The sport of Practical target shooting is different to most other forms of target shooting. In other forms, a single type of target is used (most often a round paper target with concentric scoring zones and a “bulls eye” in the middle). Also the rules for target engagement are specific, and so the shooting match is conducted in exactly the same manner match to match.
This allows competitors to practice the competition itself over and over again.
In Practical competition, a variety of target types are used (both paper and steel, stationary and moving, scoring targets and penalty targets). There is no set way these targets are arranged, nor even how many targets are used in a single match.
A competition organiser creates a number of “stages” (conforming to a set of IPSC design rules), each using different numbers and arrangements of targets, to create a shooting challenge that the competitors have to solve as accurately and as rapidly as possible.
The other major difference from other shooting competitions is the way in which the final score is calculated for a competitor.
In most other competitions, the score is calculated simply by adding up the values of the scoring zones hit by the competitor.
In Practical competition, the time taken is also part of the final score. The sum of the scoring zones is worked out, and this then divided by the total time the competitor took to engage the targets. Thus the quicker the competitor completes the stage, the better the final score will be.
Additionally, stages usually require competors to move away from a starting position to enable them to see and engage all the targets in the stage. This adds an athletic component to the test, as well as an intellectual one in that the competitor is required to work out the most efficient manner and order of engaging the targets, taking into account his/her own shooting skills, athleticism etc.
Also unlike other shooting disciplines, all participants (male, female, junior) compete together over exactly the same stages, with the same rules and the same scoring procedures.
Only one competitor at a time shoots a stage. At all times this competitor is under the direct observation and control of a trained Range Officer whose primary task is to enforce the match safety rules.
Practical shooting is a safe sport, and IPSC training, rules and procedures will ensure that this continues.
In Australia, Practical competitions are most often for centre-fire pistols and revolvers of calibres from 9mm to .38. Stages are normally started with pistols holstered on the belt, and most often will require the competitor to perform reloads of the pistol during the stage