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.
IDPA is a fast-growing shooting sport that is more focused on “defensive” situations than other shooting sports such as USPSA. People competing in IDPA are sorted according to how well they shoot the IDPA Classifier, a standardized course of fire that is the same for shooters around the world and allows people of equal skill to compete against each other.
The Classifier stage setup looks something like this:
The course of fire is as follows:
|Stage One||7 Yards||30 Shots|
|String 1||Position #1 Draw and fire 2 shots to the body and 1 to head on T1.||3 shots|
|String 2||Position #1 Draw and fire 2 shots to the body and 1 to head on T2.||3 shots|
|String 3||Position #1 Draw and fire 2 shots to the body and 1 to head on T3.||3 shots|
|String 4||Position #1 Draw and fire 2 shots at each head T1 – T3.||3shots|
|String 5||Position #1 Start gun in “WEAK” hand pointed down range at a 45 degree angle, safety may be off, but finger must be out of trigger guard, fire 1 shot at each T1 – T3.||3 shots|
|String 6||Position #1 The shooter will load three rounds maximum in the handgun and begin standing, facing up-range (back to target). On the start signal, the shooter will turn, draw, and engage targets T1 through T3 with one round each. The shooter will then perform a slide- lock reload and re-engage targets T1 through T3 with one round each.||6 shots|
|String 7||Position #1 Draw and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 “STRONG” hand only.||6 shots|
|Stage Two||10 Yards|
|String 1||Position #2 Draw and advance toward targets, fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 while moving forward (all shots must be fired while moving) there is a forward fault line at the 5 yds line for this string||6 shots|
|String 2||Position #3 Draw and retreat from targets, fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 while retreating (all shots must be fired while moving).||6 shots|
|String 3||Position #2 (Load 6 rounds MAX. in pistol) Start back to targets, turn and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3, reload from slidelock and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3.||12 shots|
|String 4||Position #2 Draw and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 “STRONG” hand only.||6 shots|
|Stage Three||20 Yards (Bianchi style barricade and 55 gal. barrel required)|
|String 1||Position #4 Draw and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 from either side of barricade, perform a Tactical Reload and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 from the opposite side of barricade.||12 shots|
|String 2||Position #4 Draw and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 from either side of barricade, perform a Tactical Reload and advance to Position #5, fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 from around either side of 55 gal. barrel.||12 shots|
|String 3||Position #5 Draw, kneel and fire 2 shots at each T1 – T3 from around either side of 55 gal. barrel.||6 shots|
|Start position for all strings EXCEPT Stage One/String 5 is hands naturally at your side.|
While all those shots look intimidating for beginning shooters, the fact is, the IDPA Classifier is a good test of a your ability to deal with close range targets, long range targets and moving while shooting. As with all IDPA stages, your score on classifier is a mixture of your raw time as measured by a shot timer plus extra time added for poor shooting or not following the rules.
Your score on the Classifier will put you into one of five IDPA classifications:
|Master (MA)||89.00 or less||91.00 or less||92.00 or less||101.00 or less||102.00 or less|
|Expert (EX)||89.01 thru 109.00||91.01 thru 110.00||92.01 thru 111.00||101.01 thru 122.00||102.01 thru 124.00|
|Sharpshooter (SS)||109.01 thru 138.00||110.01 thru 140.00||111.01 thru 142.00||122.01 thru 155.00||124.01 thru 158.00|
|Marksman (MM)||138.01 thru 190.00||140.01 thru 192.00||142.01 thru 195.00||155.01 thru 212.00||158.01 thru 218.00|
|Novice (NV)||190.01 or greater||192.01 or greater||195.01 or greater||212.01 or greater||218.01 or greater|
So if you raw time plus equals 190 seconds or greater and you’re shooting a Glock in Stock Service Pistol, you’re considered a Novice shooter and compete against other people of similar classification in a match.
Me? I’m on the cusp of breaking into SSP Sharpshooter, and I *almost* made it there last weekend, but alas, I fell short. I’ll have a walk through of how I shot the Classifier and what I can do better to make it to Sharpshooter the next time I shoot it in my next post, and hopefully we’ll both learn something as a result.
Dave Spaulding (who knows more about firearms training than just about anyone else on the planet) talks about grip and stance.
