Welcome new shooter!  We would like to start off by thanking you for your interest in the MSC chapter of IDPA.  We do our best to ensure you always have fun and challenging stages in the safest manner possible. If you have any questions, please contact us or join our mailing list!

– Aaron Ragusa, Match Director / Chief Safety Officer

1 – Safety Rules

If these simple rules are always followed, most firearms accidents would never happen.

General Firearm Safety Rules:

  1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded, even if you know they are not.
  2. Never let your muzzle point at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Know your target and what is around and behind it.
  4. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target and you are ready to shoot.

Safety Rules for IDPA:

  1. Your finger should never be inside of the trigger guard unless you are on target and ready to shoot.  Always remove your trigger finger from the trigger guard before moving between positions or when reloading.
  2. Always be aware of your muzzle’s direction and keep it safely downrange.  Muzzle Safe Points are the limits that a shooter’s muzzle can travel without being unsafe.  Be sure to know where these limits are and always keep within them.  Certain IDPA courses of fire may test your skills of keeping the muzzle in a safe direction.  Be mindful of your muzzle and trigger and you will always shoot safely.
  3. IDPA has a 180 degree rule as part of the sport.  Do not allow the muzzle of your firearm to break this plane.  This includes up and down as well as right and left.

2 – Range Commands

It is important to learn the IDPA range commands and the proper response:

“Range is Hot, Eyes and Ears”:  This is the first command given to the shooter starting the action of shooting a stage.  This command signifies the start of the Course of Fire.  The shooter will make sure that their eye and hearing protection is in place.  It is also notification to anyone in the shooting bay to check their own eye and hearing protection is properly fitted.

Response: The shooter and spectators will ensure that their eye and ear protection are on.  This command should serves to make spectators aware that shooting will commence.

“Load and Make Ready”: When the shooter has proper eye and hearing protection, the SO will issue the Load and Make Ready
command. The shooter will prepare the firearm and magazines to match the start position for the stage.  Typically this is to load the firearm and holster, but may include non-typical loading or staging of equipment. The shooter will then assume the starting position necessary for the stage. If the shooter’s firearm is not loaded for the start of a stage the command used will be “Make Ready.”

Response for Semi-Autos: Draw your pistol and point it down range.  Insert a loaded magazine or a “Barney Magazine” and then a division capacity magazine.  Load a round into the chamber by racking the slide.  At this time you may press check if desired.  Finish by enabling the safety (if applicable) and then safely holstering the firearm.

Response for Revolvers:  Draw your pistol and point it down range.  Open the cylinder and insert your rounds manually, with a speed loader, or moon clip.  Close the cylinder and then holster.

“Are You Ready?”: After “Load and Make Ready,” the SO will ask the shooter “Are You Ready?” If ready, the shooter should respond verbally, or by obvious nodding of the head, but may also choose to stand ready. If there is no response from the shooter in approximately three (3) seconds the shooter is assumed to be ready.

Response: Respond by giving an obvious nod of the head or stating that you are ready to begin.

“Standby”: This command is given after the shooter is ready. This command will be followed by the start signal within one (1) to four (4) seconds. The shooter may not move or change positions between the “Standby” command and the start signal, unless required to do so by the CoF.

Response: The shooter should prepare to begin the course of fire at the buzzer.

“Finger”: This command is given when the shooter’s finger is not obviously and visibly outside the trigger guard when it should be.

Response: Immediately remove your finger from inside the trigger guard.  It is not necessary to stop shooting the CoF and intentionally show the SO that your finger is clear, if we can see your finger to call the “Finger” command, then we can see you take corrective action.

“Muzzle”: This command is given when the muzzle of the shooter’s firearm is pointed near a muzzle safe point. The shooter must correct the errant muzzle and continue with the stage.

Response: Immediately point the muzzle in a designated safe direction.

 This command is given when something unsafe has happened or is about to happen during a stage, or when something in the stage is not correct. The shooter must immediately stop all movement, place the trigger finger obviously and visibly outside the trigger guard, and await further instruction. Failure to immediately stop and remove the trigger finger from within the trigger guard will result in Disqualification from the match.

Response: The shooter will immediately stop any firing and movement as well as removing their finger from the area of the trigger guard.  The SO will direct you from this point.

“If Finished, Unload and Show Clear”: This command will be issued when the shooter has apparently finished shooting the stage. If the shooter is finished, all ammunition will be removed from the firearm and a clear chamber/cylinder will be shown to the SO. If the shooter is not finished, the shooter should finish the stage and the command will be repeated.

Response for Semi-Autos:  Drop the magazine that is in the firearm.  Lock your slide back and let the SO check for an empty chamber.

Response for Revolvers:  Open the cylinder and store any remaining rounds.  Show the cylinder to the SO, maintaining safe muzzle direction.

“If Clear, Slide Forward or Close Cylinder”: Once the SO has inspected the chamber/cylinder and found it to be clear, this command will be issued and the shooter will comply.

Response for Semi-Autos: Release the slide by using the slide stop lever or racking the slide.

Response for Revolvers: Close the empty cylinder.

“Pull the Trigger”: The shooter will point the firearm at a safe berm and pull the trigger to further verify that the chamber is clear. If the firearm fires, the shooter will be Disqualified from the match. This requirement also applies to firearms with a de-cocker or magazine disconnect.  For firearms with a magazine disconnect an empty magazine, or dummy magazine must be inserted before the trigger is pulled, and then removed again.  This command is not needed for revolvers.

