Getting Started in IDPA

IDPA is one of the fastest-growing and most popular action-shooting sports in the United States. For many people it is also their introduction to competitive shooting and people from all walks of life and a wide range of skill levels can be found competing around the country every weekend. With it’s focus on defensive-shooting principles instead of pure speed IDPA is unique among it’s peers and many of the very same skills you’ll master as you progress in your IDPA career are the same that could potentially save your life in a violent encounter.

Your First Match

Ideally you’ll watch part of a match before you decide to compete for the first time. IDPA shooters are for the most part very friendly and happy to answer questions, and you’ll be able to get a good feel for what types of equipment are popular and what sort of things you’ll be doing. Regardless of your experience level your first match is likely to be a bit stressful due to all the new rules and other things you’re trying to keep in mind and still shoot well. We always encourage even experienced shooters to go slow at their first match and focus on not being disqualified for a safety violation. If you walk away with a score instead of a DQ you’ve done well and you’ll undoubtedly have a lot to work on to prepare for your next match.


We occasionally offer an introductory training class for people interested in starting IDPA competition. This is an excellent opportunity to prepare yourself for your first match without the stress of lots of people watching or working under the pressure of competition. Contact the Match Director to find out if any are planned soon.

What to Bring

At a minimum you need a serviceable pistol chambered in 9mm or higher or a revolver chambered in .38 or higher, 3 or 4 reloading devices (more is better), a safe and serviceable holster and belt and some means of carrying your spare reloading devices. You should also plan on bringing at least 150 rounds of ammunition.

A Note About Holsters

In most IDPA stages you’ll be shooting from the holster. Many new shooters have trouble with their holster selection and in some cases a poor choice may prevent you from being able to shoot. According to the IDPA rules your holster must be on a belt, on your strong side and centered on your strong side hip. Additionally, floppy nylon and many inexpensive leather holsters wont work because you typically have to hold the holster open with one hand while inserting the gun, which in turn causes you to sweep your hand with the muzzle (this would result in a safety disqualification). Most shooters use rigid kydex or plastic holsters, with products from Blade Tech and Comp-Tac being the most common. Both of these manufactures make holsters specifically designed around the IDPA rules and if you’re interested in making a purchase before your first match either would be a good choice.

What to Expect

IDPA matches are broken down into stages, each of which present the shooter with a defensive scenario and basic instructions on how the stage is to be shot. Before each stage begins the Safety Officer will give a briefing on the stage and answer any questions, then you’ll have a chance to look over the stage as a group before shooting begins. Each stage is different and they may require you to shoot moving targets, shoot on the move, use cover or interact with props. You’ll shoot with the same group of people in the same order all day (called a “squad”) and will move from stage to stage after all of the shooters in your squad have finished the stage. Once all the squads have shot all the stages the match is over and everyone helps with tearing down the stages before they leave.