IDPA - Will It Get You Killed?
This is a discussion on IDPA - Will It Get You Killed? within the Defensive Carry & Tactical Training forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; IDPA - Will It Get You Killed?
Randy Harris - Suarez International Staff Instructor
There are many shooters who participate in shooting sports like IPSC ...
September 15th, 2008 06:34 PM
IDPA - Will It Get You Killed?
IDPA - Will It Get You Killed?
Randy Harris - Suarez International Staff Instructor
There are many shooters who participate in shooting sports like IPSC or IDPA. In these sports the shooters engage a wide array of targets in little scenarios that often require drawing from a holster, movement, target discrimination, reloading, accurate shooting under time constraint and sometimes malfunction clearance. These are all good skills to work on if we also carry a gun for personal protection. Of course it is not training but it is good practice. But there are those that argue that participating in IDPA or other action shooting sports will build bad habits and can even get you killed. Let's look at that for a minute.
The issues that people have are typically with use of cover, IDPA style reloads, only allowing 11 rounds in the gun in the "hi cap" categories, and the proactive nature of IDPA. The arguments ostensibly stem from people not wanting to ingrain habits that are not tactically sound. Ok fine. That is a laudable pursuit. The problem is that I think people sometimes do not look at context of the problem or the big picture or understand that there is a way to play the game and still be competitive and still work on skills that are real world useful in a real confrontation. I also honestly think some naysayers run down IDPA because they don't perform well at it. Lets look at some of the arguments.
USE OF COVER: In IDPA, per the rules, you must use cover if available. And by using cover they want at least 50% of your body behind cover. The "gamesman" side of the equation stretch this to the limit exposing far more of themselves than they probably would want to in a real fight when rounds might be flying in both directions.
But in IDPA the whole time you are shooting the timer is running and the winner is the one with the lowest time adjusted for score on targets. So the "gamesmen" get just enough of themselves behind cover to not be penalized and then shoot very fast. The "Tactical" side though often hunker down behind cover and engage targets VERY slowly. They argue that they expose much less of themself and thereby are doing it "right". They argue that doing it fast without getting 99% behind cover will get you killed. Maybe they have an argument, but not always a well thought out one....and not one that always applies.
RELOADS: The reload argument comes from the "IDPA approved " reloads in the rule book. We have a slidelock reload, that is your gun has been shot to slidelock. We have a tactical reload . This is the classic reload during a so-called "lull in the action" where you save the rounds from the partially depleted mag by first inserting the new mag then stowing the old one. And then finally there is the reload with retention. Here you stow the old mag first and then insert the new.
Any time the gun is reloaded and there are still rounds left in the old mag it must be retained. The logic is that you might need those saved rounds later on. The "gamers" and some "tactical" guys actually have some common ground here. They both disagree with the IDPA approved reloads. They argue that the IPSC style speed load is actually faster and should be encouraged instead of having to retain the partially depleted mag in the middle of a gunfight.
CAPACITY: One thing I hear a lot of grumbling about is the 10 round limit. The most you can load is 10 in the mag and 1 in the chamber to start. Each subsequent mag can only contain 10.
When IDPA was started we were in the midst of the ridiculous Omnibus Crime Act of 1994's ten year prohibition on new manufacture of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. We all had mags that held more than 10 but we could only load 10 because that was all that new production pistols came with. But when sanity returned and the "Assault Weapon and Magazine Ban" portions of that law expired in 2004 IDPA kept the 10 round limit in place. The logic was that several states still have state laws limiting the capacity to 10 and to be fair to them the limit would stay at 10. The argument is that those of us who carry pistols that hold more than 10 are penalized because we are forced to reload earlier than we would in real life. And I agree. But frankly I just do not think it is as big a deal as some make it.
PROACTIVE NATURE: Finally comes the proactive nature of IDPA. During the course of fire you will often move from a known area into an area that may be brimming with bad guys. Generally in real life this would be suicidal by yourself. Military CQB room clearing is rarely done with less than FOUR people for that reason. The "gamers " have no problem with it. It is par for the course in IPSC. But the "tactical " crowd argues that it is not realistic..and I agree...to a point.
About the only reason I could see for ever doing that would be to rescue a loved one. If your child or spouse is screaming downstairs and you hear strange angry voices I doubt that many" type A" meat eater personalities would stay put while who knows what happens to our spouse or child. In that case there is a reason for going into that situation. Otherwise we would be wise to stay put and let them come to us. But sometimes there might be overriding concerns that force us to take action we would not normally take.
At this point if we decide to go extract our family members from whomever is confronting them then we are essentially in dynamic entry hostage rescue mode. If it is your house you will know the lay out better than the intruder or intruders. Here surprise and violence of action MIGHT help you survive, but any time you are trying to clear a structure , even your own, by yourself you are not on the good side of the odds. But on the positive side the proactive nature of IDPA gives some practice in dynamic movement and target discrimination. There is always a silver lining if you just look for it.
So where do I (and Suarez International) come down on these arguments?
On use of cover, there are times when it is just not going to be there to use and there will be times when it is there to use. Saying cover is always available is just as silly as saying it is never available. And proper use of cover does not mean setting up housekeeping behind the little plastic barricade and shooting at a snail's pace. Just because you are behind something now does not mean that the bad guys cannot quickly outmaneuver you and flank your position. So cover needs to be used wisely and then quickly move to a better piece of cover.
September 15th, 2008 06:35 PM
One other thing though that the "tactical" crowd , with all their tip toeing about and bunkering up behind cover seem to not take into account. The first gunshot goes off and the element of surprise is gone. At that point dynamic movement and accurate shooting will be more help that tip toeing up to the next doorway giving them time to get set and get behind cover. After all, they probably got a bit of a clue that you were there when you shot one of them.....
And I know at least one guy in particular who has been in more than one gunfight and use of cover was not an issue in his fights because they were over very quickly and there was no cover to be used! You might know him too. His name is on the deed here! EDITORIAL NOTE( referring to Gabe Suarez as this was originally printed in the Sept 2008 Suarez International Newsletter)
On the reload, this is a bone of contention with some. Some in the tactical community teach an IPSC type speed load as the default reload method for real world tactical problems. They argue that it is hands down the fastest way to get a gun fully loaded again. They say that the reload with retention or tactical reload are both too slow and too cumbersome. But IDPA mandates that any reload not from slidelock must have the mag retained. Some argue this is silly. I think it really depends on the individual circumstances.
There are some who wear more than one spare magazine on them so if they do lose one it is no big deal- they still have another full one. Hard to argue with that logic when the average gunfight is 3 to 5 rounds anyway.. The only issue is when the problem is not average and there is a limited number of mags and no immediate way of replenishing.
Think Hurricane Katrina type situations. Or maybe military type clandestine operation in foreign lands.Here if you drop a mag it is likely gone for good. While I doubt many of us reading this fall into the latter category, I know many people went about armed after Hurricane Katrina and if they had been dropping mags in the water their mag supply would soon be depleted.
Much more likely though is the "normal " guy who carries just one spare mag. If he jettisons his first and ends up having to shoot all of his second he is going to end up out of ammo fast. Especially if that is a single stack gun he carries.While this may be an unlikely scenario for the average citizen it might be a real concern for police or military guys. So I have no issues with the reload with retention. In fact the default proactive mag change that Suarez Int teaches is a reload with retention. While we do our 360 degree after action assessment we stow the mag that was in the gun and reload with a fresh mag. This gets us back up and loaded in case reinforcements for the bad guy are on their way but also retains the extra rounds in case things go from bad to worse.
So if at the match you are forced to reload with retention and do not like it just imagine the scenarios are operating post Katrina and you are doing it in 2 feet of murky water and are without any support system to replenish lost gear. This might make that reload with retention more palatable.
Now for the capacity concerns. I carry a hi cap pistol 99% of the time. And when I carry it I never download it to 11 rounds. I came to grips with it by considering it a malfunction and reloading and moving on. No one counts their rounds in real fights. They shoot until it goes click or shoot until there is no one left to shoot at . THEN they do a tac load of some type. But I have heard very few stories of civilian tac loads under fire. So I simply shoot the stage as written and unless there is a mandatory reload required I shoot until it is empty and reload. After it is all over I might tac load before I show "all clear" , but I realize the difference in training and the game so I honestly rarely do that. In fact there is a move in IDPA to get away from tac loads on the clock. I personally think that is a move in the right direction.
The truth is that like any other shooting competition, IDPA matches are going to be won by those who shoot quickly and accurately. But then again aren't most gunfights also won by those who shoot quickly and accurately? So maybe we should worry less about doctrinal issues like cover and reloads and worry about whether we can hit what we are aiming at quickly. Remember it is a shooting match. A test of marksmanship and gunhandling under time pressure in a setting roughly replicating real world encounters.
And then there are those that simply argue IDPA is not real. You know what? They are right. The bottom line though I think is not so much that the game is bad for the shooter, it is often that some shooters just do not do well at the game. Some of them argue that it was not real and use that as an excuse for poor grasp of basic defensive marksmanship and gunhandling . I am somewhat tired of hearing all the constant "IDPA is not real" and "if you try to win you'll get killed one day when you don't use cover trying to shoot the BGs fast". Of course it is not real, because the targets don't move and shoot back!!! And I darn sure don't down load my G34 to 10 rounds before I leave the house in the mornings! But I also realize IDPA is just a game. It is a game it has to have rules.
To them it seems to come down to some kind of choice between being competitive or being "tactical" Look guys, if you work on your gunhandling skills (draw/presentation,trigger control, reloads,shooting from different positions) and on moving your feet rapidly when you need to move, you certainly CAN do well at the sport of IDPA and still be "tactically correct" on the street. The faster you can accurately shoot, the better, whether it is in a game or on the street. I still shoot fast and accurately and I finish high at my local matches most of the time because I don't waste time dithering over what to do, and I shoot and handle the gun QUICKLY.
I honestly think a lot of people use "IDPA is not real"as an EXCUSE for not doing well or as an EXCUSE for not working harder to improve their skills! It almost becomes a justification for mediocrity.If you can "stink it up" and just throw out the tired old line "well, I did it RIGHT you guys are gaming it!" then there is no incentive to get better! What makes you think that while you barricaded yourself behind cover and took 15 seconds to shoot 6 shots at 3 targets 5 YARDS away,that in the REAL WORLD those bad guys didn't just flank your sorry butt and shoot you in the back of the head while you took FOREVER to shoot them? On the other hand if you can shoot each of them twice in 3 seconds they probably won't have that opportunity! What I was referring to about context. If the bad guys are close then you need to shoot fast, not give them an opportunity to out maneuver you. So hiding behind cover all day long is not always the correct tactical thing to do.
Again, not directing this at any one individual. This is directed at the "tactical community" in general. I hear these excuses so often I begin to think it is just a crutch or excuse to justify moving and shooting like a lame turtle! Yes it is a game, but so is Ultimate Fighting Championship. Do you really think Chuck Liddell will fight on the street EXACTLY like he does in the octagon? I doubt it.
If you WORK at your manipulations and gunhandling and shooting to the point it becomes second nature and you can do it "unconsciously" you WILL do well in IDPA. Will you win a National championship? Maybe not. That really depends on your ability. But you will probably do very well at your local matches and as a by product be that far ahead of the curve if it ever happens for real!
You see IDPA is not real. It is not training. It is time pressured and peer pressured gunhandling and marksmanship practice on a course not of your design, so there is some thinking under pressure involved. You know, those physical and mental skills that help win real fights.
And one other thing for those who do not participate due to fear of not doing well.
Growth can only be achieved through risk of failure.
Many are too ego invested to try new things that they may fail or have to work hard at to attain a high level of ability. If they DO something and fail,that is not a validation of their long practiced (or NOT practiced) training regimen.
So to keep from damaging their ego they avoid putting themselves in a situation with the chance of failure. But at the same time they avoid the chance to polish their skills and become BETTER. No one becomes a master of anything avoiding hard work and challenges. Some of the best learning experiences are from FAILURE. But some people will never understand that. Get out and give it a try. If you don't like it then you hopefully had an educational experience and can use that to grow your practice regimen.Just don't avoid it because someone somewhere said it was not "real".
To Train With Randy Harris, see our schedule
September 15th, 2008 10:01 PM
How many can afford to take a tactical class every month? Very few have the money and or time. But they can afford $20 and shoot an IDPA match. Yes, it is not the real world but it is not static shooting either. I know many shooters in my club that came without any knowledge of shooting, started with IDPA and after a while they went on to take classes with reputable instructors. IDPA was their elementary school and they took it upon themselves to improve their skills. I will rather have an IDPA shooter covering my butt than a Black Nylon Static Range Ninja any day.
You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
Ego will kill you. Leave it at home.
