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I like to shoot. I shoot mostly IDPA matches, but I shoot IPSC matches sometimes too, and I shoot the occasional steel match. I like IDPA and IPSC both. Both are fun and can be great learning experiences. Both have good points and bad points. It should be noted that I don't believe either venue is a substitute for actual training, and shooting in a shooting sport will not make you a gunfighter. Another Good Comparison by Someone Else:
Here is a basic description of both: IDPA Stages are generally short and targets are close (compared to IPSC). The ideals are to set up stages that represent scenarios that could actually happen, although, many times it's a matter of opinion as to whether that actually happens. The majority of the stages should be shot from concealment. Also, in accordance with those ideals, you may only shoot a standard carry type of gun. Limited modifications are allowed, with no competition only modifications or add-ons. Ammo must meet certain criteria also. Guns are divided into five basic groups, and pistols may be in calibers of 9mm/.38 super or larger (generally up to .45 ACP): STOCK SERVICE PISTOL (SSP) Basic service pistols, such as Sig, Glock, Ruger, Beretta, etc. in any caliber of at least 9mm. This would generally include most double action or double action only pistols. The maximum number of rounds allowed is 11 to start and 10 in subsequent magazines. ENHANCED SERVICE PISTOL (ESP) Single action models, such as Browning High Power, SV, STI, Springfiled, Colt, Kimber, etc. in calibers of 9mm/.38 Super or larger. Glocks of any caliber may be shot in this division also. Also, generally, any SSP pistol may be shot in this division if it meets the caliber requirement, but it may be a disadvantage to shoot a double action or double action only in this division as you shoot against mostly single action guns. The maximum number of rounds allowed is 11 to start and 10 in subsequent magazines. CUSTOM DEFENSIVE PISTOL (CDP) Single action models, such as Springfield, Colt, Kimber, etc. in .45 caliber only. Any gun that meets SSP criteria may be shot in this division also, if it .45 caliber. The maximum number of rounds allowed is 9 to start and 8 in subsequent magazines. STOCK SERVICE REVOLVER (SSR) This is simply, revolvers of any caliber. Revolvers may be 5 or 6 shots only, and reloads may be performed using loose rounds or speedloaders. ENHANCED SERVICE REVOLVER (ESR) This is revolvers that hold more than 6 rounds, and shooters can use moon clips. BACK UP GUN (BUG) Back up guns can be single or double action, either pistol or revolver, and be of .32 auto, .380 ACP, 9x19mm, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, 10mm, .45 ACP and meet the following criteria: Pistols must have a barrel length of 3.8 or less (factory installed cone style barrels with or without a barrel bushing are permitted), revolvers a barrel length of 3 or less. Maximum (total) number of rounds that may be loaded into the handgun is five (5). SKILL LEVEL IDPA shooter skill classes, from lowest to highest, are: Novice, Marksman, Sharpshooter, Expert, Master. Skill level is determined by shooting a 90 round classifer match. You can move up in rank voluntarily, by winning matches, or by reshooting the classifier. BASIC RULES There are basic rules that cover what you can and cannot do, some of which are: STAGE DESIGN Stages should resemble a scenario that might actually happen. The maximum number of shots that may be required on any one string of fire is 18. USE OF COVER You may not expose too much of yourself to one target and you may not expose yourself to more than one target at the same time. TARGET ORDER You must shoot targets in the order they are the greatest threat. For purposes of IDPA competition, threat is determinted using one of the following methods: A. If the shooter is not behind cover, threat level is close to far, in relation to the shooter. In other words, a target 5 yards away is a greater threat than 7 yards away. B. If behind cover, threat level is the order targets can be seen as the shooter leans out from behind cover. TARGET SEQUENCE If multiple targets are of equal threat level, they are sometimes engaged in tactical sequence, which means, one shot each, before any target gets a second shot, however, tactical sequence is not required, unless the specific stage description calls for it. SHOOTING ON THE MOVE Usually, if you are not behind cover, you engage targets while moving to cover. In IDPA, while moving means you must actually be in motion while firing the shots. RELOADS You may not drop a loaded magazine. When performing a reload, you must retain the paritally loaded magazine in a vest or pant pocket or waistband. The only time you may drop a magazine is in the event of a slide-lock reload or a malfunction. You may also only carry a limited number of spare reloads. AIRGUNING In IDPA, you are not allowed to "airgun" stages, which means pantomiming the actions of shooting to practice the stage before you shoot it.
IPSC IPSC is geared more toward competition in some ways. IE: No concealment is required and there is no requirement for equipment to be "practical for daily concealed carry" or for stages to represent actual "real-life" encounters. Ammo must meet certain criteria, but in IPSC, you can shoot in Minor or Major caliber depending on the speed and bullet weight combination of your loads. Pistols may be .38 Super or larger and fall into the following general categories. OPEN DIVISION This would include "race guns" which have red dots sights, but red dot sights are not required. Magazines have a length limit, but may hold any number of rounds. LIMITED DIVISION Guns may not use red dot sights, but are allowed more modifications than IDPA divisions. Magazines may hold any number of rounds. LIMITED TEN Single action type guns, similar to the Limited Division, but you are limited to ten rounds. PRODUCTION DIVISION Production type guns, such as Sig, Glocks, etc. Maximum number of rounds is 10 rounds in the gun. Guns in this division may also be shot in Limited or Open. SKILL LEVELS IPSC shooter skill classes, from lowest to highest, are: D, C, B, A, Master, Grandmaster Skill is determined by shooting at least four of eight predesigned stages and submitting your scores to USPSA. You may move up in rank by winning matches, or as determined by USPSA in comparison to other shooters in your rank. BASIC RULES Most IPSC rules are very different from IDPA. Here's a breakdown in comparison to IDPA: STAGE DESIGN It is not required that stages resemble a "real" situation. There is a maximum number of shots allowed, but it's something like 38 or 40, and there are not any stage design requirements. The more targets, the better. USE OF COVER You are sometimes required to have a foot or feet behind cover, but your body may stick out as much as you see fit. Objects of cover are usually used more for shooting position indicators than as actual cover. TARGET ORDER You may shoot targets in any order you choose. There is no assumed "threat level." Target order is strictly up to the shooter, and the order is usually whatever is fastest overall, even if it is not "tactically correct." TARGET SEQUENCE No target sequence required. SHOOTING ON THE MOVE You may shoot on the move if you choose, or you may stop and shoot, even if not behind cover. RELOADS You may perform any type of reload you choose at any time. No retention is required. You may carry as many spare reloads as you can fit on your person. AIRGUNNING In IPSC, you can airgun all you want, take personal walk-throughs at each stage and practice the stage before you shoot.
