International Practical Shooting Confederation

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International Practical Shooting Confederation
Logo of the International Practical Shooting Confederation.jpg
Motto "Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas"
Latin for "precision, power, speed"
Formation May 1976
Headquarters Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Nick Alexakos

The International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) is a shooting sport based on the concept of practical shooting. Accuracy, power and speed are all required to achieve a maximum score. Competitions are shot both with pistol, revolver, shotgun, rifle and airsoft, and competitors are divided into different divisions based on firearm and equipment features. While everyone in a division competes in the Overall category, there are also own separate categories for Lady (female competitors), Junior (under 18 years), Senior (over 50 years) and Super Senior (over 60 years).

The world championships are called World Shoots and are held for each of the disciplines, see:

Founding and organization[edit]

The sport of practical shooting originated from competitions in California in the 1950s with the goal of developing handgun skills for defensive use, but quickly evolved into a pure sport with little grounding in the original purpose. The sport soon expanded to Europe, Australia, South America and Africa.

IPSC was founded in May 1976 when practical shooting enthusiasts from around the world participated at a conference held in Columbia, Missouri, creating a constitution and establishing the rules governing the sport.[1][2] Jeff Cooper served as the first IPSC President.

Practical shooting is today a major international sport and emphasizes firearms safety highly. Through international rules concering firearms, equipment and organizing of matches one tries to unite the three elements precision, power and speed, which is also found to be the motto of IPSC that is "Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas" (DVC), Latin for "precision, power, speed". Only full caliber firearms are used, i.e. for handguns 9x19 mm is the smallest caliber, and the competitors try to achieve most points in the shortest time possible.

While IPSC is an international organization, countries have their own organizations under the IPSC umbrella. For example, there is the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) in the United States, the United Kingdom Practical Shooting Association (UKPSA) in the United Kingdom, and the South African Practical Shooting Association (SAPSA) in South Africa. There are currently over 90 active IPSC regions.[3]

Major and Minor[edit]

Power is a requirement in IPSC competition, along with speed and accuracy. The power factor is the momentum of a given cartridge, and is measured by the product of bullet mass and velocity:

Power\,Factor=\frac{mass\,[grains] \cdot velocity\,[ft/s]}{1000}

The weight of the bullet fired in grains (7,000 to the pound) is multiplied by the velocity (feet per second) and the total must exceed certain thresholds. A competitor's ammunition is fired, in the competitor's firearm (velocities can vary slightly from one firearm to another) to measure the velocity for scoring. A Major load is one that exceeds the threshold of 160 or 170 (depending on the division competed in). To shoot Minor, a competitor's ammunition must exceed 125. Extra scoring is not given for exceeding the threshold. A competitor declaring Major, but who fails the threshold, have their score re-calculated at Minor. A shooter who fails the threshold of Minor is given a score of zero for the match.

The power factor can also be calculated exactly using the metric units gram for bullet weight and meter per second (m/s) for bullet velocity, which divided by 1,000 gives the derived SI-unit Newton second for momentum. Since by definition 1 g = 15.4323584 grains and 1 m/s = 3.2808399 ft/s, their product is 50.6310987 and the following formula can be used:

Newton \, second = \frac{mass \, [g] \cdot velocity \, [m/s]}{1000}
Power \, Factor = Newton \, second \cdot 50.6310987

Minimum power factors[edit]

Division Minor
Handgun Open 125
(2.469 Ns)
(3.160 Ns)
Handgun Production 125
(2.469 Ns)
(2.469 Ns)
(3.358 Ns)
Rifle All divisions 150
(2.963 Ns)
(6.320 Ns)
Shotgun All divisions N/A 480
(9.480 Ns)

Procedure and scoring[edit]

The IPSC paper target which is typically used.
Poppers are used as falling steel targets.

