Shooting sports ethics, part 2

Yesterday I asked you a hypothetical question based on a scenario some people have encountered in the shooting sports, where you noticed a hit on a no-shoot that neither the shooter nor the RO had noticed.


Yesterday’s post was a bit of a set-up to open two different questions about the shooting sports, and ethical behavior in our sport as it differs from “real” sports. So let us dig in to this fairly meaty question of ethics; and use some examples from real world sports as well.

The first thing to note, is that the shooting sports are very much unlike real sports in one major aspect: in football, baseball, boxing, etc the referees are competing against the very people they’re supposed to be officiating. While on the surface, this would appear to create a conflict of interest, it generally doesn’t. My experience with the vast majority of ROs and SOs in the sport has been that they are ethical to a fault. Do they miss calls? Certainly. Do some RO/SOs give favorable calls to their buddies? Sure, it happens but it’s not frequent enough to be a problem.

The second point that’s important to establish is that people who compete in the shooting sports are people in every sense of that word. Now, perhaps it’s because the shooting sports draws primarily from the generally ethical gun culture, but shooters do tend to be a better class of people than you’d find at a beer league softball game. Nothing against beer league softball, but it’s a different culture. That being said, we would be foolish to assume that everyone in the shooting sports is a saint, because we all know that some people in the sport aren’t. We’ve all seen examples of it; and while we may not like it, it’s there. Human nature is as much a part of the shooting sports as any endeavor.

With that established, we’re back to the original hypothetical situation, except now you’re the shooter. You pop a no-shoot at a match, and while you’re walking through your targets with the RO on his scoring pass, you notice your hit that the RO doesn’t see. We all know what the right thing to do in this situation is: you tell the RO, “hey brah, you missed this no-shoot that I tagged.” That’s a clear-cut right/wrong decision.

Or is it? If an NFL cornerback commits pass interference but doesn’t get flagged for it, he’s certainly not going to say to the ref that he should be penalized on that play. If a runner is stealing second base and gets tagged out before he touches the base, but the umpire calls him safe, he’s not going to pop up and say “actually, I was out” and walk off the field. It’s unheard of “real” sports. You could make the argument that those players are choosing to act in the best interests of their team, which I’d generally accept, but it’s also evident in individual sports as well. One has to look no further than the Olympics to see examples.

So how then does this apply to the shooting sports? Am I suggesting that just because NFL and MLB players will cheat “just a little bit” that we should follow their example? Actually, quite the opposite.

You are responsible for your own ethics. I know that may seem obvious, but it’s the central point of today’s post. You, and only you are responsible for your actions on the range. You’re not responsible for the actions of other people, whether it’s another shooter, the RO, or the scorekeeper. While you’re not responsible for their actions, that also means you can’t pass the buck to them. “Oh, the RO didn’t call that no-shoot, not my problem” is a justification. If you hit the no-shoot, you earned that penalty.

The bottom line of this post is simple: do the right thing. It doesn’t matter if NFL players don’t, or if another shooter on your squad is a d-bag – you’re responsible for your own ethics, and you’re responsible for your actions.

Now that we’ve covered black-and-white situations, tomorrow we’ll take a look at the much more complicated gray areas: procedurals, 180s, and potential DQs.


  1. I equate the shooting sports to golf. 99% of the time a serious golfer will record an accurate score and follow the rules. Most of the time they will call a penalty when no one else is aware of it. Shooting sports should be the same. In the end you are competing with yourself and not being honest really cheats yourself.

  2. How about keeping your graphic PG so your post can be discussed with young people please.

    1. You know David, I was going to read this piece, then I saw that TRASH and it has made me think twice about this site period.

  3. I had a long response typed out but I’ll simply say this.

    At the end of the day, what’s more important to you: a trophy or your personal honor?

    1. Well, that pretty much sums up part 3, now I’ve got to figure out a way to turn Todd’s one sentence into 1,000 words.

  4. Once again, you are only as good a man as you are when no one is watching.

    I disagree that as a shooter you don’t have a responsibility for other shooters, RO’s, etc. That’s the attitude that got us where we are in this country today. We are all responsible to the integrity of the sport. The RO has the responsibility to decide if the he felt the “No Shoot” was hit on that particular run, or to not score it. BUT…we all have the responsibility to point it out, because that protects the integrity of the game. Protecting the integrity of the game is paramount in the shooting sports because the mass media would LOVE to be able to find a cheating scandal regarding guns! BUT even more important, each competitor has a responsibility to protect all the OTHER competitors. As essentially a solo sport, it is most like golf among the major sports, and as a rule, golf is different than all the other major sports in that golfers “call their own”.

