Promoting, facilitating, and encouraging steel shooting competition around the world.


Please note that these are the 2016 rules. Although we don’t expect any major changes, some things may be re-written for clarity and improved grammar along the way. Areas that might be confusing or interpreted in more than one way will be cleared up as needed. If you would like to comment or make suggestions, you can contact us using the Contact page linked on the side bar.


International Steel

Match Rules


International Steel is basically a very simple match, and a standardized set of rules that are used world-wide will assure that the competitor, wherever he may be from, can count on the match being run the same way, anywhere in the world. The rules must be easy to understand and easy for the match directors and Range Officers to apply. The rules must be clear and unambiguous, and should not force the Range Officers to make difficult judgment calls. If there is any doubt, the advantage should always go in favor of the shooter. International Steel matches should be decided by how well the shooters shoot, and not by gray area judgment calls that could have been decided either way.

The rules for International Steel matches allow for flexibility and adjustment to benefit  newer shooters and to fit the particular range facilities, while being more formalized at the championship levels. Local and club match directors should be allowed to create different stage layouts for local and club matches. These stages should be along the lines of the more standardized Championship stages, with similar levels of difficulty. For Championship matches, the stages should be from the extensive stage International Steel Shooting Association’s library and list of approved stages.

CLUB LEVEL OR CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL MATCH: The basic rules and safety rules are the same for both Club and Championship level matches. A club level match uses a slightly more relaxed set of rules compared to a Championship Level match. The Range Officer and other shooters may not assist the shooter such as calling out misses or telling the shooter if he is shooting high or low to correct his aim while he is shooting in a Championship level match is not permitted. In a Club level match helping the shooter is permitted, and in the case of newer shooters, it is encouraged. Reloading magazines for the shooter while he is shooting is permitted, provided it is done safely.

RE-SHOOTS: Re-shoots of a shot string are only permitted in the case of  timer or range equipment failure, or outside interference affecting the shooter.

RE-STARTS: In club matches only, and particularly for brand new shooters, at the range officer’s discretion, a re-start may be granted, but it should be rarely used. An example would be if a brand new shooter forgets to take off the safety, or forgets to put in a magazine, or leaves the slide locked back. The first time, allow a re-start. After that, no re-starts.

SCORE: The shooter’s score is the total time accrued for the match. This includes any penalty time assessed. Penalties assessed on a shot string that is thrown out are thrown out along with the rest of that particular string.

MATCH: A championship level match consists of six or more stages, with typically five shot strings, or “Runs” per stage. Usually there will be five steel targets. Four of the targets, or plates, are the primary plates, and they must each be hit once per run. One of the targets is designated as the “Stop Plate” and it should be shot last. The slowest shot string of each stage is thrown out. A local or club match may have fewer stages, depending on local conditions, facilities, and time available. In some cases a particularly slow stage, such as Steel Challenge Shooting Association’s Outer Limits stage for example, only four strings will be shot, and one string will be discarded.

TIME: The time for a run starts with the beep or buzzer from the timer. The time for the run ends when the shooter stops shooting, or thirty seconds have passed from the buzzer. The maximum time for any single run, including penalties, will be thirty seconds.

STOP PLATE HITS: Once the Stop Plate has been hit, regardless of where the shooter fired the shot from, any un-hit primary plates cannot be hit. Shots fired after the Stop plate has been hit count only as missed shots, but not as missed plates. However,  they do add to your time for the run. In short, once you have hit the stop plate, stop shooting. The timer will not be backed up if you shoot the Stop Plate more than once.

PENALTIES: Each primary plate not hit is a three second penalty. Failure to hit the Stop Plate is a ten second penalty. Failure to hit any of the five plates on an individual run is a maximum penalty of thirty seconds. If a run exceeds thirty seconds, the Range Officer will stop the run, and thirty seconds will be the time for that particular run.

MISSES: Any shots fired from outside of the shooter’s box, or from the incorrect shooter’s box, or after the Stop Plate has been hit count as misses. All shots fired, including extra shots fired after the stop plate has been hit, will be included in the time. The timer is not backed up for extra stop plate hits.

