Welcome to IDPA Shooting!

Where We Shoot

Our host range "Thunder Gun Range" is located in Montgomery County, north of Houston, between Conroe and Porter off FM1314.  Come out and join a great group of people who enjoy the experience of participating in structured, safe and fun defensive pistol shooting.

About IDPA

IDPA, which stands for International Defensive Pistol Association, shooting is a fun and safe way to learn defensive pistol skills and sharpen your gun handling and shooting abilities. IDPA’s safety rules are easy to learn and follow. Please read this material to familiarize yourself with the rules.  Please note:  All of the following guidelines can be found in the IDPA Rule Book at www.idpa.com.

Safety Rules

1.) Guns are always loaded.

2.) Never let your muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3.) Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

4.) Know your target and what is behind it.

If these simple rules are always followed, most firearms accidents would never happen. Pay considerable attention to rules 2 and 3. When shooting IDPA your finger should never be inside of the trigger guard until you are on target and ready to shoot. Always get your finger out of the trigger guard before moving.

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 finger, and you will always shoot safely.

We take safety very seriously, and the quickest way to go home early is to break one of the safety rules. We do not take chances where safety is concerned. If you do something grossly unsafe, such as pointing your muzzle in an unsafe direction or dropping a loaded gun, you are finished for the day.

Range Commands
It is important to learn the IDPA range commands and the proper response.

Range is going HOT!:  Command given by the Safety Officer (SO) to let everyone know we about to load up a shooter and begin shooting the stage.  Warning to anyone down range from the squad "Safe" area & for all to have ear and eye protection on.

Load and Make Ready: This is the command to load up your handgun, reholster and get ready to shoot. It is covered deeply in the next section.

Shooter Ready:  Question asked by the Safety Officer to make sure the shooter is ready to engage the course of fire.

Standby:  Command given to the shooter to freeze in the start position before the audible start signal.

Finger: You will hear this if your finger is in the trigger guard while moving. Failure to immediately comply will result in a 3 second procedural penalty. Repeated offenses will earn a match disqualification.

Muzzle: If you hear this, immediately check yourself as your muzzle is getting near a muzzle safe point. Do not take muzzle safe points lightly.

Stop: If a stage prop failure occurs or a shooter is being grossly unsafe or is disqualified, the Safety Officer will give this command. Upon hearing this the shooter is to stop shooting, point the muzzle in a safe direction, and await further range commands.

Cover: If a shooter is not more than 50% behind cover while shooting or is reloading when not behind cover, the Safety Officer will issue this command. Failure to immediately comply will receive a 3 second procedural penalty.

Unload and Show Clear: This is the command to unload your gun at the end of the stage. This will be explained in great detail in a later section.

Holster:  Command given to the shooter to put the weapon back in the holster.

Range is Safe:  Command stating that the shooter has holstered their weapon and it is safe to proceed downrange.

The three most important commands to know and be able to recognize are Muzzle, Finger, Stop. You must be able to respond to these commands as soon as they are heard.

For the most part, a new shooter who shoots carefully and deliberately will avoid most penalties. Penalties are given out for various rule infractions, but in IDPA, penalties are used only when truly necessary. Safety Officers are here to help you have a fun and safe time, not to nitpick.

Procedural: Procedural penalties are three-second penalties that can be given for quite a few things. Examples are:

  1. The first non-dangerous "finger" violation
  2. Not using Cover properly
  3. Not shooting while moving as required
  4. Not reloading as required
  5. Not following other Course of fire rules as required
  6. Shooting targets out of order or sequence

Failure to Neutralize: Is a five-second penalty that is given when there is not at least one hit in either the "0" or "-1" scoring zones.

Hits on Non-Threats: Is a five-second penalty per non-threat target hit,  You can only get one penalty per target.  It doesn't matter how many times you hit the non-threat target. Rounds that pass through a non-threat target and hit a threat target are counted on both targets.

Failure to Do Right: This twenty-second penalty is seldom given.  It is assessed for any atttempt to circumvent or compromise the spirit or rationale of any stage by the use of inappropriate devices, equipment or techniques.

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!

Loading and Unloading

“Load and make ready!”
For new shooters, the first time they make ready for a stage can be stressful. It should not be. When the Safety Officer gives the command to “load and make ready” slowly draw your unloaded handgun, (finger off the trigger), insert a loaded magazine, and "Slingshot" load the gun. “Slingshot” is to pull the slide back and then release it. Do not follow the slide back as it can create jamming problems. Set the safety if your handgun has that option and then reholster the loaded gun.

Revolver shooters need to draw the pistol, load the chambers, close the cylinder and holster.

“Unload and show clear!”
After a course of fire has been completed, the Safety Officer will ask you to “unload and show clear.” For self-loading semi automatic handguns, you should remove the magazine, pull the slide fully back ,(let the cartridge fall to the ground) and allow the Safety Officer to visually check the chamber to see it is empty. The Safety Officer will then say “slide down, hammer down.” Let go of the slide, point the gun at the backstop/dirt berm (not the ground at your feet), and pull the trigger, dropping the hammer. You may then holster the unloaded handgun.

Revolver shooters need to open the cylinder, empty the cylinder, and show the empty cylinder to the Safety Officer. Once the Safety Officer verbalizes "I see clear", close the cylinder and holster the handgun.


Movement with a drawn handgun 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 and accurately.

