IDPA Rules Revisions: Let the bodies hit the floor

Today we’re continuing our look at the new IDPA rules revisions; and I want to go over a section in the “safety” portion of the rules that doesn’t actually make anyone safer, but in fact is quite dangerous. Turn your rulebooks to Chapter 2, Section S14. Once again we’ve italicized the text that I’d like to draw attention to:

S14. The SO will physically stop a shooter when possible, most likely by grabbing his/her arm, if the shooter is about to do something unsafe. If the shooter would have received a Disqualification for the action, even though the action was stopped the shooter will still receive a Disqualification.

When a shooter is about to run into a barricade, potentially trip or fall, or do something unsafe, the SO will physically intervene when possible, to prevent a potential accident. Because the SO kept the shooter from having a safety issue due to a shooter’s error, there is no reshoot.


Back when I SO’d matches on the reg, only once did I have to physically contact a shooter who was about to do something unsafe; a guy was reloading and spun towards the gallery with his muzzle, and I just sort of block his arm with my forearm. To the first point, I am 100% opposed to the rulebook calling out a requirement for SOs to physically contact shooters. Let’s say for the moment that I’m the shooter, and I’m just flying, completely out of control and I’m about to break the 180. If you see that an yell “STOP” I may or may not be in enough control to actually stop my motion. At that juncture, trying to grab someone who is in the process of doing something unsafe under the influence of adrenaline AND holding a loaded gun is what we like to refer to as a “seriously bad idea.” It puts the SO in unnecessary danger and actually increases the changes of the gun making an unintentional loud noise; as it turns out, people who are all juiced on adrenaline don’t take well to being grabbed. If the SO must touch the shooter to stop them, a far better decision is to use some kind of arm block or hip check that stops the shooters motion, but doesn’t cause the grab/startle response we’re trying to avoid.

However, that’s not even my biggest concern with this ruling; rather it’s the second section about having the SO try to prevent shooters from running into barricades or trip and fall. I cannot be more clear on this issue – if a shooter is about to run into something or trip and fall, LET THEM. There is nothing you can do as an SO in the short span of time in between you realizing they’re about to do fall and them actually falling. In fact, any action an SO could take in that time frame would actually be more dangerous. I’ve fallen a number of times while shooting. Nothing bad has ever happened because my muzzle stayed downrange and my finger was off the trigger. No unintentional loud noises. Imagine now that you’re falling and everything is copacetic until suddenly the hand of the SO catches the flap of your vest, turning your mostly controlled fall into an uncontrolled spin. Suddenly your muzzle is pointed at the gallery and you’re probably getting DQ’d for something that wouldn’t have been a DQ before.

Again however, the real issue here is SO safety. We teach people to not try and catch a dropped gun. It’s dangerous, because you could get your finger in the trigger guard. That goes even more so for trying to catch a dropped shooter. Yes, it’s scary when people slip and fall, but for the most part those falls are under control, and if they’re not, DQ the shooter. But trying to psychically intervene when someone trips or falls puts the Safety Officer at great risk of being the new backstop for any NDs that may happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly want to have an ND into a Safety Officer, and I know that as a former SO I certainly don’t want to get shot in the belly because I tried to grab someone that was falling down. No thanks.


  1. How about changing “shall” to “may”? There are times I’ve grabbed a shooters wrist to stop them from doing something stupidly unsafe. The SO should have the option to physically intervene if he/she is in the right place at the right time. But you are totally right the book shouldn’t ask the SO to physically intervene because it could easily make an already unsafe action more unsafe for all those involves.

  2. I’ve only physically contacted one shooter in my career as a USPSA RO. The young man in question was about to point his gun into my belly as he turned to move to his next shooting position. I grabbed his wrist and forced the gun downrange toward the back of the bay. He did not break the 180, but was probably riding the 179.5. I offered him a reshoot for physically contacting him, but only after explaining why I touched him in excruciating detail.

    My biggest problem is the perceived requirement in the second statement for falls and trips that the SO *WILL* intervene physically. I’m with you–this is a bad idea ™. Someone will probably get hurt if this makes it to final.

  3. I couild not agree more that this is a bad rule. I may think someone is about to trip or fall, but my interfering may actually cause the trip or fall. Plus, as the CSO, I’m watching the gun, not the shooter’s footwork. Also, if a 250lb man is charging down the range is the 140ilb CSO realistically going to stop them or break their fall? I do agree that sometimes grabbing a shooters hand may be neceaasy for safety. I’ve played the game for 10 years, been a CSO for 8, have only done it once myself, only seen it less than 10 times in 125 plus matches.

  4. Good Lord this is wrong for a whole bunch of reasons, most of which have been detailed above. But another reason to add to the list is that it increases the personal liability (yes I do mean the civil not criminal type of liability). Suppose the SO, for whatever reason, doesn’t “grab his/her arm” and someone is seriously injured. It doesn’t matter what type of release has been signed, the SO gets sued and the rule book is used to prove negligence.

  5. SO physical intervention, 3 “finger” warnings, pre 180º warnings/PE/FTDR/DQ, static reloads, and more… way to reduce SO intervention and subjectivity…

  6. Add me to the list of folks who think this is a disaster waiting to happen. If I paid to travel halfway across the country for a major match and got DQ’d because the SO *prophesied* that I was about to do something wrong I’d be quite cross. Worse, if the SO grabbed me and in the process either caused me to discharge my gun unintentionally or caused me to point my gun somewhere unsafe I’d be exceptionally cross and probably quite loud about it.

    It’s especially disturbing given that contradicting rules allow people to violate trigger safety multiple times before being DQ’d.

    Quite a few of the new rules, particularly the safety rules, seem to assume that every SO will be an experienced, intelligent, professional match participant. That’s a wonderful utopian ideal. But it’s far from the reality of most matches.

  7. Caleb:
    In the last paragraph, you probably meant “trying to physically intervene” instead of ‘psychically’ …

  8. Designing stages that make it easy to navigate safely instead of 180 traps and such to test if “the shooter can get thru this safely” would do a lot more for having save events. I don’t believe it is neccessary to test anyones ability to not break the 180 if doing so actually creates an unsafe condition. Challenging matches don’t need DQ traps.

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