The RO for the night will call everyone’s attention to the reading of the Written Stage Briefing (WSB). This is VERY important so make sure you listen closely and understand everything fully before moving forward. The Written Stage Briefing will tell you all you need to know to shoot the stage and will use some key language to do so. This is what you will hear in a typical reading of the WSB.
“A Simple Field Course” is a 24 round, 120 point Comstock stage, consisting of 9 Metric targets, 4 Pepper Poppers, and 2 plates.
Scoring is best 2 hits per paper target and steel scores 1 Alpha. Penalties will be assessed as per the current edition of the USPSA rule book.
Starting position will be toes touching the rear fault line, facing downrange with both hands holding a piece of crime scene tape. Your gun will be unloaded and holstered.
Upon the start signal, engage all targets as they become available from within the confines of the shooting area.
ARE THERE ANY QUESTIONS?
You will be given 5 minutes to look over the stage. After those 5 minutes are finished, only the on-deck shooter may enter the shooting area while targets are being scored.
Let's break down some of the key information you gain from hearing the WSB.
- Round Count: Knowing how many rounds are required will be a key strategy in making sure you don't leave any targets unengaged or that you accidentally reengage a target you've already shot.
- Stage Points: The greater the number of points available on a stage, the more valuable that stage is to your overall performance in the match.
- Comstock or Virginia Count: These two different methods of shooting a course of fire (stage) concern how many shots you are allowed to fire without penalties. A Virginia Count stage allows for only the stated minimum round count in the WSB to be shot or you will earn penalties for extra shots fired and extra hits on targets. These types of stages are typically shorter and require more strict shooting procedures. Comstock scoring is very simple in that it allows you to shoot as many shots as you like but only scores the highest minimum scoring count per target. Comstock scoring allows for make-up shots, but remember those extra shots cost you valuable time. A better strategy is to be accurate and save time by making good hits in the first place.
- Targets: This run down of targets is similar to the round count information from earlier. Knowing how many paper and steel targets you have to engage will help you figure out how to shoot the stage without missing any targets and earning penalties in the process.
- Scoring: This item is often left out of the WSB as there is a default value that you can assume if it's not stated; "Scoring is best 2 hits per paper target and steel scores 1 Alpha." If the WSB makes specific scoring guidelines it's typically due to a variation from this default scoring method so be very careful and pay attention. Shooting every target twice when it's supposed to be shot three times is not the best tactic for doing well.
- Penalties: This is typically left out of the WSB as well due again to a default value. If not stated, then all penalties are those outlined in the current USPSA Rule Book. Specific penalties that are defined in the WSB may go beyond the rule book to denote special actions that will earn penalty points. Also listed are possible Forbidden Actions that are not allowed under any circumstances. Performing a Forbidden Action is, at minimum, a stage disqualification and can result in a match disqualification if the violation is flagrant. The penalty is very steep because Forbidden Actions are specifically denoted to keep a stage safe for the shooter and the Range Officers. Forbidden Actions are not regularly encountered, but due to their high safety and penalty factor should always be paid particular attention.
- Start Position: This will tell you where to start the course of fire and in what condition you and your equipment will be in when you're there. If not stated, you will default to a gun that is loaded and holstered and you will be standing erect with your hands relaxed at your sides. Pay attention to which direction you will be facing when you start, whether you start loaded or unloaded, and for unusual starting positions where your hands are holding an object or are in an unusual position. This will all affect your game plan for shooting the stage.
- Procedure: Most of the time this will say something very simple such as "Engage all targets as they become visible from within the shooting area", but it can list specifics that determine how to best figure out the stage. The best part about USPSA is it's often your own brain that comes up with how to shoot the stage. The simple "shoot 'em as you see 'em" style stages let you be creative as your skill set increases. In the beginning keep things simple while you build those skills. Simple stage plans will typically net you better scores and will almost always keep you safer.
You will then be given 5 minutes to walk through the stage and come up with your game plan for how to shoot it. You will see people holding their hands in front of them as if they are holding their gun (airgunning) but remember that you can't pull your gun out of your holster during the walk through. That tends to get a lot of people every excited... in a bad way. So keep your gun in your holster and try to break down the stage into manageable chunks that fit within the number of rounds in your magazine.
For example, if you are in a 10 round limited division such as Production, try to break the stage into arrays of targets requiring 6-8 round. This will let you come up with a simple plan that gives you reload points and leaves extra shots in your gun should you need to make up any shots. Beginners often make the mistake of breaking down a stage into the maximum number of shots they have in a magazine and not leaving themselves any wiggle room for a mistake. Try not to do this until you have the confidence that you won't need those make up shots.
Everyone has something to do once the walkthrough is over. There will be a Chief Range Officer (CRO) that will be running the timer and officiating the shooter through the stage. The CRO's main job is to make sure the shooter stays safe and that the gun stays safe. CRO's typically are the more experienced shooters and often have taken classes specifically to teach them how to be effective and fair range officers. There will be a Range Officer (RO) that will be scorekeeper and assisting the CRO in being another set of eyes for both safety violations as well as stage penalties. RO's should have a good understanding of the basic rules and penalties and will need to figure out how to record the scores onto the score sheets. If you are not actively shooting then you should always remain behind BOTH Range Officers until the Range is declared clear. At that time, you will be expected to help everyone paste targets and reset steel after the scorekeeper has registered the hits. Those not pasting and resetting steel can help clear the shooting area of brass and keep the range clear.
