SWAT team training is difficult, and the conditions must be tightly controlled for safety.
My opinion is that debating the topic of "life-survival training versus IDPA" is meaningless. Training to survive armed confrontations is not--and certainly should not be done as--a game or a contest. In life-survival training, each student should be taught at his own pace so that he can absorb, digest and analyze the instruction and apply this during practical applications throughout the training cycle.
Often, for advanced students, force-on-force exercises are run where the students are engaged by role players, with both students and role players armed with safely modified nonlethal-firing arms in scripted scenarios. There is just no debate as to the practicality of action competition when compared to this intensity of training. Paper and steel targets don't shoot back.
However, there are some practical, usable, real-world skills that can be developed by participating in IDPA and rising through the ranks. A shooter ranked Master in any IDPA division has developed great skill at handgun manipulation, including target acquisition and recoil control, and he understands trigger control and sight alignment. He is also well able to "think on his feet," as it were, for in IDPA events, you are not allowed to repeatedly "walk through" courses to figure out the best way to shoot the stage.
In both training and sport shooting, the individual is stressed, but fighting for your life is not replicated in IDPA. In real-world applications, avoidance by awareness is normally the first and best choice. You "win" the fight by not being there. Next, most personal, life-threatening encounters, barring mass terrorist attacks, can be solved by either not firing a single shot or with less than a full magazine or cylinder of ammunition. Although any such stage in IDPA would be very realistic, not many would want to engage that kind of problem on a regular basis in a contest. And certainly, if force need be used, firing one shot in one problem and two or three shots in another just wouldn't cut it with most IDPA shooters. A match that consumes fewer than 18 rounds is very real but will be under-attended by all but the most die-hard realists.
Sport shooting should be taken for what it offers--an opportunity to develop great gun-handling and shooting skills. If street survival is the goal, IDPA does contribute part of the necessary skills but not nearly all of them.
Working a corner under time constraints is a game, although good habits can be developed if the competitor so chooses.
(NOTE: The author's opinions are his own and are not the official views of the directors or officers of IDPA.)
For more information or to join IDPA, contact the International Defensive Pistol Association, Dept. HG, P.O. Box 639, Berryville, AR 72616-0639; (870) 545-3886; fax: (870) 545-3894; www.idpa.com; e-mail: IDPA.firstname.lastname@example.org