This one just cracks me up.
Let me just go ahead and admit that either/or comparisons are a little bit on the skate-easy side of the writer's intellectual scale, but it really does let one argue away. With one's own self, so any hurt feelings usually can be assuaged by some chocolate or something.
I would need to preface the question at hand by running the credentials out. I put on matches of both disciplines. A pretty fair number.
And to the partisans who don't care for (or just plain hate) the "opposing" game, that might seem borderline impossible, but the plain fact is that I like to do both because they're different.
Early on, while being subjected to partisan lectures about why the other kind of cardboard-shooting was something between inferior and appalling, I reacted by saying that I was simply glad there were two different games with two different approaches.
That makes me hasten to get right to the first thing you're likely to hear- the reloading thing. Specifically, IDPA's collection of rules intended to govern the refilling of the handguns and to make it have some degree of relevance to actual gunfighting.
For those unfamiliar, these rules pretty much require reloads that either happen when the gun's empty (slide lock) or are performed in a way such that no ammunition is left on the ground.
Should there be even a single round left in the gun, even just the chamber, the magazine being removed must be retained for the rest of the course of fire, and in a very specific manner: by being placed in a pants (or vest) pocket.
Not a shirt pocket, which is a kink that often draws some derision, and I can't much argue with that derision. A pocket's a pocket, I'd say. I usually can fathom the reasoning behind competition rule-making, and doing so usually makes an awkward rule easier to get along with. The pants/vest pocket thing, I don't get.
But retaining magazines is anathema to USPSA/IPSC shooters, who consider movement during the course to be ordained for refilling the pistol. They wear scads of mags and leave the range floor littered with partially-empty ones like flower petals at an Easter parade.
Indeed, going to slide-lock at a USPSA match will literally bring hoots of scorn down upon the competitor's earmuffs. It's wasteful of time, and time is the golden currency of USPSA shooting.
But I am here to tell you tonight that the difference between IPSC (pere) and IDPA (fils) is not the reloading. In fact, the whole big thing about the refills is really just hooey. It's not that big a deal, and both "sides" should just settle down and deal with the hand they have in front of them. Stop fussing and just do the game.
Nor is it about concealment garments (typically called "IDPA" or "shoot-me-first" vests), tiresome "scenarios" explicating the course of fire by giving it some seeming connection to armed personal protection, or even IDPA's refusal to use scoring overlays (clear plastic cards with bullet-diameter marking to help establish the true path of the bullet at the scoring-zone lines) and USPSA's insistence upon them.
Nope, it's all about one thing: cover.
Use cover in USPSA and you're toast. Don't use it in IDPA and you're out.
While there's some overlap, where USPSA stages may force shooting around the edge of a barricade, and the too-common IDPA stage without any definable cover to take, the real brass-tacks difference is that IDPA insists that cover be taken whenever available. No options, no fooling, gotta do it.
Among people who study gunfighting and train people for it, cover is the holiest of grails after actually having a gun in the first place, and then, not even always. The impossibly good gunzine writer John Connor so strongly demands that cover be the first, last, and practically every other priority that one would be embarrassed to meet Mr. Connor and shake his hand without at least moving towards a wall corner.
The upshot of all this, for the stage designer/match director who just so happens to go both ways is that once this concept is taken fully to heart, waaay down inside, then stage design goals and the resulting designs actually become clearer and more comprehensible.
The courses then, are completely different from one another, including that most important of all design elements, how the shooter is forced to move and reposition.
USPSA can do it with fault lines, wooden sticks nailed to the ground. IDPA prohibits fault lines, another facet I disagree with because of the strain on resources it puts on the clubs- walls are far more expensive to make than fault lines doing the same thing in those certain cases.
So the IDPA designer uses barricades such as walls and barrels to direct traffic, knowing that the shooter is forced by rule to use cover. He or she must use semi-specific positions (cover) to shoot, as determined by barricade placement.
There is overlap in this regard as well, of course, such as ports, but the fundamental issue is cover.
In USPSA, it's something to be gotten around and past; in IDPA, it's the goal and the law.
Makes doing up stages pretty much more interesting.
And it's none too easy to convert one type to the other, either, but a good learning experience as a designer to do so.
Of course, then there's those round count rules...