Reloads in IDPA: Saving Time

In IDPA, all scoring is time-based, which means that doing well in IDPA is all about saving time. One of the ways you can do this is by carefully planning when you do your reloads, so that you don’t ever end up with a standing reload at some point on a stage.

Now, on Limited stages you have to do exactly what the stage briefing requires, so you don’t have much choice–you follow the WSB precisely, even if that means a standing reload. (In a standing reload, that’s literally what is happening–you are standing there reloading, with nothing else useful going on. The reload is purely adding time to the stage.)

On Unlimited stages, however, you have more choices–and a good choice to make is to reload while you are doing something else, like moving to a new position. You were going to be taking the time to move anyway, so performing a reload during that movement doesn’t add any extra time.

Since there are only two kinds of allowed reloads in IDPA (the Tactical reload and the Emergency reload), you have to think carefully about which you are going to do as part of your stage plan. Both types of reloads have their issues–tactical reloads take more time since you have to retain the magazine and can’t simply drop it and move on, while emergency reloads can only occur after you’ve run the gun completely dry.

So how do you choose what to do?

Emergency reloads require making sure you can run the gun dry at the correct moment in time. Remember, on Unlimited stages you can shoot as much as you want–so the trick is to normally add an extra shot or two at the end of an array (and yes, you have to actually be shooting AT legit targets with your extra shots) so the gun runs dry right before you leave that position and head to the next. As you start moving, you start your emergency reload.

That way you aren’t adding any extra time to your stage run–you are reloading while you are doing something else that you had to do anyway.

Sometimes, it is worth it to burn two or even three rounds, to set up an “emergency” reload when you want it to happen. More than that, though…sometimes it is faster to make the choice to perform a tactical reload instead. You have to figure that out based on your own reload skill level, and what is happening on the stage.

Tactical reloads should be used in places where you are already going to be burning significant time by moving (remember, tac loads take longer) AND where you can’t burn all the extra rounds needed to run the gun dry for an emergency reload.

If the choice is “shoot 2 then burn FIVE extra rounds then do an emergency reload as you move to the new position” versus “shoot 2 then tac reload as you move to the new position” the tactical reload choice is probably going to be faster.

Again, for any given stage, your choices are going to come down to your own personal skills on reloads, and how many rounds you need for each position. Often, burning an extra round or two then making an emergency reload is the way to go. But sometimes, the tactical reload is just going to work better.

Remember, when deciding what choices you are going to make: Make the ones that save you the most time on the stage!

Shooting the IDPA 5×5 Classifier

The IDPA 5×5 Classifier was introduced not long ago as a way for competitors (and ranges) to quickly get competitors through the classification process. The original Classifier Match (which is still available for IDPA members, if they can find a club that uses it) is considerably longer, requires more range equipment (and more range space), tests more skills, and requires significantly more ammunition. Unsurprisingly, lots of local clubs have shifted to using the 5×5 classifier for their members instead.

The entirety of the 5×5 classifier is shot at a single IDPA target at 10 yards. It consists of 4 strings, taking a total of 25 rounds to finish the course of fire. Concealment is NOT required, and it is Limited scoring, so be sure to ONLY shoot exactly what the stage briefing specifies.

If you want to be completely prepared to shoot the 5×5, you should come to the line with a holstered gun and at least one mag pouch (for the one on-the-clock reload that is required), no concealment garment, and 5 magazines, one of which is loaded to exactly 4 rounds. If you do that, you will simply reload to a new magazine on every string, making sure that you start string 3 with the magazine that only has 4 rounds in it. (After the first string, you’ll always have one round left in the chamber when you load for the next string, so that gives you five rounds at the start of string 3.)

If you don’t have enough magazines to load a new one each time, you can get away with not reloading between strings 1 and 2, and also 3 and 4, IF you are allowed a magazine capacity of 10. If not—you need to reload to a new magazine between each string. If you don’t have five magazines, have a friend stand behind the firing line, and hand mags back to them so they can reload them for you while you shoot.

