Guns Blazing

Posted on March 29, 2011 by


A knife-wielding maniac charges you from 15 yards. You empty the cylinder of your service revolver center mass, reload, and move behind a barrier to engage two more hostiles. You move around the corner and and fire through a window to surgically place shots on a pair of hostage takers.

Sound like a bad day in the life of Dirty Harry? Actually, it’s a fun evening at a local range shooting a stage of an IDPA match.

The International Defensive Pistol Association was founded in 1996 in response to a need for a competitive shooting sport that emphasized real-world shooting skills over gamesmanship. Older shooting sports, such as the USPSA, allow the use of modifications and practices that would be impractical or impossible to use in actual defensive scenarios. The IDPA emphasizes the use of practical equipment and practical skills.

Granted, with over 17,000 members, IDPA encompasses a wide variety of shooters. People shoot IDPA matches for a lot of different reasons: the fun, the competition, the practice it can provide, or usually all of the above.

To date, I’ve shot exactly two IDPA matches. From the very first stage I was hooked. I’m the only revolver shooter at my local club, so there’s really no one to compete against except myself (well, aside from racing to outshoot all of the auto pistols, anyway). I’ve contented myself with pushing my skills and equipment to the limit and seeing how capable I really am with my gear.

I’ve learned some things from my own experiences and those of others: it’s easy to lose your head when you have a lot going on, engaging multiple targets on the move is easier than I’d expected, and all the little factors like gun modifications and bullet weights don’t usually end up meaning much when push comes to shove. And I’ve reaffirmed some conclusions I’d already drawn: Any gun will do if you will do (but some guns do better than others!), nothing is 100% fail-proof (not even Glocks!), and marksmanship fundamentals are more important than equipment. By a lot.

I’ve also learned some things about myself. After just two matches, I have a better idea of the kinds of situations I can and can’t handle. I’ve also been able to identify weaknesses in my current carry loadout and the way I wear and use my gear. And I have a better idea of what sort of things cause a short between my ears and how to remedy those problems.

No, IDPA isn’t the same thing as real life (and I don’t know anyone who would claim otherwise). But it does get us moving and thinking, and it weans us of that “bulls-eye” mindset that a lot of shooters get. Sure, you can hit something approximately the size of a human head from fifteen yards. But can you do it on the run?

I strongly recommend IDPA for anyone seeking to expand their skills beyond the shooting bench at the gun range – or for that matter, for new shooters. Stop saying you can’t because you aren’t comfortable with your gun yet or you don’t have a gun that you think you can score well with. Once you start you’ll find that the marksmanship component is a lot easier than you expected it to be.