How to Be a Range Officer at Bullseye Matches

Every match run at our Club requires an official Range Officer be present on the firing line at all times. The Range Officer’s primary duty is to ensure the safety of the shooting competitors and guests. The Range Officer’s secondary duty is to call out the shooting commands during the match and to ensure it runs smoothly. The Range Officer is the single most important volunteer position at matches and carries much responsibility.

1. Overview.

The Range Officer is essentially the supervisor of the match. The Range Officer is responsible for calling competitors to the line, giving the competitors range instructions, giving the official firing commands, keeping time, ensuring the firing line is checked for safety, giving instructions to and receiving reports back from Block Officers and Target Changers, and making on-the-spot decisions about valid or invalid malfunctions (also known as “misfires” or “alibis”). He or she is always watching for safety issues. Finally, the Range Officer will ensure that all equipment is removed from the line and it is safe for volunteers to for forward and set up the targets for subsequent stages or subsequent matches.

2. Preliminary Range Operation.

The Range Officer must arrive early. He or she should be one of the first volunteers to arrive at the range on match day because it is essential that the Range Officer be familiar with how the range is set up for a given match. He or she must understand all of the target controls and the sequence of the match.

The Range Officer must first be satisfied that the range is fully operational. It is essential that you check to ensure that the air compressor is on and working, the PA system is working, all speakers are transmitting sound, and the target controls are working. The Range Officer supervises and helps to set up. Your match volunteers may not have experience and they may be looking for directions. They may need positive confirmation as to what comes next or what is needed to be done. This includes such common sense things as making sure that all targets are hung in proper numerical sequence. Do not assume that your helpers are as familiar with range operation as you are. Helpfully and courteously remind your workers if something has been missed. And, remember: volunteers need to be thanked for the work they do.

Only after the range is checked for proper operation, and the Range Officer is satisfied that all helpers and volunteers are back from down-range and accounted for, may competitors be allowed to place their gear on the firing line. The Range Officer should check the sign-in sheet or squadding sheet prepared by the Statistical Office. Know how many competitors are going to be on the line for a given match or relay. This will ensure that you are not waiting for phantom competitors.

Once competitors are taking their positions, give them a positive instruction that the line is no longer safe and that they may unbox their guns. It is also helpful to go over the range protocols and the match format. Don’t assume all competitors are familiar with the match sequence or the Range Commands. Use the PA system at the outdoor range, and if necessary at the indoor range when using both ranges simultaneously. Before starting preparation time or starting the match, check and be sure that all competitors are present on the line.

3. Starting the Match

If you are acting as the Range Officer for an official NRA Tournament, there will be a defined starting time listed in the Match Program. You will need to start the official Preparation Time before the defined starting time. Preparation Time (prep time) is usually three minutes. You will need to ensure competitors are allowed to get to their firing points and bring their gear up before the start of the Preparation Time. You should remind the competitors of the firing sequence, how and when scoring will be done, how to properly declare a misfire or range alibi, and you should go over safety and emergency protocols. Then start prep time.

4. Running the Match

Once the official preparation period has ended, the Range Officer proceeds to call the range commands for the given match. It is essential that the Range Officer know the proper commands and the official course of fire. Usually the proper commands are the same for each tournament. There are some variations, and those are discussed in detail in the official NRA Rule Book for the specific shooting discipline that is being held at a given match.

In conjunction with the proper range commands, the Range Officer will also be using the target controls and keeping time, either with his or her personal equipment or the range timer. Know how much time is allotted for each stage. You must be confident and strong enough to call a cease fire at the end of regulation time, even if a competitor has that one last shot remaining. Do not become lax about rules. Failure to follow the official rules could cause problems for the match or the club in the event of a formal protest.

The Range Officer calls each stage of each match. There may be multiple stages in any given match, and there may be multiple matches in a given tournament. For example, in conventional pistol shooting, a “2700 Match” is an official tournament course of fire. Each 2700 match comprises three 900-point aggregates. Each 900 point aggregate consists of 4 matches. Each of the four matches consist of two or three stages. Thus, in a 2700 match, the Range Officer and shooters will cover twelve matches made up of 27 stages (or more if fired indoors).

During the match, the Range Officer is on constant watch for safety issues. The Range Officer must be prepared in an instant to call a “cease fire” if there is a range incursion or other safety issue. He or she must have constant situational awareness and know what to do in an emergency. An example of a range incursion would be if an animal wandered onto the range. An example of a safety issue would be a shooter who is acting in an unsafe manner, a catastrophic gun failure or a medical emergency.

During each stage, the Range Officer must be on the look out for a malfunction or “alibi”. Experienced shooters know how to declare a misfire or alibi in a way that does not disrupt the other shooters. You must be on guard for a shooter making the proper hand or arm signal, and know what steps you must take to deal with the “alibi”. Those steps are also discussed in great detail in the official NRA Rule Book.

