Action Match Safety Rules and Procedures

Match Philosophy:
The primary emphasis of the Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match is on self improvement, familiarity with your everyday carry equipment, and fun (as opposed to strict competition). Match costs are minimal, so participation in range set up, tear down, and stage design is expected. Prizes and cash awards are not given. Index

The foundation of all practical action shooting, of which Multi-Gun/Tactical is a specialty, is safe gun handling. Nobody particularly cares how fast you can complete a stage, only that you do so safely. Our position on safety is simple: Violate a safety rule and you are disqualified! You must pack up your gear and leave the range; you will not be permitted to fire another round during the match. We make no exceptions.

All shooters who have never attended a Multi-Gun/Tactical match are given a safety briefing before their first match. This applies regardless of a shooter's prior experience at other matches. This new shooter briefing goes over all of the match and range safety rules. New shooters are encouraged to think first about safety and of their score second.

Shooters failing to attend the pre-match safety briefing or course walk through (e.g., by arriving late) may be restricted from participating in the match (to be determined at the discretion of the Match Director or Safety Officer). Index

Weapons Handling and Designated Loading Areas:
This match is run on a hot range, i.e., all weapons are presumed loaded and must not be handled except on the firing line or in the designated loading area(s). All long guns must display an open bolt indicator (chamber flag indicating an empty chamber) when they are removed from your vehicle or their case. [It's best to place chamber flags into you rifle before transportation to the match.]

The loading/clearing/function checking of weapons may be done only in the designated loading area(s). Designated loading areas are defined by the Match Director (MD) and shown to shooters during the pre-match briefing. The only exception is the loading of a magazine into a holstered weapon—handguns only, see below!

On a hot range (as run by this match), handguns are loaded, holstered, and worn by the shooter throughout all courses of fire—including rifle and shotgun stages. This is because shooters often transition to handgun when their long gun malfunctions or is shot dry. A number of shooters in this match are use to IPSC or IDPA style matches and rules. If a shooter prefers to carry an unloaded handgun and load on the line, that is fine. However, the shooter's handgun is never removed from its holster except in the designated loading/unloading area(s) or during the shooter's run.

Your vehicle is never considered to be a safe loading/unloading area.

Weapons such as magazine fed rifles or subguns will only be loaded with a magazine on the firing line and only after the Safety Officer's command to Load and make ready!. Shotguns and other types of weapons that are not magazine fed will be loaded in the designated loading area(s). [This may be the firing line depending on the course of fire (COF)]. Index

The 180 Rule:
Matches are usually conducted in bays that are surrounded by berms on three sides. Imagine a line through the shooter that runs parallel with the downrange berm. This line defines the one-eighty. As long as the gun is pointed to the downrange side of this imaginary line, the muzzle is known to be pointed in a direction where an accidental discharge (AD) should impact the berm.

Allowing the barrel of the weapon to slip uprange of the 180 introduces the possibility of a shot going uprange and hitting someone. Any violation of the 180 is a serious violation of match rules and results in an immediate disqualification from the match, even if no round is fired and even if the shooter's finger is off the trigger!

All drawn weapons must be pointed downrange at all times while running through the course of fire and while on the firing line. Should a target be passed, do not turn or go back to it. This target is scored as a miss. Turning or going back to a missed target may break the 180 rule and disqualify you from the match. Index

Guest participation in matches will be allowed when accompanied by a sponsoring shooter. It is the sponsoring shooter's responsibility to ensure the their guest(s) receive a formal safety briefing and follow all rules of safety during the match.

Guests wishing to observe only are welcome, but sponsors are responsible for them just as if they were participating in the match. Index

Shooter Participation:
The safety of all shooters overrides personal fun. We must all act responsibly. Everyone shooting in a match is expected and required to assist in setting up, tearing down, resetting steel, patching targets, and cleaning up. This makes it possible for all of us to enjoy the shoot and keep match costs to a minimum. Shooters needing to leave early, should arrive early to help set up. Shooters arriving late should stay late and help clean up.

Anyone observing any safety violation is responsible for bringing that violation to the attention of the Match Director or Safety Officer. Index

For your safety, eye and hearing protection are to be worn at all times while anyone is shooting. This includes spectators as well as shooters.

