IDPA Props: Your Break It, You Bought It?

Just a few hours ago, I returned from my very first IDPA Match. I shot the Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club match with a friend of mine, Scott Bloom. While shooting the most elaborate stage of the day, Scott damaged a prop. There seemed to be mixed opinions on this. Since he damaged it, should he be required to pay for its repair or replacement?

Just to be clear, Scott did not have malicious intentions and this was an accident. When the Match Director was informed, his only concern was if there was a safety infraction that caused the damage. When he learned there was no unsafe action, he dismissed the issue and refused to take any money from Scott. Other shooters, however, felt as though he should be responsible for the props replacement. Those grumblings from our fellow shooters are the reason for this post.

IDPA at Lower Providence - Stage 8Lower Providence IDPA – Stage 8 – July 2012 Monthly Match

As I mentioned, this stage was the most elaborate of the match. The shooter was to sit inside of a truck with one leg outside, touching the ground, one hand on the steering wheel, and one hand on the door. At the buzzer, the shooter was to step out of the truck and begin engaging targets.

When the truck door was closed, a series of moving target were activated. Near the hood of the truck, one target rose and fell out of view. Near the bed of the truck, a target rose, straight up, and fell out of view. Both of these targets remained out of view once they fell. The second target could still be seen after it fell and Scott, excited from his first IDPA Match, put two rounds into the visible head.

Both rounds passed through the head of the target and struck a support post behind it. The post was about an inch wide and it was a fluke that Scott struck it once, let alone twice. Scott was issued a Procedural Penalty for shooting the target and his hits did not count.

IDPA Prop Damage - 1

Ask The Readers

If you damage a prop in this manner, should you be required to pay for said prop?
Please feel free to discuss this in the comment section below


Hi There, My name is Walt White and as the name of this blog suggests, I am a Pennsylvania resident. In addition to having numerous hobbies that I discuss on my blog - I’m also the father of three little girls and a pitbull.

35 thoughts on “IDPA Props: Your Break It, You Bought It?

  1. My opinion:

    The props are owned, I assume, b the club where you shoot. That club is a legal entity made up of its members, who jointly own the props. In the absence of a defined policy at the club where you shoot, posted somewhere or in a bylaw, unintentional damage to props in the normal course of a stage is “wear and tear” and not the responsibility of the shooter.

    I good club should know these things are going to happen, and should have an accounting system that keeps reserve for repair or replacement of club items. Stuff happens.

    If someone did it intentionally, that’s another story. And probably a DQ.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and I am not a club member anywhere. But I have been a club member before and I’ve read club bylaws.

    1. I agree. Accidents happen and in a setting like this, you have to expect all props to take a hit at one time or another. Wear and Tear is a great way of describing it.

    2. “If someone did it intentionally, that’s another story. And probably a DQ.”


      There’s a difference between shooting at a legitimate target and hitting part of the prop behind/under it with no intention to cause damage to anything other than the cardboard target, and shooting steel with M855 (or similar) ammo.

      Anyone with a brain knows that M855-type ammo WILL cause damage and/or excessive wear to steel targets, however it is unreasonable to expect every shooter to know the mechanics of every stage when they had no part in their design or construction.

  2. When you design a stage, you have to add the Mr. Doofus factor: somebody WILL screw this stage somehow doing something stupid, being unsafe or breaking something. The you design or change a stage to keep it safe for everybody.
    Unless it was a malicious shooting, he does not have to pay. He can make amends though if he wants by buying targets or pasters and donating them to the club.

    1. Miguel,
      I think that is was implied that when those disappearing targets fell out of view, shooters weren’t to engage them further. I don’t remember that being stated during the walk-through and since Scott is relatively tall, a couple of head shots were very do-able.

      I lost track of how many times he apologized for damaging the prop (at one point I wished he would have just let it go because he kept bringing it up and apologizing).

      Targets and/or pasters is a great idea.

  3. I see Scott got 2 procedurals for not slicing the pie… 🙂
    Was he a New Shooter too?

    By the way, the score keeper poking the Safety Officer calling for his attention while the shooter was still engaging targets? Very Bad Form. The proper response from the SO is to stab the Score Keeper in the right kneecap after the shooter is done….at least that is the way we do it down here.

