When you shoot your first IDPA or Tactical Pistol match, you’ll hear a number of range commands, many of which may be unfamiliar to you. Here are the ones you will most likely hear.
The explanations below are specific to semi-autos but may be adapted to revolvers.
Range is hot--eyes and ears
This will likely be the first range command you hear at the match. “The range is hot” means we’re getting ready to shoot!
Make sure your ear protection is in place (you should always be wearing eye protection) and pay attention to the safety officer.
Load and make ready
OK, it’s your turn to shoot and you assume the start position for the stage as specified in the stage walkthrough. The safety officer will direct you to "Load and make ready.” (If you aren't clear about the course of fire, now is the time to have any questions answered.) Unless otherwise specified in the stage description, remove your gun from the holster, insert a magazine with the correct number of rounds for the division or for the particular course of fire, and chamber the first round.
Reholster (unless otherwise specified in the course description). If the course of fire calls for the gun to start unloaded, the command will be "Make ready."
Are you ready? or Shooter Ready?
Once your gun is made ready in accordance with the stage description, get comfortably into the position you want to be in when the buzzer sounds. Take a deep breath, relax and focus on what you are about to do. The safety officer will ask, "Are you ready?"
If you are not ready, say "Not ready." You will be given a few seconds to get ready.
If you do not respond to the command within about 3 seconds, the safety officer will assume you are ready.
After that, you will hear... STANDBY!
Once you hear “Standby,” you cannot change your position.
You just wait for the buzzer to sound. When the buzzer goes off, safely draw or retrieve your gun and proceed to engage all the targets as specified in the stage description. When all the targets have been engaged, the safety officer will say...If you are finished, unload and show clear
If you are finished, unload and show clear
When you hear this command (and you've taken all the shots you intend to take), unload (drop the magazine and put it in a pocket, on a prop, or on the ground--get it out of your hand), and show clear by retracting the slide, ejecting any round in the chamber. Hold the slide back so that you and the safety officer can visually verify that the gun is empty). There is no rush to do this! Please, no "show-off's"! Once the chamber is clear (or cylinder is empty), the safety officer will continue to the next command.
Slide forward (or cylinder closed)
Let the slide go forward (or close the cylinder), after which the safety officer will say...
Pull the trigger or Hammer Down
When you hear this command, point the muzzle DOWNRANGE, toward the back berm and pull the trigger.
If you have a decocker, don’t use it to drop the hammer. The safety officer wants to hear the “click.”
If your gun has a magazine disconnect, we want you to insert an empty magazine so you can drop the hammer.
Then remove the empty magazine. You will then be told to...
Replace the empty gun in your holster.
Don’t do anything else (pick up a dropped magazine or ejected live round) until the gun is holstered and the safety officer says...
Range is clear
You made it!
Now we can record your time for the stage and proceed downrange to score and paste the targets. What follows are some other commands or warnings you may hear as you progress through a course of fire.
If you hear “Muzzle,” you are close to pointing your muzzle in an unsafe direction.
Immediately direct the muzzle downrange. If you don’t respond properly to the warning, or if you manage to “sweep” yourself or another competitor before a safety officer can issue a warning, you will be disqualified from the match. You’re welcome at the next match, but you’re done for the day.
If you hear a safety officer or fellow competitor yell “Finger,” it’s because you have your finger inside the trigger guard when you are not actively engaging a target. Get it out and place it straight along the slide so the safety officer can see that it is clear of the trigger. The first finger warning will result in a 3-second procedural penalty. The second finger warning is an automatic match disqualification.
You’ll hear this warning if you are not meeting IDPA’s definition of the proper use of cover, that is, if both feet and 50 percent of your upper body are not behind designated cover. If you don’t respond to the warning, you’ll be assessed a 3-second procedural penalty. Be aware, too, that you can be assessed a penalty without having been warned.
If you are in the process of shooting a stage and you hear someone yell “Stop!” or “Whoa!” or “Hold it!” or “Cease fire!” or something similar, simply keep your muzzle pointed in a safe direction, take your finger out of the trigger guard, and wait for instructions.
Some potentially unsafe condition may have arisen that needs to be resolved. Or it could be something as simple as a prop malfunction. Whatever it is, it will be straightened out and you can start over.
Also, if you see some condition that could be unsafe, don’t hesitate to yell “Stop.”
Even if it turns out to be nothing, we can always start over.
Better safe than sorry!