Today we have a guest post from Keith Schmidt, who works and trains with U.S law enforcement. He is going to give us an introduction to some of the competitions done in IDPA shooting and how some of the skills and situational awareness it teaches may still be relevant to the United Kingdom. Indeed as I often say, even if civilians can not carry their firearms, the benefits of having police and military able to shoot such disciplines and improve their skills by training and competing with experienced civilian shots would be numerous and at no cost to the tax payer.

Learning Handgun Self-Defence Skills Important for Everyone

For American law enforcement officers and those who have concealed carry permits, it’s important to learn and maintain handgun skills.

Good training is essential and through competition, a person interested in a handgun for self-defense can raise his or her skill to high levels.   

A very popular handgun competition in the United States is International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). Founded in the 1990’s, IDPA attempts to better align competition with actual defensive handgun use.  The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) were created earlier with a lot of success. But many believed these competitions strayed too far from “practical” with handgun modifications and courses designed to enhance competition rather than allowing a person to improve his or her self-defense skills.

In IDPA matches, shooters use practical handguns with little or no modifications with practical holsters of the type used in daily carry and compete with full charge service ammunition. Competitors often wear a concealment garment. 

As a firearms instructor for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department in Texas, I look for a ways to add to my law enforcement training and found that for me IDPA is an excellent choice. 

For the British Citizen where firearms are heavily regulated (prohibited for most), some form of IDPA competition with air soft handguns might present an option. The right “non-firearm” models have the look and feel of defensive firearms. And, drawing and sighting an air soft handgun requires the same skill set as using a defensive firearm. A modified form of IDPA would allow one to acquire skills. Another “non-firearm” is known as the SIRT pistol. SIRT stands for Shot Indicating Resetting Trigger Training Pistol.  It has the look, weight, feel and trigger pull of a functioning semi auto handgun and fits the same holsters. It has a removable magazine for practice drills. But instead of shooting bullets with a pull of the trigger, it sends out a narrow beam of laser light marking hits on target.  

For those in Britain hoping to learn or improve their self-defense skills, learning about firearms remains important.  Even though firearms and other personal protective equipment may be banned in most places to the law abiding citizen, the “Bad Guy” whether a robber, terrorist or lunatic still obtains one on the black market. And, guns are very much in use around the world. The old saying is: “The first rule of a gunfight is to have a gun.” In teaching firearms and defensive tactics to sheriff’s cadets and in-service deputies, I add a second rule: “If you don’t have a gun in a gunfight, take theirs and know how to use it.”

In the U.S. many still believe a “good guy” with a gun is the best deterrent to someone intent on doing harm.

Before the pandemic, I regularly competed in IDPA matches at an indoor range in Houston. Competitions held once a week during the evening with about 20 or thirty people competing.

Each evening session begins with a safety lecture.  New shooters receive individual attention from experienced range officers who coach on correct conduct and assure adequate gun handling skills to safely compete. 

Four primary rule of Gun Safety are stressed: 

  • All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  • Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
  • Identify your target, and what is behind it.

Colonel Jeff Cooper helped create IPSC competitions and was the founder of the Gunsite Academy Training Center near Prescott, Arizona which emphasizes these rules that assure safe gun handling. These rules are stressed at civilian, law enforcement and military ranges across the country.

For IDPA participants, the principles behind these rules help assure safety. Each shooter also acts as a range officer and can stop a shoot at any time if he/she sees an unsafe act.

Each IDPA competition is a different course of fire. To do well, a shooter must draw and shoot quickly and accurately as time enters into the score as well as best hits on target. Cardboard targets score hits of the A, B and C areas with the highest scores awarded for hits in the “A” zone.  And, the faster you perform the course the better your score.

At the indoor range where I compete, there are actually two ranges that are set up for competition with two different courses of fire.  One course involves multiple targets, reloads and most often requires decision making with targets marked “Shoot or No Shoot.”  The other range usually has a shorter course of fire that usually works a specific skill (perhaps reloading, shooting with the support hand, malfunction clearance, etc.) This course has a shorter round count but participants go through several times to reinforce skills.  Midway through the evening, shooters switch ranges allowing them to compete in both courses.

In IDPA, the shooter’s starting position may vary.  He/she may be required to have hands touching a barricade before the signal to draw is given. Or, both hands may be raised in the air, or the shooter may start with back to target requiring a turn and then drawing to engage. 

A range officer stays close to the competitor assuring safety as they move through the course of fire.  At the end, the range officer says: “Show clear,” requiring the competitor to keep the handgun in a safe direction, lock the slide back and remove the magazine assuring there is nothing in the chamber. Once cleared, the handgun is holstered and remains in the holster unless the competitor returns to the shooting line to compete again.

Another type of shooting familiar to many in the U.S. is Precision Pistol Competition (PPC) also known as Police Pistol Competition. This type of shooting is done at set distances usually of three, seven, and fifteen, twenty-five and 50 yards and often involves some use of a barricade as a rest to shoot from the farther distances. Time limits are set for each “stage” of fire.  Everyone on the line fires at the same time and under the same time limits so this type of competitions allows a large number of shooters to compete at the same time. Because of this, PPC, or some form of it, is regularly used by organizations that teach firearms skills, like the police and military. Its roots date back to the 1930’s and early firearms training pioneered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

ergeant Keith R. Schmidt of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office at the department range north of Houston, Texas.  He is holding a typical back-up handgun often used by American law enforcement as an extra to the duty weapon carried on an officer’s belt.  The handgun is a Smith & Wesson Model 640 .38 Special Airweight five-shot revolver with a two-inch barrel.  These handguns are often carried by an officer in his/her bullet resistant vest, in a pocket holster or ankle holster. 

However, many of the best competitors improve their skill by use of “dry fire,” which is manipulating, drawing and shooting the handgun without any ammunition involved.  Or, they may use a “non-firearm” for this practice.

For those not involved in firearms, it may seem strange that so much training can be done without ammunition.  “Dry Fire” allows a shooter to practice skills with no need to go to the range.

For those interested, please read my article in the November/December 2020 issue of the Texas State Rifle Association Sportsman Magazine. This link should open to the article.

For people from Britain coming to the United States, they might consider a trip to a gun range for a class in firearms safety followed by a coached shooting session. State laws on firearms in the U.S. vary from state to state, but you might inquire to find a range to teach you basics.

For those wanting total immersion in firearms training, one might consider contacting Gunsight Academy Training Center to inquire on courses offered. Gunsite provides top instruction and can provide guns and ammunition to students wishing to learn self-defense. The facility is located in a very historic and scenic part of what is known as the “old west.”

You are responsible for you own safety and that of your family, which begins with your awareness and continues with your mindset to survive and training. Avoid confrontation whenever possible and only rely on self-defense as a last resort. And, while guns may be relatively rare in much of the United Kingdom, they are commonly available throughout the world.

Keith R. Schmidt is a sergeant and a firearms/defensive tactics instructor assigned to the training division of the Harris County Sheriff’s Department Reserves, Houston, Texas. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office ranks as the third largest sheriff’s department nationwide. Its reserve organization is the largest in Texas and the second largest nationwide. Story copyright retained by author. The author lived in London’s Camden Town for four months as a student in the 1970s and remembers England and his friends there with fondness

©2022 Firearms UK.


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