The typical course of fire is an array of targets, which the competitor must engage with two hits each (sometimes more). Also, steel plates that fall when struck can be added to a course of fire, or stage. The shooter's time is recorded electronically, by means of a timer that detects the sound of the shots. Scoring is relatively simple to explain, but involved to calculate for a match. Known as "Comstock" scoring after its inventor Walt Comstock, the points generated by hits on the targets are totaled. Penalties (if incurred) are subtracted. Then the points total is divided by the time it took the competitor to engage the stage. This calculation, called a "Hit Factor", is the ratio of points per second.

Hit\ Factor={points \over time\,[seconds]}

The highest hit factor wins the stage and the full total of Stage Points assigned to it, and lesser scores are awarded Stage Points according to the percentage hit factor they fired, compared to the winner.

The points from shots fired and hits generated vary slightly. A center hit for both Major and Minor is five points. However, lesser scoring rings are not rewarded as much for Minor as for Major. The A-C-D rings are scored 5-4-2 for Major, and 5-3-1 for Minor. A shooter who has declared Minor must shoot more "A" hits or shoot faster than one who has declared Major, in order to make up for lesser hits being so punished.

A 5 5
C 3 4
D 1 2

Each competitor then have their stage points totaled for all stages of the match, to calculate the match standings. The highest total of points wins the match. Comparing each shooter directly to the performance of the top shooter of each stage allows for precise gradation of performance across a match, but requires a computer and software to do in a timely fashion.

Target arrangments[edit]

To achieve a varied, challenging and exciting sport there are no fixed target arrangments, distances or shooting programs, making the matches different each time. For instance targets may be placed between 10-30 m for handgun, 15-50 m for shotgun and 50-300 m for rifle. Approved paper and steel targets can be mixed in the same stage, and may be static, moving or partially covered by targets called no shoots that give minus points if struck by a bullet.

For paper targets, the IPSC Target is used throughout all the disciplines Handgun, Rifle and Shotgun, together with the 2/3 scaled down IPSC Mini Target which is used to simulate a full size target placed at a greater distance. Additionally the Universal Target can be used for rifle or shotgun, while the A3 and A4 paper targets are approved for shotgun matches only.

Steel targets are made of hardened (martensitic) steel. There are two standardized knock down targets, the IPSC Popper (85 cm tall, approximately 33.5 inches) and the 2/3 scaled down IPSC Mini Popper (56 cm tall, approximately 22 inches). Other metal plates can be in general shapes, and are often circles between 20-30 cm in diameter or squares between 15x15 cm to 30x30 cm for handgun, and circles between 15-30 cm in diameter or squares between 15x15 cm to 30x45 cm for rifle/ shotgun.


The safety of all competitors, officials and spectators are always of the highest importance in competitions. Firearms are kept unloaded until on the firing line under the direct supervision of a Range Officer, and can otherwise only be handled in designated safety areas. The safety area contain a direction with a secure backstop where competitors can handle unloaded firearms for example for packing or unpacking, holstering, cleaning or repair, dry firing or training with empty magazines. Handling of ammunition is expressively prohibited within the safety areas, including any dummy rounds. Outside the safety area ammunition can be handled freely to load magazines, but firearms may only be handled under the direct supervision of a Range Officer. The strict separation of firearms and ammunition prevents accidents like accidental discharge (AD). Violators will be prosecuted as a rule, with immediate disqualification and exclusion from the competition.

Competitive divisions[edit]

In the beginning, IPSC was fired with whatever handguns the competitors chose. After a relatively short period, it became clear that equipment mattered, and equipment divisions were thus designated. All divisions fire the same stages, on the same days, as all other divisions, in a match. However, when calculating match standings, only Divisional stage scores are compared. Thus, the top shooter in Open on a stage is the measure for all other Open shooters, the best Standard shooter is the measure for all other Standard shooters and likewise for all other divisions.


Open Division

The handgun equivalent to the Formula 1 race car[citation needed] where most modifications are permitted to achieve a faster and more accurate gun. The most notable modifications are optical/ electronic sights (such as red dot sights) and recoil reducing muzzle brakes (also called compensators).[4] The division facilitates the highest magazine capacity, placing a restriction of 170 mm maximum overall length measured at the rear of the magazine. Shorter magazines, i.e. 140 mm, are also popular because of easier handling and often more reliable feeding, leaving the competitor a choice of equipment according to the stage at hand.

