When I got into the sport almost twenty years ago, match books were printed paper documents you received when you checked in at a Major match. Some majors might have a website with some stage diagrams but this was, at first, the exception. It was the rare local club that did a formal match book for local matches. With the integration of the Internet into daily life, match books became more electronic in nature; although printed match books still ruled the day for almost another decade. Nowadays, it is rare to find a printed match book being handed out. Instead, electronic match books rule the roost. Match books do serve a purpose and are an important part of Major matches. Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for these important documents.
The first, and most obvious, Do is that if you are hosting a Major match, you need to have a match book in whatever format. It used to be in paper match book days that shooters were plenty happy getting their printed match book at check in. Now, in the days of electronic media, shooters expect to see the match book (really meaning, The Stages) at least a couple weeks in advance of the match. Other match details like match hotel, parking, etc. can wait a bit.
There is no rule that specifies what must be in a good match book but there are some best practices you might want to follow.
If you have a “Match Hotel“, and if there is a discount code associated with the match, be sure and list this in your match book (and other places). A list of other hotels close to the range is also generally appreciated. At a major match, a lot of your competitors may not be familiar with the area and this information can be invaluable.
How to get to the range. An address that Google Maps (and hopefully Apple Maps) can get to works great but failing that, good old GPS (latitude and longitude) will usually suffice. With a Major match you cannot expect that everyone coming to your match will know how to get to your range.
Match Schedule. This isn’t just the schedule for the day(s) of the match. It also includes: When does check-in start/end, when are stages open for inspection, is there courtesy chronograph available during stage inspection, when is the Shooter’s Meeting (if you are having one), and what is the expectation for squads on their first stage of the match. Do they go to the Shooter’s Meeting and then to stages or go directly to stages and be ready to shoot at the appointed hour? When are awards/prize table?
You need to include the Squad Matrix showing which squads will be shooting which stages at what times. Open squadding might work for your local match but it is all but guaranteed not to work for your Major…don’t even think about trying.
A Range Map is a very good idea to include denoting which bays are which stages. Many times, ranges have bays numbered 1 through whatever but Stage 1 isn’t in Bay 1 and if you have two stages in a bay then things really can get crazy. So a nice range map listing the stages really helps everyone out. Also include where the vendor tent is (if present), where lunch will be served (if you are serving lunch), and perhaps most importantly, where allowed parking is for competitors and spectators.
Also list any local regulations newcomers might need to be aware of. Some clubs operate under quiet hours where no firearms are allowed to be discharged between certain times. For instance, CMP Talladega where our Nationals have been this year, cannot have gunfire before 9:00 AM. Other local regulations often include whether alcohol is allowed anywhere on the range, where smoking is allowed, etc.
Do list your rules for media. If you wish to allow media on the range only with designated media credentials that you hand them or you want them to be escorted; state it in the match book. Same thing applies to drones if you want to restrict drone usage during the match to only official drones or at least drone operators you have given specific media credentials to. Having a drone operator run down the top of a berm to retrieve their crashed drone while stages on either side are active causes bad things to the blood pressure…ask me how I know.
Some matches like to include separate pages listing all the match sponsors, match staff, and so on. Feel free. Mentioning sponsors really can’t be overdone.
If you want to include a statement that “This match is held in accordance with the USPSA Competition Rules, latest edition” then be my guest. It isn’t really necessary because it is a USPSA match, afterall, so what rules would it be held under if not the USPSA rules, latest edition? Nothing wrong with this.
Where matches get into trouble is when they feel it necessary to start republishing specific rules out of the rule book in the match book “for emphasis” or whatever reason. Not only is this unnecessary but it is dangerous. All too often people decide to freelance it and put their own spin on the rules they are listing resulting in what amounts to a “local rule” which we all know are not legal per 3.3. Over the years we have seen and heard about all manner of insanity brought about because someone decided to restate an existing rule and “tighten it up a bit” to where they think it should be.
A recent example was a state match that decided that any foot fault was automatically significant advantage and thus assessed a penalty per shot fired while faulting. Folks, that isn’t the rule. No one cares if you think it should be; it isn’t. Take it up with your Area Director and see if they will champion your cause for a rule change. Thankfully this was caught ahead of time and corrected before it became a problem.
The other danger is that once created, a match book tends to become a template and get recycled every year. These restated rules, even if originally cut and pasted from the rule book into the match book, may not age well. As the rule book changes they become incorrect and now you have problems. Just don’t do it. Let the rule book stand on its own. Everyone has equal access to the actual rule book and you eliminate potential nightmares for the match staff.
Don’t expect everyone to actually have the match book, and therefore squad matrix, with them come match day. It isn’t a bad idea to print up a dozen or so and give some to the RM(s), MD, etc. so they can help the lost souls find their correct stage. There are still active shooters using flip phones so an online version might not help them. This is even more of a problem if your range is lacking wifi or cellular coverage. Speaking of squad matrixes…if yours has to change for whatever reasons very close to the match, print enough to hand every squad a copy and get them to the stages for the staff to hand out first thing. Laminated copies posted at every stage can also help. Otherwise, chaos will visit you.
Don’t change stuff in the match without updating the electronic match book and making appropriate announcements on social media and other channels. If you all of a sudden radically change things like the shooting schedule or even a big change to the round count and don’t tell people there may be some grumpy competitors. Great, you added three stages for 90 more rounds (got ammo?) but now we are shooting nine stages today instead of six and shooting dawn to dusk may not be everyone’s idea of a good thing; especially if they have commitments in the evening.
A good match book is essential to a well run match. With a bit of proper care, it can really help your match be a success. Toss in some carelessness and you could have a big mess on your hands.