In the world of competitive action pistol sports there are two very similar, yet distinctive, sports that stand head and shoulders above the rest. The International Practical Shooting Confederation known by its acronym IPSC (pronounced “ip-sic”) and the International Defensive Pistol Association or IDPA.
Both are time based competitions, in which shooter must engage multiple targets as quickly as possible. In IPSC and IDPA, shooters must shoot in a practical manner, from and around cover, over and under obstacles and barriers, often firing hundreds of rounds. They are both fast paced and very fun sports in which competition can be fierce or relaxed depending on with whom you go compete with.
Formed in 1976, IPSC was founded by a group of shooters including Jeff Cooper, considered the father of modern pistol technique, with the idea of making pistol competition a fast paced sport based on practical shooting skills.
IPSC grew rapidly in popularity and soon shooters from all over the world were engaged in competitions ranging from small local clubs to the international “World Shoot” where the best shooters from around the world compete for the title of world champion.
IDPA began in 1996, as an offshoot of IPSC, when several shooters felt that IPSC was too sporting oriented and wanted to create a competition based on defensive shooting tactics and “real-world” scenarios.
IDPA, though less popular than IPSC, offers more to the shooter looking hone their skills with a pistol, while maintaining a defensive mindset. IDPA is very popular amongst Law Enforcement, Military and Security personnel.
When comparing the two sports the differences are apparent most readily when you look at what the competitors are using equipment wise. Although IPSC has many classes, it’s most popular is the open division in which shooters compete with highly modified pistols.
Often based on the venerable 1911, these custom pistols typically sport compensators to reduce muzzle rise, lightened triggers, flared magwells to aid reloads and red dot optics for faster aiming. The allowance of these modifications makes the sport hard to compete in if you don’t have one of these highly modified “race guns” which can often cost several thousand dollars.
On the flip side, IDPA only allows basically stock guns. Sure a few external modifications are fine, and you’d have to check the rulebook to be sure of what you can and cannot do to your gun. Most guys shoot completely stock guns.
Another interesting facet of IDPA is the fact that most stages require the shooter to begin with a holstered and concealed gun (unless you’re an active LEO or Security Officer, in which case you may shoot using your duty gear). IDPA is focused on sharpening skills useful to those who carry daily or those who want to be ready to defend themselves.
Both are tremendous fun and full of shooters who are more than willing to teach newer competitors. Either way you go you can’t really go wrong. Your best bet would be to get out there and shoot a few matches of each, to see what you prefer. Remember when you’re getting started don’t focus too much on competing against others.
Compete against yourself and soak up all that you can learn, before long you’ll be shooting like a grand master.