    Using “real” sports as a comparison is a straw man argument. There is no mechanism for professional athletes to “call their own”. I have seen city and national level softball situations where the competitors made sure that the right call was made. Sometimes by calling themselves out, sometimes by making sure the opponent got all they deserved. Here’s just one example: I once watched an Umpire at a softball game say, “I simply couldn’t see the play, were you out or safe?” When the player didn’t immediately say anything, the Umpire looked at him and said, “You have to go home tonight and look in the mirror, are you going to be looking at an honest man?” The player chuckled and walked to the dugout, saying, “Yes, I am!”

    Bobby Jones quote REALLY does apply. When he was praised for calling a penalty on himself that NO ONE ELSE SAW, he said, “You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank. There is only one way to play this game.” Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt the same. Golf is played for millions of dollars now, and yet the players still call their own. Maybe thats why the greatest sportswriter in history, Grantland Rice, said, “Bobby Jones is not one in a million persons … I should say he is one in ten million – or perhaps one in fifty million.” and Herbert Warren Wind, the greatest golf writer went even farther, “In the opinion of many people, of all the great athletes, Jones came the closest to being what we call a great man.” Funny that Bobby Jones was an attorney! Wouldn’t that be the kind of attorney you wanted?

    The shooting sports are really the only sport where we practice a skill that is potentially fatal to others. (I realize other sports can be fatal, but the purpose isn’t placing a potentially fatal action on every play!) Everyone should be of the highest ethics. If winning is more important than looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you are honest with your fellow man, than you shouldn’t be shooting. Go play a sport where winning IS everything. Go play a sport where you don’t have a responsibility to call your own. Go play a sport where the rest of the players are as much of a thug as you are!

    1. That was an awesome re-telling, I liked the part about Bobby Jones. Yet it ends where it gets really interesting: So what if Bobby Jones made a mistake as an attorney that no one else noticed? A formal mistake by himself that would cost his client dearly? Would you as his client want him to call that?

      What if a player in a team calls a penalty that not only costs them but their team? What if that happens only after the opposing team had a similar incident and got by without calling it? What if this team is not full of well-to-do pros but people that depend on winning?

      For me personally it is easy. I don’t do team sports. I do not do this for a living. I only compete with myself, even if I have to stand in line to wait for others to do their run. My decision process is rather simple because of that. But for the examples given above… I am not sure whether my personal ethics would allow myself to put my feeling of righteousness about the well-being of others.

  5. LOL, only if winning is more important than looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you are honest with your fellow man!

  6. Wow, thanks Caleb – for taking the air right out of my rants yesterday! Dude, I was feeling soo righteous and eloquent and then you had to suck ALL the air out of my balloon. You could have at least had been courteous enough to stretch your conclusion out another 37 paragraphs.
    I shall now drag said limp balloon back to my desk chair and shove it deeply under my desk and wait another five years before posting on a website again.
    Humbly yours…

  7. As someone raised with an over-developed sense of honor, I’ve always found it really weird that lying is such an established part of normal “sportsmanship.”

    On the other hand, what are morals but an agreed upon standard of behavior – if both of you are lying to the ref, everything still works out fair enough.

  8. Two quotes from the Science Fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold:

    “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.”

    “There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That’s soul-destroying. The other way around in merely very, very irritating.”

  9. Integrity= Doing what is right, even when the consequences may not be what you desire.

    Lawyers have an interesting conundrum. They are, by definition, supposed to represent their client to the best of their ability. But they are also officers of the court, and if they KNOW something that materially changes the case, they are obligated to reveal it. (Thats what the discovery process is for). Thus, a mistake that would cost a client dearly, but that was unreported and unknown, would create a real and complex problem. Its why most criminal defense attorneys don’t want to know if the client is guilty or committed the act. Thus they are not placed in that situation. Your point is valid, this particular issue is complex.

    The team sport one much less so. Winning without honor is not winning, it is cheating. Were I one of those teammates, I would feel terrible if I won under those circumstances. Once again: The determination of the man is how he acts when no one is looking. If you associate with people who you think would rather win than have integrity, then I would suggest you need new friends. Winning at any cost is not winning.

  10. Anyone have an opinion on the practice of letting the “on deck” shooter tape the previous targets? Is it an open door to temptation?

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