Sometime this year, we’re going to see a new rulebook for IDPA; a sport which has enjoyed considerable growth as the number of CCW permit holders spikes. It’s an organic sort of growth that proceeds in a fairly predictable pattern: person gets carry permit, person gets bored of shooting on a static range, does a little research and discovers IDPA, which touts the use of carry gear. They even have a snazzy promo video on their youtube page promoting that idea.
With that in mind, IDPA is now at a crossroads; and since we don’t know what’s in the new rulebook, it allows us to engage in a bit of speculation on what’s going to come next. To understand what IDPA is facing, we need to understand a multitude of different factors.
The first and most obvious issue that IDPA faces is its rules – visiting the IDPA Forum will reveal pages and pages of shooters complaining about rules that are enforced inconsistently from region to region, and phenomenon I’ve directly experienced when travelling to matches in different states. The rulebook as it stands now contains far too much vague language and relies on subjective interpretation; which of course leads to the sorts of issues that folks complain about.
Fortunately, rules issues are actually quite easily fixed – a well written rulebook with precisely defined terms and standards for enforcement fixes all your technical rules problems. For example, you could “fix” the round dumping issue by clearing defining round dumping as “firing 3 or more shots than any target array requires, unless those shots are misses fired on steel targets.” That would certainly “fix” the round dumping rule, but it wouldn’t address the next issue that IDPA (and actually all the shooting sports) face.
A changing gun culture
One of the common discussions in the mainstream firearms community is the changing landscape of gun ownership. Gun owners are increasingly urbanized, and the sort of people that are buying Glocks and getting carry permits look more like X-Games fans than “traditional” gun owners. I personally think that’s a good thing, because the more diverse we are as a culture the more difficult it is to pigeon hole gun owners into easily dismissed political categories – but that’s a different post. However, to the point faced by the shooting sports in general and IDPA in specific is that a generation of kids raised with extreme sports are much more likely to seek out that sort of action in their shooting sports.
Imagine someone who just bought their first concealed carry handgun and permit and now they’re looking for more. They’re going to find youtube videos from Magpul of people running around with handguns shooting stuff and looking awesome; videos of people who look like them and are identifiable, and they’re much more likely to respond to a message that portrays the shooting sports as an extreme sport. In part, that’s why 3-Gun has been so successful. 3Gun shouldn’t have been a runaway success, because it has the highest bar of entry in terms of cost, and yet it is. This is in large part to how it’s been packaged; embracing emerging technologies, black rifles, and creating a format that’s friendly for viewers and television.
I’m not suggesting that IDPA should change the format of their matches to make them TV friendly, but this changing culture leads us to the meat of the post: how does IDPA effectively address the issues with their rulebook while staying true to their culture AND attracting gun owners from the emerging gun culture?
One of the greatest advantages IDPA has is their low bar of entry. I can buy a Glock 17 Gen4 and a Blade-Tech injection molded holster w/mag pouch and have everything I need to shoot an IDPA match.\
Through the rest of the week, we’re going to take a look at three of the biggest rules issues facing IDPA; some possible fixes, and the underlying cultural implications that the rules and fixes have. All of this of course is purely speculative, and could be rendered entirely pointless when the new rulebook is released, but at the same time the culture issues that the shooting community face are very real, regardless of which alphabet soup sport you think is best.