I want to take a moment and talk about one of the more interesting stages at the 2013 IDPA Nationals, stage 10. Stage 10 was called Rodeo Round Count, but should have been called “No Survivors.” What made this stage interesting was the use of humanoid vision barriers to obscure threat targets that needed to be shot. Here’s my match video from the stage to illustrate my point:
At one point during the stage, the best course of action is to shoot directly through the vision barrier to hit the threat target behind it; and as you can see from my video I did just that. There were plenty of bullet holes in that particular vision barrier, so I know I wasn’t the only one.
However, it’s the use of the humanoid vision barriers and their role in the stage’s scenario that make this the most interesting stage of the match, and as far as I’m concerned puts the final nail in the coffin of “IDPA teaches you tactics.” For the record, I love IDPA – I think it’s a great game, and will help build good gunhandling skills that could be useful in a defensive situation. However, I have long maintained that IDPA does not in any way teach tactics, and this stage is a perfect example.
In the stage scenario, the vision barriers were mentioned specifically as being representative of a crowd of people at a rodeo. The non-threat targets on the stage, designated per IDPA rules by a pair of painted hands were your friends/family in the crowd. So to make my point explicitly clear, this IDPA stage rewarded you for shooting through simulated bystanders to neutralize a threat. Obviously, if you did that in the real world, you would most likely get a free trip to a government facility where they provide you with living space, stripey pajamas, and pretty stainless steel bracelets.
I don’t have a problem with the stage in particular, because it’s just a game. I’m going to take the best course of action to get the best score possible in the game, and on this particular stage that meant shooting through a vision barrier that happened to be shaped like a person. But because the scenario specifically called the vision barriers out as a representing people, the “tactically” correct solution would have probably have not involved shooting through two or three of these barriers. Which then leads me to the penultimate point of this article: IDPA is not teaching you tactics. You will do things at an IDPA match that would not make sense in the real world, and the same applies to any gun game. It’s not tactical, it’s just a game with rules.
“It’s just a game with rules” is also the final point of this article. The rules of IDPA are constructed around specific reasoning, some of which I agree with and some of which I don’t. That’s fine, because I don’t have to agree with the reasoning behind the rules to follow them. I think that setting up a stage which rewards shooters for shooting through simulated bystanders isn’t really a good idea; but on that day it was the best course of action in the game. When you reach that point as a shooting sport, you’re officially a game and not training. Which is how it should be, because if I want to learn about tactics I’ll take a class from a tactical instructor. If I want to have a fun time wearing a vest and shooting targets for score, I’ll keep shooting IDPA.