New Shooters:

New participants are the life blood of any sport.  If you are a new or intermediate shooter we would like to help you get started.  If you are a unsure about shooting, please come out and watch a match.  You will find everyone to be very friendly, and willing to help you.  There are many experienced shooters to answer questions, and give help.  If you are ready to shoot, come on out and participate in a match, or just one stage of a match if you like.

We will assign an experienced shooter to help you through your first match.  It will be the most fun you have had in a long time. It is common for someone interested in the sport to procrastinate a bit, or put off coming out to watch or shoot.  Usually those shooters after they have started shooting, regret the initial delay.  In some cases that delay has been almost a full year.  That is a lot of missed matches, and missed fun, so don't put it off any longer, come on out to a match.

Required Equipment:

IDPA emphasizes the use of street practical handguns and equipment.  In order to prevent matches from becoming equipment contests rather than tests of skill, IDPA has established specific rules about handgun modifications and holster types.  We recommend that you review the  official IDPA web site.  You will find a PDF and MSWord version of the official IDPA rule book there.  The PDF version takes less time to download.  In that rule book are sections on allowed equipment, including guns, gun modification, and holsters.  For new shooters, our club is not too picky about strict adherence to the IDPA equipment rules.  So if you have a gun, and belt holster, come on out and shoot with us.  You can acquire approved equipment after you learn more.

You will need a pistol, a holster, 3 magazines or 3 speed loaders, and about 100 rounds of ammunition.  You will need hearing protection, and eye protection as well.  The holster must cover the whole trigger guard of the pistol when holstered. The holster must be worn on the belt on the shooter's strong side just behind the hip bone.  No shoulder holsters, small of the back holsters, cross draw holsters, fanny packs or purses may be used for safety reasons.  Two magazines or 3 speed loaders are typically worn on the belt as well.  If you don't have the required equipment, please come out to watch or shoot anyway.  We can usually make some sort of arrangement in the short term to help get you started.

The Shooters' Meeting:

ALL SHOOTERS MUST ATTEND THE SHOOTERS' MEETING held at the beginning of a match.  It helps to arrive about 15 minutes early to meet the regular shooters, and be on time for the Shooters' Meeting.  Each shooter will be briefed on general and special safety rules or concerns.  The shooting stages will be described and special instructions for the stages will be given.  Additionally, new shooters will be identified and assigned an experienced shooter to help them through their first match.  A New Shooter Introduction will be given before the match that will cover the following topics.


What do you want from IDPA, and what relevant experience have you had?

Tell the Safety Officer what you hope to gain by shooting IDPA.  Also tell the Safety Officer what relevant shooting experience you have had.  This will help him/her tailor the introduction to your needs.

Basic Skills:

  • Gripping the firearm with the trigger finger out of the trigger guard 
  • Controlling the muzzle of the firearm at all times, keeping it down-range 
  • Loading and unloading the weapon safely 
  • Drawing from the holster and re-holstering without the use of the support hand 
  • Sight picture, how to align the sights 
  • Trigger control, how to squeeze the trigger 
  • Reloading the weapon (tactical reloads and slide-lock reloads) 
  • Moving with a drawn weapon, with the finger off the trigger, muzzle down-range 
  • Range commands and procedures

There are a few basic shooting skills that the new shooter should know or be learning.  Shooters should have the following basic knowledge and skills in order to safely shoot in our matches:

How is an IDPA Match Organized?

An IDPA match consists of several "Courses of Fire", also called "COFs" or "Stages". Each COF is run by a Safety Officer.  The Safety Officer is there to see that the stage is run safely and consistently for all shooters.  The Safety Officer's commands and judgments are final. Each COF is setup in a pit dug out of the earth to give a safe backstop for the bullets as they pass through the targets.  A single COF may have several starts and stops, these are called "Strings of Fire", or just "Strings".  Each string is started with a "beep" from a timer and ends when all the targets have been neutralized.  The timer actually "hears" the gun shots and records the time from the beep to the last gun shot.  The total time it takes to complete a stage is your score, however the time is adjusted for accuracy.  That is, poor accuracy adds time.  The lowest total time for all stages is the winner of the match.

Equipment Safety Check:

The Safety Officer will ask to see your weapon.  He/she will give you specific instructions on how to hand it over.  The Safety Officer will give the weapon a quick safety check to see that the gun functions properly, including any safety mechanisms built into the gun.

