One of my first articles here at American Cop, two years ago, was on competitive shooting. I’m going to touch on it again. And I’ll try to cover what has happened since in matches I’ve shot and some lessons learned.

I have been shooting IDPA matches this whole time. IDPA is the International Defensive Pistol Association. Briefly, it was founded back in the 90s to have competitions that were closer in nature to self-defense situations than IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) or USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) had become over time. There was and is an emphasis on concealing one’s firearm and shooting from “cover.” One’s gun and gear are supposed to be much more oriented to daily concealed carry. This means the various categories have size restrictions, both height and length.


This is not to say that one sport is better than another. Choose the type of sport you want to shoot, and then just go shoot. Get some range time and focused practice in between those matches.

 Speaking of Matches

Where else can you get your match briefing with Kenya’s national IDPA shooting team? At the 2022 National Championship match.

In the last two years, I have attended matches at the local, state, regional, and national levels. Each has a different flavor, and each has been enjoyable in its own way.\

Local Matches

I’ve shot local matches in three different areas now. The most fun thing about this part was seeing the same people again and again. That leads to  …

One stage at a local match, lots of hard left angles – as a left-hander.

The club I have been shooting with for the last several months also hosts the state’s IDPA championships. Taking that role requires them to have several safety officers – range officers elsewhere. Fortunately, they hosted the safety officer class that I had been trying to take for several years.


In 2022, I headed to the Nationals at Cameo outside of Grand Junction. Because of Colorado’s gun control laws, the state has a magazine capacity restriction. And while at least one of the shooting sports organizations was claiming it would not be an issue, who wants to be a test case? Not me. Several of IDPA’s divisions have magazine limits. I shoot Carry Optics, meaning I brought ten-round magazines because that is the limit. Let me say that the Nationals was not my longest match. I managed to break the 180-degree barrier, engaging a target that I thought I had a clean line on.

One stage from the 2022 Nationals with a dropping and turning target.


The 2023 Western Regional match was in California’s Central Valley. Between the number of stages and shooters, my squad shot it over two days – Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. I was squadded, or grouped, with several shooters from the local club I shoot with regularly.

Darryl is shooting one-half of a stage from last year’s Western Regional.

With the state match being hosted by the club, I got to spend a few more days dealing with the match than I normally do. It took us a couple of days to set up the stages, then the staff had a day to shoot the whole match, and finally, one last day working the match for everyone else who was coming out for it. Both the interactions and the insights gained were worth it.

A strong-hand only stage, with lots of movement, from last year’s Western Regional championships.

Shooting & Training Challenges

I’ll touch on two things I am doing decently (more often than not) and my challenges.

Swinging targets. Hate them. Hands down, these are my bane. My first local club did not have any, so the first time I had dealt with them since the California Police Olympics in the 90s was at the 2022 Nationals. And the Western Regionals and the state championships. The club I shoot with now has them, and on Saturday, I was reminded of why I despise them so much. Something I do need to find a way to work on – even if no human moves like that.

However, working on accuracy is paying off – generally, I do ok (with room for improvement) in that area. And the effort I have put into weak hand-only shooting is paying off, too.


Guns & Gear

A nice thing about IDPA is that you don’t need to sink a bunch of money into your gear. 2.0 M&Ps in 9mm are still my pistols of choice. Usually, I will shoot the 4” or 4.25” M&P 2.0 pistols. All of mine are milled for direct mounting optics, either Aimpoint Acros or two Holosun models.

IDPA allows some modifications but not others. Here’s their list.

I covered my selections for holsters in a recent article on gear for classes. Those are what I have been using. Recently, I bought another holster from Carey Concealment that will strictly be for matches – more on it in the future..


Spare Parts

At some point last summer, I used the spare optic battery I kept in the range bag. And, yes, you guessed it – I didn’t replace it. I was shooting a match a few days ago, and my optics had battery issues. Since I didn’t have a spare, it gave me the chance to shoot several stages like I had a downed optic – because I did. The dot came back on mid-match, but by then, I had more than earned my scores. Lesson learned. Spare batteries for everything have been confirmed in all of my match, range, and teaching bags.

At one time, in IDPA, holsters had to be worn behind the strong-side hip. Not anymore.


Fortunately, I can easily buy ammunition by the case now. I have been lucky in that, with one exception: everything I have gotten so far has worked fine in all three of the handguns I use. Cycling and accuracy have been sufficient within the distances common to IDPA.

USPSA’s break down by division. Yes, you can get a full-house racegun or you can shoot what you carry to start.

Final Thought

Find a local club and just start shooting. IDPA or PCSL – Practical Competition Shooting League, USPSA, even an “outlaw” match (one run outside of those associations). Just go do it. It will give you time handling your gun while you solve a problem that someone else created, in front of others, while under time constraints. It sounds like it starts to barely replicate Scott Reitz’s definition of gunfighting – Problem-solving at speed, under duress, and within time constraints.


International Defensive Pistol Association

Pracgical Competition Shooting League

Practiscore – Match sign-ups

United States Practical Shooting Association