International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA)

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

Do you think you could survive a life or death situation involving a concealed carry firearm? I have been testing my self-defense skills at International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) sanctioned events in my area. IDPA offers an exciting forum for practical shooters in which truly practical equipment, techniques and courses of fire are mandated. The stages were designed so that shooters could use production pistols or revolvers to solve challenging and exciting defensive shooting problems in a familiar everyday setting and help you acquire skills that may keep you alive when you need it the most.

According to the IDPA website, “Common stages found in matches involve you being caught in a convenience store robbery, a home invasion, carjacking, ATM/bank robbery and more. Many scenarios are drawn from newspaper and TV reports. Others are drawn from the stage designer’s imagination in which worst case scenarios are encountered while performing ordinary, everyday tasks or errands.”

I have been placed in a scenario where I had to fight my way from a disabled vehicle while bad guys advanced. I had to draw while still in the passenger seat, take out four targets, then exit and take out four more from over the hood. The last set of two targets had to be taken using my off hand, simulating that my primary strong arm had been shot. The realism can be a little overwhelming to a new shooter though, especially as you could be using an actual van for a vehicle. One wrong move and there is a hole in something it shouldn’t have.

One scenario that sticks in my mind was this; I was leaving the gym and had my duffel bag in hand when a bad guy approaches me. A small rope was attached to me and as I backed up taking the slack out, it triggered the bad guy to attack. I had to then drop the bag and present my firearm, put 6 rounds on target while it is was moving and I was still in retreat. Of course speed and accurate hits count, but missing the target and getting a ‘failure to neutralize’ is the worst possible outcome.

The Texas Star scenario was the worst for me so far because it was set up with 5 – 6-8” steel plates on a 3 1/2-4’ diameter ‘star’ that once you start knocking off plates, gravity pulls the remaining weight and the star rotates, (extremely fast I might add). Combine this with the fact that most of the star is covered and I was shooting through a small window and it made it very difficult to clear them all before I ran out of ammo.

No matter your skill level, IDPA stages are just plain fun to shoot. Read more about IDPA on their website at or visit with your local ranges to see if they sponsor any self-defense scenario shooting courses or other sanctioned matches.

Have fun and be safe shooting.

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