How to “Fix” IDPA


This week I got a tweet from Triangle Tactical asking what I thought about their podcast titled “How we would fix IDPA” and a request for comments.

So here it goes…

They start off by discussing 2 common grips that some people have that they have no issues with… cover and half-second Vickers count scoring. And I agree.

Cover is a distinguishing attribute of IDPA and while it might be subjective and applied differently in different areas of the country… so be it. Part of what you learn in any sport is that you have to beat the competition AND the ref.

You can play it really safe and never get a cover call or you can try to skirt the edges, push it based on what you see others get away with and sometimes you’ll get called.

Them’s the breaks.

I also don’t really have any issues with the Vickers count scoring other than why say -0, -1 and -3 if you mean +0, +.5, +1.5? It is un-necessarily confusing. If you called them what they were it would require zero explanation.

Another issue I have no issue with is the 10 round magazines.

This was started to be inclusive, which is an awful reason. But what it does is force additional weapons manipulation which I think is a good thing.

The Triangle Tactical guys then discussed some gear changes they would like to see including allowing Appendix Carry, Lasers and Red Dot, divisions for BUG Guns and actual carry gear, eliminating “baby steps,” cleaning up CDP, getting rid of the fishing vests and holding elections for association leadership.

To address them quickly…

  • Appendix carry is a valid and increasingly popular carry method that should have a place.  Don’t like it? Don’t shoot it. Personally I doubt it would be any faster than the current hip location so I doubt anyone trying to win would actually use it. It is faster from the interview position that people stand in, but not from the IDPA standard start positions.
  • Lasers and Red Dots now have a place in non-competitive class which I believe is a probationary status… what is missing is weapon mounted lights. Without work shooting a laser or dot is often SLOWER than iron sights and not ideal for reaction based use… Lights are a whole other thing.  White light really needs a place.
  • Bug Guns now have their own nationals. There are logistics problems letting them compete with with the big guns because they can’t be competitive with lower capacity and require 87 mags to complete a stage. I think there could be work arounds like they only require 1 hit per target or that they only engage specific targets.
  • Baby steps are their own penalty. They are slow if you have to go to another shooting position. I am a fan of the saying you can’t miss fast enough and like when people aim so I have no issues with them.
  • CDP is ridiculous. I’ve never liked the division. If the 1911 is the greatest gun ever invented it shouldn’t be babied with a division that limits everyone else to 8+1 or 45ACP. Plus we already have power factor… just make power factor.
  • The fishing vests are a factor gaming the sport. You are always going to have that. I use a Marmot vest because I don’t like the beige vests and I like to use gear I carry but that is me. You don’t have to use the vest either. My coat/vest or a Sport Coat do the same thing.

There are some additional gripes I have…

1. No ammo left behind.

The logic is sound in a gun fight you never know how much ammunition you are going to need and the only time you can have too much is if your swimming. But IDPA is a game and I know that there are only 18 required shots.

Let each competitor have 3 mags. Drop mags as desired and shoot the stage. If they stop before they complete the stage or run out of ammo… it is a FTDR.  Then end a stage a match on a steel plate.

2. Not being able to drop an empty mag if the chamber is full.

The logic is you can’t count shots in a gun fight. OK… but this is a game and unless you’re at war and don’t know when you’ll be able to get another one, saving an empty mag is dumb.

3. Not being able to shoot while crossing a doorway or port.

Suppressive fire is a thing and it is designed to create cover where there is none.

4. ESR/SSR and ESP/SSP are divisions without meaningful distinction.

There is almost no way to get a match bump in a revolver class due to the separation of the classes.

5. No allowance for gun mounted White Light

As mentioned above.

6. The IDPA target is different from the USPSA target for no good reason

I actually like the USPSA target better because the A zone approximates the spinal cord. They should agree on 1 to make club logistics easier.

7. No par time stages

In the real world the skill/luck of your attacker define how much time you have to complete the “stage” if you want people to move faster… make them.

Well that rant represents my feedback and thoughts… what says you?


  1. says

    Interesting. Our small rural shooting club has been running “outlaw” action pistol matches for a couple years now, and while what we do tends to fall closer to IDPA than USPSA, we’d be reluctant to adhere to either set of rules.

    Here are a few reasons why we might ultimately affiliate with IDPA, but won’t run IDPA matches:

    Vickers Count Scoring: Even Larry Vickers says IDPA should use full-point penalty scoring (what you say is what you get). We do it at our club, and it enforces an attention to accuracy.

