For the 10+ years I have been wandering around American gun culture, I have talked about trying out competition shooting. But the number of different disciplines (IDPA, USPSA, SASS, Steel Challenge, 3 Gun, etc.) and the number of different divisions within the disciplines (CDP, SSP, ESP, CCP, CO, etc.) sowed seeds of uncertainty in my mind and which became a sort of wall between me and trying it out. Not to mention equipment requirements, ammunition shortages, and bandwidth limitations.
But recently my friend Sean Sorrentino posted about an Introduction to IDPA course being taught at his home range, H20 Fowl Farms in Dunn, North Carolina. For the cost of a long car ride, $20, and 100 rounds of ammunition I would be introduced to International Defensive Pistol Association competition.
Not counting myself, there were 19 men and 2 women in attendance at the class. Several attendees were saddled with gray hair like me, but there were also a good number of people in the 35 +/- 10-year age range. More significantly, there was a wide range of backgrounds in terms of shooting experience. This highlighted different motivations for shooting IDPA: for some it is truly a competition, for some it is for fun, and for some it is a good way to practice gunhandling and marksmanship. Of course, for some it is all three.
We began as is common in any organized shooting event I have attended with a safety brief by Amp Mangum, the local IDPA match director. He then introduced us to IDPA as a sport. “It’s a game. It’s a fun game,” he began, then immediately added, “It’s the most realistic game because of the scenarios you might see.” Moreover, “If you have a concealed carry permit, it’s a good opportunity to get practice with your concealed draw.”
Although it is not a real-life critical incident, there is an element of pressure involved both because of the timer present as well as the audience of other shooters watching.
In addition to the realistic scenarios and pressure, IDPA shooting is helpful to the average concealed carry permit holder because it “makes you think with a gun in your hand,” something I have previously written about shoot house training courses. As Amp said in concluding his opening comments, “We owe it to society to be safe and skilled gun handlers.”
In the interest of time and attention, I won’t review everything I learned about IDPA divisions, scoring, and other rules. Suffice it to say that I learned enough about these to feel comfortable shooting an IDPA match going forward, which was a major goal I had in attending.
We divided into two groups and went to separate bays that each had an IDPA stage set up. We were given printed instructions that explained in detail how the stage should be shot. The range officers then demonstrated how to run the stage and we were each given a couple of opportunities to shoot the stages ourselves.
The first stage I ran was called “Fault Line 1” and involved shooting 10 rounds on 5 targets. I took my time, emphasizing accuracy (and safety) over speed. “Fault Line 2” changed one target to be shot as we transitioned from one shooting area to another. I completed this stage of 10 rounds on 5 targets from 7 to 10 yards in distance and 3 shooting areas in 20.54 seconds with “3 down” — meaning 3 seconds added to my time because one of my shots was outside both the down 0 and down 1 zones on the target. Probably not that competitive a time in terms of the IDPA game, but it provided me some good practice and a useful performance benchmark.
When our groups switched bays, I had the opportunity to shoot a stage called “Nice Day for a Bike Ride” (stage description below). This was a more complex stage, with 16 rounds required on 7 targets stretching out to 20 yards, and including 2 targets with rifles, which required two shots to the body and one to the head.
On my second run, I shot this stage in 30.09 seconds with 4 down (4 shots in the down 1 zone). I was again pretty happy with that considering the novelty of the situation and that I was shooting my Glock 43 subcompact pistol when most others were shooting their larger (and in some cases duty-size) pistols.
This returns me to the issue of how “realistic” IPDA competition is. I can’t claim to have watched all of John Correia’s Active Self Protection narrated gunfight videos on YouTube, but I’ve never seen a scenario IRL in which someone out for a bike ride was set upon by 5 assailants with pistols and 2 with rifles. There is also some artificiality in terms of the size of guns many people shoot, how they carry them, and cover garments.
So be it.
Like Amp Mangum said at the beginning, IDPA is a fun game first and foremost. It also has elements of realism, depending on how people approach it. But most of all, as Amp said at the beginning, shooting IDPA competitions is likely to make people safer and more skilled gun handlers, something we as responsible gun owners — especially concealed gun carriers — owe to society.
Speaking of which, remind me to tell you about a man named Joe Weber who stopped by the range to tell us his story.