    Was the truck a prop or owned by a nice but foolish club member? 🙂 I volunteered mine once and I had a stop light shot out….by one of the best shooters of the club..LOL

    1. Miguel,
      Yeah, this was Scott’s first IDPA Match (We shoot USPSA together). He was struggling with that all match and got beat up pretty good with procedurals. Despite all that happened, he was in high spirits and is looking forward to shooting IDPA again.

      I’m assuming the poke was to bring another procedural to the SO’s attention (when we went prone, we were to slice the pie with the low targets, using the wall as cover. I think Scott shot them out of order, just like I did).

      I think the truck must have been owned by a club member. A bullet hole appeared in later in the match and one guy was going around interrogating each squad. They made it clear at the beginning of the match that any holes in the truck were an automatic DQ.

      The club has an old beater truck that they use for IDPA. It was sitting beside the bay, I’m not sure why they didn’t use that instead of a volunteer’s truck (which had at least three holes in it from previous matches)

      1. Remember I told you “Always think that the targets can shoot you”? That’s gonna be the one of t hardest part to adapt. At least the SO was nice and did not give him a procedural for cover by the truck after he got out and shot those initial targets. 🙂

        1. Miguel,
          That piece of advice stuck. About half way through the match I came around a corner, looked down range and thought “Shit, I’m dead”. I think I had 1 or 2 procedurals throughout the day.

          That was the toughest part for me because I wanted to move faster but I didn’t want to shoot out of sequence or get called for not using cover properly. I did an awful of of leaning throughout the match.

        1. Jay,
          There were 2 trucks on the range during the match. I’m accustomed to seeing one when shooting USPSA at Lower Providence but this was the first time I saw a second. If you can envision where I was standing to take that photo, the second truck was to my left.

  4. That sounds like poor stage design and bad SO’ing to me. If a target is visible but can’t be engaged after a certain point, that should be stated explicitly. They should also have checked to make sure that the prop was’t directly behind the target.

    1. Scott,
      What could the SO have done to prevent this from happening?

      I’m not asking to be argumentative or to defend the SO, I’m just curious.

    2. It looks like the part that was hit was part of a counterbalance system for one of the dropaway targets. The target is poorly designed as the counterbalance is directly behind the target holder and cantilevers up along the centerline of the target itself, meaning that if a shooter engages the target after a certain point in it’s travel (and puts rounds in the middle of the target) strikes on the tube are almost guaranteed. When designing a moving target that uses a mechanism like that the counterbalance arm should be off to the side to prevent strikes like this.

  5. If you don’t want a stage prop shot make sure where it ends up is either completely hidden or covered by a non-threat target. Both trucks stay on club property, one runs and the other doesn’t as I recall. The SO’s go through a stage by stage briefing before the match and then travel with the squad. While a better system than most of the others I’ve seen it does allow for the possibility of specific instructions not being transmitted clearly or with proper emphasis.

    1. We do a walk-thru with everybody, read the course description and answer questions that we may have. We have people in our club that have been shooting IDPA since its inception so they are pretty sharp about course design and what can go wrong. Still stuff happens but the idea is to make it the exception and not the rule.

  6. I (like you, Walt) have not shot IDPA. After watching this video and reading up on various aspects of it…..I believe I’m going to stick with Steel Challenge. I believe I would enjoy the “less restrictive” nature of USPSA someday.

    Thank you so very much for sharing this video and your (and Scott’s) experiences!

  7. That is a great prop (Nevco disappearing target) but if it is not set up in a foolproof manner, it will take hits right there. Sometimes it falls on the activator stick and will sit up higher, and offer a shot at the head. Shots on the head will take out the post. That post should be made to be replaceable, an easy mod.

    IF YOU PUT ANYTHING DOWN RANGE IT WILL GET SHOT!!!! Do not be surprised when it happens.

    I think it is good form the shooter offered to pay, but targets that are damaged by normal wear and tear or by set up issues should not be paid for by the shooter. If the shooter is completely stupid or malicious, then he should pay.

    1. Bill,
      After the damage, I took a look at the prop and was surprised that the support wasn’t replaceable. With the location of that support, I’d imagine that it is a somewhat common wear item.

