Should major matches use stage guns?

Stage 5 at the 2013 IDPA BUG Nationals used two pick-up guns to complete the stage. Each shooter started with their own gun, and engaged five targets with one round each, then finished the stage using two pick up guns. Each gun was shot 5 times each. On this particular stage, the pick-up guns were a Smith & Wesson M&P340 in .357 Magnum and a Shield in 9mm.


The 340, which is a Scandium j-frame with a gutter rear sight and an XS Big Dot front sight caused problems for more than a few shooters. One shooter was allegedly DQ’d for sailing a round into the ceiling with the 340, and another shooter was flinching so hard rounds were going into the floor.

That opens up the conversation about whether or not you should have pick-up guns in major matches, and if so, how they should be administered. I’ll confess, I’m pretty neutral on the topic myself. Pick up guns are pretty common at IDPA matches, and they’ve never really been an issue for me personally, but I do know other shooters who’ve had issues with them.

My thoughts on pick-up guns are simple: if they are going to be in a match, they need to be treated like a stage prop. That means that a malfunction with the stage gun is a stage equipment malfunction, and guarantees the shooter a reshoot. Additionally, no shooter should ever be penalized for not knowing how to shoot a stage gun. Which means of course, no weird exotic guns. For example, putting a Chiappa Rhino on a stage would be a bad idea, because many people don’t know that you have to fold your thumbs over to avoid being burnt/injured by gas from the cylinder.

In short, for stage guns to be fair, they have to be a gun that every single shooter at the match is going to be able to manipulate and shoot without giving unfair advantages to other shooters. A perfect example of this is the only stage where I’ve ever beaten Bob Vogel, at the 2012 IDPA Indoor Nats. This stage had an S&W Governor as a pick-up gun; I know from previous experience that if you’re shooting .45 Colt through it they shoot high, so I buried the front sight and had a reasonable score. Bob had never picked up a Governor before, and ended up tossing some misses on the stage as a result.

I do think that pick-up guns can create an interesting stage and add flair to IDPA’s themed stages. Having a pick-up Glock 19 on a stage makes sense depending on the scenario, or having the shooter start with a long gun in their hands that has to be disposed of during the stage.

Actually, that gives me an idea for a cool stage: start with a shotgun blue gun in both hands, then transition the shotgun to the weak-hand only. Draw and complete the stage while holding the shotgun in your weak hand.

But back to the topic at hand, what are your thoughts on pick-up guns at major matches?


  1. That would have gone vastly better methinks if they had wadcutters in the snub instead of magnums. Hence the issue.

    My bench press is still well above my body weight, but with my carpal tunnel and arthritis issues shooting five rounds of magnum ammo from a scandium gun would have left me a mess afterwards.

  2. I’d be OK with it if they allowed each competitor a chance to shoot it beforehand…say, 20 rounds or so.

  3. stage guns are a good thing. If you carry a handgun be it for competition, CCW or professionally; you should be able to operate most common firearms. Sorry about someone’s luck that they cannot deal with a fullhouse magnum (38s wadcutters would have been better for a match), but that’s life. If you had to solve a problem with your real BUG you better know how to use it.

  4. I love pickup guns in matches, but I can understand the arguments against it in a major match. My local club does a safari rifle match twice a year, and I’ve suggested having a pick-up stage where your first shot on an IDPA silhouette comes from your safari rifle, then you go set the rifle down and pick up an AK and finish the stage with that. All the human silhouettes would be shoots (poachers), and the animals no-shoots. Hell, I’ll even supply the AK and ammo.

  5. In general, I’m fine with pickup guns. But .357 in a scandium frame??? That feels like a bit of a dick move, to be honest.

  6. And the last documented incident you can recall where an armed citizen used a ‘pick up’ gun was when, exactly? Pick up gun stages are the favorite idea of those that think that stripping good shooters of their chosen equipment will “level the playing field” and give someone else a chance to win. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a weird class/skill envy motive that bitterly clings to the idea that it’s equipment and not the effort expended that separates the GM’s from the C’s. Pick up gun stages are 99 and 44/100ths irrelevant to the armed citizen or law enforcement officer. I’m not going to pick up some unknown gun when I have a primary and a backup gun that I know and trust with me.

  7. There was one major 3-gun match, possibly FNH, that had a SCAR with attached grenade launcher (colored chalk practice grenade). There was one target at like 30 meters, which you were supposed to engage with the GL. If you missed, you had to shoot it 5 times with the rifle (iron sights.) You then grounded the SCAR and moved to your own rifle for longer range targets.

    I thought it was cool, because hey, grenade launcher! And the penalty for a miss wasn’t huge, just 5 quick shots at a relatively close target.

    But I agree, don’t throw something exotic out there (and in 3-gun land, yes, I’d call a Garand exotic, because shooters might be unfamiliar with how to load it or safely unload it.

  8. I like the idea of pick up guns. It levels the playing field between the gamers that only ever shoot their competition gear and the guys like me that shoot anything with a trigger. Being able to pick up an unfamiliar weapon and use it effectively makes one a more well rounded shooter IMHO.

  9. I would love an IDPA scenario such as …”While coming home from the local USPSA match with my open /limited gun and 140mm mags in the bag…” Other than that…I prefer to shoot the guns I practice with.

  10. No issues at all with pickups guns and the 340 was not too bad either even with 357 mag in it. The gun I noticed was the 9mm Shield…. I was thinking WTH whats going on.. No recoil did it work??? Over all down 1 with a decent time.

  11. I think that some confuse “a match” for “training”. I am perfectly fine with pick up guns so long as we are having fun at the range. Once someone starts keeping score, I do not want to be placed in a position where my familiarity (or lack there of) with a firearm other than the one I brought to the match can have any outcome on the match. I am not at the major match to test my ability to quickly familiarize myself with firearms. I am there to compete to the best of my ability. If they want to show off the new stuff…have a side match for charity using the branded weapons.

  12. I would say as long as the sights are zeroed with the ammo to be used. You should be able to proficiently use anything and no shooter should have a significant advantage knowing said gun hits way differently than it’s sights with the match ammo

  13. I generally agree with you. Also, stage gun stages should be tests of awareness and quick thinking, not high accuracy. Targets should be 7 yards, max with a stage gun. I kind of like the 5 shots of magnum out of a scandium J-frame, however, because the shooter needs to be ready for the unexpected. A J-frame magnum is admittedly an expert’s gun to shoot well, but it’s the simplest gun to manipulate.

    Is it entirely wrong to give extra points to persons with general competency and gun awareness, instead of just rewarding gamers who know their platform only? I don’t think so.

  14. I like stage guns at club and major IDPA matches and enjoyed shooting the 2 at the S&W BUG Nationals. I feel pickup guns are a possibility in a defensive situation so stage guns are in tune with IDPA. We are competing to test our skills as a shooter and should be proficient with different firearms. However, from a safety standpoint, shooting a small frame revolver with 357 magnums can definitely cause issues with some shooters as was the case at the BUG match.

  15. This discussion reminds me of any given season of Top Shot, where the one-trick ponies would flail when out of their comfort zone, while the well-rounded shooters excelled.

    I agree that pick-up guns should not be too exotic or difficult, and the shooters should have the opportunity to handle (if not shoot) them.

  16. Pick up guns are no indication of your skills with your gun. Which is supposed to be the purpose of the major match. No matter which gun you put out there, someone that doesn’t train with that gun is at a disadvantage and therefore that stage should not be used for score.

    It has nothing to do with being a one trick pony, it’s about being good with YOUR equipment.


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