We’ve talked about what the IDPA Classifier is, now let’s talk about how to shoot it well.
This is my scoresheet from the last Classifier I shot. I really wanted to make Sharpshooter in Stock Service Pistol (SSP) Division with this classifier, but I fell short. Fortunately for me, I know why I didn’t make it and what I need to do to improve. For the past few years, I’ve had a practice regimen that is more about developing my skills overall, so this is the first time I’ve had to practice with a specific goal in mind.
Guess where I need to improve…
If you guessed “Stage Three”, you’re right! Stage Three is all about making longer-range shots from 20 and 15 yards, and it’s the only part of the Classifier where you’re shooting around cover. So not only are you making longer shots, you’re making them from positions that are more awkward than the other parts of the course of fire.
It’s like they’re planning on messing with your head or something…
Breaking it down, with one exception, (a missed headshot on my third shot on Stage One), the first two stages are, in my opinion, an accurate reflection of my current shooting skill, so there’s not a lot of room for improvement there. However, I know I can shoot Stage Three better than I did, because I have.
So what did I do wrong?
For starters, I concentrated on the wrong thing. I’ve been shooting a fair amount of USPSA as of late, and the rules for changing the magazines in your gun in that sport are different than they are in IDPA. In USPSA, it’s perfectly ok to let a partially-full magazine hit the ground, in IDPA, that’s cause for a 10 point procedural penalty. As I was preparing myself for the stage, I was worrying about my reload, not concentrating on slowing down and making sure I got my shots.
Secondly, I rushed my shots. While I took more time for each shot than I did in the other two Stages, the fact is, it wasn’t enough: I could have slowed down even more and made doubly sure that my sight alignment and trigger press were there for each shot, but instead, I rushed things a bit and paid the price for my haste.
Whoops. Let’s break down my breakdown on Stage Three even more.
|My Classifier Score|
|Stage||Time||Points Down||Score||Total Time||Time Remaining*|
* Time remaining is the time I have (before penalties) to complete the Classifier in order to have a score that will push me into Sharpshooter.
61 points down on that stage includes five missed shots, and at 10 penalty points per shot, that translates into 25 seconds taken off my score. Had I made those shots, that would have put me at 130 seconds for the course of fire and into Sharpshooter.
Hence my problem. I have to balance the speed of my shots with the accuracy of those shots so I come to a balance where I can do better on that last stage. I shot it in 49.03 seconds, and I don’t think there’s much room for improvement right now with my movement speed between the barricades or getting my gun out of my holster quickly, so any improving my score has to come from improving my shot accuracy.
What this means is that 49 seconds is my par time for practices this stage, and the 15.2 seconds of remaining time translates into 30 max penalty points I can possibly have on Stage Three in order for me to make Sharpshooter. This really should not be a problem, as that’s three times the points down I had on Stage Two.
Fortunately, I know how fast I shot each string of fire on Stage Three, so that gives me a par time that I can use in my practice sessions, and the 15 seconds time remaining tells me how accurate I need to shoot to make Sharpshooter.
Breaking it down, here’s what my practice drills will need to in order to make everything work.
|Stage Three||Drill Time||Max. Points Down Allowed|
Intimidating, but I know I can turn and shoot three targets clean at 10 yards in under 11 seconds with a reload, so shooting it at 20 yards in under 19 seconds should not be a problem. As with just about everything in practical shooting, I can do what’s required to be successful, all I need to do is do it on demand while the timer is running.
And that’s the hard part.
We’re big fans of competition as a means of testing yourself and your gear in something that’s more stressful than just punching holes in paper on a shooting range.
If you’ve bought a handgun for self-protection, I recommend shooting it in some form of competition. Massad Ayoob, one of the world’s foremost experts on firearms law, says it best,
“A shooting competition isn’t a gun fight, but a gun fight is most definitely a shooting competition.”
And a gun fight is one shooting competition you DEFINITELY want to win.
You don’t need a lot of special gear beyond what’s needed for everyday concealed carry because an IDPA match is designed to shot with commonly used equipment. I enjoy shooting International Defensive Pistol (IDPA) competitions with my everyday concealed carry gear to see how it works under stressful conditions. I don’t win matches when I do that, but I learn what works and doesn’t work in the real world.
To shoot IDPA an IDPA match, you’ll need:
- A good, serviceable holster. Avoid nylon or cheap leather holsters, as they tend to collapse when the gun’s not in them, making them harder to re-holster your gun after you’re done shooting. I recommend a Kydex outside the waistband holster for a first competition holster (or first holster of any kind) because they’re inexpensive, rugged and won’t collapse in on itself after you’ve drawn your gun.
