Shooting the IDPA Classifier

IDPA Target

Regular readers of the blog should be familiar with my recent adoption of IDPA as an alternative form of self-defense practice.  Having joined IDPA and taken my local club’s safety course as well as shooting in two club level matches (see here and here), I was eager to shoot the IDPA Classifier to see where I “rank”.

What is the Classifier?

For those who do not know, the IDPA Classifier is a standard set of shooting strings divided into three larger stages.  No matter where one shoots the Classifier, the strings and stages are the same.  Each stage consists of a total of 30 rounds, so by the end of the Classifier, the participant will have shot 90 rounds.  Depending on the division in which you are seeking classification, there are different score requirements to be classified as either Novice, Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, or Master.  Every member of IDPA is supposed to shoot the Classifier at least once per year.

Course of Fire

The course of fire for the classifier is easy enough to find online in written form or on YouTube in video form (this is the best video I have found), so I am not going to list it all here.  The idea behind the Classifier is that it incorporates strings that are typical for an IDPA match.  These include shooting multiple rounds at multiple targets, shooting at targets of different heights, head shots, strong-hand only shooting, weak-hand only shooting, shooting while moving forward, shooting while moving backwards, the El Presidente drill, shooting around cover (both sides), shooting in “tactical priority”, slide-lock reloads, “tactical” reloads (reloads with retention), and shooting from the kneeling position.   Unlike IDPA matches, no cover garments are utilized when shooting the Classifier.


Like the other matches I had so far attended, I arrived well before the match was scheduled to begin.  The good thing about the Classifier is that, unless you are brand new, everyone knows the setup of the courses of fire, so we were able to set up quickly.  At this club, the directors chose to use the three bays to set up three Classifiers, i.e. there were identical setups in all three bays.  This allowed the organizers to break up the thirty participants into three squads of ten each, getting us all through the Classifier in about two hours.  This was helpful on yet another hot Saturday.

Once the setting up was complete, we had the standard safety brief and then got jocked up to shoot.  Of the thirty participants, all but one was male.  Like me, several of the shooters were shooting their first Classifier.


I used the same equipment—minus cover garment—that I had used in my two prior matches.  This included my Ares Gear Enhanced Aegis belt, slightly modified F3 Slide Modular Holster, and no-name kydex magazine carrier (Raven Concealment clone).  I would be using my Generation 3 Glock 19 with Ameriglo I Dot Pro Sights.  Ammunition was 124 grain Blazer Brass. 

I should note here that I would be shooting the Classifier for the Stock Service Pistol (SSP) division.  Experienced IDPA shooters may marvel at my choice to utilize a Glock 19 for this division (especially with a Glock 17 available at home), since the Glock 19 can also qualify for the Conceal Carry Pistol (CCP) division.  Since the CCP division has slightly more lenient “thresholds” for the different levels of mastery, it might have made more sense to register in CCP.  However, I have so far shot—and in the future plan to continue to shoot—SSP in actual matches, since it is the division that allows you to shoot with the highest capacity magazines, just like those I typically carry.  In the grand scheme of things it probably does not matter much, and in future Classifiers I may try CCP or even Back Up Gun (BUG) divisions.

The Match

Going into the match I figured I would probably shoot at the Sharpshooter level.  I figured Expert was probably a little beyond my current reach, and that if I had a particularly bad day I might be classified Marksman.  And I decided that if I classified as a Novice, I might just put a 91st round through my brain (just kidding!).

Talking to some more experienced shooters during the match was interesting, because they tend to know what score they need in each stage in order to achieve their overall goals.  Having not done this before, I had no idea what I might “need” at each stage along the way.

In stage one, I showed fairly well.  Unfortunately, I committed the cardinal sin that I was warned of in String 4, missing two of the six head shots.  I really should have taken my time just a bit more, but I rushed it. 

Stage two was my best stage, finishing this stage down only six total points.

In Stage three, I inexplicably missed the entire silhouette of one of the targets—twice—shooting from around the barricade at 20 yards.  I found this completely inexcusable and embarrassing (not that anyone besides me and the guy who scored my target noticed).  I expected more of myself.  I believe both shots that I threw were on the third target when I had to shoot from the more awkward side of the barricade.


After cleaning up and policing brass, I chose not to hang around to wait for my score, but instead get on the road, figuring I would check my score online once posted.  By about 7 PM that night I learned that I shot a 137.77, which placed me 5th overall (across divisions) and 2nd of 15 in SSP.  So, overall, I did a bit better than I had thought I had when I left the match.  The dividing line between Sharpshooter and Marksman in SSP is 140, so I made it into Sharpshooter by a little more than two seconds.


Despite my four flat-out misses that cost me ten seconds off my final score, I must have been shooting at a reasonable pace and accuracy level over most of the match.  My reloads were a little slower than I would like, and I need to work on my weak-hand shooting a bit (although only three rounds are fired weak-handed in the Classifier, so it’s not that big of a deal). 

As future Classifiers are scheduled, I will consider shooting in other divisions.  As noted above, CCP would be one option, especially since the threshold for Expert is lower than for SSP (115 for CCP as opposed to 110 for SSP), and I am shooting a Glock 19 anyway.  BUG is another option, and I often shoot my Glock 26 about as well as my Glock 19, so there may be potential there for an Expert rating.

Having said all of that, I do not plan to pursue “Expert” at all costs.  IDPA continues to remain a means for me to get some practice outside the square, rules-heavy ranges that I frequent.  It provides a chance to move while shooting, shoot quickly, work my draw, shoot from around cover or from positions not permitted at most ranges (kneeling, etc.).  I know of people who practice the Classifier in order to score higher.  To me, this makes no sense.  I regard the Classifier as a standard metric to provide a snapshot of one’s performance level at a particular point in time.  At least for me, it is not an end in of itself, but merely provides information about my current skill level.  This is even truer for me since I do not plan to ever shoot beyond the club level. 

Depending on the weather, I do not see myself shooting more than two more matches this calendar year just due to scheduling through Autumn.  As always, I will keep our readers posted on my progress.   Please comment below or on our new Facebook page (there’s a little Facebook button at the top of this page).  Thanks again for reading!

3 thoughts on “Shooting the IDPA Classifier

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