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  • Andy

Practicing with the IDPA Classifier

Updated: Apr 14

Making progress is the goal of practicing. I speak about practicing, not about getting some range time for fun. There's nothing wrong about going to the range, enjoying the pew pew action and smelling some gun powder, but that ain't practice. Practice is about developing physical and mental capabilities: like getting faster, becoming more accurate, being more consistent, making less mistakes and so on. It's about becoming a better shooter.

Competitive shooting is about winning. Winning in matches is fine but there are a lot of influencing factors that determine where you land in a particular match, division and class. Winning also includes winning against oneself. Oneself? Yes! Becoming a better shooter, making progress, is winning against oneself. I really enjoy getting better at what I am doing and constant progress keeps me motivated to put in that extra work in the practice sessions.

One important point is to decide on a measurement tool allowing to assess performance and therefore progress. There are countless shooting drills out there that one could use. Some make sense and others maybe less so.

Classifier Methods

For an IDPA competitor, and maybe also for those that aren't, the classifiers are an obvious choice. There currently are two handgun classifiers in use by IDPA: the standard (72 rounds) and the abbreviated (5x5, 25 rounds).

The detailed descriptions and score brackets can be found on the IDPA website.

There's also a separate PCC classifier, but that's not the topic here.


The standard method includes a good variety of required skills while the setup is still relatively easy to do. It provides a very useful performance evaluation. In my experience, progress in the standard classifier translates more or less directly into progress in match rankings. Thus, practicing using the standard classifier makes a lot of sense.


Let's say you want to do a classifier event at your club in order to get the classification renewal done for a large number of members in an efficient manner. Then the 5x5 is the way to go. Otherwise, it doesn't really provide a very useful skills evaluation and the practice value is rather low. So, let's forget about it for the moment and concentrate on the standard method instead.

How to train with the standard classifier

Shooting the complete classifier is quite time and ammo consuming and just looking at the total score doesn't tell us where we need to improve and what to practice exactly. Let's introduce a very helpful scheme to break it all down. Obviously, one goes along the stages and the strings, but what about the scores? When practicing to attain master class in SSP some years ago, I used the following formula to define digestible pieces that I can practice individually.

Overall required score for MA/SSP: less than 73.0 (time plus points down) Stage 1: 20.0 divided into S1: 10.0, S2: 5.0 and S3: 5.0

Stage 2: 20.0 divided into S1: 10.0, S2: 5.0 and S3: 5.0 Stage 3: 30.0 divided into S1: 15.0 and S2: 15.0

This leaves a reserve of 3.0 (or 2.9 to be exact) to get under the required 73.0 seconds. In stage 3 the first string is somewhat more difficult than the second one, so it might make sense to change the breakdown to S1: 16.0 and S2: 14.0 to accommodate for that.