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My First IDPA Match: Training For Self Defense Through Competition

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

SPRINGFIELD, MASS. - After meeting world shooting champion and Smith & Wesson Team Captain Julie Golob at the SHOT Show in January, she invited me to come check out the 17th Annual International Defensive Pistol Association [IDPA] Indoor Nationals to get a first hand look at competition shooting.


This year's competition spans until Saturday but I'll be shooting today with a small group of Smith & Wesson executives and a couple other newbies to the competition world. It's my first real shooting competition, so I'm bracing myself for a humbling experience. There are thirteen stages that require 180 rounds (I brought 250 just in case). Each stage is set up to mimic real life self defense situations. For example, one stage is a camping scenario complete with low lighting and a tent. Another sets you up in a situation where you're working at a warehouse late at night and encounter an intruder. It's always very important to train like you'd fight and IDPA matches give shooters a fun way to do exactly that in addition to sharpening their skills and knowledge about the sport.

"Back when they initially developed it [IDPA] the whole concept was to build a skill set for real life scenarios to be able to protect yourself," Smith & Wesson's Paul Pluff said in an interview with the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Dave Miles last year. "As you start to go through these matches, we have some very elaborate matches. You're going to see everything from...we actually rebuild a van or an ambulance inside here, you've got docked boats, you've got a wedding going on, all sorts of scenarios."


The event takes place in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Smith & Wesson Employee Sports Center, which requires jumping through a whole bunch of hoops to participate legally. I flew into Connecticut and drove across the state line to get here.

1) Large Capacity Magazines or “LCMs” (those magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds). In order to be able to possess LCMs in Massachusetts, the magazine must have been manufactured on or before September 13, 1994 (and you should have proof of that), and you must have a Massachusetts License To Carry. Non-residents are able to apply for Temporary Licenses to Carry in Massachusetts for purposes of participating in firearms competition. Without a resident or non-resident Massachusetts License to Carry, possession of a LCM (even one manufactured before 9/13/94) is a serious crime in Massachusetts which carries a mandatory minimum two and a half year prison sentence!

2) The MA AG Regs and “Compliant” firearms. The Massachusetts Attorney General regulations regarding certain handgun characteristics (such as a 10lb trigger pull) only apply to the transfers of handguns by firearms dealers to customers in Massachusetts. These regulations are used to determine whether a handgun is “compliant” for sale in Massachusetts. They do not apply to the possession in Massachusetts of “non-compliant” handguns by non-residents (or residents for that matter).

3) Transport of Handguns. Non-residents may transport pistols or revolvers into Massachusetts (unloaded and in locked cases) for the purpose of taking part in a pistol or revolver competition, provided that the person is a resident of the United States and has a permit or license to carry firearms issued under the laws of any state, district or territory of the U.S. which has licensing requirements which prohibit the issuance of permits or licenses to persons who have been convicted of a felony or who have been convicted of the unlawful use, possession, or sale of narcotic or harmful drugs. Despite this language, Massachusetts does not recognize permits or licenses to carry firearms from any other state. Therefore, as noted in the information provided by GOAL below, a non-resident can only “carry” on the person (concealed or open) a handgun in Massachusetts if he or she has a Massachusetts Temporary License to Carry.

4) Ammunition. The law implies, but does not explicitly state, that a non-resident may possess handgun ammunition in Massachusetts (however, it does expressly permit the possession of ammunition for rifles and shotguns, provided the non-resident meets the requirements for such possession in his or her home state). Ammunition may only be sold to a Massachusetts resident who has a License to Carry or Firearms Identification Card.

In addition to the above, it would be wise for non-resident competitors who will be transporting handguns and ammunition into Massachusetts to make sure they have documentation (registration papers, etc.) evidencing their participation in the competition in the event they are stopped and searched by law enforcement while in Massachusetts. Given the harsh penalties associated with firearms laws violations in Massachusetts, competitors must be cognizant of all of the relevant laws before traveling to Massachusetts.

All of my handguns take 15-round magazines, in Massachusetts you're only allowed to possess 10-round capacity magazines. Because of stage requirements, at least five magazines are necessary to properly compete. This left me with two options: buy five new, expensive 10-round capacity magazines to fit one of my handguns (Glock 19 and a Springfield XD Compact) or buy a new gun for close to the same price, a gun I'd never shot before. I didn't have to take either of those options because Julie kindly offered to let me borrow her Smith & Wesson M&P Pro Series 9 mm. This also allowed me to avoid transporting a gun into Massachusetts, which took the stress level down a notch. I'll still be shooting something I've never shot before, but I think I'll get the hang of it.

Julie will be coaching me through my stages, which is an incredible opportunity comparable to Michael Jordan teaching me how to play basketball (which never happened, by the way). She's a shooting legend. If you aren't familiar with her work, you can check it out on her website. Not only is she a shooting champion, both nationally and worldwide, she's also a hunter, fabulous cook, Army veteran, mother and author.

Stay tuned to Townhall for updates in the next few days. I'll be writing about the event in addition to posting photos and video. You can also check out my stories at BearingArms.com.


Photo: Julie Golob by Yamil Sued

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