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Beginners Guide to IDPA and IPSC/USPSA

Discussion in 'IDPA and IPSC' started by trade_sniper, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Beginners Guide to
    IDPA and IPSC/USPSA
    Competition

    Note:
    If anyone has info to add here about IPSC/USPSA or something I've forgotten or missed about IDPA or competition in general, please PM me and I'll add it to this post. IPSC and USPSA are very similar competitions, so I have kind of lumped them together in this text. Consult the individual organizations' websites and rulebooks for specific differences. Most people that shoot one (IPSC/USPSA) usually also shoot the other. I live in Tulsa, so this info is primarily about the Tulsa area. Anyone from the OKC area that would like to add info about OKC-area ranges, matches/events, etc., PM me and I will add it to this post. I'm not going to list too many brands here, for semi-auto's, there are so many choices, everyone has their favorites and much of it is personal preference. If you are a revolver shooter, I have some information listed here (thanks to Jerry Biggs (Glocktogo)). If you need more information, you will need to ask questions in the forums here because I don't know the specifics of revolver gear.



    Overview:
    I wanted to make a post for those that are wanting to get started in competition shooting like IDPA or IPSC/USPSA. My son and I just recently started shooting IDPA, so I have already done the research that you are doing now and I thought it would be nice to try and put most of it in one place, perhaps saving others some time. This post is primarily about what is needed to get started in competition. I'm not going to get deep into the rules of the different competitions, you can read the rulebooks for the specifics there or ask in the forums. IDPA and IPSC/USPSA are not just for shooters with a competitive streak, they are a great form of training and help to test your guns and gear (holsters, mag carriers, etc.). These matches are also a great help to increase your gun handling skills, which is very appropriate for those who have handguns for self defense. It will help you get faster, smoother and more confident with actions like:

    • Drawing from a holster
    • Performing Reloads
    • Shooting while moving
    • Shooting at moving targets
    • Shooting from unusual positions (sitting, crouching, kneeling, etc.)

    This of course should not be the be-all-end-all of your training. You can never have too much training. I recommend that you take some high-quality combat handgun (also rifle and shotgun) training from TDSA or USSA and some CQB (close quarters training) from Michael Brown. All of them are members on this forum.

    There are new shooters at almost every match and everyone is always willing to lend a hand and get you headed in the right direction. The other competitors and Safety Officers will take the time to ensure that you understand what you are supposed to do (and not do). Don't waste your time going to a match just to watch, you'll only kick yourself for not shooting in it. Just bring your gear, show up, jump in with both feet and have fun!



    Organizations:
    Most of what I'm saying here applies to IDPA, since thats all I have experience with so far, but from what I have learned, most of it will apply to IPSC/USPSA also (just need a few more rounds and mags). We will probably give IPSC/USPSA a try also. The information I'm listing here is just the basics. Make sure you read the rules for whichever match type you plan to shoot:

    IDPA Website: http://www.idpa.com/
    IDPA Rulebook: http://www.idpa.com/Documents/IDPARuleBook2005.pdf

    USPSA Website: http://www.uspsa.org/
    USPSA Rulebook: http://www.uspsa.org/rules/Handgun_15th_2004.pdf

    IPSC Website: http://www.ipsc.org/
    IPSC Rulebook: http://www.ipsc.org/rules.htm

    IDPA is a more 'defensive' type of shooting competition where accuracy is valued over speed. IDPA is structured to focus on shooter ability instead of who has the best equipment, to try and keep the playing field level, so you won't see mega-expensive, tricked out guns. IDPA caters to the concealed carry crowd, even a cover garment is required and each stage is a self-defese scenario. People shoot the same type of guns that they carry concealed and many Police Officers shoot their duty weapons and some even use their duty gear (belt, holster, mag carriers, etc.). Typical round counts for an IDPA match range from 90-120 rounds.

    IPSC and USPSA are very similar in their rules and shooting styles. IPSC/USPSA is all about speed and high round counts. In these matches you will see people with very expensive, high-capacity (they do have a Limited 10 divistion limited to 10 rounds) guns with all the tricks. Its not uncommon to see $2500+ race guns. An expensive gun is not required though, in their Production division you can compete with the same gun you carry daily or shoot in IDPA, in fact all of the equipment you use for IDPA could be used in IPSC/USPSA. IPSC/USPSA just has some special classes that cater to the high-end weaponry and accessories. Typical round counts for an IPSC/USPSA match is 120-150 rounds.

