Shooting competitions have different sets of rules, divisions and classes, and the requisite gear that goes along with them. We’ve given a broad outline of some of the larger competitions, and the Safariland holsters that fit within the various parameters.


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Rob Leatham from Team Safariland at the 2015 USPSA Single Stack Nationals
Rob Leatham from Team Safariland at the 2015 USPSA Single Stack Nationals


The USPSA (United States Practical Shooting Association) is similar to the IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) but with slight variations due to USA weapon configurations vs IPSC international weapon allowances. Class types and divisions include:

This division uses the most expensive and advanced weapons, like the 2011 style pistol with compensators and optics (both slide mounted and frame mounted) and with larger magazine capacity (think Indy/Formula 1 cars). For pistols you would use the 015 holsters. Or, if you are running an Open Class Revolver (a small group and not as popular), this is a precision revolver with an optic and possibly has a compensated or jet ported barrel, and the 002 holster would be the right choice.

This division uses similar 2011 style guns or comparable weapons from other manufacturers. There are no optics, no comps, and the magazine length allowed is shorter, and so you’d typically use 015 holsters or 5197 type models.

Production was designed for new shooters or those not wanting to put the money into the more expensive guns (above divisions), and have a place to compete on equal ground. Production class is for out-of-the-box standard carry guns, like Glock, Beretta, Sig, etc.  There are limitations on modifications to the weapon to shoot in this division (ie. no optics, no comps, no barrel weight, etc.).  Most of the time competitors will use holsters like the 5197, GLS models, 567 Custom Fit, or 6377/7377 ALS open top holsters—using basic holsters you would see in OWB concealed carry style. However,  there are restrictions on setup and placement for equipment. All equipment must be worn behind the hips and the holster must be a practical, non-race style such as those intended for daily wear.  Also, magazines are limited to 10 rounds.

Single stack was created for 1911 single column pistols with traditional magazines: 8 rounds for 45, and 10 rounds for 9mm, with scoring penalties for minor caliber. Equipment rules are similar to production, and all equipment must be worn behind the hips and the holster must be a practical, non-race style such as those intended for daily wear.

L-10 is similar to Limited division, (no comps, no optics), and the main limitation is only 10 rounds per magazine allowed. This was developed mostly around legal magazine restrictions on Hi-Cap Mags. Equipment used in Limited is also popular in L10, and you may see 015 or 5197 style model holsters in this division.

Carry Optics is probably the hottest division right now, allowing the optic-ready-out-of-the box guns to compete as an Open-Lite weapon setup. These are standard MFG guns that are optic-ready using a slide mounted optic, with no compensators or mag wells allowed. Optics must be mounted on the slide (no frame mounting), typically all running 9mm minor. There are restrictions on weight and maximum magazine length, with some modifications allowed. Holsters are non-race style such as those intended for daily wear, with drop offset allowed, and the holster must cover the slide up to ½” below the ejection port. So that means holsters like the 5197, 577 GLS models, 567 Custom Fit, and other lowered top holsters that would allow for the optic as an OWB are acceptable.

The Revolver division is a small group for standard production style revolvers; some modifications are restricted, with no optics, porting or comps.  Race style holsters are permitted like the 002 holster.

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Julie Golob at the IDPA Nationals – Carry Optics Division
Julie Golob FROM TEAM SAFARILAND at the IDPA Nationals – Carry Optics Division


IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) is a little more simplistic, as they are more centered around concealed carry concepts working from a cover and concealment mindset. There are multiple divisions available, but they are considered to be more stock gun types not allowing compensators, weapon lights, or frame mounted optics.

The holster philosophy is strong-side hip holsters (OWB) which cover the trigger guard with no cut-aways, drop or offset (with some allowance for women shooters). Holsters must be practical for all-day concealed-carry use, and no competition open style holsters like the 015 models are allowed.

Popular models include: 5197, 577 GLS, 567 custom fit, or 6377/7377 as well as some of the Bianchi style CCW holsters.

IDPA also has a Concealed-Carry Optics (CCO) Division which would use the same style of holsters listed above, including some other Bianchi-style optic-capable CCW holsters.

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Team Safariland member Doug Koenig at the 2019 Safariland Expedition Multi-Gun Match.
Doug Koenig from team safariland at the 2019 Safariland Expedition Multi-Gun Match


There is a growing group of what we call outlaw matches which are basically not part of the major organizations. These matches are usually more tactically oriented using battle belt setups, 2Gun/3Gun options and have more gear setups to work with a military/tactically grounded style.  You also see a lot of law enforcement in these groups as well.

Competitors will often use Carry Optic style weapons (Sig/Glock and STI) with slide mounted optics and weapon lights, and also standard 2011 style, or Sig 320 X5, and similar types of setups. You’ll often see tactical thigh rigs with RDS style holsters in wrapped configurations (6354DO, 6384RDS, 6378USN, 7390 etc.). And there is also some sort of active retention as they run with loaded holstered weapons: the ALS system is very popular, and the QLS (Quick Locking System) and ELS (Equipment Locking System) are a big part of this setup.

Kenda Lenseigne Cowboy Shooter at CMSA French Championship
Kenda Lenseigne FROM TEAM SAFARILAND at the CMSA French Championship


There are other popular competition organizations, including Bianchi Cup, Steel Challenge, PPC, ICORE (International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts), NRA Action Shooting, Cowboy Action (Cowboy line). Most of these tend to use the same equipment seen in either USPSA or IDPA depending on their weapon choice and setup. 

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