August 5th, 2022
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Pistol Matches Can Be Fun — Basics for IDPA Pistol Shooting
Most of our readers are rifle guys, but it’s definitely fun to shoot a pistol match a few times a year. You don’t need a lot of equipment, and if you shoot IDPA (Int’l Defensive Pistol Assn.) matches, you can really win with a $400 pistol and $20.00 worth of bulk 9mm ammo. That’s a bargain compared to what you’ll spend on a competitive Benchrest or F-Class rig and custom rifle hand-loads.
If you want to get into the IDPA game, Shooting Sports USA has a good article that explains the basic rules and classifications. IDPA is not your grandad’s bullseye pistol match. There is movement and action. Stages are timed, and competitors engage targets from cover if available. Singled-handed shooting is sometimes required, as is shooting while moving. You can compete with pretty much any handgun suitable for self-defense — but no $4000 Raceguns with fancy optics. The fact that you can be 100% competitive without spending a ton of money is what makes IDPA so popular.
Shooting Sports USA polled IDPA shooters at the 2016 IDPA Nationals to determine their favorite gun brands and models. The #1 choice was the 9mm Glock 34 for the SSP (Standard Service Pistol) and ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol) Classes. Next most popular was the Smith & Wesson M&P Pro.
IDPA Gun Chart from Shooting Sports USA.
Along with SSP and ESP, there are three other main IDPA classes: Custom Defensive Pistol (CDP) for .45 ACPs (mostly 1911 types), Concealed Carry Pistol (CCP), and Revolver (REV). All classes have a minimum power factor. Scores are based on time and shot placement on the IDPA target.
IDPA Scoring System
The official IDPA Target (right) has multiple scoring zones. If you don’t hit the target’s center mass zone or head zone (both appear green in illustration), you drop one or three points. Here’s the formula: Score (in seconds) = Time + Points Down + Penalties. In IDPA, “points down” (and penalties) are added to your time. If you hit the outer edge of the target, you get 3 points down. Nearer center can be 1 point down. Center hit or head shot is 0 points down. See IDPA Scoring for Dummies.
Five Tips for New IDPA Shooters
This Editor got his start in competitive shooting with local IDPA matches. I shot a 9mm Glock 34, and a 9mm SIG Sauer P226, and even did one match with a .38 Spl S&W Snubbie. I eventually settled on the SIG P226, as it fit my hand better than the Glock, was more accurate, and was every bit as reliable. The P226 also pointed better than the Glock for me — something that helps with target acquisition. Here are FIVE TIPS for new IDPA competitors:
1. Dry-Fire Practice at Home
You can improve your grip and sight acquisition dramatically with 30 minutes of dry-firing every week. Get some quality snap caps and go to it. One tip — don’t do this in your back-yard if the nosy neighbors can see. We had one friend who was dry-firing in his yard and got an unexpected visit from the local police (with guns drawn). That can turn out badly to say the least…
2. Practice One-Handed Shooting (Both Strong-Hand and Weak-Hand)
Most of the worst misses I saw during IDPA matches were during stages requiring one-handed shooting. A lot of pistol shooters have spent all their time shooting two-handed. That’s the best technique, but in an IDPA match, you may be required to shoot one-handed. If you’re a righty, shooting with the left hand only will feel really weird, and your accuracy will be poor unless you practice. We suggest starting your one-handed training with a rimfire pistol, then transition to your centerfire pistol.
3. For 9mm, Don’t Bother to Hand-load Your Ammo
This may seem like sacrilege, but if you’re only shooting one match a month, it’s probably not worth the time and money to reload 9x19mm. I did reload my 9mm ammo on a progressive for a couple years. After looking at money and time, I just started buying commercial 9mm reloads which worked fine. I was only saving a few cents per round by reloading, and that wasn’t worth the time invested.
4. Get a Good Holster That Fits Right
In IDPA matches you normally draw from holster during the match. I saw a lot of people struggle because they had Kydex holsters that would not release easily, or leather holsters that fit too tight or rocked during draw. Try a few different brands at the local store.
5. Be Smooth, Be Calm, and AIM Your Shots
Many folks come into IDPA thinking it’s all about speed. But there are score zones on the official IDPA target, so you need to focus and AIM. Don’t just “run and gun”. If you stay calm, align your sights in the center of the target for EVERY shot, you will end up with a higher score with fewer “points down”. Speed will come with time. It is better to make sure each one of your shots is a hit.
IDPA Classifications and Power Factor Requirements
Note — these are brief summaries. For full Class requirements, read the IDPA Rules.
Stock Service Pistol (SSP) Division
Round must be at least 9mm with 125 Power Factor. Very few gun mods are allowed. Double action pistols, such as the Sig P226/228, must start with hammer down. SSP must fit in full IDPA gun test box (which measures 8.75″ x 6″ x 1.625?).
Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP) Division
Round must be at least 9mm with 125 Power Factor. This was created for single-action pistols such as the Browning HP, but ESP also allows DA/SA pistols, such at the CZ 75, to start “cocked and locked”. ESP must fit in full IDPA gun test box.
Custom Defensive Pistol (CDP)
Round must be .45 ACP only, with minimum 165 Power Factor. You will see mostly 1911-type single-action pistols in this class. Single action-only firearms start cocked and locked. CDP must fit in full IDPA gun test box.
Concealed Carry Pistol (CCP)
IDPA created this division in 2014. It requires a minimum 9mm cartridge with a 125 Power Factor. Guns are sized smaller than other classes: barrel length must be 4.375? or less. CCP must fit in compact IDPA Test box which measures 7.75? x 5.375? x 1.375?.
Revolver Division (REV) — Stock and Enhanced
In 2016 the IDPA created a Revolver Division (REV) with two sub-categories: Stock Revolver and Enhanced Revolver. Stock Revolvers use speedloaders while Enhanced Revolver can employ moon-clips for faster loading. (NOTE: There is also a BUG REV class for small revolvers).
Tags: CCP, Competition, Glock 34, IDPA, IDPA Custom Defensive Pistol, IDPA Target, Practical Shooting