So, IDPA matches provide a key thing: regular practice. Once most officers get out of the academy, it is up to their department to establish regular firearms training. Tight budgets and hectic schedules result in huge gaps between range sessions. Even when officers do get to the range, it is usually just to qualify. In other words, you are called upon to demonstrate proficiency with your weapon on an established course of fire. You don't really learn anything new; you just show the brass that you can hit the target the required number of times. Real skill maintenance requires much more than that. Most active IDPA clubs hold matches once a month. Some even meet weekly for mini-matches. I've attended matches at indoor ranges, where they were cramped for space, but still managed to set up three low or no-light stages.
When was the last time you worked on your low light shooting? How often do you work in low light conditions? I've shot at matches that have as many as eight stages. Each stage in an IDPA match is intended to be a representation of some real world use of force scenario. There are some limitations, of course. Concessions have to be made for range safety reasons, but still, there is always something to be learned. That's an important part of the IDPA experience. You have to think your way through the stages. In the course of a well designed match, you'll be shooting from a variety of positions, using cover appropriately, identifying appropriate targets, shooting and moving, shooting with one hand, shooting at moving targets and shooting with both speed and accuracy - all this while SAFELY handling your firearm. It is challenging and it is fun. It is also serious practice. One of the things that we use in our classes is a computer analogy. One of the more unpleasant messages we get from our computers is File Not Found. We were hoping something was there, but the computer never had any input on the subject, hence it has no output when you need it. It is the same with your on-board computer: the standard issue brain.
If you have been exposed to something, in theory, or better yet, in practice, your brain should find that file when you need it. In the midst of a fight for your life is not the time for your brain to respond File Not Found. Who knows what stage in an IDPA match may one day be the one that triggers the realization: "Hey, I've seen this before. I can handle this!" In addition, how many of you get to practice on a range where you can draw smoothly, move and shoot quickly, reload rapidly and get immediate feedback about how well you are doing all of these things? A colleague of mine, Chris Christian, made an excellent point during a recent podcast we were recording. If you did those things at most ranges, you'd get thrown out. Many ranges don't allow moving, working from a holster, or so-called "rapid fire." Such things only happen at the matches, so that's where you need to be.
At the monthly shoots I regularly attend, the First Coast IDPA Match Director, Dr. Ed Sevetz, is a firearms instructor for a local county sheriff's department. Out of a typical match attendance of 60 to 70 people, we usually only see a handful of cops. I asked Ed, and also a retired colleague of his (who was also a firearms instructor and special teams member) why we don't see more cops at matches. Well, time and money were certainly a factor, but we agreed on one reason that should give us all pause: the cops don't want to embarrass themselves. Yep, that's it: Ego. Many cops realize that their skills aren't what they ought to be. They also realize that there are ordinary citizens out there who are better gun handlers than they are. That's a tough one to swallow, being that the police are supposed to be the gun pros.
Folks, for your own sake, as well as the people of your community, suck it up, check your ego at the door and go improve yourselves. I know of one officer who is an outstanding shooter and a firearms instructor for his very large state agency. He never finds time to go to a match. His father attends almost every month. His brother, who is with another state-wide agency, makes it as often as his schedule allows. He's a good shooter also, and he always has a great time. In fact, I think it's an eye opener for a lot of cops who do make the effort when they realize that there are a lot of really good people out there with guns. They take their training seriously and have an excellent appreciation for the tough job that the police have to do every day.