Handguns: Semiautomatic and revolver type handguns may be used. If the handgun has a user actuated safety (many auto's do, most revolvers don't), it should be in good working order.

Many handgun stages require the shooter to draw from a holster. Cross draw holsters and shoulder holsters are prohibited! Holsters which are ill-fitting or without adequate mechanism to retain the weapon while shooter is moving may not be used. The final decision as to the adequacy of your holster resides with the Match Director or Safety Officer.

Long guns: Rifles and shotguns should be equipped with a sling or carry strap, working safety (if applicable), and optic or iron sights. [Sights are not necessary for shotgun, but are helpful when slugs are shot at distance.]

The sling or carry strap is used by the shooter in stages that require transition from long gun to handgun. Some long gun stages (particularly shotgun and subgun) assume that a shooter will transition to handgun should the shooter's long gun malfunction or run dry. Safe transition from long gun to handgun requires training and practice. The long gun should be shot dry or put on safety, or both, before slinging. The 180 rule must be carefully observed.

A number of shooters use bolt action rifles and pump action shotguns with great success. It is not necessary to expend large amounts of money on expensive semiautomatic, magazine-fed carbines or rifles.

Ammunition: No tracer, armor piercing (AP), or armor piercing incendiary (API) ammunition. Steel jacketed ammo is fine, steel core is not. Unacceptable ammo includes US M855, European SS109, and Canadian C77 steel-core .223 ammunition. For pistols, jacketed, cast lead, or hollow point ammo is acceptable. Although birdshot is adequate for most shotgun stages, it is helpful for the shooter to keep a small supply of buckshot and slugs available for more specialized shotgun stages.

Magazine pouches suitable for holding two spare handgun magazines and one spare rifle magazine are useful, but not required (assuming the shooter has large pockets).

Many stages, particularly in the winter months, are done in low light or no light conditions. FBI statistics show that a majority of armed encounters occur in low light or no light conditions. Shooting ability in a low light environment is considered a practical skill and is in keeping with the Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match's philosophy. A tactical, handheld flashlight is helpful, as are tritium sight inserts (handgun and rifle) or a rifle scope with illuminated reticle.

Note that low light shooting requires that shooters be able to load, unload, and clear malfunctions to their weapon in the dark. Know your equipment, practice until you can load/unload with your eyes closed—then try it with your eyes closed.

All guns used in the match are assumed to be in a safe and working condition. If the weapon has a safety, it is expected to be in good, working order. All stages start with the weapon's safety on. Weapons which repeatedly jam or misfire will be removed from the match (as determined at the sole discretion of the Match Director or Safety Officer).

Clothing worn should allow freedom of movement such that the shooter can get into all of the major shooting positions: standing, kneeling, sitting, and prone. Knee and elbow pads are not usually needed, but can be used if desired. A good fitting pair of shoes should be worn to facilitate movement between targets and the scaling of obstacles. A wide brimmed hat and sunscreen are recommended.

The Multi-Gun /Tactical Action Match is not an endurance course. Shooters with physical impairments will be accommodated whenever possible. For example, a shooter with a bad knee might be allowed to take a shot standing rather than kneeling. Shooters will find that consistency and accuracy count more towards a high score than quick feet or a fast draw. Shooters should bring to the attention of the Safety Officer or Match Director any particular inabilities they may have in completing a course of fire during the stage walk-through.

Expensive or elaborate equipment is not required, expected, or necessary for successful participation in this match. It is assumed, however, that the shooter's equipment is safe, serviceable, and that all shooters are practiced and familiar with their equipment.

It is recommended, but not required, that shooters participating in the Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match use the same gear that they would normally carry. For example, an LEO might dress casually, but use his/her duty belt for match stages.

New shooters are strongly advised to attend one or two matches before purchasing additional equipment. Index

Safety Officer Commands:
The shooter is responsible for understanding the requirements of a particular course of fire before coming to the firing line to begin his/her run. At the beginning of each Multi-Gun/Tactical stage, the Match Director or designate (with the assistance of any stage designers) conducts a course walk-through of each stage. Shooters are offered the opportunity to see action props work and ask questions.

