Gun Holsters for ZSA, USPSA, IDPA and NRA gun Matches

Gun Holster for IDPA, USPSA and ZSAGun Holster requirements for the different pistol competitions
Re-printed with permission from the author: Cory Coughlin with Zombie Tactical Outfitters

In this article, I will address the rules of the governing bodies of the below listed organizations and how they should apply to your consideration before purchasing a holster for competing in the shooting sports.  You may find the requirements important if you plan to compete in any of these organizations in the future.  If you are already competing, you might want to ensure your gear still meets the requirements of the organization.

Zombie Shooters Association of America

The Zombie Shooters Association of America (ZSA) is a growing family oriented group of like minded shooters who have come together with the basic concept to have safe, competitive fun.  The ZSA is headquartered in Raleigh, NC, with affiliated ranges in several states.  The ZSA was created as an entry level competition, encouraging new shooters to come out and shoot a match.  Because of this, there are very few rules listed and/or enforced to enable just about anyone to compete in their matches.  Basically as long as you are safe, you are encouraged to compete.

The holster rules of the ZSA are that any safe holster that is not a cross draw, small of the back or shoulder holster may be used.  LE/MIL may use thigh rigs or duty gear.  Ammunition can be carried anywhere on the body, but safe retrieval must be considered (use mag holders or speed loader or speed loader holders) but if you need some extra magazines stored in a pocket, no problem, just be safe.  Simple enough!

The United States Practical Shooting Association

The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) is headquartered in Sedro Woolley, WA.  The USPSA has five competitive divisions, delineated by equipment rules.  Unless you are blessed with more money than you need, they recommend that you don’t rush out and spend until you’ve had the opportunity to learn enough about the sport to make an informed decision on the proper gear for the division you intend to compete in.

Basic holster rules for this sport are that the holsters must retain the firearm during any required movement, must cover the trigger of a holstered gun, must point to the ground when the firearm is holstered, and must be carried at belt level; shoulder holsters, fanny packs, et al, are not permissible at USPSA events.  Further, Production Division has additional holster restrictions.  Go to the USPSA Rulebook, page 77, for more information about the equipment requirements of each division.

Other necessary equipment includes spare magazines or speed loaders and belt mounted carriers.  In most cases at least one magazine will be included with the firearm when you bought it, but having at least five magazines is desirable to be sure to get you through the various stages in a match.  Magazines should be available from the gun manufacturer or from a variety of after market sources.

USPSA recommends three to four belt mounted magazine/speed loader carriers, depending on the divisions in which you choose to compete.

Most shooters new to USPSA will start out in the Production Division, since it is less costly to gear up for than some of their other divisions.  The Production Division sets restrictions on the equipment, holsters, magazine pouches, and how they may be worn.  The rules use the phrase “Suitable for everyday use. ‘Race gun’ type holster prohibited.”  The holster and magazine pouches must be worn no farther forward than the points of your hips.

Competition holsters of the race gun type are specifically not allowed. For clarification:
ALL retention features of the holster MUST be used.  All holsters must fully cover the trigger when the pistol is holstered.  The front of holsters for autos may be cut no lower than ¼-inch below the ejection port.  Revolver holsters may be cut no lower than half way down the cylinder.

The rules covering gear in USPSA are quite long, instead of covering them all in this article I will provide the link to their online rule book.  For the USPSA Rule Book, here:

International Defensive Pistol Association

The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is headquartered in Berryville, AR.  IDPA is a defensive shooting competition with stages designed to replicate real-world tactical scenarios a concealed carry licensed individual might encounter.  Often, you might hear the term IDPA approved, when it comes to gear items in IDPA.  This is incorrect, as there is no longer an approved listing of gear items.  Instead IDPA now bases approval by criteria.

Basically, IDPA-approved holsters will be strong-side hip holsters or inside-the waistband holsters which cover the trigger guard and which have no cut-aways, drop, or offset, except that a limited amount of drop and offset is allowed for women.  Holsters must be practical for all-day concealed-carry use.  In a nutshell, IDPA requires “working” holsters, not competition holsters.

Similarly, spare magazine pouches, speedloaders, speedloader holders, and belts are approved based on their characteristics.

For specific criteria, please visit the IDPA Rule Book here:

National Rifle Association

The National Rifle Association is headquartered in Fairfax, VA.  According to the National Rifle Association (NRA) Action Pistol website, probably the most important piece of equipment for Action Shooting is a safe holster, which will hold the firearm securely while moving, yet allow a rapid draw.  Auto pistol shooters will need spare magazines and magazine carriers which also offer security and speed; revolver shooters will find speed loaders a good investment.

Section 3 of the NRA Action Pistol Rule Book defines authorized equipment and ammunition.  This section is not meant to restrict equipment, but to define limitations.  Generally, there are few restrictions on pistols and their accessories, except for safety concerns.


3.12 Holsters – (See Rules 3.12.1, 3.12.2, 3.12.3, 3.12.4, 3.12.5.)

3.12.1 Holsters Must be Practical, Safe, Serviceable, and Suited to the Pistol Used – Holsters in use must retain the pistol during any activity within a course of fire.

3.12.2 Retention Device – If a retention device is used to pass a holster test, then the retention device must be used throughout the match.

3.12.3 Holster Eligibility – No match shall require the use of a particular type of holster, nor shall any holster type which is permitted in any match be barred from any other match. However, in matches requiring a draw from a concealed condition, the degree of concealment may be specified and ruled upon by the Match Director, Deputy Match Director, or Official Referee.

3.12.4 Unsafe Holsters – Match officials are required to prohibit the unsafe use of any holster by any competitor. Therefore, in choosing a holster, and the position and manner in which it will be worn, a competitor should give due regard to the safety regulations in order to ensure that his choices are safely consistent with his personal shooting style and stance.

3.12.5 Holster Wear – Holsters must be worn in such a manner as not to violate safety considerations. It shall be the responsibility of the Match Director to enforce this Rule.

As you can see, each organization has its own set of rules, created by the governing body.  There is no need to stay away from one organization based on their rules, as each shooting sport has something to offer the shooter.  Most organizations will warn the new shooter away from buying high dollar gear, without first consulting current members.  There is a reason they do this, because many a new shooter has run out and spent hundreds of dollars on gear they see the pro’s using, only to find out it is not allowed in the particular sport or division they intended to shoot.  From the information I have provided you, you will find there are currently dozens of companies offering fine holsters and accessories for the Action Shooter.

Now, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and compete.  You don’t have to look at competing as shooting against other competitors or professional shooters.  Shoot and compete against yourself.  Shoot for fun.  I find it relieves a lot of stress, and I get to meet, network and hang out with a lot of like minded shooters.

Thanks to Cory Coughlin with Zombie Tactical Outfitters for this post and check out his custom holsters as well. Look forward to seeing you at the next ZSA match or if you want a Zombie Shooters Association (ZSA) match in your area have your gun range contact us at: EMAIL@ZOMBIESHOOTERSASSOCIATION.COM

So many Zombies, so little time!

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