More often than any RM would like, we run into competitors, especially newer competitors or those who have decided to campaign in a new division, whose equipment has run afoul of the rules. The oft heard phrase of “But the advertising said it was USPSA legal” or “my buddy said it was legal” is uttered usually followed by someone saying “Welcome to Open”, if they are lucky. But should you believe everything you see in advertising, on websites, on packaging or hear from others? Read on…
Sadly, the answer to that question is usually “not entirely”. There are nuances a plenty so let’s look at a few of them.
First off, USPSA licenses precious few things. Cardboard targets are the most often seen of the licensed products and one that NROI takes very seriously. Vendors are required to submit production samples periodically for examination and if they fail the review they have to fix it or risk losing their license to sell official USPSA targets. Our target vendors do not own their target manufacturing facilities; they are working with a supplier and, sometimes suppliers make changes that the vendor doesn’t know about or realize make a difference. So nothing nefarious going on there.
USPSA does not license holsters, mag pouches, mag extensions, base pads, magazines, sights, guns, etc. but there are plenty of vendors out there who will make statements about their product is “Legal for USPSA competition” or words to that effect. Sometimes it is even broader as “Legal for competition” which when you think about it is pure marketing silliness.
Broadly, this may well be true. Just darn near anything is legal in Open division and if it isn’t a compensator then it is probably legal in Limited. But it might not be legal in any other division. But, because it is legal in one or more divisions the statement “Legal for USPSA competition” is not incorrect. Misleading, maybe, but not false advertising or entrapment per se.
Things get more subtle when we get into specific items like magazine extensions. When I got into the sport 20+ years ago there were not the plethora of quality magazine tubes on the market there are today. Limited and Open were dominated by STI/SVI and Para magazine tubes. Production was mostly Glock so Glock factory mags dominated. And so on. The aftermarket magazines were fine for plinking but generally could not stand up to the abuse we put them through in competition; which I found out the hard way at my third match.
Today we have a lot of manufacturers making good quality tubes and not surprisingly their dimensions sometimes vary from the OEM specifications, especially in overall length. They are designing and building to meet a specification and so their tube with their base pad makes their spec. Thus, a base pad designed for say a standard XYZ tube to make 140mm, might cause the assembled magazine to run a bit long or a bit short on a tube from ABC.
This is why many base pad and mag extension manufacturer websites have disclaimers that their products might not always produce a legal configuration and you, the competitor, need to check with a gauge.
We also have seen multiple cases over the years were even OEM tubes in some configurations run long. Sig has a known issue with some factory base pads on some factory tubes for the 320 series where they run longer than allowed. A couple seconds with a sanding block or a good file and the problem is solved…if you know it has to be solved in the first place.
Hint: A USPSA mag gauge from EGW is $35, some of the best peace of mind you can buy. Invest in a mag gauge and use it on your mags every single time you take them apart and put them back together or change ANYTHING on them. More than one competitor in Open has accidentally put a +4 extension on a 170mm tube instead of on a 140mm tube while doing a fast clean during a match and gotten moved to shooting for no score.
And it isn’t just mag extensions and base pads that run afoul of things. Over the years some holster manufacturers have used the “Legal for…” language and people have discovered that yes, it is legal for use but not in the division they are in…welcome to Open. Back in the day, the restrictions on the Drop/Offset hangers in some divisions got a lot of folks.
Guns that have to fit into “The Box” run into issues with mag wells, ambidextrous safeties, aftermarket sights, and so on. Yes, it is legal for use but once you put the whole package together does it still fit into the box? Deeper magwell with taller sights is a recipe for disaster as are wide ambidextrous safeties.
All of this is to say that you, as ROs and competitors need to be very familiar with the D series appendices in each of our three rule books (or at least for the sports you RO/compete in) and do your own investigation before you spend your money. It is also very helpful when working as an RO, to spot equipment issues, maybe while there is time to still fix them.
It is your equipment, if what you bring to a match is not within the rules, it is your problem.
Caveat emptor! Let the buyer beware!
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