Between the two precision rifle competition organizations, the PRS and NRL, there are a lot of matches. A lot. This season alone the Precision Rifle Series has 42 matches listed on their website. The National Rifle League is in their second year but they’re about the same level of growth the PRS was around the same time frame with 13 matches on their calendar. Here’s my question to you, dear reader, who’s running the stages at these competitions?
Obviously every match has different needs, but there seems to be a common theme over the last couple of years: the need for range officers. Matches don’t run without them. Have you ever wondered what the level of experience is with a range officer? Have you seen a more experienced shooter or shooters bully a range officer because they didn’t know anything about them? I’m sure you’ve all had hits that weren’t called and you blamed it on poorly experienced ROs. What about a confusing stage brief? Or inconsistently ran stages? How about being concerned about safety with some competitors flagging everyone with their muzzles? I have a suggestion as a fix to all of these problems and more. Volunteer. That’s right. You. One of the biggest complaints I hear at matches is about inexperienced range officers. At least they volunteered. Imagine how great the shot calls would be and how consistent the commands would be if every regularly competing shooter in the country took one match off and got behind glass or a timer for the weekend.
Personally, I don’t mind taking a match off. I shoot a lot more than most, so sitting out one match most likely isn’t going to affect my overall end of the year stats and it keeps me involved without my getting burnt out. Plus, it’s truly educational. I’ve ran stages with 150 competitors and seen 150 different ways to solve the stage. I’ve also seen some horrible trigger presses, bad positions, poorly thought out planning, magnificent reloads on the fly, impressive hits in tricky winds, pillow forts, stripped down gear, and brilliant time management. All of that has made me a better shooter. Honestly. I learned how to read mirage by working a spotting scope at a 2-day match. I’ve watched shooters far better than I am shoot stages much more efficiently than I thought possible. I’ve also been able to drop some advice and help new shooters just getting their bearings in a big match.
So why doesn’t everyone volunteer for one match? Some say it’s too hard to get to a match to help out. If you have a range you routinely attend club matches at, and most of us do, that would be a great place to volunteer. Yeah, it sucks that you’d lose a little bit of “home field advantage,” but you’d also be the best person to help out those new to the facility. It costs a lot to get to a match is another common complaint. There are matches out there with MD’s paying for lodging and food for their staff. We never used to even consider doing that in the Southwest. You’ll lose a chance at precious series points. Okay, you’ve got me there. I don’t have a good answer to that one. I try to RO at least one match a year and when the match is over, I’m positive I’d have won the match even though I’ve usually only seen the stages I’m running.
Perhaps we should think of it as community service. If you have other ways you’re giving back, like taking on the huge responsibility of being a match director or hosting free clinics where you train newer shooters in your area, then I’d give you a pass. If, however, you’re one of those guys or gals who constantly shoots and never volunteers, then this little blog is directed at you. Leave your rifle at home for the weekend. Let someone else get some points. You’ll still being kicking ass at every match you do go to. As an added bonus, ROing with a hangover can actually be helpful with remaining strict. You’ll be free to talk as much smack as you’d like. You can finally yell “IMPACT” at the top of your lungs. Giving bad news (“sorry bro, I’ve got you down for a zero…”) won’t make people hate you. On the other hand, you could make someone’s weekend (“Great job! You’re the first clean run on my stage!”). If you’re really lucky, someone will thank you and possibly bring you Snickers or a soda. The best parts about ROing? There’s less stress, you usually have shade the entire time, MD’s might let you actually design the stage you’re running, and you can bring your own cooler with cold beer tucked down in the bottom to crack open immediately after the last shooter on the last squad of the day finishes.
Match Directors Lives Matter, man… Seriously, look at before and after pictures of the them. It’s like looking at pictures of presidents. Full head of colored locks to shock white or practically bald. Shocking really. They need YOU to help out. Okay, actually TPRC doesn’t. At least right now we don’t. Somehow our Arizona match has a lot of volunteers. Lucky us. We have a club of bad asses. And we might have told them all that they’d learn a ton watching the rest of you shoot.