Sunday, September 21, 2014

History of IPSC/USPSA: The Divisions

According to the 2014 USPSA Handgun Rule Book (February, 2014), there are 6 Divisions in USPSA competition, which are defined by the characteristics.  These divisions are extremely varied in their permissions and their limitations.  The following is a summary of the six divisions, which may be useful to people who are interested in competing in USPSA matches but are not familiar with the Division definitions:

*(I'm posting this because I often teach New Shooters who are not familiar with the choices available to them when the register in a mach in a specific division.  The problem is that they have often been advised to compete in "Production Division" even though they might be self-imposing a competitive handicap by their choice.  Also, it seems that some 'experienced' competitors in USPSA are not completely aware of the consequences of their choice.
Not that I care,  As long as they are showing up for matches, they are enjoying themselves.   Sometimes, though, if I am NOT informing them of the competitive consequences of their choices, I am not fulfilling my obligation to inform them.)



Description: "Race Gun"; allows electronic sights, large-capacity mags, compensators, extensive custom modifications, no restriction on holster or magazine-carrier placement. Extensive modifications permitted.

Caliber: Major 9mm, .38 super, et al

Magazines:  Maximum magazine length: 170mm and as many rounds as you can cram into them

Major/Minor limitations: 9mm Major allowed, usually .38 Super.  Usually 'assumed' to be shooting Major Power  (165; min: 125), but always subject to chronograph verification. Compensator allowed.  Electronic dot sight allowed.

Other: No limitations on sights.  No limitations on where holsters and magazine carriers may be borne on the waist-belt No limitations on make, manufacturer, or model.   Not required to fit into a box which limits maximum physical measurements.  No limitations on internal modifications.



Description: s

Caliber: .40 cal/10mm minimum; 165/125 PF

Magazines:  140mm max

Major/Minor limitations: .40/10

Other: Must be a make/ model of which a minimum number have been produced.  Some modifications permitted.


DIVISION: Limited 10

Description: Similar to Limited 10, except for magazine capacity limitations

Caliber: ,40/10mm

Magazines:  140mm; maximum number of rounds in loaded handgun at any time: 11 (10 in magazine, one in chamber) when actively shooting .. after the buzzer goes off.

Major/Minor limitations: x

Other: Some modifications permitted


DIVISION: Production

Description: "strictly stock" .. very few modifications permitted.

Caliber: 9mm; larger calibers treated as if they were 9mm (Minor Caliber)

Magazines: Magazine and handgun must fit within 'the box',  no more than 10 rounds may be loaded into the magazine during competition. Magazine limitations determined by "The Box"

Major/Minor limitations: All calibers treated as minor, regardless of calibration.

Other: Specific limitations on where the holster and magazines must be placed on the waist.  Specific limitations on make and model of pistol allowed in this division (See explanation here.)
Note that magazine load limitations are not respective of capacity.  Note that make and model restrictions may not allow 'new' models from reliable manufacturers whose other models have been accepted into this division.  Note that competitor may be required to document during a match that his specific make/model is specifically ALLOWED in this Division.  Note that there are specific restrictions on holster and magazine placement.  Note that there are specific limitations on the number of magazines which may be carried in a single magazine carrier.

 "Race Gun Holster" specifically prohibited.


EXTERNAL MODIFICATIONS are generally strictly limited, and limitations will be strictly enforced.

This is the most strict Division in the USPSA rule book; be prepared to be moved to OPEN Division if any modification is not specifically allowed by the rule book.  Changed to Guide Rods are generally not allowed.

Please read the rules carefully to determine whether your pistol meets the criteria of Production Division; any unauthorized variation will result in you being moved to Open Division"

UNLESS a modification is SPECIFICALLY authorized in the rules or
SPECIFICALLY authorized in an official, published NROI interpretation, it
Special Note:  "AUTHORIZED and PROHIBITED" modifications are similar to those in SINGLE STACK DIVISION.  Generally speaking; if it doesn't fit in the box, if there are internal modifications which are not SPECIFICALLY ALLOWED, and if it is not carried in the requisition position on the belt .. it will not be allowed.

1911 frames are specifically disallowed.


DIVISION: Single Stack

Description: Defined loosely (this is not an authorized definition) as a pistol which does not have a double-stacked (eg: "staggered") magazine configuration.

Caliber: 9mm/.38 caliber; .40/10mm for major

Magazines:  Must fit inside the box when inserted in the grip:  See OTHER

Major/Minor limitations: 165/135 PF  Major Power: 8 rounds in the magazine; Minor Power: 10 rounds

Other: Pistol with magazine must FIT INSIDE THE BOX": this included any magazine pads; which it should be noted might provide an overly long dimension. "Race Gun Holster" specifically prohibited.

