Training is an important part of everyone’s life. No matter what you do in life, you train for it. Some people train at sitting on the couch and watching TV. That isn’t quite as useful as someone who trains at surfing the internet (I’m pretty sure I’m well on my way to becoming a pro at that) but the really useful training is what I want to talk about.
Directed training. Training with a plan. Training that you continue to practice and hone on a regular basis in a controlled environment.
When it comes to preparedness, there are any number of skills that can be improved dramatically with just a bit of training, and lost fairly quickly if that training is discontinued. Defensive pistol shooting is one of those skills.
Most preparedness-minded individuals agree that personal and family protection in the form of a firearm is a very important part of being prepared, right up there with food and first-aid. Far too many people however simply purchase a pistol and a few boxes of ammunition and call it done.
Even if you have the right equipment it is useless if you cannot reliably and successfully employ it when needed. An unplanned trip to the range to shoot off 150 rounds slow-fire at a bulls-eye target helps. A little. A very little.
The primary problem is that the majority of ranges do not allow shooters to practice draws from concealment or transitions from target to target. There are many reasons for this: safety and insurance restrictions to name but a few. Most ranges have a hard enough time keeping people from shooting the paper-hangers.
How do you get started? Where can you go to learn and practice defensive pistol techniques? The first step should be research and find a knowledgeable teacher and to enroll in a defensive pistol course. There are literally hundreds of places with quality instructors where you can get started. But once you’ve spent a weekend learning the basics, where can you go to practice?
If you do not have a range near you with open bays that allow moving and shooting and drawing from concealment, one of the best ways I’ve found to get at least a little bit of practice is to join IDPA. The International Defensive Pistol Association is an action-pistol league run by Bill and Joyce Wilson of Wilson Combat fame, and is based out of Berryville Arkansas. The league was started by Bill Wilson, Ken Hackathorn, and Larry Vickers as an alternative to IPSC and USPSA, which had turned into “gun races” with highly specialized speed-draw holsters, highly-tuned race guns, and custom ammunition. The purpose of IDPA is to provide a environment where competitors can hone their defensive pistol skills utilizing “stock” equipment that would be suitable for concealed carry.
A quality holster like this one from Comp-Tac is perfect for both IDPA and daily concealed carry.
While IDPA competition and training does much good in enhancing valuable skills and further ingraining the muscle memory necessary for a rapid draw and presentation, it is not without some drawbacks. The primary problem many people have experienced when attending their first few matches begins with the discovery that the firearm and holster they have already purchased do not conform to the guidelines set forth in the IDPA rule book.
With few exceptions, to compete in IDPA you need a plastic or Kydex IWB strong-side holster, or an OWB holster that fits your belt like a glove, and that can be reholsterd easily. This eliminates most leather IWB holsters as being suitable for use. Other holsters that require the muzzle to be swept around for proper presentation such as a shoulder holster, crossdraw, or small of the back holster are are all illegal (and may actually be unsafe) for competition.
Many popular defensive pistols are disqualified, or must be handicapped, right out of the box. My Para Ordnance 14.45 (legal for use in ESP or CDP) for example is not allowed to be loaded to full capacity in any IDPA competition. Common modifications such as sights or pinned grip safeties are also illegal. In fact, I’m pretty sure even modifying a Series 80 1911 by removing the firing pin block in order to get a smoother trigger is illegal in CDP.
In addition, with the exception of the occasional back-up gun or “BUG” match, subcompact and smaller firearms that are the most popular for concealed carry are, where legal, uncompetitive, if not outright banned from regular competition for failure to make power factor or other reasons.
We understand that at the end of the day, IDPA is just another “gun game” with the rules necessary to level the playing field for competitors. But for those seeking just a chance to run their defensive pistol setup under the stress of the timer, and with so many rules complicating things and forcing competitors to act in ways they would never act in a true self-defense situation, is it really worth all the trouble?
We spoke with IDPA 5-gun master and spokesman Caleb Gidddings of Gun Nuts Media to get his take on the situation, and to understand further what IDPA has to offer.
The bottom line in any self defense situation where you need to actually fire your gun is to get rounds on target as quickly and as accurately as possible. On top of that, you need to be able to judge in a split second whether accuracy or speed is going to be the more critical component in that situation. Shooting IDPA helps prepare you for that eventually as the critical components of shooting such as sight alignment and trigger control are reinforced under simulated stress. IDPA isn’t teaching you tactics, but it is teaching you to be a better shooter. To my knowledge, no one who has ever survived a gunfight has wished at the end of it that they were less competent with a handgun.
Plinking mediocre groups with your Bersa .380 or Hi-Point won’t really make you a better shooter. Competing will.
Caleb makes some good points. At the end of the day, the skills you pick up learning rapid magazine changes, target transition, quick draws and accurate presentations are all things that you will be able to use with few changes from setup to setup. Whether you’re shooting a Glock or a 1911, carrying a Kel-Tec P3AT or a full size FNP-45 Tactical handgun, the basic skills all still apply.
There’s an old saying, “Beware the man with only one gun; he probably knows how to use it.” Yes, it’s true that minor changes in holster, the location (or lack) of a safety, and the size of the pistol will all affect the speed and accuracy of your shooting. But if you have the basics down, you’ll be well ahead of 99% of all gun owners out there.
Don’t be afraid to change up your carry rig. If you carry concealed from day-to-day one way, and shoot IDPA another, you’ll still be just fine should you ever need to deploy your firearm.
Like all organized shooting competitions, IDPA is just another “gun game”, but it’s one specifically oriented towards concealed carry, and one where you can learn a lot and hone the skills you learn in basic defensive pistol courses in a safe and controlled environment. You can find an IDPA league near you on their website at IDPA.com.