Shooting sports ethics

Let’s say you’re at a major IDPA or USPSA match; and the following happens. A shooter goes through the COF and hits a no-shoot target, however the RO doesn’t notice the hit on non-threat while he or she is making his scoring pass. You however do notice it. At this point, you’re faced with your first decision tree, with three options:

  1. Say nothing and let it play out
  2. Tell the shooter, “hey bro you tagged a no-shoot”
  3. Tell the RO/SO, “hey, you missed a no-shoot that so-and-so hit.”

I generally feel that #3 is kind of a d-bag move, and myself would go with #2. If I tell the shooter, then it’s on the shooter to do “the right thing”, whatever that is. Option 1 is also a perfectly acceptable option if you’re from the “not-my-problem” school of thought. I think though that #2 is the closest to the “right” thing to do in this situation.

Choosing Option 1 is problematic for a couple of other reasons, because you’re then faced with another decision: do you tape the no-shoot and go on with your business, or do you leave it un-taped and hope someone else catches it? These are kind of trouble because if no one has hit the no-shoot yet, someone is going to notice a fresh paster on the target. Even worse though is if you don’t tape the no-shoot, and then some other shooter gets tagged for a penalty. The combination of “not saying anything” + “not taping it” is absolutely a jerk move.

Option 3 is right out because no one likes a tattletale.

So we’re left with #2 as our “best” choice, which could then lead to another decision. So you tell the shooter that he or she tagged the no-shoot, and then they say “thanks” and proceed to not do ANYTHING. The “honest” action here would be for the shooter to go to the RO and say “hey, I drilled the no-shoot, put that penalty on my scoresheet.” But what if they don’t? Here’s your new decision tree based on the shooter not owning up to their penalty:

  1. Say something to the RO
  2. Do nothing, it’s not your problem
  3. Do something so you don’t look like a dirtbag

Again, saying something directly to the RO is still kind of a tattletale move. Doing nothing in this case seems like a bad idea as well, because then someone else is getting away with cheating. The most entertaining way I’ve personally seen this handled was a match where Shooter B told Shooter A about hitting a no-shoot, Shooter A did nothing, so Shooter B waited a second before asking “hey, does anyone have any pasters for this no-shoot?” It produced the desired result without looking too much like a narc.

The fourth option, which I intentionally didn’t list is to wait until the score-sheet is signed and then paste the target.

But the real ethical question here is simple: to what end are competitors responsible for enforcing the rules? You could argue quite convincingly that if the RO doesn’t see it, then it’s not a penalty. Everyone I know has had situations where they’ve gotten away with a 180 or some other violation because the RO didn’t see it. Happens in real sports all the time as well.

So the question from this post is for the readers: to what extent do you fee shooters (not the RO) are responsible for enforcing the rules? And if put in this situation, what would you do?


  1. Well the easy answer is “IF its not a safety issue then its not my job!”, and at the end of the day the harder/right answer is to (while still not acting like a douche-nozzle) keep other people from being harmed by the shooter’s actions stuff like “you don’t tape the no-shoot, and then some other shooter gets tagged for a penalty”… I guess what I’m trying to say is for the smaller stuff its not my issue but for the bigger safety stuff and/or the collateral damage to others on the range I have to draw the line there. For the collateral I’d like to think I’d be posed enough to get it done without having to point fingers (saying something like “hey guys hold on, shouldn’t we tape that one too?” comes to mind .. I didn’t say who shot it, but at the same time I keep the decent guy down the line from getting hosed)

  2. Shooting isn’tnoike any other sport that I have played. The Ro is usually completing for one. Everybody resets for another. If that trophy means that much to you, you are already the dbag and I no longer cq4e about giving you the option.

