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What is IDPA?

August 21, 2008

From the 2005 IDPA rulebook:

The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body of a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. It was founded in 1996 as a response to the desires of shooters worldwide. The organization now boasts membership of more than 11,000, including members in 19 foreign countries.

One of the unique facets of this sport is that it is geared toward the new or average shooter, yet is fun, challenging and rewarding for the experienced shooter. The founders developed the sport so that practical gear and practical guns may be used competitively. An interested person can spend a minimal amount on equipment and still be competitive. The main goal is to test the skill and ability of the individual, not equipment or gamesmanship.

To make the playing field as level as possible, handguns are grouped into five divisions and shooters are classified by skill level. The shooter classifications progress from Novice (NV); to Marksman (MM); to Sharpshooter (SS); to Expert (EX); and, finally, to Master (MA). See the rulebook for a more detailed explanation.

In the Columbia SC area, we are fortunate to have an IDPA match every 4th Saturday of the month at the Mid Carolina Rifle Club (MCRC). The five scenarios (also known as stages) are different every match. Stages range from simple, short, up-close-and-personal like the “ATM robbery” scenario below, to much more complicated involving different shooting positions, shooting on the move, reloads and moving targets.

In pistols, 9 mm Luger (9×19) is the smallest caliber allowed, and in revolvers .38 Special is the smallest caliber allowed. Smaller calibers are allowed during BUG (Back-Up Gun) matches. BUG-legal guns need to have a MAXIMUM barrel length of 3.8” for pistols and 3” for revolvers, and be at least .32 ACP. There is an annual BUG match at MCRC that is a lot of fun.

What to bring to an IDPA match:
• A handgun (at least 9 mm Luger or .38 Special, except for the annual BUG match)
• At least 100 rounds of ammunition for your handgun
• Four magazines or speed loaders (or as many as you have)
• Eye and ear protection
• A strong side holster (i.e., the holster is on your right side if you are right handed).
• A carrier for two magazines (alternatively, magazines may be stowed in the competitor’s pant pockets)
• A belt suitable for use with your holster and magazine carrier(s)
• A baseball type cap or a hat with a wide rim, folding chair, sun block and bug spray (optional)

Each match at MCRC begins with a new shooter briefing to go over the safety rules and range commands. The competitor does not load his or her gun until the safety officer gives the “load and make ready” command. After the competitor has finished shooting, the safety officer gives the “unload and show clear” command, whereupon the competitor removes any remaining rounds from the gun and stows it in his holster. The safety officer holds an electronic shot timer that records the time between the start of the stage and the final shot. When the competitor has finished, the targets are scored and pasted. Whoever shoots the scenarios the most accurately in the shortest amount of time wins.

It is important to remember that IDPA is a game, just like IPSC or Steel Challenge. The shooter typically knows where all the targets are located, and the targets aren’t actually shooting at him. However, IDPA is the most practical of all the gun games. Aside from its obvious practicality as a way of practicing shooting accurately under pressure, it forces the shooter to use cover, to draw from concealment from the holster and to shoot on the move. It encourages the shooter to think, to remember, to develop a plan, and to react appropriately if the plan goes wrong (which if often does). It allows the shooter to practice vital gun handling skills like reloads and clearing malfunctions. In addition, it allows the shooter to figure out the limitations of his equipment in a more forgiving environment than an actual real-life self defense situation.

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