Steel Challenge (world speed shooting championships) Training Tips

  • SumoMe

Take from Your Competition Handgun Training Program (cross training section)-


Shooting the outer limits stage at the Steel Challenge, one where movement is required.

Steel Challenge – The Steel Challenge (SC) is the world speed shooting championship normally held in California.  This is an all steel match with 7 stages and 5 targets on each stage, all consisting of round or rectangle steel plates set up at distances from 7-35 yards.  The object of SC matches is pure speed and the goal is to hit all 5 targets as fast as possible, with the stop plate last, which records a time for the entire run.  The shooter takes either four or five runs, with one throw out run per stage.  The times are added together and that is the score for the stage.  While pure speed is the goal, accuracy fundamentals are also tested in SC matches because each time you miss a piece of steel, it takes a half second or more to make that shot up.  For this reason, it is critical to get a hit with each shot if at all possible.  Participating in SC matches will greatly increase your skill in all fundamental shooting skills, but will specifically increase your draw speed and target acquisition speed. For more information on Steel Challenge matches, visit:


Midway through the draw process. The draw is CRITICAL if you want to do well at the Steel Challenge.

Key Needs: Draw and target transitions Two skill areas will become very important when training and competing in SC matches – draw speed and target transitions.  On each stage you will do 4 or 5 separate runs, each requiring a draw (from the surrender position).  Each of the stages will also require you to shoot a target once, then move the gun (acquire) to the next one and shoot it.  This means that you will do more than 30 draws and over 100 target transitions in the match.  The better you are at those two things, the better your overall time is.  Let’s say for example, that you are doing a draw at about 1.5 seconds average and you decrease your time by a mere two tenths of a second (.2).  You would decrease your match score by more than six seconds.  This is a huge decrease in time and any professional would give big money for a decrease of that amount.  As far as acquisitions, lets say your normal transition time is three tenths of a second (.3), and you decrease that by a mere half of a tenth of a second (.05) to a transition time of a quarter second (.25) per acquisition.  You would decrease your match time once again by more than six seconds.  Add these two together and we are talking about a decrease in total match time of more than ten seconds (around 11-12).  This is a HUGE improvement in a SC score.

Training Tips Training for the SC is simply a matter of working on the two key skills that I have already listed (draw and transition), and figuring out what order in which to shoot the stages.  While training on the stages you will want to break each one down, so you can improve your ability to shoot it on demand well.  This requires you to understand and place your focus on certain areas.  Here is what I try to do for each stage in the Steel Challenge, and these things should be incorporated in your training:

Break each stage down for-

  • Body Position.  Try to find an initial body position that will allow you to get a relatively natural swing through all targets.  I like to orient my initial body position on the first or hardest target.  I experiment with my foot position to get myself set up to hit the first plate fast and then move through the rest of the plates smoothly.  I encourage you to experiment a lot in this area, and take good notes.  Log the times and then use the one that works best.  When it comes to game day, you will know exactly where to set your feet and consequently body position up for the best results.
  • Target Order.  Different shooters like to shoot the targets in different orders.  Obviously there are many different ways to shoot them, but on most stages, there are really only a couple good ways.  In training you will want to experiment with this and log the results.  Try to find a way that is the fastest combined with a higher percentage of hits on the targets.  Use the timer to really help you tell the difference.  You might find the one that “feels” the best is not the best in the long run.
  • Pace.  When training, start at a pace where you can control and get hits on all plates.  The importance of hitting the first plate with one shot cannot be underestimated.  Once you have found your control zone, start pushing yourself until you can no longer shoot any faster and get hits.  Don’t spend your time in training shooting at plates and missing, because of course, this will just create bad habits.  Learn where you can push on certain stages and where you have to slow down.
  • Danger Targets.  All Steel Challenge stages have a couple targets that could be labeled as danger targets.  These targets are ones that you are likely to miss, or swing by when you are shooting at them.  The biggest danger targets are those that will allow you to swing by them and hit the stop plate before you realized you missed a plate.  This penalty is a huge one when shooting the steel challenge, so make sure you learn where these danger targets are based on the order you decide to shoot the stages. Then train yourself to do what you need to do to hit them.

Until Then – Train Hard

Mike S.

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