Divisions and Classifications

One of the competitive principles of IDPA is that shooters should compete only against other shooters who are at similar skill level and who use similar equipment. Members of IDPA are classified as to skill level and placed in a division according to the kind of gun they shoot. When you shoot a match, your performance will be judged only against those in the same division who hold the same classification.


IDPA groups firearms into five divisions, as follows:
Custom Defensive Pistol (CDP) (semi-autos chambered in .45 ACP only)

Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP) (semi-autos, including single-action, chambered for 9mm or larger, with some modifications allowed)

Stock Service Pistol (SSP) (double-action, double-action/single action, and “safe action” semi-autos [Glock] chambered for 9mm or larger caliber with few modifications allowed)

Enhanced Service Revolver (ESR) (.38 caliber or larger double action revolvers with moon clips allowed)

Stock Service Revolver (SSR) (.38 caliber or larger double-action revolvers, moon clips not allowed).

At a match, you'll hear the term “division capacity”, which refers to the maximum number of rounds allowable for your division. Most stages require that you begin with your gun loaded to division capacity. For revolvers, the division capacity is 6 rounds. Division capacity for CDP is 8+1 (eight in the magazine and one in the chamber). Division capacity for ESP and SSP is 10+1 (10 in the magazine and one in the chamber).

Don’t worry about what division your gun falls into or what your division capacity is—we can answer all of your questions at match registration.


IDPA members are classified by skill level ranging from Novice (NV), to Marksman (MM), to Sharpshooter (SS), to Expert (EX), and, finally, to Master (MA).

Classifications are based either on the shooter’s performance in a classifier match, or by his or her performance in a major, IDPA-sanctioned match. As a new shooter, you will start out unclassified. In the final results for your first match, you’ll be grouped with other unclassified shooters in your division (CDP, SSP, etc).

If you decide that IDPA matches are fun and you want to continue to participate (and why wouldn’t you?), you'll need to shoot a classifier match to determine your initial classification. We try to hold a classifier match at GMSA at least once a year. We’ll announce an upcoming classifier by e-mail. The classifier consists of three stages and requires a minimum of 90 rounds. It will test all of your shooting skills, including one-handed shooting, reloading, and shooting while on the move. It’s a good test of overall shooting skills. Your results in the classifier (raw time plus points down—just like in a regular match) will determine your classification.

Download the IDPA rulebook for a complete description of the classifier.

IDPA Scoring

Scoring in IDPA is fairly straightforward. It’s based on time, with lower times being better.

You’ll often find, particularly in major matches, that hundredths, or even thousandths, of a second can make the difference between finishing first and finishing back in the pack. So this is clearly a sport where seconds count.  

Raw time

Your score for a stage begins with raw time. That’s the time that elapses from the moment the buzzer sounds until you fire your last shot on the stage. If you get good center-mass or head shots on every target, your raw time will be your time for the stage. If not, you’ll be assessed with points down and other penalties as explained below.

Points down penalties

The IDPA target is divided into three scoring zones, marked -0, -1, and -3. These numbers refer to “points down,” from the total points available for the target and are used as a convention to simplify scoring.

All you need to know is that each “point down” adds ONE (1) second to your raw time for the stage. Put all your shots in the -0 zone and you are assessed no penalties. If you have one shot in the -0 and one in the -1, you have one point down and 1 second added. A hit in the -3 zone (3 points down) adds 3 seconds, and so on.

Hit on a non-threat

Don’t shoot the unarmed guy (the target with open hands).

Each hit on a non-threat target adds 5 seconds to your time (for example, 2 hits on a non-threat adds 10 seconds).

Also, if a round goes through a threat target and strikes a non-threat target (a “shoot-through”), you get credit for the hit on the threat, but you will be penalized for all hits on the non-threat.

Procedural penalties

Procedural errors (PEs), usually referred to as “procedurals,” add 3 seconds to your raw time.

Most procedurals are assessed because a competitor doesn’t follow the instructions as outlined in the course of fire (COF) description and walkthrough. That could mean failing to do a specified reload, engaging targets out of order, shooting from a stationary position when you should be moving—the list goes on and on. If you make sure that you are familiar with IDPA rules and that you understand the COF, you’ll be OK. You’ll still get procedurals—everyone does—but you’ll be OK.

Failure to do right penalty

The Failure to do right (FTDR) is a 20-second “match-killer” penalty added to your raw time.

Quoting from the IDPA rulebook,  the FTDR is assessed for any attempt to circumvent or compromise the spirit or rationale of any stage by the use of inappropriate devices, equipment or techniques. [It] is assessed for unsportsmanlike conduct, unfair actions, or the use of illegal equipment, which, in the opinion of the [match director], tends to make a travesty of the defensive shooting sport.

FTDRs are rare, but they do occur. Just follow the rules and abide by the principles of fair play and you’ll be fine.


A shooter may be disqualified from a match for a number of safety-related violation.

For example, pointing a gun, loaded or empty, at yourself or any other person is grounds for disqualification.

Dropping a loaded gun results in an automatic disqualification.

Handling your gun when you are not the shooter and are not either in a safe area or under the supervision of a safety officer will get you disqualified.

A reckless disregard for the safety of yourself and others will also result in disqualification.

The last thing we want is to disqualify a shooter from a match, but the safety of everyone who shoots with us is our first priority.

Final scores

Each competitor has a score sheet on which his or her times and penalties are recorded for each stage. At the end of the match, the score sheets are collected, and the times and penalties are entered into a software program that calculates and prints the final results sorted by division and classification.

That’s where you’ll see how you fared against others at a similar skill level using similar equipment.