New to IPSC and want to know what pistols and revolvers are used in IPSC competitions? Aside from the definitions in the official rules, what do people actually use in the various divisions?

To attempt to ‘level the playing field’ somewhat, there are five separate divisions in IPSC, so that competitors are competing against shooters with ‘broadly similar’ equipment. The divisions in the official rulebook are Open, Standard, Classic, Production and Revolver. All divisions must use a minimum of .38 calibre (9 mm) projectiles, and thanks to new Australian laws, a maximum of the same.

For specifics on the divisions, see the Appendix in the following document: http://www.ipsc.org/pdf/RulesHandgun.pdf

The results from the 2013 AustralAsian Championships in NZ show that of the 624 IPSC competitors, there were (approx) 43% Open division shooters, 26% Standard division shooters, 6% percent Classic division shooters, 28% Production division shooters, and 3% Revolver division shooters.

Standard Division Pistols
New Australian laws passed meant the end (at least for now) of .40 cal pistols in IPSC. This has, of course, severely limited our quality international competitors. Generally the same types of pistols are being converted to, or replaced with .38 cal pistols. This division is ruled by single-action type pistols, predominately of the 1911 or clone varieties. Standard division falls between Production division and Open division in the number of modifications that can be made to increase the usability of the pistol – and scores at competitions reflect such.

In a nutshell, Standard division pistols can be defined as usually single action, open sighted, fairly customized guns with light, fast triggers and various enhancements to assist rapid shooting and magazine reloads. They can’t have compensators or optic sights. Although ‘Standard guns’ can be bought off the shelf, many shooters have customized modifications made to suit themselves – such as grips changes, trigger jobs, mag wells, modified open sights, etc. Double action and selective double/single action guns can be used – the first shot can be fired single action, if possible.

New Australian laws limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds (from around 16 to 18) and also the ‘power factor’ that can be shot to is now limited to minor because .40 cal projectiles cannot be legally used. The split between Production and Standard has now narrowed somewhat, but the fast triggers, wide mag wells, quality open sights and rapid recoil recovery of quality Standard guns will still keep them ahead of the game, in qualified hands.

The most common varieties seen are the 2011 guns of SVI/STI as shown below. Others include Bul M5, Para Ordnance, Springfield, Colt, Kimber, and other 1911’s. Common calibers are 38 Super, 9 mm and 357 Sig. Standard guns cost in the range of $1500 to $4500, the more expensive being more common and much more effective competitors.

Open Division Pistols

The new Australian laws also affected Open division, limiting magazine capacity to 10 rounds from a possible around 32. This has also limited our international competitors, as gaining access to magazines when shooting overseas is only a partial solution – such mags must fit and function well, or cause mayhem. Also, a different technique of approaching stages is required with more or less rounds available, and this cannot be locally practiced anymore.

The Open division is also ruled by single-action pistols, predominately of the 1911, 2011 or similar varieties. Open division allows the largest number of modifications that can be made to increase the usability of the pistol, but this also drives up the cost of such pistols. A full-house race gun, as they are called, will cost you in the range of about $3500 to $5,500, but the sky’s the limit.

In a nutshell, Open division pistols can be defined as single action, optic sighted, highly customized guns with light, fast triggers and every possible allowable enhancements to assist rapid shooting and reloads. Some ‘open guns’ can be bought off the shelf, but most are made specifically from parts (frame kits, barrels, etc) by a gunsmith to suit the shooter. Common features and modifications are bull barrels, ports, compensators, grip profile and texture (and colour!) variations, trigger jobs, wide mag wells, thumb rests, ambidextrous safeties, slide lightening, ejection well flaring, chroming, the list goes on and on….

Because International IPSC Rules allows Open division to score major with suitably fast .38 cal projectiles, open shooters can still shoot major – so reasonable peripheral scoring on targets is still an option in Open, keeping stage times quick. The limitation of magazine capacity to 10 rounds has affect the advantage between Open and Standard, but the increased speed of optical sights and rapid recoil recovery given by compensators and other ports will still keep them ahead of the Standard guns, in qualified hands.