Open and Revolver are the only divisions where 9 mm bullets (.38") can be used to achieve major scoring, and hence .38 Super (or some variant) or 9x19 mm loaded to major power factor of 160 (8.101 Ns) are popular cartridges for the pistols in Open. The 9 mm caliber cartridges provides higher gas pressures and better magazine capacity over 10 mm calibers. Open handguns are often custom built with parts and features specifically designed for competition, and with the maximum magazine length of 170 mm some .38/ 9 mm magazines can hold up to 28 or 29 rounds.[5]

Standard Division

At first glance handguns in the Standard division look very "standard", but most modifications are permitted except optical sights or compensators as long as the handgun will fit inside the IPSC box with any of its magazines inserted. Modifications such as slide rackers, thumb rests ("gas pedals") and grip tape on the slide can sometimes be seen. The IPSC box has internal dimensions of 225 x 150 x 45 mm[4] (length x height x depth, tolerance of +1 mm, -0 mm), which is approximately 8.86 x 5.91 x 1.77 inches. The handgun must fit with the slide parallel to the longest side of the box and hammer cocked if applicable. All magazines must comply, which means that for instance on 2011 pattern pistols 124 or 126 mm magazines usually will give the maximum capacity and still fit the box.

Minimum caliber for minor scoring is 9x19 mm loaded to a power factor of 125 (6.329 Ns) while minimum caliber for major scoring is a 10 mm (.40") cartridge loaded to a power factor of 170 (8.608 Ns), making for an interesting choice between minor and major scoring taken in mind the differences in recoil, magazine capacity and scoring points.

Production Division

Production division allows very few modifications and is limited to typical "off the shelf" service pistols which has to be explicitly approved and listed on the IPSC Production Division List. The handgun must be double-action (DA/ SA, DAO or striker fired), and the first trigger pull must be a double action of at least 2.27 kg (5 lbs). Maximum barrel length is 127 mm (5 inches).

Production is the only division with minor scoring only, which means that anyone can be competitive with affordable and readily available 9x19 mm factory ammunition, without having to worry about handloading to make major. Together with (in general) affordable handguns, Production therefore makes for a popular entry level division. Different models of handguns have variance in magazine capacity, but this is evened out by limiting competitors to load their magazines to a maximum of 15 rounds (15 in each magazine plus 1 in the chamber).

Permitted modifications are limited to the application of grip tape in limited areas, replacement of sights that do not require gunsmithing to be installed and the replacement of internal components available as a factory option from the original manufacturer. After-market magazines are allowed. Minor polishing and fitting of trigger components is permitted. There are differences in approved pistols for IPSC Production division and USPSA Production division.

Classic Division

Introduced in 2011, Classic division mimics the equipment which was almost exclusively used in the sport for the first 20 years, and is limited to handguns visually resembling the classic single stack 1911 form. The handgun with any of its magazines inserted has to fit inside the IPSC box. The competitor can choose between maximum 8 rounds per magazine for major scoring or 10 rounds per magazine for minor scoring. Minor scoring can be achieved with a 9 mm projectile loaded to a power factor of 125 (6.329 Ns), while major scoring requires a 10 mm or larger projectile loaded to a power factor of 170 (8.608 Ns).[4]

Handguns must have a one piece metal frame, slide with stirrup cuts and the dust cover (with or without an accessory rail) can have a maximum length of 75 mm from the leading edge to the rear of the slide stop pin. Magazine wells cannot exceed a maximum outside width of 35 mm. Permitted modifications are shaped slides (i.e. flat-top or tri-top), shaped trigger guards (i.e. squared or undercut), bob-tail backstraps, bull or coned barrels, external extractors, finger-grooves (machined, add-on, wrap-around etc.), custom magazine release buttons, triggers, hammers, single/ ambidextrous thumb safeties, any iron sights, extended slide lock levers and thumb shields provided they do not act as a thumb rest. Cosmetic modifications are permitted.