  8. Been shooting IDPA for a dozen years. Seen lots of props shot during matches, no one has ever been asked to pay for the damage. I’ve shot IDPA Nationals, S&W Winter Nationals, the Carolina Cup, state and regional matches in TX, NM, LA, OK and Arkansas.

    All props get shot eventually.

  9. Non-disappearing disappearing targets seem to be a recurring thing in IDPA matches. Designers can’t account for everything and shooters of different height or creative thinkers find ways to see targets. If it wasn’t explicitly stated in the walkthrough that the target was not to be engaged after it fell, I’d say he doesn’t even deserve a procedural. As for the damaged prop, that’s why they make duct tape.

  10. I think I’m more concerned about the conversation overheard in the background. “That’s B.S.!”, etc. being overheard by first time shooters, who probably did not realize that what he did was incorrect until after the COF was complete. That type of criticism certainly isn’t conducive to learning or encouraging first time shooters to return.

    He’s a beginner. A first time shooter. Something everyone in that group should have known. Expect mistakes. Call his procedurals and coach him the right way. Realize that **** happens. He wasn’t unsafe, he didn’t recklessly discharge his weapon. He made honest first time shooter mistakes.

    I can imagine the comments from the crowd continuing is probably one of the reasons, as Walt said, he kept bringing it up and offering to pay. Just my 2 cents.

  11. The only real issue I saw was that Scott did not smile very much during the video. Shooting is fun!

    With that said, the comments from the crowd were quite rude, especially considering he was a first time shooter there. If you don’t want it to get shot, leave it behind the line. EVERYTHING on the range has the potential to be shot, but as long as nobody takes a round it’s all in good fun and part of the experience.

    I doubt the bullet holes will effect the working of the prop at all, and if they do pay a welder $20 and he’ll make it like new again. Most clubs have some guy that welds and if he’s like me he is used to fixing stuff that gets shot up!

  12. Props get shot. It’s the cost of doing business. And especially so with new shooters. Your friend should not feel bad about accidentally shooting it, and the grumblers who were bitching about it should be ashamed of themselves. The MD did the right thing, and I’d be left with mixed feelings about shooting with that club again….their match staff seems OK, but some of the members seem petty and bitchy… Personally, if I’d been one of the members, and heard other members making claims like that, I’d probably have lit them up about it.

  13. Anything downrange eventually can get shot. That’s why everything important (ie, people) have to be uprange :). I can see attending any match where I’m expected to pay an extra fee if I throw an inaccurate shot. Lord knows I’ve hit my share of barrels and clipped a few walls here and there too. It happens.

  14. After six seasons of competing and SO’ing at local, state and national events, every video like this is another lesson learned and put in the memory bank.

    If during the stage briefing the Safety Officer stated that “once the target has disappeared, it may NOT be re-engaged, and if engaged and damaged you will replace it due to probable damage happening to the support post”, or the shooter just unloaded on the target after it went down, he should be responsible for repairing it. The ‘enforcement’ of that should be up to the Match Director.

    The new shooter (Scott) in his first match, apparently has never seen what happens to one of the up-downs if shot at when in the down position. Nice grouping, by the way, Scott… That will be one for Scott’s memory bank. He made what James said – he made honest first time shooter mistakes. And with the apologies profferred, I doubt if he’ll do that again.

    Welcome to IDPA, Scott – keep shooting the local matches and keep it fun.

  15. Not having been there I can’t speak to the designers intent but often a small piece of the target is left exposed when the target is in its “final resting place” so that the shooter will be subject to a “Failure to neutralize” penalty if the target points are below a certain threshold. Personally I think its a cheap shot but the rules as written today permit it. If a target is truly completely hidden then even a complete miss will only result in the target points down but no FTN.

  16. Walt was very thoughtful to offer to pay. The MD was correct in refusing the offer. Props get shot. We try to design stages so that they don’t, but they do.

  17. I was in that squad at the match. I told Scott that he should not worry about it, but he kept making a big fuss about it during the entire match, and I see there is still a big fuss about it after the match. These kinds of accidents happen. Let it go guys, and move on…..

  18. Why would anyone expect your friend to pay for a damaged prop? Damage to this kind of equipment is unavoidable, and is why you pay a match fee before you shoot. If it’s a big deal to a majority of the club members require frangible ammo ONLY for matches.

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