There’s a reason that equipment divisions exist in 3-gun matches, and that’s to keep everyone competing at the same level. Pitting someone with a pump action shotgun and a 7-round 1911 against another shooter with a Saiga 12 and 33-round Glock 17 isn’t a fair comparison. Divisions keep people from being able to ‘buy’ their way to a championship, and make the competitions about shooters’ skills rather than who can buy the best muzzle brake. And at a national level competition, with professionally-sponsored shooters, you expect that a fair amount of attention would be paid to making sure that equipment is properly configured for your division. But for one shooter, a failure to properly read the rules recently kicked off a rather large controversy and might lead to a change in how rules are enforced at USPSA multigun events . . .
Let me preface this by saying that the shooter in question (Barry Dueck) is, by all accounts, a great guy. And from what I’ve been able to gather, there was no malicious intent at any point on his part. It looks like an honest mistake, and one that he has already made right. But it’s still a good idea to take a look at what happened, and how it might be avoided in the future.
Barry came in second place to Erik Lund (of Team FNH USA fame) at the Texas Multigun Championships in the Heavy Metal Optics division a few weeks ago. At that match, which features .308 caliber rifles, shooters were allowed one optical sight on their rifles. Normally the “heavy metal” division is restricted to iron sights only, making both recoil and target acquisition much harder. But since the Texas guys don’t follow USPSA rules, they can change the divisions however they like.
The following weekend was the 2013 USPSA Multigun Nationals in Las Vegas, Nevada. That competition used a different ruleset, one in which no optics were allowed on a heavy metal limited division rifle. Red dots were okay for the standard limited division (5.56 rifles), but not for the heavy metal shooters. Yet when Barry pulled his rifle out of his case, it still had an Aimpoint red dot mounted.
This is where reports of the incident become a little sketchy. One guy at Brian Enos’ forum says that Barry was made aware of the issue (his firearms not being within spec for the division) before the end of the match, but didn’t alter his equipment to comply and didn’t report himself. Whether that happened or not, at the end of the day when the scores were posted, Barry had won his division using an illegal firearm (in terms of the competition, that is, not the kind of illegal weapons that can land you in prison).
After a match is finished, competitors have a one hour period to challenge their scores and bring questions to the attention to the match staff. This is something that has bitten me in the past, finding things out only after the challenge period had ended. That’s a problem because once the challenge period ends, the scores are declared final. As in, not subject to change. Over.
So when it was revealed to the match director that Barry’s equipment was not in compliance with USPSA rules, the period for challenges had ended and the match staff said it was too late to change the scores. At that point, Barry accepted the win and picked a up a prize from the prize table.
The normal process when a competitor shoots with non-compliant equipment is to kick them into the “open” division and let them continue competing against everyone else. But since the challenge period had ended, there was nothing at that point that could be done.
There has been a ton of discussion online about ways to keep this from happening again, ranging from mandating equipment checks at the beginning of a match to allowing an exception to the 1-hour rule to alter match results. But at the end of the day, Barry himself decided to make things right. Here’s the post from his Facebook page:
Barry Dueck, winner in the Heavy Metal Limited division of the USPSA MultiGun Nationals has DQ’d himself from the match after discovering that he inadvertently shot the match with a non-compliant optic. Below is a copy of the message sent by Barry to Phil Strader, President of the USPSA several days ago.
“Phil, please invalidate my score in Heavy Metal Limited from Nationals. I Put my gear together specifically to fully comply with what I read in the rules online a couple weeks before the match. After reviewing the rules since returning from the match, my rifle did not comply due to a 1x non-magnified optic. I was confident that I had read the rules correctly but I was incorrect. I will send the Trophy and the prize from the match to Jeff Gross who with my score invalidated won the match. Thank you, Barry Dueck”
USPSA officials have responded acknowledging the difficulty of this situation. Rules where reviewed in to see if Barry’s scores could be transferred to the Open Division but since the match was completed this was not possible.
This is an unfortunate incident but not without merit. We can all use a reminder to check and double check our information, and when we find that we screwed up, own it, make it right and move on.
There are still all sorts of juicy rumors flying around, but since this story isn’t about shaming a shooter – someone about whom I can’t find a single bad comment anywhere on the internet – I won’t get into them here. Instead, let’s look at how this happened and how it can be avoided.
The biggest pain in 3-gun shooting is that every match seems to have its own ground rules, and reading the rulebook each and every time can be tedious. But if you’re competing for prizes, it’s something that you probably should do. Personally, I like to double check the rulebook the day before the match to make sure that I haven’t left something on my gun that will get me in trouble.
Another issue is that, whenever you see something happening at a match that you think is unsafe or against the rules, you need to let someone know. The only thing that keeps competition shooting so safe is strict adherence to the rules of the sport, so any infraction should be reported to the match staff. If there is an problem, it can be handled promptly and settled then, once and for all. If it’s a false alarm, no harm done.
In general, always err on the side of caution. For both competitors, and for match staff. And when in doubt, ask someone.