This month, I got to explore the world of IPDA from an insider’s perspective. Our readers consistently pose the question of whether competitive shooting has value in law enforcement. In order to answer this question, I spent some range time with Jordan Hall, a rising star in the world of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA).
I’ve known Jordan for several years and he comes by his shooting talent honestly. His mom is a shooter too, although her strong suits include competitive diving and endurance sports. His dad is John Hall, retired ABC Agent and a non-uniform operations expert. John and I have done some concealed carry seminars together and he is the “go-to guy” for this subject matter. Like any dad who is a firearms instructor, his son came with him to range days.
Jordan has been competing IDPA for almost 10 years now, earning a World Title at 18 years old. He’s also captured other coveted titles, consistently scoring high in multiple states. Jordan’s sponsorship includes Houlding Precision Firearms Inc., LR Stone’s in Fresno, and the 14th Canadian Infantry Brigade. The equipment, entry fees and materials to compete are expensive and sponsorships are critical. And the ammo expense can be astronomical.
I’ve been on the range with Jordan before, but this time we had a chance to compare what we do side-by-side. I came with the perspective of a police officer, his perspective: competition.
IDPA is a relatively new shooting sport with competitions designed to simulate real or likely encounters. Competitors can compete with their concealment or duty equipment, using stock firearms.
IDPA answered several concerns of the long-standing International Practical Shooting Confederation. The IPSC predates IDPA and its original charter is similar. IPSC was formed to give shooters a platform to promote practical marksmanship. This differs from static courses where the target occasionally moved, but the shooter never did.
I’ll point out the first major difference between competition and police training, hoping that your department training and competitive shooting don’t differ. If department training and qualification mean that officers stand at the 3-, 5- and 15-yard line and shoot a timed sequence in a two-dimensional way, there is a difference, and it’s the wrong area to deviate. This kind of training or qualification is excellent for defending against cardboard targets that wait for officers to shoot them. If this is appropriate for the agency’s most likely threat, continue the practice.
Other differences include that training (including remediation) and qualification are two separate, equally important, events. Lastly, all qualification should be pass/fail. Competition doesn’t have qualification unless it is a competition that moves a shooter up the classification ladder. Agencies must document all events as training or qualification, including the outcome of these events. This is not only the way to make the program legally defensible; it maintains a standard set by the agency.
Pass/fail qualification protects the officer; it doesn’t establish a hierarchy of abilities in a world where coffee cups have disclaimers stating that the contents are hot. In a pass/fail world, the officer either meets the standard, or he doesn’t.
I was around when IPSC shooting was young and enjoyed matches where accuracy and speed were in high regard. IPSC matches use targets that resemble torsos. Competitors negotiate obstacles, move from position to position, and usually have a mechanical challenge (such as a lever concealing a target) or obstacle during a stage.
IPSC evolved from a viable defensive practice to more of a spectator sport as it gained broad recognition. Today, competitions use equipment that is generally too expensive for the average shooter. After a while, they quit resembling what most of us picture as a defensive handgun. The holsters are unlikely candidates for duty or off duty use. In fact, today’s IPSC holsters are mere platforms that allow for quick presentation—they are not concealable, nor do they protect the user from gun snatches.