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Advice on IDPA vs USPSA for Beginner?

Discussion in 'Competition Shooting' started by LRDGCO, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. LRDGCO

    LRDGCO member

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    I shoot SASS, but the gilding has come off the lily a bit. I also shoot local level BPCR comps. And I have shot competitive sporting clays for a number of years.

    I am not a great pistol shot. Well, come to mention it, not a great rifle shot either ;) But definitely better with a rifle and shotgun.

    Nevertheless, I am interested in another competitive shooting sport. I have absolutely no experience with IDPA or USPSA. My internet research thus far seems to suggest that IDPA might be a better place to start ? I certainly don't wish to start an argument about which discipline is the "best".

    Rather, as a new to both disciplines chap, which one might be the best way to get one's feet wet sort of thing, or, is there really no difference?

    Thanks very much.
     
  2. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I'm definitely a USPSA guy, so bear that in mind. But here's how I'd break it down:

    • Do you want your practical pistol game dressed up with things that make it at least notionally seem like tactical training, or would you rather it just be a plain old game? USPSA is more open about it being a game, IDPA has various "realistic" aspects added, like fishing vests and rules against reloading before the gun is empty (don't ask me).
    • Do you want to be given a wide degree of freedom in figuring out how to solve the problems presented by the stage, or do you want lots of explicit instructions on how the stage must be shot (e.g., targets must be shot in a particular order)? USPSA is expressly a "freestyle" game, which means you get to come up with the stage plan that you think will work best for you; IDPA has a lot more rules and instructions.
    • Does shooting a 30+-round course of fire (in much less than a minute) sound like a lot of fun shooting, or a big and unrealistic hassle? USPSA has a wide variety of stage/course length, but will generally run longer than IDPA, which (IIRC) has an 18-round maximum.
    • Both games require a balance of speed and accuracy, but do you want that balance to be tilted heavily towards an accuracy requirement? USPSA's hit factor (points-per-second calculation) system lets competitors trade off a little more between these two, while IDPA's time-plus scoring really emphasizes putting 2 (or whatever the required number of shots is per target on the stage) in the A-zone.
    • Does an environment where at least some of the competitors have purpose-built "race guns" sound like interesting exposure to shooting equipment and technology you've never seen in the store or in magazine ads, or an unrealistic affront to your tactical operator soul? USPSA matches have a lot of different equipment divisions, so there are plenty of service-type pistols, but they will also feature Open guns and raced-out PCC's, etc. IDPA is mostly going to have black pistols.
    • Which type of fellow-competitor will be least enjoyable to you: Unabashed gamers, who will generally have an irreverant attitude that sometimes can verge on real-life-trolling each other; or gruff "sheepdog" types who want to threat-scan before reholstering (on a range full of people with guns, so what are they looking for)? USPSA will get you more of the former, IDPA more of the latter - though both sports are overwhelmingly full of great people. You'll likely make a bunch of new friends no matter which one you get into.

    Sometimes people make the case that IDPA is better as an intro because of the non-freestyle aspect and the equipment being more restricted, but that doesn't make sense to me. At a USPSA match, especially when you are new, people will help you figure out a stage plan. You're not going to win either kind of match when you first show up and start shooting, and nobody is going to care how you do as long as you remain safe. I'd suggest figuring out which sport/game is ultimately more appealing to you, and just starting there.
     
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  3. egd

    egd Member

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    I too am a uspsa guy, so.... To me I like the fact that uspsa is more free in how you shoot a stage. It's up to you to figure out a plan of action. IDPA is much more structured in the order you do things, Too restricted with too many little rules IMO, but ymmv.
    I will say one good thing about idpa though. The scoring system is much easier to understand, especially for a beginner. But if like most of us, you're shooting for just the fun of shooting, the scoring is secondary anyway.
     
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  4. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Good points above. Fair warning I shoot IDPA and USPSA "TYPE" matches but I haven't officially shot USPSA. Local club does matches with that type of stage though and up to 50 rounds in a stage, run and gun as fast as you can.

    Both are a hoot. The secret to enjoying IDPA is to find an SO and squad that are there to have fun and be safe and make sure the new people keep coming out. And remember that is IS just a game with a different set of rules.

    I think the primary factor for you may be what sounds less stressful or scary: a 12 or 18 round stage in IDPA with a pretty well defined method to shoot the stage, or a 30-50 round stage in USPSA with "you solve it" on the stage description?
     
