Introduction to IDPA

I’ve been asked to do a short presentation on IDPA for the Ladies Handgun League down at the Wake County Range. I put together an outline and decided to post it here for future reference.


Intro to IDPA

IDPA: International Defensive Pistol Association


• the use of practical equipment
• to solve simulated “real world” self-defense scenarios

Who Competes in IDPA?

In a word, everybody. New comers are welcome and encouraged.

You should be comfortable:
• drawing from a holster and reholstering
• reloading / exchanging magazines in your pistol

IDPA Safety Rules / Reviewed at every match!
• All guns are always loaded.
• Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
• Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
• Identify your target, and what is behind it.

(Versus  NRA Gun Safety Rules)
• Always point the gun in a safe direction.
• Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
• Keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Skills you are exposed to:

• Emphasis on range safety
• Drawing from concealment
• Strong hand and weak hand shooting
• Shooting while moving, kneeling or prone
• Shooting moving targets
• Using cover properly
• Reloads
• Tactical priority (near to far)
• Tactical sequence (one shot each before additional shots)
• Threats vs. non-threats,
• Shooting for both speed and accuracy
• Adding the adrenaline rush you may experience in real life

How does a Match work?

• Typically 6-8 stages over 4-6 hours
• Break into squads – squad leader will work with you. People are friendly and typically helpful to a new shooter.
• Your squad arrives at each stage as a group.
• Your squad leader will brief the squad on the scenario and any requirements.
• You may all load and make ready as a squad or each shooter may load and make ready as it is there turn to shoot.
• Every one helps to paste targets
• You can ask to see how you did

Examples of Stages

• “You are in the shower…” and you start by opening a shower curtain and picking up your gun from a side table
• At a major match: shoot out a window through a rain storm (actually a hose…)
• “You are on the couch, watching the Super Bowl and your gun is on the coffee table. Sit up and shoot your first target before standing.”
• At a major match: Shoot from the driver’s seat of a car, at night, through a burning engine at your targets (this was a rare night match).

What to Bring

• Ear & eye protection (MANDATORY)
• Handgun, caliber 9mm or larger
• •  Sights must be stock. No lasers, scopes, or lights mounted on pistol are allowed.
• OWB holster that covers the trigger guard (ladies can use a dropped, offset holster).
• Should have at least 3 magazines for your pistol (you can shoot with 2)
• Magazine holster that goes on your belt for each extra magazine
• Belt to support your gun and magazine holsters
• A concealment garment- ie vest or long shirt
• About 150 rounds of ammo
• Some form of range bag to keep your items in.
• Baseball cap recommended – especially for outdoor matches.
• Water & Snacks!

Here’s a link to a Triangle Tactical article that talks about IDPA “on the cheap” for equipment sources.

Gun Handling

• All events are cold ranges.
• Come with your gun unloaded.
• You will be told when/where to load and unload your gun.
• Unless you have been told to load & make ready, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR GUN.
• If you are not sure of when/where you can handle your firearm simply leave it holstered and ask.

Range Commands (not exhaustive…)

• Load and Make Ready
• Unload and Show Clear
• Finger: You will hear this if your finger is in the trigger guard while moving or reloading.
• Muzzle: If you hear this, immediately check yourself as your muzzle is getting near a muzzle
safe point.
• Stop: If a shooter is being grossly unsafe, or if a safety issue has arisen on the range
• Cover: If a shooter is not using cover adequately

Local information (may change over time, verify before driving to a match)

Classes: IDPA Intro class locally at Shoot to Live
Personal Defense Handgun Safety Center – One Thursday a month
The Range in Oxford – 1st & 2nd Sunday of the month

Awesome local blog that encourages completing: Triangle Tactical and their Comprehensive calendar of all regional events.

More detail for first time competitors:
Getting Started in Competitive Shooting over at Triangle Tactical
New Shooter Briefing (Video)
New Shooter Packet (Document) 

Switching focus: Situational awareness and weapon access

For most of the last year I’ve shot one of my guns at least once a week. I bought a gold membership at PDHSC and while that was in effect, it was an easy decision to go to the range and shoot. I’d limit myself to 100 rounds most visits and I’d be there about an hour.For some months I had a shooting partner and we would discuss drills and ideas, but most of those trips were solo.

During that time I’ve come along way with my gun handling skills and safety awareness. I remember early on when I’d pick up a magazine and I’d have to puzzle out which direction it should face when I put it in the gun. That is now something I don’t question.

I’ve shot competitions and I’m past the point of nerves and adrenaline. I’m reasonably competent but I’m not a competitive shooter. But that isn’t improving.