Prohibited modifications / parts are slide lightening cuts, weak hand thumb rests and slide rackers.

Revolver Division

Does not permit muzzle brakes or optical sights. Revolvers of any capacity may be used, but a maximum of six rounds can be fired before a reload is required. Competitors can have any caliber 9x19 mm or larger, and may declare Major with a 9 mm (.38") bullet loaded to a power factor of 170 (8.608 Ns).[4] .45 ACP is popular cartridge due to easier insertion of moon clips/ speedloaders.

Modified Division

Now obsolete, the Modified division was introduced at the 1993 World Shoot X in Bisley, England and retired after the 2011 World Shoot XVI in Rhodes, Greece. The division was sort of a mix between Open and Standard, and handguns were allowed to have compensators and optical sights as long as they would fit in the IPSC box with a magazine inserted. The division saw some use in southern Europe, but was otherwise not very widespread.


There is no minimum caliber in rifle, but the ammunition has to make a power factor of 150 (7.595 Ns) for minor or 320 (16.202 Ns) for major scoring. Starting position is usually with the butt of the rifle touching the hip. Important elements include the use of prone, off hand and supported shooting positions. Knowledge of the firearms ballistics is a key element to succeed at the long range targets.

1-4 or 1-6 scopes are popular in the Rifle Open divisions. Some use reticles with marked hold overs, while others prefer reticles with a simple dot and crosshair and choose to dial long range adjustments on the turrets istead. Non-magnified red dot sights are very competitive at short ranges, but have a disadvantage at longer ranges.

Any iron sights can be used in the Rifle Standard divisions. A long long sight radius helps even target and sight focus, and thus iron sighted rifles often have long barrels and the front sight attached to the end of it.

Semi Auto Open (SAO)

This is the "Formula 1"-division for semi-automatic rifles. Optical sights are allowed together with muzzle brakes and bipods.[6]

Semi Auto Standard (SAS)

The Semi Auto Standard division is limited to iron sights only, muzzle brakes have to be within maximum dimensions of 26x90 mm (1x3.5 in) and bipods are not allowed.[6]

Manual Action Open (MAO)

The manual divisions are limited to manual action types. Manual Action Open allows optical sights, muzzle brakes and bipods, and is the only manual division with no magazine capacity limit.[6]

Manual Action Standard (MAS)

Manual Action Standard is limited to iron sights only, and no muzzle brakes or bipods are allowed. Magazine capacity is limited to 6 rounds (5 in the magazine plus 1 in the chamber).[6]

Manual Action Standard 10 (MAS10)

MAS10 is a division under evaluation, and sort of a crossover between MAS and MAO, being limited to iron sights only, a magazine capacity of 11 rounds (10 in the magazine plus 1 in the chamber) and factory fitted muzzle brakes only.[6]


The minimum caliber for shotguns are 20 gauge, and starting position is usually with the shotgun in one hand and the butt of the shotgun touching the hip. There is only one power factor of 480 (24.303 Ns), and all targets are scored as major. Different options on shotgun chokes and ammunition (from different pellets sizes and up to slugs) makes for interesting choke and ammunition choices based on the stage at hand.


The Open division allows optical sights, muzzle brakes, and detachable magazines or the use of speed loaders for internal magazines. The maximum overall length of the shotgun is 1320 mm (approximately 52 in) measured parallell to the barrel.[7] Detachable magazines must not contain more than 10 rounds at the start signal, while shotguns with fixed magazines may have an initial load of 14 rounds. After the start signal detachable magazines can be loaded up 12 rounds, while there is no limit for tube magazines.


