Thursday, December 23, 2004

2005 IPSC/USPSA rules: 10.4.9

In response to a private comment from another Columbia Cascade Section member, I posted Geek Musings: 2005-02 to The Unofficial IPSC List today. This was in reference to both rule 104.3 and 10.4.9.

Turns out, I didn't have any problem with 10.4.3 (big surprise here, I usually go ballistic when I have to discuss the new IPSC rules.) But when I took a close look at 10.4.9, I found plenty of justification for a Shot In The Dark.

Here's the context and the content of 10.4.9:

10.4 - Match Disqualification - Accidental Discharge:
A competitor who causes an Accidental Discharge must be stopped by a Range Officer as soon as possible. An accidental discharge is defined as follows:
Exception: When it can be established that the cause of the discharge is due to the actual breakage of any part of the firearm and the competitor has not committed any safety infraction in this Section, a match disqualification will not be invoked, however, the competitor's scores for that course of fire will be zero. The firearm must be immediately presented to the Range Master or his delegate, who will inspect the firearm and carry out any tests necessary to establish that an actual breakage of a part caused the discharge. A competitor may not later appeal a disqualification for an unsafe discharge if they fail to present the firearm for inspection prior to leaving the course of fire.

Here is the text of my comments:

Why must the stage score be zeroed, if a discharge occurs due to " ... the actual breakage of a part of the firearm ..."? And what happens if the breakage (and subsequent discharge) occurs after the competitor has fired the last shot on the stage?

I really don't see an 'up' side to this rule, but I certainly can see a 'down' side:

What happens if this last-shot occurs on a Virginia count stage? The shooter is in a bad situation. It seems reasonable that he could protest an extra-shot penalty due to firearm breakage, but he doesn't dare protest because he would zero the stage. So might not the shooter, if he can cover up the breakage, be tempted to just shut up, accept the procedural penalty, and go hide while he fixes his gun?

In other words, it STRONGLY encourages the shooter to cheat. And I don't like that what use to be a fun sport puts its participants in such a morally untenable position.

Sounds like we need another "interpretation", don't you think?
Here's my reasoning:
Consider the situation when a firearm breaks. Since IPSC originally evolved as "Practical Shooting", the guiding principles (which have since been rendered hors d'combat by anal retentive moonbats) suggest that what you shoot is what you get, less penalties for what you DON'T get. I'm an old fart, and every new rule I read is inevitably filtered through my "Principles of Practical Shooting" test.

The way it worked prior to December 1, 2004 (when the new rule book came in to effect) was that if your gun broke you stopped shooting and the targets were scored, the time recorded, and your stage factor worked out. The only reason you would get a zero score is if you broke a safety rule and were "Match DQ'd", or your penalties were more than your points. Good enough, we can live with that.

(Note the "DNF rule: for several years, a zero score could be assigned to you if you Did Not Finish, or DNF. This could be caused, for example, by a failure to engage the last target which was caused by running out of ammunition and there wasn't enough ammunition left in discarded magazines on the stage, or in your personal possession ... say, in your pocket. I use to carry a few extra rounds in my pockets to avoid this situation. The rules were changed by, as I said, just assigning penalties for targets missed and/or not engaged. This seemed reasonable to most people)

Now, if your gun breaks ANY time during the Course of Fire (COF), you get no credit for anything you might have accomplished.

That rule holds true even if you have successfully engaged every target in the COF.

There's two ways of looking at this:
  • Extremely practical: as is the case of the Soldier Of Fortune matches, if you fail to 'neutralize' every target, the un-neutralized targets represent aggressors who will kill you. Well, that's fine if you define 'neutralize' as having at least x-points of hits against them (say, onr-Alpha or the 5-point equivalent). But we don't do that. Instead, we penalize minus 10 points for each miss, plus you don't get the points you MIGHT have got if you hit the target. Oh, and if you don't even shoot at ('engage') a target, you not only get miss penalties but also a 10-point procedural for not shooting at it. Since the beginning of IPSC competition, that has always been considered sufficient penalties.
  • Competition practical: you get the points you scored, minus penalties (see above), and your score is calculated relative to the number of seconds you took to get those hits.
The "Competitive practical" approach is the way we have long been conducting IPSC competition, with the exception of the long-unlamented DNF rule.

Let's look at the evolution of the DNF rule.

1st Edition:
I started competing in IPSC in 1983. At that time the 1st Edition (May, 1983) of the IPSC/USA (sic) was in effect. The DNF rule was not included.

