Why do people keep saying IDPA is more accuracy-oriented than USPSA?

“IDPA rewards marksmanship, USPSA rewards speed.”

I keep hearing that IDPA is much more accuracy-oriented than USPSA…and I wonder why.

Most places that discuss the differences between IDPA and USPSA all seem to agree that IDPA is much more accuracy oriented, and that in USPSA it is all about speed.  (Or at least, significantly more about speed than IDPA.)  So much so, that in USPSA you can “miss fast enough to win” but in IDPA, poor accuracy will just destroy you.  Looking at articles, forum discussion, etc—everyone seems to agree with this.

And you know what?  I really don’t understand that.

Let’s take the last IDPA match I just shot.  I had some accuracy problems, and on a 12-round stage, shot one mike and one -1 hit.  (Roughly the equivalent of one mike and one C-hit in USPSA.)  In IDPA, this means 6 points down, for an additional 3 seconds of time added to my score.  I shot the stage in 16.25, so my total time was 19.25.

Here’s the thing:  Had this been a USPSA match, my initial hit factor would have been 43 points / 16.25 seconds or 2.6462.  (Misses really hurt your points in USPSA.  And for the record, I’m using Production Minor scoring here, which is what I shoot, which matches the gun/division I shoot in IDPA.)

Now, what if I had shot that stage perfectly in the time given by the final IDPA score, which includes their penalties for bad hits?  In other words, shot perfectly (60 points) but in 19.25 seconds?  (So, I’m using the time created by IDPA as the appropriate penalty for poor accuracy.)

My hit factor would have been 3.1169.  In other words, going slower but with better accuracy was worth MORE in USPSA, compared to what IDPA considered a reasonable penalty.

If USPSA and IDPA were equally accuracy/speed oriented, the hit factor should have stayed the same.  After all, that IDPA time corresponded to what they believe should be the penalty for poor shooting—that every C-hit-equivalent is worth half of a second, and every miss is worth 2.5 seconds of penalty time.

And yet, in USPSA, those points lost (for this case) are worth MUCH more than that time penalty.  One miss and one C-hit in USPSA means 17 points lost—which on a 60-point stage, is HUGE.

For this case, accuracy is MUCH more important in USPSA.

Okay, maybe that case is just an odd one–maybe most of the time, it is the other way around.

…and yet, it doesn’t really seem to be.  I’ve shot four stages in IDPA in the past two months, and in each case, the time penalty given for IDPA is worth significantly less than the penalty that occurs in USPSA due to poor accuracy.  (Particularly if there are misses involved.)

Here’s another way of looking at it:

If you take our scores from the last IDPA Nebraska match (which you can get from Practiscore) you can then look at how people did relative to each other.  If we do the normal % method, we can see that the difference between first place and second place using IDPA scoring was a little over 14%.  And yet, if we performed scoring using the USPSA method, the difference was only 7%.  The first place person ran the stages much faster than everyone else—but also dropped more points than most.

You’d think that the sport that was more accuracy-oriented would then have the smallest difference between 1st and 2nd place because 1st was faster–but dropped more points than the rest.  And yet, we see that it was in USPSA scoring where that lack of accuracy actually brought the 2nd-place finisher closer to winning.

What if there aren’t misses?  Well, if you get down to only one or two points down, AND the stage itself has close to the IDPA maximum of rounds, then you might get a case where the IDPA penalty is worth more than the USPSA penalty.

But the rest of the time?  A comparison of IDPA time penalties for points down (and what it does to your score) and USPSA points lost (and what it does to your hit factor) seems to show that dropping points in USPSA hurts you more than it does in IDPA.

…if you are shooting Minor in USPSA.  Shooting Major may be different.

An example that someone used on the Brian Enos forums awhile back, to “prove” how IDPA penalizes poor accuracy more, started with a standard “El Presidente,” and immediately showed how IDPA penalized poor accuracy far more than USPSA—and the math did work out.  However, for it to actually make a difference, the stage had to be only a few seconds long.  If you run the numbers, during extremely low-time stages, of course the IDPA penalties are going to be relatively bigger—as they are absolute, and don’t change.  However, once you start getting into stages that are 14 seconds or longer—something as small as one C-hit actually makes more of a difference in USPSA than it does in IDPA.  (I could show you the match, but I’m not sure you’d all be interested in it…)

It is also true that misses and hits on no-shoot targets get penalized a LOT more in USPSA than they do in IDPA, which is odd considering the “we do REALISTIC shooting” attitude of IDPA.  On a 12-round stage, if you pull a miss in USPSA, you have just lost 25% of your possible points on that stage, period.  In IDPA, you just added 2.5 seconds.    If it is a 5 second stage, that is one thing.  But if (like the stage last weekend) it was (at fastest) a 16 second IDPA stage, then it only made a 15% difference.  And since all those times add up, a faster run elsewhere can mitigate that problem.  In USPSA, you are never getting those points back.

This isn’t a “one is better than the other” sort of article, by the way.  It is merely a commentary that in both USPSA and IDPA, the people who win are the ones that shoot the most accurately, the fastest.  In neither one can you win by only being really accurate, or only being really fast.

For very short stages, yes, USPSA puts a higher premium on speed than IDPA.  For longer stages, the IDPA penalties for poor accuracy really aren’t as severe as what happens in USPSA.  (Again, this is based on USPSA Minor scoring, as guns fitting Production division are what is shot most in IDPA in this area.)

So please quit telling me that “IDPA rewards marksmanship, USPSA rewards speed” — because you know what?  To succeed at either one takes BOTH.

2 thoughts on “Why do people keep saying IDPA is more accuracy-oriented than USPSA?

  1. Pingback: Does IDPA reward accuracy more than USPSA? | Gun Nuts Media

  2. “Too succeed at either one takes BOTH.”

    I’ve never shot USPSA, but I can personally attest to the validity of this statement in IDPA. The correct balance between speed and accuracy is still eluding me, at least in competition. I’ve been soundly trounced by people I’ve shot more accurately than but who have shot faster than I did. I have yet to get it through my head during competition that it’s okay to take a half-second penalty rather than to take a couple of extra seconds (or more) to make the perfect shot.


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