Not all local matches are created equal. Each match has a certain historical personality and “style”. The Range Officers and shooters at those matches adjust their habits to fit the situation and all is relatively well, although perhaps not always particularly correct. Those habits, however, don’t always mesh well at a major match. Some of the differences deal with the correct application of the rules and some are simply good practice. Shooters and ROs going to their first major may be uncertain about what to expect. Let’s review some of the issues, both for staff and competitors.
Don’t be late
Show up at your stage in plenty of time to unbag and replace targets, gather your daily supplies (range box with supplies/timer/radio/spare targets) and prep your stage for the day’s activity. The CRO may assign specific duties. You should have enough time after all is ready to catch your breath before the fun begins.
This falls under the CRO’s oversight, so check with your CRO. Most Range Masters will want you to check competitor equipment position (holster/mag position, etc.) before starting the squad arriving for their first stage of the match and collect chrono bullet samples at some point during the match. The identity of the shooter, the handgun division and (for some divisions) the power factor should be clearly announced by one of the staff members prior to “Make Ready”. Make it part if your normal routine.
Cannot be stressed enough. Your local match habits may not be correct. Improper range commands can interfere with the shooter, reflect negatively on your performance and reputation, and can affect the stage. In addition, make sure that the critical range commands can be heard by more than just the shooter. “Make Ready”, “STOP!” and “Range Is Clear” should be heard by others as well. Alternatively, since most shooters wear electronic hearing protection, yelling the commands so loud they can be heard on the other side of the range is unnecessary and can be very annoying to some shooters.
Some ROs have a habit of making a precautionary announcement prior to “Make Ready”. Commonly, this can be “We’re going hot!” or something similar. A properly run stage at a major match should make such a declaration unnecessary. Worse, however, is “Range is Clear – Make Ready!” This declaration, commonly heard at local matches, is totally inappropriate simply because RIC is the command which allows shooters and staff to move downrange to score targets. Why say “RIC” when the shooter is about to make ready?
When running a shooter, stick with the range commands. Any conversation or assistance is the slippery slope to interference or coaching and potential reshoots or arbitrations. This is particularly important after an unexpected event. Stick with the range commands until “Range is Clear” to assure that the firearm is unloaded before engaging in any discussion lest you lose track of the important stuff.
Don’t hesitate to use your overlays anytime you have a close call, good or bad. Don’t just do a “drive-by” call. Every point counts. Lengthy hesitation to make a call is no better than winging it. Make a decision. If uncertain, call your CRO. The shooter has recourse for appeal. By the way, you never “give” anything, simply call the score.
The scorekeeper should stay out of the way and, when possible, remain outside the shooting area as the next shooter rehearses the stage.
When replacing targets, be precise. A minor misalignment can result in a scoring challenge. The original target (base target) normally stays on for the duration of the match. This assures that only an identical target (whether a full target or hardcover) will be stapled over it. The only time staples are removed from a base target is when a target stick needs replacement, and you only replace one stick at a time to retain the original target position. Improper or sloppy target replacement can cause appeals, reshoots or the loss of a stage.
Stage props and gadgets
As you go about your duties, keep an eye on the props for condition and/or function. Should you notice something out of sorts, inform the CRO so corrective action can be taken before the situation causes problems. When resetting moving targets which use weights, lift the weight. Avoid using the target sticks to lift the weight or rotate the target. This commonly results in the targets crumpling and may require the base target to be replaced.
Lastly, make sure you hydrate. Dehydration sneaks up on you and you will wilt. Drink more than you think you need, early and often during the day.
Show up on time
Show up at your stage in plenty of time to prepare your gear and load your mags. Some matches have specific “first shot” time restrictions from local communities or state regulations. A late start on one stage affects the whole match and can potentially run into daylight issues at the end of the day. You should be ready to go ten minutes prior to the stage time so the briefing can be given and first shot happens on time. Extreme tardiness usually means having a conversation with the Range Master and can have consequences. Give each stage staff your squad shooting order (sorted by last name or first name) and identify your first shooter because it helps them assure the correct shooter will be scored. Also inform the staff if you know a shooter is held up or absent for any reason.
During the Written Stage Briefings
We all suffer from the “What’s the hand position?” mental block, and that’s OK. However, the details of the WSB can be critical to your stage score, especially on a Virginia Count or Fixed Time stage. Pay attention and ask any relevant questions once the briefing is complete.
Beware of bad local safety habits. Violating safety area and firearm handling rules, particularly for PCCs, can cut your match short. Just because “We do it this way at home!” does not mean you will escape a DQ at a major match.
Be prepared to shoot when your turn comes
No one expects you to be pasting or resetting steel immediately before your turn on the stage. Waiting for a shooter to get prepared slows down the whole squad. You should be standing near the start position, ready to go as the ROs return from downrange.
Unless there is no safety area/table in the vicinity, it is bad form to show up with your handgun in a bag/case. It’s a time waster before and after shooting. However, the staff will usually cooperate when a safety area is not within reasonable distance.
During the course of fire
Avoid any interference with the stage staff. Remain behind the rearmost RO so their view of the action is not impeded. This is particularly important for squad members with cameras, who often tend to enter the shooting area, lose peripheral vision, and can potentially interfere with the ROs, or worse, introduce a safety problem.
During target scoring
“Poaching” by a subsequent shooter or squad interferes with that next shooter’s preparation. Squad members assisting with pasting or resetting should give the next shooter his rehearsal space as much as possible. Do not crowd or shadow the targets. The ROs and the shooter need their space to see and score efficiently. Pasting targets is not a timed event. Do not be too quick to paste the hits in case the shooter or the RO/CRO need another look. If you are the shooter, it is OK to ask for the CRO if you disagree with the call of the timer RO. Ultimately, you can ask for the RM to make the final call. But keep in mind that making unreasonable scoring challenges is frowned upon for a number of reasons. It slows down the squad and the stage, adds to the workload of the (sometimes overworked) stage staff and can border on unsportsmanlike conduct. A quarter bullet diameter away from a perforation line cannot possibly make a Charlie become an Alpha. A perfect double on a drop-turner or fast swinger is not very likely. You have the right to ask for another look, but common sense and fair play have a role here. If in disagreement, the shooter cannot demand that a target be pulled. That is a decision made by the RM when the RM cannot show up quickly enough. It’s all about the quickest way to get the stage running again.
Pasting and resetting
Any help from the shooters is welcome and appreciated. Staff will usually do what’s needed to keep the stage running on time but may be short-staffed. Since some squad members are reloading mags, on-deck, or attending to physiological needs, not everyone on the squad is available to help, so do your part when you can, especially when the weather is uncooperative. The stage staff should not have to ask for help.
Final stage scoring/results
Your opportunity to review the scoring tablet and (if in use) the back-up paper receipt is important. There is only limited possibility for a correction if you believe it is in error after you have approved the tablet and signed the paper. A copy of the paper back-up will be offered to a squad representative when the squad is done with the stage, or you will get your own copy, depending on the format used.
Leaving the stage
It is common practice to thank the staff. They are out there all day, in any weather, doing their best to keep their stage and the match running. They do appreciate it.
Don’t forget to have fun!