The Sheepdog Barks!

A realistic test for compact defensive handguns
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“Humanity is divided among sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs,” I wrote in the mid-1980s. The great Col. David Grossman popularized it but philosophers said it long before either of us were born. The sheepdog is simply the domesticated creature with fangs who plays with the children, lives peacefully with the family and is prepared to neutralize wolves before they can harm the lambs. Some debate the metaphor but this writer believes right-thinking armed citizens (and of course, cops) truly fit the sheepdog analogy.

Mas managed to clean the Standards, but not as fast as he’d have liked. T

At The Track Meet

In 2015, armed citizen Rick Denny began shooting “the concealed carry sport” of the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). IDPA had been started by Bill Wilson, famed gunsmith and action pistol shooting champion, who was saddened to see the replicated gunfighting contests pioneered by Col. Jeff Cooper turn into a track-and-field event with a huge, highly specialized target pistol. He wanted to see a return to practical self-defense hardware drawn from concealment and fired in courses rewarding center hits, use of cover, and realistic survival strategies such as shooting “threat targets” in tactical priority.

Gun-type divisions, almost from IDPA’s beginnings in the mid-1990s, soon became infested with target pistols masquerading as concealed carry guns. The time came when IDPA surveyed attendees at a major match and determined what most of them actually carried in real life was a compact 9mm pistol, most commonly the GLOCK 19. A new division, Concealed Carry Pistol (CCP) was introduced around this size of gun.

Fledgling IDPA shooter Denny, despairing because so few competitors seemed to enter the CCP division, set out to create a match requiring a CCP handgun. Rick Lund, then Florida State Coordinator while quickly rising to East Coast Coordinator for IDPA, enthusiastically supported him. The first “CCP Only” match, appropriately called “The Sheepdog Challenge,” is now known to competitors as simply “The Sheepdog.” The Florida event drew 130 competitors in its first outing in 2017 and 150 the following year. In 2019 at Valdosta, Georgia there were 252 registered contestants.


This shooter chose to advance on targets partially concealed behind cover.

The Guns

The bark of a sheepdog (small “s”) sounds like “woof” but at The Sheepdog (capital “S”), it sounds like a compact 9mm pistol. In a division inspired by the GLOCK 19, we should not be surprised the G19 and some of the smaller 9mm GLOCKs dominate the field to the tune of nearly 50 percent according to a survey at the 2019 match. S&W pistols, the Shield and M&P Compact, came in second, followed by other compact pistols including those of 2019 match sponsor Walther. The survey showed fully 99 percent of the contestants shot 9mms, including this writer (G19 Gen5). The sole defender of the large bore faith I saw at the match was Dr. Ken Kelly, who shot a .40 caliber HK. He was true to the concept of the match, too, because the USP40C pistol is what he uses as his everyday carry — the heart of the Sheepdog event’s intent.

It should be noted the first event was won by Brandon Reynolds with the .40 caliber clone of the GLOCK 19, the G23. Brandon, however, subsequently adopted the 9mm G19 for these matches, and …


On this stage the shooter had to negotiate a maze of corners and cover.

The Winner Is —

… Brandon Reynolds won this third Sheepdog in Valdosta, too. The man dominates The Sheepdog the way Jerry Miculek owns revolver matches in IDPA, the way Doug Koenig owns the Bianchi Cup and Rob Leatham owned the late, lamented Single Stack championships. Brandon first entered competition in 2014, goes through 10K–15K rounds a year, and shoots both IDPA and USPSA.

This particular match reflected the street reality IDPA’s founders had in mind — many obscured targets; many targets exposed only briefly; heavy emphasis on use of cover. On one stage I got a “flagrant” violation penalty for being out of cover. One little glance would have shown me I was over the line — learning experience reinforced. The Sheepdog is a prime example of IDPA competition as survival skill testing. I’ll try to be at the next one in the first week of December in Valdosta. Keep an eye on the schedule page at

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