The Modified division allows muzzle brakes, but is limited to internal magazines and iron sights. The maximum overall length of the shotgun is 1320 mm.[7] Modifications of the floor plate to facilitate loading is permitted, given that the modification doesn't exceed 75 mm in length or protrudes more than 32 mm from the shotgun frame in any direction. Maximum 14 rounds can be loaded at the start signal (13+1, 13 in the tube plus 1 in the chamber), but more can be loaded after the start signal.


The Standard division is limited to iron sights, and muzzle brakes are not allowed. The shotgun model has to be factory produced of at least 500 units.[7] Maximum 9 rounds can be loaded at the start signal (8+1, 8 in the tube plus 1 in the chamber), but more can be loaded after the start signal.

Standard Manual

The Standard Manual division is the only shotgun division limited to manual actions. Limited to iron sights and no muzzle brakes, and the shotgun model has to be factory produced of at least 500 units.[7] Maximum 9 rounds can be loaded at the start signal (8+1, 8 in the tube plus 1 in the chamber), but more can be loaded after the start signal.

Multi Gun[edit]

Multi Gun matches are called tournaments and can include a combination of the three disciplines handgun, rifle and shotgun in the same match. The default Grand Tournament divisions are:

Tournament Division Handgun Rifle Shotgun
Open • Open,
• Standard,
• Production,
• Classic or
• Revolver
• Semi Auto Open,
• Semi Auto Standard,
• Manual Action Open or
• Manual Action Standard
• Open,
• Modified,
• Standard or
• Standard Manual
Standard • Standard,
• Production,
• Classic or
• Revolver
• Semi Auto Standard or
• Manual Action Standard
• Standard or
• Standard Manual
Production • Production,
• Classic or
• Revolver
• Manual Action Standard • Standard Manual

Match organizers may declare their own specific Grand Tournament divisions, for instance

Tournament Division Handgun Rifle Shotgun
Restricted • Standard • Semi Auto Standard • Standard
Restricted • Production • Semi Auto Open • Modified

Competitor ranking[edit]

The Official IPSC Classification System (ICS) gives competitors the ability to rank both nationally and internationally based on performance. For this purpose, special classification matches with standard exercizes are used, where the competitor's hit factor is compared to the highest for that ICS stage. The ICS is dynamic and classifications may change based on competitor scores. A competitor achieves initial classification after 4 scores, and classification will be based on the average of the 4 best scores of the most recent 8 submitted.[8] The competitors can achieve a rank of either Grand Master, Master, A, B, C or D Class in each division.

Class Percent
Grand Master 95-100%
Master 85-94.9%
A 75-84.9%
B 60-74.9%
C 40-59.9%
D 2-40%

IPSC is a third party rating service based on performance in actual competitions and advanced rating algorithms. Results from IPSC level III, IV and V matches plus major USPSA matches are processed, with the last IPSC World Shoot as the most trusted and representative source.[9] Scores of competitors in other matches are compared to known "key competitors" who are already rated to achieve global rating percents. To be ranked one must compete in at least two level III matches, and old results will expire if they are not updated with following matches.

Match personnel[edit]

The International Range Officers Association (IROA) is a part of IPSC with the responsibility to train and certify their own dedicated range officials, who are responsible for conducting matches safely, fair and according to the rules. In addition, each IPSC region has its own National Range Officers Institute (NROI) under the IROA. In a match the different type of range officials (from IROA or NROI) are:

  • Range Officer (RO)
  • Chief Range Officer (CRO)
  • Range Master (RM)

World Shoot[edit]

The World Shoots are the highest level shooting matches within IPSC.[10] Held since 1975,[11] it is a multi-day match comprising at least 30 separate courses of fire, where the best IPSC shooters from around the world vie for the title of World Champion. Currently the championship is held with three year cycles for each of the disciplines Handgun, Rifle and Shotgun, meaning that since the last Handgun World Shoot was held in 2014, the next Shotgun World Shoot will be held during 2015 and the next Rifle World Shoot in 2016.

See also[edit]

Arranging IPSC matches[edit]

Match managing and electronic scoring:

Stage design:


External links[edit]