Metal Madness: Fun, Addicting, and Great for the Shooting Sports

metal madness course of fire
Courtesy Metal Madness Shooting Sports Association

If you ask someone my age how they got started shooting, you’re probably going to hear .22 caliber rimfire pretty quickly in their answer. For me, an Ithaca Model 49 single-shot lever action rifle purchased from The Snappy Grill (yes, it was a restaurant that also sold guns…simpler times) in Springfield, Kentucky, was my gateway to a lifetime of shooting.

It introduced me to shooting, hunting, and personal responsibility. Guns were privileges quickly revoked when safety and responsibility weren’t demonstrated. If I forgot, my Ithaca was locked away until I could prove I’d learned my lesson.

Since then, I’ve shot a lot of different calibers, but I’ve never lost my love for .22 rimfire. My honest answer to the hypothetical “if you could only have one gun…” would probably be something chambered in .22 rimfire.

Sure, many of you are thinking “That’s not enough gun,” but I’m talking about the gun I most enjoy shooting, not the tool designed to defend my home from rampaging hordes. If I want to reconnect with the joy of shooting, I’m not reaching for my .338 Lapua rifle or my heavy caliber handguns. I’ll go get a gun chambered in .22 rimfire.

Last weekend, I reconnected with my love of shooting in a competition. Despite the fact my results were considerably less than ideal. It seems I’ve contracted “Metal Madness.” As in the Metal Madness competition of the Metal Madness Shooting Sports Association.

Metal Madness is a .22 rimfire-only competition with no overall match champion. You’re told going in that you can’t win this competition, but you can’t lose it either.

On the surface it looks simple. Each of the ten “lanes” (think stages) are the same distance. Shot perfectly, the round count is the same for each lane, five rounds.

Starting from low ready at the buzzer, shooters shoot four square plates in numerical order before shooting the round stop plate. Missing a plate or shooting out of sequence means you can makeup the plate missed, but must shoot the remaining plates before the stop plate.

Metal Madness competition shooting
Here’s Metal Madness in its entirety — each lane requires you to shoot the four plates in numerical order before shooting the round stop plate. Ten lanes of randomized target placements means 60,000 possible combinations. Simple, but not predictable. MMSA image with permission.

That’s it…for all ten courses of fire. A complete shooting competition in 50 rounds (ideally). A single box of .22 ammunition. Your total time, with penalties for any missed plates (yes, it’s possible) is your score. There are open and stock classes for rifle, pistol and revolver. Better shooters are recognized, but prizes are awarded by random drawing, not scoring results.

The question I was asked innumerable times boiled the whole event down to its ultimate test: “Did you have a good time?” You’d have to be the Grinch himself to say no.

Only once before has a gun ever given me so many problems that I “timed out” on a stage of fire. It happened again this weekend. But I left the stage laughing about my poor preparation.

Unlike some competitions, Metal Madness isn’t designed to drive competitors crazy. The goal is to make competition fun for everyone shooting or watching. It boils shooting and competition down to their very essence: shoot as fast as you can, be as accurate as possible, but enjoy the experience.

We frequently omit that final part. Results matter, but ultimately you’re pitted against your toughest competitor…yourself. That’s why I laughingly called it “Mental Madness.” I was making myself crazy. When I stopped doing that, it became crazy fun.

I shot alongside juniors so skilled they’ll probably become household names in the shooting sports. I also shot next to first-time shooters and a senior citizen who needed a walker to get around. It was liberating.

There were “open” or “stock” classes, but stock rifles were squadded next to revolvers (yes, youngsters are discovering and loving revolvers) or iron sights next to red dot optic open guns.

You might be shooting next to Dave Nash (a/k/a YouTube’s 22 Plinkster) or reality-TV’s Ton Jones. Or it might be a nervous 10-year old being “coached” by a parent from behind the safety rails.

Even rain couldn’t drown the enthusiasm of shooters like Dave Nash a/k/a “22Plinkster” (top, left) or Ton Jones (center). There were also a lot of enthusiastic junior shooters (bottom). Blending the old and young creates a tremendous opportunity for the shooting sports.


When you weren’t shooting, you could be visiting with friends, eating, or checking out the vendors, trying out Ruger rifles and pistols, or taking your gun over to TANDEMKROSS to drool over (or buy) their tune-up accessories. I’m not saying too much about that now, because I have a pair of bone stock guns that have definitely gotten the “tuner” treatment. But that’s a story for another time.

Metal Madness looked like a giant family picnic. Until you noticed the machine-like efficiency with which the volunteer range officers and scoring officials moved shooters from station to station. It was a well-oiled and very happy machine. That was despite the occasionally torrential rains that turned much of the grounds into a slick, muddy mess.

Without going too far overboard, I’d say Metal Madness inventor Ed White may have created a gateway to bring new shooters in — and older shooters back — into the shooting sports. Neither is a bad thing.

We’ll keep you posted.



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