    If this is a sporting version of “real life” combat, then we should acknowledge the fact we’re using relatively under-powered pistol cartridges. Accuracy is critical.

    10-Round Magazines: I live in California so 10-round mags are my reality, but I also think practicing reloads is a good thing.

    Dropping Loaded Mags: I can’t imagine I’d retain a mag with a single round in it if there was a chance doing so would divert my attention (get me killed) in a gunfight, which are typically short, brutal encounters. I understand IDPA doesn’t want to be plagued by the “fire four and dump the mag on the way to the next position” routine that’s common in USPSA, but stage design can do wonders in this area.

    Empty Mags/Loaded Chamber: This is just dumb. If the mag’s empty, you should be allowed to drop it. If you’re wrong and it has a round in it, then enjoy that penalty. Otherwise, we’re grownups, and no grownup runs around a gunfight with an empty mag in the gun.

    IDPA/IPSC Targets: I agree — the IPSC target’s narrow A zone makes the most sense to me, and it would be nice not to have to maintain two different targets.

    Par Time Stages: They should allow them. We use them in our club’s “outlaw” matches, and they place a very different kind of stress on the shooter.

  2. says

    Cover: This is an easy one to fix. If more than a shoulder and 50% of the head is visible, you get dinged. Basically shoot like the targets might shoot back at you which is the whole point of cover. Really, you are gonna use IDPA cover rules in real life?

    Scoring: That is even easier. Neutralized or Non-neutralized. You get the amount of shots required by the course design in the A zone and you are OK. Miss and get a 15 SECOND penalty per shot.. Shots to Non Target? 30 second penalty. See accuracy improve.I almost forgot: 10 second procedurals.

    “Appendix carry is a valid and increasingly popular carry method that should have a place.” Also known as tactical Mexican Carry and no, it has no place, specially with somebody who just started to shoot 6 months ago and IDPA only a month ago.

    “Lasers and Red Dots now have a place in non-competitive class which I believe is a probationary status”
    If you want to run them without scores, fine with me.

    Bug Guns: Have clubs have at least 3 yearly matches designed for BUG guns. Not a hard thing to do and people get their practice.

    “Baby steps are their own penalty”. Annoying, agreed, but how fast is fast enough for the SOs?

    “The fishing vests are a factor gaming the sport.” I seem to recall in the old rules that if your rig is visible, you get penalized. That includes if the guns or mags can be seen through the mesh.

    “ESR/SSR and ESP/SSP are divisions without meaningful distinction” Hey, the gamers gamed and now they are playing the piper. They worked SSP guns to the point of almost being ESP so this is leveling the field. Same for revolvers.

    “No allowance for gun mounted White Light” As it was explained, the mounted light serves as compensator & reducing muzzle flip. Unfair advantage

    “No par time stages” I think they were eliminated because they created flow problems with matches. Par stages were always behind and created a backlog of shooters.

    My beef? Bring back surprise stages. It was fun to see shooter’s face when the only instruction they got was “The stage is IDPA legal and that is all you need to know.”

  3. robin dukemineer says

    Sounds like they want to shoot USPSA. If that’s the case we already have that group. Go join! IDPA has plenty of issues but making them USPSA won’t fix them.

  4. Matt says

    The single thing that could be done to get me to shoot IDPA would be to take out the subjectivity of the SO’s. Even in a very well run match I saw two SO’s run squads on a single stage. One called cover one way for most of the shooters, then another way for one of the hot shots, The other SO called it the same for everyone but not the same as either way the other SO called it. This is one example of many I saw in the short time I tried to shoot IDPA. In USPSA it is very hard for an RO to give someone an advantage. In IDPA it is very simple and even in my limited exposure I saw it more than once.

    Other things I think would be nice:

    Get rid of the “standing” reload.

    Get rid of the stupid division gun rules. Split stock into Compact and Full Size. Have stock where you can make internal changes but nothing external and create a weight limit and make it fit in a box for either compact or full size. Then have custom where it still needs to fit in the bigger box but take off the weight limit and let people do what they want short of comps and dots. Add revolver, and Optics to round out the mix.

    At the very least let people drop empty mags on the ground no matter if there is 1 in the chamber or not.