Very few modifications accepted.  Note that in most all but OPEN Division, only iron sights (post and notch) are accepted.

Special note:   
•Must carry pistol so that the entire front
strap (to the trigger guard) is at or above
the top of the belt. Female shooters must
carry the pistol no lower than the heel of
the butt at the top of the belt.
Special Note:  "AUTHORIZED and PROHIBITED" modifications are similar to those in PRODUCTION DIVISION.  Generally speaking; if it doesn't fit in the box, if there are internal modifications which are not SPECIFICALLY ALLOWED, and if it is not carried in the requisition position on the belt .. it will not be allowed.

Only 1911 production type pistols. Must be available to the general public and
have their basis in the original 1911 service pistol as designed by John M.
Browning. Pistols made from components that duplicate the factory
originals are acceptable. Frames must be metal.



Description: Revolver type mechanism only

Caliber: .9mm/.38 special minimum

Magazines:  N/A; but maximum of 6 rounds fired before mandatory reload

Major/Minor limitations: x

Other: 8 round cylinders are not disallowed, but competitor must not fire more than 6 rounds before reloading.  Excess rounds fired will presumably advance the competitor to the OPEN Division, which is the same penalty imposed on Division-specific limitations within other Divisions.

— “Self-loading” revolvers with retractable slides are prohibited in this


HISTORY OF IPSC: The Divisions
Back in the 1960's and 1970's, what we now call IPSC was clearly an adjunct to training people to kill people in combat situations.  In fact, it was called "Combat Pistol".  That became, for a while, anathema to anti-combat pistol folks, although the practitioners were typically law-enforcement and military professionals whose job it was to kill people ... sometimes.

It didn't take take long before non-professionals were drawn to the sport.

Originally, the professional practitioners were typically using revolvers, and the occasional 1911 with a 7-round magazine (the standard at the time).

These perfidious amateurs, however, began looking at alternative hardware.  They found, for example, that they could use a 9mm semi-automatic which allowed them to load more rounds in a magazine.  Since 'reload time' was considered 'wasted time', this allowed them to shoot more often with fewer reloads, which was a competitive advantage.

Not, please note, something that was necessarily important to the Combat Professionals, who wanted to hone the skills needed for their work-a-day sill sets.

Then came other advances in technology.  Almost simultaneously, the Competitors discovered OPTICS .. first mere lenses scopes, but soon there were electronic dot-sights which gave an advantage in quickly acquiring the next target.

Almost simultaneously was the acceptance of compensators, which allowed faster acquisition of the SAME target for a second shot.  These were devices which looked much like 'silencers', in that they were attachments to the end of the pistol barrel, and used the generated discharge of gasses which were directed to minimize the 'muzzle flip' of the barrel .., which reduced the rise of the muzzle and thus enabled the competitor to shoot the second shot more quickly,

IPSC/USPSA responded by acknowledging that there was now an equipment race which threatened to undermine the sport, so in the late1970's they introduced Divisions.  There was "OPEN" (anything goes, almost) and "STOCK" (limited magazine capacity, no compensators, iron sights only).  And Revolver was always there, because they could only hold 6 rounds.  (Eight-round revolvers were accepted, but they were only allowed to load 6 rounds ... in order to maintain fairness within the Division and undermine the 'equipment race'.

For years USPSA and IPSC have attempted to provide an equivalent competitive venue regardless of the advances in firearms engineering.  The only way to do this was to define new Divisions which were designed to allow people with similar limitations to compete only against others who had agreed to the same limitations.  They had already done that with Revolvers, with some success.  Give no better alternatives, USPSA and IPSC

Over the years, American firearms laws began to affect IPSC/USPSA competition.  I recall in the 1999 Area 1 match in Reno (or perhaps it was in the 1999 Nationals in Vegas?), there was much controversy about rules which limited magazine capacity.  The people who were already shooting in OPEN Division already had magazines capable of holding 20* rounds of ammunition, and some people were shooting "Limited" (which replaced "STOCK" guns of over 10 rounds capacity in their magazines.  There was talk of introducing a new Division called "Limited 10", for those people who could not buy "normal capacity" magazines  because of the laws which prohibited the purchase of magazines which could hold more than ten rounds.

And so the "Limited 10" Division was proposed, and accepted.

"OTHER" Divisions:
Since then we have admitted two new Divisions: Production, which has very limiting provisions for modification (which would have been called "Stock" years earlier), and Single Stack.  These two Divisions are mutually exclusive, and one called for the formation of the other.  Production specifically excepts 1911's, and Single Stack specifically excepts those guns which are suitable for Production.   And yes, this is an over-simplification; and as such, is not entirely accurate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very cogent