  3. Normally, I agree with you 99% of the time. But, not this time. This whole “don’t be a tattletale” is an ethical quagmire. To me, what you’re really saying is, “I know something is not right/legal/unethical, but I’m not going to say anything about it.” Hence, you have no ethics or integrity. You KNOW it’s wrong, yet sit on the sidelines because you would rather your peers think better of you than do what the RIGHT thing to do is.
    A 12 yo girl died because 15 other girls spread rumors and bullied her. One of them was her former BFF. Don’t be a tattletale? Really? What if someone else had spoken up, could she not be alive today?
    I agree that you should put the onus on the shooter to correct the RO’s mistake. But if he doesn’t own up to it, and he beats you by that one round, is it still fair not to be a tattletale? I don’t think you would, and whose fault is it then? YOURS. You and the shooter both lost on the range and you both also lost on integrity.
    And, we wonder why the kids/politicians growing up today behave the way they do…

    1. No one has ever died because someone didn’t mention a hit on a no-shoot, dude. Calm down, it’s actually insulting to the victims of actual bullying to compare it to something as paltry as a USPSA match.

  4. If I was part of the gallery (from another squad waiting or in-squad but not actively taping) I wouldn’t go running across the stage to point out a missed target. However if I’m taping targets and on those rare occasions it does happen, I have and will stand at a mis-scored target and tell the RO on his way up range: “you might want to take a look at this”. I have yet to have an RO not thank me for pointing it out or a shooter call me out on it. In this instance I’m simply backing up the RO, who generally wants to execute their duties as fairly, honestly and equitable as possible. At the same time it doesn’t exhibit the excess douchiness of cupping your hands around your mouth busting out a chorus of “Dude hit a n shoot”. I think this approach is the best balance between “none of my business” and “all of my business”. I’ve also been on receiving end and have no problem with anyone taping targets catching and error. I only want what I shoot and thankfully, most competitors feel the same way.

  5. Yeah, in football the easy answer is “point at the no shoot and yell to the RO immediately.”

    Funny how different social rules are in different sports.

  6. One standard. Firm, fair, consistent and explicitly communicated to all participants. When competing, it doesn’t matter what’s at stake. The same enforcement of the rules every time. Otherwise, there is no confidence of getting a fair shake.

    Would your actions be different if there was $100,000, commercial deals, sponsorship and prizes at stake instead of ranking?

    What are you going to do if someone doesn’t get called and you do and that difference means placing/prizing in the “final”? Oh well?

    It sounds like you are more concerned with the politics rather than the integrity of the competition. This is not accusatory. I don’t compete in those organizations. There may be an unwritten policy or understanding not being communicated here. These may be invitationals or other events or opportunities you are barred from if you’re deemed “undesirable”. I don’t envy your position if this is the case.

  7. If a competitor hit a no-shoot and considered me a “tattletale” for calling it while I was pasting, he’s the unethical one. It’s a game. It has rules. It’s scored. Complaining because you’re being scored according to the rules instead of getting an unearned lucky break is BS.

    When I was shooting for Beretta and SIG, there were times when a *teammate* would point out that I’d done something to earn a penalty, or vice versa. No one ever got offended by it. We were there to play by the rules. I’d have been far more offended if a teammate walked up to me later and whispered, “Hey, bro, they didn’t catch the no-shoot and I pasted it for you.”

    1. Yeah, this is why I like my first Option 2 so much, because it allows me to do the right thing by pointing out the hit on the no-shoot, and then it’s on the shooter from there.

      I really don’t like the secret no-shoot pasting, or the pasting a target before it’s reviewed so your buddy can get a re-shoot, that’s messed up. It happens, because participating in the shooting sports doesn’t magically make people ethical, but at least it’s rare.

      1. because participating in the shooting sports doesn’t magically make people ethical, but at least it’s rare.

        You must not be hanging around with the correct people. May want to rethink the crowd so people don’t get the wrong idea about you.

  8. Same question other way: if the RO calls a lower score, do you say anything? (ex: two almost overlapping in the A and a D) I’d point out both. Accuracy is more important than ego. ROs mess up just as easily as anyone else.

  9. If I was the RO in that situation – and I’ve been an RO in that situation, the default rule is “benefit of the doubt goes to the shooter”. If I don’t see it, and you bring it up, even if you say you saw the shooter make the no-shoot hit, do I know you are telling the truth? What if I missed it on the previous shooter’s run and nobody saw it? If my assistant RO (there are always two ROs on every stage at a major match) missed it, and I missed it, and the shooter signs his/her score card, we tape the hit, somebody got a gift, we move on and do a better job checking that no-shoot.