With the expiration of my gold membership, I’ve decided to rethink how I’m spending my “gun time”. Continuing to put lead downrange is fun, but I’m not convinced I’m structuring my range time to be productive.

Also, with the purchase of the XDS, I want to get comfortable with carrying a gun other than at the range and at a competition. That is what prompted the last post in carrying in the car — and I appreciate all the feedback on why I should not leave the gun in the car permanently.


I bought a Remora Concealment Holster and intend to start carrying it around the house with the gun unloaded at first just to see how this works. It has a rigid opening and doesn’t collapse when the gun is drawn, it has a flap to make it “tuckable”, there is a clip but it can be removed (it snaps on), and it’s a “sticky” holster. I tried it on in the store at 9Forward and it felt comfortable.

However, I’ve drawn from it and it’s very different from the dropped, offset holsters I’ve been using for competition. It was at this point that I realized that I might want to switch my focus from “getting better at competition” to “getting better at self-defense”. I’m not going to be able to conceal a dropped offset holster unless it’s a very cold day and I have no plans to remove my coat, so I think I need to suck it up and start working with the equipment that is practical for everyday carry — even if it’s not designed with the easy access of a competition holster.


The .22LR Saga

Shooting the newly restored Winchester 74

Shooting the newly restored Winchester 74

Awhile back my dad offered me 3 rifles he’d had sitting in  gun case for years because I’m the only one in the family that shoots. I sold the 35 Remington and had the Winchester 74 restored. The elevator was lost in the process so the friend who did such a great job on restoring the rifle met me at the range June 8th to install the elevator and site in the gun.

Elevator? He had to explain to me what an elevator was so I’ll share that with you: it is a small metal part that wedges under the sight to raise or lower it. For more details, check out this article.

I hadn’t fired from bench rest position since my “First Steps Pistol” class. We used my range bag as the “rest”. It’s a $15 tool bag from Walmart and worked quite well. My mentor for the day asked me to rest the “forearm” (ie: the wooden part) of the barrel on the rest, not the metal part of the barrel. I tucked the buttstock into my shoulder and brought the gun up to my face. At that point you try to get a good cheek weld by holding it is snuggly. Note that you don’t bring your face down to the stock – bring the gun up to your face.

We had about 18 yards to work with and the gun was shooting a bit high. It’s supposed to be sighted in at 25 yards so this was to be expected. The gun will shoot slightly higher at shorter distances.

Everything was going well until I tried to shoot the gun. At that point it went “tap” instead of “bang”. It appears we were getting an inconsistent firing pin strike.

The problem may be the firing pin but more likely is with the firing pin spring. So it appears this gun will require an additional investment of cash… and I’m kind of bummed about that. My primary focus is on pistols, but I have a large stash of .22lr and this is a beautiful gun. I really need to decide if it’s worth investing in a rifle I really don’t shoot — at least not at this time.




The Recoil Spring experiment

Recoils Springs, Bushing "Disk" by Lynx, and an empty flare tube to transport the springs.

Recoils Springs, Bushing “Disk” by Lynx, and an empty flare tube to transport the springs.

The day before I shot the Carolina Cup I was at PDHSC for several reasons, but one was to get a different recoil spring for my 1911. I had a conversation with one of my informal mentors at PDHSC and he’d recommended I go lighter. It might also help with the occasional double feeds I experience.

The gunsmith I work with runs a business out of the same building so I asked him what he recommended. I like getting more than one opinion as it helps me to learn and increase my knowledge. The Brownell’s book we checked stated that the standard for a 1911 in 9mm is 14 lbs for the recoil spring. I just found this article that recommends my 5′ barrel in 9mm should have a 10-12 lb spring.

We had no way to measure the spring in the gun so I assumed it was 14lbs. I still have it as a back up.  I bought a 12lb spring and proceeded to reserve a lane at the range and check out the gun with the new spring in it. I also had my new XDS with me and several of the guys I know that work at PDHSC wanted to give that a try so I was talking with several folks. The guy that recommended the light recoil spring shot the XDS then asked if I’d picked up a new spring. I proudly said I had: at 12 lbs.

He really thought I ought to go lighter. It would help noticeably with recoil control however it would be tougher on the gun. He explained that I’d need to lubricate the gun well and it would still have parts that would wear more quickly – but if I wanted the gun for competition it might be worth the trade-off for me. He loaned me a 7lb spring. I was amazed at the difference. I went through several drills and all appeared well.

He asked me to replace the spring later when the gunsmith was back but the price for all the advice was the cost of a pink bushing wrench. Now I’m not a fan of pink. I tend to avoid most “girly” looking gun equipment and this was no exception. But it worked well, it was less than $8 and it had a breast cancer fund raising ribbon on the product — so it wasn’t a hard sell. It is larger than my other bushing wrench and it’s very easy to find in a range bag.