As you can see, you need to be able to shoot freestyle, shoot strong-hand-only, and be able to perform a slide-lock reload on the clock. Oh, and hit a headshot at 10 yards on the first try, as no makeup shots are allowed.

And yes, you CAN ask the SO between strings of fire what you are supposed to be doing for the next string–that’s perfectly legal.

Good luck on your classifier run!

Introduction to IDPA Competition

So, you’ve heard about an IDPA match being held nearby, and want to give it a try. But…you’ve never done it before. What do you need to know to get started? What gear do you need? How do you sign up? What match procedures are standard? What are the basic rules for how the match goes?

What follows is not a comprehensive walk-through of all the rules and procedures for IDPA–but it should give you what you need to safely manage your first match. Because that’s the point of the first match, really—completing it safely. If you are SAFE in your first match, you’ll enjoy yourself and you’ll know what sorts of things you need to do to go back and do even better in your next match. So…your goal in your first match is to be safe, and not get disqualified.

So, how do you get started?

1) Registering for the match:
These days, most matches have their registration set up on If you plan on shooting matches of any type, you might as well click on that link and go ahead and register for a free account.

Most places who hold matches will literally give you a direct link to their match registration. Or, you can search “Matches” in Practiscore, and find it that way. You can also just search for clubs in your area that are holding matches.

For example, if you want to shoot IDPA near Omaha, The Marksman Indoor Range and Inner 10 both hold monthly matches (on different days, so that you can do both!) and you can find them both on Practiscore:

The Marksman:
Inner 10:

(If you are near Lincoln, Thunder Alley also holds IDPA matches. Search them out!)

Take a look at the divisions in the IDPA Rulebook so that you know what division to sign up for. If you aren’t an IDPA member yet, your “class” will be UN for “unclassified.”

2) Going to the match:
First things first: If you show up with a loaded carry pistol, always immediately contact a range safety officer so they can take you into a bay to unload and show clear. IDPA matches are almost always held on cold ranges, so you should not have a loaded firearm unless you are on the line shooting the stage.

The match will have a defined “Safe Area” in which you can handle firearms. However, no ammunition handling is allowed in the Safe Area. So, when you come to the range, you can gear up with your holster and mag pouches pretty much anywhere, then walk to the Safe Area to take your pistol out of its bag and holster it. (Cleared and empty.) You can also practice draws and dryfire in the Safe Area, along with any gun maintenance that needs to happen. But NO AMMUNITION HANDLING. (Because that’s a DQ offense, and you don’t want that to happen.)

You can load magazines and handle ammunition (though obviously, not putting any in the gun) anywhere ELSE on the range that isn’t the Safe Area.

If you have ANY questions about safety procedures and so on, ASK. The range staff and the match safety officers would really prefer not to have to DQ anyone. But safety is important–if you break a safety rule, you’ll be done for the day. (Whereupon we want you to go home and practice safe gun-handling some more, but definitely want you to come back and try it again.) When in doubt, ask a question.

3) What gear do I need to shoot an IDPA match?
The nice thing here is that the gear/equipment needed for IDPA is pretty minimal.

4) How are IDPA matches scored?
That’s pretty straightforward also.

5) What is this “Tactical Priority” I keep hearing about regarding how to run a stage?
Okay, that part is a little more complicated. Once you practice it a couple of times, however, it ends up being pretty straightforward–and it makes most stage plans very easy to figure out.

6) What other rules should I probably know for my first match?
Like an sport, IDPA has a number of rules, but with the above knowledge, plus one last video about allowed reloads, you should be pretty solid for your first match.

7) Anything else in particular, safety-wise, that you should carefully practice before going to an action match like IDPA?
Watching your 180, keeping the finger out of the trigger guard unless actively engaging targets, and making sure you don’t sweep anything is VERY important.

