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Pizza Bob

USPSA & IDPA: A Synopsis (Updated 03/29/2015)

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I recently had an acquaintence express an interest in gun games. In addition to directing them to the respective organizations website and to search You Tube, I put together the following...

 

Practical Gun Games: USPSA & IDPA

USPSA = United States Practical Shooting Association

IDPA = International Defensive Pistol Association

 

Practical gun games is used in the sense that we may actually use some of the lessons learned from these games should we ever face a lethal encounter in the real world. Please be aware, these are games and as such in no way represent the stress you would be under, or the circumstances of a real world encounter. What these games will do for you is:

 

Ø  Familiarize you with the draw and presentation

Ø  Familiarize you with your gun

Ø  Teach you how to clear malfunctions

Ø  Teach you how to shoot while on the move

Ø  Teach you various tactical aspects of target selection

Ø  Familiarize you with reloading on the clock

Ø  Teach you the importance of accuracy and speed

Ø  Make you a better shooter

 

The title reflects the two disciplines most often encountered. USPSA (the United States branch of the IPSC – International Practical Shooting Confederation) and IDPA. IPSC/USPSA came first (in the mid to late 70’s) and has evolved into today’s sport. In the beginning it was most often contested using 1911 semi-automatics chambered in .45 ACP. The 9 mm was also used, but was scored at a disadvantage. There were power factors established, calculated by multiplying the bullet weight by the velocity and dividing by 1000. Major power factor ≥ 165, while minor was ≥ 125 but < 165.

 

Throughout the 80’s the face of IPSC/USPSA changed with the firearms used becoming very specialized, using compensators (to reduce recoil) and using smaller calibers to increase a gun’s capacity. Often these smaller calibers were “hot-rodded” so they could make major power factor. There were classes added to accommodate these changes, but the game got further away from the practical aspects and leaned much more toward the gaming aspects.

 

That evolution has led to the creation of the following divisions in USPSA for competition:

 

Ø  Production – The gun is used, pretty much, as produced. Must be approved for the production class. Production is scored as “minor” regardless of caliber used, and restricted to 10+1 rounds.

Ø  Limited – A number of modifications are allowed, but the bias is still toward a stock firearm. There are no capacity restrictions, there are size restrictions (there is a box in which the firearm, with the magazine inserted has to fit), and it is scored as major or minor depending on caliber/power factor

Ø  Limited 10 – As above, but with a 10+1 capacity restriction

Ø  Single Stack – Created basically to accommodate the 1911 pistol, but any single stack magazine gun can be used. Major caliber is restricted to 8+1 capacity, while minor is allowed 10+1.

Ø  Open – Pretty much anything goes. This is where we find the “race guns” that took this discipline out of the realm of the practical. Optical sights, huge magazine capacities and all manner of modifications to the gun itself, as well as very specialized ancillary equipment.

Ø  Revolver – This class used to be restricted to six rounds – the gun could be chambered to hold more, but a reload was mandatory after 6 rounds were fired. As of 02/01/2014 the division was opened up to include eight round revolvers. Eight round guns are scored minor regardless of power factor (must equal or exceed minimum power factor of 125). No barrel length restriction.

 

This led a number well known shooters and gunsmiths to invent, what they felt, was a more practical game that more accurately reflected what may happen in real life. The IDPA was founded in 1996. Some of the fundamental differences were that the firearm used had to be basically stock. The only modifications allowed were those that you might actually make to a gun you would carry for self-defense. Likewise the equipment used would have to be practical for all-day carry. Holsters had to be mounted on the belt that is threaded through the belt-loops of your pants (USPSA allows an over/under belt configuration in all classes) and holsters and magazine carriers had to be no further forward on your belt than the points of your hips, and you must wear a concealing garment that allows you to stand with arms outstretched without revealing your firearm or ammo.

 

Like USPSA there were divisions established to level the playing field. They are:

 

Ø  SSP (Stock Service Pistol) – Very few modifications are allowed. This division encompasses most traditional DA/SA semi-autos and DAO as well as any “safe-action” pistols where the striker is only partially cocked upon the cycling of the slide – this would include guns like the Glock and the S&W M&P. As of 10/01/2013 Springfield XD, Walther PPQ and other pistols that fully cock the striker on the cycling of the slide will also be allowed to compete in SSP.  SSP is scored minor, regardless of caliber. You must make minor power factor. 10+1 capacity restriction.

