You play to win the game!

Let’s talk about shooting sport rules! A recent thread on brought up the IDPA Flashlight rules. As all IDPA-related posts do, it eventually became a discussion of said rules, rather than how to train for victory within the rules. Tam followed this up with a post pointing out that her literal EDC gun is not IDPA legal, and that the average IDPA gun is a lot more “racegun” than EDC gun.

you play to win the game (300x225)

Here’s why discussions like this start whenever IDPA rules come up. IDPA as it was founded was intended to bring “practicality” back to the shooting game, requiring the use of concealment and “real-world” firearms. As it has grown, the rulebook has changed and been interpreted; however one thing has always remained constant: IDPA hates an equipment race. Now, we turn our attention to modern IDPA, which is quite a different sport in practice and execution than it was in 1996. From the new rulebook:

Founded in 1996 the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) is the governing body for IDPA competition, a handgun-centric shooting sport based on simulated self-defense scenarios.

The IDPA competition format was designed to be enjoyable to all shooters of all skill levels, with a premium put on the social interaction and camaraderie of the members.

So, IDPA says in its opening paragraph that it’s a shooting sport. Let’s put all the “this is tactical training” nonsense to bed; IDPA is a game, and in any game what do you do? You play to win the game! So let’s bring that back to the flashlight discussion – IDPA’s flashlight rules prohibit any sort of method that attaches the light to your body. Why? It doesn’t matter. Stick with me here for a second – it doesn’t matter because those are the rules. A USPSA shooter complaining about IDPA rules is like a tennis player complaining that badminton’s rules are stupid. “Why do they have to use a shuttlecock, everyone knows that balls are better than cocks!”

Let’s stick with the tennis/badminton analogy for a second. See, in the shooting sports, especially in the handgun sports, there is this idea that “sport x’s rule is different from my sport, therefore it’s dumb and stupid.” Seriously, just because we all shoot handguns and wear holsters doesn’t mean the games are the same. Badminton and tennis are both played with racquets on courts, but tennis players don’t complain about badminton’s rules. It’s maddening when it happens in the shooting sports.

Caleb’s bottom line: if you think a rule in a shooting sport is dumb and arbitrary, that’s fine. No one is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to play that game. However, I would pose this theory: it doesn’t matter if a rule is arbitrary, like the IDPA flashlight rules. Those rules exist to prevent an equipment race, and that’s fine. The only thing that matters with any rule is that it is enforced evenly and fairly to all competitors.


  1. Yeah. I don’t get the discussion. That is the rule. Shoot within the rules. Have fun pulling the trigger.

  2. I suppose I don’t get the controversey.

    What is so bad about IDPA just being a game, and people acting in kind?For that matter, why not let it turn into an equipment race? After all, one thing the tactical crowd tends to forget is that only a small and unlucky minority of civil gun owners, including police, will ever have to shoot someone to stop a threat .

    The idea that gun competition should thus be boilerplate accurate to real life shootings is like saying NASCAR should start racing on interstates during rush hour, you know, because that’s real life driving.

    1. There’s nothing bad about it being a game; that was my whole point. It is a game, and people should relax and not get so worked up over the rules and just play to win the game. If a person doesn’t like the rules, they can go play some other game, or start their own league.

      1. people should relax and not get so worked up over the rules

        I don’t get worked up over the rules. The rules don’t bother me at all.

        I DO get a kick out of (and derive much pleasure from mocking) the bogus rationale* behind a lot of the rules.

        “Because Bill & Co. want it that way” is a lot less objectionable than “It’s not practical/tactical!”

        *”Prior to the formation of IDPA, there was no place to compete and hone one’s skill with equipment designed for & suitable for self-defense.

        1. I have a whole different post ready to go about the duality of the culture in IDPA and how it’s going to result in one of two things in the next five to ten years.

  3. “Let’s put all the “this is tactical training” nonsense to bed”

    That makes me laugh a little, if only because at the Town Hall at the Nationals, Gordon Carrol essentially explained the removal of moving reloads behind cover with “you wouldn’t do that in a real gunfight”.

    1. If I were to write a long post about the real issue within IDPA, it would be about the factions inside the sport – the people who want it to be “srs tactical training” and the people who want it to be a shooting sport with vests. Using the “do x/y in a gunfight” is pandering to half the shooters. Telling people “it’s just a game” is pandering to the other half.

      I have no doubt in my mind that in 10 years IDPA will allow appendix carry and carry guns with dots on them.

    2. I really don’t see a contradiction here. The practical, real world considerations are what frame and provide context the game. Occasionally they’ll disagree, and usually, the game will win.

  4. Amen.

    Competition isn’t “training”, it is competition- a game played against the clock. If it was “tactical” there wouldn’t be walkthroughs and stage descriptions with diagrams, shooters would just operate the hell out of it.

  5. Don’t get me wrong here… I shoot IDPA, and I like it. But it seems like a desire to avoid an equipment race may not be helping much in the flashlight category. Assuming the CTC Rail Master technique you use (or something like it) becomes widespread, competitors will start using unusual grips with non-standard “handheld” lights like the Rail Master to stay competitive.

    When the alternative to that is an “equipment race” that means buying a practical, useful, $20 part to put on flashlights that a lot of people are actually carrying already… well, it seems to me that that’s the sort of thing IDPA ought to be encouraging. Because it’s actually a useful piece of kit for, you know, The Street.

    So the gamers get to buy a cool new accessory, and the practically-minded get to practice with gear that actually makes their EDC lights more capable. Seems like a win-win to me.

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