I shoot both IPSC and IDPA (not very well in either case though), and I can tell you for a fact that if you enjoy shooting pistols you WILL enjoy either one. Which one you prefer most will depend on you and how you like to shoot. I have tried to compare the two below, and I urge everyone to give them a try. If you are an IPSC shooter, dust off your carry gun and give IDPA a try. If you are an IDPA shooter, there is an IPSC class you can fit into. If you haven't shot either format, PLEASE give them a try because you will be hooked.
Note: IPSC is the governing body for the International Practical Shooting Confederation, and is truly international in scope. The USPSA is the US Practical Shooting Association, and is the US affiliate of IPSC. The international rules are slightly different so for the purposes of this information I have shown USPSA instead of IPSC rules so be aware that the US versions and international versions may vary slightly.
In several places I use the term "Competition Related" when referring to USPSA, and that really isn't fair. These are both competitions and everything about both of them is "Competition Related". IDPA is primarily oriented toward "Defensive" type handguns, and the underlying theme of IDPA is improving skills with these firearms. USPSA does not have an underlying theme other than shooting fast and accurately, and in that respect it is more "Competition Oriented" than IDPA so I simply used the term "Competition Related".
Also, keep in mind that if you think that either of these venues is going to turn you into some sort of Urban Commando then you need to find another game to play. We have shooters from virtually every walk of life and profession that you can imagine, however we are not a group of vigilantes or militants. We are just people who enjoy shooting handguns and want to do it faster and more accurately than the next guy. If you come to a match looking or acting like some sort of Rambo I can pretty much guarantee that you won't have a good time.
Competition related. The stages do not necessarily resemble a real-life situation (they can and frequently do, but do not always adhere to this philosophy), and are designed more toward technical shooting problems. The stages are also frequently longer and involve more shots than IDPA stages.
Defensive related. The stages resemble real-life situations, and are designed to simulate something you might encounter in real life. IDPA is "Revolver Friendly" and the stages are normally designed to accomodate revolvers without a significant disadvantage.
Eye and ear protection are mandatory for everyone (shooters and observers alike).
USPSA is the same way; there is a Production class for those who are just starting out and want to shoot their "Carry" guns. Next up is the Limited class that allows shooters to expand their capabilities a little bit more. Above that is the Open division which allows a lot of freedom in what equipment the shooter can use. The "Equipment Race" exists only if you try and compare one division to another. Comparing USPSA's Open and Production divisions is like comparing NASCAR Winston Cup to Saturday Night Home-Track racing, and that's not a fair comparison.
IDPA has a completely different philosophy toward equipment because it is DEFENSIVE PISTOL oriented. You will not find people shooting full-fledged Race Guns with compensators and optical sights, but you may find people shooting custom 1911's that cost nearly as much as a race gun. If there is an equipment race in USPSA/IPSC then there is one in IDPA as well. It may not be as obvious or extensive, but it still exists to some degree.
Regardless of what venue or division you shoot, your equipment doesn't mean you won't be competitive though; shooting is probably 95% the shooter and 5% equipment. Match a good shooter with mediocre equipment against a mediocre shooter with good equipment and guess who is going to come out on top.
Equipment Race? Possibly, but only if you try and start out at the top instead of working your way up there. Use what you have, both IDPA and USPSA have a place for you.
Competition related. There are several divisions in the USPSA ranging from the Open division "Race Guns" to the box-stock "Production" guns.
The Open division is the premiere division, and as the name implies, there are not a lot of rules on what is legal and what is not. This is the division for Race Guns and you will never see one that isn't compensated, modified, and sporting optical sights.
The Limited division is one step down as far as performance goes. Firearms cannot use compensators or optical sights, however certain modifications are allowed.
The Limited 10 division is similar to the Limited division, however shooters are limited to 10-round magazines. Some other modifications, basically the same as the Limited division, are allowed but optical sights and compensators are not.
Magazines, except for the Limited, Production, and Limited 10 divisions, are limited to 170mm and can hold as many rounds as you can stuff in them. The Limited division magazines are limited to 140mm unless they are "Single Stack" which may then extend to 170mm.
