What’s gonna happen at a match?
The first thing that we ask of you is to contact an experienced shooter or the match director first. If you are a new or novice shooter we may ask that you meet us at the range prior to the match for a safety briefing, discussion of the rules of the match and give you a free lesson.
Now, on to the match. We need you to show up at least an hour early for registration and squadding. Here we’ll enter your personal information into the match computer. We’ll collect your match fee. We’ll typically ask you to sign a waiver which states you will not hold us or the range liable if you shoot yourself, your buddy, or anybody else within 2 miles. We’ll also assign you a shooter number and give you a stack of score sheets. YOU need to ensure that your shooter number and name are on ALL score sheets at that time.
Things get started with the “Walk-Through.” At this time you’ll be given a safety briefing, the basic range rules and the description for each stage. You’ll then be broken down into your squad assignments and the fun begins.
Critical memory item: Matches are held at COLD ranges and you may NEVER handle your gun behind the line of fire and NO loaded firearms are allowed unless you are under the direct supervision of a Range Officer (R.O.). If you need to play with your gun, repair your gun, or show your gun to a buddy, you MUST go to a designated safe area to do so. If you aren’t sure where that is, simply ask any R.O.
You’ll then proceed to the first stage that your squad has been assigned and turn in the scoresheet (for that stage). Scoresheets are very important and it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that everything on there is correct. At a minimum you need to verify that your scoresheet has the proper stage number at the top, your shooter number and name and that all entries are correct after your performance on that stage has been recorded. These are all important items in order that to be able to accurately keep score (Hint – that’s why we call it competition).
As a new shooter you’ll never be asked to go first and there will be plenty of others to watch and learn from. So by the time it’s your turn to shoot you should have no doubt what is expected of you. If there is, simply tell the R.O. “Hey, I’m not sure what I’m doing here,” and he’ll gladly break it down Barney style for you. (don’t be embarrassed, I do it all the time).
You also need to know some simple range etiquette. While you’re waiting your turn it is EXPECTED that you will help pick up brass, paste targets and keep score. The only people exempt from this process are the shooter who is in the box (whose testosterone and adrenaline levels are reaching critical), the shooter on deck (who’s getting his mojo together) and the shooter who just finished shooting (who can take a few minutes to calm down and reload his magazines for the next stage). This only leaves the rest of the squad members to ensure the match keeps running smoothly.
BRASS PICKUP: Most ranges insist on keeping a nice range so they’ll need you to pick up all brass and return it to the shooter. If the shooter doesn’t save their brass, then simply throw it in a brass collection bucket, or a garbage can if no one wants it (rare). At the very minimum, it is required to pick up your live rounds at ALL ranges in this section.
PASTING TARGETS: In order to keep the match going smooth and fast, everybody’s help is needed with the pasting of targets. However, it is CRITICAL that you follow behind the Range Officer and scorekeeper who are recording the hits. DO NOT paste a target before they have given permission or you may upset a few people.
SCORING: You may be asked to perform the duties as score keeper as well. This is no more than an administrative duty. The Range Officer will tell you what to put in each data field. You simply need to comply with his instructions. After scoring, you’ll need to add the number of hits on target and ensure that you have the minimum required entries. Then ask the shooter to sign the scoresheet, confirming his acceptance of your entries/tabulations (optional at local matches). The completed sheet is then saved for entry into the computer (by the score keeper) at a later time… Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds!
Now it’s YOUR TURN. When they call your name, report to the Range Officer with a holstered gun and loaded magazines in your possession. DO NOT do anything unless the Range Officer tells you to. One of the first things the R.O. will ask you is, “Do you understand the course of fire?” Now is the time to ask him anything you’d like. Be sure you fully understand what is expected of you before you proceed any further. Once you tell the R.O. that you understand, he will instruct you to, “Load and make ready.” From this point on, you (and your gun) MUST always face downrange and never break the 180 rule. You may now take a sight picture (if you so desire) with an UNLOADED (preferably) firearm. Once satisfied that your sights are still there and you remember what they look like, you may load your gun, put your safety on and reholster your gun. As you assume the start position, you’ll hear the R.O. say, “Are you ready?” If you aren’t, you’d better speak up! If not, tighten your seatbelt. He’ll next say, “Standby,” and 3 to 5 seconds later you’ll hear the electronic buzzer go off. As quickly and safely as you can, draw your gun (without shooting your foot or the R.O.’s foot) and engage the targets as per the course description. When you are done, you need to freeze in place, and keep the muzzle facing downrange. I know you want to turn around and hoop and holler at your buddies, but you have to clear your gun to the range officer’s satisfaction first. He’ll ask you, “If finished, unload and show clear.” You need to (in this order), remove the magazine, pull the slide back to eject the loaded round and hold the gun (muzzle downrange) in a position so the R.O. can visually confirm that the chamber is clear. Once he has done that, he’ll say, “If clear, hammer down and holster.” At this time you need to close the slide, pull the trigger allowing the hammer to fall on an empty chamber (further verifying that the gun is empty) and place your gun safely in your holster. The Range Officer will then declare, “The range is clear.” NOW you can turn around and show your friends that big shit eating grin on your face.
At this time you should follow the R.O. and scorekeeper as they score your targets. Word of advice: NEVER touch your targets. If you question the hit value assigned to a target, bring it to the R.O.’s attention at that time and do not allow them to paste that target until the dispute has been settled. Once all targets have been scored the last thing you need to do is SIGN your scoresheet (optional at local matches).
BASIC SAFETY RULES
There are many basic safety and match competition rules, all are found in the USPSA website (www.uspsa.org), but the primary safety rules are listed below. Remember, safety must be YOUR first concern as we are competing with real guns and ammo and when done in an unsafe manner can cause serious injury or worse. So for that reason a safety infraction carries the very harsh penalty of “disqualification,” or match DQ. This means you must put your gun away and will not be allowed to continue the competition. For egregious infractions, you may be asked not to return.
180 Degree rule: Allowing the muzzle of your gun to break the 180 degree plane (an imaginary plane based on a line straight down the middle of the range/stage and 90 degree perpendicular in either direction, left or right, as viewed by the shooter) failure to comply results in a match disqualification.
Finger in trigger guard while loading, reloading, moving with a loaded firearm (and NOT engaging targets). During many courses of fire you will be required to move or reload between different shooting positions with a loaded weapon. New shooters are encouraged to walk first and focus more on accuracy (and safety!) than speed, but you may run if you can safely do so. One of the primary safety rules for this situation is that your trigger finger must be well clear of (and visible to the R.O.) the trigger guard. If he sees that you have your finger inside of the trigger guard he may (but is not required to) shout a warning of “finger” or “trigger.” If you fail to comply with a safety rule you will be stopped and disqualified from the match.
Sweeping: Sweeping is when you allow the muzzle of your loaded gun to point towards any part of your body (hand, leg, foot). Obviously, this would be a match DQ and you might consider taking up another sport like golf or tennis, because you aren’t smart enough to play this one.
Accidental Discharge: Basically means that you allowed the gun to fire in an unsafe manner or direction. Usually associated with the gun going off while drawing or reloading or a round that is fired outside of the boundaries of the range or a round fired while you were not actually purposely engaging a target.
Handling of a firearm: Again, you may NOT handle your firearm at anytime unless under the direct supervision of an R.O. or in a safe area.