The main thing is….sign up for a match, get the gear you need, and come out and give it a safe, careful try. People will be more than happy to help you and answer questions–and once you’ve tried it once, you’ll realize that you want to keep doing it, and you’ll have the information you need to start getting better at it.

Come out and shoot!

A Realistic View of Crime in Nebraska

Several years ago I wrote an article about Crime Definitions You Should Think About, talking about the definition of “Aggravated Assault” (as opposed to “Attempted Murder”) and what it meant—and how often it happened.  If you haven’t read that, please take a moment to do so, because it describes the definition of aggravated assault, and why that definition is important.  It’ll make the next part a lot more clear.

Each year, states (and divisions within that state such as county and city departments) are required to report crime statistics in various ways.  One of the most important “indexes” of crime are “Part I” crimes, which include (among other things) the various categories of “Violent Crimes” which are:  Criminal Homicide, Rape, Robbery, and Aggravated Assault.

Most often, people  (when talking about armed self-defense) discuss the criminal homicide rates in their various areas, touting those areas as “safe” or “dangerous” in various descriptions based on those rates, most of which are misleading at best, and downright wrong fairly often.

Continue reading

How do you gain knowledge?

In a past post, I talked fairly bluntly about how if you don’t have any education, training, or experience in a technical area, you don’t really have a right to an opinion in that technical area.

Unsurprisingly in this time of “everyone is equal and their thoughts are all equally valid, even if they are clueless,” lots of people grew angry about the idea.  It probably would have gone better had if I said it differently, but what I was REALLY thinking was “…your opinion is worthless.”

And I wasn’t wrong.

So how do you get to a point where your opinion is valid in a technical area such as self-defense?  Answer:  Education, training, or experience. (And preferably, all three.)

Let’s start with education (this will be the first in a set of three posts). Continue reading

Why make match videos?

Awhile back, someone asked me why I keep making match videos.  It occurred to me that from the outside, it probably just looks like I’m posting them so people can watch me shoot–and that’s very much not the point.  (Quite frankly, there are a number of stage attempts that I’d rather people didn’t see!) Continue reading

Useful Shooting Accessories, Part I

I’ve been meaning to write a couple of articles listing a number of the useful gadgets and accessories I’ve picked up over time that help me when I’m out shooting. I use these things, and I feel they have really helped make my life easier—whether practicing, competing, or carrying.  In a later post I’ll also talk about what I’ve found that you should NOT use. Continue reading

How much do you practice with your carry gun?

For me, the answer is “pretty frequently,” especially if you consider dryfire to be effective practice.  I dryfire my competition gun frequently, and a percentage of that time I also get in some reps with my carry pistol.  When doing live fire practice for competition shooting, I do the same–I generally start each practice session with a drill using my carry gun from concealment, cold, then put it away and practice with the competition gun.  When I’m done, I then end the session with some reps with my carry gun.  That’s in addition to various dry/live fire sessions with only the carry gun. Continue reading

2019 – New Year, More Practice!

As is normal, at the beginning of each new year I make myself some goals–some shooting skills/practice goals, some informational/conceptual goals, and some self-defense training/practice goals.  As part of that, I also print out a copy of my dryfire practice report, to get myself ready to track everything.

For 2018–I failed badly on most of my goals.  :/   Continue reading

Would you teach the class differently…

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine put up on Facebook a question about “As a firearms/self-defense trainer who teaches courses, if someone came to you knowing (for certain) that they’d have to use their firearm as a lethal-force response to a self-defense threat tomorrow, would you teach them any differently?”

I said:  “Of course I would!”

Whereupon I got jumped all over by lots of people who claimed that as firearms instructors, their classes were all completely focused on teaching REAL self-defense, and that if I had to change my class, it was an indicator that my class just wasn’t very good.

Which just goes to show that like any other group of people, “firearms instructors” contains all kinds, a significant proportion of which are idiots who have no idea what they are talking about.

Why am I right and they were idiots? Continue reading