    Classification: IDPA has 'Classifier' matches, where you shoot very specific stages and courses of fire and are graded on accuracy and time. This will translate into your classification or rank. As you improve over time, you can shoot other Classifiers to move up in rank. Classifier matches are only held occasionally, so you will have to watch for them. You may also be able to ask the Match Director of an upcoming match if he would let you shoot a classifier either before or after the regular match. You can start competing without being classified. You can be classified in multiple divisions, for instance you could shoot a classifier for CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol) with a .45 1911 and also shoot one for SSP (Stock Service Pistol) with a 9mm Glock. IPSC and USPSA also have classifications, but I couldn't find the specifics about it on their websites. It appears that you get classified based on your scores during their matches. Someone please PM me if I am wrong or if you have more info.


    Costs:
    Most matches cost $12-15. The only other re-occuring costs are ammo. Depending on the caliber you shoot (like .45 for instance), re-loading may offer you some cost savings if you shoot a lot of matches.



    Match Schedules:
    1st Saturday - USPSA: USPSA @ OKC Gun Club
    1st Sunday:

    2nd Saturday - IDPA: USSA
    2nd Saturday - IPSC: Red Castle
    2nd Sunday - IPSC: Oil Capital

    3rd Saturday - IDPA: Red Castle
    3rd Sunday:

    4th Saturday - IDPA: Oil Capital
    4th Saturday - USPSA: USSA
    4th Sunday:

    5th Saturday - 3 Gun: USSA
    5th Sunday - Steel Challenge: in Ada


    Time Required:
    Matches typically have signups at 9am and start the walk-through just prior to starting at 10am. This will vary depending on the range, so double-check before attending. Matches will usually have a 'setup' time prior to the match ranging from 7:30am to 9:00am. This is when the officials setup all of the targets, obstacles, cover, walls, etc. used in each scenario. If you would like to help them setup the stages, they always appreciate it and it might help to keep the match from getting a later start. Most matches are announced prior to the event on here in the Competitions & Upcoming Events or IDPA and IPSC forum. If everything goes smoothly and quickly, the match will be completed around 1:30pm. If things run slow or there are problems, they can run longer. I have been at a match that lasted until after 4pm. Sometimes the ranges (I know Oil Capital has) will have some type of sideline match after the main event, like a shotgun event. These are usually fairly short and any kind of shooting is always fun.



    Gear:
    You need the following at a minimum:
    • Gun: Semi-auto or revolver, 9mm - .45 caliber.
    • Holster.
    • Magazines.
    • Spare Mag Carrier(s).
    • Gun Belt.
    • Eye Protection.
    • Ear Protection.
    • Cover Garment (IDPA).
    • Ammo.

    Recommended Extras:
    • Bottled water or Gatorade.
    • Caffinated drink.
    • Some kind of snack.
    • Hat/Cap.
    • Sun Block.
    • Comfortable Shoes.
    • Pen.
    • Tools.
    • Spare parts.
    • Range Bag.

    I also bring my digital camera to take pics during the matches. Its nice to have memories you can share, plus it will remind you of stage layouts/scenarios. My camera also shoots video, so I take video of my son shooting, he takes video of me shooting. We use these to review our performance afterwards where we can spot potential problems, things we did wrong, or things we did right. I also like to take videos of the 'pros' so I can review what I aspire to be.


    Gun:
    See the rulebook for the type of competition you are interested in. Almost any handgun is allowed, semi-auto or revolver, from 9mm to .45 caliber. .38/.357 are allowed in Stock Service Pistol (IDPA).


    ...continued in next post...
     
  2. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Holsters:
    You can pick up inexpensive holsters and mag carriers at OPS (oklahoma police supply), like Blackhawk or Uncle Mike's brands here in Tulsa. Uncle Mike's holsters aren't technically legal for IDPA, but most match directors or safety officers will let you use one to get started with until you find something more suitable. In fact Jack Ostendorf, the match director at Oil Capital, loaned my son one to use during our first match. Holsters and mag carriers made out of Kydex for IDPA/competition, are cheaper than say a high dollar carry rig like a Milt Sparks VersaMax 2. Also, kydex is very fast on the draw and offers easy one-handed reholstering. Just keep the inside of a kydex holster clean so that grit doesn't accumulate and scratch your weapon, of course this would be true for any holster, regardless of the material its made out of. Ky-Tac and Comp-tac are popular brands. Holsters can be either clip-on or have loops for the belt. For Revolvers, Ready Tactical Products is a popular brand besides those already listed.