The RO will call out the first shooter to the line by name and will then call out the next shooter (On Deck) and the two more that follow them ('In the Hole' and 'Double Hole' respectively). If you are the shooter, then come to the designated starting area with all your magazines loaded and your eye and ear protection on and await the CRO's commands. Remember the CRO is in charge so just do as he instructs and you will do just fine.
So you've been called as the "On Deck" shooter. As the current shooter is finishing with his run, go ahead and take a short walk through again familiarizing yourself one last time with your game plan. Be VERY aware of your surroundings so that you do not interfere with the shooter, CRO or the Scorekeeper. As the stage is being reset and targets pasted you will see the CRO at the back of the stage call for the stage to be cleared. He will then walk the stage from back to front verifying everyone is off the stage and then call you to the start position.
It's very normal to be nervous with your heart racing and your palms sweaty so first take a deep breath and listen. The CRO will give you a set of very specific, standardized commands telling you exactly what you can do to start the stage. They are as follows:
- MAKE READY - This command starts your course of fire and allows you to make your gun ready per the start position defined in the WSB. Typically that means you can load your gun and put it into your holster. You will see many people assume the start position with their hands and make a practice draw and sight picture on their first target with their still unloaded gun. Since the CRO has given the MAKE READY command, this is completely acceptable. Do not leave the start position once the Make Ready command has been given. Once you have your gun in the defined start condition, ensure you have your eye and ear protection on and assume the start position defined in the WSB (eg. standing with hands relaxed at sides). Once you have assumed your start position, the CRO will move to the next command.
- ARE YOU READY? - The appropriate reply here is to do nothing if you are in fact ready. If you are not ready then say "NO" loud enough for the CRO to hear you and he will allow you more time. Once it looks like you are settled again he will repeat this command until he gets no reply.
- STANDBY - This is simply to let you know that the RO has moved to the next command and will typically give between one and four second before continuing.
- BEEEEP! - The timer is started and you shoot the stage to the best of your abilities. The timer is sound sensitive so every shot will be recorded and your last shot fired will be your recorded time.
SHOOT... RELOAD... REPEAT... until you have completed shooting the course of fire and then wait patiently with your finger out of the trigger guard and your handgun pointed safely downrange away from your body so the CRO can clearly see it. There is no need to do anything quickly right now! Your adrenaline will be pumping big time so slow way down and think safety first and foremost. The timer will keep your last recorded shot indefinitely so there is really no need at all to rush through the next steps.
- IF YOUR ARE FINISHED, UNLOAD AND SHOW CLEAR - If you are in fact done shooting then first and foremost stop and ensure that two things are happening. Your finger it completely out of the trigger guard and your gun is pointed safely downrange and not at your feet or up in the air. Next remove your magazine and either stow it in a pocket, your mag pouch or just let it hit the ground. Next rack the slide to eject the round in the chamber and show the empty chamber to the CRO so he may verify that your gun is in fact clear if all ammunition. Please don't worry about the live round you racked as you can pick it up in a second when you are finished with the course of fire. For now just let it lay on the ground.
- IF CLEAR, HAMMER DOWN - If you believe the gun is clear of ammunition then release the slide, ensure the muzzle is pointed squarely downrange at the back berm, and drop the hammer by pulling the trigger on the empty chamber so that the CRO can hear it 'click'. Do not use a decocking lever if your handgun is equipped with it, and do not lower the hammer by hand as it must be lowered using a trigger pull only. If for some reason you failed to unload your gun during this process and it goes off, this will be considered an accidental or negligent discharge and is a very unsafe practice that will earn you a match disqualification. Don't rely on the CRO to verify that your gun is empty before you hammer down. The ultimate responsibility for your gun is always in your hands alone.
- HOLSTER - Return your empty gun back into your holster where it will stay until your next stage when your CRO will take you through these same steps again. If there a locking mechanism on your holster then please engage it now.
- RANGE IS CLEAR - This command will end the course of fire and signal that the scorekeeper and your other squadmates can move forward to finish scoring and resetting the stage.
Congratulations on completing your first stage! If you've done so safely, you can always consider it a success. It's time to find the score keeper and follow him along as he is scoring the targets to see how you did. Often times the scorekeeper will have started scoring targets as you were finishing the stage. The CRO will call out your time for the stage so make sure the time called out is the same as is recorded.
Then follow the CRO and scorekeeper as they finish scoring your targets. Hits will be called as Alpha (A), Bravo (B), Charlie (C), Delta (D), and Mike (miss) and each is recorded in corresponding columns on the score sheet with each row representing a target. Steel will be totaled and recorded as either an Alpha or a Mike depending on if you knocked it down. Hits on white penalty (No-Shoot) targets will be totaled for the stage and recorded. Penalties (Procedurals) will be called and recorded often with a brief note as to what you did to earn the penalty. The scorekeeper will then total up all your hits and check his math to ensure he's recorded the correct number of required hits for that stage. It's always a good idea to also verify your score sheet for hits, time and your name to make sure a simple human error doesn't prevent you from receiving the score you earned.
Your squadmates will often pick up your magazines and hand them back but make sure you have all of them so you don't inadvertently leave a mag behind. The scorekeeper will then move your score sheet to the bottom of the pile and call out the next shooter, on deck, in the hole, and double hole shooters in line and continue the process until everyone is finished. Take the time now to clean your magazines if needed and reload them for your next stage. A few minutes preparing now will mean you don't waste time during the next stage's walkthrough getting your gear ready. Once you have everything ready, grab some pasters and pitch in to help everyone else out.