If I could only have 2

I shoot a lot of different shooting disciplines.  IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, Bianchi Cup, ICORE, and even occasionally bowling pins.  From the mailbag comes the following question: Caleb, I saw your article in Cheaper than Dirt and I was wondering if you had to give up all but one sport which would it be?”

I have often thought of this.  Being a married man with 1.5 full time jobs, plus shooting is kind of a tax on my time.  If I had to drastically cut my shooting time back, what would I cut it back it back to?  To be honest, I couldn’t cut it back to just one.  I just couldn’t do it.  But I could cut it back to two disciplines.  If tomorrow I could only shoot and practice for two games, here’s what they’d be: Bianchi Cup & Steel Challenge.

That seems weird, doesn’t it?  Bianchi Cup is very accuracy focused, and Steel Challenge is all about speed – one would think that on their surface they’re the opposite ends of the shooting sport.  I actually disagree, because I believe that Bianchi Cup and Steel Challenge represent the shooting sports at their purest.  Bianchi Cup is the ultimate accuracy challenge in the shooting sports – hitting an eight-inch scoring ring at 50 yards with a pistol is no easy feat, and yet I’ve done it, and it’s done VERY WELL by the top pros at the game.  Bianchi presents the shooter with the ultimate challenge in accuracy – hitting difficult targets at extreme ranges for a pistol.

Steel Challenge seems to be different on the surface – but when you really get down to it, Steel Challenge is just an accuracy challenge at extremely high speed.  With Steel, there’s no C, or Down-1 zone to forgive a bad shot.  It’s either hit or miss, and if you miss you have to take extra shots, which means extra time to make that hit.  While the margins for error in terms of accuracy in Steel Challenge are more forgiving, you still need to make accurate hits…just a lot faster than at Bianchi Cup.

The thing about Steel Challenge and Bianchi Cup is that unlike IDPA or USPSA, Steel and Bianchi test one thing and one thing only – your fundamental shooting skills.  There’s no reloading on the clock, minimal movement (in Steel Challenge only) and no “stage strategy” like in USPSA or IDPA.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a mental aspect to these games, but because of their nature the only skills that are tested are you shooting skills.  That’s what makes them, in my opinion the purest examples of shooting skill available.


  1. Bullseye / conventional pistol is the ultimate accuracy challenge. The X ring on a 50 yard slow fire target is only 1.695 inches.

    I’d agree that Bianchi and Steel Challenge are the opposite ends of the action pistol sports (Bullseye has time limits too, but they’re glacially slow).

    If I could only pick two, it’d be USPSA and IDPA. It would be tough to narrow it down to one. I started with IDPA and have more friends at IDPA clubs, but if I had to pick one shooting-wise it’d be USPSA.

    The beauty of USPSA is its variety. In IDPA, one point down is always 1/2 second. In USPSA, the accuracy / speed tradeoff in continuously varied.

    Both USPSA and IDPA (and ICORE) have different stages at every match. I’d get really bored with Bianchi and Steel, shooting the same courses everywhere. If you have local matches, what’s the point of traveling to the big ones to shoot the same stages? Sure, there’s tougher competition, but how much does that matter until you’re regularly winning club matches?

  2. Our local Steel Challenge matches allow pretty much anything short of center fire rifles (for obvious reasons.)

    Being able to practice on the clock with a variety of guns like shotguns, or even a rimfire AR15 gives the sport a lot of versatility.

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