS. Range Masters have extensive supplemental training in range operations, arbitrations, staff management, squadding and the various fine points of USPSA rules. Range Master candidates are assigned a mentor, and over the course of a year they will complete an extensive program of correspondence and on-the-job training. Additionally, Range Masters oversee the officials at major matches. The USPSA Nationals, for example, employ two or more—each assigned to one half of the match.
  4. RANGE MASTER INSTRUCTOR. The top of the Range Officer hierarchy, Range Master Instructors travel across the United States to instruct Range Officers and Chief Range Officers, along with mentoring Range Master Candidates.


If your interest lies in Multigun or Steel Challenge, don’t despair. The Multigun and Steel Challenge rules have recently been revised, and NROI has the means to certify range officials in this fast-growing aspect of our sport. If you already hold a certification, (Range Officer, Chief Range Officer or Range Master), you can gain an endorsement in either discipline through our Learning Management System, or LMS.


Overall, USPSA’s officials are some of the most highly-respected in the shooting sports, and because of this are often sought out to help serve at higher level matches across the country.

Their success, diligence and professionalism as officials are a major part of what makes USPSA one of the safest, most professional shooting sports available anywhere.

USPSA transitioned to electronic rules in 2019. A copy of all of our rules can be found and downloaded at the USPSA website or on the USPSA app. I encourage you to take a look at the rules if you are interested in playing our game, and ask questions of Range Officials whenever you need additional help.

Taking a Level 1 seminar will not only help you become a certified Range Officer, it will help you be a better USPSA competitor, knowledgeable in our rules, and more aware of the safety aspects of our game.

We look forward to showing you what we mean. Come and see us in action at a local USPSA match, and remember to shoot safe.

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


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