One of the many things ROs are supposed to watch is target engagement so when a competitor fails to engage a target, they know when to apply a Failure To Shoot At penalty. For this Question of the Month we are going to discuss FTSAs and when they should and shouldn’t be applied.
There are three poppers in a row. Two full-size poppers with a mini-popper in the middle (A). A competitor fires one shot and knocks down the first full-size popper (B) and takes one more shot at the remaining poppers before moving to another position. The poppers are never engaged again. When scoring the stage, the ROs see that the mini-popper is still standing (C) with a full diameter hit on each full-size popper.
As the RO, how do you score it?
This question was based on something that actually happened at 2-gun nationals in June and had all the ROs discussing afterwards whether the correct call was made. The ROs called it one miss and one FTSA because they were counting the shots and knew the competitor only fired twice at the three poppers. The poll shows that was also the answer most of you had and is the correct call.
First, let’s look at the rules that apply in this situation. First the rule that states that targets must be shot at, 9.5.1: Unless otherwise specified in the written stage briefing, scoring cardboard targets must be shot with a minimum of one round each, with the best two hits to score. Scoring metal targets must be shot with a minimum of one round each and must fall to score.
And then the rule for the actual FTSA penalty, 10.2.7: A competitor who fails to shoot at any scoring target with at least one round will incur one procedural penalty per target, plus the applicable number of misses, except where the provisions of Rules 126.96.36.199 or 9.9.2 apply.
In this case the exceptions (those two rules refer to Fixed Time and Disappearing Targets) do not apply, so the competitor needs to engage each popper with at least one round to avoid a FTSA penalty. But the competitor shot towards the poppers and how could the ROs tell which popper was being engaged? In this case, the ROs knew the competitor was shooting at those three poppers, but also were counting shots and there were only two shots at the three steel targets. Which means one popper was not engaged.
But what if the ROs had not been counting shots or paying attention? We teach that if the ROs are not 100% sure, they can’t call a FTSA. But let’s say there was a group of six poppers downrange and a competitor shoots over ten rounds in that direction and leaves a popper standing, in most cases they probably have engaged all the poppers unless the ROs are sure that one popper was not engaged. Which can happen, but the ROs need to be 100% sure before issuing the FTSA penalty. If there is any doubt, the FTSA penalty can’t be applied.
What about arrays of cardboard targets where the best two hits score? What if there are three targets and only four shots were fired? The competitor could have fired one shot at two targets and two shots at the third target, or could have engaged two of the three targets with two shots each. Or, fired four shots and missed some targets completely. But again, the ROs need to be watching target engagement and only call FTSA penalties when they are 100% sure a target(s) wasn’t engaged. Sometimes shot counts are not reliable in situations where multiple targets are available or if the competitor misses targets completely. That is why it is best that ROs watch the actual targets and where the barrel of the competitor’s firearm is pointing.
Watching all this is a big task for one RO who is already running the timer and watching gun handling. This is why we teach ROs to work in teams. At minimum you need a timer RO and a scorekeeper RO. For larger stages with lots of walls, three or more ROs might be needed to help watch for target engagement and run the stage. It is always good to have multiple ROs watching so the correct call is made.
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