The governing body of practical shooting in South Africa is the South African Practical Shooting Association [SAPSA], founded in 1976. SAPSA administers the sport of practical shooting, sanctions level III matches and tournaments, selects the national teams, affiliates provinces, organises training and maintains discipline and rules.

SAPSA welcomes novice shooters and equally represents shooters of all ages and abilities, specifically recognising junior, lady, and veteran classes.


This dynamic and internationally recognised shooting sport has its origins in California in the United States in the early fifties.

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) was founded at the International Pistol Conference held in Columbia, Missouri, USA in May 1976. Forty people from around the world attended this conference to determine the nature and future of practical marksmanship.  Jeff Cooper was elected the first IPSC president. The sport quickly spread and today is practised in more than sixty countries (called regions) from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

The promotion of accuracy, power, and speed as three equal elements is the prime objective of practical shooting along with procedures and rules for safe gun handling. The principles of practical shooting were developed and the motto – DVC – diligentia, vis, celeritas (accuracy, power, speed) was introduced to ensure the balance between the various principles.

In practical shooting, the competitor must blend these three elements into a winning combination. Multiple targets, moving targets, targets that react when hit, penalty carrying targets, partially covered targets, obstacles, movement, competitive tactics, and, in general, any other relevant difficulties the course designer can dream up all combine to keep the competitors enthusiastic and the spectators entertained. One of the principles of IPSC states that the course of fire should be practical and diversity is to be encouraged, to keep the sport from becoming formalised or standardised.

Practical shooting emphasises firearms safety and safe gun handling, accuracy, power, and speed. It is currently the second most popular international target shooting discipline, being exceeded in global participation only by the events administered by the Olympic shooting sports [Union International de Tir (UIT)].


What is Practical Shooting?

Practical shooting is dynamic and challenging sport and one of the fastest growing shooting sports in the world today. Courses of fire utilise many aspects not found in the more traditional shooting disciplines, such as movement by the shooter, drawing from a holster, moving targets, multiple targets, and the freedom for the shooter to solve the shooting problems presented by the course design. It is commonly associated with pistol shooting but also includes practical shotgun and practical rifle shooting.

What makes Practical Shooting unique?

Practical shooting matches balance accuracy, power and speed. The matches are varied and based on the safe use of firearms. Participation in these matches will develop a high degree of safety and proficiency in the use of firearms, as well as providing wonderful recreation. The appeal of the sport lies in the diversity of the courses of fire available to the shooter. By offering different courses of fire for every competition rather than set types unchanged over many years, practical shooting continues to challenge the competitor to improve his skills in many different areas, not just in shooting only. There are continual new demands to challenge the practical shooting enthusiast.

What kind of person participates in Practical Shooting?

As in any other popular sport, a wide variety of people enjoy practical shooting. Our membership spans almost every occupation, from students and craftsmen to executives. We are also fortunate to have many women involved in practical shooting. It is not unusual to find husbands and wives or entire families participating in practical shooting activities. All of the people at our competitions are strong believers in safety and safe gun handling as well as good sportsmanship.

Is Practical Shooting an expensive sport?

Each sport has its own cost. As in any other sport and recreational activity there is virtually no limit to the amount you can spend on sporting and associated equipment. However, to get a solid start in practical pistol shooting, all that is required is a reliable handgun, a suitable holster, ammunition, eye and ear protection, and lots of enthusiasm. As your skill level increases, you will probably advance to other equipment, add additional items that will help you in competitions and to participate in practical rifle and shotgun.

What kinds of sports equipment are used for Practical Shooting?

You will see standard guns “straight out of the box” as well as exotic custom guns. You determine what division/s you want to shoot in as you progress in the sport, according to your pocket and inclination. We offer competitive divisions for most firearms – revolvers, single shot, manual action, semi automatic, to scope-sighted, recoil-compensated “race guns” developed just for our sport. The rules of the sport determine the minimum calibre for firearms for each discipline: handgun is 9 mm parabellum, rifle is 5,56 mm [not .22 rimfire], shotgun is 20 gauge.

What are the advantages of being a SAPSA member?

Practical shooting offers many benefits to its membership. You will be a member of the organisation that is helping to promote and develop the safe and effective use of firearms, the shooting sports in general and practical shooting in particular.

You will be eligible to join and to participate in shooting activities at the local, provincial, national, and international level.

According to current firearms legislation you will be at least an occasional sports shooter and after gaining and maintaining the necessary number of points, a dedicated sports shooter.

You will receive support from the South African Institute of Range Officers and Instructors (SAIRO&I) who manage the safety on the shooting range and who conduct clinics to improve shooting and to train range officials for competitions.

You will be a participant in the most dynamic and challenging shooting sport in the World!

What does SAPSA offer to its members?

Firearms training. You will receive all the necessary training at your club to enable you to handle your firearm proficiently in club and provincial matches and tournaments.

Course of fire. The course of fire under IPSC rules utilises many features not found in other disciplines, including engagement of targets with the shooter either stationary or moving.

Personal skills improvement. IPSC continues to present a challenge to all competitors to improve their skills in many areas, as many different courses of fire are presented.

Insurance cover at all SAPSA-sanctioned matches for the protection of its members and officials at club, provincial and national levels, including international matches in South Africa.

How do I become a member?

It is very easy to start. Simply determine in which province you are domiciled, then contact the provincial practical shooting association to ascertain where your nearest practical shooting club is. Contact the chairman or club representative for an appointment to join. This will most probably be at the shooting range when the club next meets for a match.

The club will provide you with all the necessary details.

Who are those guys in the red shirts?

Each sport has its officials that regulate the conduct of the sport, apply the rules of competition and ensure fair play. Because of the inherent danger of using firearms, very strict safety is enforced at all levels of practical shooting, there usually being one range officer for every competitor shooting. In our match officials we combine the functions of umpire/referee and safety officer in one person. SAPSA is very proud of our range officers who compare very favourably with the best in the world.

Range officers form the support and infrastructure of practical shooting. For this reason we have the South African Institute of Range Officers and Instructors [SAIRO] and its international version, the International Range Officers Association (IROA). They were established to train, accredit, recognise, and maintain match officials. They ensure that practical shooting range officers are the best trained, the best qualified, and the best prepared, to a same world wide standard.

Because of this, officials around the world can be proud of becoming range officers. There is a direct relationship between the quality of the competition and the quality of the officiating. We simply have the best!