The classic outdoor pistol match is called a "2700." Shooters fire 270 shots with a maximum value of 10 points each, hence the name. Those 270 shots are divided into three 90-shot events, fired with .22, center-fire and .45 pistols.
This format got its start as a way to combine shooting with the civilian's .22, the police officer's .38 revolver and the military man's .45 autoloader. As .45 accuracy improved, however, shooters began to use the .45 for both center-fire and .45 matches, and today it is rare to see a pure center-fire pistol.
The 90-shot, 900-point aggregate consists of four matches: slow-fire, the National Match Course, timed-fire and rapid-fire. Slow-, timed- and rapid-fire are 20-shot events, but the National Match Course has 30: 10 shots slowfire at 50 yds;. and 10 each timed- (five rounds in 20 seconds) and rapid- (five rounds in 10 seconds) fire at 25 yds.
The sustained-fire stages are timed by turning the targets perpendicular to the firing line until the time for shooting begins. They turn to face the shooter, then swivel back to their starting position when time expires.
While a full-fledged 2700 is fired at 25 and 50 yds, proportionally reduced targets make it possible to fire all stages at 20 or 25 yds. or indoors at 50 ft. The targets used in outdoor competition have a tie-breaking X-ring of 1.695" diameter and a 10-ring 3.36" in diameter. The 50-yd. target's 8, 9 and 10 rings are black, while only the 9 and 10 rings are black on the 25-yd. sheet, so the sight picture is similar, despite the difference in distance.
While a big 2700 match is an all-day affair, NRA recognizes many shorter courses of fire, and many clubs and leagues firing indoor matches use the Gallery Course. It has a single 10 minute, 10-shot slow-fire stage and two five-shot strings each of timed- and rapid-fire. With preparation periods, one relay can take less than 20 minutes.
One of the appealing features of conventional competition is the multiple opportunities to win. At the National Matches, and even at large state or regional events, awards are presented for every match and for sub-aggregates. When each of these is multiplied by the many different classes and categories possible at a big match, there can be hundreds of opportunities to win.
The NRA classification system groups shooters of similar ability into one of four classes that range from Marksman up to the top-level Master. Shooters may be further grouped into categories--juniors, women, collegians, police and service members.