In 2023, there was a change in the rules as to the legality of using steel plates in upper level USPSA Competition matches. Most Area and National matches already avoided using steel plates to minimize reshoots to ensure the match stayed on schedule, so most competitors probably didn’t even notice the change. But we wanted to quiz our rules aficionados and see if they noticed the change in the January Question of the Month.
You are at a Level III match being run under USPSA Competition Rules and see plate racks, Texas Stars, and plates on the stages. Are metal plates legal?
I honestly thought this would be an easy question. But not everyone is involved in designing stages for major matches so this rule change may have gone unnoticed since it doesn’t apply to Level 1 (local) and Level II (section/state) matches.
The rule citation for this question is 220.127.116.11: Various sizes of metal plates may be used (see Appendix B3) in Level I and II matches only, however, metal plates must not be used exclusively in a course of fire. At least one authorized cardboard target or Popper must be included in each course of fire.
Metal plates were legal at all match levels prior to the 2023 change, but plates were rarely seen in Area matches and had not been in Nationals matches for many, many years. If there is one thing major matches don’t want, it’s range equipment failures (REFs) which lead to reshoots which slow down the match. When a major match gets behind schedule, everyone gets cranky and no MD and RM wants that. This is why experienced MDs and RMs prohibited steel plates from their matches.
Why would plates lead to reshoots? See the relevant portion of 18.104.22.168: Scoring metal targets which a Range Officer deems to have fallen or overturned due to a shot on the supporting apparatus or prematurely fallen or moved for any reason will be treated as range equipment failure (See Rule 4.6.1). And rule 22.214.171.124: Unlike Poppers, metal plates are not subject to calibration or calibration challenges. If a scoring metal plate has been hit but fails to fall or overturn, the Range Officer shall declare range equipment failure and order the competitor to reshoot the course of fire, after the faulty plate has been rectified.
This means if a plate does not fall, or turns so it doesn’t have the surface visible, or falls when a competitor is missing the plate but amazingly hits the very narrow stand, the RO stops the competitor and it’s a reshoot. However, we also have a provision in rule 126.96.36.199.1: A plate that has been hit a second time and falls or overturns before a Range Officer can stop the competitor, will be scored as hit and there will be no reshoot issued.
This means that if the RO notices a plate that didn’t fall when hit the first time, and the competitor shoots it down before the RO can stop the competitor, then the RO says nothing and the competitor continues with the stage. Some competitors are fine with not being stopped, because most times reshoots don’t go very well. Other competitors are upset that they didn’t get stopped before shooting the plate down because they wanted the reshoot. Moral of the story, if you hit a metal plate and it doesn’t fall, don’t shoot it again if you want the reshoot. Give the RO a chance to stop you. And also remember that poppers have different rules than plates, so not knocking down a popper is not an automatic REF.
Remember to cast your vote in the current Question of the Month!
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