EDGE HITS: To count as a hit the bullet must only leave a visible mark on the edge of the plate. It does not have to hit the front surface of the plate. For this reason it is encouraged that when re-painting the plates that the edges be inspected and painted as necessary, in addition to painting the front surface of the plate. The benefit of the doubt goes in favor of the shooter. If there is a question about a hit being made or not, the shooter must tell the range officer that he questions the call of a miss immediately after the run  is completed.

MOVEMENT: If a stage requires shooting from one shooter’s box, then moving to a different box for more shots, some additional rules apply. The shooter is considered inside the shooter’s box if at least one foot is touching down inside the box and no part of the shooter is touching the ground outside of the box. The top surface of the box is considered as inside of the box, so if a shooter’s shoe is on top of the box frame but not touching the ground outside of the box, the shooter is considered as in the box. It can be very difficult for a range officer to tell if a shooter’s foot is actually touching the ground inside of the box at the instant a shot is fired, so again, the benefit of the doubt goes in favor of the shooter. Shots fired from the wrong shooter’s box, or from outside of the correct shooter’s box, hits or not, count as misses, but are counted on the clock, even is the stop plate has already been hit. The shooter may return to the correct shooter’s box to pick up missed plate(s) without penalty.

STARTING POSITION: The Rimfire, Rimfire Rifle,  and Carbine, and Centerfire Low Ready classes will start with their firearms pointed at a mark on the ground twelve feet in front of the shooter’s box. The shooter’s finger must be outside of the trigger guard until the start signal sounds. The safety may be either engaged or disengaged according to the shooter’s preference. Centerfire and Revolver classes except Centerfire Low Ready will start in the “Hands Up” position, which is defined as gun holstered, safety on, and hands above shoulders so that wrists are visible above the point of the shoulders.

AMMUNITION: In the Rimfire divisions, only .22 Long Rifle ammunition may be used. In the center fire divisions, nothing smaller than 9mm. or .38 may be used. Multiple projectiles and shot shells are not permitted. in the center fire divisions a minimum power factor of 120 is required.

SINGLE ACTION REVOLVER SPECIAL RULES: for the single action revolver divisions, we have added some small changes to the rules. First, the holster used must be made of leather and must be of a similar type and location to what might have been used in the old West. The holster may not be lined with steel, and race gun holsters and plastic holsters are specifically prohibited. Cross draw is not permitted. The shooter may wear two holsters and carry two revolvers, one in each holster. All draws to start a shot string must be made from the strong side holster. No more than six rounds may be loaded at one time, and no more  than six shots may be fired in a single shot string. Only one revolver may be used in any single shot string. Reloading during a shot string is not permitted. all revolvers in the single action revolver division must be manufactured as single action only revolvers, or may have been modified so that they can only be fired as single action revolvers. A double action revolver, even if fired as a single action revolver, is still considered a double action revolver.

DISQUALIFICATIONS: There are a number of ways to get disqualified, including behavior in the opinion of the Match Director to be grossly inappropriate. Any shooter who, in the opinion of a Range Officer, is behaving in an un-safe manner may be disqualified. Alcohol or drug impairment is also grounds for immediate disqualification. Deliberately interfering with another shooter in an un-sportsmanlike manner will draw a warning. A second incident will draw a disqualification in all divisions/classes for the day.

DROPPED GUN: Should the shooter drop a loaded gun to the ground, it is an automatic disqualification of the shooter in that class. The shooter must not pick up the gun from the ground. It should be picked up by the range officer, and it should be unloaded and put away in it’s case or holster. Dropping an unloaded gun is not a disqualification, unless the muzzle broke the 180 degree line, in which case it is an automatic Division/class disqualification for a 180 degree violation.

ACCIDENTAL DISCHARGE: If a shot is fired into the ground within twelve feet or less of the front of the shooter’s box it is an Accidental Discharge (AD) and it is an automatic disqualification from that division or class. Any shot fired over the top of a berm, or in a direction or manner deemed by the Range Officer to be unsafe is also an automatic disqualification.

