An Embarrassing Classifier

I'm officially classified in IDPA as a novice.

I’m officially classified in IDPA… as Novice. To be honest, it was a bit embarrassing. I should have done a lot better than I did, but I didn’t. And that’s that, at least until I shoot another classifier. Embarrassment aside, here is what I learned.

What’s an IDPA classifier?

A classifier is a standardized match or course of fire used by IDPA to rank competitors into similar classes based on shooting skills. The classes from least to most skilled are: Novice (NV), Marksman (MM), Sharpshooter (SS), Expert (EX), and Master (MA). Once a shooter is classified they compete against others in the same class. Up until now, I had been shooting unclassified (UN).

The classifier I shot was the IDPA 5×5 classifier which is a single stage consisting of four strings of fire at a single target at a distance of 10 yards scored using the limited scoring. Limited scoring means there are significant penalties for shooting more or less than the specified number of shots in the course of fire in addition to the standard IDPA A, B, and C zone point deductions (0 for A-zone, 1 for B-zone, 3 for C-zone and 5 for misses).

Here is a break down of the strings:

  1. Draw, fire 5 shots freestyle
  2. Draw, fire 5 shots strong hand only
  3. Draw, fire 5 shots freestyle, emergency reload, fire 5 shots freestyle
  4. Draw, fire 4 shots to the body and 1 shot to the head freestyle

The scoring consists of the adding the total time from the the four strings (also known as the raw time), adding the point deductions, adding the penalties to arrive at the total score.

The score is then compared to the division standards to determine the shooters rank.

How did I do?

My score was just north of 52. I had 2 C-zone hits, 12 B-zone hits, and the rest were in the A-zone (including the headshot). No misses. With those hits, 18 points of my score were due to hits landing out of the A-zone. Had I placed all the shots in the A-zone my score would have been 34 which would have resulted in a Marksman classification. I also fumbled the reload which probably accounted for a total of 2-3 seconds. That difference could have resulted in a score just within the Sharpshooter range.

So why did I get some many hits out of the A-zone and fumble the reload. Well there are a few things that likely contributed, but the bottom line is I choked. I know I’m capable of shooting the classifier at about a Sharpshooter proficiency in terms of time and accuracy, but I didn’t. Here are what I believe the contributing factors were:

  1. Arthritis in my hands was acting up.
  2. Time/test pressure.
  3. Reused target exaggerated my shooting tendencies.

What could I have a done better?

There is very little that I can do about my arthritis other than continue to work with my doctor to treat it and minimize its effects. However, it’s a life long condition I will continue to live and deal with and there will just be bad days like the day I shot this classifier for my first time. While shooting the classifier, my arthritis contributed to a weaker grip which resulted in larger than typical shot groups and the magazine fumble.

The time/test pressure was definitely there. The pressure of the classifier reminded me of the pressure I felt when I shot my first IDPA match. Some of this pressure came from not knowing what the classifier consisted of nor how it was scored. The other part came from this just being the first time I shot the classifier, it’s similar to how shooting a new drill for the first time that is being timed and will be used to evaluate my existing skill level (this happens from time to time during training courses). The only thing that I can think about doing this is to just shoot it again. Which I plan on doing later this year.

Finally there was the re-used target. Another person was shot the classifier before I did. I ended up the using the same target which had been taped up which is a typical practice for shooting competitions. The previous shooter (who I’ve competed with on several occasions now) shot the classifier clean, but shot mostly a little low and left in the A-zone (as is typical for most right handed shooters). The masking tape used left a light discoloration over the bottom left area of the A-zone which was noticeable from the firing line. I believe I was drawn to that lower left area as my aiming reference which resulted in me shooting further left and lower than usual from the center of the A-zone on the target. I’m fairly certain that all of the B-zone hits would have been A-zone hits and both of the C-zone hits would have been B-zone hits had I been using a fresh target or a more heavily used target (as the lighter discoloration wouldn’t have been so concentrated on the bottom left of the A-zone). Which means I will ask for a fresh target if I ever find myself shooting a similarly used target at a future classifier.

What’s next?

All that said, the good news is I know where I stand and what I need to do to improve. So while I was a bit embarrassed by my performance and a little discouraged by my ranking, I’m ready to keep getting after it and have a new IDPA goal for myself: to be classified as a sharpshooter by the end of 2020.

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