The most common varieties seen are the 2011 guns of SVI/STI as shown below. Others less commonly include the Bul M5, ParaOrdnance, Springfield, and other 1911’s, similar to those seen in Standard division. Some use customized Glocks or other such pistols, or S&W 627 38 Super and similar revolvers, but it’s not common.


Classic Division Pistols

Classic division handguns must be based on and visibly resemble the classic 1911-genre design.  This means single-stack, one piece metal frames, and a dust cover (without an accessory rail) which has a maximum length of 75mm when measured from the leading edge of the dust cover to rear of the slide stop pin (that is, no full-length dust covers).

Optical or electronic sights are not allowed, nor are modifications such as slide lightening cuts, thumb rests or slide rackers.

Many shooters have used this new division to return their favoured .45 cal 1911 style guns (though, in Australia, only in 9mm, .38 super or .357 Sig calibres).


Production Division Pistols

Variety is the name of the game in Production division – well, to a certain degree. Any non-single action pistol can be used in this division, within reason. That is to say it must appear in the list of useable pistols for Production division, but that is a wide list.

This division is ruled in numbers by the striker-fired Glock. Production division has the attraction to some shooters as being easy to start in, because many newbies can use the semi-auto they bought for other competitions. Only very limited changes can be made to Production division pistols, taking it effectively out of the ‘equipment race’. Buy it, shoot it, clean it (sometimes).

In a nutshell, Production division pistols can be defined as non-single action, open sighted, factory made guns with run-of-the-mill triggers. They can’t have compensators or optic sights – very limited changes to the open sights are allowed. ‘Production guns’ are bought off the shelf or commonly second-hand. The first shot must be fired in double-action, or decocked mode, even if the ability to ‘cock and lock’ exists (such as on a CZ, Tanfoglio, etc).

New Australian laws limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds (from a common 15 or so). The ‘power factor’ that can be shot in Production division is always ruled to be minor, regardless of faster bullet velocities. As mentioned, the split between Production and Standard has now narrowed somewhat, but the slower, longer, heavier triggers, generally narrow mag well openings, and slower recoil recovery of Production guns will still keep them slightly behind quality Standard guns.

The most common varieties seen are the Glock, CZ, Beretta, with less common ones being Para Ordnance LDA, Taurus, HK USP, Sig Sauer, etc. A production pistol (gun only, no extras) will cost you between around AU$750 and $1500, most likely about $900.


Revolver Division Revolvers

As mentioned, only one shooter competed in the Revolver division at the 2004 Handgun Nationals (and he came first!), but don’t get the impression that there are hardly any wheelgunners. Many of the revolver shooters that shot were using optic sighted and/or compensated revolvers, and as such the IPSC rules put them into Open Division.

The new Australian laws had limited affect on the Revolver division, unless a competitor was using a larger than .38 cal revolver.

The revolver division is also ruled by stainless steel six guns of .357 Mag caliber. Modifications are limited to cosmetic changes, changing barrels (to same length and manufacturer), modifying open sights, hammers and cylinder releases, and moon clipping. However, any store-bought quality wheel gun is likely to be competitive in this division. Cylinder capacity is not limited, but only six shots can be made before reloading – this is another reason that 8 shot revolver shooters compete in open division.

The limitation of cylinder capacity, and thus increased number of reloads required meant a large different between the times possible for Revolver shooters and other divisions, but with the drop to 10 round for the magazines of the latter, the difference has decreased. Although some very competent revolver shooters compete in Revolver and the unrecognized ‘Open Revolver’ division, they will be somewhat limited by their guns compared to shooters of other divisions of equal skill.

The most common varieties seen are the S&W 686 and Rugers. A Revolver division gun will cost you between about $600 and $1300, most likely around $900, or $1200 moonclipped.

In closing, my mouth is bigger than my ability, so don’t go by just what I say – go to a club and see which division and pistols/revolvers you like – try them out if you can.

Sean J.

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