At the conclusion of each stage, the Range Officer will declare a cease fire. If all competitors have finished with time remaining, the Range Officer may end the stage early. This commonly occurs in a slow fire stage as most competitors will fire their record shots with two or three minutes remaining in the official stage time.

After the cease fire is declared, the Range Officer gives the commands to clear and bench all guns. Competitors will place chamber safety flags in their guns to provide visual confirmation that their gun is clear. Indoors, the Range Officer will check the line for safety at the conclusion of the stage. Outdoors, the Block Officers perform this task. All shooters must be behind the firing line while this id being done. Only when all competitors are behind the line do you send your block officers to check for safety. When you personally check the line for safety, you must check each gun personally. Slides must be back, or cylinders open, with safety flags in place. With semi-automatic guns, you also must check to ensure that the magazine well is empty. It is bad form for the Range Officer or Block Officer to handle someone else’s gun without permission. If a gun is unsafe, ask the competitor to correct it before moving to the next position.

Once all guns are visually confirmed to be unloaded and safe, the Range Officer will announce that the line safe and shooters may go forward to score and change targets. Indoors, during a match, you will have designated target changers performing this task. During this phase, it is critically important that you not allow any person to approach the line. No one may handle any firearms while there are persons forward of the firing line or down range.

After competitors have scored and repaired their targets, or after range personnel have changed over the targets for the next stage of fire, they will return from downrange. You must ensure that returning shooters and volunteers stay behind the firing line until all persons have returned. Your block officers will always be the last persons to return from down range, as they are making sure there are no stragglers or persons out-of-sight. Once your Block Officers give you the proper hand signal that all persons are back, or once you personally observe no more shooters or target changers are downrange, you may declare the line “not safe” or is “no longer safe”. This is the keyword that shooters will be listening for. Afterwards, you should give a positive command for shooters to approach the firing bench and that it is okay to handle their equipment.

This cycle continues until the entire match is fired. For a 30-point league match, the entire match may last no more than 30 or 40 minutes. For a 2700-point Tournament, it might take six hours or more.

5. After the Aggregate.

During a league, each match consists of a 30-point aggregate. In an official tournament, there are 900-point aggregates. At the end of each aggregate, there will be a change over period unless there are no more scheduled relays. The change over period in tournaments is usually 10 minutes. This allows enough time for retiring competitors to remove their gear from the line and to allow shooters who are continuing onto the next aggregate to change pistols for the next caliber. During the league, the change over period is more “fluid” and may be as short as a few minutes or a half hour or more — enough time must be allotted to give time for new competitors to arrive and sign in.

One of the most irritating things for an experienced competitor is when there is too much of a delay between stages. You will have to find a balance between giving the competitors enough time to prepare for firing, and not giving them time to “lollygag”. Shooters do not enjoy being rushed either. A match that drags on because people are “burning daylight” by needlessly talking to each other will cause the serious competitors much irritation. One of your goals is to make the match enjoyable so shooters will return for the next tournament.

6. After the Match.

At the conclusion of the entire match, the Range Officer makes sure that the line has been safed for the last time of the match. He or she will then supervise the takedown of the range and check to make sure that the range equipment is properly stowed and the range utilities shut off. The Range Officer will also police the line for score cards that have not been turned into the Statistical Office.

Once all of these tasks are complete, the Range Officer will either turn control of the range over to the Club Chief Range Officer or close the range.


Suggestions for Range Operation

  1. Read and understand the Rule Book
  2. Make every effort to start matches at the time stated in the Program.
  3. Give the specifics of the match to be fired.
  4. Talk no more than necessary
  5. If the match calls for 5-shot slow fire strings, be sure everyone understands.
  6. Make sure Block Officers are at their stations before shooters finish shooting.
  7. Make sure proper targets, repair centers, staples, tape, etc., are available as needed.
  8. When scoring downrange, advise shooters about repairing their own targets.
  9. When scoring is done downrange, do not let competitors take too long to decide on a dispute. The competitor must challenge the scoring or accept it as scored. All challenges are resolved at the Range Officer’s station, not downrange. No challenge is accepted without the proper challenge fee.
  10. Check all guns for safety (make sure they are clear) before allowing anyone forward of the firing line.
  11. Do not allow shooters to approach the bench until all personnel are back from downrange.
  12. Be consistent in your timing and commands.
  13. Do not rush competitors. But do not waste time.
  14. Do not let misfires (alibis) take too long to correct.
  15. Keep the match running at a consistent pace.
  16. Do not become lax about the rules with anyone. What you allow for one, you will have to allow for everyone.

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