Now and then we get a query from folks who are confused about something they saw recently at a match, perhaps at a club they have never shot with before, and they are wondering if what they saw was right and proper. The most recent of these inquired regarding early scoring and the job of the “second RO”. Let’s dive in.
Let’s start of with just agreeing that a minimum of two ROs are required to run every shooter. There are instances where you may need three, or even four to do it properly. The first RO is the Timer RO. Appropriately enough, this is the RO with the timer in their hand, who issues the range commands to the competitor, and so on. We used to refer to this RO as the Chief Range Officer (CRO) but this lead to much confusion and some people, when designated as the CRO, felt they were required by the rules to run the timer for every shooter on that stage. Not so. We now most frequently refer to them as the Timer RO. The Timer RO is responsible for issuing the range commands, starting the shooter and so on. Their primary focus is on the competitor and the gun and they generally place themselves where they can safely observe the firearm and what the competitor is doing with it.
The second RO, often called the scorekeeper, assistant, or “off-side” RO also has specific duties and is required to properly run a shooter. This RO typically is positioned on the side of the shooter opposite the firearm (so, weak hand or “off” side) and watches the shooter with a wider view watching for foot faults, 180s breaks, finger in the trigger guard (generally this is the RO that has the best view of this), target engagement and so on. The score recording duties do not start UNTIL the range command “Range is Clear” has been given.
The Timer RO then calls the time and scores the targets using a call and response with the scorekeeper repeating each score as called to verify what is being recorded is what is called. Ranges are noisy places and with hearing protection on it is easy to miss a call so this methodology has been proven over time to avoid these types of mistakes. This is, in its simplest form, how we run competitors and score targets.
It must be noted that per 9.6.1 that the competitor, or their delegate, is permitted to follow along and verify scores. This does NOT mean that if something out of the ordinary is found while scoring that the world stops turning and we wait for the competitor to be found to come look at his target. If the competitor, or his delegate, is not present to view the score when called and challenge it, if necessary, at that time, then the score stands and we move on (9.6.3). If cleaning your magazines, yucking it up with your squadmates about your performance on the stage or reviewing the videos that were shot during your run are more important than verifying your score then be my guest; but there is no challenge available for you (9.6.4).
And then we get to 9.6.2, or what is often referred to as “early scoring” or “split scoring”. This is very often done with Multigun matches or long “jungle run” type courses. It comes down to saving time and the staff’s legs, so we can fit more competitors in a match day.
However, there are requirements if you plan to invoke early scoring on a stage. The first of these is that it must be announced in the stage briefing. That’s right folks; it is required to be announced ahead of time; you can’t just start doing it because you feel like it. This allows the competitors the opportunity to appoint a delegate to follow along and verify scores, if they wish to do so. Scoring then proceeds while the shooter is still shooting and overall some time is saved. But there are some potential problems with this. In general, the RM should be consulted about doing early scoring to be sure they are okay with it and to add it to the briefing.
The first problem is that while the shooter is active on a stage the entire stage is theirs to shoot. If, for whatever reason, they decided they need to come all the way back up range because they realize they forgot a target and you are already scoring and resetting behind them we, at best, have to stop them, clear them out and award them a reshoot because they have been interfered with. A few years ago there was an incident at a major match where they were scoring and resetting behind the shooter and he realized he had forgotten/missed a popper and came back for it only to find people standing at said popper doing the reset. There are better and safer ways to elevate your heart rate and blood pressure. In Multigun this is less of a problem because we typically only score the portion of the stage that has been shot with the firearm(s) that have been abandoned.
The second problem is this leads to a whole bunch of folks wandering down range during the course of fire. This increases the chance someone might catch some splatter off steel and can be a huge distraction for the competitor. There is also the potential for someone to end up where they should not be which is potentially dangerous.
And here is the biggest issue we see with clubs invoking 9.6.2: The Assistant RO abandons their post to score. Folks, we still need two ROs running the shooter. If you are going to use split scoring and have announced this ahead of time as required, then someone else gets the scoring device and performs scoring (with a delegate in tow if so desired by the competitor). The scoring RO must still call out the scores so the delegate can hear what the hits are being called and must deal with challenges appropriately.
At times, with some complex stages set up over a lot of territory, it can be expedient to have two or even three people scoring with the scoring device going down the center scoring those targets and people scoring on either side catching the targets in the wings. This is split scoring which can be very fast, often eliminating the problem of missing targets during scoring complex layouts, and can eliminate the perceived need to score behind the shooter due to time constraints. No rule says that the only person that can score targets is the person with the timer in their hand. This is tradition and it does save some confusion but variations on the theme are allowed and often a good plan. These variants are most often employed at major matches with static stage staff who have worked out what can be a somewhat complex ballet ahead of time and who also are more experienced. Most local matches are better off, generally speaking, sticking with the tried and true scoring after the shooter has finished and the Range is Clear command has been given.