I know this because the first stage I shot at the Carolina Cup the next day showed me that the spring wasn’t strong enough to put the gun back into battery after a slide lock reload. There were two reloads required on the first stage I shot. The first time the RSO had to point it out when the gun didn’t go “bang” and the second time I was ready for it. A thump on the back of the slide fixed the issue – with a loss of time on the stage each time.

I excused myself after the stage, went back to my car, used that handy pink bushing “disk” and put the 12 lb spring back in the gun. I had no further issues.

I think I still might pick up a 10 lb spring. At $8 apiece it’s not a big investment. And I’m starting to understand why most of my shooting friends spend the time to experiment with gun modifications.

No 1911 Malfunctions & 5/25 IDPA Match Review

The 1911 and Log Book

The 1911 and Log Book

I shot an unsanctioned IPDA match last at PDHSC. These matches are hosted by Shoot2Live. Last night for the first time since I bought the S&W 1911, I had zero malfunctions during a match. It has malfunctioned in all 5 of the previous matches. I like the weight, the trigger, and the smoothness I feel when running the gun, but I would never trust it as a carry gun for self defense.

Possibly I’m hitting the end of a break in period. I keep a log book with each gun and note when I shoot, how many rounds, a few words about what I did with the gun (practice, match, class) and when/how I clean the gun. From the book I see I’ve put about 2700 rounds through the gun and the last time I field stripped it was 300 rounds ago.

I’m curious to see if this was a one time thing or if it becomes the exception rather than a regular occurrence in the future.

Notes about the match:

  • I arrived at 4:30pm to sign in. The match went till 9:30pm. There are 3 squads and two bays so there is always down time between stages.
  • There was one stage that required shooting with strong hand then weak hand and one stage that required shooting 5 targets on the move. These are things I can practice.
  • One stage involved moving targets: a swinger and a drop turner. These I haven’t figured out how to practice. Since I’m not an RSO it’s not OK to go downrange to set these up when I rent practice time at the range. Possibly I need to book time with an instructor to get more exposure to these types of targets.
  • I’m usually head to bed about 9:30pm,  so I think I’ll opt to shoot more afternoon matches outdoors in the future.



IPDA at PDHSC – April 27th

I haven’t shot an IDPA match at PDHSC since last October. Partly it’s because I’m just not a late night person and the last match I showot went past 10pm. Partly it’s because I have been shooting outdoor matches at The Range or Caswell Ranch. I heard on the Triangle Tactical podcast that the matches at PDHSC were ending much earlier and I wanted to see a shooting buddy I had not seen in much too long, so I headed over to PDHSC and arrived around 4:30pm to sign in for the match.

They will take charge cards so I paid my $15 on plastic and signed up for a squad with my buddy (who is always early). If you are new to shooting matches, they will assign you to a squad. If you want to shoot with a friend, just tell them and it’s usually not a problem.

Then I went back out to the car and “dressed” for the match. I tucked in my shirt tail, put on my belt with two mag pouches and and holster. I’m shooting the 1911. I added my concealment vest. I double checked to make sure the gun was unloaded and the hammer was down. This is how they prefer you arrive for the match. Use the parking lot just the way you would at an outdoor match. Or prep at home before you drive to the range. Space is at a premium in the building and folks unloading guns, or moving guns from range bags to holsters in tight quarters is frowned upon.

During the match, the only shooters permitted to have “live” guns at all times are the Range Safety Offices (RSOs).

I’d pre-loaded all my magazines at home. That is one less things to have to tackle just before the match. I also brought my small match bag instead of my full range bag.

David Bramble runs the match at PDHCS. He always starts off by reviewing the IDPA Four Rules of Gun Safety. He picks competitors to share the rules and that keeps everyone on their toes. He will review other rules that are unique the PDHSC or emphasize rules that have caused competitors to be DQ’d (disqualified) in the past. It’s all about creating an awareness of safety and I agree that can’t be over done.

We had 8 folks on our squad. The last time I shot it was 12. That may be why the matches are ending at a more reasonable hour. We were out by 8:30pm.

How did I shoot? My accuracy is improving but I’m very slow. I was 3rd to last. Sigh. I was very please with the first 5 stages. I shot the first stage clean. I was down 1 on most other stages except for a hit on a non-threat up until the 6th stage. However, I was grossly inaccurate on the last stage. There was a distance target that was in the shadows… and I had a failure to neutralize. Not a happy end to the match.

But I did go. I did shoot. And I’m continuing to learn.

More importantly, I gave a friend a hug who really needed one.