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!

IDPA Tactical Journal (19.4)…

So, I read the latest Tactical Journal this morning (yes, I know it has been out awhile, I don’t want to hear it) and I thought I’d comment on something I read in it.

For those who don’t know, the “Tactical Journal” is the “whenever we feel like it” publication of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) containing supposedly excellent articles about the sport, self-defense, and so on.

[cough, cough]

Anyway:  I’ll ignore the fact that Robert Ray’s article* about the 2015 World Championship (by the way, Robert is the editor of the Tactical Journal, and one of the major rule-arbiters in IDPA) completely got wrong the first, second and third place finishers in CCP division.  Not only was he wrong, but he wrote about a third of a page about the supposed winner being the first time someone from outside the US has won, etc, etc—-too bad that guy wasn’t the winner.  His article didn’t even MENTION the guy that actually won the division at the 2015 IDPA World Championship.

But we’ll ignore that.

We’ll also ignore Joyce Wilson’s comment about how the points down penalty will be doubled because two MAs and one EX think we should do it, and how all the feedback that she’s gotten has been positive (all evidence, discussion, commentary, and quotes to the contrary), and how there is no actual timetable for this because they don’t know what they are doing and how it will affect classifications.

We’ll ignore that too.

No, my ACTUAL comment is on the article where they asked a number of female MM shooters what they wanted for Christmas—and one said that she wanted a class from Front Sight, “to improve [their] accuracy and timing.”   Another was getting her husband “something special” — a course at Front Sight.

Front Sight.

Seriously?  Was the point of this article to show that even in the shooting sports, people make stupid choices about where to train, and who to train with?

I wish I could find Tamara Keel‘s comment about training with people or groups like Front Sight, Suarez, and Yeager—it was a great quote, but I think it was in the comments on one of her posts and I can’t find it.

Front Sight. Seriously. Sheesh.



*I note that I met Robert Ray when I went down and shot the Arkansas State IDPA match this past year.  He was polite, seemed like a nice guy, and I saw him make a number of rules decisions that seemed logical, pragmatic, and sensible.  So this comment about his article is not about him as a person, but it certainly is about how the overall editor of the whole magazine shouldn’t be making this kind of egregiously awful mistake in something as easily factually checked as this.

IDPA is a game. Deal with it.

Tamara Keel over at View From The Porch said it very well:
I don’t mind being told I can’t use a flashlight lanyard. Tell me “we wanted a level playing field”. Fine. Tell me “we’ve seen safety issues with them.” Fine. Tell me “just because that’s the rules.” Fine.

Just don’t tell me “because our sport is a realistic tactical simulation of real-world street CCW equipment and tactical gunfighting wharrrgarble.” 

This is of course not a surprise, as she has an outstanding way with words.

IDPA markets itself:
“The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body of a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. The founders developed the sport so that practical gear and practical guns may be used competitively.”

Many shooters in the sport deride other sport shooters as “gamers,” claiming that their sport is realistic training for self-defense, that it simulates real life, that they use guns that are REALLY carried concealed for self-defense, along with the equipment that REALLY gets used “on the street.”

Tam’s worth reading on it:

Personally, I can’t use my actual carry gear in IDPA.  I could use the gun I normally carry–but since I can’t use my holster or mag pouches (which means I can’t use my standard cover garment) and I’m switching out everything else, I might as well use the gun I normally use for competition shooting instead.

I normally carry AIWB—oops, not legal in IDPA.  My normal mag pouches are made by Ky-Tac, to IDPA’s old specifications–oops, the new rules say that NOW mag pouches must cover a certain amount of the magazine (instead of it being based on whether or not the mags stay in place) so my mag pouches aren’t legal in IDPA anymore (it apparently doesn’t matter how much retention they have, it just matters if the mag is covered sufficiently).  Since I carried AIWB, I used a closed-front polo shirt for concealment–but since I had to switch holsters to an OWB holster on my hip, I decided that I might as well buy a standard-use IDPA vest for concealment, which of course has large front pockets to drop mags into, plus a nice thick heavy seam along the outside for vest stiffness to make draws easier–though of course that isn’t realistic for actual carry in any way.  I’d never wear this thing outside of an IDPA match.

When I shoot IDPA it doesn’t resemble in any way how I actually carry, due to their rules.  Literally, their rules have forced me to be more “gamer” than I would have been without their rules.  I had to buy a whole new set of equipment for “realistic” IDPA because my actual daily carry equipment apparently wasn’t “realistic” enough.

I haven’t shot IDPA for very long, and in addition to a small number of local matches, I’ve only shot 4 major matches (the Kansas state match twice, the Iowa state match once, and the Arkansas state match once).  Out of those matches, I’ve won the entire match three times, and placed second overall in the other (that was the Arkansas match, at IDPA club number #001).

Far as I can tell, other than adding stories to their stage descriptions, IDPA is no more realistic or practical than USPSA.  (Don’t tell me that “use of cover” makes it more realistic–because how cover is used in IDPA isn’t realistic, plus the fact that cover is rarely actually used in actual citizen self-defense situations so it isn’t exactly a priority.)  When I can win a stage in IDPA by quietly stepping backward and calling 911 or by running screaming for help, then I’ll rethink my opinion of IDPA’s “realism.”  (Heck, when I can make an intelligent choice about going into a room filled with bad guys by instead quietly bypassing it, I’ll think about it.)

Note:  I’ve enjoyed the IDPA I shot.  This doesn’t change the fact that it is REALLY annoying to run into someone who insists that IDPA “prepares you for the street,” “is realistic self-defense training,” and that “those other sports are for gamers” when the game itself makes people be less realistic about their equipment, forces people to make dumb choices regarding tactics (no, really, we should ALWAYS attempt to do house-clearing by ourselves!), and doesn’t in any way resemble reality.

They are all games.  They all have rules, a winner, and lots of losers after that.   They are fun games–and they make you perform with a handgun under stress, which DOES make you more likely to be able to defend yourself.  (Not to mention that people who engage in shooting sports tend to end up better shooters because they have a reason to practice and get better.)  The gun games are fun.  Like I said, I’ve enjoyed the IDPA major matches I’ve shot.  (Much of that was due to the good people who were running them, and the other shooters I was squadded with.)

Just stop telling me that IDPA is more “street” than “those other gaming gamer games.”