  5. Hoser

    Hoser Moderator Staff Member

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    My brain has an easier time with USPSA rules.

    However for a new shooter, the "Do it this way" of an IDPA match is easier.
     
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  6. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I don't think the USPSA scoring system is complicated at all in terms of the level of understanding a competitor needs to have. Here's how it works for the OP's benefit.
    • You shoot the stage, they add up the target stage points and subtract any penalties, and divide by the time between the start signal and the last shot. It's a points-per-second calculation. USPSA/IPSC call this "hit factor," ("HF") but it's just points-per-second. It's no more complicated than the concept of average miles-per-hour for a trip that takes 1.5 hours and covers 90 miles - the person/vehicle averaged 60 mph.
    • The higher your "hit factor," the better you did on the stage. The person with the highest HF wins the stage. Everyone else comes in order of their HF. If you had a 5.9 HF and I had a 5.8, you won. The specific math as to who had better hits on the targets or less time doesn't matter - our points-per-second is all that matters.
    • There's no such thing as negative overall stage points on a stage. If you shoot 20 points and accrue 30 penalty points, your score will be zero. No negative "hit factors".
    • When it comes to winning the match (the only part that is a little complicated to fully comprehend), the system allocates things called "match points," which are not the same as points on targets. Match points are awarded based on how a competitor did relative to how the best shooter did on a stage. If the stage-winning shooter posted a 5.0 HF and I had a 4.0, then I will get 80% as many points as the stage winner.
    • The system gives more match points based on the number of target points available on the stage... the same number of target points that are available assuming all Alpha's (best hits possible). Longer courses of fire are worth more than shorter ones. As explained in the prior bullet point, the winner gets the full value of match points available, and everyone else gets proportionally less according to their HF. There's no correlation between the number of target points an individual shooter got and the match points they will get - there can't be, because that would ignore time.
    • At the end of the match, the system adds up the match points each shooter accumulated on all their stages. Whoever got the most match points wins. Whoever got the 2nd most match points comes in 2nd. And so on.
    That's pretty much the whole system. This is more than any competitor really needs to know until they reach a fairly high level of competition; usually, they learn this stuff long before they really need it, usually because they are puzzled by a particular result and ask. What does a competitor really need to know? About this much:
    • Points-per-second is the point of the game.
    • Stage scores can't go below zero. (Compared to the time-plus scoring models, this sort of limits the damage a train-wreck stage can really do.)
    • Big stages are worth more, but they all count.
    • Each stage is its own thing. How you do on one doesn't charge how you are scored on another, although they all count in the end.
    • There's no such things as a "perfect score." It's always possible for someone to come along and post a better HF until the close of the match, and you're ultimately graded (allocated match points) relative to the best effort recorded.
     
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  7. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    I think it depends more on the Match Director and Range/Safety Officers than it does which rule book is used.
    A welcoming environment and accommodation for the new shooter is what counts.

    I have shot a variety of disciplines, IPSC, USPSA, and IDPA included, and have seen new shooters have a good time and return to progress, and I have seen new shooters discouraged by cliquish ranges that were impatient with their ignorance.
     
  8. 1KPerDay

    1KPerDay Member

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    Exactly, Jim.

    I shot a couple IDPA matches and then didn't come back for 4 years due to an authoritarian, unfriendly SO.

    Finally I found a group of people that mesh with my personality and I enjoy it immensely.
     
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  9. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I totally agree. Different clubs can have different personas in this regard. Some clubs and MD's will get a reputation as being a great entry point for the sport. Some clubs just have a culture where some of the old hands will take a new shooters through the process of the first match, explaining a little about the rules but also the practical ramifications of them in terms of what makes sense or doesn't.

    I actually think there are more clubs of that kind than not of that kind. There's no reason a new shooter who is safe shouldn't have a great, fun time at their first match and get a supportive welcome. If a new shooter introduces themselves to their squadmates as such, their biggest problem is likely to be too much advice and support, not too little.
     
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  10. GEM

    GEM Moderator Staff Member

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    Being an old toot, I find IDPA more to my liking as running around is not my thing. Going to the doc today for a truly messed up back, so I walk like Boris Karloff's mummy. Not a good thing for timing in a match but it isn't that bad in IDPA as compared to USPSA. I will shoot the latter if the only game in town. Winning is not in the picture because of my speed level. However, I can come in the top ranks of accuracy at times.

