For the June 2021 Question of the Month, we asked a question about a competitor hitting steel that was not itself a target and what, if anything, the RO should do.
A competitor shoots at a swinging target and strikes the steel splash plate below the target. The swinger is four yards from the shooter’s position when the shot was fired.
What is your call as the RO?
- No call
- Illegal stage
So, how did you vote? Here is how the voting broke down.
This was a little surprising but let’s work through it.
Steel “splash plates” are common features on range props such as swingers. They serve to protect more delicate functional components such as bearings from being hit by errant bullets and damaging, even destroying, the prop. Steel plates are often also used as hardcover in stage design/setup to protect targets, props, etc. from errant shots.
The option for a reshoot isn’t correct unless something else happened. For instance, if the RO incorrectly stopped the competitor they would be entitled to a reshoot under 8.6.4. In this case, the reshoot is due to RO error/interference, not because they hit the steel splash plate.
Calling this a DQ is also incorrect. There are two potential options for a DQ that might come to mind. The first would be 10.5.17. However, note that this rule specifically says “metal target“. The splash plate is not a target, it is prop, so 10.5.17 would not apply. The next DQ rule one might be tempted to invoke would be 10.4.2.2; but this prop is 4 yards (12 feet) away so outside the 10 foot radius required for 10.4.2.
What about the most popular answer that this was an illegal stage? Actually, this is not an illegal stage. There is no prohibition in the rules against placing steel props closer than some defined distance. Read on…
The correct call is, no call. That’s right, just keep on shooting. Rule 2.1.3 discusses minimum distances to steel targets, but the splash plate on a swinger is not a target; it is a part of a prop. Rule 2.1.3 also addresses distances to steel props saying “Care should also be taken in respect to metal props in the line of fire.” The operative word here is “should”. This is not mandatory but it certainly is a good idea.
There is a better way to handle this than just leaving the bare steel plate exposed though. A couple layers of scrap OSB or plywood can absorb the hits and not send fragments back toward the competitor and others. Even a few layers of folded up cardboard targets or carpet zip tied to the plate will help. It is important to secure this material so it doesn’t become a secondary pendulum on a swinger and thus affect the movement of the swinger. Such protective measures should be taken prior to the commencement of the match and maintained throughout to the match.
The same precautions should be taken for all steel used that are likely to get shot such as steel plates being used as hard cover.
There are some things that should be done to minimize the probability that someone will hit steel props when firing at targets. First off, don’t position the targets so they are immediately adjacent to the steel plate. For instance, putting a target where the bottom edge is resting on, or nearly resting on, the steel splash guard is just asking for that to get hit; bump it up a few inches. Second, when looking at potential shoot through situations on a stage, pay attention to metal props as well as targets.
Non-target steel is a fact of life in modern USPSA stage design. Learn how to work with it and keep everyone safe.