Ø  ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol) – A few additional modifications to the gun are allowed. This division encompasses all SA pistols and is also scored minor, regardless of caliber. You must make minor power factor. Capacity is restricted to 10+1. NOTE: there are weight restrictions in both SSP & ESP divisions.

Ø  CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol) – This division was created basically for the 1911 pistol chambered in .45 ACP, although other guns chambered for .45 ACP may compete. You must make major power factor and capacity is restricted to 8+1.

Ø  CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) – this division was created with the 03/01/2015 rule changes. Pistol must fit in a reduced dimension box and have a maximum capacity of 8+1. Scored minor with the minimum caliber to be 9x19mm.

Ø  REV (The creation of one revolver division with two subdivisions was a result of the 03/01/2015 rule changes)– Subdivision SSR (Stock Service Revolver) – Pretty much as indicated by the name of the subdivision. Restricted to loading six rounds at a time (7 or 8 shot revolvers may be used, but only six rounds at a time may be loaded). Loading to be accomplished singly or by a speed loader. Maximum 4.2” barrel length. This division has a power factor of 105. Subdivision ESR (Enhanced Service Revolver) –Again, restricted to six rounds loaded, but loading can be accomplished using moon clips. Maximum 4.2” barrel length. This division was created to accommodate the S&W 625 revolver, but any revolver that can make the power factor may compete. Power factor for this subdivision is 155.

Ø  BUG (Back-up Gun) – Also the result of the 03/01/2015 rule changes – Again there are two subdivisions within the BUG Division. BUG-S is for semi-automatics of .380 caliber or larger. Barrel length of no more than 3.6” and a division capacity of 5+1 rounds with 6 rounds in each additional magazine. BUG-R is forrevolvers and all equipment rules for the SSR sub-division apply. Maximum barrel length is 3” and minimum caliber is .38 Special. There is a reduced dimension box into which BUG firearms must fit.

 

In both disciplines, there are classes, within each division, based on the shooters ability. This is so you are competing against people with similar skill sets. In USPSA these go from D (the lowest) through C, B, A and then Master and Grand Master. In IDPA they use the more familiar Novice, Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, and Master. You shoot as “Unclassified” until you shoot enough matches with classifier stages (USPSA), or participate in a Classifier match (IDPA and USPSA) to be awarded a rating.

 

Equipment varies according to the discipline and division. IDPA is pretty straight forward across all divisions and is outlined as above. Only thing I’ll add is that there are restrictions on holsters and mag/speedloader/moon clip carriers. Primary among these is that the holster must cover the trigger. The same is true for USPSA, but in the two Limited divisions, Revolver and Open, very specialized holsters can be used. These are skeletonized and adjustable in a myriad of ways. These holsters and the accompanying mag holders may be placed anywhere on the competitor’s belt. In Production and Single Stack the holster a mag carriers must be behind the point of the hip.

 

As a new competitor, it is less costly to shoot IDPA. There is less equipment required, and the stages are shorter (fewer rounds fired) than in USPSA. For the basic comparison we’ll only deal with Production (USPSA) vs. SSP (IDPA). The holster is a given, but the number of magazines needed differs considerably. IDPA restricts the shooter to two magazines on the belt when the buzzer sounds (some smaller capacity guns may be allowed more magazines, but it is rare that someone would compete with such a firearm). Therefore, you only need three magazines (two on the belt, one in the gun) to compete in IDPA. Stages in IDPA are restricted to no more than 18 rounds total. Contrast that with USPSA which may have up to 32 rounds per stage, which means most competitors carry a minimum of four additional magazines on their belt, making the total needed five.

 

The need for the additional ammo in both disciplines has to do with the rules governing scoring and reloading. In both disciplines some stages may allow you to shoot extra rounds at targets to make up for misses or just as “insurance” – the number of hits required on a target is specified and only the best hits, up to the number specified, are counted. On some courses of fire the exact number of rounds to be fired is specified. You are penalized for any additional hits over the specified number and they delete the extra shots starting with the best shots first.

 

On some courses of fire, it may be advantageous to reload prior to the gun being empty, so a magazine with rounds remaining may be removed from the gun in order to have a full magazine for the next element in the course of fire. This is more common in USPSA than in IDPA because there are no restrictions on how many magazines you carry and when and where you can reload (change magazines) in USPSA.