    Finding a compatible and supportive group is very important. Range tyrants are not fun.

    We have developed a very supportive culture for new folks and enjoy friendly joshing among the old guys. Newbies are given a pass on that.

    I also enjoy a steel match every once in awhile, shooting a Buckmark (22LR). No running and relaxing, just speed and accuracy.

    As far as training paradigms that will get you killed on the street to use that cliche, that hasn't been seen in real life. It can be handled by also taking some good SD, tactical course - not from the neck beard, tattooed steely eye dealers of death in their own minds, but someone with quality instructor credentials.

    Then, the gun games add practice to your skills of drawing, getting on target, transitioning between targets, reloads, etc. Don't forget malfunction clearances as despite your gun, do enough matches and you will be doing them.

    Do it for fun and practice. My view is that if I can improve myself that's what's important. I shot a shotgun match after a long time not doing so. My times were crappy compared to the regulars. However, by the last stage, I reduced my time in half and the gun handling was much smoother - that was good! So what if the young skinny guy was twice as fast.
     
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  11. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    I think ATLDave has made the important points here. When you are new to it IDPA promises realistic defense and low cost of entry but the rules will drive you insane, literally. USPSA is a lot more funner also you can shoot in production class and you will not be shooting against open guns but some of the productions shooters are quite good.

    ^^^This is where I park my boat. USPSA owns Steel Challenge and usually if USPSA is nearby so too is Steel Challenge. Cost to get started is relatively low and not a whole lot of movement. The only thing is it's way harder than it looks. Most shooters use the same gear for Steel Challenge and USPSA.
     
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  12. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I don't really see how this is materially different for a new shooter. The new shooter in IDPA will get told by rules or stage briefing to shoot targets in some order - say, near-to-far. The USPSA shooter will not be told to shoot them in any particular order, except that another competitor may suggest, "hey, most people will find it fastest to shoot these right-to-left as they move into this position." In either case, if you don't shoot it in the right order, there will be some scoring consequence, but you won't be sent home. The scoring consequence will likely be harsher in IDPA.

    To me, saying that IDPA is "easier" for new shooters because they tell you want to do is like saying "Simon Says" is easier than simply doing what you choose because Simon's giving your directions.
     
  13. waktasz

    waktasz Member

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    Do you want to improve as fast as possible? There are better shooters in USPSA. This is a fact. You will learn faster by watching and imitating better shooters.
     
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  14. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    From my perspective this is correct. Also USPSA shooters IN GENERAL appear to ME as more laid back whereas IDPA is a bit more uptight. My observation is there are a lot higher ratio of USPSA shooters classified at Master or thereabouts than ratio of IDPA at the higher classifications. I think that IDPA gets old after a while with the same classifiers year after year and especially at the club level it is hard to have a lot of variety in stage set up. Stages are expensive and time consuming to set up.
     
  15. mcb

    mcb Member

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    I have been shooting USPSA 2005 and started IDPA a year or two later. I have probably shot ten USPSA matches for every IDPA match I have shot. I really do enjoy both sports and have been fortunate to run into very few RO/SO range-tyrants but I prefer USPSA.

    I personally think the USPSA rule set is constructed and written much better and that can be seen in the resulting matches and the officiating. The IDPA rule book is truly a poorly written document and I say that as someone who has semi-professional edited rules for a game. That said the latest rule change (2017) to IDPA removed some of the subjectivity/judgement-calls present in the sport and that has helped make it a better sport. Unfortunately that same set of rule changes increased the time penalty for hits outside of the down-zero area from 0.5 second per point down to 1.0 second per point down and that has greatly slowed the sport down, putting heavy emphasis on accuracy over nearly all other aspect in the sport. ie in USPSA you can shoot C-zone hits (the area around the center A-zone) fast enough to win. In IDPA you cannot shoot down-ones (similar to C-zone) fast enough to win.

    OP, I would not be afraid to go try an IDPA match if its near you and convenient. If at all possible go try both; shooting a match or two of each will quickly answer which if any matches you will keep going to.

    You can download the rule books for both and a quick read would be advisable before a match, but not required. Don't waste time studying to just skim it to get the feel of each. Watching some matches on YouTube would also help manage your expectations.

