by Mike Dalton, published in the Oregon Trail Bullet Company newsletter:
The I.D.P.A. (International Defensive Pistol Association) is one of the fastest growing pistol shooting organizations in the world. The reasons are simple, yet to some degree complex. This sport is based on the premise of the pistol being a self-defense tool for personal protection. Therefore, the competition environment should revolve around this concept. The I.D.P.A. has done a very good job of producing rules, regulations and guidelines that allow freedom for the participating clubs tempered with some absolutes for a successful competition program.
In the conduct of I.D.P.A. matches, one of the cornerstones is how to treat the competitors. The idea is to create a warm, friendly environment where shooters can share ideas and experiences. The match is simply the catalyst that brings everyone together. At these matches you can only use self-defense type guns and holsters that must be worn in a manner suitable for continuous wear. Some stages are shot from concealment; this further emphasizes the self-defense aspect of the I.D.P.A. All holsters to be legal for I.D.P.A. competition must be approved models from the various manufacturers.
The guns must fit into an 8 3/4" x 6" x 1 5/8" box (except revolvers must have 5" or less barrel length) with the magazine installed where applicable. The general I.D.P.A. gun is a standard size semi-automatic in 9mm, 40 or 45 ACP and the revolvers are generally four inch models in .38 special or greater caliber.
There are four gun divisions: Stock Service Pistol (SSP), Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP), Custom Defensive Pistol (CDP) and Stock Service Revolver (SSR). The competitor chooses what division they wish to participate in depending on the type of firearm he/she may own. This keeps a very level "playing field" as the competitor only competes against other shooters using the same type of equipment in a given gun division and (skill level or) classification.
Ammunition for I.D.P.A. competition must meet standard loadings for the caliber pistol that is being used. Many shooters use their own reloads in I.D.P.A.
The shooters are also divided into classes within a gun division: Master, Expert, Sharpshooter, Marksman and Novice. In order to be classified there is a 90 round classifier match administered by your local club. It requires shooting from 5 to 20 yards in a "standard exercise" format. The competitor's final score is compared to the I.D.P.A. classifier rating system and a classification is assigned. Shooters of known ability can be classified instantly by the local club director to help insure fair competition.
The stages of the matches vary greatly from month to month and year to year. This creates a place where shooters can learn new skills and be exposed to a variety of shooting problems. The results after a few years is a shooter with a wide range of skills ready to be utilized if needed. Most I.D.P.A. shooting is done in 15 yards or less to more realistically resemble self-defense distances but sometimes one may need to hit a target at 50 yards. At our club, we generally have some shots at beyond 15 yards to make a balanced match. A great example of the need for longer-range skills is the infamous L.A.P.D. North Hollywood bank robbery shootout. The robbers casually walked around spraying bullets at the police and public. At this scene the ability to make a head shot at 40-60 yards with a pistol could have changed the outcome dramatically.
Based on the premise that a pistol is kept for self-protection, the shooting scenario type stages are interesting and thought provoking. Also keep in mind there are many legal concealed carry exemptions such as CCW holders, police officers, residence and place of business etc. In a scenario stage, you might be at an ATM machine, sitting at home watching TV, standing in line at a fast food restaurant, changing a tire, a salesperson at a store or many other types of situations where a pistol and skill may need to be the deciding factor of your or someone else's survival.
The matches are to test skill and most importantly to show the competitor where they need improvement while at the same time learning new techniques from watching other shooters. There is a lot to be learned just by seeing a master shooter negotiate a course of fire. So by participating in matches with quality shooters you can learn things that you might have to pay hundreds of dollars for by attending a self-defense, speed shooting school. Also most shooters are more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with the newer competitors. So great information is available virtually for free at the matches.
The I.D.P.A. is the place for the self-defense hand gunner. So get out and get involved in a sport that may one day save your life. For a club in your area, contact I.D.P.A. at www.idpa.com or call (870) 545-3886. Their address is P.O. Box 639, Berryville, AR 72616-0639.