Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Keystone Kops III: What Is A Tool?

In response to popular demand (Zippy wanted to know, according to an earlier comment on this blogsite), I've decided to post ONE MORE ARTICLE about the 2005 Columbia Cascade Section Tournament.

This is about IPSC Rules of Competition. If you're not interested in the subject, there's nothing happening here, move on.

We had two incidents at the CCS Section Match which presented questions concerning the interpretation of the current rules. One was "What Is A Tool?", and the other was "I've Lost My Ears And I Can't Get UP!"

What Is A Tool?>
In the Keystone Kops match, a competitor experienced a firearms malfunction in that the magazine of his CZ locked up the slide when he slam-reloaded at slide-lock.

This happened twice to this competitor. I was the RO on the second occurance, and had heard that this was a malf that had happened on an earlier stage that day. I didn't stop the competitor, but after he had completed the stage I had the time recorded and before I scored the targets I called the Range Master (who was doubling as the Match Director, and also happened to be the Section Coordinator) to the stage. Aware that this would be a controversial call, I described the circumstances and the activities of the competitor, and asked the RM what would be the appropriate penalty.

He (the RM) thought for a moment, and declared one procedural penalty for using a tool to clear a malf. I conceded the point without comment and continued to score the targets.

I didn't agree with the call.

Here's the applicable rule, according to the current rule book:

5.7 Malfunctions – Competitor’s Equipment

5.7.1 In the event that a competitor’s handgun malfunctions after the start signal, the competitor may safely attempt to correct the problem and continue the course of fire. During such corrective action, the competitor must keep the muzzle of the handgun pointing safely downrange at all times. The competitor may not use rods, or other tools to correct the malfunction. Violations will result in a zero score for the stage.

Later, the RM reconsidered his decision and rescinded the procedural penalty. The competitor's score was arbitrarily altered to remove the procrdural penalty, and he was allowed to have used his spare magazine to clear the jam without penalty.

This may turn out to be a more controversial decision than I expected.
For example, Bruce Gary (who is the Area 1 Director in the USPSA Board of Directors) brought up this question in his recent comments in the USPSA Forum discussing this topic.

The consensus in that forum seemed to be that the use of a magazine to clear a jam did not constitute the use of a 'tool'. This position is give credence because Troy McManus, one of the National Ranger Officer Institute's (NROI) Instructors conceded that a magazine was not a 'Tool' in the sense suggested by the rule.

Do I agree with this decision?
I do not!

It is unfortunate that the rule book does not define the word "Tool". That makes it much more difficult to interpret the rule.

To further complicate the question John Amidon (VP of USPSA and the NROI Director) responded to a question in the then-current issue of the Front Sight Magazine (July - August, Vol 22 #4, Pp. 4.72) which touched upon this question. Unfortunately the question directly addressed the use of 'props' to clear a jam, not the use of 'tools' or the definition of the term. The resulting Interpretation served only to NOT define a 'prop' as a 'tool', and allows the use of a 'prop' to clear a jam -- "as long as it is done safely ...".

Do I agree with this decision?
I do not.

I happen to belong to the "Chimpanzee" school of thought in regards to this queston; anything that would be considered as a 'tool' if a Chimp used it to draw a snack of ants out of an anthill, will be considered a 'tool' if it was used by an IPSC competitor. Thus any object used to clear a malfunction would incur imposition of the zero-the-stage clause of the rules.

Here's an interesting question: do I agree with the rule?
I most decidedly and emphaticallyl do NOT!
I think it is, to resort to the vernacular, a "Stupid Rule". It serves no purpose, it needlessly penalizes the competitor, and if there was a legitimate goal to the emposing this restriction it should necessarily have included a definition of the word 'tool'. However, since it did NOT define the term, then all objects which are not something you were born with must be considered a 'tool' and its use penalized to the degree specified by the rule book.

Either that, or you (a) define the term, (b) lessen the penalties at least under some circumstances which have not been defined, or (c) delete the rule as unenforceable.

My choice would be to delete the rule as unenforceable.
Nobody knows what a 'tool' is, and the latest "interpretatioon" by the Director of NROI serves only to obfuscate the rule, not clarify it. If John Amidon can't come up with a clear and all-encompassing interpretation, who can?

My second choice would be to define the term 'tool' so that everybody understands what is and what is not prohibited.

Is a magazine a 'tool'? Or is anything that is not a "rod" a tool?

