Range commands will vary depending on the type of shooting match you are attending; however, most range commands for action shooting, such as USPSA, IPSC, 3 Gun, IDPA and Steel Challenge will be similar if not the same. It is important that you be ready and understand the range commands so that you will follow the commands correctly. Failure to follow range commands from ROs will likely end up in a safety violation and/or disqualification. The following is a list of commands or terms that everyone going to a shooting match should familiarize themselves with:
- Stage Brief – Typically the Chief Range Officer, CRO, will call for a Stage Brief once the stage has been reset from the previous squad that shot the stage. The Stage Brief is the time that the CRO explains the stage description, including the start position, and will demonstrate any moving targets. It is very important to pay close attention during this time to be sure not to miss any critical information about the stage. In addition, moving targets can vary wildly in speed and type of movement, so it is always important to get the timing down for activators and moving targets.
- Walk Through – After giving the Stage Brief, the CRO will call a timed Walk Through. This is your chance to walk the stage and start coming up with a plan on how to shoot the stage. The amount of time allotted for a Walk Through is usually between 2-5 minutes. In addition, you will be walking the stage with everyone else on your squad, so it is important you make the most of this time, formulate a plan, “air gun” the stage how you have planned it and watch for anything that could potentially cause you problems, such as no shoots, fault lines or 180 traps.
At this point, the ROs will call the shooting order and begin the stage. Once you are the on deck shooter and approach the starting position, the ROs will give you a series of commands as follows:
- “Shooter do you understand the course of fire?” – It is at this point that you have a final opportunity to ask the RO for clarification regarding the stage. If you have no questions regarding the stage, give the RO a nod or verbally tell them you are clear about the stage. Once you indicate you understand the course of fire, the RO will continue and get you prepared to shoot.
- “Load and make ready” – This is the command the RO will give you that tells you that you may now draw your gun and load it. Often, it is at this point that you may take an unloaded sight picture to check your sights, to ensure your red dot sight or scope is at the correct setting. It is very important that this is done prior to loading ammunition into the gun, and that you have already made sure the match you are attending allows shooters to take sight pictures. Once you are ready and your gun is loaded as per the stage description, you need to holster or stage your gun.
- “Shooter Ready? Standby.” – Typically at most matches ROs will ask you to give them a nod or some acknowledgement of when you are ready to shoot. Once you let the RO know you are set, the RO will give this command prior to starting the timer. Just a few seconds after hearing “standby” you will hear the beep from the timer that signals you to begin shooting. You should be 100% focused on your plan for the stage at this point and be ready to execute that plan.
- “If finished, unload and show clear” – This command is given when it appears the competitor has completed the stage. The RO is now telling you to remove all the ammunition from your gun, open the action to the weapon and ensure that there is not a round in the chamber. It is your responsibility to make sure your gun is clear of ammunition and safe. Do not expect the RO to tell you that your gun is completely unloaded.
- “IF clear, action forward and hammer/striker down and holster” – This is the command that will confirm you have a clear gun. The RO is telling you to let your slide or bolt forward and to drop the hammer or striker. If you have not cleared your gun, you will have a negligent discharge, also known as an ND. If this occurs, you will be disqualified from the competition. Due to the RO stating “If clear,” responsibility for your gun being clear prior to letting the action go forward and dropping the hammer or striker rests solely on you. So be sure and take the time to make sure you have completely cleared your gun. It would be a shame to get disqualified due to something so simple.
At this point, the RO will begin walking and scoring the stage. It would be wise of you to walk with the RO and make sure that all your hits or misses get called correctly. While it is important to be courteous and polite, ROs, just like anyone else, can make an error. While most competitions forbid the competitor from touching their own target, if you see a hit the RO does not, this is the appropriate time to bring it to the RO’s attention. Be sure to take the time to walk with the RO and confirm your score; however, be professional about it and polite if there is possibly a mistake on the RO’s behalf. After the RO scores the stage, he will call for tapers, target painters and setters and prepare the stage for the next competitor.
Once you have a few local or club matches under your belt, all of these commands will become routine and ingrained in your match/stage preparation. Until then and even after, it is important to communicate with the ROs. If you have a question, approach them for clarification prior to stepping up and getting ready to shoot the stage. ROs are typically experienced competitive shooters and can be a great source for guidance in both the rules for the competition and tips for improving in competition.