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Want to learn to shoot on the move? Shoot USPSA

Okay. Buckle up. Rant time.

Ever shot an IDPA match and been required to “shoot on the move”? Let’s say you start close to some targets and have to shoot while you back up. In a real shooting, you’d be hauling ass backwards while presenting your gun, and maybe start squeezing off rounds from retention. In the match, if you’re looking to have a good score, you stand flat footed while you draw your gun and extend all the way out, and just before you press the trigger, you begin to take the IDPA Baby Steps backward so that you comply with the rules while minimizing the distance between you and the target. Who’s the gamer now?

So when it comes to shooting on the move, what you want in real life (more distance) and what you try for in IDPA (as little distance as possible) directly conflict. And don’t even get me started on stages where you shoot on the move across an opening, where you have 36 inches of space to engage three targets. Or the IDPA classifier where you move toward the targets while firing, which turns in to sprinting from the 10 yard line to the 7 and then baby stepping while you give the targets a good ol’ El Prez’ing.

Constructive suggestion time: if you really want to learn to shoot on the move, go shoot some USPSA. Yeah, you heard me right. The impractical, no-cover-garment-wearing, race-gun-tolerating shooting sport all your buddies have warned you about. But in an irony that the founders of IDPA would find hard to understand, when you have a game where the only rule is points per second, it turns out there’s some similarity to the rules of a gunfight (hint: there are none). I’ll be the first to admit that various elements of USPSA from red-dot Open guns to Texas Star targets hold no bearing on real life, but it remains the closest thing we have. And USPSA’s version of shooting on the move ends up being way closer to the real world than IDPA’s “suggested” “tactics.”

Now don’t get me wrong: I think IDPA is valuable for many reasons, not the least of which is simply having a reputation for being a practical, low barrier to entry, defensive shooting sport. I think everyone serious about their gun skills should shoot competition, and most defensively-minded people like me came in to the sport through IDPA. But the ridiculous baby steps that give the advantage to veterans and befuddle those who practice like they fight, not how they waddle, do nothing to improve defensive skills and become a game unto itself. As with most things in the real world, moderation is key: shoot some IDPA, some USPSA, and take the best of both.

And if you’re an IPDA match director or stage designer, just know: if I shoot your stage, and the optimal strategy is Baby Stepping, I hate you. Not because it’s hard, or because I don’t like it, but because it serves no practical purpose and just rewards you for playing the game. If you want to promote gamesmanship like that, take off your vest and come shoot a USPSA match. They’re fun and different, and you might even learn something new beside 1-1-2-1-1.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.


  1. ^^^This^^^ (IDPA Member #13) 🙂

    –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

  2. Very well stated.

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