Friday, October 19, 2012

My readers are smarter than I am ... and isn't that a good thing?

A few days ago, I talked about the 'angst' of being a range officer.  (see ARGHHHH!)

The crux of the exposition was that when an RO disqualifies a shooter because of a safety-rule violation, it's often as disappointing to the RO as it is to the shooter.  (The shooter never notices or acknowledges this, because being booted out of a match is an intensely personal event, and the shooter rarely notes the responses of 'other people'.)

The thing is ... being DQ'd is like farting on the subway, only worse.  You (the person being penalized) are aware of having performed an action which is socially forbidden.  You know it, you regret it, and you wish you could just go sit in a corner and everyone would ignore your indiscretion.  But there's this Transit Cop  (called a "Range Officer") who is watching your every move, and the Dude is both remorseless and unrelenting in his drive to show you to your friends and companions in the most unflattering light.  It's as if he doesn't like you, and is gleeful about exposing your digestive indiscretions to your fellow travelers.

If you have ever competed in an IPSC match, you're aware of the Evil Range Officer.  If you have ever been DisQualified from an IPSC match, you are aware of the shame and self-loathing which accompanies being ceremoniously BOOTED from what had previously been "A Fun Day At The Range".

And if you are a Range Officer ... you don't need to read this stuff, because you already know how hateful it is to be a Transit Cop on the IPSC Subway.  The ONLY person on the range who hated a DQ more than the shooter, is the RO.  And that's the honest truth.

Okay, so much for the shared angst.

THE INTERESTING PART of blogging isn't what the writer writes.  It's what the readers contribute in their comments!   And this article is an excellent example of that premise. (Don't feel you need to click on the link .. it's the same thing you saw linked earlier here.)

I had some things to say, and most readers either got it, or didn't get it,  or kind-of got it but somehow missed the point.

The three people who commented on the article were perfect illustrations of those three variations.

He Gets It
The Hobo Brasser (Mark) is an experienced IPSC competitor and Range Officer.  We have both been 'officiating' at IPSC matches for years .. okay, Decades if you insist on details ... and have worked every level of competition from club matches to USPSA National Matches.    I don't know how many people I've DQ'd, and I doubt that he does, either.  At one time I could tell you, but I've lost count.  It's not a statistic which brings pride to a man from the doing of it.  But Mark wrote to acknowledge that kicking a fellow competitor out of a match is something done reluctantly, and I'm pretty sure that he has often given shooters the 'benefit of the doubt' even though we're not suppose to do that.

This is a man who 'gets it'.

He Sort-of Gets It, but Misses The Point
An "Anonymous" commenter (Blogger commenting isn't very insistent about requiring commenters to identify themselves) kind-of got it.  A couple of salient phrases include that I am "...too critical of newbies..:", a note that "... some stages are inherently unsafe ...",  most interestingly the following:

"... some IPSC safety violations are much worse than others.  Rather an occasional finger in the trigger guard than breaking the 180."

Yes, some stages are inherently unsafe.  Actually, ALL stages are inherently unsafe, depending upon your point of view.  For the Range Officer, that IS the point of view.  Some stage designs are more challenging than others, and  one might say that they "require a closer adherence to the safety rules".    But that would be wrong.  ALL stages require a close adherence to the safety rules.  Safety isn't a judgmental thing which can be loosened or tightened according to circumstances.  Safety is an absolute, and the most important thing.  We do NOT slack off because a stage design is simple and the Shooting Problem is easy to resolve.  Or, as Anonymous has inferred, because the stage design is complicated.  There's a basic principle of competition here, which is stated in the rule book as "no competitor may protest that a stage is too difficult".

Having your finger in the trigger guard during movement, loading or unloading, or clearing a malfunction ... is that a lesser safety issue than "breaking the 180"?  (Note: "breaking the 180" means pointing your gun at another person, either actually or potentially.)  If you accept the premise that there is a sliding scale which penalizes one violation of the safety rules more severely than the other, then you must also decide whether the person who "broke the 180" pointed his gun in a direction where another person was standing, or not.  Is that pertinent?

No, it doesn't matter.  The shooter has lost control of himself and lost focus on the safety requirements if he breaks the 180, or if he has his finger on the trigger when he is not actively engaging a target.  BOTH actions are absolutely forbidden.  BOTH have the same penalty ... we see that he is not performing safely in respect to one safety rule, so we don't let him shoot any more.

