Many people understand the role of the range officer with the timer: to issue the range commands, to supervise and observe the competitor while they shoot the course of fire, to correctly and accurately score targets, and to ensure safety and procedural rules are followed at all times. But, what about the second, or third, or even fourth RO on a stage? What are they supposed to do? Most people understand that the second RO is typically considered the scorekeeper, and while the competitor is shooting, they watch the stage in general, look for foot faults, safety issues, and other procedural errors that may be made. The scorekeeper is also responsible for accurately recording the competitor’s score, whether that’s done on paper or electronically. The third Range Officer on a stage has responsibility for an even wider view of what’s happening while the stage is being shot, looking for faults, procedural errors and safety problems. Let’s look at each job and its responsibilities a little closer, though.
In general terms, per section 7 in the rule book, the Range Officer (this can be the Chief Range Officer or any other Range Officer assigned to that stage), issues the range commands, oversees compliance with the stage briefing and closely monitors safe competitor action. He also declares the time, scores, and penalties earned by the competitor. All well and good, but there are details involved in each job.
First, the RO with the timer, after ensuring the range is clear and safe to proceed, issues the initial Range Command, “Make Ready”. After observing the competitor load and holster or position his gun, he continues with the remaining range commands, and follows the competitor through the course of fire, observing muzzle angle, the competitor’s fingers and hands (especially when the gun is being manipulated as with a reload or clearing a malfunction). He counts shots between reloads, and can take a slightly bigger picture at times, observing the competitor’s feet if near the fault lines. He ensures the time is captured by holding the timer appropriately—always with the horn and sensor facing the competitor and not covered by the palm of the hand, and closer to the muzzle if it’s a quiet gun such as a PCC. He then issues the range commands to clear the gun, observes that action, and declares the range clear once the gun has been holstered or flagged. Then, he declares the time to the scorekeeper.
The scorekeeper, or second RO, observes the same things as the first RO, but from a slightly separated distance, and usually on the opposite side as the timing RO. He observes muzzle angle, finger placement, and feet near fault lines. He also counts shots between reloads. Once the course of fire is complete and the range is called clear, he repeats the time called by the first RO and records it on the scoring device, and then enters scores as called out to him, always repeating the call so that both the scoring RO and the competitor hear what’s being scored. Once the stage has been scored, he should present the totals, whether on paper or on the device, to the competitor for inspection and approval. Approval may be both an initial on the paper backup, and the competitor touching the “Approve” button on the device screen, or just a simple touch to the “Approve” button, depending on match level.
The third RO can observe safety practices and foot faults from a greater distance. This RO should take care to not place himself in a position where he will get a gun pointed at him regularly. Many new RO’s get right on the 180 line, as close as possible to the shooting area, and try to catch people breaking the 180. There is no need to be directly in this line, because if the competitor does break the 180 or 90, the muzzle of the gun will most likely be pointed at the RO. This infraction can be observed quite well from a safer distance back. By moving farther up range, the RO doesn’t give the impression that he’s out to “get” people, either. The third RO should also count shots between reloads.
Why the emphasis on counting shots? It’s one skill that a lot of RO’s don’t master, whether from lack of trying or from never being trained to do it. There are at least 4 divisions where capacity is restricted: Production, Limited 10, Single Stack, and Revolver. Two of these divisions have different capacity limits based on Power Factor: Single Stack and Revolver. In Single Stack, competitors shooting Major PF may only have 8 rounds in a magazine after the start signal; if shooting Minor it’s 10, so it’s important to count shots fired between reloads. If too many rounds are fired without a reload or a slide rack, the competitor is moved to Open division. In Revolver, capacity isn’t limited per se, but the rules require a reload after 6 shots in Major, and after 8 shots in Minor. Another reason for counting shots are the Virginia Count and Fixed Time stages, both of which restrict the number of shots fired as well as limit the number of hits that can be on a scoring target, so it’s critical to know how many shots were fired during the course of fire. The number of shots fired can also be important with regard to assessing Failure To Shoot At (FTSA) penalties if there is doubt as to whether a target was engaged or not, and when a reload is mandated after a certain number of shots are fired.
To recap: Safety, first and foremost, followed by looking for procedural issues, and then counting shots between reloads. Be observant and pay attention to what’s going on with the competitor and the stage as it’s being shot.