We don’t see a ton of unloaded starts in USPSA matches, but when there is one, the Range Officers usually have to advise the competitors to get the firearm in the proper ready condition. And usually it is a fair number of competitors who need some guidance. So, let’s chat about unloaded starts and what that means for pistols, revolvers, and PCCs.
First, let’s look at the rule that dictates unloaded starts, 8.1.3: “Courses of fire may require ready conditions which are different to those stated above. In such cases, the required ready condition must be clearly stated in the written stage briefing. When a firearm Ready Condition requires a firearm be prepared with an empty chamber (or cylinder), the slide/bolt of the firearm must be fully forward (or the cylinder must be fully closed) and the hammer or striker must be fully down or fully forward, as the case may be, unless otherwise specified in the stage briefing.” (emphasis added)
For pistols, the pistol has an empty chamber, empty magwell, the slide is fully forward, and the hammer is down. For revolvers, the chambers are empty, the cylinder is closed, and the hammer is down. The same conditions that are required when a pistol/revolver is unloaded and holstered at the end of a stage. And no, you cannot have the slide locked back, the cylinder open, or the hammer cocked, unless the WSB specifically allows it. And, since the firearm is unloaded and the hammer is down, the safety is not engaged. For PCCs, the same thing applies. The PCC has an empty chamber, empty magwell, the bolt is fully forward, and the hammer is down from pulling the trigger. And, the safety is not on because the PCC is unloaded.
And what happens if the firearm is not in the proper unloaded condition at the start signal? Then the RO should not have started the competitor and a reshoot is required. So, as a RO on an unloaded start stage make sure to watch the make ready process and confirm that the firearm is in the proper condition before issuing the “Standby” command.