The Safety Officer will want to see your weapon as it sits in the holster.  He will be checking for safe holster design, and to see whether the trigger is completely covered when the gun is in the holster.  You may not shoot a match with unsafe equipment.

Muzzle Control:

The Safety Officer will explain what is meant by muzzle control. The muzzle must point in a safe direction at all times. This includes during the draw, when shooting, when moving, when doing reloads, or when clearing a malfunction.  Use the Safety link at the top of the page for more information.  If the muzzle of a shooter's gun sweeps past a person, the shooter will be disqualified on the spot.

Straight Finger: HoodTheTriggerSmall

The shooter's finger must not be inside the trigger guard unless the sights are aligned on a target. When the gun is drawn and the shooter is not immediately firing, the trigger finger must be straight as shown. 

If the shooter has his/her finger inside the trigger guard and is not immediately shooting a target the Safety Offices will yell "FINGER".  If the shooter does not immediately remove his/her finger from inside the trigger guard the shooter will be disqualified.  See the Safety link above for more information.

Hot and Cold Ranges:

Parma Rod & Gun Club runs a "HOT" range.  A "HOT" range is one where the shooter's guns may be loaded at all times.  This is not unusual since IDPA simulates concealed carry type situations.  Shooters not yet comfortable with carrying a loaded gun are free to shoot matches as if the range were run under "Cold" rules.

A "COLD" range is one where the shooter's guns are not loaded until the shooter is at the firing line of a shooting stage, and directed to load by a Safety Officer.  After shooting the shooter must show the Safety Officer that the gun has an empty chamber and empty magazine well at the end of each stage.

Range Conduct Rules:

Parma Rod & Gun Club IDPA runs a "Hot Range" unless special rules are in effect and an announcement has been made.  Unsafe gun handling will result in immediate disqualification from the entire match.

Some Typical Infractions and Warnings About Unsafe Gun Handling on the Range:

  • Do not handle a firearm except while on the firing line or in the safety area.
  • The muzzle of one's handgun must never be pointed in an unsafe direction.
  • Endangering another person, or dropping a loaded firearm.
  • Never stand directly behind the holstered handgun during the start command or during reholstering of the handgun.
  • When on the line:  Stand firm.  Plant your feet and resist fidgeting.
  • Do not turn around with a pistol in your hand.  Holster first, then turn!
  • Do not allow the pistol to dangle in your hand.  The pistol must be in shooting position, held at the ready, or holstered.
  • Keep the muzzle downrange when loading, reloading, or clearing a malfunction.
  • Keep your finger out of the trigger guard when in motion.
  • Keep rifle and shotgun actions open, magazines removed, and weapons slung or racked unless on the line.

Very Important Safety Commands:

  1. MUZZLE!This command will be yelled at the shooter when the muzzle of his/her weapon is pointing in an unsafe direction. The shooter must point the weapon down range immediately or be disqualified.
  2.  FINGER!: This command will be yelled at the shooter when his/her finger is inside the trigger guard and the shooter is not immediately shooting. The shooter must immediately remove his/her finger from within the trigger guard or be disqualified.  Remember rule # 3.
  3.  STOP! This command will be yelled at the shooter when he/she is doing something dangerous.  The shooter should remove their finger from the trigger guard of their firearm, and stop all movement immediately.  Do not try to fix anything, or change position.  The Safety Officer will instruct the shooter what to do next.

Standard Range Commands:

  • Load and Make Ready:  You may touch your weapon to make it ready for the current course of fire. When done holster the weapon with the safety on (if applicable).
  • Shooter Ready?:  This is your last chance to ask questions, and make any last minute movements.
  • StandbyThe shooter will hear the start "beep" from the shot-timer within a few seconds, and at that point may begin shooting the course.
  • Reload and HolsterOn a "HOT Range" or on a stage where there is another immediate string of fire the shooter will hear this command after a string has been shot.  In these two cases the shooter is allowed to prepare his/her weapon for the next string of fire.  The gun is then reholstered and not touched until the SO gives permission.
  • Unload and Show ClearOn a "COLD Range" the shooter will hear this command after the stage has been shot.  On a "COLD Range" the shooter must remove the magazine from the gun, eject the live round from the chamber, and show the Safety Officer an empty chamber and an empty magazine well.  The gun is then reholstered and not touched until the SO gives permission.
  • The Range is Safe This is the command that lets the scorer, and bullet hole pasters know they may go down range safely and do their work.
  • Cover:  This command will be yelled at the shooter when over 50% of the shooter's torso is exposed to a non-neutralized target. On cover as tall as the shooter, the shooter must also have all of their legs and feet behind cover.  The shooter must immediately move behind cover or receive a penalty.

