Jul 11, 2011

IDPA and you (er, me)

Lissa just went and shot herself an IDPA match.

First and foremost, bully for her. I realize many of you are gregarious social butterflies; I am not. Walking in to a group setting where everyone knows what's going on (or seems to) and I'm clueless (and there's no paycheck involved) is nerve-racking. Her experience with this match mirrored my first one - people were welcoming and happy to help a newbie learn the ropes.

I haven't shot a match in far too long - nearly two years at this point; since we bought the house and the trip to the club changed from 20 minutes to over an hour. I should see about correcting that before the summer is up, and probably change classes as well (from CDP/1911s to SSP/ESP/9mm).

Now, I'm not Caleb. I don't shoot competitively. I shoot for fun, and I like to see the results, but I don't care a whit if I'm at the top of the stack or dead-last. The only person I'm shooting against is myself, and the time doesn't matter as much as my confidence and proficiency. (Doubly so because the stages are never the same from month to month; there is no baseline outside the classifier, which the club does once or twice a year.)

IDPA has a large rulebook. This isn't a bad thing per se, but like any game involving a lot of rules, there will be competitors who insist on following the rules to the exact letter, instead of playing the game to the spirit of the rules.

This drives me NUTS.

IDPA has a few kinds of reloads - tactical, with retention, and emergency/slide-lock. The last is pretty clear, the difference between the first two is whether you drop the magazine before or after you pull your fresh magazine. Doing it in the wrong order (or dropping an empty magazine while there's still one in the chamber) yields you a "procedural" and 20-second penalty.

Beyond that there is the vague catch-all penalty of "Failure to Do Right". FDR's are, as I understand, really meant for "unsportsmanlike" behavior - but there are Range Officers who will toss them left and right if they don't agree with how you stepped, or moved, and so forth. (Those RO's don't get asked to RO much.)

I don't get hung up on the rules - and I picked up more than a couple procedurals and such along the way because of it. Occasionally it was an RO not paying attention - I was shooting a GI 1911 with GI 7-round mags, and he gave me procedurals for improper reloads when I was actually at slide-lock. I corrected when possible but didn't always catch it.

IDPA was (and I hope will be again) a fun game for me. More than that, it was a good chance to practice drawing from a concealment holster, shooting and moving, making use of cover, and shooting from odd positions. One bay at the range has a zip-line target that moves diagonally back and across the range, tripping the release starts it around 5yd and it moves - quickly - to 15+ yards distant. Two hits to neutralize...

Another stage involved a barrier with three small cutouts - one at chest height, one at waist height, and a third at ankle height. Multiple shots had to be taken from each hole - so you were squatting, kneeling, and then lying prone.

Defensive gunfights don't happen at 7 yards standing square to your target - they can happen at bad-breath distance or you might be popping zombies at 20-25 yards. You may only have a car bumper to hide behind, or you might in the wide-open and have to keep moving to keep the distance up. You may get knocked down and have to shoot from prone or supine.

Drawing once from a holster and shooting 8, 10, or 15 rounds quick-fire is a great way to turn money into noise - and it's fun! But it's not the kind of practice that builds the muscle memory of a good smooth draw, and that's what will serve you in the long run.

My final gripe about IDPA: my usual carry gun doesn't really work for competition. I usually carry a Kahr PM9 or S&W 642, with one reload dropped in a pocket. IDPA wants a full- or duty-size gun with two spare magazines, all in proper holsters.

My suggestion: try out IDPA. Or IPSC. Or any of the other shooting games. Have fun with it. Learn from it. But always keep in mind that it is a game, and don't get hung up on the scores. When the range is two-way, there's only one winner.


Wally said...

Good post.

I shoot IDPA and use it as a practice session. I'd never be able to set up some of those scenarios on my own, so why not shoot their stages.

True, there is the occasional RO who is out to lunch, but I just go for the shootin' not for the gaming.

Old NFO said...

Reminds me, I need to get back into IDPA myself...

Bubblehead Les. said...

Damn, sounds like IDPA has gone all "Gamemenship", which is why they were formed to get away from it in the First Place.

ZerCool said...

Les, my understanding of IDPA's origin was that they were trying to get away from the equipment race of IPSC. They have succeeded in that remarkably well.

Gaming the system happens with any competition, and it's really a matter of how much you let it aggravate you.