Just what are the IPSC targets used in Australia? How are they used, and how do we score them to reward ‘power factor’?
There are broadly four types of targets in use in Australia – paper targets, poppers, plates and penalty targets. Specifically, there are 9 different targets use in IPSC competitions in Australia. Seven of them you want to shoot and two you don’t: the latter two being the paper and popper penalty targets. The targets seen in competition in Australia are the classic paper target, the Pepper Popper, the Classic Popper, the Mini Popper, the Mini Classic Popper, the round Metal Plate, the square Metal Plate and the Penalty target. Penalty poppers are also used, but for simplicity, I will discuss all penalty targets together. The metric paper target is no longer used in Australia, but the true (or metric) pepper popper (that is, with it’s thin top part) as still commonly seen interspersed with classic (topless) poppers, as that is what clubs have around, so they use it.
For specific information on the targets, see the Appendices B1 to C3 in the official Handgun Rules
To give you an idea how many of each type of target you will see, here’s some statistics on target types from the 2005 NSW State Titles. Facing competitors in the 14 stages over two days, there were about 99 classic paper targets, 15 poppers, and 4 plates to shoot, in amongst at least 59 penalty targets. I say ‘at least’ because stage designers often use additional penalty targets to protect walls, etc., that aren’t generally shown in the match package, or likely to be shot. So, of the ‘shootable’ targets, 83% were classic paper targets, 13% poppers and about 3% steel plates. This was representative of what you will see at a competition of this level.
Before I go into the target types, here’s a brief description of how IPSC is scored. Your result on a stage is called your ‘hit factor’, which is based on your score on the targets divided by your time taken to complete the stage. You need to put two scoring shots on each paper target. You need to knock down poppers and plates for them to score. You can lose points by failing to have two scoring hits on a paper targets (minus 10 points for each miss), failing to engage a target at all (minus ten points), procedural errors (foot faults, etc. minus 10 points for each shot fired, generally), or hitting penalty targets (minus 10 points each time, to a max of minus 20 points per penalty target). Points lost are cumulative and are taken from your score before it is divided by your time to give you ‘hit factor’. Failing to engage a paper target is particularly nasty, as you would lose 10 points for failing to engage, 10 points for each miss (so 20) and effectively minus 10 for the two five point A zone hits you ‘could’ have got. That’s 40 points off your stage – ouch! You can ‘zero’ a stage by having zero score, but you cannot go backwards into negative numbers.
Classic Paper Targets
This is the dominant style of target you will see at competitions. It takes into account the power factor of a particular handgun/ammunition combination, as the different zones in scoring paper targets give different scores depending on whether you are shooting minor or MAJOR ammunition.
The power factor defined as projectile weight (in grains) multiplied by velocity (in feet per second), divided by 1000. The power factor floor for all divisions is 125 PF and the smallest projectile to qualify for use is 9 mm. Under 125 PF, your scores don’t count.
Major power factor is reached as the follows:
Production – never, it is always counted as minor.
Standard – 170 PF and over, but the only calibre which can do this in Australia is .357SIG (banned are calibres greater than .357).
Modified – 170 PF and over, but must be .40 cal projectile diameter, which is no longer possible for now.
Open – 160 PF and over.
Revolver – 170 PF and over.
There are three zones on a classic paper target – in the centre, towards the top, is the A zone, the C zone surrounds that, and the D zone then surrounds that (see diagram). There is a non-scoring border around the D zone. Where’s B gone? It was part of the metric target, but does not appear on the classic target.Regardless of whether you are shooting major or minor ammo, the central A zone scores as 5 points. However, the peripheral zones score proportionally less with minor ammo. If shooting major you get 4 points for each C zone, whereas minor ammo gets only 3 points. Further out in the D zone, you’ll get 2 points for major ammo, but only 1 point for minor.
Why do this? Because IPSC’s motto is Diligentia, Vis, Celeritas (often shortened to DVC) and meaning (in Latin) that we reward Accuracy Power and Speed, so this is a way of giving weight to power. So, if you are shooting minor ammo, it’s all the more important to shoot the A zone, as you peripheral scoring hits will cost you more dropped points.
For example, Buddy McInroy shoots major open and on two targets gets 2 A’s, 1 C and 1 D. He scores 16 points out of a possible 20. Then Production (and thus minor) shooter Keith Dokic shoots the same 2 A’s, 1 C and 1 D. However, he only gets 14 out of a possible 20 for the same job. Note also, only the highest two hits on a scoring paper targets are counted
In terms of presentation, you won’t always see paper targets straight up and down – they are often presented at various angles. They can also have penalty targets placed close to them, or be chopped in half in various ways. Hard cover (which is not always actually hard, but it considered impenetrable anyway) and penalty targets are meant to “not completely obscure the highest scoring zone on a partially hidden paper target”. The targets can also appear at angles away from the shooter, and from ranges of about one to 50 metres. They can also be made to swing on target frames (usually activated by falling poppers), or on appear on moving or turning frames. Sometimes they are made to appear for a time and then disappear altogether, but this is uncommon and you cannot be penalized for misses on such targets. All paper targets are non-penetrative – you cannot count score or penalty for any other target hit behind.
At the 2005 NSW State Titles, four classic targets were on swingers, six were half targets (cut vertically down the middle) and many others were partially obscured by penalty targets, or had penalty targets near them. After shooting and the Range Officer clears the range, the targets are scored and patched.
Made of steel, this falling style of target takes into account power by its calibration – shoot it too low, and it may not fall. Poppers are shot from suitably distant shoot boxes or from behind charge lines to protect the competitor from getting too close for safety.
The classic popper, intended for use with classic paper targets, is the only sort for use in Australia. The mini classic, not surprisingly, it just like the classic, only smaller. The smaller poppers are intended to give the appearance of distance, but sometimes they are themselves put at distance, which presents quite a shooting challenge.
If poppers don’t fall, you need to shoot them again and MAKE them fall, if you want your hit to score. If they REALLY won’t fall, keep going, and then you can ask to have them ‘calibrated’, which means someone shoots them with suitable ammo to see if they fall – which they almost always do….
Falling poppers can be used via ropes and levers, to activate swinging or moving targets.
Also made of steel, these falling style of target takes are also shot from suitably distant shoot boxes or from behind charge lines to protect the competitor from getting too close for safety.
They are circular or square in shape and score 5 points (as a single A zone hit).
Again, if they don’t fall, you need to shoot them again and MAKE them fall, if you want your hit to score – turning or rocking them is not enough. They are usually painted white, which means they are the same colour as penalty targets, so be aware.
The idea of penalty targets is to force competitors to increase accuracy and/or slow down, or suffer lost points. They are often used near, or partially obscuring scoring targets. They are generally white in colour, but some ranges use cardboard coloured targets with a black X on them. Usually they are white classic targets, but there can also be penalty poppers, or various other plates.
Each hit on a penalty target takes double the A zone score (i.e. a total of 10 points) off your score, up to a total of 20 points per penalty target. That is, if you have hit it twice, it doesn’t matter if you hit it again, except for wasted time, or course. Penalty targets are non-penetrative – you cannot count score or penalty for any other target hit behind.
That’s the targets, now get out there and shoot them.