Negligent Discharge:

Any time a shooter's gun goes off and the muzzle is not pointed directly at a target, it is considered a Negligent Discharge, (ND).  The shooter is disqualified from the match for a ND where the bullet lands closer than two yards from the firing line.  All NDs are dangerous, and the shooter responsible for a ND will be taken aside for a safety briefing.  A second NDs no matter where the bullet hits, is grounds for a match disqualification.

Dropping Your Weapon:

If a shooter's gun is dropped on the ground, DON'T TOUCH IT. Only the Safety Officer may pick up a dropped gun. The gun will be made safe and returned to the shooter.  If the gun was loaded when it was dropped the shooter will be disqualified.


1)Threat targets are unmarked, while non-threat targets are marked with two open hands.
2)Threat targets have a weapon while non-threat targets do not have weapons.

The standard IDPA target is made of cardboard and is roughly a man sized silhouette.  The target has four scoring zones marked with perforations in the cardboard.  Only threat targets are to be shot.  The shooter is penalized 5 seconds maximum for each non-threat target shot, even if the bullet first passed through a threat target.

    There are two traditional ways of distinguishing threat and non-threat targets.  The COF description will show how to distinguish between them.

Typically it takes a hit in the down-zero or down-one portion of the target to neutralize target.  The shooter is penalized 5 seconds for each threat target that is not neutralized.

    Sometimes the targets are not cardboard silhouettes, but are steel targets, containers filled with water, or some other target.  The COF will explain which things are targets, and how to neutralize them.

Use of Cover:

Because IDPA simulated real world self defense situations, the shooter must make use of available cover and concealment.

Both the shooter and targets may have cover or concealment in a COF.  If the target has "Simulated Cover", it is considered that bullets will not pass through. Any holes made in the targets by the shooter's bullets after passing thought simulated cover are not scored.  If a target has "Concealment", holes made in the targets by the shooter's bullets after passing through concealment will be scored.

The shooter must make use of available cover when shooting targets.  That is, more than 50% of the shooters torso must be behind cover.  Failure to do so will result in a Cover Penalty.  As a courtesy the shooter may receive one verbal warning, the word "COVER" will be yelled at the shooter.  If the shooter then gets behind cover no penalty is awarded.  If the shooter continues to shoot and not move behind cover, a Cover Penalty is given.


Most COFs require movement, and some require shooting on the move.  The shooter must pay extra attention to the direction of his/her muzzle, and keep his/her finger outside of the trigger guard.  The Safety Officer will keep up with the shooter's movements, and the shooter must be aware of the Safety Officer's presence, and safety.

Helping Out:

The shooters waiting to shoot a COF are expected to help out to make the stage run smoothly and quickly.  The next shooter in line will be preparing to shoot by loading magazines, etc.  Some of the other waiting shooters will help the Safety Officer by putting tape over the holes made by the current shooter.  Other waiting shooters will pick up empty brass for the current shooter.  Your participation in helping out is expected and will be greatly appreciated.  Don't wait to be asked.


Within IDPA there is a Procedural Penalty.  It is only given in those infrequent instances where a shooter does not follow the COF description, and no other penalty applies.  For example, in a COF where a shooter is required to shoot T1, T2, and T3, then do a Tac-Reload, and finally shoot T4. But, the shooter shoots T1 through T4 without the reload.  This would yield an unfair advantage, and no other penalty applies.  Thus the above shooter would get a Procedural Penalty, of  3 seconds added to the score for that stage.

Drawing From Concealment

Since IDPA simulates real world self defense situations, including concealed carry, some or many of the COF's will begin with the gun concealed. The draw on those stages will be made from concealment.  If the shooter chooses not to draw from concealment, a Procedural Penalty will be given.

Do you have any questions?

At the end of the New Shooter's Introduction, the Safety Officer will ask you if you have any questions.  Please ask your questions.  We are more concerned about safety than we are about going over something again in a different way to make it crystal clear.  At the beginning of each COF there is another opportunity to ask questions.  Please ask your questions.

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The 4 Laws of Gun Safety

  1. The Gun Is Always Loaded!
  2. Never Point A Gun At Something You're Not Prepared To Destroy!
  3. Always Be Sure Of Your Target And What Is Behind It!
  4. Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target!


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