    For either sport, learn the safety rules first. Then focus on getting good hits. Then learn to plan your reloads. After that the speed comes from practice and repetition.
     
  16. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Oh, one other aspect to consider. There's some overlap in the kinds of guns that are used for these, but there are also some gun types that will work for one but not the other. A 6-shot revolver is just pointless in USPSA, but IDPA has a division for that... so if you've got your heart set on shooting your GP100, it'll probably need to be IDPA (or ICORE, but that's another game). Conversely, IDPA has a lot of weight and size restrictions that would knock out quite a few popular USPSA pistols... things like pistol-caliber carbines or pistols with dots/optics are "club" level options only.

    If you've got a generic service-type pistol with iron sights, chances are good you'll be able to make it work in either.
     
  17. waktasz

    waktasz Member

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    Carry Optics is a full division in IDPA now. Not sure of the crossover of the rules between the sports though. I only rejoined IDPA last week, have 3 major matches in may, then hanging up the vest again.
     
  18. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    I guess google kicked me to the old IDPA rules? Good for IDPA, I guess... CO has been hugely popular in USPSA.
     
  19. 1MoreFord

    1MoreFord Member

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    I'm an ole IPSC/USPSA shooter. I've never found IDPA to be appealing. Far too many rules that make little to no sense to me. USPSA has too many rules today to my way of thinking too but IDPA is far worse. In prospective USPSA can be a never ending arms race but that's your choice and budget. IDPA is too many nit picking rules for me.
     
  20. LRDGCO

    LRDGCO member

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    First, thanks very much for sharing your experiences and taking time to respond. Unfortunately, it hasn’t got me anywhere :thumbdown:

    One of the things that has worn thin on me with CAS is the relative monotony and extensive nitpicking rules, as well as the fervent, often self-apppinted, guardians of said rules. So hearing something similar about IDPA isn’t inspiring. But vids of USPSA matches I have watched look pretty daunting to a newb.

    So, I guess I’ll go along to a match of each and see what I think.

    Thanks again for taking time to respond.
     
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  21. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Something to be aware of is the "Style" shoot. USPSA "Style" and IDPA "Style" events whose organizers cannot be bothered to follow anybody's rules closely.
    They can be entertaining and challenging, so don't pass up on one convenient to attend, just don't expect standardization.

    I know of several such. One is straight USPSA, the MD just doesn't want to bother with the administrative stuff and the shooters don't want to pay dues and mission fees.
    Another started out under IPSC rules but has gone local in USPSA.
    One started as an IDPA knockoff but has mutated, and worse, keeps changing.
    Another such has at least stabilized under its mish-mash of rules.
    An outlaw Speed Steel match actually signed on to SCSA and is now regulation Steel Challenge.
     
  22. Ohen Cepel
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    Ohen Cepel Contributing Member

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    Jim nailed it in my mind. I can do just about anything with people I get along with but will be miserable if I'm talked down to and treated poorly for the day. So, the range and people would be more important to me than the game.
     
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  23. Good Ol' Boy

    Good Ol' Boy Member

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    I can tell you from experience that YOUR first experience in either is going to depend on the organizers and that group you're lumped with.

    I tried USPSA first and it was fine but the group I was put in with didn't fit well with me. I shot limited my first time and I would suggest that for a first timer.

    My first IDPA was more pleasant overall. There's a little more of a learning curve as far as engaging targets but the folks were much more laid back. I also enjoyed the more realistic scenarios that are set up as courses. They really can be very life like.


    As I said your first experience will likely be more determined by the group of folks who are running it or that you'll be with.

    That said I'd do whichever is available and convenient to you first. You'll most likely enjoy either at least a little.


    PS, even if your experienced shooting other types of matches I would go slow and BE SAFE. Be very aware and pay mind to the 180 rule and you'll put everyone else at ease after a stage.or two.
     
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  24. waktasz

    waktasz Member

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    It's **** like this that drive shooters to IDPA and away from USPSA before they even get started. There are plenty of divisions of USPSA where it's not an arms race.
     
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  25. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    Which ones?
    Production has been diluted by a lot of allowable modifications.
    Internet Experts now tell new shooters to enter their stock guns in Limited Minor so as to not burden themselves with a reload every ten shots.
    Revolver had an almost instantaneous sea change as 8 shot Minor obsoleted 6 shot Major.
     
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