No, not a post discussing treasure maps, sorry. In this case, it is regarding the placement of firearms on a surface prior to the start signal as part of the make ready routine. Let’s grab our shovels anyway and and see what we can find.
It is not at all unusual to run across stages that require that the firearm to be used be placed on a surface instead of resting in the holster. Doesn’t matter, for this discussion, if that surface is a barrel, table, drawer, coffin, trunk, gun case, etc.
The key to getting consistency is to write an airtight WSB. If you just say “Place the handgun/PCC on the table pointing down range” you are going to get all manner of things going on. Maybe you are happy with it, maybe you are not. If you want things to be a bit more consistent maybe you have them “place the handgun/PCC on the X mark pointing down range”. Okay, that’s better geographically but the definition of down range is pretty wide open and there might be things you do not want going on.
Also be careful of how you word that. Sadly, the culture at matches these days is to parse every single word in a sentence, examine every possible definition for that word, and see if it can be used to “advantage”. I use the quoted form because a lot of what is perceived as advantage often is not…it’s just different.
If you say “place handgun/PCC on the X…” then that mostly just means that a part of the gun has to be touching the X. (See also “hands on X marks” and how people game that.) If you use the word “over” instead of “on” things open up a bit more because the word “on” implies contact whereas “over” can be taken to the ridiculous. A firearm dangling from a construction crane 100 feet in the air is still “over” the X so simple things like standing upright balanced on the sights or on the magwell and front rail satisfies “over”.
I’ve seen lots of things done over the years to try and control all the variations and come to a very consistent start location. Using a line on the table and specifying “the long axis of the barrel of the firearm must lay on and parallel to the line…” type stuff. It all begins to get ridiculous at some point.
Now, in the case of a firearm that is not laying as what most would interpret as “flat” on the surface could be construed as advantage and you might not be wrong. But we also see folks with slide rackers and/or thumb rests and/or huge mag wells (in divisions where these are legal) which gives a similar advantage and still complies with “flat”.
Things get even more fun if it is an unloaded start with the magazine or speed loader on the table as well. Now we have to worry about how folks are going to position stuff. If you aren’t careful they are going to prop the firearm up with the magazine to make it easier to grab. Now you need two X marks and more careful wording in the WSB using words like “unsupported” and so on.
And we wander from reasonable to ridiculous when we start adding more to it. “Handgun/PCC placed with the trigger guard on the X mark, magazine placed in the drawer on the X mark, strong hand holding the baby against the strong side of competitor’s chest, weak hand holding the diaper at full arm extension…” and it goes on. In the end, both the “baby” and the diaper are going to just get dropped and not placed carefully anywhere and away we go. It gets into what some have termed “monkey motions” at some point. If you are going to go with a scenario based stage then do it, but make it a reasonable and realistic scenario. But just adding restriction after restriction to the start position does really nothing more than cause confusion. Too much confusion and suddenly a squad does it wrong so a bunch of reshoots are required or the stage gets tossed from the match.
The trick here is to first be reasonable about what you are expecting. The rules say it has to be safe. In the end are the weird and colorful variations people come up with, as long as they are safe, really an advantage? Is it worth the time and effort to try and circumvent them? That is for the stage designer, MD and RM to decide.
Finally, it is always a good idea to hand your draft WSB to someone else and have them read through it and explain back to you what they think it is requiring them to do. Even if that person is not a competitor, they should be able to read the directions and tell you what it means. That can be an enlightening experience.
Regardless, the more complexity you add to the ready conditions, the more work you have to do to make the WSB as precise as possible. Have fun!
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