Anyone who has shot competition matches for any length of time has run into the Rules Lawyer – the guy who tries to use the rulebook to gain whatever competitive advantage he can, and often wheedles and wines about the letter of the law. I actually love the wikipedia entry on Rules Lawyer that I’ve linked to; as it’s correct in that I first encountered the term when I was in the military, and I’ve most often heard it referenced in role-playing or board games.
Now, the problem with rules lawyering in the shooting sports is that some of the shooting games’ structures tend to make this sort of behavior easier. My 2nd favorite shooting sport (behind Steel) is IDPA, which unfortunately due to the sometimes unnecessarily complicated rules you end up seeing this sort of behavior come out more and more. For example, the favorite topics of the rules lawyers in IDPA are three things:
- Improper use of cover
- Trying to do the RO’s job for them
For example, during a club level match, say you accidentally forgot to retain a magazine that had rounds in it, and reloaded USPSA style and kept shooting. Now, if the RO and you didn’t notice, then it’s no big deal. However, a rules lawyer will have noticed, and will point out to the RO that you dropped the mag with rounds in it and that you should get a procedural. The rules lawyer also loves to point out if you’re not using cover correctly, or just generally try to act like it’s their show.
Now, there are several ways to deal with this character. The first, and best way, is to be classy. If he points out a legitimate penalty, you man up and take it. That way you end up looking like a classy guy, and the rules lawyer ends up looking like a dick. If you happen to be the RO, and some guy in the squad is constantly rules lawyering, take them aside from the other shooters and politely remind them that they’re not the RO.
I will say this though; usually the worst cases of rules lawyers happen at club level matches. Sanctioned matches usually have measures in places to counteract this sort of activity. Unless you get a rules lawyer as your RO, which is pretty much terrible.
Rules lawyering isn’t limited to IDPA. I’ve seen it happen in steel matches, USPSA, and even bowling pins – the key thing to remember if you run into one of these guys is to not let them ruin your fun. 99% of the guys that you’ll shoot competitions with are good guys, and are there to have fun and shoot some bullets. Only rarely will you run into that 1% of guys who want to spoil the fun for everyone else. When you do, just let it ride, keep shooting, and have fun. That’s the most important thing you can do!