The Production division is for "Stock" guns and equipment. There are numerous limitations on what can and cannot be done to the firearm (more limits on what can NOT be done to it than what can be done to it), and it is designed for stock, unmodified guns and equipment.
USPSA also has a revolver division. There are limitations to what modifications may be performed. Compensators and optical sights are not allowed.
USPSA also provides for two "Power Factors" in most of the divisions; Major and Minor. Major power factor has a higher value placed on certain parts of the target under the assumption that someone shooting a more powerful gun deserves a break. The Production division does not distinguish between Major and Minor and all competitors are scored as Minor.
The "Power Factor" is calculated
by multiplying the bullet weight by the muzzle velocity, then dividing
by 1000. The break point between Major and Minor is 165; 165 or greater
is Major and less than 165 is Minor. All firearms must have a minimum power
factor of 125 for USPSA competition, and virtually anything of 9mm Luger
or greater caliber will fit into Minor.
Defensive related. Everything about IDPA is related toward defensive pistol shooting. There are several divisions in IDPA that are determined by a particular firearm, however ALL divisions strictly limit what can be done to the firearm. In general, there are no major competition modifications allowed.
Magazines, depending on the division, are limited to 10 rounds or less. SSP is 10 rounds, ESP is 10 rounds, CDP is 8 rounds, and SSR is 6 rounds.
The IDPA divisions are SSP (Stock Service Pistol for most of the pistols of 9mm to .40 caliber), ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol for the single-action or selective SA/DA guns), CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol for the "Big Bore" shooters of 10mm, . 400 Cor-Bon, or .45 ACP), and SSR (Stock Service Revolver for the Wheel Guns).
Holsters, belts, and magazine pouches are also limited. "Speed" holsters and equipment are not allowed, and all equipment used must be on the IDPA "Approved" list.
IDPA also has a "Power Factor", and it is calculated by multiplying the bullet weight by the muzzle velocity, however there is no scoring distinction between "Major" and "Minor" as in USPSA. A particular IDPA division has a minimum power factor, and the firearm must meet this minimum to be legal for competition. The minimum power factor is 125,000 (the same as a USPSA power factor of 125) for all divisions except CDP where the power factor is 165,000.
|40.0% to 59.9%
|60.0% to 74.9%
|75.0% to 84.9%
|85.0% to 94.9%
|Grand Master Class
|95.0 % or above
You will have a separate classification for each USPSA division; Open, Limited, Limited 10, Production, and Revolver.
Classification of shooters is handled at the club level, and are separate for each IDPA division (SSP, ESP, CDP, and SSR). You receive a classification by shooting a standard classifier course-of-fire at an IDPA sanctioned club. The "Classifier" is exactly 90 rounds (no more, no less), and covers everything from close-in shooting (3 yards) to long-range shooting (20 yards) using free-style (both hands), strong hand only, and weak hand only. The time it takes you to shoot the course (plus any applicable penalties and scoring) determines your classification. The classification breakdowns are as follows:
|210.01 or more
|210.00 to 152.74
|152.73 to 120.01
|120.00 to 98.83
|98.82 or less
|190.01 or more
|190.00 to 138.19
|138.81 to 108.58
|108.57 to 89.42
|89.41 or less
|195.01 or more
|195.00 to 141.83
|141.82 to 111.44
|111.43 to 91.77
|91.76 or less
|217.51 or more
|217.50 to 158.19
|158.18 to 124.30
|124.29 to 102.36
|102.35 or less
Reloads are normally done as needed unless specified in the course description. When you need to reload, you simply dump the mag and put in a fresh one.
The Stages are freely designed, and may include long or short range shooting at steel or cardboard targets. They may include "Free Style" shooting (both hands, or either hand as desired), strong hand only, or weak hand only shooting. Normally there are a specified number of targets that you shoot in the order that you see or encounter them. Cover is sometimes utilized in USPSA stages, but not always. If cover is required, it will be specified in the course description.