MUZZLE ABOVE THE BERM: ISSA does not automatically disqualify a shooter for allowing the muzzle of his firearm to be pointed over the top of  the berm. However, at some ranges their local safety rules may require a disqualification. If this is the case, the match director must announce it at the shooter’s meeting so the shooters will be informed about the additional safety rule and the consequences of violating that local range rule.




“Shooter To The Line.” The shooter can move into the shooter’s box, carrying his gun either in a closed hard or soft gun case or holstered. If there is a table, the shooter may place his gun case and/or magazines on the table. The gun must remain in the holster or the closed gun case. The case must remain latched or zippered and the gun cannot be handled until the “Make Ready” command is given.

“Make Ready” (This command is functionally the same as “Load and Make Ready.” For the sake of compatibility with other associations, either command may be used) The shooter can open the gun case or un-holster the gun, take a sight picture with an unloaded gun, and turn on or adjust the sight. This all must be done with an un-loaded gun only. No sight picture will be allowed after the first shot string has been fired. The shooter then should load his gun and get into the starting position, either re-holstered, or gun pointed at the marker on the ground in front of the shooter’s box, depending on the class. Once in the starting position the shooter must remain stationary, waiting for the next command. As soon as the shooter is in the start position and is standing still, the range officer will issue the next command.

Are You Ready?” (This command is functionally the same as “Shooter Ready?”) At this time the shooter should be stationary and ready to start shooting. In response to   “Are You Ready?” the shooter must respond either “Not Ready.” Or “Ready.” A nod of the head will also be an acceptable substitute for “Ready” No response from the shooter will be interpreted as “Ready”, so if you are not ready, be sure to say so! You have thirty seconds from the “Make Ready” command to get ready. Once the shooter has confirmed that he is ready, the next command is “Stand By.”

If the shooter has a reason that he cannot become ready in the thirty seconds, such as a mechanical problem, he may switch to a back-up gun, if he has it with him at the line, or  the range officer may have him clear his gun and re-holster or re-case it, and bring the next shooter to the line.  The shooter can then resolve the problem, most likely in a safe area or under the supervision of a range officer. Once the problem is resolved, the shooter can report to the range officer that he is now ready to go, and the range officer can then fit the shooter back into the shooting schedule for the stage. Strings already shot will stand.

“Stand By.” This command is given immediately after the “Ready” has been verified. When this command is issued the shooter must remain stationary. By stationary it does not mean that very small incidental movements, shifting your weight a bit, tilting your head a little, breathing, or other small movements are going to draw penalties. The shooter should be as stationary as he can possibly be, however, and any movement that could be an advantage, such as starting to move or raise the gun will incur a three second penalty. After the “Stand By.” Command is given, there will be a one to four second random delay, and then the start buzzer will sound.

As soon as the shooter has finished shooting he should reload and get ready for the next run, including getting into the start position, ready to go. The range officer will then ask “Are you Ready?” as above, and the next run will be shot.

“Last Run”. After the next to last run for the shooter on the stage the range officer should announce “Last Run” so the shooter will know that there is only one run left to go.

“Unload and Show Clear” after the last run, or at any time the range officer wants to make the range clear (such as to replace a target) this command will be given. The shooter will unload his gun, and show the range officer that the chamber is empty and all ammunition has been removed from the gun.

“Slide forward, Hammer Down, Put it away.” This command will vary depending on the type of weapon, but the intent is to put the unloaded gun either back into the holster, or back into the carrying case and close and lock the lid. Rimfire pistols are not required to drop the hammer as it can damage the firing pin and/or the barrel of many rimfire models.

“STOP” This command can be made by The Range Officer, the shooter, the scorer, or anyone else in the area. It means that an extremely dangerous situation has unexpectedly arisen, and absolutely everyone that hears the command should freeze until directed otherwise by the Range Officer. If a run is underway, the shooter should immediately stop shooting and unload and show clear. The shooter will be given an automatic re-shoot for that particular run. The Range Officer can then deal with the situation as necessary.


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