There are official range commands for a reason and there are reasons why Range Officials should limit themselves to only those commands. Yes, sometimes situations arise where you might have to deviate from the list of allowed commands, but 99% of the time the official commands are appropriate and the only thing needed. Let’s look at the common range command deviations and why they are not needed or should not be used.
#1 – “Which way are you going?” This is often asked by ROs when the stage is built in a way that the RO has to immediately get out of the way of the competitor at the beep. First, this is poor stage design if your ROs have to scramble for their life as soon as they press the button. Make sure there is something for the competitor to shoot at the start to give the ROs time to escape. Second, ROs should not ask the competitors which way they are going because often competitors change their mind or forget their plan at the beep and go the opposite way. As the RO, just plan to get out of the way. And if you are working a stage at a major match that doesn’t have a way for you to get out of the way or allow you time to get out of the way, bring it up before the first shots of the match and get the stage fixed.
#2 – Any other chatter before “Make ready.” As the timer RO you should be standing near the start position and when the next competitor arrives and you should not initiate any chit chat to reduce the risk of the competitor assuming your speaking equals “Make ready.” If you want them to enter the shooting area before you give the command, a simple hand gesture usually solves that. Why do we teach this? New competitors are nervous and sometimes don’t listen to what is being said and mistake any talking from the RO as permission to handle their gun. Frequently, major matches have foreign competitors who don’t speak English and if they hear anything similar to what a range command sounds like, they might mistake that for a range command.
#3 – “Nod when you are ready.” This one is my personal pet peeve and I will educate ROs while I am standing still in the proper start position. The command is “Are you ready?” and the rules say that a lack of response indicates the competitor is ready. There doesn’t need to be a nod or a “yes” or anything other than silence and no motion. The competitor just needs to respond if they are not ready.
#4 – “Timer’s running” or “Are you stopping?” These are usually uttered during the course of fire when the competitor pauses for something. Sometimes it’s a competitor stopping themselves because a popper didn’t fall and they think it’s an automatic reshoot (it isn’t) or the competitor is having gun issues. As a Range Officer you should stick to the official range commands. If someone has stopped himself or herself the proper command is “If you are finished, unload and show clear.” If a competitor is having gun issues, note the time and give them 2 minutes before giving the command to unload and show clear. Unless it’s a squib. Then it is always the stop command.
Okay, what about the 1% of the time where there isn’t an appropriate range command to use? One instance is between strings. We don’t have official wording for what to say, but often you hear “Prepare for your next string” or “Reload if required.” The other time is when a competitor might need help getting a gun clear due to a major malfunction or break. In all cases issue the unload and show clear first and then provide assistance/coaching on how to get the gun clear before “Range is clear.” These cases are rare, but do occasionally happen. The key is to stay calm and professional and work to resolve the issue efficiently. If you can’t get the firearm clear, call the Range Master. Just don’t let anyone leave a stage with a firearm that is still loaded.
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