Be sure to listen to the Safety Officer (SO) for any special instructions related to a particular course of fire. Shooting while moving is a bit more advanced. Again, do not put your finger into the trigger guard until your sights are on the target. Keep your knees bent, as this will help act as a “shock absorber” and stop the gun from bobbing up and down. Walk heel to toe, (or toe to heel when retreating) and remember to get a smooth trigger pull on every shot. Your sights will move, but unless you jerk the trigger, you will get accurate hits on the targets.


If your firearm fails to fire, do not panic. Keep the muzzle downrange. Most of the time the problem is due to a bad ammo round or improperly seated magazine. In this case: Tap the bottom of the magazine, Rack the slide back to chamber a new round. This is called the Tap and Rack 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 and Rack 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 primed cartridge with no powder in it. What usually happens is a “pfft” noise with no recoil with the bullet lodging in the barrel. If this happens, stop and get help from the Safety Officer. Remember to keep the muzzle downrange.

If you experience a jam and are in doubt as to how to fix the problem, stop and ask the Safety Officer for help.

Engaging Targets

Typically, when the course of fire mandates a certain number of rounds per target, the shooter engages the target as specified or more. Courses of fire may stipulate target engagement methods. The two types of target engagement methods are as follows.

Tactical Sequence: A method of target engagement in which the shooter engages each target with 1 round, before engaging the target again. If you were engaging 3 targets with 2 rounds each in tactical sequence, the cadence would be 1 shot on T1, 1 shot on T2, 2 shots on T3 (as all targets got their first shot) 1 shot on T2, and 1 shot on T1 (1-1-2-1-1).

Tactical Priority: This method of target engagement depends on whether you are in the open or using cover.

  • When targets are engaged in the open, they must be engaged near to far. The premise is the targets are engaged in the order of the threat posed. If targets are less than 2 yards apart, they are considered an equal threat and can be engaged in any order.
  • When targets are engaged from cover, the must be engaged in barricade order (slicing the pie). The premise is the targets are engaged as they become visible.


In IDPA there are two kinds of reloads; the emergency or slide-lock reload, and the tactical reload/reload with retention.

In most IDPA stages the shooter will have the option to either reload when the slide locks back, or to tactical reload/reload with retention. Both of these reloads are to be done behind cover. The general principle is to be protected while reloading and that no loaded magazine is to be left behind. The speed load with an loaded round in the chamber (even if the magazine is empty) is not permitted.
Reloads must be initiated and finished behind cover.

Emergency Reload: When the slide locks back the shooter is to seek cover, eject the empty magazine, insert a loaded magazine and release the slide.

Tactical Reload: The shooter is behind cover and acquires a fresh magazine, and with the fresh magazine in hand the shooter removes and retains the spent magazine, inserts the fresh magazine, and places the spent magazine in a pocket or mag pouch. The magazine must be stored before resuming shooting. Shooting before storing the magazine will earn a procedural penalty.

Reload with Retention:  The shooter is behind cover and removes a loaded magazine and places it in a pocket. The shooter then inserts a fresh magazine in the pistol and resumes shooting. The Tactical Reload and Reload with Retention are “interchangeable.” In other words, if a course of fire stipulates a Tactical Reload, you may perform a Reload with Retention instead.  (see IDPA Rules Book for more details)

Revolver Emergency Load: Open cylinder, eject shells to ground, reload using speedloader, speed strip, or loose cartridges.

Revolver Tactical Reload: Open cylinder, eject shells into hand, pocket both brass and fresh cartridges, reload using speedloader, speed strip, or loose cartridges. (A true tactical reload would find the shooter pocketing only the loaded cartridges and discarding the brass but since IDPA is "timed" sport, not many shooters do it).


Scoring in IDPA is easy. After shooting a course of fire the raw time is recorded. Hits are counted and any misses are noted at -5 points each. The scoring rings are looked over; all head 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 (the grease ring of a bullet hole must touch or intersect the non-scoring perforation around the edge of the target in order to count as a hit). Hits that touch the perforation between two scoring zones, will be scored as the better score (we look at the grease ring of the bullet hole not the tears). All the points are totaled and then multiplied by 0.5 seconds and recorded. All penalties (which are all in the form of a time penalty) are calculated and recorded. The sum of the stage raw time, points down, and penalties is the shooters score given in seconds. Lowest Score wins.  A "Clean Run" is the raw time in seconds with zero points down on any target. 


This sport rewards accuracy over time. Take the time to place your shots properly. Remember you will loose 1/2 second for each point down. This adds up more quickly than you would think.

Do not crowd the barricade walls/cover. Staying back from the cover will not only make you less of a target (in the real world) but will help you move your aim from target to target easier.

Reloads with Retention are generally, faster and easier than Tactical Reloads. Practice both kinds of reloads though, as there are times the tactical reload is quicker.

Shooter Responsibilities

It is important to be a part of the team during the match. Be sure to paste targets, reset steel or other shooting stage equipment. If you are unsure what to do, ask one of the shooters in your squad. When pasting targets, make sure they are all scored before you start taping holes in targets.

Good Luck and Have Fun shooting your first IDPA Match!

NOTE:  None of the above information is meant to replace the Official IDPA Rules Book.  Get one, read and understand it.  This is each IDPA shooters responsibility if you are to attend "sanctioned" IDPA competitions.