    What I’ve seen occur in that situation is that people will wait until the shooter has signed the scorecard, and then say something like “RO, please make sure that no-shoot hit gets taped before the next shooter’s run.”

    1. I think this post gets the win for me. Much like in baseball where you have a human calling balls and strikes with their own personality, we have individuals calling scores and cover with their own personality. If you want it dead on, have all scoring done by computers and push for video instant replay.

  10. My Father taught me that you ate only as good a man as you act when no one is watching. When you are pasting, you ARE acting in an official capacity, whether you are match shooter as well or not. You have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the game for all the other shooters as well.

    Any competitor who does not call the penalty on himself when made aware is unworthy of protection. As far as I’m concerned,it should’ve an auto DQ if he is made aware and doesn’t self report, making someone else do it .

    In these circumstances I put myself in the great Bobby Jones shoes when he penalized himself at a golf match “When he was praised for calling a penalty on himself: “You might as well praise me for not breaking into banks. There is only one way to play this game.”

    1. Q: Why does it take an example fom a bygone era to display the integrity by which we all should conduct ourselves and our affairs?

      A: Because we have become so degraded.

  11. A person who considers following the rules of the game as being a “tattletale” or a “d-bag” move values being liked more than doing what is right. Integrity is doing what’s right regardless of whether people like it. The game has rules. Yes, the scoring is the primary duty of the SO, but all shooters are responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game. Option 2 is an attempt to shirk the responsibility of standing up for what is right by shifting responsibility onto someone else, so you can remain the “nice guy.”

  12. I have helped ro before a simple .hey ro did u get this one is enough no need to yell an let everyone no

  13. The competitor is responsible for every shot whether it is a perceived mike, Hit on a non threat, or a possible double. By not saying anything regardless of the situation affects YOUR integrity as a competitor, the match itself and the sport. If a competitor wins because of the “missed call” on the ROs account or the competitor that did it and wins their division, then how is it a true win?

    I am a little disappointed in some of the responses by individuals and some parts of the article.

  14. Caleb, I know you didn’t graduate from CGA, but your approach is a sure sign you absorbed the Honor Concept. You don’t have to rat your buddy (like our USNA & USMA buddies do with their “nor tolerate those who do” clause), but you DO have to hold your buddy accountable, even if it’s telling him “you screwed up. make it right.”

  15. It may have been an extreme example, but the reasoning comes from the same place. It’s all about how the opinion of others is more valuable than doing what’s right. I have a five year old daughter that’s WAY too concerned about what other people think. So, yea, I may have “over reacted” to the question, but as a parent trying to teach her right from wrong, what chance do I have to see her graduate high school if she values the opinions of others over doing what is right?
    It’s a cultural thing, I get that, but if someone does not take ownership of their own integrity, regardless of the circumstance, it’s saying that the opinions of others is more valuable than doing what is right. And, in this political climate, finding leaders willing to fight for what is right and not just politically expedient has become a rarity. Where will the leaders we’re looking for to help protect our inherent right to self-defense come from if we can’t even trust someone to discount unfavorable opinions of being a “tattletale” if they won’t even confront an error on a paper target?
    Guess you were looking for a simpler answer, but I looked deeper. Too deep? Probably. But at my age and experience, it’s what caught my eye.
    Still a fan, though… (insert new fangled emoticon here)

  16. Lets toss something else in the mix. The target is easy to use as an example, because it doesn’t change until pasted, but what if you see the shooter engage in a foot fault but the SO doesn’t call it? There’s no way to go back and relook at that or “watch the replay.” Would you tell the SO or the shooter, or just leave that alone because there is now no “evidence” ? Just continuing the discussion……

    1. As I see it, there is no reason for SO to apply penalty for a fault which no Officer witnessed on his own eyes.
      “Benefit of the doubt goes to the shooter” – if SO didn’t see it, it IS AND SHOULD BE some doubt a fault happened, at least for him.

      I think the “standard solution” is just telling the shooter he made that fault and let him process this information on his own.
      Or let it be, if you think this specific shooter is not worth to deal with.

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