Safety Officer & Scorekeeper Guidelines
The four main duties of an IDPA Safety Officer are:
- To ensure the safety of the shooter and bystanders on the range
- To help the shooter to complete the course of fire correctly and enjoy the match
- To handle the shooter using correct and concise range commands
- To enforce IDPA rules consistently to ensure that the match is conducted in a fair and impartial manner
Additional Safety Duties
The Safety officer's primary focus must be the safety of the shooter and the bystanders. From the time the shooter steps up to the line until that shooter finishes the course of fire, the safety officer's focus must be solely on the shooter, and primarily on the gun. This is especially critical from the time the shooter is told to load and make ready until the shooter's gun is re-holstered. At no time during this period should the Safety Officer's attention be distracted from the shooter's gun. Of particular concern is the shooter's trigger finger. At all times, the finger should be out of the trigger guard unless actually firing or preparing to fire.
- Assist the Match Director in safety-checking each stage before the shooters are called for the course description
- Check that each shooter's equipment is IDPA-legal (cut the newcomers some slack, though).
- Remind the shooter to check that his or her magazine is seated in the gun
- Ensure that the shooter has two fully-loaded spare magazines in his pouch before the start signal
- Advise the shooter of "best practices" such as maintaining a responsible balance between winning and safety
- Watch out for the other guy: The Scorekeeper and Safety Officer should work as a team, and watch each other's backs.
- We often set up two stages side-by side on one bay. In such cases, Safety Officers and Scorekeepers on one side should keep an eye on the shooter and safety officers on the other stage.
- Be aware of activity up-range; Keep an eye out for new shooters showing off their guns away from the Safe Area, etc.
The following conditions are grounds for immediate disqualification:
- Finger on the trigger when the muzzle is not pointed in a safe direction, "safe" meaning "into the berm."
- Muzzle of loaded gun pointed up-range
- A shot striking the ground within six feet of the shooter
- Any shot over the berm
- General belligerence
- Refusal to acknowledge the SO's authority
The following situations call for a warning, and possible disqualification on a second violation:
- Finger on the trigger during loading, reloading, or unloading
- Finger on the trigger when gun is not aimed at a target
- Failure to follow the Safety Officer's commands when given.
Other safety considerations:
- In addition to watching the gun, the SO should try to be generally aware of where the shooter is going next, in order to avoid getting in a position where he interferes with the shooter or is endangered by the shooter.
- Help the shooter To the extent possible, the Safety Officer should actively help the shooter. This is especially true for new shooters, where it would not be unreasonable for the SO to actually prompt the shooter at each step of the stage and call out when targets are missed or not engaged at all. The SO should also pay attention to the emotional state of new shooters; The SO should take the time to calm a shooter who is nervous or scared in order to ensure everyone's safety.
A few techniques that seem to work well are to talk to the shooter and ask them how they are doing, tell them to take a deep breath and relax, and point out that it's a good idea to shoot the first few matches just for fun, to take it slow and easy, and to concentrate mainly on safety with no attempt to win. Be helpful, but do not patronize.
While the above applies mostly to new shooters, even the more experienced shooters will lose their concentration occasionally, and they will appreciate it if you mention that they have a miss or have forgotten to engage a target. So, help all of the shooters to the best of your ability.
Note that assisting the shooter is not allowed at sanctioned matches, but is greatly appreciated by all shooters at 'friendly' club matches.
Range Commands The IDPA range commands are:
- Range Is Hot, Eyes and Ears
- Load and make ready
- Are you ready? (This is a question)
- Stand by (followed by start signal)
- Unload and show clear
- Slide down
- Range is safe
Range Is Hot, Eyes and Ears: This is the first command given to each shooter starting the action of shooting a stage. This command signifies the start of the CoF. The shooter will make sure that their eye and hearing protection is in place. It is also notification to anyone in the shooting bay to check that their own eye and hearing protection is properly fitted.
Load and make ready: When the shooter has proper eye and hearing protection, the SO will issue the Load and Make Ready command. The shooter will prepare the firearm and magazines to match the start position for the stage. Typically this is to load the firearm and holster, but may include non-typical loading or staging of equipment. The shooter will then assume the starting position necessary for the stage. If the shooter’s firearm is not to be loaded for the start of a stage the command used will be “Make Ready.”
Are you ready? After “Load and Make Ready,” the SO will ask the shooter “Are You Ready?” If ready, the shooter should respond verbally, or by obvious nodding of the head, but may also choose to stand ready. If there is no response from the shooter in approximately three (3) seconds the shooter is assumed to be ready.
Stand by: This command is given after the shooter is ready. This command will be followed by the start signal within one (1) to four (4) seconds. The shooter may not move or change positions between the “Standby” command and the start signal, unless required to do so by the CoF.