Shooters are usually given the opportunity to move about and consider their run, but not always, as some stages are designed to present novel/surprise situations for the shooter to handle in real time. By the time a shooter moves to the line to begin a run, he/she is assumed to know the course of fire requirements.

The Safety Officer uses the following commands to start the run:

  • Range going hot! This signal is used after the SO assures himself that there are no people downrange to the shooter. The Range going hot command signals people behind the line that firing is about to commence.

  • Does the shooter understand the course of fire? The SO may ask this optional command to allow the shooter one last opportunity to ask questions about the course. If the competitor later claims that he/she didn't know that those targets had to be engaged from that box, it's too late.

  • Load and make ready. On this command, the shooter will face downrange (regardless of the starting position), fit ear protectors, safety glasses, load/check their weapon, and make it ready (e.g., set the safety to on if applicable). The shooter then takes up the specified starting position for the stage. All shooters will begin each stage with their weapon's safety on.

  • Is the shooter ready? If the shooter is not ready at this command, he/she should say, Not ready. Don't be surprised to hear the SO use similar phrases, such as, Shooter ready, or Nod if you are ready, in place of Is the shooter ready.

  • Standby! This is the shooter's alert that the start signal will follow shortly. Most stages are begun with the SO causing an audible beep to be sounded from the timer. The starting procedure will be clearly explained if a different starting technique applies (such as the shooter beginning fire after a second beep or when a target begins moving).

    At the designated start signal, the shooter is expected to begin and complete the course of fire in accordance with the specified description. It is usually the shooter's responsibility to determine when his/her run is done. The timer captures the time after each shot is fired, so the official time for the run is the time on the readout after the last shot has been fired.

When the Safety Officer concludes that the shooter has finished, the following commands are used to complete the run and make the range safe again:

  • Holster! Handguns, hot range only. At this point, the competitor changes a partially empty magazine in the gun by inserting full one (optional), switches the safety on, and holsters his/her weapon. The loading/holstering procedure must be done with the muzzle pointed downrange at all times. Or

  • Clear your weapon and make safe! Long guns. The final step of clearing a long gun is to lock the bolt back and insert the yellow safety flag (OBI) into the chamber. If the shooter does not have a safety flag, e.g., it was dropped on the run, then the SO must accompany the shooter back to the gun rack where the rifle will be racked only after insertion of a new chamber flag.

  • Range is clear! This command signals that people can move downrange to score, tape targets, pick up brass, etc.

The Safety Officer (or any spectator) may issue one more command:

  • Cease Fire! Usually an emergency situation has occurred. When the shooter hears this command he/she immediately stops the run, holds position and awaits specific instructions from the Safety Officer. Index


Violation of any of the following rules will result in the disqualification of any shooter.
  • Allowing the muzzle to violate the 180 degree line. Note that this is more easily violated with long guns, e.g., when attempting to reload, while moving to the weak side, or moving around obstacles.
  • Accidental Discharge, even if downrange.
  • Moving with your finger inside the trigger guard during a course of fire.
  • Dropping a gun during a course of fire (this includes having a gun, loaded or unloaded, fall out of a holster).
  • Handling a weapon behind the firing line.
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Shooting under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Index

Scoring Methods:
There are three methods of scoring in common use in action matches; Comstock, Virgina Count, and Timed Fire. The Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match uses a rough combination of Virgina Count and Timed Fire. Due to time limitations, shooters will often be restricted in the number of shots that they can take at a target and total time for the stage (i.e., a par time is set).

Reduced size steel targets are often used (especially in rifle stages) and are scored hit or miss in order to eliminate time spent in patching and scoring paper targets. Shooters are rewarded for low times and minimum shots taken on the target. Some stages will utilize reactive targets requiring A-zone or center of mass hits to actuate the target. Again, scoring is fairly straight forward on these targets; hit, the target fails down, miss, the target remains standing.

One advantage of quick scoring for stages is that shorter stages can often be run through by the same shooter two or more times. This is in keeping with the Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match emphasis on improvement, rather than competition, A shooter will be allowed to redo a stage (time permitting) only when all shooters have completed that stage. Only the score from the first run of the shooter is recorded for that stage.