    Ideally, if you carry concealed daily, the best training is to use your carry rig (holster and mag carrier(s)). So if you have that, use it, otherwise, pick up something inexpensive...and in stock as the high dollar holsters can have long wait times (like the 20 week wait for a VM2 right now).


    Magazines:
    IDPA - .45 caliber single-stack semi-auto weapons like 1911's:
    You'll need at least 2 magazines and 3 are recommended. This is assuming it's a full-size gun and takes a full-size magazine. 7 or 8 round mags are recommended. Base pads are also recommended.

    IPSC/USPSA - .45 caliber single-stack semi-auto weapons like 1911's:
    You will need at least 4 magazines and 5 is recommended. You can use 10 round mags and shoot Limited-10.

    IDPA - 9mm and .40 caliber double-stack semi-auto weapons:
    3 magazines are recommended.

    IPSC/USPSA - 9mm and .40 caliber double-stack semi-auto weapons:
    I believe 4 magazines is the minimum with 5 recommended.

    Revolver Shooters - You will need at least four for IDPA, one to load and make ready and three for the stages. Popular brands for revolver speed loaders are the Safariland Comp II (better) or Comp III (best) speed loaders. Jet Loaders available from Brownell's are also a top choice. I don't know many of the specifics about revolver gear. I would post on the forums here, there are a few guys that shoot revolvers and are as fast as the semi-auto guys. Jerry Biggs (Glocktogo) is awesome with a revolver (or anything else he shoots).

    In IDPA, 10 rounds is the maximum that you can load in a magazine, even if the magazine can hold more. For most stages, you can load one in the chamber for a total round count of 11 to start the stage with. Some stages will require a specific number of rounds, like 6 rounds total to start, then reload with a full (10 rounds) magazine during the stage. Each stage will specify the number of rounds required and the number of rounds to start with if it is less than a full load (10 in the mag + 1 in the chamber). I don't know the rules for magazine capacity for IPSC/USPSA, but I believe they allow you to load your magazines to full capacity with the exception being the Limited-10 class that has a maximum of 10 rounds. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.


    Spare Mag Carriers:
    IDPA - You'll want a minimum of two spare mag carriers, this will allow you to have 3 magazines for each stage. For revolver shooters, you can get away with only two speedloader holders if using a vest and put the third in an easy access pocket, though some run a third holder behind the gun.

    IPSC/USPSA - I don't know the specifics here, but I would assume you would need enough to carry your spare mags (mags not already inserted in the gun). From the IPSC pics I've seen, those guys have mag carriers everywhere!


    Gun Belt:
    You will need a decent gun belt, something that will support the weight of the weapon, holster, mag carriers and full spare magazines. A 1.5" gun belt is the norm.


    Eye Protection:
    You will need some form of eye protection to protect your eyes from ejected brass. This can be shooting glasses (yellow lenses) which are great on cloudy days, safety glasses or most types of sunglasses that completely cover the eye. Make sure they properly cover the sides of your eyes, like the wrap-around styles.


    Ear Protection:
    This can be ear muff type or ear plugs. Some people wear both. The noise-cancelling ear muffs are nice, but not required, because you can still hear normal conversations while wearing them but they still cut out the sounds from gun shots.


    Cover Garment:
    For IDPA, any cover garment will work. So just wear whatever you normally wear when carrying concealed, like an unbuttoned shirt (long or short sleeve depending on weather), jacket or coat. You can also use a vest if thats your thing. They make 'tactical vests' that have a lot of pockets, so those who wear them will often use those extra pockets to drop spent mags in during a stage.


    Ammo:
    IDPA - Typical match requires 90-120 rounds. I always bring 150 rounds to be safe.
    IPSC/USPSA - Typical match requires 120-150 rounds.

    Most 9mm shooters buy the cheap Blazer ammo at Academy Sports. As of this writing, the price is around $5.67 for 50 rounds. For other calibers, check prices at Wal-mart also. Reloading can save you some costs. Your cost saving results will vary depending on the caliber you shoot. You won't save much for 9mm, but you will for .357 Sig, 10mm, .40 and especially .45 caliber.



