At the encouragement of a fellow member of The Liberal Gun Club, I signed up to participate in the Tri-County Defensive Pistol League’s February IDPA match. After contacting the event organizer, I signed up for the event through Practiscore a few days before the match, and after a fortifying cup of chai this morning I made my way to the Tri-County Gun Club.
The International Defensive Pistol Association, as its name suggests, focuses on practical self-defense skills and gear, and its match events provide their participants an opportunity to exercise those skills using appropriate hardware in simluated real world scenarios. While the word “match” implies competition, I found the event to be a fantastic learning opportunity and a chance to observe and learn from other members of the firearm community.
All new shooters were required to attend a safety briefing, which lasted almost an hour and a half, which was length-appropriate considering the amount of information being shared. Starting with the Four Fundaments of Firearm Safety, the safety officers covered the particular safety regulations of IPDA and the Tri-County Gun Club, the sequence of the match and its component stages, and the rules of IDPA matches. I should have taken notes, as a number of us noted that some of the match rules differ from what we’d read in the rulebook on IDPA’s website.
A number of core safety rules were repeatedly mentioned as the basis for getting disqualified (or DQ’d) from the entire match. For example, if one were to sweep another person with the muzzle of one’s firearm, that’d be a DQ. Violating the “180 Rule” gets you a DQ. Pointing your firearm over the protective berms of the range would also get you a DQ. All that DQ talk made me think of the disqualified competitor crying over a Blizzard at Dairy Queen. And I didn’t want to be that person.
There were almost 60 participants at the match, and we were organized into 6 teams (or “squads”) and rotated through 6 scenarios (or “stages”) throughout the day. After an all-hands safety briefing, which ended with a gameplan for how to handle an injury due to an unintentional/negligent discharge, each squad went to a range lane and its stage scenario.
Our squad’s first stage (technically the 4th stage in the match’s agenda) had to do with a simulated pawn store robbery. It began with triggering a moving target (a.k.a., the “swinger”), grabbing one’s firearm which starts off on the simulated pawn shop’s counter, then engaging multiple targets while moving through a number of firing and cover positions.
Considering I’d never shot at anything moving before (which is what happens when one practices at a range with static targets), the swinger was definitely something new. Even more important was moving through the scenario with a loaded firearm, being mindful of muzzle and trigger. I’ll admit my marksmanship suffered, as a lot of the slow-and-steady practice that I’d done went right out the window with the movement and adrenaline. On the other hand, I completed the stage without a catastrophic error that would result in a DQ.
The next stage was set in a simulated post office, again with movement and a moving “simulated bad guy” (SBG - my acronym) which was activated by knocking down a metal target.
I used a Sig Sauer P365 9mm micro-compact for the match, which according to IDPA’s taxonomy is a backup gun (BUG). While the P365 can hold up to 15 rounds in a magazine, IDPA’s BUG rules limit a player to 6 rounds per magazine. If you were to engage seven targets in a stage, with three rounds each for the first five targets and one round each for the last two, you’d need 17 rounds (assuming you didn’t miss). So, being limited to 6 rounds per magazine, I would have to reload twice in that stage, which adds a level of strategizing as to shot allocation, target engagement order, and the physical act of swapping magazines, all under a time pressure.
While I’d practiced magazine changes in both “emergency” and “tactical” reload situations, I got to do a lot of both during every stage. One definitely gets an appreciation for what a critical constraint ammunition can be in a self-defense scenario (understatement of the day).
Our third stage was a fairly straightforward 20 yard shoot with a set of one-handed firing from behind cover. While I’d started practicing single-handed shooting at the range fairly recently, it became obvious I needed more work. I also questioned my decision to use a micro-compact when I had to shoot something at 20 yards (I practice mostly at 7 and just started extending that to 10). More things to work on.
Next stage, place 4 rounds in each SBG while not hitting the Simulated Innocent Civilian (SIC). 12 rounds, divided by 6 round magazines, equal one magazine change. No movement required on this one.
Our penultimate stage was a scenario in a simulated parking garage, requiring movement (and not breaking the 180 rule), at least 1 reload, triggering a swinger, and engaging the moving SBG. This is where I got some pointers from the other participants about the need for reloading while moving. Add that to the list of things to work on (it keeps growing!).
The final stage of the day for our squad was a simulated book signing that is beset by multiple SBGs. The interesting twist for this scenario is that one had to remain seated while engaging the targets, and again, given the number of rounds required to complete the stage, I had to reload a number of times.
I’d started the day with two objectives: 1) avoid disqualification and 2) observe and learn from the other participants and from my own actions. I believe I managed both. And as important as those two goals was the fact that I had a freakin' blast. The staff at the match (almost all of whom are TCGC members) were friendly, attentive, observant, and informative. The setup, registration, check-in, orientation, takedown, etc., were all done very efficiently. My fellow participants were an amazing group of folks. My squad in particular was comprised of a mix of demographics and skill levels, and everyone were friendly, giving and receiving feedback freely, and very easy-going.
As much as I have skills that I need to improve and exercises to work on, I think I’m hooked on this, and will definitely go back for the match in March.