September 15th, 2008 10:14 PM
September 15th, 2008 11:30 PM
Very good info in the posts; Apparently yet another enlightened soul has realized that the coveted "M" card (I got mine in '93) in both disciplines is not worth the paper it is printed on. Yes, both games have their positive points and their negatives. Personally, I advise people to start with IPSC and learn how to shoot a handgun fast and accurately. Hands down, I have always believed that the best pure shooters come out of IPSC. Once you reach a comfortable proficiency level in IPSC, start shooting IDPA and learn that game. Your skills will improve. Some things I don't like about both:
- As the original poster mentioned, some of the rules of IDPA are ridiculous; magazine capacities, tactical reloads and course design are just some of the complaints I have. Do you think in the real world the BGs are going to keep 11 rounds in their guns so they won't be gaming the crime? When most gun battles last 3-5 rounds as the original poster stated, are you really going to have time to perform tactical reloads? and designing courses that would have the shooter flanked by multiple attackers because some range lawyer mandated cover or a "tac reload"? Stupid.
- The crybaby factor; one of the things that drove me nuts in IPSC was the consummate competitor that just could not accept the fact that he crashed a stage or made a poor decision on solving the problem and requested a "reshoot". In the real world, there are no reshoots or do-overs.
- The caliber war in both disciplines. Shooters are forever trying to reduce the felt recoil in their weapons with all manner of contraptions for the gun, or taking a more risky route and toying with exotic reloads. I can't tell you how many $3000 raceguns I have watched blow up because some fool was trying to gain an edge he could easily have had if he had just concentrated on the most important element of his game: PRACTICE. I started in IPSC back in 1987; I used a single-stack Springfield with Millet sights, a beavertail, and a magwell beveled for carry. My load was 5.5 grains of AA2 with a 200 grain SWC over it. The load would easily make major, and I could shoot it all day in that gun. I used that very gun and load to shoot a 5.6 second El Presidente score down zero points in 1993. Now I see IDPA shooters having 9mm 1911s built so they can shoot with less recoil and get around the no barrel weight or comp rule. Ridiculous.
- The emphasis on weak-handed shooting has all but disappeared from both disciplines, but mostly IPSC. This is a huge mistake in my book. How many times have we read about police officers being hit in their gun hands and having to ad-lib their way through a life-or-death struggle with their weak hand? They all say later they were glad to have had training, or wish they had practiced it more. When I ran an IPSSC club back in the '90s, I mandated at least one COF with weak handed shooting to solve the problem. Shooters hated me for it, but too bad.
So in summary, I heartily agree with the original posters' opinions and observations regarding the games. I learned to shoot really fast and somewhat accurately in IPSC; I learned all about crybabies and range lawyers from both IPSC and IDPA.
I learned how to fight with a gun from people who have actually thrown lead in anger and had it thrown back at them. The basic rules I learned from these guys are:
- When fighting for your life, always cheat and always win, because the other guy is not going to follow the rules either.
- Once you start shooting, shoot to kill and keep shooting until all the BGs are dead, even if it means unloading an entire magazine into them.
- Nobody wins gunfights, they just survive them.
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined". - Patrick Henry
September 16th, 2008 12:16 AM
I'd have to agree with Miggy and EDR.
September 16th, 2008 01:17 AM
IDPA as training? Yes and NO.
While I agree with all of the above, I must add that I think most of the "complaints" about IDPA stem from the unfair attempt to equate IDPA stages and how the rules apply to them (cover, reloads, etc.) as being "tactical training."
Obviously few of us will ever have to engage six targets moving from cover to cover, or around cars or through a building. To equate IDPA with the tactical, live-fire shooting I learned in the Marine Corps, or the you see SWAT, etc. do in the movies misses the piont, I think.
Having said that, I think it is great "training" to have to perform many different skills under stressful conditions. Learning to do a tac-load (or RWR) under pressure, recognizing that you are at slide-lock, or recovering from a malfunction on the clock, learning to use cover, learning to shoot on the move, shoot weak-hand, think about tactical priority or tactical sequence are individual items that can only help if it ever happens for real.
Yes, I know that competition is nothing like the stress that will be there if it ever happens for real, but anyone who has ever shot IDPA (or IPSC) can remember the first few times when they compelted a stage they could not remember what they had just done. And certainly everyone has seen an SO go up to the just-finished shooter and say "procedural," watch the shooter deny it and have the entire squad shaking their heads going, "yes, you did!"
