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Gaming The System

Gaming The System

One of my goals this year is to shoot the 25 round IDPA Classifier at Master level or better. It’s a daunting task, because it’s going to require me to hone a good number of skills, such as drawing from a holster, strong-hand only shooting and reloads. For those of you not familiar with IDPA (short for International Defensive Pistol Association), it is a practical shooting sport that uses gear similar to what you’d use in the real world. They have several divisions that allow similar kinds of guns to compete against each other, and the division I’ve chosen to compete in is ESP, or Enhanced Service Pistol. 

This division is meant for guns with a heavier frame and lighter trigger pull than, say, a Glock 19. It’s meant for guns like a CZ75 shot single action  or 9mm 1911s, which is what I’ll be using. The IDPA 25 Round Classifier is a specific course of fire using 4 stages, all shot at 10 yards at one IDPA target. The course of fire is as follows: 

  • Stage 1: Draw and fire 5 shots freestyle
  • Stage 2: Draw and fire 5 shots strong hand only
  • Stage 3: Draw and fire 5 shots, perform an emergency (slide lock) reload, and fire 5 shots
  • Stage 4: Draw and fire 4 shots to the torso of the target and 1 shot to the head

Your score is your time plus penalties (more on those penalties in just a bit). The times required to advance through the ranks of the ESP Division are:

Times for: ESP
Master (MA) 18.75 or less
Expert (EX) 18.76 thru 23.28
Sharpshooter (SS) 23.29 thru 28.80
Marksman (MM) 28.81 thru 36.27
Novice (NV) 36.28 or greater

Right now, I’m a Sharpshooter, two rankings below Master. I have my work cut out for me. Fortunately, because I use a shot timer every time I go to the range and I shoot a LOT of standardized drills, I can break down each stage in the Classifier into distinct units, which I can practice via dry fire at home. 


Shots (Tottal) Other Eech Shot Total time
Stage 1





Stage 2





Stage 3






Stage 4 1.4 1.2 0.6 0.36


Stage 3: Reload time. Stage 4: Time req’d to shoot smaller target.



Those times put me a half-second under the time needed to make Master, assuming I avoid any penalties by placing all my shots in scoring zones. Remember when I said the score was time plus penalties? Well, the penalties for inaccurate shots in IDPA are particularly harsh. Main scoring zones on the target are circles roughly equivalent to the thoracic and ocular cavities on a human being. Hit those areas, and don’t lose any points. The next scoring zones surround those areas and each shot that lands there costs you a second added to your time. Each hit on the edges of the target adds three seconds, and a miss adds five. IDPA is definitely accuracy-biased, which is probably a good thing. 

So far, I’m in the middle of the pack in Sharpshooter. Nowhere to go but up from here.