By Alex Nieuwland, SI Staff Instructor
Almost exactly ten years ago, a friend of mine invited me to my first IDPA match. I still remember the first stage I ever shot. It was called “Officer Down.” For string 1, I started out laying flat on my back with my legs pointed at the target, holding a hammer in my left hand, and a Glock 19 in my right hand. At the buzzer, I sat up and shot both targets twice. For string 2, the hammer and gun switched hands. The only matches I had previous experience with were much more sedate, and I thought IDPA was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Fast forward 10 years. I have shot countless IDPA matches and been an IDPA Safety Officer for longer than I can remember, but I have also received some of the best training money can buy through force-on-force training with Suarez International. I still shoot IDPA matches, and will continue to do so, but I have also realized that most of my fellow IDPA shooters are training to beat their friends, not training to defeat their enemies.
Allow me to explain…. If Osama Bin Laden suddenly parachuted from the sky onto our (cold) range during an IDPA match, which direction would everyone’s guns (after some furiously fast loading) be pointed in? Exactly, all guns would be pointed at OBL, or at his slowly cooling, bullet-riddled corpse. Everyone at the match can therefore safely be placed in the “friends” category.
OBL, however, is extremely unlikely to parachute into an IDPA match. My friends and I are much more likely to encounter one of his followers when we are NOT at a match. And which guns are my IDPA friends using when they are not at a match? Probably NOT the gun they shot the match with.
You don’t agree? Well, let’s look at the data….. Every year, IDPA publishes a list of the gear used by participants in the IDPA Nationals. In 2009, the number of shooters using a Glock 34, a Glock 19 or a Glock 26 was 71, 4, and 0. In 2010, the numbers were 68, 7, and once again 0. Now, I know a LOT of serious shooters, but I only know one (my fellow SI Staff Instructor Randy Harris) who actually carries a Glock 34 every day. On the other hand, the Glock 19 and Glock 26 are some of the most popular carry guns on the market today.
I use the term “cheater heater” for a handgun that is modified to make it handle differently from the competitor’s actual carry gun, or is of a different model from the competitor’s actual carry gun. This data shows that cheater heaters likely outnumbered actual carry guns by at least 10 to 1 at these matches.
What is there to win at an IDPA match? Nothing but a worthless trophy. All of the expensive prizes are given out by random drawing. The person who finished last has as much chance of winning them as the person who finished first. So by their actions, the cheater heater users are saying that beating their friends to win a worthless trophy is more important than defeating their enemies.
But IDPA is just a game! Agreed. Any time you are shooting for score instead of shooting for blood it’s just a game. Force-on-force training is a MUCH better way to train for winning your gunfights than shooting IDPA matches. Shooting IDPA matches, however, allows you to do something you can’t do in force-on-force training: shoot real guns firing real bullets with real recoil and real malfunctions under time pressure with movement and with realistic accuracy demands. It allows you to determine if you have achieved the unconscious competence level with your gun handling skills. That is not a replacement for force-on-force training, but when you combine that with the skills learned from force-on-force training it’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
So IDPA is a great opportunity to bring out the guns you would actually use during a gunfight. If you don’t, your actions show your ego is more important to you than defending yourself and your family from serious harm.
But you carry a J-frame? Five shot .38 Special revolvers are perfectly legal in the Stock Service Revolver division. Bring it out! If you’re worried about finishing the entire course of fire with such a small ammo supply, might I suggest upgrading your carry gun? A Glock 26 is not much bigger and holds more than twice as many rounds. My fellow SI Staff Instructor Jon Payne is working on a DVD that makes this point very well.
But you carry a .380 or a .32? Talk to your match director. If he says it’s allowed (and he probably will), you are good to go. Otherwise, refer to my answer above.
But you carry a Glock 26? The Glock 26 is a popular carry gun and perfectly legal in the Stock Service Pistol division. Bring it out! Sure, you’ll have to pay very close attention to your sight picture for those long distance shots, but that’s part of the trade off of choosing to carry a Glock 26. The gun is capable of making those shots. You are the limiting factor, so get good with it!
But you’d rather use a Glock 34, or an M&P Pro with a 1.5 lbs trigger, or a double stack 1911 with a huge magwell, and powderpuff ammo? You, my friend, have a decision to make: Is it more important to you to beat your friends or to defeat your enemies?
IDPA is also a good place to use your freaky fast draw, an important skill when it comes to winning gunfights. If you normally carry in an inside the waistband holster at 4 o’clock, why not bring that holster? It’s perfectly legal in IDPA, so unless beating your friends with competition gadgetry is more important to you than defeating your enemies, there really is no need to buy a bulky competition-only outside the waistband holster carried at 3 o’clock.
My premise in IDPA has always been, and will always continue to be, that I will use my actual carry gear. Back when I was using a leather pancake holster with a thumb break, that’s what I would use in my matches. I have since switched to an Archangel appendix inside the waistband holster for my usual holster, but unfortunately the writers of the IDPA rule book apparently considered appendix carry so fast that it put all other holster positions at a disadvantage, and banned it in IDPA. So for matches, I use the same setup I currently use whenever I’m wearing a suit: a stock Glock 19 in a Dale Fricke Gideon Elite holster. I use factory 115 grain ammo that has the same point of impact as my carry ammo, and similar felt recoil. I have not done anything to the gun except dry firing it a lot, and installing a new set of sights and some new trigger springs because I wore the old ones out. As a result, when I do well at IDPA, it shows my skill with an actual weapon, not with carefully selected toys I’m using to play a game. I’m preparing to defeat my enemies, not my friends.
Net, I see good folks spending an awful lot of time and money training to beat their friends, while assuming that skill carries over into defeating their enemies. Those who train to defeat their enemies, but also compete in the gun games at a high level know that the two are not the same. Come train with Suarez International, and experience the difference for yourself.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me why on Warrior Talk.