Let’s get this out of the way up front. The Range Master Program is not for everyone. If you just want the title, want the certificate to hang on your wall, and all the wealth and fame associated with being a Range Master; you are in the wrong place. The Range Master Program is intensive; not a “check the boxes and get the title” type situation.
Okay, you’ve read this far so maybe you are thinking that you still want to become an RM. Great! At any one time we tend to have around 30 RMs in the US plus or minus a few. We have sunk as low as 18 and been as high as 34 in the 12 years I have been an RM. With the increased requirements for approved RMs for Level II matches, the demand for RMs is increasing. We typically have a half-dozen RM candidates in the program. Of that, roughly 50% get through to the final exam. Not everyone passes the final…more on that later.
To join the Range Master Program you need experience and a lot of it. We are talking major match experience (Level II and higher) preferably with a fair bit of Nationals match staff experience. Just working every local (Level I) match near you for two years doesn’t meet the requirement. Work the majors, note them in your NROI Work Record (accessible from your profile and classification record), and build up that resume.
You also need references. These need to be certified RMs and/or Match Directors for whom you have worked. Not your cousin Earl, your boss or significant other. We need to know that you might have the right stuff.
Okay, why all the requirements? Because the RM Program isn’t just an intensive program for the candidate. It also takes a lot of Range Master Instructor time. Each RM candidate is assigned an RMI mentor who works one-on-one with the candidate through the program. As we enhance the RM Program we are adding in actual job shadow experience as well as the traditional exercises. That takes planning and a lot of work to make happen properly. In many cases, for those job shadow assignments we are asking a major match to take on an additional staff member to work as an Assistant RM. All this adds up to a huge investment in time and money (the candidate is generally responsible for their travel and related costs just like other match staff) so we need to think we have a reasonable chance of the candidate making it through to completion.
Okay, you are still reading so let’s assume you got into the program. Now the fun begins…if you think work is fun. There are multiple modules within the RM program that have to be completed. Stage Design, Problem Solving, Arbitrations, Squadding, Staff Issues, and so on and so forth. Even a dedicated student is going to spend a couple months working through these. Most take six to nine months because we all have real lives and other demands on our time. Throughout the process the candidate will submit their assignments to their mentor for comment and most often get to tweak them a few times to get them right. It’s all part of the learning experience. It is during this phase that the majority of our candidates drop out. Time commitments, family commitments, changes in plans, or just lack of initiative…for whatever reason, it happens. No hard feelings friend!
Alright, so you somehow stuck to it and managed to get through everything including the job shadow and now it is time for your final exam. Sometimes the job shadow is part of the final review, sometimes it is separate, sometimes you will job shadow once and then again as part of the final exercise.
The final review consists of the candidate working as an ARM or a CRO at a major match where enough RMIs are present. This generally will be at a Nationals but sometimes can happen at an Area match. At some point you will be asked to be at a certain place at a certain time for the oral review by the RMIs and sometimes other RMs. All your work to this point is to get you into this event. You will have printed out all your assignments and created a portfolio of your work that will be reviewed by the RMIs and they may ask you questions about it. They will also ask you scenario based questions, often involving situations that happened at the current match you are at. Expect to be digging through the rules to come up with answers…that aren’t in the book in black and white. This is about “can you think on your feet, take in all the information and make a reasonable judgement given the rules we have under pressure”. These typically last for less than an hour…it just can seem longer. Do not get the impression that this is just a formality and everyone passes. That is NOT the case. Sometimes the candidate is remanded to their mentor for additional training in specific areas. Sometimes the candidate is dismissed outright because they aren’t found to be suitable. But, quite often, the candidate is welcomed to the Range Master Corps with handshakes and smiles.
So why all the work, screening and so on? It’s quite simple, really. We are placing an incredible amount of trust into a Range Master. We are trusting that they will go forth and carry the banner for USPSA/NROI, they will uphold and enforce the rules, and they will bust their butts to make our major matches absolute successes by pushing the envelope in production value, stage design, and overall match function. They will protect the shooters by ensuring adequate and properly trained staff are utilized and that those staff are treating the shooters properly and enforcing the rules correctly. We expect them to act as a resource in their region to help others, help matches get off the ground and help folks understand the rules. The Range Master is our standard bearer and leader on the ground and our last line of defense in ensuring the rules are upheld. We aren’t giving the keys to that truck to just anyone; only to those whom we feel can actually do the job.