I think that if you have a Leatherman on your belt, and you can use it to clear a jam, the RO should just shut up and sit back; as long as the gun is pointed in a safe direction, the competitor can use whatever is available to clear a jam.

If the competitor comes to the line without sufficient tools on his person to clear whatever malfunction may occur, it's the competitors problem for not being ... competititive.

I voiced my displeasure about this rule a year ago, and my voice was not heard. I doubt it will be heard now, but you KNOW the question will arise again and the answer will be every bit as unsatisfactory as it is today.

What's the bottom line?

A 'tool' is whatever the RO de jour says it is. The rule is unenforceable, so it will be enforced arbitrarily and inequitably.

Lose the rule, Dude; it doesn't work and it should never have been accepted by the USPSA BOD. Their bad for letting it slip by.

I've Lost My Ears And I Can't Get UP!

Here's another interesting situation which occurred during the CCS Section Tournament.

During the Jungle Run, a competitor tripped over the log which restricted access to the Jungle Run. His ear protection (ear muffs) fell off, and he was sprawled on the ground. He kept the muzzle of his pistol pointed safely downrange, so he was not DQ'd. Using only his weak hand, he managed to put his ear muffs back on, got to his feet, engaged the targets before him successfully, and moved down to engage the last target in the array.

Unfortunately, he was a little distracted and dragged the muzzle of his gun past the 180-degree line on that last target. He was stopped by the Range Officer (RO), and received a DQ (Match Disqualification.) This DQ was justified by the circumstances, as ragged as they were.

Here's the rub:
the competitor should have stopped himself, or the RO should have stopped him, because his ear protection had been dislodged in the fall.

5.4.3 If a Range Official notices that a competitor has lost or displaced their eye or ear protection during a course of fire, or has com­menced a course of fire without them, the Range Official must immediately stop the competitor who will be required to reshoot the course of fire after the protective devices have been restored.

Unfortunately, the RO was not aware (or not familiar with) the applicable rule, so the he didn't shopt he competitor.

The competitor didn't know he could call for a break, so HE didn't stop himself.

Ultimately, the competitor continued with what had already been a disatrous run on the stage, and consequently performed an unsafe act.

Should the involved people (the RO and the competitor) have been familiar with the applicable rules, and stopped the stage? Darned right they should, and as a consequence of their inaction the competitor went on to perform an unsafe act and was DQ'd.

But I can't fault either party. I wasn't sure about the actual applicable rules myself, until the rule book was brought out and we started reading the rules.

There is no happy ending to this story. The only thing I can suggest is that everyone who competes in IPSC competetition read the rule book thoroughly and memorize all the cheesy little rules that may make the difference between completing the match and being DQ's. Sometimes, the rules that mess you up aren't the rules that cause you to be DQ'd.

Think about it, and if you're not already a certified RO you might consider taking the training.

It could save your match.


Anonymous said...

Good points Jerry. A couple brief comments. It's hard to define what a "tool" is .... but using my dictionary as source....I've got the following: A device, used to perform or facilitate manual or mechanical work.

So, yes, I'd view a leatherman as a tool...I'd view a screwdriver as a tool...I wouldn't view a magazine or a prop (wall) as a tool because neither facilitate manual or mechannical work.

The "ears" incident is an interesting one. Yes, loosing your ear protection (unintentionally) is an immediate reshoot condition...but in the end the shooter is responsible for their actions....so yeah it sucks that the shooter was allowed to continue (when they should have been stopped)...but regardless of when the 180 infraction occured...its still the shooters responsibility to be safe.

I also agree that everyone should take at the very least the Level I RO course....knowing the rules can allow one to become "gamey" at times too! I'm considering taking the CRO correspondence course this winter.

Anonymous said...

I was the RO the first time the competitor did this. This rule flashed through my mind but I decided not to assess a zero score penalty or a procedural. The term "tool" is not defined in this rule, but I contend you'll know a tool when you see a tool.

OTOH yes it is a stupid rule...

Ziiiiiing!! said...

I remember the old days when everyone (well some. Not me. No way) carried a brass squib rod for knocking stuck bullets out of the tube.

Then someone remembered that when you put the rod into the muzzle you were sweeping your hand. That's about the time Arredondo came out with their multi-tool squib rod. You could hold it on the little side extension and put the rod in the tube and then bang it and your gun on the ground till the bullet came out.

That must be why the put the word "rod" in the rulebook.