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Your First IDPA Match Part 1: Arrival


The first steps of shooting your first IDPA match.

It’s 6:00 a.m. and you are just finishing up your first cup of coffee. It’s a crisp, cool spring morning, but the temps are supposed to rise later on this morning when the sun finally comes up. After months of research on which sport you want to try, asking questions and even spectating at a few matches, it’s time for you to jump right and in shoot in your first IDPA match.

Reading the rule book for the past few weeks has been a good primer for you into the world of Practical Shooting, but reading and doing are always two different things. Nervous is a good way to describe the feelings you are having right now. You, of course, have your doubts. Will I make a mistake? Do I have everything I need? Will I measure up?

Your Gear

You set down your coffee cup and after looking at the clock, decide it’s time to pull together the last of your gear and head out. Opening your range bag, you double check you have at least the minimal gear you need. This list includes:

  • Your gun
  • On the waistband holster for your gun
  • Mag pouch that holds two magazines
  • Three magazines for the gun
  • Eye and Ear Protection
  • A cover garment
  • And of course ammunition
  • Plus whatever else you keep in your range bag like tools, cleaning supplies and other things

You zip up your range bag, grab your keys and head out the door. You picked this particular club for today’s first match after attending some other matches around town and after talking with some of the folks here, felt more at ease with being a beginner. It seems like they are very willing to work with newcomers very closely and help you out with anything you need to understand. That is great since you know you are going to have a lot of questions.

The Club

Arriving at the club, you park and grab your gear. First thing you need to do is find the registration table. Most local club matches have some sort of a fee associated with the program to cover costs of targets and supplies. They also may need you to sign a waiver form and get some other information from you, so they set up a table or area where people can go to register for the match.

Finding the table, you pay the fee, get a score sheet and get placed on a squad. Being placed on a squad, or squadding, is just a way to take groups of shooters through the stages in an organized and swift fashion. You are usually just put on a squad that needs people, or in the order you arrive, or if you wait, you can get on a squad with your friends. Depending on the size of the match and the number of shooters, there could be one squad or 10.

Next you need to find the “Safe Firearm Handling Area.” Most ranges will have areas designated off to the side where you are able to handle your firearm safely. There is to be no ammo in this area. Here is where you can gear up and put your holster, gun and mag pouch on. Stepping to the side after getting ready, you can start to load your magazines, but remember to follow all range rules and not load your gun until instructed to. Also don’t handle your gun once you are out of the safe area or until told to do so by a Safety Officer when you are about to shoot a stage.

Stepping Up

Next stop is the new shooter orientation. Most clubs will have a small meeting of new shooters, either to IDPA or to the club, that goes over the Dos and Don’ts of the clubs safety rules and the basic safety rules for IDPA. They will also touch on what to expect when shooting the match and how the stages work. This is usually a short, but mandatory meeting for new shooters.

Once you have that out of the way, you are good to go. If you have questions, this is a good time to ask. Any time is a good time to ask, as long as a Safety Officer isn’t running a stage, but this is one of those times where it’s a good opportunity to get them out of the way. If you have stage specific questions, hold those till you get to that stage.

With the new shooters meeting out of the way, its time you go join up with the rest of your shooting squad. You may not be starting on Stage 1 of the match, depending on where your squad is. You find the rest of your crew and you all quiet down to hear the briefing for the stage. This is it. Your first match is about to start.

Keep an eye out for the next part of the “Your First IDPA Match” series.

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Your First IDPA Match Part 1: Arrival