 

In IDPA, as previously specified, you can only carry two spares and you are penalized if you do not retain a magazine that still has rounds in it (reload with retention or Tactical reload), or if the gun is not at slide-lock (empty). The only time you can “drop” a magazine in IDPA is when the mag is empty and the gun is “dry” (slide locked back) referred to as an emergency reload.

 

You must only reload behind cover, if available – some stages (standards) are shot entirely in the open. If cover is available and you are in the open when your gun goes dry, you may initiate a reload while moving to cover. You cannot re-engage targets until you are behind cover and you are penalized if you present yourself with an empty gun to a target that has not been neutralized.

 

Stages (courses of fire) in either game may consist of a number of elements, including, but not limited to, paper targets and “no-shoot” or “non-threat” targets (used to partially obscure hostile targets), steel in various configurations that must be knocked down to score. Targets that pop-up, swing out or otherwise move, usually activated by shooting something or manually activating it just prior to shooting, are also used. Various hard cover and props to simulate things like doors, windows, cars, barriers etc. are used. Because of the higher round count available, stages for USPSA may contain a larger number of these elements.

 

The Match Director or Range Safety Officer will read a description of the course of fire. USPSA allows you to walk the stage prior to shooting. This allows you to check out the best vantage points for shooting, calculating where it may be best to reload and your general movement, or lack thereof, throughout the stage. IDPA allows five minutes at the beginning of any stage to examine it, but still eschews “air gunning”. It is advantageous not to be at the top of the shooting order.

 

USPSA is more of a Run-n-Gun type of game. You determine in what order you want to shoot the targets, when to reload and any movement you make during the course of fire. IDPA is more a thinking man’s game because there are more rules that govern how you shoot a course of fire – things like “Tactical Order” or “Tactical Priority” that dictate which targets must be shot first, based on the position of the target relative to the shooter. Movement is dictated and you may be penalized for not shooting on the move. Likewise you are penalized if you do not shoot from behind cover when it is available. There is just more to think about with IDPA.

 

Scoring in USPSA uses the target points garnered from hits (points differ for major & minor for all but “A” hits) and the time taken to shoot the course of fire. Points scored are divided by your time to arrive at a hit factor. The best hit factor is assigned a value of 100% and all scores are then expressed as a percentage of that best score. If your hit factor was half of what the best shooter’s was, your score is 50%.

 

In IDPA it is all expressed as time. The lowest time wins. There are negative target points scored and each target point equals .5 seconds which is added to your raw time. Misses are 5 points, procedural errors add 3 seconds, hits on a non-threat target adds 5 seconds, and a “Failures to Neutralize” also adds 5 seconds (you must have at least one shot in the -1 point or 0 point area to neutralize a target. Even though you may have hit the target the required number of times – if there is not at least one hit in the 0 or -1 area, the target is not neutralized). Negative target points are added up, halved and that amount of time plus any penalties are added to your raw (actual) time for your final score.

 

This is by no means comprehensive. To gain a better understanding of the rules, equipment and courses of fire, I encourage you to read the rule books of both disciplines (available on-line at the organizations respective websites).

 

I often hear of people wanting to attend a match to observe, before they actually participate. This is understandable, but by and large, the majority of people that choose this route, express regret at not participating right from the beginning. All of the clubs where I have competed have been extremely friendly and very accommodating of new shooters. There is usually a new shooters briefing before every match that is required. In IDPA, you are not required to wear a cover garment for your initial match. Both disciplines allow participation in one match before requiring that you join the sanctioning body. No club that I have been to requires membership at that club to participate – match fees may be reduced for club members, however. Both organizations cost $40 for an annual membership. USPSA has a little better deal here. If you join at a match, you pay your $40 and shoot the match for free. Match fees for USPSA generally run $20 per match, with IDPA matches usually a bit less at $10 or $15. Major matches may run as much as $100 and are usually held over several days.

 

Welcome to the world of Practical Shooting. Once you participate in your first match, you will never want to stand in just one place and shoot at a stationery target again. Have fun. Be safe.

 

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Thanks a lot Bob, looks like I need to buy a 4" 625 now, you really had to twist my arm. ;)

 

I have not participated in IDPA yet, but I have done a few of the USPSA matches, all with my 610.

 

Glad to see this was made a sticky, it was a really good explanation, thanks!

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Great post, from a slightly IDPA centric point of view? =)

 

Would just make a few factual edits.

