What makes a good Range Officer? There are many facets to running a stage efficiently and safely. Let’s take a look at some of the desirable qualities of a good range official.
First, be observant. For too long, nascent range officers have been told to “watch the gun”. While that’s true to some extent, it’s necessary to also be able to see the bigger picture going on around you. A better statement might be: “Watch the competitor’s hands”, because that’s where the action is happening. While someone is shooting and the gun is functioning normally, there’s not a lot to see. But, when the competitor must reload, clear a jam, move, or manipulate a prop, you should be paying close attention to their hands and body position. At the same time, fault lines and other props come into play, so you need to be able to see what’s going on with the competitor and the stage layout. All of the Range Officers on the stage need to be watching what’s going on, too. Having your head down scoring targets or looking at the tablet takes your eyes off of what you should be observing. And, NEVER turn your back on a competitor shooting a stage. Observing involves being able to not just look, but to actually see the action taking place in front of you. And yes, there is a difference. Think of a quarterback looking downfield for a receiver, but finding none, because he’s not seeing where they are, even if there are three people open. Practice being observant in your everyday life, seeing what’s going on around you, and you will have a leg up on being a good RO.
Second, anticipate. Knowing the stage you are working on is a must here. Note the different positions to shoot targets from, and that if a competitor skips a position, they may return to it. Anticipating this action keeps you out of harm’s way, and you won’t interfere with the competitor, either. Being observant can help you here as well, noting where a competitor may have lost a magazine, say, and anticipating that they may come back for it.
Third, work efficiently. This doesn’t necessarily mean to hustle through the stage, doing things as fast as possible. It does mean working smarter, not harder. For example, if you are the RO keeping score, you may not have to follow the scoring RO around the range–you could find a central spot where you can hear the scores being called, and the RO can hear you calling them back, without wasting a lot of energy. As the RO calling scores, find an efficient pattern through the targets that ensures that you score them all without having to wander all over the stage. Taking the tablet back behind the start position is also efficient, because it lets the RO with the timer begin the Make Ready process while you are reviewing the score and getting the competitor’s approval. Sometimes, split scoring, (more than one RO calling scores, with one scorekeeper recording) is also more efficient, saving steps and time, so evaluate the stage and see if that works better. I’m not a fan of early scoring, where the scorekeeper scores targets as the competitor moves and shoots past them–it takes one set of RO eyes away from the competitor and often creates situations where targets are taped early.
Last, but not least, take care of your stage. Keep your supplies up, repair or replace props if they get broken or shot, pay attention to the surface around your fault lines, and ensure that any wall, barrel, and no-shoot hits are accounted for and properly repaired, to present a level playing field for everyone. A small tool kit often comes in handy for minor repairs or popper adjustment–a hammer, adjustable wrench, and a stapler and staples, along with a permanent marker are about all you have to have to be prepared.