A comprehensive set of experimental data is presented for the electron impact ionization differential cross sections of sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. A coplanar symmetric geometry was chosen for these (e,2e) coincidence studies, the energies ranging from near threshold to around fifteen times the first ionization potential. The results reveal a complex structure in both angle and energy which depends on the chosen target. Similarities and differences in the overall structure are found for the targets which have been studied. The results are compared to the measured cross section for helium over the same incident energy regime. The calcium results are also compared to recent theoretical calculations using a distorted wave Born approximation and the convergent close coupling method. Clear discrepancies are found between both theories and with experiment. © 2005 The American Physical Society.