As Steve McQueen's character in "The Magnificent Seven" observed:  "We deal in lead, friend."

As for the suggestion that we are "..too critical of newbies..."?  No, we are not.  We evaluate new shooters under the exact same rules and requirements as we apply to people who have been competing in this sport for decades.  I have Disqualified Master and Grand-Master shooters for violating the safety rules, and I've witnessed (while not functioning as the RO myself) other Range Officers DQ highly experienced and exceedingly well qualified shooters for doing the EXACT same thing as "newbies" do.  Finger on the trigger.  Breaking the 180.

Good heavens, I've mentioned more than once in these chronicles that I have DQ'd my Significant Other for having her finger on the trigger during reloading.  It made for an awkward ride home after the match, but mostly it was because she knew she did wrong, and she deserved it, and she was embarassed.  It took a few days for her to admit it was the right call, but she was also a Certified Range Officer and she knew the rules as well as I did ... and she applied them with equal severity to new shooters and experienced shooters alike.

And yes, I have been DQ'd myself, a fact which I tell ALL of the people who go through my "Introduction to USPSA" seminar.

So ... no, I don't think I'm "too critical of newbies".  I think I'm helping to insure that it's safe to be on the range when people are running around with loaded guns.  I think that families can come play this sport because mean people like me watch everyone with a gun to make SURE that both rules apply:

Rule 1: don't point your gun at other people
Rule 2: even if you do, don't have your finger on the trigger

See?  Belt AND Suspenders ... you have to break at least two rules before you can begin to endanger another person, and I'm standing between you and the peanut gallery so you KNOW that I'm very aware of what you are doing with your gun and I WILL stop you.

Has anyone reading this article, and the preceding one, happened to notice that the Range Officer is the one most likely to be injured if an unsafe (proscribed violation of the Safety Rules) act went UN-punished?

He doesn't get it at all
"Rivrdog" (a retired Sheriff Deputy who is very keen on defensive pistol usage) is  a dear friend whom I haven't seen as often as I would like, and he does NOT compete in this kind of shooting sport.  As a consequence, he tends to be quite critical about all things "IPSC", and I don't really blame him at all.

I'm not quoting him completely, and I may not be quoting him entirely accurately (you can go read his comment), but essentially this is his point:

"Complex stages are a figment of a stage designers mind, and in no way resemble ... shoot/don't shoot defensive shooting....."
"Defensive shooting is simple"
"The action competition could be great training for the Defensive pistol shooter, but not because of 'The Rules' which prohibit defensive movement necessary to ... tactics and which develop deadly habits, such as waiting for a command before engaging a threat".

These comments mirror closely articles which appeared in shooting-sport magazines a decade ago, usually under the heading "IPSC Competition Can Kill You" or something similar.

Yes, forty years ago IPSC WAS "combat pistol" and the emphasis was on BOTH Defensive and Aggressive shooting against an armed aggressor.  Read the rules in Rule Book #1 ... it has you climbing walls with the use of a rope because scaling an obstacle was a useful 'combat' drill.

We don't DO that shit anymore!

Here is today's mantra:

"It's A GAME, folks!"

We're not training people to defend themselves.  If you want that stuff, go do IDPA or take a "Home Defense" class (I did the latter, don't do the IDPA thingie 'cause I'm not interested).

Yes, it is irrational to have people stand fully erect in a shooting box and, upon the signal, engage all targets as they become available.  Standing reloads.  No hiding behind barriers except as a complication at the whim of the stage designer.  Thirty-round stages.  A dozen targets which stand in one place without moving.

We are NOT training people to shoot people.  We shoot cardboard, and knock down steel targets.  We have participants in all walks of life, including psychologists, computer programmers, nurserymen, mothers, fathers, and children.

What we DO do, is we teach everyone who packs a gun to practice basic rules of safety:
  • keep your finger off the trigger until your gun is pointed at something you want to shoot
  • keep your gun pointed in a safe direction .. ALWAYS!
  • always assume your gun is loaded, but never load it except under the direct supervision of a safety officer
Gee, that's pretty much the basic rules of gun safety, isn't it?

Here's another thing to consider:  We don't teach you to defend yourself against an aggressor, but we do teach you to handle a gun safely.

