First Time Shooters

SDPS Member Morgan Hogue showing how it’s done.

How much does a match cost?

For first time shooters, the match fee is $10.00. After your first match, if you like what you see and want to continue, you may join our IDPA affiliated club for the Sacramento area (Sacramento Defensive Pistol Shooters) at a cost of $35.00, and the parent national club, International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) at a cost of $40.00. After you join, the monthly match fee is $20.00. If you do not join the club, and you are no longer a first time shooter, you must be an IDPA member and your match fee is $30.00. These fees only apply to our monthly club matches. Special matches such as benefit matches or Regional Championships match fees may differ.

Are there qualifications that I must have?

Safety is our #1 Priority, and competition shooting is not for the uninitiated.  Prior demonstrable experience in competition shooting (IDPA or USPSA) or attendance to an approved training class is required before attending SDPS events. (this means we can see your name in scores posted online…)

Local Competition Events:

Approved Training Classes:

If you believe you may have satisfied the qualifications outlined above or are an active law enforcement officer or active military with appropriate experience, please contact the SDPS President prior to attending your first match.

What should I bring to my first match?

  • A handgun (revolver or pistol). The handgun caliber must be .38 special / 9mm or larger.
  • A holster. The holster must cover the trigger at a minimum, and must be a hip holster. Thigh, shoulder, and cross-draw rigs are not permitted.
  • Ammunition carriers. For pistols, you will need at least 3 magazines. For revolvers, at least 4 speedloaders / moonclips.
  • Ammunition holders. For pistols, you will need 2 magazine pouches to place on your belt. This can be be 2 single magazine pouches, or one dual magazine pouch. For revolvers, you will need 3 holders for your speedloaders or moonclips.
  • Ammunition. Bring at least 150 rounds of factory or near-factory reloaded ammunition.
  • Eye and ear protection. If you wear prescription glasses, they can be used for eye protection.
  • A concealment garment. IDPA stages often simulate self-defense encounters, which require drawing a firearm from concealment. Suitable garments include photographer’s / safari vests, jackets, or long tailed shirts.
  • Water and food. In the hot months, make sure you bring plenty of water. Bringing food is also recommended, but SDPS does have a food vendor that comes to the matches.

When should I get to the range?

For your first match, be at the range at 7:00 AM to see the SDPS president or Match Director (MD) to help set up scenarios, get your gear set up, and sign the release/waiver. All registration is done in advance through Practiscore. Shooting starts as soon as the stages have been set up (this could be as early as 8:00 AM) so if you haven’t checked in by the time we hold the shooter’s meeting we will assume that you are a no-show and your spot in the match may be given away to someone else.

When and where do I get to put on my gear?

After arriving at the range and helping set up for the match, you will go to the bay that corresponds with the squad you are on. You can put your holster and ammunition holders on your belt there. To put your handgun on, you must go to one of the marked safe areas at the range. There are only two places you may handle your firearm during the match: at a safe area, or during a course of fire under the direction of a Safety Officer. When in a safe area, you may not handle ammunition, but you can handle ammunition anywhere else on the range. You can load your magazines, speedloaders/moonclips anywhere on the range except the safe areas. The Action Pistol Range of the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center is a COLD range, meaning that you will NOT carry a loaded weapon at anytime except when under the direction of the Safety Officer when it is your turn to shoot a stage.


If you have a valid California License to Carry you must find a certified Safety Officer to escort you to a bay to unload your carry gun when you arrive. You may then case your carry gun if you are not shooting in the match. Likewise, when you are done with the match and ready to return home you must find a Safety Officer to supervise you loading your carry gun. Loading or unloading a gun at a match ALWAYS requires SO supervision. Failure to follow this rule will result in a DQ for the days match and you will be prohibited from attending the next match.

How does a typical match day go?

After match set up, there will be a brief shooter’s meeting to discuss general items. After this meeting, you will join the rest of your squad. A squad is a group of shooters that all shoot a stage of the match as a group, and stay together during the match. Each stage is a scored part of the match that each shooter completes. The stages are set up on the bays of the Action Pistol Range.

For each stage, a squad will do a brief “walk through” of the scenario to discuss the procedure for the stage and address any questions. Afterwards, a shooting order is established. The names of the first shooters, and the next two shooters (“on-deck” and “in-the-hole”) are called out by the scorekeeper.

New shooters are placed near the bottom of the shooting order so they can watch more experienced shooters and ask questions. Listen for your name to be called so you can be ready when it is your turn. If you are not on-deck or in-the-hole, assist the other shooters in re-setting the stage for the next shooter. This involves taping holes in targets, resetting props, and picking up spent brass.

When your name is called out for in-the-hole, try to make sure you have all the equipment you need for the stage, such as a concealment garment and loaded magazines. If the stage procedure calls for special starting conditions, such as a magazine loaded to only 6 rounds, try to make sure you are ready after you are called in-the-hole. When you are on-deck, have everything ready and wait as near to the start position for the stage as safety allows. When the shooter ahead of you finishes the stage, and the Safety Officer announces that the range is safe, go to the start position for the stage and wait for instructions from the Safety Officer.

After you are finished shooting, follow the Safety Officer as the targets are scored. After the scoring is complete, the scorekeeper will show you your score sheet. Review the score sheet, initial it, and get safely up range so the next shooter can get started.

After all the shooters in your squad complete the stage, the squad moves to the next bay and the scorekeeper takes the completed score sheets to the scoring shack. After all the stages are finished, wait with your squad until the scorekeeper gives the go-ahead to dismantle the stage and clean up the bay.