What is a “Full Length Dust Cover”?

There are a few shooting terms terms that are almost never used outside of a rule book and “Full Length Dust Cover” is possibly the most confusing for the new shooter.

In the IDPA rule book the term occurs in 2 forms…

In the Custom Defensive Pistol Division (CDP) Excluded Modifications list.

EXCLUDED Modifications (NON-Inclusive list):
1. Full length dust covers of carbon or stainless steel.
2. Oversize diameter magazine release buttons.
3. Trigger shoes.
4. Slide lightening (see “slide, lightening” in glossary for
further information).


Pistols approved for SSP may also be used in ESP and CDP depending upon caliber, even if the pistol in question has a full-length dust cover. However, should the pistol in question have a modification that removes it from SSP, it must meet all other division criteria for ESP or CDP, again depending upon caliber.

So to answer the original question “What is a “Full Length Dust Cover”?”…

My definition of a dust cover is the portion of the frame that extends towards the muzzle and past the point where the slide reciprocates. On typically 1911 like this STI Eagle 5.0 the frame stops and the frame encapsulates the guide rod from that point forward.

STI Eagle 5.0

STI Eagle 5.0

On guns with a full length dust cover, like this STI Range Master, the frame extends all the way to the muzzle.

The STI RangeMaster

The STI RangeMaster

Which should then beg the question… “Why would I want a full-length dust cover” and there are 2 equally valid reasons.

Reason #1…

The full length dust cover permits additional weight to be moved forward on the gun when included on a gun with frame made from a heavy material (like carbon or stainless steel) while at the same time allowing the reciprocating weight of the slide to be reduced. This would create a gun that cycled faster with less felt recoil.

Reason #2…

They look badass really cool!

So then “Why does IDPA outlaw full length dust covers?”

First they don’t, but more on that later.

There are 2 possibly related reasons for this…  First IDPA is founded on self defense principles and there are very few self-defense guns that have a full length dust cover, so the logic could be that any gun with that feature was a game designed gun. The second is that IDPA founder Bill Wilson’s company, Wilson Combat, doesn’t make any full dust cover guns.

Full length dust covers are likely against the rules for CDP because it was focused towards the typical 1911 in 1996 and this feature is an indication of a “gamer” gun, but based of the wording of the rules, they are not illegal. They are just illegal for single action guns AND they come with a 2-4 ounce weight penalty.

CDP, the most common class for 1911 style guns can weight 41 oz.  ESP guns can weigh upto 43 oz. But SSP guns can only weigh 39 ounces!


  1. Morgan says

    Hey Ron, Am a little confused … where in the IDPA rules is it suggested that the full length dust cover guns are legal for CDP? I though they were specifically listed as Excluded for both CDP and ESP (regardless of it single or double action).

    • ronlarimer says

      Full length dust covers aren’t legal in CDP but they are completely legal in SSP even on a 1911 style gun with a double action trigger so they aren’t banned from the sport, only divisions where Wilson Combat makes a gun.

      • Morgan says

        Thanks for the super quick reply. So if I’m tracking, one can have a completely SSP legal gun (one that has a full length dust cover), and use it in ESP, even though the ESP rules explicity state that full length dust covers are *not* legal?

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