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This ain’t your daddy’s IDPA

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The International Defensive Pistol Association, better known as IDPA, is one of the two largest sanctioning bodies for action pistol shooting in the world. With teams making the trip to the 2018 National Championship from as far away as China, it is truly an international sport with a global following. I’ve been an active IDPA shooter since 2010, but have been away from the sport since 2014. In the words of Nick Cage, “Well gee, kind of a lot has happened since then.”

IDPA has come a long way from its founding in the late 90s, and in recent years has implemented a number of rule changes that represent two positive traits: listening to its members and staying current. Before you ask, no, they still don’t allow AIWB carry, but who knows? The other changes were very progressive, so maybe in the future.

Ask any serious IDPA shooter what their least favor words to hear were, and they’d respond with “cover.” That was the call you’d rear from the Range Officer if your foot broke the imaginary and completely arbitrary line of cover that obscured you from a threat target. The intent of this rule is found in IDPA’s raison d'être: a competitive shooting sport that emphasizes defensive shooting skills. Since exposing yourself to people who are shooting at you is usually regarded as a bad idea, IDPA has always emphasized the use of cover. This created a rule that was impossible to enforce impartially and fairly to all shooters, and after years of complaints IDPA finally changed the rules.

Entering a position of cover using a fault line

Entering a position of cover using a fault line

The new rule requires the use of visible fault lines, eliminating much of the subjectivity in previous cover calls. Either your foot is over the line, or it isn’t. In fact, if this was the only rule that IDPA changed, it would have been good enough. Ending the era of “nuh-uh/yeah-huh” back and forth is a huge positive step for the sport. But that’s not the only positive change.

Reloads on the Move
Movement is life. For quite a few years, the rules of IDPA forced shooters to stand flatfooted while they reloaded, which…well it doesn’t make any sense. If you’re at Point A and out of bullets, but you’re headed to Point B and there aren’t any more bad guys in your way, why not save a little time and reload on the move? Seems logical, right? It is now. Previously, you’d have to stand stock still and reload, but that was changed as well.

Smaller Changes
The two biggest changes are obviously the elimination of cover and allowing reloads on the move, but those weren’t the only changes. IDPA added a PCC division, reflecting the rising popularity of pistol caliber rifles for competition shooting. In 2019, Carry Optics will be a full division, which is a huge move as more and more shooters interested in personal defense are mounting compact red dot sights on their pistols. These changes help keep IDPA modern and relevant in a world of highly customized carry pistols. One of the other changes worth mentioning is actually a reversion to the old ways, however.


When IDPA was founded, the scoring system originally penalized shooters 1 second for every point down – that is shots outside the Down 0 area would be worth 1 second or 3 seconds in penalties, respectively. That was later changed to half a second per point down, or 0.5 and 1.5 seconds for bad shots. In a change that helps focus IDPA back on its roots as a defensive shooting sport, where accuracy is king, they did two things. Changed the target and changed the penalties back to 1 second per point down. The target change also made the sizeable down 0 in the head much smaller by shrinking it to a 4-inch circle.

The Future
IDPA has made some very positive changes in the past years. These changes have brought some big names back to the sport, or to it for the first time. Rob Leatham returned, BJ Norris won Stock Service Pistol in 2017, and the level of competition is increasing.

But no sport is perfect, and there are still changes that could positively benefit IDPA. As a sport that maintains its focus on concealed carry, it’s high time IDPA allowed appendix carry for competitors. That would allow many people to realistically pressure test their real world EDC gear. The other change that makes sense in a post-assault weapons ban world would be to allow full capacity, or close to it, in one of the divisions. It would be neat to see Stock Service Pistol increase the magazine capacity to 15 rounds, and to allow Enhanced Service Pistol shooters to get as many rounds as they want, so long as the gun still fits in the IDPA box.

Overall, IDPA is on the right trajectory with its rule changes. Listening to the shooters that make up the heart of your sport is usually the right idea, and I’m happy to say that after four years away from the sport, I’m glad to be back. Oh, and I did okay at Nationals.

9th overall in CCP, and 3rd Expert.

9th overall in CCP, and 3rd Expert.

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