From the outside looking in, or perhaps by perusing the leather bound volumes that constitute the rules of the game, USPSA may seem like a very complex and intimidating game. At its core, however, the concept is very simple. It is a pistol game with targets, and on those targets are scoring zones assigned point values. The targets are laid out on a dynamic course consisting of boundaries and obstructions which the shooter must interact with to engage them. A shooter’s score consists of the amount of points they scored divided by the amount of time they used to shoot them. Whoever scores the most points in the least amount of time is the winner.
Speed is rewarded in USPSA. While it is important to hit the targets in the most valuable zones, it is most important to hit the targets in the fastest time. Much like in football, a hit anywhere inside a zone scores the full amount of possible points. There is no reward for small groups of hits. Whether one hits smack dab in the middle or just nicks the edge, the point value is the same. Just like how a touch down is a touch down (+7 points) and a field goal is a field goal (+3 points), an A Zone hit is an A Zone hit. For this reason, a shooter must only be as precise as is required for them to score an acceptable amount of points. The variable is the speed with which a shooter chooses to engage targets. The shooter needs to score points, one cannot miss fast enough to win, but it is speed that wins the match.
Also, like many of the traditional ball sports, USPSA designates an in-bounds area from within which the shooter can engage the targets. Within these boundaries, the shooter is relatively unrestricted in exactly how they choose to engage the targets. This makes problem solving and creativity an important aspect of the game. Once a course has been defined, the shooter is free to interact with the course in the way they choose. Establishing, visualizing, and executing a sound stage plan is the mark of a successful USPSA shooter.
The equipment required to participate in USPSA is fairly basic. First and foremost, common sense and the rule book require eye and ear protection be worn at all times. Next is a serviceable and safe handgun chambered in a caliber between .38 and .45. Then a shooter needs provisions to carry and rapidly feed that handgun with 30-40 rounds of ammunition on their person. Specific requirements and restrictions for equipment are very specifically defined in the official USPSA rule book.