Over the years I have designed over a hundred courses of fire shot at all levels of our sport. Many people have made a comment that I seem to use a lot of hard cover targets rather than no-shoots. A good friend of mine Ray Hirst once told me, “A hard cover target is the waste of a perfectly good no-shoot.”
So, let’s discuss this, and how both types of targets can be used in your stage designs. Both obviously have their uses in certain circumstances. I have always thought part of the problem with hard cover usage is the logistics of painting vast numbers of hard cover targets at major matches. That is no longer a major issue if you are willing to use the pre-printed designs available. Besides, there are some like me who do not mind painting hard cover targets or know how to do simple target cheats on the stage.
Let’s first dispel some myths of hard cover/no-shoot targets.
- Hard cover targets can be used to balance out major vs. minor scoring. Frankly, the tighter the hard cover is the less it matters. If all that is available is a center A-zone like on a skunk/tuxedo style target it does not really matter.
- Hard cover is less punitive than no-shoots. Per the rules that is true, but in actual practice it rarely matters. A miss whether in hard cover or in a no-shoot is still a miss. Depending on distance competitors are going to slow down enough to ensure a good hit.
- Hard cover targets encourage hosing because they are not no-shoots and competitors are more likely to take chances. That might be true for some competitors, but again a miss is a miss. In Virginia Count courses of fire, a miss or a miss/no-shoot both have dire consequences to the potential for a good score.
Now that we have covered those myths, where do hard cover targets work better in your stage designs vs. no-shoots?
The first and in my opinion the most useful advantage of hard cover targets is to force competitors away from walls and other props. By limiting the scoring area or in some cases, skewing the scoring area to one side of the target, you encourage the competitor away from edge hits on props, walls, barrels, etc. This same rationale works very well doing stage design indoors or in tight outdoor bays where hard cover targets are used to control the location of downrange impacts and to prevent potential shoot-throughs. By limiting the scoring area available, you can force the competitor to change the angles of their shots. Another use for hard cover targets is on any fixed time stage to limit the available scoring areas. I learned much to my chagrin a number of years ago to never use no-shoots on any fixed time stage (* see note below).
Finally, you can use hard cover targets in cases where you have fairly short shots to force your competitors to actually aim rather than just hose. I’m not saying you cannot use hard cover for longer shots, I have used them up to 25-35 yards downrange, but unless it is a PCC/Open only match, you will not be making many friends. 😉
Okay, so where are no-shoots useful? I like using no-shoots to force competitors to change their cadence in an array. For example, if I want to speed up a competitor and then slow them down abruptly the use of both no-shoots and varied target heights can force the competitor to actually aim rather than just hose. Anytime a competitor has to deal with a no-shoot they need to weigh the risks vs. rewards. You will see a number of classifiers, either old or new that have open and no-shoots mixed to again force the competitor to focus on their shots.
Of course, you can use no-shoots to protect activating targets or to break up large arrays. However, using them on free-standing walls to prevent edge hits is problematic at best and illegal at the worst and bad course design/set-up. We commonly see no-shoots bent around the edges of walls or cut. Anytime you are not using a full no-shoot you are required to provide a replacement non-scoring border (184.108.40.206, and see this post). Remember under our rules all walls are a solid plane and are considered hard cover (220.127.116.11). If you want to block the view of a target around a wall edge, use opaque vison barriers instead. Coroplast or Masonite panels painted black work just as well and may prevent nasty scoring issues. Remember, the rulebook does not allow whole cardboard targets to be used solely as hard cover (18.104.22.168).
One of the issues I do see with no-shoots is that you need to be very aware how the location and height of the no-shoot target array effects the impact areas of the competitor’s shots. I think in many cases, the use of no-shoots in the middle of a large bay, may cause issues with the impacts. I personally, think when using the no-shoot/half lower A-zone array, it needs to be close to the back or side berms if at all possible. This is especially true if the targets can be engaged with a PCC equipped with a laser from the hip. Shots that if fired from a normal pistol/shouldered position that would easily impact the berms, may be problematic if shot at a more extreme angle.
Hopefully, this post gave you some things to think about when designing your stages in regards to no-shoots and hard cover. They can both be useful to protect walls and props as well as providing certain shooting challenges.
* On fixed time stages misses do not count, but all no-shoot hits do. If you use a no-shoot on one of the targets, especially either a tight or longer-range shot, most shooters who understand the rules will not risk the no-shoot hit and skip the target. We even learned using no-shoots to divide multiple arrays of turning targets was a bad idea since we ended up with a bunch of no-shoot hits that had to be accounted for.
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