When I was a younger person I remember a comedy routine by George Carlin. It was called “Words you cannot say on TV”. I think it was 10 words, but I don’t exactly remember. It came to me that I should write an article entitled “Words and Phrases Good Range Officers should remove from their vocabulary.” But it seemed to be a bit long for a title.
The first and most important are what I have always called the three deadly “S” words. Those words are shooter, slide and safe. Examples on how these words are incorrectly used in Range Commands are as follows.
“Is the shooter ready?” or numerous variations including my favorite, “The shooter is ready!”. While teaching classes, this is the most commonly abused range command. Part of the problem is it is used other disciplines and in the distant past it was commonly mis-used at USPSA matches. In fact, I had an old shooter safety check card given to new shooters as proof they had previous safety training that had incorrect range commands printed on it.
The next most common wrong range command is “If clear, slide forward” or “Slide down, hammer down, holster.” Grrr. Again, it is used in another discipline and can confuse the competitor. Of course, if you run into certain ROs, they take you up on that command and slide forward or point the slide upside down to make a point. 😉
Finally, “Range is safe”. Ranges can be clear but are rarely if ever truly safe. If you have ever worked a large match unless you are the last shooter of the day, there are shots being fired all around you. Therefore, potential for noise, frag and other flying debris exists. That is why eye and hearing protection is required at all times.
Once you get by the 3 deadly “S” words we have phrases which should never cross the lips of a good RO. The most important of these is “I think” as part of “I think you broke the 180” or “I think that round went over the berm”. “I think” is an opinion and opinions have no place in our sport as a Range Officer. For example, “The round went over the berm” is a statement of fact as you saw it. “I think the round went over the berm” is your opinion which leaves room for doubt in both your mind and in the mind of the competitor. Your opinion may allow the competitor back into the match, while the factual statement will not under the provisions of 11.1.2. We have always said if you are sure make the call, if on the other hand you are not 100% sure do not guess. I do not want you to give the wrong impression, if you saw it call it. Ignoring safety violations is not acceptable at any time.
While our safety rules are meant to make sure we can all compete in a safe and fair environment, we must try to limit our chances for questionable and borderline calls as best we can. Good RO positioning, focus and teamwork makes sure we can run safe and fair matches at all levels. It is rarely the case only one RO saw a violation, but it does happen. This is usually a situation where one or more of the ROs are screened by either the competitor or props. This is one of those situations where pre-planning during the set-up can limit those opportunities where the RO is left without a back-up.
This brings us to another one of the other phrases we do not use. There is nowhere in the rules the terms “Benefit of the doubt” or “Tie goes to the shooter” exist. Our rules are pretty black and white. You do this, this will happen. Phrases like, “We will give the shooter the benefit of the doubt” or we will “Give” you that Alpha hit are improper and smacks of doing the competitor a favor. We issue you overlays for a reason, use them to make those tight calls. In a case like that you will “award” the competitor what they actually earned. That makes sure everyone is treated fairly at all times. As I once said, even a Grand Master can miss, they just do it faster than the rest of us. Make your call and move on. Remember, the competitor has options if they do not like your call.
To conclude our discussion, be careful of your words while running competitors. You may be in a situation where your competitor’s language skill is not the same as the competitors you run every month. If you use Range Commands which are outside the ones published in the rulebook, it may cause confusion and surely is not very professional.
As someone said to me once, if you cannot do the Range Commands correctly, what else do you not understand about the rules? Can you trust that RO to run you safely and fairly?
Remember, words do matter. See you on the ranges.
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