 

IPSC, there is a "box" that the gun has to fit into... in USPSA, there is not, only a magazine gauge, 140mm for lim10/lim, and 170mm for Open.

 

IPSC is the international organization, USPSA is the USA sub brand.

 

great job Bob.

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Also... classification works a little different.

 

During most local matches, at least in our area, there will be a classifier stage. After 4 "classifier stages", you will get classified a class, D, C, B, A, M, GM.

 

IDPA, you only get classified by shooting a classifier match. (correct me if I am wrong?)

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IDPA is more a thinking man’s game because there are more rules the govern how you shoot a course of fire

 

I guess that is a matter of perspective, from my point of view USPSA is more of a thinking man's game because there are fewer rules on how to shoot a course of fire so you have more freedom in how you approach a stage, but with more freedom you also have more responsibility to think your own way through it instead on depending on the rules dictating your approach.

 

At the end of the day, they are both games and shoot the one that better suits your personality (or both), but remember they are both games.

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how far the average shot is in each of the two leagues? (or max/min say).

 

Joe:

 

They can range between 3 yards and 25 yards with the majority of the targets at 7 to 15 yards. IDPA has a lower round count per stage with a maximum of 18. USPSA may have up to 32 rounds per stage.

 

Shongum is a great palce to get your feet wet with USPSA and, likewise, Somerset is great for IDPA. Come on out and join in.

 

Adios,

 

Pizza Bob

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Ok, 3 Gun is not as well structured as other sports. In many ways it is still "outlaw" which means the rules will be slightly different from match to match.

 

What you can expect is stages where you will have to use 2 or all 3 guns in a single stage. You may have stages where you start with your rifle in your hands and a holstered handgun, engage a bunch of targets with your rifle, ditch it in a safe spot, draw your handgun and shoot a bunch of targets. You may start seated in car, rifle on the passage sit, shoot some targets through the window (set the headliner on fire), retreat to the trunk, swap rifle for shotgun, engage a few stationary steel which lunch a couple of clays, ditch the shotgun finish with your handgun.

 

3gun is basically where a lot limits get removed and cool stages get done. Youtube is full of videos. You can expect targets from 0 yards away running through a trench or 500 yards away across the mountain. Some matches have low light stages in dark houses, some matches have dark stages inside abandoned mines.

 

As for equipment the most common combination is a high capacity handgun in 9mm, a semi auto shotgun that can hold 8+1 (obviously not in NJ) and an AR. Limited division is ironsights across the board, tactical optics division is irons for shotgun and pistol and one single optic on the rifle, and open where everything goes.

 

Scoring methods vary from match to match, mostly time plus scoring.

 

The closest place I know that runs regular matches would be Topton in PA, NJ doesn't really have a lot of 3gun for obvious reasons.

 

Now if you have more specific questions, ask them.

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Ok, 3 Gun is not as well structured as other sports. In many ways it is still "outlaw" which means the rules will be slightly different from match to match.

 

What you can expect is stages where you will have to use 2 or all 3 guns in a single stage. You may have stages where you start with your rifle in your hands and a holstered handgun, engage a bunch of targets with your rifle, ditch it in a safe spot, draw your handgun and shoot a bunch of targets. You may start seated in car, rifle on the passage sit, shoot some targets through the window (set the headliner on fire), retreat to the trunk, swap rifle for shotgun, engage a few stationary steel which lunch a couple of clays, ditch the shotgun finish with your handgun.

 

3gun is basically where a lot limits get removed and cool stages get done. Youtube is full of videos. You can expect targets from 0 yards away running through a trench or 500 yards away across the mountain. Some matches have low light stages in dark houses, some matches have dark stages inside abandoned mines.

 

As for equipment the most common combination is a high capacity handgun in 9mm, a semi auto shotgun that can hold 8+1 (obviously not in NJ) and an AR. Limited division is ironsights across the board, tactical optics division is irons for shotgun and pistol and one single optic on the rifle, and open where everything goes.

 

Scoring methods vary from match to match, mostly time plus scoring.

 

The closest place I know that runs regular matches would be Topton in PA, NJ doesn't really have a lot of 3gun for obvious reasons.

 

Now if you have more specific questions, ask them.

WOW thannks Vlad that was very informative! Im going to have to move to PA to shoot 3 gun :-(... I would like to give USPSA a try at some point too

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