The question of using competitive shooting to improve your combative shooting abilities comes up a fair bit in conversations and classes. The main questions tend to be which is more realistic and which is better for practicing for the “real” world. The answer: None…and all. Let me briefly address some of the thoughts.
“IDPA is designed for proper concealed carry and will teach you what you should do in the real world.”
FALSE! IDPA is a game. Yes, when IDPA was founded it was based in somewhat realistic scenarios with somewhat acceptable ideas (as was IPSC). Then the game took over. The game had to be fair, so they made all guns that could carry more than ten rounds downgrade their magazines to carry 10+1 rounds (other than 1911’s in .45). Guns became plastic, wheel guns and 1911’s fell out of fashion, so they made more divisions with more rules. Some of the founders believed their way was/is THE way, which means all shooters had to carry their guns and mags the way THE FOUNDERS said was right. Competitors had to use what the founders believed were good tactics, even if they didn’t pass the common sense test. And with the most recent evolution of the rule book released earlier this year, these well intentioned though misguided rules continue to be implemented. Here’s a nasty secret: Gunfights have no hard and fast rules. The best shooter doesn’t always win. The best mindset doesn’t always win. You don’t always need cover. You can reload wherever and whenever you want, whether it’s smart or not! And sometimes, speed IS your security. IDPA has far to many “Our way or no way” rules to be considered remotely realistic. But, it does have some merit as well. Without the major and minor scoring systems present in other sports, you can be extremely competitive with your carry 9mm without being behind the curve to those shooting .40 or .45. The accuracy standard (heavy time penalties for hits not in an 8″ circle) I find to be far better than the point system used by USPSA, where at distance it may be more beneficial to shoot fast and sacrifice an A-zone hit for some less than ideal hits. (NOTE: This does exist in IDPA, where it can be better to shoot fast than accurate, but it appears to be more prevalent in USPSA.) While I do like the USPSA target better, there is much to be said about the standardized time scoring of IDPA. The risk vs. reward of shooting a less than ideal hit seems far more prevalent in IDPA. At the lower to middle level of shooter, this is extremely noticeable in the cadence of fire and overall times of the competitor. At the higher levels, not so much as they are generally not only the fastest but also the most accurate (a common misconception amongst many IDPA purists). The higher level shooters didn’t get to that level by being fast alone.
“That IPSC/USPSA stuff will get you killed on the streets!”
FALSE! One of the best things about USPSA is that it leaves almost all of the stage planning to the shooter. You generally can reload where and when you want to, shoot from where you want to, and move when and where you want to. You don’t have to shoot the gun to slide-lock, but you can. You don’t have to use cover, but you can. You don’t have to use a concealment garment, but you can. That’s the beauty of USPSA, it’s all up to you as the shooter! I have, on more than one occasion, shot USPSA from AIWB under a polo with my carry gun. I used cover where it made sense, shot to slide-lock where it made sense, shot on the move when it made sense. It’s all what YOU make of it. I also have to applaud USPSA for picking up where IDPA failed, with the addition of the Production Optics Division. There are a fair number of individuals carrying Glocks, M&P’s, and 1911’s with mini-red dots (MRD’s) on them. Glock, FN, and S&W are all making production guns capable of accepting slide mounted MRD’s. Whether you like them or not, it’s a viable thing and needs a place outside of “Open” division to compete. IDPA had the opportunity to add it, someone said “I don’t feel those are a good tactical choice” so they are accepted no where in the sport. This is unfortunate. But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for USPSA either. It is easy to start shooting USPSA with combative techniques in mind and quickly get wrapped up in the game. If you’re going to shoot the game then shoot the game. If you’re there to shoot a match to test your combative pistol techniques, then make sure you keep that in mind. It may not sound like it, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for IDPA. It was the first shooting sport I ever took part in. I hold multiple Master ratings in it, and will continue to shoot it regularly. It’s a good time with generally well intentioned individuals, though sometimes strongly misguided (we’ve all seen them and they’re in every aspect of the industry, though their presence is strong in IDPA). That all being said, if I had to choose one sport that was available almost everywhere, where I could really test my combative application of the pistol, it would have to be USPSA. This has just been a brief snippet of the two most prevalent sports. Later on, I’ll share some of my ideas with you on some lesser known sports, what they’re good for, and even some ideas on how to set up your own combative shooting sport. Now, go grab your EDC gear, some ammo, and get out there and shoot!