International Defensive Pistol Association

International Defensive Pistol Association
Formation 1996 (1996)
Founders Bill Wilson, John Sayle, Ken Hackathorn, Dick Thomas, Walt Rauch and Larry Vickers
Headquarters Berryville, Arkansas, US

The International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), founded in 1996, is an organization based in Berryville, Arkansas, that has created a shooting sport based on defensive pistol techniques, using equipment including full-charge service ammunition to solve simulated "real world" self-defense scenarios. Shooters competing in defensive pistol events are required to use practical handguns and holsters that are deemed suitable for self-defense use.[1]

The sport came about as a response to the perceived shortcomings in competitions organized by the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and its migration away from the use of common, un-customized handguns.[1] It was decided by the founders of IDPA (Bill Wilson, John Sayle, Ken Hackathorn, Dick Thomas, Walt Rauch and Larry Vickers), that USPSA competitions had become too far removed from the reality of defensive shooting situations, using extensively modified guns, handmade ammunition, and speed-draw holsters that were impractical for self-defense. The IDPA founders believed that USPSA matches had become "equipment races", which were heavily dependent on a shooter's gear rather than their ability.[1][2]

To control costs, alterations to the sidearm are carefully regulated in IDPA, and magazine capacity is limited to a division-specific maximum of 10 rounds.[3]


Scoring at each match is based on the time taken to shoot the stage plus time added for any penalties accrued. Penalties are given for poor marksmanship (i.e. posting hits outside the targets' highest scoring area), failure to use cover, failure to follow a Safety Officer's directions, or any violation of IDPA rules. Penalties range from one-half second per dropped point on targets up to 20 seconds for a Failure to Do Right which is a blatant violation of IDPA rules—i.e. cheating or unsportsmanlike conduct.[4]

Unlimited Scoring

Most IDPA stages are scored using Unlimited Scoring (previously known as Vickers Count) which means that shooters may fire as many rounds as they feel necessary to make the specified number of hits. The best hits on the target are the only ones that count for score.[5] If a stage calls for two hits on each target, a shooter may fire as many rounds as desired and no penalty will be given. Only the best two hits will count.[4]

Limited Scoring

On a standards stage (an exercise intended to test marksmanship and gun handling skill as opposed to being a scenario) it is common for the course of fire to specify Limited scoring (previously known as Limited-Vickers). On this type of stage, the shooter may fire no more than the number of rounds specified. Firing more rounds will earn a procedural penalty and only the lowest scoring hits on target, of the number specified in the course of fire, are counted.[6] For example: a Limited Scoring stage calls for two shots fired; the shooter fires one round into the -0 zone and one round into the -1 zone; if they fire again, hitting the -0 zone; when the target is scored, only the -0 and -1 zone hits will count. The "make up" -0 shot will be thrown out (not because it is the make up, but because is a higher score and the rationale is there should be no possible advantage accrued from failing to follow the stage procedure) and the shooter will be assessed a procedural penalty for firing more shots than the course called for. In addition, the shooter will have also added to their score by taking the time to fire the extra round.

Points Down

Originally the IDPA target was marked with two 5 point zones (head and eight inch circle in center), a 4 point zone (a polygonal box around the circle), and a 2 point zone (the outside periphery of the target). However since scoring is obtained not by calculating points obtained but by subtracting points dropped, the scoring zones came to reflect that system.[4]

The current standard IDPA target is a cardboard humanoid shape with scoring zones perforated onto its surface. There are two areas marked as "-0" or "down zero" (the head and center-mass of the body represented by a circle, which has been moved up from its original position to be higher in the target body, thus more closely approximating the location of the heart and surrounding arteries) and one each marked "-1" and "-3".[4]

Hits in each zone are added to the total points down. A target calling for two hits, with one hit in both the "-1" and "-3" zones would be scored as "-4" and called as "down-4." Only the shooter's best hits are scored unless a stage is specified as Limited Scoring. A Limited Scoring stage specifies the number of shots that can be taken at a target. Additional shots taken past the specified number results in a procedural penalty, in addition to which only the lowest-scoring shots are recorded.[4]

A miss on a target is scored as down-5.[4]

The points down are converted into time by multiplying by .5 (each point down incurs a half-second penalty) and added to the total time taken to shoot the stage.[4]

Procedural Penalty

A procedural penalty is a 3-second penalty given for breaking the rules of IDPA or failing to follow the directions of a course of fire.

Procedurals may be assessed by the safety officer for thing such as: • Failure to use cover. • Shooting targets in the wrong order. • Failure to follow the directions for the stage. • Leaving ammunition behind after performing a tactical reload (reload with retention).

Failure to Neutralize

A failure to neutralize is a 5-second penalty for not getting at least one shot within the down-0 or down-1 zones of a threat target. If a shooter lands only peripheral hits on the target, or misses the target altogether, the threat target is still considered a potential threat to the shooter. This penalty does not apply in Limited Scoring stages or for targets that completely disappear.[7]

Failure to Do Right

A failure to do right (FTDR) is a 20-second penalty given for any illegal action taken specifically to gain a competitive advantage. A shooter who deliberately fires extra rounds at a target so that he must reload at a more opportune time is a classic example of this penalty. This penalty can be highly subjective, and the SO has to determine that the shooter engaged in the action with a "guilty mind"—that he knowingly failed to do right. Because of the subjectivity of the call, the penalty is seldom given. Receiving one all but guarantees the shooter will lose the match, or at least place low in his or her division.[4]



IDPA recognizes five divisions of competition, with different limitations for the firearms. Semi-automatic handguns must fit within a box 8¾" × 6" × 1 58". This is to help avoid a "racegun", as are several other rules.

Note: In SSP, ESP, and CDP, the shooter will also start with one round in the chamber, unless the CoF description requires otherwise.[4]

Stock Service Pistol (SSP)

Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP)

Custom Defensive Pistol (CDP)

Stock Service Revolver (SSR)

Enhanced Service Revolver (ESR)


See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 Steier, David (2013). Guns 101: A Beginner's Guide to Buying and Owning Firearms. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-1-62636-971-9.
  2. Sweeney, Patrick (2009). Gun Digest Big Fat Book of the .45 ACP. Iola, Wisconsin: Gun Digest Books. pp. 367–368. ISBN 1-4402-2403-X.
  3. "Equipment and Competition Rules of the International Defensive Pistol Association, Inc." (PDF). 2005-04-15. Retrieved 2007-04-17. Depending on the division, limits can be 10, 8, or 5 rounds for semi-automatics (plus one in the chamber), and 6 for revolvers.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Golob, Julie (2013). Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition. Skyhorse Publishing Company, Incorporated. pp. 135–140. ISBN 978-1-62636-607-7.

Arranging IDPA matches

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