Recently I received an email from one of my former students. Apparently at a recent match the timer RO would not call the “Range is Clear” until he removed his hand from the butt of his handgun. He asked under what rule was this a correct call. That brought back distant memories to a rule change that occurred in 2008.
A little history is needed here. In the 2004 Edition of the rulebook, 126.96.36.199 states, “If the gun proves clear, the competitor must holster his handgun. Once the competitor’s hands are clear of the holstered handgun, the course of fire is deemed to have ended.”
This verbiage was added to attempt to clarify the questionable change which was made in the 2000 Edition, i.e. the “toilet paper” edition of the 14th Edition of the IPSC rules. Part of 8.3.8 stated, “Completion of the holster portion of this command signifies the end of the course of fire.” The 2001 Edition left the topic alone, so from 2000 thru 2004 whether the competitor had successfully and safely completed the holster portion was a judgement call by the Range Officer. This also left a small but dangerous hole because if the firearm dropped out of the holster after the holstering but before, “Range is Clear” the competitor could argue that the course of fire was over and Rule 10.3.5 (now 10.5.3) would not apply.
So, in 2004 the committee decided to impose a hard and fast line, i.e. the removal of the hand from the firearm. It did not have the effect the committees thought. Many competitors from that era would walk around with their hands on the holstered firearm and the RO could not call the “Range is Clear” until they took their hand off of the gun.
We will avoid discussing the issues in this era with various brands and models of holsters which were not very secure and safe. 😉
With the 2008 edition of the USPSA rulebook this requirement was removed, and the course of fire only ended with the command “Range is Clear”. There is no mention of the removal of the hand from the holstered handgun in rule 8.3.7.
Now that we have covered the history of when “Range is Clear” should be called we need to bring the rule to the present day.
With the addition of PCC to our competitions obviously any reference to holstering a PCC makes no logical sense.
So as a working range officer when should you call the “Range is Clear”? When running a competitor using a handgun, once you give the “If Clear, Hammer down, Holster” command or “If Clear, Cylinder closed, Holster” in the case of revolver once the competitor holsters the firearm and it is clear they are no longer manipulating the firearm and holster, i.e. locking, adjusting etc. you can call the “Range is Clear.” Remember, you do not need to be in a real hurry to make this call. If you see the competitor is having difficulties getting the firearm secured be a little patient.
With a PCC or any other long gun, you may be presented with various situations. Some competitors will just move the muzzle up or down after the “If Clear, hammer down, flag” command depending on the match organizers requirements. They will then carry their cleared firearm to their conveyance, staging area or safety area to be bagged or mounted. Others will have bags, gun boxes or scabbards to place the firearm into. Once the firearm is safely secured in the storage device you can then call the “Range is Clear”. In my opinion, once a gun case is mostly zipped up and the firearm is no longer accessible without reopening the storage device you can call the “Range is Clear”.
At the chronograph station it is about 75% of the time the competitors will bring their PCCs in a gun storage device. This usually because the chronograph stations are rarely in close proximity to a stage or safety area. It would be nice if there was plenty of side berm, but that is quite rare. Besides, we are rarely pressed for time and are not holding up the staff scoring and resetting a stage. We can take a little extra time.
So, to go back to the question that started our discussion. What the Timer RO did was not wrong. Many working ROs would do exactly the same thing. I personally will not call the “Range is Clear” if the competitor still has their hand on the gun. I might ask why they are holding on to the gun if it is safely holstered. For some competitors it is just habit and they may not even be aware they are doing it. For those of us who lived through the “Successful Completion of the Holster command” era, the changes brought about in the 2008 Rulebook made our duties as a RO much simpler and removed that arbitrary judgement whether you had holstered your handgun to an end.
Editor’s Note – This post applies to both USPSA and SCSA matches and is a historical perspective on the rule. Bagging PCCs and other long guns is very common in SCSA matches. For both USPSA and SCSA, carrying a flagged PCC with muzzle pointed up or down during scoring is a common practice and is allowed by the rules. After the RO issues the “If clear, hammer down, flag” command, and the competitor has flagged the PCC and pointed it reasonably vertically up or down, the RO can declare “Range is clear.”
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