Stealing the show: how steel challenge competitions are taking centre stage in the US

The attraction of Steel Challenge is easy to understand. It’s a game of speed and accuracy with the immediate satisfaction of hearing the steels ringing after each shot – should you hit your target!

In 2019 alone, there were over 1,000 Steel Challenge competitions in the states with nearly 45,000 competitors taking part. This has come a long way since its introduction in 1981 when just 70 shooters competed in the first Steel Challenge event.

Mike Foley, president of the USPSA, said because of the “low barrier to entry, people of all ages, skill levels and body types are put on a level playing field”*. This coupled with its relative low cost to get started have all helped the competition grow in popularity in recent years.

What’s more, the competition format lends itself well to spectators as it has simpler rules and the stages remain the same year after year.

Each Steel Challenge competition consists of eight standardized courses of fire with five steel plates on each. The steel targets will be anywhere from seven to 35 yards away. Competitors are scored solely by the time it takes them to complete each stage, and the match winner is the competitor with the lowest overall time.

At Killough Shooting Sports, we have a range of equipment and accessories to help get you started in steel challenge.


ELEY .22LR ammo is renowned worldwide for its accuracy. The rimfire manufacturer has two excellent rounds designed for Steel Challenge type events – ELEY force and ELEY contact. The rounds are a heavier, 42gr bullet and feature excellent knockdown properties. Its round nose profile means they cycle reliably in semi-auto rifle and pistols and has minimal recoil to enable fast follow-up shots. Force is the high velocity option, and contact is subsonic.

·         ELEY force

·         ELEY contact

Red dot sights

Rimfire pistols with optical sights (RFPO) and rimfire rifles with optical sights (RFRO) have played a major role in the recent growth of Steel Challenge. The red dot provides simplicity and precision over traditional sights, but it also gives another advantage – speed. The reason that red dot sights dominate speed-based shooting competitions is the fast-acquisition, giving a greater probability of hitting the target.

·         C-more red dot sights


The race ready competition magazines for .38 super and 9mm pistols are designed to give 100% feeding reliability. They have also been ergonomically engineered for fast, easy reloads.

·         MBX magazines

Protective eyewear

Step up your shooting safety with protective glasses from Hunters HD Gold. The range offers enhanced clarity and contrast while automatically adjusting to whatever lighting conditions may be when you take to the firing line.

·         Hunters HD Gold

A quick check on the Steel Challenge Shooting Association website will find a club near you if you want to get involved. Alternatively, for more on practical shooting sports in general, check out the official US Practical Shooting Association website.

*Shooting Sports USA interview (2017)

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