    I would not argue with getting rid of 1/2 scoring and using the USPSA style targets. Push the accuracy in front of the speed.

    • says

      I think that a decent argument could be made for simply defining divisions by a series of boxes and weight limits. The biggest box would be for an outdoorsman/hunting pistol. This could fall within the SOCOM OHWS maximum size/weight specifications. The next size down would for an open carry/duty pistol. This could be defined by the JSSAP XM9 specifications. A concealed carry division could be covered by the XM11 specifications. You could have a sub-compact division, but I can’t think of a ready set of specifications to borrow.

  5. says

    Agree 100% on the ESP/SSP rule. Is someone REALLY going to tell me that somedood with a Glock 34 with a 4 lb trigger is at competitive disadvantage to some other dood running a CZ with a 4lb trigger and a safety?

    My only hesitation with appendix carry and competition is safety: I see lots of one o’clock holsters in USPSA, but none of them are pointing at an artery. The worst case scenario if I have an ND during the draw on my hip is a long laceration and round into my foot. The worst case scenario if I have an ND during a draw from appendix carry is REALLY bad, and I’m not certain IDPA wants to sanction such actions.

    And let’s face it, due to who created IDPA, CDP will be a “I <3 my 1911" division fro a long time to come.

  6. dustydog says

    If wind blows the target over because the guy setting up the targets forgot to weight the stand down, you get double your fee back. If any target blows off the stand because it wasn’t stapled enough, you get double your fee back.

    Anybody gives verbal instructions at a normal speaking volume, despite knowing I have two layers of hearing protection and am paritally deaf, isn’t allowed to make the pissy face when I ask him to repeat louder.

    • Earl Cowher says

      Its pretty cool to bitch about refunds for target problems when you’re one of the guys spending time setting the stages up. Not so cool when you show up thinking that the volunteers owe you a rewarding day at the range and a pat on the ass for blessing the club with your 10 bucks. And as a shooter who suffers from hearing loss myself, I personally find that if I mention that I have poor hearing at the beginning, the SO’s make sure that I can hear. I don’t wait until they’ve gone through a lengthy stage description for the 20th time that day to say “what?”

  7. Jim F. says

    Goods rants & good arguments pro and con.

    Change comes about slowly and should proceed with one selected item. Choose you most fervent dislike then proceed.

    I shoot both IDPA & USPSA, for me; hitting threats is hitting threats and practice is practice. I like chocolate and vanilla and eat both.

    My only main concern with IDPA (I have been shooting 2 years only) is that the “D” stands for defensive; so why are full-sized guns allowed? This is shooting for people with defensive carry in mind and it’s hard to conceal a full-sized gun. Dolly can’t conceal anything!!!

    This should be for compact, sub-compact, or BUGs. I shoot a G19 and an M&P 9c at matches and carry both. Maybe this is a good starting point

  8. Joe says

    I’m most upset by the “Tiger Team” that rewrote the rulebook. My biggest issue is that you can no longer reload on the move while behind cover. If I ever get into a real-life firefight, when I’m behind something that stops bullets, I’ll damn well drop an empty mag while moving to the other side in order to catch the bad guy by surprise.

  9. ArrDave says

    Without reading comments – Vickers scoring also adapts things like Failure to Neutralize, Mics, etc. I recognize there are other ways to document those but lead to more columns on a scoring sheet. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp, there are more things I’d rather see fixed with IDPA.

    Tac reloads are dumb. Period.

    I do like cover, but as a result I feel a lot of match designers end up having it be running from cover to cover and very little shooting on the move or giving you the option of shooting on the move.

    CDP is stupid, especially because it was carved out for 1911s and Glocks and M&Ps are now competitive and score very high at the national level.

    BUG matches don’t require reloads, if the club is strict to the rules, which is lame. If you carry a snubby, then the fact you have to reload after 5 shots is on you.

    I think ESP should allow RMR/Holo sights as I actually know people who carry weapons with RMR sights. As it is the difference between an ESP and SSP gun is probably not as wide as they intended. Truth be told, I don’t even know what differentiates an ESR vs SSR.

    • says

      “Tac reloads are dumb. Period.” Maybe in a competition, but they can be a life saver in a real life shooting – which I thought IDPA was supposed to mimic.

  10. says

    We shot a lot of bug gun outlaw matches…. let the bugs score on a dead right there basis. The idea is shooting ‘defensive’ carry guns, right?

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