Sunday, February 24, 2008 - Illegal Fault Line

The 2008 USPSA Rule Book has not successfully addressed the question of Legal Fault Lines. More specifically, the rule which addresses fault lines which are deemed to 'extend rearward to infinity'. Fault Lines extending rearward (uprange) should be a minimum of 3 feet in length, and unless otherwise stated in the written stage briefing, are deemed to extend rearward to infinity.

I have written extensively here my dissatisfaction with this rule, and while I continue to enjoy competing in club matches I likewise continue to protest stage designs which rely on lazy stage construction which relies upon this bizarre rule

The ground-fault stick depicted here supposedly defines a 'Fault Line'. However, it ends short of the initial starting position, and in fact if a competitor declines to abide by the de jure restrictions imposed by this 'short stick on the ground' he retains the right to request arbitration on any procedural penalties based on the stage procedure requirements to 'engage targets behind the fault line' by virtue of Rule

"Shooting Boxes and Fault Lines shoud be constructed of wooden boards or other sutiable material, must be fixed firmly in place, and provide for both physical and virtual references to competitor For hard ground surfaces clear of debris, 075 inch material is the minimum allowable size. On other range surfaces such as covered with turf, sand gravel wood chips or similar, thincker materiel which rises at least 1.5 inches above the surface is recommended."
In the actual event (depicted here), the 'Fault Line' is a virtual restriction which fails to meet the minimum requirements of Rule (USPSA 2008 Rules) by virtue of the fact that the physical construction does NOT extend to location between the end of the 'Fault Line' and the rearward boundary of the area where the targets may reasonable be engaged.

In other words, one may engage difficult targets beyond the uprange reach of the 'Fault Line' and gain advantage (because more more of the A-Zone of the target is visible), by moving laterally left of the starting box. While the 'Fault Line' SHOULD restrict this movement, it cannot because of the lazy failure to extend the physical fault line to the reasonable limit of rearward movement.

To put this in more easy-to-understand terms: the stage construction crew used a short stick to define the 'Fault Line'. There is a large gap between the end of the 'Fault Line' and the shooting box; it would be to the advantage of the competitor to take two steps to the left, beyond the 'obvious' end of the 'Fault Line' to engage targets. The Range Officer may be inclined to impose penalties because he considers the shooting position to be 'past the Fault Line', but no physical Fault Line' is available (see Rule to tell the competitor he has fouled.

Therefore, due to the lack of a fault line which is discernible by touch or by sight, it is impossible to legally penalize the competitor.

What can be done to control the competitor's natural desire to exploit this obvious stage design flaw?

(1) The RO can require the competitor to reshoot the stage, even insisting that the competitor move not more than one step to the left of the starting box. As long as the competitor persists in moving past the position defined past the position defined by the RO as 'over the ...' (non-existent) ... 'virtual fault line', the RO is presented with the same irreconcilable conundrum.

(2) Eventually, either the RO must charge the competitor with imaginary 'unsportsmanlike conduct' .. which is subject to a Request for Arbitration (RfA) ... or the RO must bump th question up to the Match Director for resolution. Note that the Range Officer is not allowed to file a RfA.

Assuming that the RO is not willing to accede to the competitor's insistence that the 'Fault Line' is not supported by the rules, the MD must necessarily intervene.

What options are available to the M.D.?

The M.D. (Match Director) can declare the competitor's action a 'Forbidden Action' In lieu of modifying course design or physical construction, a Range Master may explicitly forbid certain competitor actions in order to maintain competitive equity.
In order to enforce this ruling, the M.D. must be willing (assuming that the Competitor will be willing to advance his protest to USPSA) to justify his ruling at the Regional level. Since such a ruling is not justifiable under rule, we can only assume the (a) the M.D. will eschew such an extreme reaction, or (b) the M.D. will alter the stage to conform to existing rules, or will (b) take a chance that the USPSA BOD will find in favor of a stage design which is not supported by a local Arbitration Committee ... which is comprised by knowledgeable and experienced competitors who are, supposedly, as outraged by poor stage design as the original competitor.

In the ultimate extreme, poor / lazy stage designs will not be accepted by either the USPSA or the knowledgeable competitor. The worst possible case is an inexperienced competitor who is reluctant to challenge Match Officials.

The obvious solution to this problem is .. if you find yourself constrained from using realistic (eg: "Gaming") stage tactics on an illegal stage, the best thing you can do is to be confrontational.

Sure, you need to be sure that you are 'right'. The "old Dudes" can help you here, because they probably understand the rules better than you do.

But if you're too shy to stand up for your rights, and too proud to protest, you deserve every disservice which may be visited upon you.

Nobody's Perfect, and if you don't defend yourself (even if it totally pisses off someone you respect), you have nobody to blame but yourself


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