Muzzle: This command is given when the muzzle of the shooter’s firearm is pointed near a muzzle safe point. The shooter must correct the errant muzzle and continue with the stage. See muzzle safe points above. (If at any time the shooter's muzzle starts to approach the 180-degree mark or pointing in the air, use this command to warn the shooter that he or she is about to point the muzzle in an unsafe direction.)
Finger: This command is given when the shooter’s finger is not obviously and visibly outside the trigger guard when it should be, as noted above. (At all times, the finger should be out of the trigger guard unless actually firing or preparing to fire. If the muzzle is directed in any direction except that of a target to be engaged, the finger must be out of the trigger guard. Watch the shooter during loading, movement, reloading, and unloading to ensure that it is.)
If the shooter's finger is in the trigger guard at an inappropriate time, the SO should call out "Finger!" More that one "finger" violation during a stage (or even a match) is grounds for disqualification. We encourage the SO's to take into account whether any endangerment of the shooter or bystanders was actually caused before disqualifying a shooter, but this rule should be enforced fairly strictly.
Cover: If more than 50% of the shooter's upper torso, or any part of the shooter's lower torso is exposed to any unengaged target during the course of fire, the SO or Scorekeeper should call out "Cover!" Note that the Scorekeeper should be in a much better position to make this call, and should do so, in order to allow the Safety Officer to concentrate on the gun. If the shooter immediately moves to correct the cover violation, then no procedural penalty should be issued. However, if the shooter is shooting or moving too fast for the cover warning to be noted, then a procedural penalty should be assessed. In simple terms, warn the shooter if at all possible, otherwise assess the penalty.
Stop: If the shooter is behaving in an unsafe manner or if a safety issue beyond the shooter's control arises, the SO should issue the command "stop." Compliance with this command must be immediate and unconditional; repeat the command as necessary to gain compliance. This command may also be used to stop the shooter due to course setup problems such as untaped targets or steel targets, swingers, or movers which have not been properly reset or have activated unexpectedly. However, if the stop command is issued preceding a match disqualification, the SO should have the shooter unload and show clear before any further discussion takes place.
If finished unload and show clear: This command will be issued when the shooter has apparently finished shooting the stage. If the shooter is finished, all ammunition will be removed from the firearm and a clear chamber/cylinder will be shown to the SO. If the shooter is not finished, the shooter should finish the stage and the command will be repeated.
*Under no circumstances should the Safety Officer allow this inspection to be hurried. The Safety Officer should insist that the shooter follow directions at this time, and not get in a hurry.
If Clear, Slide Forward or Close Cylinder: Once the SO has inspected the chamber/cylinder and found it to be clear, this command will be issued and the shooter will comply.
Pull The Trigger: The shooter will point the firearm at a safe berm and pull the trigger to further verify that the chamber is clear. If the firearm fires, the shooter will be Disqualified from the match. This requirement also applies to firearms with a de-cocker or magazine disconnect. For firearms with a magazine disconnect an empty magazine, or dummy magazine must be inserted before the trigger is pulled, and then removed again. This command is not needed for revolvers.
Holster: The Shooter will safely holster the firearm.
Range Is Clear: This command indicates to the shooter and anyone within the stage boundaries that the range is clear. This command begins the scoring and resetting of the stage.
Rule enforcement IDPA matches are competitions, and as such, they must have rules. The job of the Safety Officers is to enforce these rules as fairly and consistently as possible to ensure that the competition is fair.
Since it's the SO's job to enforce the rules, it's a very good idea to read the rules, and to re-read them periodically -- at least twice a year. But beyond just reading them, it's important to actually understand them. The IDPA rules can be summed up in one sentence: "The targets shoot back!" IDPA is predicated on self-defense and concealed carry, and IDPA stage design guidelines and rules reflect that basis. The Safety Office has the ability to cut the new shooters some slack on procedurals at their first match. Be liberal in interpreting the Course of Fire Description when it is vague. Avoid becoming a "range nazi." Remember, you should be helping the shooter to avoid procedural errors, not waiting to pounce on them when they make a mistake.
Mentioned above that the SO should maintain a "hard focus" on the gun the entire time it is out of the holster. This means that the SO may not be able to fully enforce the rules under many circumstances. To make up for that, the Scorekeeper should be relied on to keep an eye out for cover violations, target engagement order, and other procedural errors. The Scorekeeper is not "just some shooter with a clipboard," the Scorekeeper is also a safety officer and a match official empowered to enforce the rules. While the primary Safety Officer deals with the immediacies of a gun being fired in close proximity, the Scorekeeper must watch for procedural, safety, and cover violations. So the Scorekeeper's role is quite important to keep the squad moving efficiently.
Remember that the Safety Officer's job is to ensure the safety of the shooter and bystanders, to help the shooter to complete the course of fire correctly and enjoy the match, to handle the shooter using correct and concise range commands, and to enforce the IDPA rules in a fair, consistent, and impartial manner.