Types of Matches


Self defense and standard exercises are the basis for all IDPA Matches, but the layout, course of fire and exercise details can differ greatly from match to match. Learn more about what makes IDPA matches unique.

One of the great things about IDPA matches is that you will rarely encounter the same stage twice. As most of the stages are drawn from events that could actually happen, the possible stages are endless. Each stage is unique and this keeps each match fresh and new with different challenges and entertainment.

Courses fall into two categories: Self-defense scenarios or Standard exercises. The self-defense scenarios are simulations of actual or possible real world confrontations.

These scenarios typically require shots from 3 – 20 yards and often require the shooter to change firing points and shoot from awkward positions. Standard exercises do not attempt to simulate a potential threat situation but are designed to test specific shooting and gun handling skills. IDPA matches offer diversity and truly test both accuracy and speed. Physical condition has very little to do with your performance in an IDPA match.

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Most courses of fire in IDPA matches fall into this format. IDPA is based on defensive shooting and therefore the match designers try to simulate scenarios where you would be forced into using your gun to defend your life or others. Common stages found in matches involve you being caught in a convenience store robbery, a home invasion, car jacking, ATM/bank robbery and more. Many scenarios are drawn from newspaper and TV reports. Others are drawn form the stage designer’s imagination in which worst case scenarios are encountered while performing ordinary, everyday tasks or errands.

Self defense stages will find you having to engage targets from awkward or difficult positions. You might find yourself having to engage targets from inside a car or from beside it, having to move from point to point while shooting, jumping up from a recliner or bed during a home invasion or shooting while seated.

The possibilities change with every match. You might not even draw from a holster although that comprises the majority of the stages you will see. You could draw your gun from a glove box, a nightstand drawer, under a counter or from a bag or case. All of this combines to keep theses stages unique and challenging for each match.


In standard exercise stages you are required to perform the basic components of shooting such as drawing the gun, sight alignment and trigger control with out the more complex decisions and movements required in a self defensive stage.

The standard exercises are usually designed with minimal targets and require little or no movement. The key is to test specific items such as strong hand only shooting, Weak hand only shooting, simple draw and fire, accuracy at short and long ranges and basic movement while shooting.

These standard exercises help the competitor to gauge their skill level and note areas that they might need to work on improvement. They provide a base line that in important in the continued development of the core skills that not only will elevate your match performance but carry over into your daily life should you ever have to use a gun in self defense.

Ready to join an IDPA match? Become a member today.