You would be amazed, perhaps, to hear that the  "Introduction to USPSA" class is more focused on breaking people of bad gun-handling habits than teaching them how to compete.  That's not the original intent of the class .. .that's just the way it happens.  We start out telling them about the "Seven Deadly Sins of IPSC" (finger on the trigger, breaking the 180, sweeping,  negligent discharge, etc.) and then we talk about 'how to compete'. 

So, yes, Rivrdog is absolutely correct in his evaluation of the sport of Practical Pistol Shooting; it is anything but "practical".   It DOES teach you bad habits, if you rely on a gun to defend yourself.

But it also teaches you how to rely on yourself to handle a gun safely in a competitive environment.

Yes, it's an artificial environment.  We're lucky; our targets are not assumed to be 'shooting back at us'.  So we have all these nurserymen and computer programmers and housewives and children as young as ten years of age ... as well as sworn police officers, ex-military, and even the home-commando wanna-be's ... competing against each other in a totally benign, totally safe environment.  We may not practice defensive shooting, but we do practice and REQUIRE safe shooting.

That makes it fun for the whole freakin' family.  We want everyone who is capable of good judgement to enjoy the sport.

Let me say this once again, just to ensure that nobody misses the point.

It's a GAME, Folks!

If you want more, you can find the training in other venues.  But when you go there, you will know how to defend yourself without shooting yourself in the foot because you learned the basic rules by competing at IPSC/USPSA matches.


Anonymous said...

As a almost newbies (4 matches under the belt) I like the rules, I want to be safe when I'm shooting and I want everyone else to be safe. Last week I heard you say "finger" to the newbie a couple of times and he still was not aware of his mistake. You also said "finger" to me and I turn my gun so you could see my finger was outside of the guard. (I was listening to the RO) Rules have to be the same for everyone and every stage, otherwise someone is going to get hurt. I do not want to be the one getting hurt or hurting someone else.

Keep up the good work as RO. If I do something wrong kick me in the ass (Since that is were my head would be) and then DQ me.

Jerry The Geek said...

Thanks, Randy, for your contribution to the discussion. You've proved my point, that Real Shooters want a safe environment to play in. And no, I would not kick you if you experience a 'lapse' in your safety awareness ... but I would shout very loud!

Mark said...

You don't DQ shooters. They DQ themselves, you just make the call.

Rivrdog said...

Fine riposte, but it doesn't cover such little FUBARs as foot faults, etc. In Defensive shooting, the LAST thing you think about is whether your feet properly toe a line as in a basketball free-throw. As I read your regs, you can be DQ'd for improperly using your off-hand for support on a structure.

The Defensive shooters who bitched off IPSC a decade or more ago were correct, and still are, for the same reasons. They've just gone on to other things, but I don't, because I want everyone to realize that learning to "game" the match stages may improve your score at the later loss of your life, should you get into a gun battle with person(s) who have gunned for real before.

Jerry The Geek said...

Rivrdog ... I don't disagree with a single thing you say.

But is it possible that you missed the single point I was trying to make?

It's a GAME! We are not teaching "defensive handgun shooting" here. Nor are we teaching, for example, "patrol techniques" (which I learned at Fort Lewis in 1968, and which saved my live in late 1968/RVN).

What we do may not reinforce the best tactics to defend yourself in a gunfight, but it DOES teach, reinforce, and require safe gunhandling techniques.

True, we only teach techniques within the narrow limits of gun-gaming environments; however, the SAFETY regulations which we enforce in IPSC are almost exactly the same as are taught in, for example, IDPA (which I strongly suspect may more likely meet with your approval, as THEIR game emphasizes shooting from behind cover, shooting until slide lock, etc.)

My point is, and will always be, that we teach people to handle and shoot a handgun safely. When they decide that their pririties are defensive shooting, there are a plethora of other venues where they can learn the nuances of defensive shooting.


I know, we have had this conversation before, and we will probably have it again. I suspect that you make these comments as much to get my goat as you do to emphasize that the techniques of competition are not necessarily the best techniques for defense.

Please know that I HAVE been trained in Defensive Shooting, and I actually passed.

But I still believe that it's a good idea to reload to a full magazine when you have a chance ... whether or not you retain your partially empty magazine. Because, due to my training and my experience, I always know when I'm running short of ammo. And I don't want to pull the trigger and hear the gun go "CLICK".

Even if nobody's shooting back at me.