The Great IDPA Reload Rules Debate

27-Jun-13 – 16:05 by ToddG

With the final release of the new IDPA rulebook, the Net is all aflutter with people losing their minds over two changes to how reloads can be performed in the game:

  1. If you are behind cover, you cannot advance further into the stage while performing a reload (reload must be done “flat footed” so to speak).
  2. If you are out in the open when your gun goes dry you may begin your reload immediately but you cannot fire the gun again until you are properly behind cover.

There are essentially two angles of attack people are taking in terms of these changes.

The first is that these new rules further eliminate shooter options and stage strategy. I can see that. I can also see that IDPA is and always has been okay with that. IDPA has never been about rewarding the guy with the smartest stage strategy. In fact, one could go so far as to say IDPA has always tried to avoid making gamey strategy the basis of people’s scores. Most of the people making this argument seem to be USPSA shooters who also shoot (or wanted to shoot) IDPA.

I find it easiest to think about it like this: USPSA is about looking at a big shooting problem, coming up with a plan in advance, and then attacking the problem to see who (a) shoots the best, (b) moves the best, and (c) plans the best… not necessarily in that order. USPSA would say, “Here are three targets, shoot them however you want and we’ll see who does best.”

IDPA is about giving people a pretty straightforward path to follow and then seeing who executes that the best… it’s more like a complicated shooting drill. IDPA would say, “Here are three targets that you need to shoot once each going left to right and then once each going right to left and we’ll see who does best.

Both approaches have validity and both have their fans & detractors.

The second argument is that somehow these new rules aren’t tactical enough. This one I have a really hard time seeing. Let’s take the rules one at a time.

Flat footed reloads behind cover. The pseudo-tactical argument against this seems to be that people shouldn’t be flat footed and/or stay in one place for too long in a gunfight. I get that as a general concept. But think about when this rule will apply. You’ve just eliminated all of the threats at one location. Now you are knowingly charging towards another location with more threats. Who in his right mind would take a partially loaded mag out of the gun and run toward armed bad before topping off? Who in his right mind would charge toward more bad guys with an unloaded gun? You’re in a position of (relative) safety. Getting your gun up and ready as best it could be before diving into the next gunfight makes sense to me.

Get to cover before shooting back. This one I admit makes me uncomfortable, too. As I said on, I’m not crazy about any rule that tells me I cannot shoot threats that are right in front of me. But when we start to look at the rule sincerely it does have some logic behind it. In IDPA, there is a limit on how much movement there should be from point to point. So how far can you actually be from cover when our gun goes dry? Let’s suppose it’s twenty-five feet. If your gun goes empty and you truly try to make it to cover as fast as you can, the vast majority of shooters will be to cover long before they can reload the gun. So for most people, the only reason you’d need to shoot before you got to cover would be that you were purposely moving more slowly to get the gun reloaded while you were still out in the open. Dawdling in the open with an empty gun for a competitive advantage doesn’t seem terribly tactical to me.

I’ve really got no problem with the flat footed reload rule. The run to cover rule has two issues. First, it really does penalize those shooters who, if there’s really a long way to go to cover, actually do have the skill to get the gun up and firing fast enough to hit a target before they reach cover. Second — as pointed out by PPGMD on the forum — it creates a situation where the athletic sprinter has an advantage over the shooters who are, as you say, less physical. Both of those problems can be easily addressed with good stage design simply by making sure shooters are likely within 5-10 feet of cover when their guns go dry.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

  1. 6 Responses to “The Great IDPA Reload Rules Debate”

  2. Todd,

    With good stage design you can make anything you want happen. So don’t legislate it.

    Make them run dry too close to the target or make the walls too short to perform a moving reload.


    By Ron Larimer on Jun 27, 2013

  3. Speaking to the issue of making stages “fitness neutral” …

    While I understand that accommodating the average, out-of-shape, middle-aged IDPA shooter makes good sense from a membership and participation perspective, it should NOT be an overriding consideration for every stage in every match.

    If only to teach the “tactical value” of fitness and balance the advantage that most stages accrue to older, more practiced marksmen (vs. younger, fitter souls w/o the advantage of years of practice), each match should include at least one “stress” event with a requirement for a much longer movement (on the clock).

    Speaking to the issues at hand, I fully support the concept of the flat-footed reload, and would even applaud a way to subtract the reload split from the overall time (given that a constantly running clock mitigates against truly tactical behavior behind hard cover).

    Further, I actually like the “get to cover” rule, as a truly dedicated sprint to cover very rarely allows for much ability to conduct a reload.

    By xdarrows on Jun 28, 2013

  4. As far as the run to cover rule goes I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Previously you couldn’t even start your reload until you were behind cover. That use to piss me off to no end. As primarily a revolver shooter I would run dry in the open frequently, previously I couldn’t even dump the spent rounds until I was behind cover. OYYY.

    Over the last 3 years I’ve been shooting IDPA 98% of the time if I ran dry in the open I was already moving in the direction of cover. Quite frankly the remaining distance wouldn’t have let Robbie Leatham with a semi-auto finish the reload before reaching cover. As noted in Todd’s OP IDPA has a limit on movement in a stage and unless you were really stretching the realm of reality on how slow you were moving and still be considered moving you should be close to cover to start with. The rule is an improvement over the prior one and lets be happy about that.

    By rsa-otc (Scott) on Jun 28, 2013

  5. I’m just bummed horizontal mag pouches aren’t allowed. Sorry for drifting off topic.

    By NWGlocker on Jun 28, 2013

  6. Good rule. I hate it when sports involve athleticism.

    By d on Jun 29, 2013

  7. “IDPA is about giving people a pretty straightforward path to follow and then seeing who executes that the best… it’s more like a complicated shooting drill.”

    Thanks ToddG this does help me get my mind around where IDPA is coming from.

    By Ken Rihanek on Jul 1, 2013

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