Lots of things we do in life require ongoing training to stay up-to-date with the latest tools, techniques, laws, etc. Everyone from folks in the medical field to auto mechanics to pilots and on and on all have to undergo some form of on-going training to receive updates to remain current. Part of that on-going training means staying up-to-date on our own while, often, another part is more formally scheduled as a refresher.
As Range Officers, we all attended our first Level 1 RO Seminar, participated in the class and the range exercise and did our final written exam and got our RO certification and kept on running shooters at matches. Great! But now what?
Some will go on and attend the Level 2 CRO Seminar, but we don’t focus on the rules as in-depth in that seminar as we do in the Level 1 seminar. The CRO seminar covers other topics.
Certainly there is an annual re-certification exam; however, most people just answer the questions and maybe get updated about those specific topics, but there is a lot more to the overall rules that doesn’t get refreshed. Since it is a random selection of questions out of a large pool not everyone will get the same “updates”.
Thus, we keep running into situations where certified ROs were unaware that a rule had changed. This isn’t anything new and really has nothing to do with the change from paper to electronic rule books. We found folks trying to use books that were years out of date on the range even when we did print and mail out new books.
Here’s an example of the problem: The rules regarding handgun start positions changed with the 2019 Competition rules and a whole bunch of folks didn’t catch the change leading to interesting, sometimes heated, discussions on the range regarding start position. The biggest change? There is no longer a default start position for handgun.
So you are asking what’s the problem? Read 8.2.2 and 184.108.40.206 and we are done. True enough for this situation. Notice I didn’t quote the rules here? That’s right…I want you to go look them up. Go ahead. I’ll wait. If you just learned something, great! But let’s talk about the bigger issue.
As an actively evolving sport our rules must evolve as well. Yes, its true our rule book is growing in size with every iteration and the original rule book from the mid-70’s was a tiny fraction of what we have today. But here is the deal folks: Almost every rule in the book can be attributed to someone doing something, or not doing something, at a match. Competitors, ROs, MDs, RMs…they have all inadvertently contributed to the rule book. The so called Range Lawyers or Gamers, look for tiny fractures in the rules to attempt to gain an advantage so we have to fix the holes. As a result, the rules keep on changing per the process as outlined in the USPSA By-Laws. And thus it shall ever be. Some might say “If you build an idiot proof machine someone will come up with a better idiot.” Probably true.
But that really isn’t the problem, it is just a symptom. The problem is that when a new rule book is released too many people do not bother to sit down and read it; or even the changes document released with every new edition that outlines the specific things that got added, deleted or modified, with comprehension. They might glance through it, but as soon as they close the document the memory is fading away. Most of us cannot absorb a document like that in one sitting. That means continually referring back to the book to make sure you have it right.
As I often tell my RO and CRO classes; I’ve been in this sport a long time and I have parts of multiple rule books stuck in my brain. If I rely entirely upon memory for a rule then that rule could be from the red book from 2001, the green book from 2005, the first blue book in 2008 (which was our first USPSA Rules only book), the second blue book from 2010, the Merlot book from 2014 or the new colorless electronic book. That’s a game of chance I am generally not willing to play so it is time to pull out the rules and check to make sure the right rule has been applied.
Everyone needs to ensure that they have, and maintain, a solid foundation in the rules. Reading all the blog posts here at nroi.org helps. Reading the USPSA magazine helps. Reading the articles in the DownRange email newsletter helps. But nothing is going to be as comprehensive as reading the rules with focus and intent. Read each rule; think about it and what it means. Shouldn’t take you more than a couple hours. Do a chapter or two a day and let it sink in. DO NOT try to memorize the book. Just use it frequently and get used to where things are and then refer back to the book for questions. When a rules question comes up your natural reaction should be to grab the rules and look it up.
The electronic book means that updates are going to happen more easily and more frequently. We won’t have to keep up with an ever growing list of rulings and clarifications; it will just be in the rules. Be sure and update your copy if you are using the PDF version (the most current version is always on the Rules Page of the USPSA site). If you are using the USPSA app, it will update automatically for you as long as you have auto-updates enabled on your device.
A good short cut to refreshing your rules knowledge is to sit in on the RO class again. Most classes have enough room to allow a few already certified folks to audit the class and many don’t charge, or just impose a small charge to cover the cost for lunch, refreshments, room rental, whatever. No, you don’t have to take the test again! Of course we cannot cover the entire book in the class but we do a deeper dive in it and the discussions that are had during class are often very illuminating.
Sometime, hopefully later this year, NROI will begin offering some continuing education type courses on our Learning Management System. We are still working out the structure of those, but it is on our road map for the future. We hope that by offering a more formalized continuing education program that we will be able to help keep folks current and engaged in the rules.
If we all make sure we stay up to date on the rules, and refer to the rulebook to answer questions, then we will all have a better time playing the sport we enjoy so much. See you on the ranges!