Interested in a sport that tests your defensive shooting skills? The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) has you covered, literally! Founded in 1996, this sport features skills found in other action shooting sports but adds in courses of fire that require the use of cover, concealment, and a designated order to shoot targets. With over 25,000 members, it’s a popular sport for those looking to improve their shooting with home defense and carry guns.
Each course of fire is designed around a shooting scenario. You may be carrying bags of groceries to your car or sitting down to eat a meal. After the start signal, it’s a matter of addressing the targets in order of their threat and using cover behind walls and barricades when possible. Fault lines help guide competitors to stay behind cover as they shoot targets. “Tactical priority” is the term used for target engagements and means that targets must be shot in the order you see them first when shooting around cover. When not shooting from cover, targets are engaged from near to far, with the closest target addressed first.
Scoring in this sport is based on the concept of time plus scoring. After a competitor completes a stage, their time is recorded. Range officers score the targets and record any penalty hits on non-threat targets. The center portions of the target are called the “down zero” zone. Hits outside the down zero add time to your score. The goal is to shoot the down zero as quickly as possible. Stage times are added together for a final score in the match. The competitor with the lowest time, wins!
IDPA competitions require less equipment than other sports but there are some specific rules when it comes to your gear. You’ll need a concealment garment in the form of a vest or jacket that covers your firearm when secured in a holster. It’s best to use a minimal garment that doesn’t have inner pockets or excessive seems that could interfere with drawing your handgun.
Your holster must be attached to a sturdy belt that passes through the belt loops. Holsters also need to be suitable for all-day concealed carry, must cover the trigger guard, and are worn on the strong side hip, behind the centerline of the body. Ammunition can be stored on the belt or in pockets if necessary. There are specific rules on how you can carry your loading devices but with courses of fire requiring fewer rounds, two pouches is all you’ll need.
In fact, the founders of IDPA wanted to the sport to be accessible and affordable for its members. From the IDPA rulebook, "The IDPA competition format was designed to be enjoyable for all shooters of all skill levels, with a premium put on the social interaction and camaraderie of the members. Participation in IDPA matches requires the use of handguns, holsters and other equipment suitable for concealed carry self-defense. With that in mind, and keeping the shooters' best interests in mind, IDPA's founders established equipment requirements that are based on commonly available firearms and gear, allowing individuals the opportunity to compete with minimal investment.”
Like many other shooting sports, there are divisions for different firearms. One of the most popular divisions is the Stock Service Pistol Division. It features 9mm pistols that are striker-fired, double-action or double-action/single-action. Limited upgrades are allowed making it an easy option for common handguns found at your local gun shop. Enhanced Service Pistol Division allows additional modifications to firearms used in Stock Service Pistol as well as allowing 9mm 1911’s to compete. A dedicated .45 ACP division, Custom Defensive Pistol places competitors using custom 1911’s and other popular .45’s together on a level playing field. Got a dot on your pistol? There’s a Carry Optics division that allows for competitors who use slide-mounted optics. There are also divisions for smaller handguns, with Compact Carry and a Back-Up Gun Division. Add Revolver and Pistol Caliber Carbine (PCC), there are many ways to enjoy the sport.
In addition to the various divisions, the sport also uses a classification system. Whether you’re classified as a novice, marksman, sharpshooter, expert, master, or distinguished master, you’ll compete against competitors of similar ability levels. It’s a great way to track your progress in the sport.
Course of fire designers look for ways to incorporate realistic and defense-based challenges into matches. With moving targets, prop manipulation, and even low light or no light courses with a flashlight, it’s a dynamic sport that keeps shooters coming back for more.
To learn more and to find a club near you, visit IDPA.com
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