Just about every sport I can think of, especially the shooting sports, breaks competitors down by Division (or something like it) based on equipment used and by Class (or something like it) based on experience/ability/demonstrated skill level, etc. USPSA and SCSA are no different.
For USPSA and SCSA our Division rules are found in rule 6.2 and in the D appendixes. Classes are handled via the formalized classification system for each sport; we won’t go into those here.
If we go back to our foundation sports you see basically a “Run what you brung” format. Revolvers and 1911’s ruled the roost. Eventually people started searching for an advantage and started fooling with compensators and eventually dot sights. The sport fractured into Open (comps and dots) and Limited (no comps, no dots). Those two division rules are, today, largely unchanged from those early beginnings.
Eventually the revolvers got split off from the bottom feeders and from there we saw divisions start multiplying. Limited 10 was a place for Single Stack to play after the double stack mag guns arrived (Para, STI, SVI, etc.) before there was a Single Stack Division. Production came in for the polymer framed, striker fired guns like the Glock 17, S&W M&P, Springfield XD and so on and eventually non-polymer framed guns were allowed into Production. Most recently we added Carry Optics as a logical evolution of Production division and PCC.
Now that we have looked at history a bit, let’s see where things land presently in terms of Divisional rules.
The most forgiving division in handgun is of course Open. There are few restrictions in Open other than magazine length, power factor, and calibers. That is why when you fail to meet the division requirements for your declared division you go to Open division, if available (220.127.116.11) because most probably what you have that doesn’t make your declared division will meet Open criteria. If you are really out there and don’t even make Open, well, you are shooting for no score.
If you are shooting the Area 9 Single Stack Showdown where the only division offered is Single Stack and you fail a test for that division then you are shooting for essentially no score. Why? Because Open division isn’t a recognized division for awards at that match. This most often comes up at Nationals where Open division shooters are competing for awards in one match but we offer Nationals over multiple matches dividing up the divisions between the matches. You sometimes may notice several people in Open division in one of these other matches and that was because something occurred which pushed them to Open division. They got to shoot and have fun but they were not eligible for awards.
Note that failing a test for a division in USPSA is not something that is eligible for repair and try again. You declared a specific division and thus are implying that your equipment satisfies the division requirements. If you fail a test for a division, that is the end of the story.
PCC is PCC and that’s that. If somehow a PCC doesn’t make division requirements, they are shooting for no score.
Note that SCSA is different than USPSA in how failure to meet division requirements are handled. See 6.2 in the SCSA rules. SCSA also has more divisions than USPSA does (thirteen vs. eight).
The most common failures we see at majors in terms of division requirements are:
- Loading too many rounds in a round restricted division
- Failing to fit “The Box” for divisions that use the box
- Failing the magazine gauge
- Failing to make weight for weight restricted divisions
How do you avoid these common problems? Well, if you are shooting in a round restricted division and your magazines will hold more than the restricted amount (e.g. 10 rounds) then it is safest to unload any used magazine and then load just 10 rounds into them. Avoid the common practice of loading your first mag to 11 with your “Barney Bullet”. It is too easy to forget this and then you hit an unloaded start with 11 rounds in your magazine. Maybe you get away with it; or, maybe an RO is counting shots and notices you go to slide lock at 11. Welcome to Open!
The way to avoid failing the box test, where required, is to find someone with a box or buy one, and check your gun(s) in it. Many clubs will have a box and would be happy to let you test things out. If you build your own, be very careful with tolerances. And remember, the box test is performed with an empty magazine inserted.
The easiest way to not fail the magazine gauge is shoot Revolver or PCC. The second easiest way is to invest in a magazine gauge. Too expensive? Okay, invest in a ruler and see Appendix E1. And then measure your magazines every time you assemble them or replace any parts. We see people mix up base pads when they clean magazines all too frequently. If you own your very own magazine gauge, or a ruler, you can check all your magazines whenever the mood strikes.
And to avoid weight problems find a good scale and a check weight of a known weight that is up in the range of a handgun. Check weights of various sizes can be found online relatively cheaply. Even if your scale can’t be calibrated you can weigh the check weight and determine the error correction. But you do need to be in the range of the gun weights. Don’t use a 5 ounce check weight and then weigh 40+ ounce firearms. And remember, weight is checked with an empty magazine inserted.
Traditionally, Major matches will allow courtesy checks at Chronograph for weight, magazine gauge, The Box and power factor during the staff shoot or stage inspection as long as the Chronograph officers are present. You generally just need to ask nicely.
Most instances of people being bumped to Open are innocent. It is rare that someone is trying to cheat and lands in Open. Now that equipment position has been loosened up we will see fewer moves to Open for equipment position issues and that overall is good for the sport, in my opinion.