    Extras:
    Water:
    I always bring a couple of bottles of water. There isn't much time between stages and most ranges don't have water close to the bays where you shoot. This will be more importand during the hot Oklahoma summer months. You need to stay hydrated.


    Caffinated Drinks:
    Its kind of nice to have a little caffine boost towards the end of the match if you feel a little tired. When its really hot out, I'd recommend water over caffinated drinks though, to keep you properly hydrated.


    Snack:
    Some type of granola bar, energy bar, trail mix, etc. Remember you might be on the range for 5-7 hours, so you may get hungry and need a little energy.


    Hat/Cap:
    Keeps the sun out of your eyes and will keep your head from getting sun burned.


    Sun Block:
    No explanation needed.


    Comfortable Shoes:
    Sneakers or tennis shoes. You will likely be standing during the entire event and will walk a pretty good distance. Keep in mind that if its been raining or might rain before or during an event, the range can get muddy, so don't wear your sunday-go-to-meetin' shoes. Some of the ranges are better than others as far as being muddy during wet weather.


    Pen:
    You will have scoresheets for each stage that you will have to fill out with your name, stage number, class, etc. The range may not have enough spare pens for everyone.


    Tools:
    Small assortment of tools, to adjust your holster tension, mag carrier tension or disassemble your gun if needed to fix a problem during a match. I carry a phillips screwdriver for my holster and mag carrier tension screws and my Glock armorers tool. You may never need them, but if you do, you'll be glad you had them.


    Spare Parts:
    Not a requirement, but nice to have if you break a spring or other common maintenance part during a competition. This will vary according to your specific weapon.


    Range Bag:
    You need a bag to carry all this crap around in. I actually use one of my son's old school backpacks because all this gear can get heavy (gear + ammo) so throwing it over your shoulder makes it much easier than just carrying it with a handle. Many prefer range bags because they have lots of different divider pockets to divide all your gear up and some have shoulder straps also. The good thing is that as the day goes by, the bag will get lighter as you shoot up the ammo you're carrying and drink your water or other beverages.



    Conclusion:
    If you carry concealed, chances are you already have 90% of the required gear. Matches cost $12-15 and if you shoot 9mm, ammo is cheap too. So it really is cheap fun. It is a blast to shoot and the matches are always challenging. Plus its a great group of guys/gals, always willing to help new guys out.

    You should give it a try, you'll love it, make new friends, get a little sun and fresh air, get a little exercise, and it will make you a better shooter.
     
  3. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Placeholder #1 for article expansion.
     
  4. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Placeholder #2
     
  5. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Good suggestion, done!


    About 7 hours so far, and I have added to it (plus a few other edits) at least 3 times since I put it up!
     
  6. swavy00

    swavy00 Sharpshooter

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    Great post, THANK YOU!! This is what I was needing. I have read the rulebooks, but it doesn't really explain what a guy that has never been there needs to know.

    Thanks again! Great post.
     
  7. Glocktogo

    Glocktogo Sharpshooter

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    Hope that was what you needed Trade_Sniper.

    Jerry
     
  8. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    You're quite welcome. I went through the same thing when I was wanting to get started. So I thought I'd try to put all the pertinent info a beginner needs in one place while most of it was still fresh in my memory.
     
  9. trade_sniper

    trade_sniper Sharpshooter

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    Perfect Jerry, Thank you.
     
  10. Buzzdraw

    Buzzdraw Sharpshooter

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    It's hard to get everything into a written guide, but Trade Sniper's is a good shot at it. A good "how to" guide is a task to key out. Its a good thing to put expectations and methods into print

    Here's a further step for those interested in IDPA and IPSC. About once or twice a year, my compatriots and I at Oil Capital put on a 6-7 hr basic IPSC/IDPA introduction class. We cover safety, rules, equipment, methods for both disciplines in the classroom. Then we adjourn to to the ranges to allow the attendees to shoot one each IDPA and IPSC stage. The primary thrust is to provide basic information on these two competition disciplines. The class is intended for those who already have some handgun shooting experience, but not necessarily holster or match exposure.

    The cost is pretty minimal and we'll announce it in Ok Shooters when we schedule another one. It is a logical step to consider after reading and understanding Trade Sniper's guide. Of course there is nothing to stop an individual from jumping right in. Lots of folks do it and the local IDPA/IPSC shooters will help you along when you make it out to a match.
     

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