Defensive related. The stages resemble real-life situations, and are designed to simulate something you might encounter in real life. Because of this and the fact that IDPA is "Revolver Friendly" the stages are frequently broken down into "Strings" that are six shots long.
Reloads are normally done as needed, or in between "Strings". Unlike USPSA, you cannot normally just dump a magazine on the ground though. There are three types of reloads in IDPA competition; Tactical Reload, Reload With Retention, and Reload From Slide Lock. The only time you can dump an empty magazine on the ground is when it is empty; if it is not empty you MUST hang onto it. The philosophy behind this is that if you were in a shooting situation on the street, you would NEVER throw away a magazine that still had ammunition in it.
The Stages are freely designed, and may include long or short range shooting at steel or cardboard targets. They may include "Free Style" shooting (both hands, or either hand as desired), strong hand only, or weak hand only shooting. Normally there are a specified number of targets that you shoot in the order that you see or encounter them.
Unlike USPSA, there are normally rules regarding which target is shot first. Again, this is because of the defensive nature of IDPA. If you were in a real-life shooting situation you would always try to be aware of which target posed the greatest threat. If you are not behind cover, the target that is closest to you poses the greatest threat and must be neutralized first. If the targets are equal distance from you, you will fire one shot at each and then go back and fire a second shot at each target. If you are behind cover, you would begin to expose yourself and shoot the targets as they become visible. You would never just jump out and start shooting because you would be exposing yourself to the other threats, so you must engage targets in sequence as they become visible.
Additionally, in a real-life situation, you would ALWAYS utilize cover when it is available, and IDPA rules require this. If cover is available, it MUST be utilized (at least 50% of your body behind the cover). Reloads must normally be performed behind cover; you would never just stand out in the open and calmly reload your gun while someone is shooting at you!
Paper targets are divided into an "A", "B", "C" and "D" zone. The value for each zone depends on the Power Factor of the gun. The values are:
The total number of points for a stage, based on the target scores, is divided by a shooter's time to shoot the stage to calculate a "Hit Factor" for the stage for each shooter. The shooter with the highest Hit Factor is given the maximum number of points available for the stage (i.e if the total number of target points on a stage is 60, the shooter with the highest Hit Factor will receive 60.0000 for that stage). The score for all other shooters is calculated based on the ratio of their hit factor to that of the stage winner (i.e. if the stage winner has a hit factor of 6.0000 and your hit factor is 3.0000 then the ratio of your hit factor to the winner's hit factor is 0.5000. If the maximum score for the stage is 60.0000, the stage winner will get 60.0000 points for the stage and you will get 60.0000 x 0.5000, or 30.0000 points for the stage).
There are always penalties for certain infractions, and these are subtracted from your points.
IDPA scoring is a bit simpler. The targets are divided into zones as in USPSA/IPSC, however the zones denote "Points Down". The target has a Zero zone (denoting zero points down), a One zone (denoting one point down), and a Three zone (Denoting three points down). A miss is 5 points down. "Points Down" equate to one half of a second, thus if your shot is "Zero Points Down" no time is added to your time for the stage. A shot that is one point down will cause one half second to be added to your score, a shot that is 3 points down will cause 1 and a half seconds to be added, and a miss will cause two and a half seconds to be added. The time required for you to shoot a stage, and your "Points Down" (as well as any approprioate penalties) is added together for your stage score. The shooter in your division and classification with the lowest total time is the winner.
The main thing is to just TRY them! Don't be afraid because you have never shot competition before, because NOBODY CARES. I shot my first USPSA match in September, 1999 and my first IDPA match in December, 1999. In both cases, I got some information on how to get to the range, what I needed to bring, and just walked in. I was made to feel welcome, everyone helped me to relax and get over the nervousness associated with shooting a match for the first time, and in general just made the experience very enjoyable. These guys are just like you, and they had a beginning just like you. If you shoot badly, so what? Enjoy the experience. If you enjoy shooting pistols, I guarantee you will have a great time.
If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a note. Links to the USPSA and IDPA web sites are shown below.
|Copyright © 1997-2024, Scott A. Craig, All Rights Reserved