“Holster”: The Shooter will safely holster the firearm.

“Range is Clear”: This command indicates to the shooter and anyone within the stage boundaries that the range is clear. This command begins the scoring and resetting of the stage.

Response:  The shooter can follow the scoring SO as targets are scored.  Spectators should paste targets after they are scored.  The on-deck shooter should be at the starting position and does not have to paste.  Moving targets and fallen steel will be reset.

3 – Penalties

Procedural: Procedural penalties are given for

  1. The first non-dangerous “Finger” violation.
  2. Not using “Cover” properly.
  3. Not shooting while moving as required by the course description.
  4. Not reloading as required by the course description.
  5. Not following other Course of Fire rules as required

Hits on Non-Threat: A five second penalty no matter how many hits.  Rounds that pass through a non threat and hit a threat target are counted.

Failure to Do Right: A seldom given penalty only issued to shooters not following the spirit or rationale of any stage.  If you shoot the Course of Fire as outlined and do not try to “game” the stage, this will never be a problem.
If you wind up earning a procedural, non threat penalty, or failure to neutralize penalty, do not get upset.  This sport is all about learning and the only one who will remember next month is you.  Learn from your mistakes and have fun!

4 – Loading and Reloading

Most IDPA courses of fire (CoF) require the firearm to be loaded to division capacity at the beginning of the stage.  The following is a list of division capacities:

  • SSP (Stock Service Pistol) – 16 rounds, 15+1 in the first magazine.
  • ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol) – 10 rounds, 10+1 in the first magazine.
  • CO (Carry Optics) – 10 rounds, 10+1 in the first magazine.
  • CDP (Custom Defensive Pistol – 8 rounds, 8+1 in the first magazine.
  • CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) – 10 rounds, 10+1 in the first magazine.
  • REV (Revolver) – 6 rounds.
  • BUG (Back Up Gun) – 6 rounds.
  • PCC (Pistol Caliber Carbine) – 30 rounds total.
  • PCC-10 (Pistol Caliber Carbine 10) – 10 rounds in all magazines.

While shooting IDPA stages, you will inevitably have to reload your firearm.  IDPA allows for two types of reloads: 1) a slide-lock or combat reload, and 2) a tactical reload or a reload with retention.

  1. Slide Lock  / Combat Reload: When a magazine runs empty, the slide should lock open.  The shooter is allowed to drop the empty magazine to the deck and insert a new magazine.  The shooter can then continue the course of fire.
  2. Tactical Reload / Reload with Retention: For strategic or tactical purposes, a shooter can elect to reload with retention of the partially loaded magazine.  Dropping a partially loaded magazine to the deck will results in a penalty unless that magazine is dropped as part of clearing a malfunction.  Partially loaded magazines can be retrieved to avoid a penalty.  Please be mindful of muzzle direction when retrieving a magazine.

5 – Movement

Movement with a drawn pistol is easy if you follow the basics. First, always move only when your finger is outside the trigger guard. Second, be mindful of the muzzle at all times. You must keep the muzzle in a safe direction (which will mostly be downrange) at all times. Third, take your time. You will see experienced shooters moving very quickly, but they started out moving slowly as should you. Take your time, move and shoot carefully.

Be sure to listen to the safety Officer for any special instructions related to a particular course of fire.

6 – Malfunctions

If your firearm fails to fire do not panic. Keep the muzzle downrange. Most of the time the problem is due to a bad round or improperly seated magazine. In this case: Tap the bottom of the magazine, Rack the slide back to chamber a new round, and Bang (fire if needed). This is called the Tap-Rack-Bang method.

Professional training will help you diagnose and quickly cure malfunctions and a small pamphlet cannot give you all the information you need. If a Tap-Rack-Bang does not work it is best to stop and get help from the Safety Officer.

Another malfunction with a dangerous potential is the squib load, caused by a primer but no powder in the cartridge. What usually happens is a “pfft” noise with no recoil. If this happens, stop and get help from the Safety Officer. Remember to keep the muzzle downrange.

7 – Scoring

Scoring in IDPA is easy. After shooting a course of fire the time is recorded. Hits are counted and any misses are noted at -5pts each. The scoring rings are looked over; all 4″ head ring and 8” center ring hits are -0 points. Hits on the next ring count as -1 point each. Hits on the last scoring ring are -3 points each. Hits on the edge of the target count as misses. All the points are totaled multiplied by 1 seconds and recorded. All penalties (which are all in the form of a time penalty) are calculated and recorded. The sum of the stage time, points down, and penalties is the shooters score given in seconds. Lowest Score wins.

8 – Pasting / Resetting Targets

After each shooter finishes a stage, the targets must be pasted. They don’t paste themselves, so someone has to do it. Please do your part and help paste the targets.

9 – Tips

IDPA rewards accuracy over time. Take the time to place your shots properly. Remember you will lose 1 second for each point down. This adds up more quickly than you would think.

Do not crowd the cover. Staying back from the cover will make you less than a target (in the real world) but will help you move from target to target easier.

Good Luck and Have Fun shooting your first IDPA Match!

Are you ready?