At a minimum, shooting IDPA courses is a way to integrate learning various and sundry elements of "training" in a much more realistic manner than what one can do on an indoor range with the rest of the nylon-holster mall ninjas. For one, I do not know of any indoor range where I am allowed to draw from my holster, much less draw quickly.
IDPA (or IPSC or NRA Action Pistol) is a game, but as with most games, there are elements of the game that teach us lessons that apply outside of the game.
PS: Please forgive any spelling errors, it is late and spell check is not working
September 16th, 2008 01:48 AM
You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
Ego will kill you. Leave it at home.
September 16th, 2008 07:00 AM
Do you think in the real world the BGs are going to keep 11 rounds in their guns so they won't be gaming the crime?
In all games there has to be a parity between contestants. You can't let one ball team have 5 people on the field while the other has 11. NASCAR has been fining and suspending people who try to break rules to get an advantage.
As the original article says, IDPA is still a game. A good game that lets one practice and improve certain skills, but it is still a game. An example of where this would come into play is in the classifier and the International Postal Matches. If i were to max my Glock magazines out, 17+1, and shoot the match, would that really be comparable to someone in MASS/NY/CA etc, who only is able to have 10+1? They would have to do twice the reloads as I would and the results would not be comparable.
Bend the knees, smooth is fast, watch the front sight.
September 16th, 2008 07:51 AM
There is a reason that numerous top GM USPSA shooters are used to train LEO's, miltary personel, and contractors. It is because the skills learned in competition ARE practical.
September 16th, 2008 08:16 AM
I agree with all of the above. IDPA is just a game and they keep score so there has to be some rules. I know the senarios are not always real, but sometimes they are. The shooters we have are sometimes a mix of LEOs, military and Joe Public. Now I understand the comment about Joe Public who doesnt need to be storming a room full of BGs. However the LEOs and military may have to, and sometimes with only themselves and thier handgun. Not an ideall situation but it could happen. You know what they say, plan for the worst, pray for the best.
When I shoot IDPA, I try to be as tactical and real life as possible. I see alot of shooters crowd cover and waste precious time swinging the gun around. I see shooters shove their guns through windows and doors rather than hanging back. And I see shooters do as described above, and only use 50% cover. Some are gamers and some just dont know better. I use the senarios as a way to hone my skills of cover and positioning as well as good trigger time. I am not the fastest or the slowest but I have fun. It is a game.
September 16th, 2008 09:59 AM
+1 for Miggy
IDPA is what you make of it and how your club shoots. The guys I shoot with care less about the game than we do about having fun and using sound Tatics
A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.
September 16th, 2008 10:35 AM
This article was posted on Glockpost.com last week. Here's my post from that thread:
IPDA is a game. It is designed to give a little bit of experience to those that carry guns for personal protection in some scenarios in which could happen instead of static shooting at a silhouette 7 yards away.
The range I shoot at has a Practical Pistol Club (MI Tech University). It's loosely based on/associated with IDPA. We make local changes to some of their rules in the name of safety. We never reload with a round in the chamber. The tactical reloads are not allowed. If you drop your mag or moon clip/speedloader, it hits the floor.
There are no tap,rack,bang drills. Once your gun jams, there's a cease fire called. The mag is dropped, chamber cleared, then the cause assessed. Stage usually continues from that point, from low ready, and the times added. If it's early in the state (like first target) we usually let you start from scratch.
We shoot on a college campus and we need to be very anal about safety because one safety incident will shut it down for good. We are very privileged to have it and we don't want to lose it.
07/02 FFL/SOT since 2006
Probably the only home based FFL that doesn't do transfers.
September 16th, 2008 10:49 AM
Good article! Me? I don't really care to make any arguments for or against anything that's been said or portrayed. We all think differently. I will however continue to enjoy my USPSA sanctioned club matches, do my personal best, try to improve, work on the steel, and have fun doing it. My habits revolve around safety, and as of yet, there's been no proof as to how being involved in these matches is going to affect me in the real life SHTF scenario. I go to shoot matches with a little competitive pressure to see how well I do.....I have but one goal while there....to make good hits on target. My score in the end is insignificant, and looking at a bag full of a couple hundred empty cases can strangely put a smile on my face.
September 16th, 2008 11:16 AM
So are USPSA and IDPA good or bad or were the first two posts a free classified ad?
I'll keep shooting my game.
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