In our new NROI Tips videos, we cover some some commonly asked questions. In this episode, we discuss start positions. See more information below the video.
In the 2019 Competition rules, USPSA deliberately removed the default start positions. This was done to encourage course designers, match directors and Range Masters to write specific, easily repeatable and enforceable start positions for their courses of fire. Consistency is key when it comes to start positions.
Every course of fire in USPSA competition has a start position. That start position can be highly detailed and specific, such as, “Facing uprange, wrists above shoulders, toes touching marks” or as general as, “Standing anywhere in the shooting area”, with no specification for hand placement, which leaves a lot up to the competitor.
The rules prohibit starting a course of fire while touching a handgun, ammo, or reloading device, but that doesn’t prevent a competitor from “hovering” over the firearm or a magazine if the WSB doesn’t prohibit it. PCC start positions almost always require the PCC to be held in the hands, and there are allowances for that in the rules, but the same general requirement of “standing in the shooting area” can be used. Also, it’s important to note that “Safety On” is a start position requirement for PCC–you must specify it in the WSB. “Buttstock touching belt, muzzle generally downrange, safety on”, while common, is NOT a default start position for PCC. We also want to avoid terms like “port arms” or “low ready”, because these mean different things to different people.
Sometimes, the placement of the gun dictates where the competitor is going to want to stand, even if the start position is written in a very general fashion. After all, if your gun is laying on a table in the middle of the stage, you’ll hardly want to start over on the far side. Some course designers have very specific reasons for having a competitor start in a defined position. If that is the case, then the position needs to be described in detail, and all the Range Officers need to know exactly what’s required.
Start positions also should not be open to interpretation by Range Officials. For example, a requirement of “hands touching the marks” doesn’t mean “palms flat”, it simply means that some part of your hand must be touching the wall, and you, as an RO, should not interpret that to mean anything other than some part of the hand touching the marks. Whenever I’ve seen that, almost everybody touched with just their fingers. If you want palms flat, say palms flat–that’s easy to see, demonstrate, and enforce, but it needs to be spelled out in the WSB. As noted in the video, two of the easiest hand placement requirements are “wrists above shoulders” and “wrists below belt”. Easy to see, easy to enforce, and no argument about whether your hands are “naturally” at your sides.
Any complicated start position can benefit from being demonstrated, so if one of the Range Officers demonstrates the start position, that’s what everyone is expected to assume, especially if the WSB states “…as demonstrated.”
Keep your start positions consistent and simple and avoid the problems that inconsistent start positions can cause, but remember to spell them out; there are no defaults.