Match Safety Procedures

Safety Rules and Match Procedures at Action Shooting Matches

Here are some common safety rules and match procedures regarding gun-handling at the various competitions hosted by the Eastern Nebraska Practical Shooters (USPSA Action Pistol, Multigun, Steel Challenge, and Pro-Am) at the Eastern Nebraska Gun Club.

When arriving at a match, please have your firearm unloaded with an empty magazine well, in a bag or case.

Where you can handle firearms:

There are only two places at a match where you can handle firearms (unholster, take them out of a bag, dryfire, etc).

1) In a marked Safety Area. There are marked Safety Tables in several places on the range. In a Safety Area you may unbag your gun, take it apart, clean it, repair it, practice drawing, and dryfire. However, you may NOT handle any ammunition or ammunition carrier in a Safety Area. (This includes a box of ammo in addition to a full magazine.) This means that if you have a filled magazine in a pouch on your belt, do NOT touch it in a Safety Area. You can have it with you---but the moment you handle it (in any way) you will receive a Match Disqualification (DQ) and you'll be done. 

Most people just don't even bring magazines or ammo to the Safety Table--if you watch, most competitors put on their gear belt (belt, holster, and mag pouches), and leaving their mag pouches empty, take their gun (in a small bag) over to the Safety Area to gear up. 

Prior to leaving the Safety Area, make sure the magazine well is empty, point the gun safely into the berm, and pull the trigger. Don't just use the safety or the decocking lever, actually pull the trigger to drop the hammer. Your gun should go "click" after which you can put it in your holster for carry around the match.

Any time you are carrying a firearm and are not actually in the middle of a course of fire, your firearm should have an empty magazine well, the slide should be forward (closed) and the hammer should be down. If you are carrying a rifle or a shotgun, the action should be open, and a chamber flag should be inserted.

The other place you can handle firearms:

2) During a course of fire under the direct supervision of a Range Officer. (RO) If it is your turn to shoot the course of fire, and you are standing in the starting position, AND the RO has given you the "Make Ready" command, then you may unholster your gun---but not before then.

That's it----in a Safety Area, or when an RO says so. Other than that, the gun either stays in the holster, or in a gun bag. Do NOT unholster/unbag at your car, do NOT show people your cool new finished slide on a bay somewhere, do NOT take it out to have someone look at it because it wasn't working behind the stage.

Handguns should be either in a holster, or in a gun bag. Rifles and Shotguns should either be in a bag, OR carried vertically (preferably pointing upward) with the action locked open and no magazine inserted, with a chamber flag.

How the Match Works:

When you show up, go to the shed and register for the match. After that, go to the various bays and ask if they need any help setting up for the match. If not, then you are free to take a look at the various stages of fire. (If there are any activators or moving targets, please do NOT move/activate them. Effectively: look, but don't touch.)

Prior to the match there will be a safety/new shooter briefing. If this is your first time, make sure you attend, and ask any questions you may have. Next will be the shooter's meeting, where any announcements regarding the club, the match, or the stages will be made. After that, the match will start.

At ENGC, the squad lists will be posted on boards outside the shed, so after the match meeting go take a look at them. Your squad will also tell you what bay/stage you are starting on, so gather your gear and head over to meet your squad. When you all get there, someone will come up with a shooting order, and you'll hear the stage briefing. After the briefing (explaining the stage) you'll have about 5 minutes to look the stage over and make your plan. After that, the shooting begins. When it is your turn to shoot, the RO will call you up to the start position, and give you the magic words:

Make Ready

That signifies the start of the course of fire, and it means you can take the gun out of the holster, take a sight picture, dryfire if you wish--and then load the gun as necessary for the stage. For example, if the stage says "gun loaded and holstered, hands at sides" for the start position, it means you should insert a magazine in your firearm, rack the slide, and re-holster, after which you should start upright with your hands relaxed at your sides. (No "gunfighter crouch!")

Are You Ready?

This is actually a question. If you ARE ready, you can nod, say "yes," or do nothing---any of those responses will be considered to be affirmative. If you are NOT ready, say so, and do what is necessary to get ready. Once you stop moving, the RO will ask again if you are ready.

Stand By

When the RO gives this command, do not move---because between one and four seconds later, the timer is going to beep (that's the start signal!) and it will be time to draw and start having fun. If you do move, you might up end up with a procedural penalty for "creeping" which you won't like. So don't move.


Obeying all safety rules, shoot as accurately and as quickly as you can to complete the course of fire.

When shooting the course of fire, some specific safety issues to be aware of:

1) Don't sweep yourself! 

"Sweeping yourself" means that the muzzle of the firearm crossed a part of your body at some point in time. Don't do this---if you sweep yourself at a match, you will be DQed. Just because you didn't shoot yourself this time doesn't mean we are going to wait until it happens--if you sweep yourself, you are done for the day. Be particularly careful when drawing or holstering, or operating doors and such with your off hand.

2) Watch your 180!

The "180 line" is a line running through the center of your body that is parallel with the back berm. It moves with you through the course of fire---and if at any time, the muzzle of your gun "breaks the 180" --- in other word, points uprange past that 180 line, we have a SIGNIFICANT safety issue, and you will be DQed.

The reason should be obvious--you are pointing the gun backward. It might still be pointed at the berm---but if you fire a shot and it hits a rock, it may ricochet into the watching crowd, and oddly enough we don't like that.

The 180 line is also vertical---so if you point your gun upward past your head, or downward past your feet, that's a safety issue also. Don't break the 180.

3) Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard unless you are actively engaging targets!

If you are going to move, take your finger out of the trigger guard first. If you are unloading, loading, or reloading, take your finger out of the trigger guard first. Don't merely move it so it isn't touching the trigger, the rule specifically says "finger must be visibly outside of the trigger guard." 

Now, if you are shooting at target while moving, you are fine---but if you aren't shooting, get that finger out of the trigger guard. As with the previous two rules, this is a significant safety issue, and if you break this rule, you will be disqualified from the match.

Don't sweep yourself, watch your 180, and keep your finger out of the trigger guard unless you are actively shooting at targets.

So---now you are done with the course of fire. You've made it through, you've shot everything in sight, and the RO is standing behind you. He (or she) will say:

If finished, unload and show clear.

Take out the magazine, rack the slide to drop the round out, and hold the slide open so that the RO can see into the empty chamber.

If clear, hammer down and holster.

Release the slide, point the gun into the berm and pull the trigger (click!) and then holster. When the gun is secured in the holster, take your hands off the gun

Range is Clear

Your stage is finished!

So now what? Now the RO will go around and score your targets. Go with them, and make sure that they are calling your hits correctly.

While the shooter is being scored, the next shooter (the "on-deck" person) may wander around the shooting area and rehearse their shooting plan.

Everyone ELSE should help out by resetting the stage after the RO has scored the targets. Paint for steel targets and pasters for the paper targets will be available, and everyone is expected to help reset the stage. Your match will go much faster and be a LOT more fun if everyone on the squad helps out. If you've got someone NOT helping, feel free to hand them a box of pasters and point them in the direction of an unpasted target.