One of the things that annoys me about 90% of the “Tactical” training out there is that they teach you a “perfect” grip and stance, which you will probably never, ever use if (God forbid) you need to defend your life with your gun. Real life is not a shooting range: There’s a zero percent chance you’ll be wearing hearing protection if/when you’ll need to use a gun defensively, and the stress you’ll be under when you do is nothing like the stress of shooting at a range.
This is one of the reasons why I encourage new gun owners to shoot at least one practical pistol competition: You’ll get a much better understanding of how your body reacts to stress when you have a gun in your hand, and you’ll see the need to close the gap between your skill level shooting in the relaxed environment of a square range versus your skill under the pressure of competition.
“A shooting match isn’t a gunfight, but a gunfight is certainly a shooting match.” – Massad Ayoob.
“Know thy enemy, know thyself, and you will be invincible.”
– Sun Tzu
When I was a professional photographer, inevitably, once someone found out what I did for a living, I’d be asked “Say, I want to take better pictures, what kind of camera should I get?”
My answer to this was always “Well, that depends. How many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”, which would usually end that part of the conversation as the would-be photographer grapples with the concept of shooting an entire 36-shot roll of film each week, much less more than one, where it was not uncommon for me to burn through two dozen rolls of HP5+ or TMZ covering just one high school basketball game.
The point I was trying to make is that it’s not the camera that limits the photographer, it’s his or her ability to put in the time necessary to realize their vision and their desire to push their creativity that limits a photographer.
Looking back on this now, I realize my answer to the wannabe photogs was/is snarky and condescending: People want to take better pictures not to become the next Mark Seliger, they want to capture memories that are more evocative and aesthetic, something all of us share.
Which brings me to practical shooting. I’m blessed/cursed to call Rio Salado Sportsmans Club my home range. It’s loaded to the gills with USPSA Grandmasters. It’s a blessing in that each match is challenging and exciting, but each match is meant to be challenging and exciting to shooters like Rob Leatham, Vic Pickett and Matt Burkett.
This can discourage beginning shooters. Imagine cranking off the best golf drive in your life and then have Tiger Woods shoot behind you and out-drive you by 100 yards.
The upside to this, though, is that in the words of The Chairman Of The Board, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. And another great thing about shooting at Rio is the opportunity to participate and shoot in some 1st-class matches like the Desert Classic and Mystery 3 Gun, which bring in shooters from around the country. I get to meet some of the best shooters in the world, and the prize tables for each match can be really good.
This explains why I like shooting laid-back, easy-to-shoot steel matches with friends on a regular basis rather than the more difficult but less friendly USPSA matches at Rio. I like Rio: I do all my practicing there and I’ll still shoot a USPSA match there as often as I can, but right now, it’s important that I believe I can shoot well and do so when needed, even in the toughest of competitions. My practice sessions are there for me to prepare me physically, the steel matches are there to prepare me mentally. My standard for success needs to be me and the progress I have made, not the best shooters in the world can do.
If you’ve been thinking “Well, gosh, there’s no way I can shoot a pistol competition”, you need to give a try. Buy a good holster and some mag pouches, find a low-key “Steel” match in the middle of the week, let the people who run it know that this is your first time shooting a match, and you’ll soon find out that practical pistol is a fun way to learn to shoot better and keep your skills sharp.
If you’re one of the thousands and thousands of people who’ve purchased a gun in the last few years and don’t know what to do next, you’re not alone. There are many, many people out there who’ve made the most adult decision they can make in their lives and have chosen to purchase a firearm and become their own first responder.
But owning a gun isn’t enough, because guns aren’t a talisman of self-protection with magical powers of protection. Guns are only as effective as the person behind the trigger. Think about it this way; who would you rather have on your side in a gunfight , Woody Allen with a .44 Magnum, or Chuck Norris all by himself?
I rest my case.
Now that you’ve realized that having a gun your unloaded under your bed isn’t going to keep you safe, what should you do? What should you have in your home besides your gun? Is owning a gun and keeping it unloaded under your bed enough? In a word, no.
My first recommendation is to get some training so you can shorten your learning curve by benefiting from someone’s else’s wisdom.
Secondly, practice, because you’re not going to rise to the occasion if you have to defend your life, you’re going to fall to your lowest level of competence.
Thirdly, I recommend trying out some form of firearms competition, be it a simple weekday steel match or International Defensive Pistol or United States Practical Shooting match. Competition is going to give you stress levels that won’t see anywhere else, and it’s the best test you’ll have to see what you can do with your gun under stressful conditions.
Next week, we’ll talk about ideas about what to have in your home to help keep you safe besides your gun.