Sunday, March 09, 2008

Paul Does His Job

At the ARPC (Albany Rifle and Pistol Club) match yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch a USPSA Range Officer in the act of not DQ'ing a new shooter for violating a safety rule, but instead intervening before an "Unsafe Act" was committed.

The scene was a stage where vision and engagement of a series of targets along the sides of the bay was restricted by barriers. The shooter was channeled into a limited area moving toward the rear berm (I'll include a badly filmed video at the end to show what it looks like), and it was possible for shooters to see/engage uprange targets from a downrange shooting location.

Possible ... but not safe, and not legal.

The "new shooter" (Scott) engaged the targets on the left side of the bay from the first shooting position, and in doing so experienced a jam. Clearing the jam distracted him from his game plan, so instead of also engaging the targets on the other side of the bay, he moved downrange to engage the next set of targets.

From this second shooting position, he could see the pair of targets which he had failed to engage from the uprange position.

He must have hesitated, he must have given some unconscious non-verbal signal that he was about to turn back and engage these targets because Paul, the Range Officer, stopped him.

Paul, using only verbal commands, directed him to 'unload and show clear' and then directed the taping crew to retape the targets; he would require the new shooter to reshoot the stage after standing down for a few minutes.

All of this was not known to the rest of the squad at the time. We who were watching the action could see that targets were not engaged from a 'legal' position, and assumed that the new shooter had moved his pistol toward the uprange targets -- resulting in a Match Disqualification, or "DQ".

We were momentarily disappointed, because there were three New Shooters in this squad, and it's not only discouraging for anyone to DQ on his first match (second stage!), but disruptive for the other new shooters.

However, when Scott retired to the stage bay, we learned that he had not only not been DQ'd, but the RO had scheduled him to reshoot the stage after Scott had recovered from the close encounter of the unsafe kind.

As the targets were being taped and reset, I talked with Paul, the Range Officer. He explained that he could see that Scott was obviously upset because he had failed to engage the uprange targets as soon as he arrived at the next shooting position. Deducing that Scott would try to engage these targets from an unsafe location, Paul took advantage of the new USPSA rule which allow a Range Officer to 'coach' a New Shooter, or anyone else who needs assistance in a Level 1 ("Club") match.
8.6 Assistance or Interference
8.6.1 No assistance of any kind can be given to a competitor during a course of fire, except that any Range Officer assigned to a stage may issue safety warnings to a competitor at any time. Such warnings will not be grounds for the competitor to be awarded a reshoot.
8.6.2 Any person providing interference or unauthorized assistance to a competitor during a course of fire (and the competitor receiving such assistance) may, at the discretion of a Range Officer, incur a procedural penalty for that stage and/or be subject to Section 10.6. When approved by the Range Officer, competitors at Level I
matches may, without penalty, receive whatever coaching or
assistance they request.

Observers, who had been disappointed for Scott when we thought he had DQ'd, were enthusiastic about encouraging Scott not to allow this minor setback (no safety rules were violated) to detract from his enjoyment of the shooting experience.

When he got back up to the line for his reshoot, Scott performed well and, in fact, proved to be undaunted by his first engagement of the Texas Star target.

(I apologize for including a very amateurish video here; BLOGGER doesn't make it easy for me to edit the file before I publish it. But it's possible ... I am just too lazy to make the effort!)

After Scott's first 'truncated' attempt, RO Paul noticed me in the crowd of spectators and came over to talk.

He asked: "Are you going to write about this?"

I answered: "Now that you mention it, I am. I'm impressed that you stopped him from DQ'ing."

Paul suggested that if I did write an article about this event, I should title it "The Asshole from Dundee Finally Does Something Right".

I resisted the temptation to extend his sense of humor to the Internet. There were two reasons for my uncharacteristic reticence to indulge in 'shock tactics in Blogging':

First, Paul is not an 'Asshole'. He is an experienced, committed Range Officer who always strives to ensure that every competitor shoots safely and enjoys the experience, especially those who are shooting their first match;
Second, the title turned out to be too long to fit on one line of the blog title banner.

All kidding aside, I was impressed by Paul's skill and integrity, as much as I was impressed by Scott's ability to face up to the challenge of The Texas Star and end up Looking Good!

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