USPSA Limited Optics: Almost A Year In

It’s been nearly one year since USPSA established the provisional Limited Optics division, with plenty of discussion during that time about how different it is from Carry Optics.

at USPSA posted on March 22, 2024
2023 USPSA Limitedoptics 1
USPSA established its provisional Limited Optics division in May 2023. Now, as the initial 12-month review period nears its end, the organization must decide whether to make it a permanent division or extend the provisional status and continue collecting data.
Photo by Jake Martens/USPSA

Wednesday, May 1, 2024, will be the one-year mark and review period for the USPSA provisional division Limited Optics. USPSA bylaw 16.2, clause ii, lays out the process for provisional divisions. For Limited Optics, we are currently addressing sections e thru g of the process.

  • e. The initial review period of the provisional division will be 12 months. During the initial review period, unless required by law, there will be no changes allowed to the equipment ruleset for the division.
  • f. During the initial review period USPSA will collect member input via survey on the provisional division rules.
  • g. After the initial review period the board may, based on member input, data collection of activities and other statistics, vote to remove the provisional status either making it a permanent division or no longer pursue data collection. After the initial review the board may vote to adjust the equipment ruleset.

Depending on the process outlined in section g, the USPSA board could extend the provisional status, following the remaining parts of the bylaw.

  • h. The board may also at this time extend the provisional status for up to 12 additional months for further review. During the additional review period no equipment changes can be made unless required by law.
  • i. At the end of the additional 12 months (total of 24 months review), the board must vote to either to make it a permanent division or end the data collection on the proposed division.
  • j. If the board votes to make the provisional division permanent, the division will take effect on January 31 of the following year.

Over the past year, there has been considerable debate regarding the introduction of Limited Optics and its differences from Carry Optics. There are many differences between the two divisions besides magwells. A firearm to be used in Carry Optics must be on the approved USPSA Production Gun List. This means that a model must be readily available, with at least 500 units made and in circulation, before it can be submitted for approval. The guns have restrictions besides magwells and no single-action type of firing mechanisms. The requirement to have 500 units that have been produced and available is one of the biggest differences between Carry Optics and Limited Optics.

Limited Optics doesn’t require a minimum quantity to be built; this means that you can have a full-on, custom-built high-capacity firearm or one that is fully customized by many of the smaller custom builders that would not ever meet the 500 quantity threshold. This also takes into account if you have your old Limited division gun that you now want to have the slide cut to accept an optic. These would not be able to be approved for use if Carry Optics was just updated to allow magwells and single-action. This stipulation would have needed to be removed from Carry Optics if magwells and single-actions were to be permitted; this in turn would make Carry Optics, the most popular division in USPSA, now a division where custom-built, one-off guns would be allowed. That was never the intention of the division. Why mess with such a successful division?

The equipment rules in Carry Optics have been unchanged since February 2020, and the growth has been phenomenal. At the end of 2019, Carry Optics represented only 16.3 percent of reported results. By the end of 2020, it was at 24.01 percent, then 2021 saw it rise to 30.76 percent. The industry was recovering from the tremendous sales spike that took place in 2020-2021 with the release of more optics and optics-ready handguns. Carry Optics hit 39 percent at the end of 2022, and by the end of last year was 39.84 percent. Of all new members, 49 percent shoot Carry Optics as their first division in USPSA, and 34 percent in Steel Challenge. It is now the third most popular division in Steel Challenge as well.

Differences also revolve around the permitted gear. Race holsters are legal in Limited Optics. The distance from the belt for holster and magazine pouches follow Open, Revolver, L10 and Limited. Modifications to the slide, frame and grips also follow the other “race gun” divisions, with many fewer restrictions than the Production rules in Carry Optics. Having a fully custom-built, high-capacity race gun is different than a Production-based Carry Optics gun. You can make many arguments that they are not that different, but cannot make the argument that they are the same. Try as much as you want, a striker-fired or double-action/ single-action trigger is not the same as a tuned custom single-action race gun.

Minor scoring is another topic that has been debated as well. The USPSA membership had multiple survey questions that were available for them to participate in, and the results of those surveys showed that the majority of the membership that participated wanted minor scoring only. Yes, many of us, myself included, have Limited guns that have been collecting dust while we have cheated on them with other divisions over the last couple of years. When evaluating a provisional division, using the surveys is an important step. Other things to consider are the trends in the industry. Whether we like it or not, .40 S&W is not the go-to round that it once was. While once popular in Law Enforcement and in competition, it has lost favor to the advancement in ballistics to the 9 mm. Also, there are almost no optics-ready .40 S&W firearms being produced by the industry. Limited division, once the most popular division in USPSA, is now barely half of the activities it once was, and of those, more than 60 percent are scored minor. You do not want to start a new division with one foot in the grave based on the marketplace, and the fact is that almost no one is shooting major in Limited now.

In order to try to make sound decisions, you have to look at the data. Below is a monthly breakdown, starting from May 1, 2023. This includes new USPSA members’ information showing how many shot Limited Optics as their first division.


Source: USPSA



Source: USPSA


Article from the March/April 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine.



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