USPSA matches are freestyle, as stated in rule 1.1.5. This means that competitors must be able to solve the stage in their own way. We don’t tell them the target order, or that they have to move to the left or right first. But we do have some specific exceptions to this rule that are outlined in the sub-rules of 1.1.5, including requiring strong hand only or weak hand only for no more than the last six shots in medium and long courses. But there are some tricks to how you specify this to prevent gaming.
First I want to clarify that gaming does not equal cheating. Gaming is just using one’s knowledge of the rules to exploit holes left by stage designers. We often see poorly written WSBs when it comes to the last six shots strong hand only or weak hand only. And remember that you can’t specify which targets have to be shot one handed. That is a mistake we see a lot, such as folks wanting to require engagement of a plate rack or through an awkward port. You can only specify the number of shots they need to take, not which targets or from where because of the freestyle rule.
Let’s say the WSB for the long course says, “Upon the audible start signal, engage targets from within the shooting area. Last six shots must be strong hand only.” What are the possibilities with this wording? A competitor could do the expected action which is shoot the last three targets with two rounds each, strong hand only. This is what the stage designer assumed would happen. But, let’s say that two of the targets are at a good distance and one is real close. Based on this wording, it would be legal for the competitor to just engage the last target with six shots, strong hand only. Or, what if all the targets were at a good distance? The competitor could engage them all freestyle and then just put six shots into the berm. This wording is not what you want to use.
What would be a better way to word the WSB? How about this, “Upon the audible start signal, engage targets from within the shooting area. Last three targets must only be engaged strong hand only.” This clarifies that strong hand only has to be used for the last three targets, and we are assuming there are only cardboard targets on this stage. What if you have a mix of cardboard and steel? Then the competitors have the option to engage the last three poppers strong hand only. Or if you are set on making sure everyone does six shots, you make it the best one hit per cardboard score and then allow them to choose between all cardboard, all steel, or a mix for the last six targets.
Proper wording will ensure that the stage runs smoothly and hopefully prevent any arguments about what competitors can do and not do. The other way to encourage one handed shooting in medium and long courses is through props (see 184.108.40.206), but I will save that subject for a separate post.
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