5th Edition:
For reasons which will not be discussed now, I dropped out of IPSC competition until 1991, at which time the following rules were in effect in the Practical Shooting Handbook of USPSA (5th Edition, May, 1990):
11.09 DID NOT FINISH (DNF) - when a competitor is unable to complete a course fo fire for whatever reason, other than range equipment failure, his score will be recorded as zero for that stage (See 8.0.6, 8.08)
I'm going to include not only 8.0.6 and 8.0.8, but also 8.0.7 here for illustrative purposes:

(Emphasis in the original rule.)<>
8.0.6 MALFUNCTIONS - In the event of a malfunction, the normal procedure will be for the competitor to rectify the situation, always keeping the muzzle pointing downrange, and carry on with the stage. If he is unable to do so, he will stand fast, lower the handgun safely pointed down range and signal by raising his free hand. The Range Officer will stop the clock and proceed to examine the handgun. See 11.09
8.0.7 BROKEN FIREARM PROCEDURE - In the event the firearm cannot be unloaded due to a broken or malfunctioning mechanism, the Range Officer will take such action as he thinks best and safest. Under no circumstances will a competitor leave the firing line in the posession of a loaded handgun.
8.0.8 UNABLE TO FINISH COURSE - When, due to a breakdown or loss of personal equipment or injury, a competitor is unabel to complete a course or wishes to terminate the course of fire, he will raise his free hand and call "TIME". See 11.09

6th Edition:
These rules were also in effect in the Practical Shooting Handbook of USPSA (6th Edition, April, 1992).

7th Edition:
In the Practical Shooting Handbook of USPSA (7th Edition, 1995), things got a little complicated. Rule 11.09 had been replaced by something that discussed "Failure to Engage". That was a penalty applied to individual targets, not to the entire stage.

But rule 8.08 had been changed, to include a zero-score penalty for this event:

8.0.8 UNABLE TO FINISH COURSE - When, due to a breakdown or loss of personal equipment or injury, a competitor is unabel to complete a course or wishes to terminate the course of fire, he will may raise his free hand and call "TIME". See 11.09. His score will be recorded as zero for that stage.

(NB: Strike-out indicates text deleted from the previous version; italics indicate added verbiage.)

However, the 7th Edition rules were flawed. Even though the DNF concept was no longer defined, they still included the following rules:

US 9.01 VIRGINIA COUNT - Virginia Count is intended for use in Standard Exercise and Speed Shoots where the same targets are engaged by several strings of fire. The targets are scored only after he completion of the last string. The targets are scored only after the completion of the last string. In courses of fire which consist of more than one string, a failure to finish (DNF) one of the strings means a DNF for the entire course of fire. ... ...

Also, this book included a rule, which was referenced in the index as being on page 53 but was actually found on page 52, and in the index was cited as 'Failure Or Loss Of Equipment":

US 11.01 PROCEDURAL ERRORS - Procedural errors apply to violations of stated procedures which are not otherwise covered by other specific rules.

Failure to engage (shoot at) a target specified in the stage design is a procedural error. Failure to engage will always result in one procedural penalty regardless of the number of reuired hits on the target. Failure to engage will not result in a DNF unless the failure is due to the competitor's equipment failure, loss of ammo, etc. (See rules 8.08 and 11.09) Failure to successfully engage a stop target results in a DNF.
Note the strike-out of the last sentence. When I took my first RO certification course in 1997, the instructor (Bill Kehoe) informed us that the sentence was inapplicable because IPSC and USPSA no longer used 'stop targets' to denote the completion of a COF. He said that although the rule CLAUSE was STILL IN THE RULE BOOK, WE SHOULD IGNORE IT! This rule was embedded, but successfully ignored, from May, 1997, until it was deleted in 2000.

14th Edition, 2000:
Eventually, the DNF rule and all references to it were absent in the USPSA Rule Book (14th Edition, 2000), also known as the "Toilet Paper Edition" because it was an interim edition published without a poster-board weight cover. The 8.0.* rules were changed to the 5.7.* sequence. The equivalent of the 8.0.8 rule was rule 5.7.3, which concludes with the following verbiage:

" ... The course of fire shall be scored normally including all appropriate miss and failure to engage penalties."
(Well, it was about time!)

14th Edition, 2001:
The DNF rules were also not referenced in the permanent replacement, the USPSA Rule Book (14th Edition, 2001).

We've covered 21 years of IPSC/USPSA rule books. The DNF rule was in effect from 1983 through 1999, or 16 years. For the 5-year period from 2000 through 2004, there was no DNF rule, and we all thought we were well rid of it.

2004/2005 Edition:
Now, in the "IPSC Handgun Competition Rules, USPSA Version, January, 2004" (but note NOT effective until December 1, 2004) which is commonly referred to as "the 2005 rules", we see this ugly DNF rule has come back to haunt us, appropriately, like the Ghost of Christmas Past.

If we're going to be shooting IPSC Retro, why don't they bring back the entire horrid package? Why stop at what is essentially a DNF penalty only for " ... the actual breakage of any part of the firearm ... "?

As nearly as I can tell, this rule was not formulated in response to an acknowledged, wide-spread problem. Matter of fact, there is no 'urban legend" type anecdotal history which suggests that this is a situation which has occured in such a manner that the previously existing rules wouldn't have handled it consistently with any other reason for failing to complete a COF.

If these, uh, 'folks' who arbitrarily impose these rules on us think that there is a good reason why we should change the way we compete, to the detriment of the shooter, they should at least be able to provide some justification for applying it under such a limited range of circumstances.

Why don't they apply what is, after all, just the "Son of DNF" when the competitor runs out of ammunition?

One can only presume that they had in mind that, if the competitor was so short-sighted that he couldn't predict the failure of a vital part of his firearm, surely it is even more worthy of censure that he be penalized for the short-sighted failure to bring enough ammunition to complete the COF.

Either the authors of this rule failed to consider other reasons for DNF-type situations, or they were specifically targetting ... somebody.

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