When the Balloon Goes Up has an analysis of IDPA nationals by Ron Larimer and came to some interesting conclusions. (If you don't like statistics, this article may confuse you)
1. There is not much difference between divisions. (Figure 2). I'm not sure if there were some rigorous statistical analysis done to see if the raw time, points down, and other penalties are significantly different, but it looks really like it supports Larimer's conclusion.
2. Ranks tell the shooter's ability to land accurate shots fast. Each rank a shooter advances, they are 15-20% faster and more accurate.(Figure 3) According to Larimer,
On average… DM’s 14% faster, but receive 43% few er points down than Masters. Masters are 19% faster, but receive 32% fewer points down than Experts. Experts are 13% faster, but receive 20% fewer penalties than SharpShooters and the gap between SharpShooters and Marksman is about the same.
Furthermore, he had an interesting analysis of moving between classes(expert to master).
Assuming the nationals required 180 rounds, the average Expert would need to shave...
.39 seconds off each shot to be an average Master...
.08 seconds will be gained in better accuracy...
maybe .05 seconds can be gained in splits.
The other .25 second PER ROUND has to be made up in “non-shooting” skills including drawing, reloading, moving between positions and target transitions.
On a side note, last year I looked up Ken Hackathorn's results from 2011 Carolina Cup. He shot CDP division, taking 12th place out of 73 people in the division(83.56 percentile). Overall, he was 66th out of 325 people.(79.69 percentile)
His raw time ranking was 132, putting him in 59.38 percentile (overall).
So how did Ken Hackathorn reach 79.69 percentile when his time was only at 59.38 percentile?
His accuracy. Hackathorn was the 6th most accurate shooter.
Considering he was competing against someone who could be his grandchild, it shows the importance of accuracy.