While many shooters get into competitive shooting as a way of practicing with their defensive carry gun, there are some shooters—myself included—who didn’t start carrying for self-defense until after starting to shoot competitively. What many people don’t realize is that a gun well suited for competition will also have many excellent traits for a self-defense firearm. Coupled with proper holster and belt selection, that gun built for competition becomes a great carry gun.
For our purposes, we’ll focus primarily on the guns used in International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), as they avoid the “race gun” characteristics seen most frequently in United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). Make no mistake though: The guns IDPA shooters use are serious competition pistols.
Weapons & Adaptations
What makes a competition pistol good for carry? The first answer to that question is my favorite made-up word: shootability. Shootability is all about how easy the gun is to shoot accurately and rapidly. For example, a 1911 in 9mm scores almost off the charts in shootability because it has negligible felt recoil, is extremely accurate, and is just plain old fun to shoot. A sub-compact gun with a 3-inch barrel in .45 ACP scores low for me in shootability because of the abbreviated sight radius, heavier recoil, and smaller grip.