- Magazine pouches to hold your spare ammo. Typically, you’ll need 3 magazines to shoot an IDPA match: One in the gun loaded to either it’s full capacity or the IDPA limit for your Division, whichever is less and two more for reloads during a course of fire. I use double mag pouches from Blade-Tech and they work just fine.
- A cover garment. As IDPA is a *defensive* pistol match, it’s designed to mimic concealed carry, and that means keeping your gun and gear concealed as you shoot a match. I prefer to cover my gear like I cover my CCW gun and shoot a match with an untucked t-shirt, but most competitors end up using a dedicated cover garment because it allows for a fast draw and is comfortable to wear during a match.
- Eye protection and ear protection. This is a no-brainer. If you own a gun, you need something to protect your hearing and something to protect your eyes from ricochets.
- A desire to have fun and learn something. I love shooting IDPA, and everyone I’ve taken to a match has loved it as well.
If you have all that gear, I strongly suggest shooting an IDPA match. You’ll learn more about yourself, your gear and how both of you react to stressful condition than hours on a square range will teach you.
If you’ve been reading our website for any amount of time, you’ve seen how much fun we all have shooting action pistol matches like IDPA or USPSA. Action pistol (also known as practical pistol) is a ridiculously fun sport, but getting started can be extremely intimidating for both men and women. I waited almost a year after taking my first training class (that included the basics of USPSA) before shooting my first match because of the anxiety I felt about competing. You don’t have to wait, just remember a few basic things, and you’ll be well on your way to having a great time.
Just Do It – If you’re waiting until you’re 100 percent ready, you’ll never shoot a match. There are a few things that are helpful to know before stepping foot onto the range. Practice and repetition will make you a competent action pistol shooter, but for now, it’s best to stick to the basics:
- Focus on the things you can control, like making sure your gun works and your ammo runs, malfunction drills are no fun when you’re competing.
- Learn the rules of the range you will be competing at (hot or cold range, safety areas) before you go, that will save you some time and put you a little more at ease when you step on to the range.
- Make sure you know how to safely draw your pistol from a holster before heading to your first match. This is easily accomplished with dry-fire practice at home (safety first – triple check to make sure your gun and magazines are unloaded first and move your ammo to a different room).
- Add some reloading practice once you’ve got your draw down (check to make sure there is no ammo in the magazines first). Don’t worry about your speed, take the time you need to be smooth and steady when pressing the mag button, reaching for your magazine pouch and inserting the new magazine.
Learn the Lingo – There are some basic commands that you can study before shooting your first match. Make sure to learn the range commands of the sport you’re shooting (IDPA and USPSA commands are slightly different). Knowing and following these commands will keep you from getting disqualified (it happens, even at big matches), which is the opposite of fun. Here’s a comparison of the basic IDPA and USPSA range commands, you can also read the current IDPA or USPSA rulebook for definitions and an explanation of the scoring.
It’s Ok That You’re A Little Freaked Out – Just roll with it. You’re going to be running around with a gun shooting things that you’ve probably never shot before under the pressure of time, it’s pretty normal to be uncomfortable with that idea if you’ve never done it before.
You Will Have Bandwidth Issues – There’s only so much space in your brain, and with action pistol shooting, you will quickly fill it up with all the things you need to remember. Despite your best efforts, much of that information will leave your brain as soon as the buzzer goes off (we call it the Red Mist). The most important thing to remember above all else is to be safe. Watch your muzzle direction at all times (keep it pointed downrange at all times) and keep your finger off the trigger when you’re not shooting at a target. Speed and accuracy will come with practice, right now is the time to concentrate on safe gun handling. You’re going to mess up, don’t stress about it. I still have my share (and sometimes more) of missed targets and penalties at pretty much every match.
You Will Not Embarrass Yourself – I hear this concern a lot from people thinking about getting started in action shooting sports. First of all, check your ego at the door, you won’t need it on the range (it’s much more of a hindrance than a help). Also, hardly anyone is watching you, and if they are, they’re either making sure you’re safe, or they’re looking at the course of fire, trying to figure out their plan of attack. There’s always a few ways to shoot a stage, and many of us watch to see if we can pick up some clues that we hadn’t thought of. We were all new to the sport once, and we are very aware of the mental energy it takes to shoot action pistol. Follow the safety rules and be safe with your gun, and I promise that the other shooters will encourage you and help you out where needed.
BE SAFE, don’t try to shoot too fast and have fun!