This article was something I kind of thought about writing a while back and just forgot about until I was shooting a competition this week at an area range that was a bit of a hybrid between IDPA and USPSA and I got reminded when I watched a buddy shoot the last section of the first stage. For this final section of Stage 1 a shooter was presented with 4 falling steel targets, one of which was behind the other three and was the time stop steel and it had to be the last to fall. My buddy was running the stage solidly and popped one of front 3 steels with a .40S&W 180gr factory round, the steel wobbled and stayed standing but by then he had already moved on and shot the time stopper; so he was forced to take a small time penalty for not knocking down the steel and for clearing them out of order. This reminded me of something I had thought about for a while because he hit this steel center mass and didn’t knock it over with a .40S&W but I popped it once with my 9mm and dropped it; so on that note I figured I would lay out a few tips Ken and I think everyone should follow on how to shoot something like IDPA that is VERY heavy with the rules and procedural violations. and actually gain a positive training effect out of it.
The most obvious one: Shoot your carry pistol in your carry holster with your typical concealment type garment. If you don’t carry a Glock 34 in a minimalist, speed holster while wearing a dumbass brown shooting vest that you starched on your strong-side to make your draw easier in your normal life; don’t shoot it on the range and then tell people you're a 'tactical shooter.'
Shoot falling steel until it’s down, not just until you hit it (see the above example). This is actually a pretty realistic real life scenario; shoot a bad guy with a pistol and he doesn’t stop with just one round. So even if it costs you a couple seconds, pop that steel until it falls for sure before you move on.
Move fast but shoot smooth. If the stage requires you to move from section to section; cover these open spaces as fast as you can, then slow it down and take your time to get solid hits. Movement from cover-to-cover or concealment-to-cover or from an ambush location to cover can definitely separate life’s winners and losers; so shoot smoothly and accurately and when you move, MOVE!
If you drop it, leave it. It happens to everybody, a bad reload and you drop a mag or a mag falls out of your mag holster while you’re running. Forget about it and grab your next mag without stopping or taking your eyes off your target; you can always buy new gear or go pick your stuff after an engagement but you can’t un-shoot yourself if you stop and take your eyes off the bad guy in front of you.
This is not meant to discourage anyone from shooting competitions, on the contrary, its a blast to get a few buddies and go try to rock an IDPA at a local range or something and everyone should feel encouraged to do it. However, the primary positive aspect of competitions are the stress and pressure they put shooters under; forcing them to shoot, move and manipulate all while being seen and judged by all those around them and the timer in the RO/SO's hand.