Practical shooting is a sport which challenges an individual's ability to shoot rapidly and accurately with a full power handgun, rifle, and/or shotgun. To do this, shooters take on obstacle-laden shooting courses called stages, some requiring many shots to complete and some just a handful. While scoring systems vary between practical shooting organizations, each will measure the speed with which the stage is completed with penalties for inaccurate shooting.
In 1976 an international group of enthusiasts interested in what had become known as practical shooting met in Columbia, Missouri. From that meeting came the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC). In 1984 USPSA was incorporated as the US Region of IPSC. After many years of established IPSC competition, some shooters, including some of the original founders, became dissatisfied with IPSC, as more specialized equipment was required to remain competitive. The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) was formed in the late 1990s with the aim of returning to the defensive pistol roots of practical shooting. Today USPSA and IDPA matches are two of the most popular forums of practical handgun shooting in the United States with more than 14,000 and 11,000 members respectively.
Practical shooting evolved from experimentation with handguns used for self-defense. The researchers were an international group of private individuals, law enforcement officers, and military people generally operating independently of each other, challenging the then-accepted standards of technique, training practices, and equipment. The work was, for the most part, conducted for their own purposes without official sanction. Even so, what they learned changed the face of police and military training forever.
Competition had begun with the leather slap quick draw events of the 1950s, which had grown out of America's love affair with the TV westerns of that era. However, many wished for a forum that would more directly test the results of the experimentation that had been going on in Big Bear, California and many other places. Competitions evolved to test what had been learned, and just for the pure fun presented by what quickly became a sport requiring competitors to deal with constantly changing scenarios while shooting rapidly and accurately with full power handguns.
The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body of a shooting sport that simulates self-defense scenarios and real life encounters. It was founded in 1996 as a response to the desires of shooters worldwide. The organization now boasts membership of more than 13,500, including members in 36 foreign countries.
One of the unique facets of this sport is that it is geared toward the new or average shooter, yet is fun, challenging and rewarding for the experienced shooter. The founders developed the sport so that practical gear and practical guns may be used competitively. An interested person can spend a minimal amount on equipment and still be competitive.
The main goal is to test the skill and ability of the individual, not equipment or gamesmanship. “Competition only” equipment is not permitted in this sport.
The firearms are grouped into five (5) divisions: 1) Custom Defensive Pistol (.45ACP semi-automatics only); 2) Enhanced Service Pistol (9mm (9x19) or larger caliber semi-automatics); 3) Stock Service Pistol (9mm (9x19) or larger caliber double action, double action only, or safe action semi-automatics); 4) Enhanced Service Revolver (.38 caliber or larger double action revolvers); and 5) Stock Service Revolver (.38 caliber or larger double action revolvers). See Appendix One – Equipment for delineations in the revolver divisions. Shooters are then classed by like-skill levels with progression from Novice (NV); to Marksman (MM); to Sharpshooter (SS); to Expert (EX); and, finally, to Master (MA).
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