Open up the USPSA Competition Rules and the first thing you are presented with are the eight “Principles of USPSA Competition”. These have remained largely unchanged over time and are the guideposts of our sport. Yet, I’d wager that most everyone that opens up the rule book goes right on by without ever taking time to read them. So, let’s take a look at these. Get out your rulebook and follow along.
You might notice that the principles, as stated at the start of the book are repeated in somewhat different form in Chapter 1.1 “General Principles”. That’s right, these are so important they appear in the book twice…albeit the form in the rules has morphed a lot over time. But the same basis is there.
The first principle ensures that everyone (“all reputable persons”) can participate. At the time that this was written there was a trend toward competitive handgun shooting being open only to law enforcement and the military. For instance, PPC, in many areas, was a law enforcement only sport. I got to shoot a practice PPC match as a youngster only by virtue of a relative being in law enforcement. The reasons for this are many and varied. I’ve heard everything from range liability concerns on through thoughts that only “trained professionals” were thought capable of shooting a handgun competitively and safely.
The second principle is where “Accuracy, Power, Speed” or the Latin “Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas”, more commonly seen these days as “DVC” come in. These three principles are the three legged stool our sport was built upon. If we “shorten” any of these three then the sport is compromised.
The third lays out the boundaries of our eight divisions and restricts subdivision among them. Over the years there have been calls by some wanting to subdivide Production, for instance, by weight limit (effectively, polymer frame and metal frame) but this would go against this principle so, for this and other reasons, it has been left alone. Some might point to the Limited/Limited 10 subdivision but you have to remember this was done, originally, to keep Single Stacks in the game when the wide body frames from Para, STI and SVI came around. The intent was not to address magazine limits (those came later) nor was it really intended that people would short load their double stack magazines in their Limited guns to shoot in L10; but that horse left the barn a longgg time ago.
The fourth principle is certainly the shortest but it is one of the most important of all the principles for it establishes the purpose and the goal behind our sport. The testing of expertise in the use of practical firearms and equipment. Believe it or not, if you go back into the early history of our sport, the advent of what is now Open Division with optics and compensators was originally seen by many to be against this principle. When Brian Enos, Rob Leatham and others started showing up with dots on their handguns (and these were HUGE in comparison to today’s mini-optics) many argued that these were not practical. You couldn’t/wouldn’t carry one of these concealed or even in an open holster because they were too large and unwieldy. Sour grapes because the dot guns were mopping the floor with everyone else? Maybe. But, dots (and comps) prevailed. [It is humorous to some of us that the new trend in carry guns, which may be considered the pinnacle of practical for most of us, is adding dots to them even if it is 30+ years later.]
The fifth principle lays out the basis of our Targets. While some of the language still hints at the original martial aspects of the sport, it nonetheless remains part of our foundation, as a sport. “Primary intended use” could mean many things to many people. For most of us, the primary intended use of our competition equipment is to, well, compete. While some do compete with their carry/duty guns, and I encourage you to do this now and then, most of us have purpose built/modified firearms for our sport and we tend to carry something purpose built for that.
The sixth principle is the most important principle…Safety. It is everyone’s number one job and the basis for huge swaths of our rules. The “practical rationale” part has largely been forgotten and hypothetical situations, aka scenario based stages, is only passingly paid homage to in most matches. We used to have a number of classifiers based on scenarios but most of those have been eliminated over time. In many ways, this has been reduced down to “there are some zombies over here and some more over there and run around the corner and there are some more” and so on. This is only my opinion but I think that the loss of scenario based stages is sad. This was mostly done because they tend to be slow to setup, involve lots of specialty props, and are slow to reset so they impede match flow. I get the reasoning, but I still find it sad. Again, my opinion. And yes, I know IDPA exists.
The seventh principle can be seen as both a restriction against unreasonable challenges and the reason we don’t publish a course of fire book every year and require everyone to shoot only those courses (well, its one reason…there are so many more). Classifiers are, of course the exception, because we need consistent stages to be used as a yardstick to measure ability/expertise.
The final principle, number eight, comes last because it was added last. In days of old, our sport was a box to box sport. From box A engage these targets, move to box B and engage those targets and so on. At some point in the 1990’s folks got tired of that and just said “shoot ’em when you see ’em” which was much more challenging not to mention much more fun and thus was “Freestyle” born and Rule 1.1.5 sprang to life.
The first listing “Principles of USPSA Competition” can be viewed, in some ways, as our historical foundation. Despite current societal attitudes to the contrary, history is very important because if you don’t know where you came from and where you have been along the way; it is much harder to make educated, rational decisions going forward. Whether you realize it or not, these Principles have been the anvil upon which our sport was formed and remain the guiding light for our sport now and into the future.