Over the last few years, we have seen the use of see-through walls become nearly universal in our local and major matches. The common reasoning for their use is the additional level of safety they provide to minimize the potential of someone being left downrange unseen as the next shooter is receiving the Make Ready command. Additional benefits are lower cost and lighter weight. Regardless of the types of walls being used, it is ALWAYS the RO’s responsibility to personally confirm the range is void of warm bodies visually.
The use of see-through walls has fundamentally changed the sport. In the days of solid walls, a shooter needed to select a point on the edge of the wall which would result in the gun being on target as the target became visible. Well, now we can see the target early, so stage planning is simpler.
The ability to see through the walls has also presented some new challenges for ROs. An example of is when a shooter is moving while aiming at targets through the mesh. Can the shooter have a finger in the trigger guard? You cannot expect the shooter to “make believe” that the targets are not visible. You are correct that the target cannot be engaged through the wall, but aiming is something else (we will have a post with more details about this in the near future).
Another challenge for ROs is the possibility of an “early” shot which is taken through the mesh. Since the wall is hardcover (Rule 18.104.22.168), the potential hit on the target cannot count. The problem is that it may not be possible to identify the invalid hit. Unlike a hard surface wall where we expect the downrange hit on the target will be missing the classic “grease ring” and may have been significantly deflected, the invalid hit will look just like all the others. If the RO is lucky, all the hits on the target will be As or Cs or Ds, but if there is a mix of hits the correct scoring of the target may not be possible and a reshoot would be required. (And no, we do not ever “give the best two”!). Don’t forget to look closely at the hits since it may be possible to identify the suspect hit due to the bullet being slightly deflected and creating an odd-looking hole.
One method of reducing those scoring problems is the use of some hard material such as coroplast to cover the edge of the wall. I suggest that 6” to 8” wide generally works adequately. Hits close to the edge of the wall can then be identified and the visible evidence of the early shot is there for you. But you still have to score the target correctly if at all possible.
The ability to see through the walls has also presented some new challenges for ROs in the application of penalties. For example, consider a low port surrounded by snow fence wall. The shooter can obviously see the targets through the mesh. As in the previous example, we know that the targets cannot be engaged through the mesh since a wall is considered hard cover but can we penalize the shooter if he engages the targets by extending the gun through the port and aligning the sights by looking through the mesh? The short answer is no, you cannot penalize. It is not possible to require the shooter to “make believe” that he/she cannot see through the wall. If you want to prevent that action it is a simple matter to use enough solid material to prevent the sight alignment
One last thing – Commonly, WSBs use the phrase “as they become visible”. That made perfect sense when our walls were solid. But now that we can see through them, engaging a “visible” target is no longer a rational stage procedure. Update your WSB templates to reflect reality, remove the phrase and save some printer ink.