BASIC DIFFERENCES AS I SEE THEM Note that I don't believe that either sport is better than the other. They are simply different, and each has its own good points and bad points. Also note that, contrary to what some people say or imply, there is no requirement to use race equipment in IPSC. I shoot both disciplines with the exact same gun, which also happens to be the exact same gun I carry. In IDPA, you are normally required follow a prescribed course of fire, to shoot targets in a certain position or from a certain place, as described by the course designer, based on his idea of what is tactically correct. In IPSC, you may normally shoot the course of fire in any order you see fit, even if it is not "tactically correct." IDPA stages generally involve using cover and specific tactics, where IPSC stages usually do not involve cover, or when they do, cover is more optional in that you don't necessarily have to be behind cover when you shoot. IPSC is more of a "yank and crank" sport, where the goal of the stages is simply to see how fast you complete stages, or more specifically, to see how fast you can shoot, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else, the theory being that the only thing that ever determines the outcome of any gunfight is how fast you can crank the trigger, where IDPA focuses more on completing stages as quickly as possible while incorporating specific tactics, the theory being that under some circumstances, tactics can be more important than raw speed. The only thing I don't like about IDPA is you are sometimes forced to shoot a stage based on what the course designer thinks is the best way to shoot it. The course designer may have you perform a reload in place, or shoot targets in an order that doesn't make "tactical" sense. In IPSC, you can shoot the stage any way you see fit, and make your own decisions about what you think is proper.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS 1. IDPA is better than IPSC or vice-versa. That's just simply an opinion. They are different, but I personally don't consider either one to be better and neither will make you a steely-eyed gunfighter. 2. IDPA is too "slow." Some shooters think IDPA is too slow because you can't shoot as fast. This isn't necessarily true. IDPA is slower, in part, because shooters are required to incorporate certain tactics into the stage, such as shooting from cover. The misunderstanding comes from failing to see that if a person is using cover correctly, the shooting will be slower than if the shooter is standing out in the open just hosing targets, but as far as speed goes, you can shoot at each individual target as fast as you can crank the trigger. Another reason IDPA is slower is because some shooters try to compare race guns to non-race guns. By defintion non-race guns are going to be slower than race guns. Even in IPSC, people shoot non-race guns slower than race guns. 3. It's better to compete in IPSC and be a fast shooter. Well, please define the term "better." I'd rather practice with the equipment I actually carry daily. I don't care how fast I can shoot something I won't have with me. 4. I shoot in "X" sport, so I'm more prepared for a real gun fight. I hope you don't really believe this, but I hear people saying it all the time. No sport will make you a steely-eyed gunfighter. Neither IPSC or IDPA is real life, and neither one is better than the other, and I'm not implying either one is, but you can shoot either one the way you see tactically sound. Use concealment garments even when they are not required, use cover even when not required, shoot targets on the move when not required but it makes more sense, etc. I hear people all the time say "It's not competition to me, it's training," or some such statement, yet these same people don't follow the suggestions I just made. They shoot from non-concealment if concealment isn't required, and anything else that may be faster, just because it's faster to get a better score. If it isn't competition and your score really doesn't matter to you, then shoot the stages correctly, whether it's IDPA or IPSC, or quit making stupid statements and just shoot for the best possible score you can get. I'll be the first to admit I enjoy the competition, although that isn't the only reason I like to shoot matches. Don't frown on either discipline. Any trigger time can be good trigger time. Both disciplines help shooters learn gun handling and gun safety skills (which most people don't have), and allow shooters to get used to the idea of actually having to use their gun if necessary. Again, I do not think competition is real life, but shooting in competition allows you get some semi-practical use of the pistol. Most people never practice drawing the gun or anything else related to "real world" shooting, such as engaging multiple targets, which is much more common than most people think, moving while shooting, or using cover. I do not believe that you must shoot in competition to be able to survive a real encounter, but I do believe if you never practice anything other than bulls-eye type shooting, you are not as prepared as you think you are. I have found, the more someone thinks they are a great gunfighter, the more they find out how wrong they are when they try to shoot something practical. The argument against it I've heard is, "Well, real life is nothing like a pistol match" and that is absolutely correct, but if you can't handle your gun under the extremely light stress of a match, what makes your think they will be able to handle it under the life threatening stress of a real encounter, while be shot at? If you have never shot a match, you will be amazed how easy it is to forget things like how to load, reload, clear malfunctions, hit the target, etc. Robert V. Robinson My Experience and Training: