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Old April 25, 2012, 03:01 PM   #20
Senior Member
Join Date: April 6, 2007
Posts: 152
I'm a frequent IDPA shooter and Safety Officer Instructor, so I'm going to chime in here.

I was planning on shooting at the one in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the end of April. But now I'm a little confused. Since i've never shot a match with IDPA, do I have to shoot a qualifier first?
No. Shooting the Classifier allows you to be placed in a class where your scores are only compared against others in your class. Without a Classifier, you will shoot as "Unclassified." Almost all local matches will not have a problem with you being unclassified, but you will not be able to shoot a major/sanctioned match until you receive a classification.

Technically, IDPA requires you to shoot a Classifier at least once a year to make sure you are in the Class appropriate to your skill level. I am not aware of this ever being enforced, though.

As a fellow noob to IDPA, I shot my first match a week ago, I can tell you one thing: slow down! It took me about 3 stages to really slow down my mind and just do one thing at a time.
Yes. The #1 thing I tell new competitors is to do everything in slow motion. Concentrate A) on safety, and B) on being smooth. Do NOT try to go fast or win.

Even experienced shooters will tell you that the things change the first time that buzzer goes off behind your ear, and it becomes more difficult to focus on things that seem so easy when you are practicing at home or standing on a static firing line. You have to balance mechanics, safety, precision, speed, and process, and that is a lot to juggle when you are not used to it. So GO SLOW until safety and process are so familiar that you don't have to think about them anymore.

Now that I've done it once, I'll be much faster next time.
Not to be a Nervous Nellie, but I would encourage you to wait until you have at least 4-5 matches under your belt before you start thinking about going faster. Again, allow yourself time to develop some muscle/process memory. Let those things start to become instinctive before you start to push on the accelerator.

Remember that people at matches won't slam you for being slow, but they will climb all over you for being unsafe. Nobody judges the "Noob" because they take too long. But they definitely won't forget you when your muzzle sweeps them or you lose control of your gun.

I learned a ton and had to adjust some things I had been already been taught. The first thing I had to alter was my speed reloads. I was taught to reload a semi auto with the gun up close to my sight line, muzzle oriented almost straight up in the air. This was a no-no on the range we shot on because of the backstop.
I've seen ranges that have that restriction, but most that are competition-oriented don't. High-end shooters do their reloads with the gun up in their face because it puts the mechanical process right in your sight box and it is physically more efficient for re-acquiring the sights rather than bringing the gun up from stomach/belt level.

But ranges get to decide what they will/won't allow, so you have to learn to live with their limitations.

Second thing I learned and changed was my movement from point to point. I was often too slow moving between cover. I started running on the later stages and it did shave some seconds off my times.
Actually, what is the biggest cause of inefficiency is the hesitation that most newer competitors exhibit when they finish an engagement at a cover position (or empty their gun and need to reload). Good shooters know when they need to move (or reload) and transition into the movement immediately and without hesitation. (I always look over a course of fire and immediately plan when my reloads are going to take place.)

Additionally, it is important to teach yourself to eliminate inefficiencies when arriving at a shooting position. Many shooters will run to a barricade, come to a stop, scoot over a few inches, bring their hands up from belt level, and then start acquiring the target. Instead, they should be trying to come to a stop at the optimum spot from which to shoot, and should be starting to acquire a sight picture as they come to a stop. Don't get there and start to aim. Aim as you are getting there.

The final big thing I learned was how to use cover in a way that satisfied the rules of the game. I kept putting my foot or leg too far out and it cost me some penalties. I got better as the match progressed, but early on I did it wrong a lot.
Rule of thumb: if both feet are hidden from the target you are shooting, then you are using cover correctly. There are exceptions to that rule, but that is pretty much a good guideline.

I only have the two original magazines that came with my gun. Do I need a third one? If so will have to get one.
Pretty much the answer is "yes." IDPA has an 18-round max on the required # of rounds in a stage, but that assumes that you don't miss and no reloads are mandated during a course of fire. But the reality is that you are going to enjoy the day more if you have that third mag.

Watch yourself with that Serpa holster. They are fine to use in IDPA, but be extremely mindful that you don't let your trigger finger slip into the trigger guard on the draw.
Yes i have practiced around the house -dry fire - with the holster and am mindful never to put my finger in the trigger until ready to fire.
Serpas are developing a bad reputation, but there are lots of people that believe they are perfectly safe. I will tell you that even experienced shooters have used them incorrectly, with a negligent discharge being the result. I shot a match last year where a 1911 shooter put a round into his lower leg during a draw. Granted, this required a User Headspace Error in two areas (finger on the trigger and the safety while the gun was pointed in an unsafe direction), but this guy was former Army Special Forces and a current law enforcement officer.

In a conversation with the match director afterwards, we came to the conclusion that the Serpa became an issue when the shooter was taken out of his comfort zone. The stage required some uncommon method of movement before drawing the gun. What it appears is that the shooter didn't disengage the Serpa correctly on the first try, so he jammed his finger down on the release button on the second try. As a result, the direction of force drove his finger into the trigger guard has the weapon cleared the holster.

Flipping the safety off also was just a dumb*** move, but the question is will you do or not do correctly when you are stressed and trying to hurry. Even an experienced shooter can mind fart. So if you use a Serpa, practice, practice, practice (including trying some uncommon things like lying/sitting down, turning, etc.). And if you are just starting in IDPA/competitive shooting, I would strongly encourage you to choose something other than a Serpa until you get some experience with the game.

Finally, if anyone needs an introductory piece on getting into IDPA, we put one on our club website:
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