Recent changes in the USPSA Competition rules regarding the distance from the belt, and the height relative to the belt for all divisions have brought about a few questions. In this NROI Tips video concerning gear positioning, we show you some guidelines for determining the proper placement of a competitor’s gun, holster, magazine holders and all associated equipment.
There are three divisions in USPSA competition where gear placement on the belt is regulated: Production, Carry Optics, and Single Stack. Each of these divisions specifies that the gun and holster, magazines and magazine holders, and all associated equipment be behind the point of the hip. This stems from the concept that these divisions mimic “daily carry” positioning. The distance from the inner side of the belt to the grip of the handgun or the inside edge of the magazine is also specified, and is 2 1/8 inches, or the width of an official USPSA overlay (read more about this). In addition, all divisions require that the heel of the butt of the handgun be even with, or above the top of the belt, regardless of where the belt is worn. More on that later.
These two images depict the proper placement for the handgun and holster, magazines, and allied equipment for the position-limited divisions. Note that this depicts the equipment behind the hip bones as viewed from the side of the competitor, not from the front, which is a common misconception. Any and all allied equipment must be behind the point of the hips. Violation of this rule results in a move to Open division, but may be corrected without penalty prior to a competitor shooting any stages. As a Range Official, it’s important to do an equipment check on your first squad of the day, so that incorrect positioning can be corrected without penalty. Note that for Carry Optics, the optic is not included in the placement restriction–it may extend forward of the point of the hip as long as the gun is legally positioned.
Height to belt and distance from the belt are requirements for all divisions, but there are exceptions for Law Enforcement, Military, and disabled competitors. Rules 5.2.8 and 5.2.9 in the 2020 Competition Rules cover these exceptions, and placement variances can be very broad, including having holsters and magazine holders installed on a wheelchair or walker. In all cases, the Range Master has the final say on what is acceptable.
For all divisions, the heel of the butt of the handgun must be even with or higher than the top of the belt (read more on this). Magwells don’t count, as mentioned in the video. This is specified in rule 126.96.36.199, and again, applies to ALL divisions as noted in the Appendices. Female competitors are allowed to wear their belt at hip level, per rule 188.8.131.52, but there are restrictions on how low the belt can be, and the height to belt rule still applies.
For the race divisions, Open, Limited, Limited 10, and Revolver, the distance from the inner side of the belt to the inside of the grip of the handgun and to the magazines, as measured from the top, is specified as 3 3/8 inches, or the length of an overlay. For all other divisions, Production, Single Stack, Carry Optics, and yes, PCC, the distance to the grip of the handgun and/or to the magazines is 2 1/8 inches, or the width of an overlay. Rule 5.2.5 details how to measure the handgun and allied equipment.
What if your gun or magazines are too far away from your belt, or the gun is too low? What are the penalties for violating this provision in the rules? The rulebook states, in 184.108.40.206 that if your equipment is measured and fails the prescribed distances or height, that it shall be adjusted. Range Officials should be observant and ensure that all competitors on their stage are compliant before they attempt the stage. What happens if someone shoots a stage with equipment that is out of compliance? Again, 220.127.116.11 spells out the penalty for that, which is a stage zero, but that penalty is not retroactive to any stages shot previous to the stage in question. This rule was instituted a couple of years ago, and spells out a stage zero instead of a move to Open division because Open and PCC would end up shooting for no score–not an equitable penalty. Once again, the Range Master has the final say and may allow variations due to differences in competitor shape and size, a.k.a. anatomical considerations.