Where To Find IDPA, USPSA, and RCSA Safety Information

IDPA stands for International Defensive Pistol Association. USPSA stands for United States Practical Shooting Association. RCSA stands for Rimfire Challenge Shooting Association. All are fun and a safe way to learn and develop firearm skills and abilities. These sports’ safety rules are easy to learn and follow. Read each sport’s respective rules to familiarize yourself completely before engaging in any competition.  These rules can be found at each sport’s respective website: IDPA’s website is at idpa.com , USPSA’s website is at uspsa.org, RCSA website is at rimfirechallenge.org.


General Gun Safety Rules

1.) Handle all firearms as if they are always loaded.

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

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

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

If these simple rules are always followed, most firearms accidents would never happen. Pay considerable attention to rule 4. When shooting shooting a stage, your finger should never be inside of the trigger guard until you are on target and ready to shoot a bullet. Always take 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 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.


Overview of Range Commands

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 (while your finger is off the trigger), reholster and get ready to shoot.

Shooter Ready?:  Question asked by the Safety Officer to make sure the shooter is ready to engage the course of fire. The shooter may nod their head yes or say “yes” when ready to go.

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

Range Officer will press a timer’s start button. Timer will make a “beep” sound; shooter will start shooting the stage in a safe manner.

Finger (or trigger): You will hear this if your finger appears to be in the trigger guard while moving. Repeated offenses will earn a match disqualification.

Muzzle: If you hear this, immediately check the position of your firearm as your muzzle is getting near a maximum 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.

If Finished, Unload and Show Clear: This is the command to completely unload your firearm at the end of the stage. Shooter will then take the magazine out (bullets out of revolver), pull the slide back (let the cartridge fall to the ground) until the chamber is empty, make sure your gun has no bullets in it and wait for the next command.

If Clear, Slide Forward, Hammer Down, Holster:  This is when the shooter will again make sure their firearm is completely unloaded, proceed to release the slide forward, pull their trigger while pointing the gun down range and holstering the firearm.

(Revolver shooters follow similar commands without the trigger pull.)

Range is Clear:  Command stating that the shooter has holstered their weapon and people are able to go downrange.


Penalty Examples and Overview

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 penalties are used only when truly necessary. Safety Officers are here to help you have a fun and safe time, not to nitpick.

Penalties vary by sport. Some penalty examples are listed below. This is not a full list of penalties in any shooting sport. These are some of the common ones.

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

  1. Stepping over a foot limitation stick (foot fault) or box.
  2. Not shooting while moving as required (IDPA only).
  3. Not reloading as required (usually only IDPA).
  4. Not following other course of fire rules as required.
  5. Shooting targets out of order or sequence (IDPA only).

Hits on Non-Threats: Is a five-second penalty (5 points in USPSA) per non-threat target hit,  You can only get one penalty per target.

Failure to Engage (USPSA only): Is a five-point penalty when a shooter fails to shoot at a target.

If you wind up earning a procedural, non-threat penalty, or failure-to-engage penalty, do not get upset. These sports are all about learning. Learn from your mistakes and have fun!


Other Shooter Responsibilities


Moving 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 at all times (which will be downrange). Third, take your time. You will see experienced shooters moving very quickly, but they all started out moving slowly–as a new shooter should. New shooters should take their time and move and shoot carefully and accurately. Also, keep your knees bent, as this will help act as a “shock absorber” and stop the gun from bobbing up and down.


If your firearm fails to fire, do not panic. Keep the muzzle downrange. Most of the time the problem is due to a bad ammunition round or improperly seated magazine. In these cases, tap the bottom of the magazine and rack the slide back to chamber a new round. This is called the “Tap and Rack” method.

Professional training will help new shooters diagnose and quickly cure malfunctions. These instructions here cannot give a new shooter all the information needed. If a Tap and Rack does not work, one may try to release the magazine, rack the slide, replace the magazine and rack the slide again to chamber a fresh bullet. If these things do not work and you cannot get the firearm clear, it is best to stop and get advise from the safety officer.

Another malfunction with a dangerous potential is called a squib load. It is caused by firing a bullet that only had a primed cartridge with no powder in it. What usually happens is a “pfft” noise with no recoil and the bullet being lodging in the barrel. If this happens, stop immediately and get advise from the Safety Officer. Remember to keep the muzzle downrange at all times.

Non Shooting Activities

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

NOTE:  None of the information on this page is meant to replace official IDPA, USPSA, and/or RFCA Rules Books.  Get one for all the sports you plan to shoot. Read it (or them) and understand the rules of the sport(s). This is each shooter’s responsibility.