Ask anyone, especially those that have earned their RM card but also a lot of CRO level folks and they can tell you the story of their first time working as the RM at a match. And, if you stick in the sport long enough, stay abreast of the rules, and help run matches at your local club(s) then it is probably going to happen to you. Here are some tips and some advice to help you in that journey.
“Hey Kevin, you are our RM today.” Uh…what?
I can’t say that I wasn’t kind of thrilled with the prospect. But, I am wired a bit differently than most folks to start with (which may explain why I am an RMI and work for NROI). I think the hardest “RM Thing” I did that day was overlay a hit to see if it was a double, or maybe if they got the hit and the no shoot or just the no shoot. I don’t really recall because it was 20 years and a LOT of calls ago.
So, thinking back I started asking myself, “What do I wish I had known back then that would have made the transition easier?” Well, here is that list, in no particular order.
First off, and probably one of the most important, is be familiar with the rules and any recent updates/rulings that might have happened. Back then, we got printed books in the mail every 3 – 5 years and there was a list of rulings made by DNROI posted on the website so we printed those out and made notes in our books that there was a ruling about that rule. This has been made incredibly easier by the USPSA App with the “evergreen” rulebook that stays up to date any time a rulebook updates. Plus we can easily do a total refresh of the rulebook fixing typos and grammatical errors and tweaking things as well as other rule updates once a year. The old printed books cost the organization a LOT of money to produce and mail so it was done infrequently.
When I say “familiar” I do not mean memorize the book. That’s silly. Don’t forget the search function in the electronic rulebooks! However, there are times the search doesn’t come up with what you need or you can’t come up with the right keyword to search. That’s where knowing where things are can really help; just understand what subjects are where in the book. Competitor equipment means firearms, hearing and eye protection, holsters etc. and that’s in chapter 5. The divisional requirements are in the D appendixes (just remember D for Division). Scoring is chapter 9. Penalties are in chapter 10, and so on.
Never make a snap decision based on your memory. I tell this to classes all the time. Every single time as an RM (or CRO/RO for that matter) I have made a bad call it is because I didn’t take the time to consult with my superiors (e.g., RO talk to the CRO) and/or look it up in the book. In my now 20+ years in the sport I have a half dozen or more versions of the rules stuffed in my brain and who knows what memory is going to pop forth if I just work on recall. Remember when only the first two no shoot hits counted? Yep, that really was a rule…for one edition of the book.
If you have enough warning, show up early and during setup keep an eye on the stages and make sure what is being built is legal. Ideally, your MD has shared the stage designs with you ahead of time and you have been able to help bring any problems to the surface and helped solve them…but I know that doesn’t always happen. Spending this effort to try and make sure stages don’t have major problems helps to ensure that there are not challenges, or other problems, once the match has begun. No one likes to toss stages from a match but sometimes that is all that can be done if major issues were not caught before anyone shot it.
Depending on how your local match is laid out, you are at least going to need a way for squads to call you and maybe a way to get from where you are to where you need to be, and back again, rapidly. Expect those calls to happen when you are the on deck shooter or about to shoot. It happens more than any of us wish it did. You might even miss your turn on a stage because you are off doing the RM thing and your squad moves on. Go ahead and jump in with another squad to get your score taken care of. And yes, all the turmoil may affect your overall finish in the match. It happens to all of us that take on the match management role. I know a lot of MDs that don’t even shoot on the days they are MD and a few RMs that do the same. Nothing says you have to do that. I’d rather shoot and have fun and not worry about my score but to each their own.
Okay, but what happens if you are the RM, are also a competitor, and you have a problem that needs the RM to be called? Well, at the local level you can call the MD (at Level 1 the MD can also be the RM if need be). Or you just man up and take your knocks. Yes, I have DQ’d when I was the RM and had to talk to myself about it. It happens.
Set an example. As match management and as a certified Range Officer of whatever level, if you are the acting RM for the match, and are flaunting the rules; what does this say to the other competitors? Set the example by sticking to the rules. Maybe your club has a local tradition of letting those that DQ continue shooting but just for no score. Enforce what the rules say. That person is done shooting for the day. Most of our DQs are for safety reasons and letting someone who just demonstrated that they were unsafe continue shooting is a bad idea.
Or maybe your club has a “first time shooters can’t DQ” tradition. Well, that sets a bad tone for that first time competitor. They start to wonder just what the rules are for if they are not enforced. Very early on in my journey in USPSA I went to make ready and a bright orange snap cap popped out of the chamber. I was NOT DQ’d even though I should have been. And on the way home it occurred to me that I should have been done. I checked the book and sure enough, there it was in black and white. I was a bit confused. Not good, folks.
The rules are the same for everyone at every level of match. We don’t have a set of rules for local matches and a different set for Area and Nationals matches. Yes, we have a few level I exceptions. But it is the same rules across the board.
You may well have to make hard calls including calls that end someone’s match for the day. That person might be a friend. Does it suck? Yes. It helps to remember that as ROs or even RMs we do not DQ the shooter. We simply award them with the penalty they have earned. The officer hands you the speeding ticket. They didn’t cause you to speed. Same thing. Don’t look past DQs and let people slide. Safety is paramount and as Range Officers we help enforce and ensure safety. Our sport means we are running around with loaded firearms. Enforcing safety is no laughing matter and letting people that break the safety rules slide because they are a friend or new to the sport is just simply the wrong thing to do.
You might make a call that is contentious. As an RM this is just one of those things that happens now and then. If you have referred to the rules and are certain the call is the correct call, then stand by it and enforce it. The MD doesn’t get to overrule you (see 7.1.7). You are the RM and you are the final authority on the rules. But you have to make your calls within the rules…no authoritarian “I think it should be a…” here.
Grab a set of good overlays. That pair of overlays you have been carrying around in your wallet for a couple years are likely so scratched up you cannot really make a good call using them. Make sure you have a good clean set when working as the RM.
If you know far enough ahead of time that you will get to to be the RM, you need to have a calibration gun and calibration ammunition available if needed. The easy button here is a 9mm handgun and the official NROI calibration ammo available from Eley via Killough Shooting Sports. The Eley PCC ammunition also available from KSS tends to be sub-minor in most handguns and is a viable alternative if you have some on hand. You can also handload your own if you wish.
Another good accessory that all RMs really should have is a Magazine Gauge. The Official USPSA Magazine Gauge is available from EGW and a few other vendors that resell the EGW gauge. You can also use the ruler method as outlined in Appendix E1.
And finally, bring a good attitude to the job. You will most probably learn something if you are receptive to learning. You might even decide you are good at and enjoy the RM gig and go for your RM certification. Happened to me. Those first few times being the RM at local matches lead to being the RM at a Level II match which lead to my entering the RM program and so on.
See you on the ranges!
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