Followers of the blog are no doubt aware of my relatively recent interest in IDPA. Our readers are also aware that I took an IDPA safety course that a local club requires of all potential IDPA shooters. On Saturday, I got to return to the club to shoot in my first IDPA club match.
Readers of the blog may also recall a previous mention I made of my friend Rick, a long-time competitive shooter who lives nearby. It was the same Rick who I observed at a Three-Gun match back in mid-June. Rick also shoots IDPA, so we chose to carpool to the match together. This gave me a chance to pick Rick’s brain just a bit about what to expect at my first match.
It’s easy to try to sound humble afterwards, but I voiced my goals to Rick during the car ride to the match. My goal was to do as well as possible without disqualifying. Though there are no rules in a gunfight, there are many pages of rules in the IDPA rulebook. Breaking some of the “procedural” ones might earn you some penalties; break their safety rules, and you are disqualified.
Secondary goals for me included learning how everything at this club works, meeting the important people and as many of the other competitors as possible, and just generally gaining confidence in the whole process.
We arrived around 9 AM, as required, to help set up the match. Club matches at this venue generally seem to follow the format of six total stages, two each in three different “bays”. Due to the incredibly high heat and humidity (what the hell is a “heat dome”???), only 16 shooters would be competing on this day (when I attended the safety class, the match that day had 27). I had brought well over one gallon of water plus a 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade (I had frozen several of them the night before), but after 45 minutes or so of setting up the stages, I’d already drained close to half of my water and was sweating profusely.
After set up, we did the match safety brief (led by the match director, Bill, the same guy who had conducted my safety class two weeks before). After the safety brief, which they spent a little extra time on because there were at least 5 new shooters there, we did the stage walk-throughs and then broke up into our three squads. I would be in the first squad.
I chose to shoot this match in the SSP (Stock Service Pistol) division. Though there were no sticklers running around checking everyone’s equipment, I chose to play by the rules and replace the Vickers/Tango Down extended slide-stop/release in my Glock 19 with the factory model. I used my Glock 19 with Ameriglo I Dot Pro sights, Blazer Brass 124 grain ammunition, my slightly modified F3 Holsters Slide Modular OWB holster, no-name kydex double magazine pouch, and my Ares Gear Enhanced Aegis Belt. Due to the weather conditions, the match director decided that we would shoot without cover garments if we so chose. I doffed my Eddie Bauer camera vest like it was on fire. I should also mention that the cost of these matches for non-club members (such as myself) is $20.
Unfortunately, due to some prior bad experiences with photos posted on the web, club rules do not allow for video or even still camera shots of the matches. I feel it would be a disservice to our readers for me to attempt to describe, in minutia, every stage of the match. Instead, I will just provide some highlights.
Stage one involved moving back and forth parallel to all the targets set about 18 yards away. The shooter had to move continuously while shooting two rounds each at a total of seven targets, some of which would only be visible from certain positions of movement. My accuracy here was excellent, but I completely missed seeing one of the targets and therefore suffered some sort of “failure to engage” penalty. I even hit two of the targets in their heads, which was not specifically called out for in the instructions (due to my lack of height, it was about all I could see of those particular targets).
Stage two was just three targets set up right next to each other, though at slightly different heights, at a distance of about 25 yards. This was a limited stage where the shooter would shoot only 12 rounds total, six from one side of cover and six from the other side. When shooting from the weak-hand side, the shooter had to, by rule, switch hands (but could still shoot two-handed). I dropped just a couple of points on these shots, ranking 3rd overall on this stage.
Stages 3 and 4 did not involve drawing from the holster. Instead, the shooter would have to retrieve his pistol from the top of a barrel and load it, then move in a diamond pattern around 4 barrels while engaging a total of 6 targets with 2 rounds each in order (i.e., every target gets one round before any get two). Both of these were limited stages that had to be shot with two magazines of 6 rounds each, and only really differed in the movement patterns required. Unfortunately for me, I had errors on both stages. On the first of these stages, I had an inexplicable failure to fire. Once I did my tap-rack malfunction clearance, ejecting the round in the chamber, I no longer had enough rounds to engage all the targets. I found the round later and it did not have a primer strike, so I have no idea what happened. On stage 4 I managed to load one magazine with 7 rounds and the other with 6. As I was squeezing off round number 7, I recognized that my pistol did not lock back after 6,. I made up for it by only shooting 5 out of the second magazine, thus only suffering one procedural penalty instead of two. But it was still a dumb mistake.
Stage 5 involved two different strings. On the first, we had to hold a briefcase in our weak hand while shooting three different targets with two shots each—from retention—from a distance of one yard. The second string was identical except now the shooter would be moving backwards while shooting with one hand (and could extend the arm rather than shoot from retention).
Stage 6 was the most involved and was the only stage that included a foot-pedal operated “now you see it—now you don’t” target as well as two targets partially hidden behind a “no shoot” target.
I finished the match 6th of 16 overall; of those shooting SSP, I was 4th of 10. As such, I definitely eclipsed my primary goal. I should note that the other four new shooters, who were all in the same safety class as myself two weeks before, finished in positions 13-16. I was happy with my accuracy; there’s always room for improvement, of course, but it was mainly procedural issues that kept me from finishing even higher. As I learn more about how to compete, I would expect the procedural issues to go down considerably. I shot a total of 77 rounds in the match; typical match round counts are a bit higher, up in the 90s, but again, due to the weather, the match director had reduced the round count in order to get us all out of the heat sooner. As it happened, the reduced round count and the small number of competitors allowed us to wrap up about 45 minutes earlier than planned.
Just before leaving, I approached Bill—who in addition to being match director was also the range officer for my squad—and asked him how I “showed”. He said that he thought I did a great job, went just slow enough to not get caught up in safety issues, shot well, assisted when needed (I ran the clock for a few stages), etc. He asked if I would be back and I replied in the affirmative.
I had a great time at my first match. I learned a number of competitor’s names, “bonded” with others in the heat during setup and takedown, shot pretty well, and learned a lot. I have a few issues with what IDPA considers good “tactics”, but that will be the subject of a future article. Shooting in a match like this does allow me the chance to do a lot of things that I cannot normally do: shoot quickly, shoot from retention, shoot on the move, shoot from “cover”, etc.
I should note that, unusual for me, I was never really nervous. I expected the nerves to appear at my first match and my brains to scramble when I heard the buzzer, but it never happened. Perhaps I have practiced enough with a shot timer that it didn’t really affect me. Or, maybe it was the fact that everything I had ever heard about how helpful and friendly people are at these matches was true, allaying my fears. Whatever it was, I am very happy with my first match. Despite the heat, it was a favorable experience and I look forward to shooting in another match in the near future.