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The Quest for Master Class – Stage 3 Breakdown

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In two previous installments on the Quest for Master Class, we have examined Stage 1 and 2, breaking them down in to specific areas where the average shooter can look for ways to pick up time. Now here we are at the last stage, which is widely regarded as the most difficult in the IDPA classifier. Stage 3 is fired at 20 and 15 yards, and incorporates reloads with retention, movement, and some very difficult shots. Let’s take a look at this week’s video and see how it goes.

After it’s all said and done, we ended up with a 39.27 on Stage 3 of the IDPA classifier, which is definitely inside the goal time of 40 seconds. With the Stage 1 time of 27.12, a Stage 2 time of 23.98, and a Stage 3 time of 39.27, that produces an aggregate score of 90.37 seconds for the entire classifier, which if shot as a continuous COF would be good enough for Stock Service Pistol Master Class. Now that you’ve seen each stage broken down, our next episode will hopefully feature all three stages shot together for a Master Class time.

Let’s look at what happened on Stage 3 to get that 39 second time. Stage 3 presents a huge challenge for most shooters, myself included. I don’t enjoy shooting at 20 yards, and with combat sights it can sometimes be difficult to get a proper sight picture. The Ruger SR9c has excellent sights for a carry pistol, and knowing the point of impact for the rounds makes it much easier to establish that proper sight picture to get good hits. This particular run I put a high premium on accuracy – while my raw times were slower than I normally average, my points down were actually lower on Stage 3 than they were on Stage 2. I had excellent hits, and because of that I was able to find the balance of speed and accuracy that allowed me to get under the 40 second goal. Here are the par times I use for Stage 3:

  • String 1: 6 shots, reload with retention/tac load, 6 more shots – 15 seconds aggregate
  • String 2: 6 shots, reload with retetion/tac load, move to barrel and kneel and fire 6 more shots – 15 seconds aggregate
  • String 3: Draw, kneel, fire six shots around either side of the barricade – 6 seconds aggregate.

If you hit those par times you’ll be right around 36 seconds for Stage 3, which is an excellent place to be. The trick on Stage 3 is as mentioned above – a balance of speed and accuracy. While the 20 yard shots can be taken faster, going too fast will cost you in the accuracy department, and similarly focusing too much on accuracy will cost you speed. My practice for the 20 yard stage is also detailed in the video – my favorite drill is to draw and fire 1 shot in under 2 seconds to a Down Zero hit. If I can get that 5 times in a row, I’ll try for 2 shots in 2.25 seconds, and then add more targets as I’m able to get those hits.

Of course, what everyone really wants to talk about is the tactical reload/reload with retention. I’ll tell you the secret to getting faster with those: “practice”. Lots and lots of dry fire practice is the only way to get faster with your reloads with retention. As talked about in a previous episode I prefer the reload with retention to the “tactical reload” as it gets the gun back in action with a two handed firing grip faster and involves less fumbling with mags. Practice your mag changes in dry fire, and you’ll be able to smoke them in matches. I’ve actually started using the RWR in IDPA matches the same way I would use a speed reload in USPSA. Since no IDPA stage is longer than 18 rounds, if I’ve engaged 4 targets with a total of 8 shots and I’m not exposed to any further threats, I’ll often do a reload with retention while changing shooting positions (as allowed by the rules). I’ve found this is just as fast if not faster than doing a slide lock reload in the middle of an engagement, as I don’t have to interrupt my shooting to reload the gun. Practice this method and see what happens!

Next episode we’ll come back and shoot the whole classifier – it’s time to hit SSP Master, and I feel a strong run coming on!

Quest for Master Class Statistics

Rounds Fired: 5237
Fastest Time: 84.66
Club Matches Won: 6
Major Match Best Finish: 12th
ESP Classification: Expert
SSP Classification: Expert


Caleb Giddings is the founder of Gun Nuts Media (www.gunnuts.net). He has been involved in competitive shooting since he was a cadet at the US Coast Guard Academy in 2000 and has attending training courses at Gunsite and the former Blackwater USA. Since shooting his first IDPA match in 2008, Caleb has started the climb through the rankings, earning the title of Master Class shooter in the Enhanced Service Revolver division in 2010.

6 Responses to The Quest for Master Class – Stage 3 Breakdown

  1. Gerry

    October 16, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Why are you resting your hand on your pistol?

  2. Caleb

    October 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Seemed like a comfy place to do that. It’s certainly not coming out of the holster, plus I’m marginally paranoid about my gun magically flopping out of my rig on to the deck at a match.

  3. Gerry

    October 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    OK. I hoped you weren’t going postal on us.

    I’m enjoying the series.

  4. Bob Bonenfant

    February 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Very good video but you clearly aren’t using cover properly when you get to the barrel. Low cover involves 100% of your lower body NOT being exposed to the target. In the video your lower body is exposed. Id you are going to provide these excellent tips you might want to ensure you are following the rules of the game.

  5. Lloyd

    April 12, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Well done and great stage break down I lift my hat to u keep up the good work

  6. Lloyd

    April 12, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Don’t know where bob got his rules from but so much for his cretic if u stay 100% behind cover might as well dig yourself a hole and go to bed ….sound like being too sorry than safe

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