COMSTOCK - Each target must have a stated number of hits on it. For example, if the stage description says, "Best two hits will be scored," then the best two hits (assuming there are at least two hits on the target) are counted in the shooter's score. The shooter may take as long as desired and fire as many rounds as he/she finds necessary. The electronic timer reads out after each shot is fired, so the time on the display when the shooter is finished is the time at which the last shot was fired. The designated number of hits are scored on each target (see description above for target scoring). If a target has fewer than the specified number of hits, or a steel target is left standing, then a miss is assessed a penalty that is twice the A-zone score (i.e., -10 points for misses on cardboard or 5-point steel targets or -20 points for 10-point steel targets). The score is the sum of the earned points minus all penalties divided by the recorded time for the stage. This ratio of points to time is called the "hit ratio". Negative hit factors (due to more penalty points than earned points) are not counted, so a 0.0 hit factor is the lowest possible hit factor (called zeroing the stage). The greatest hit factor on each stage wins. The hit factor typically runs from 0.0000 to about 10.0000.

VIRGINIA COUNT - Places a premium on gun control by limiting the number of rounds that may be fired. Unlike Comstock scoring, the shooter is penalized for firing more than the designated number of rounds. The shooter may take as long as desired, but a penalty (normally 10 points) is assessed for each extra round fired and for each extra hit. Because there is a penalty for making up for a miss, there is a greater need for every shot to be fired accurately. As with Comstock scoring, the total score for all hits, less any penalties for misses, extra shots, and extra hits is divided by the total time to compute the hit factor.

TIMED FIRE - The maximum time is specified by the stage description. For example, it might call for 16 rounds to be fired in 6 seconds. The timer is set to sound twice, first at the start (as for all types of scoring) and then again at the specified time. The shooter is normally given a 0.3 second reaction time after the finish time has expired. If the maximum time is 6 seconds, then no "late shot" penalty is assessed unless a shot is fired at 6.31 seconds or later. As with Virginia Count scoring, penalties are also assessed for taking extra shots and having extra hits. Index

Common Problems Encountered with New (and some Old) Shooters:
  • I just put this new scope on my rifle and have not zeroed it in yet.
    Solution: There are a lot of shooters waiting their turn to shoot while you aimlessly send rounds down range. Be respectful of the other shooters' time. Sight in you weapon prior to the match. Shooters with malfunctioning or non-zeroed handguns or long guns will be asked to use another weapon for the remaining stages of the match.

  • I just got this rifle/pistol/shotgun back from the smith. Hope it's fixed.
    Solution: Function check your weapon before the match.

  • This surplus ammunition I bought at the gun show doesn't seem to cycle consistently.
    Solution: Use the money you saved through reduced match fees to buy better ammunition. The number of rounds you expend in shooting all the stages in a typical match is probably less than 100 (rifle, pistol, shotgun combined).

  • I only have one magazine, how do I do a magazine change?
    Solution: You can eject and reinsert the magazine to simulate a typical change, however, you might not have enough rounds in your weapon for a complete course of fire.

  • Sorry, I'd like to stay and help clean up after the match, but I've got to get home early tonight.
    Solution: Arrive early and help set up the match.

  • Where am I hitting? How far is that target?
    Solution: Know your weapon. Sight it in on the 500 meter range. Understand scope adjustments and holdover for distances in excess of 100 meters, i.e., 200, 300, 500 meters. You'll take shots at these distances if you shoot the Multi-Gun/Tactical Action Match on a regular basis.

    Because of time constraints, long distance rifle targets are steel and scored hit or miss. There is usually no way to give feedback as to whether you overshoot or undershoot the target as these targets are placed in real field conditions and not in front of an artificial backstop. We'll attempt to give you the approximate range of the target if you request.

  • I did terrible, this type of shooting is not for me.
    Solution: Adjust your expectations. So you've never attended a practical shooting match before and expect to clean house? Attend at least three matches before considering giving up. Remember, the worse match shooter is superior to the 99.5% of the general population (including other shooters) that never practice with their weapon. Index