Are IDPA Safety Officers and USPSA Range Officers Interchangeable?

Are IDPA Safety Officers and USPSA Range Officers Interchangeable

This morning I was doing a little brainstorming, trying to come up with an interesting discussion topic for the Walt In PA Facebook PageOpens in a new tab. when I had an idea. I wondered, can a good IDPA Safety Officer be a Good USPSA Range Officer and vice versa?

My experience with this question is very limited. While there seems to be a fair amount of crossover between IDPA and USPSA shooters, I don’t see a lot of crossover between those that choose to run shooters. Even though my experience is limited, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the subject and discuss.

I don’t think I know anyone who has been trained in both disciplines. Those that choose to volunteer seem to specialize, or have taken a training course, as either an IDPA Safety Officer or a USPSA Range Officer. Shooters that typically volunteer seem to step up whenever a little help is needed, making due with the experience that they have.

Let me preface this discussion by saying that I appreciate those that take the time to volunteer. The objective here isn’t to gripe about one sport or the other. Let us draw on our collective experience and outline the pitfalls of taking on one roll while specializing in another.

IDPA Safety Officer acting as a USPSA Range Officer:

As a USPSA Shooter crossing over to IDPA, I had some trouble keeping up with all of the rules. IDPA is a very structured sport which outlines aspects of the stage for the shooter. There is limited freedom in how a shooter goes about a course of fire. For this reason, IDPA Safety Officers tend to make judgement calls that cause problems at USPSA Matches.

On more than one occasion I’ve been told “You can’t start the stage this way, you have to face this direction for safety.” While I appreciate the RO looking out for the safety of everyone in attendance, judgment calls can’t be made unless it applies to all shooters on all squads.

USPSA is very structured but it allows the shooter freedom to game each stage. The written stage brifing is just as much about what is included as what isn’t included. The pitfall in this situation seems to be the IDPA Safety Officer, acting as a USPSA Rage Officer, making a judgment call that only applies to the squad under their direction and not everyone in attendance. USPSA doesn’t have a provision for the spirit of the game which seems to be a difficult thing to overcome.

USPSA Range Officer acting as an IDPA Safety Officer:

The first time that a USPSA Range Officer acted as my IDPA Safety Officer I had mixed feelings. On one hand I appreciated the laid back familiarity of USPSA but, on the other hand I thought some of the nuances of the game were overlooked.

On more than one occasion I’ve seen cover calls completely missed. This seems to sacrifice the games nuance for speed. While I appreciate the forgiveness, I think it takes away from the same spirit of the game which IDPA Safety Officers strive for in their sport.

Are Safety Officers and Range Officers Interchangeable:

In the grand scheme of things, I think that a good IDPA Safety Officer can be a decent USPSA Range Officer and vice versa. I think that being good at both is very difficult and may not be achievable for the average shooter specializing in one sport.

I’m not opposed to being run by anyone as long as they are actively trying to follow the rules laid out by the sport. Volunteers are difficult enough to come by without me being picky about who runs me through a stage. Perhaps by discussing the pitfalls we can promote crossover between the sports?

Can a Good IDPA Safety Officer be a Good USPSA Range Officer and vice versa?
What are some of the problems you’ve experienced when being run
by someone specializing in the other sport?


Hi There, My name is Walt White and as the name of this blog suggests, I am a Pennsylvania resident. In addition to having numerous hobbies that I discuss on my blog - I’m also the father of three little girls and a pitbull.

2 thoughts on “Are IDPA Safety Officers and USPSA Range Officers Interchangeable?

  1. Hello Again. To offer my 2 cents worth on this topic, well it may be 3 cents. IDPA and USPSA while similar, are two totally different games, and so are their rule books. While everyone who knows me knows that when I bleed, little letters that spell IDPA come out. I have shot a few IPSC matches and am a member of USPSA and you will see me at many IPSC/USPSA matches this year as my nephew Mike will be doing the shooting there. ( I am too fat, slow, old, ect for IPSC! ) As for your question Walt, I see no problem with a IDPA SO performing the duties of a USPSA RO. That being said, please remember that to qualify for either position there is a training class that must be attended, and a test to pass for both. Now I can’t speak for USPSA, but from taking the IDPA SO class, one is reminded of the very intent and primary focus of the IDPA Safety Officer, the shooters’s gun! We are all trained that our eyes are not to leave the shooters gun while the shooter is on the line. We are there for the safety of the shooter and squad. Many of us rely on the SO to be the judge and the jury while a shooter is running a stage. In the perfect world, the score keeper is the one who is watching for things like target order, cover, and the basic procedure of the stage. This also brings me to a perfect time to announce that I will be holding a Score Keepers Training Class in January. More info will follow. In my opinion the score keeper is every bit as important as the SO in IDPA. So many times I see a brand new shooter being handed the score board and told ” Keep score, it is a good way to learn! “, while a seasoned shooter or even SO stands back and puts their main focus on how they are going to “Game” the stage. BOO HISS, and FOUL I cry. NEVER should a new shooter be handed the score board. Never. I know that I have wandered away from your main question here, but i felt this was a good spot to address this issue and hope for other opinions. Now back to your main topic. My answer would be yes, if a person is trained both as a IDPA and USPSA SO/RO then the basic duties are the same. While the rules may vary from sport to sport, Safety is Safety! In the perfect world every match would have dedicated people to RO/SO each stage, taking out the variable of interpretation, which we all know is different from squad to squad, and is the thing that drives me crazy as a MD. So I hope that my few cents worth of comments is of some value to someone. Lets always remember a few basic things here. First, SAFETY if goal #1 ALWAYS! Second, we do pay match fees to shoot these matches, and spend money on ammo and such, but we are at a match to have a good time, and not to make sour grapes over a judment call, unless it is a safety concern. Then I want to hear about it. And third and final, at a local match, what do you win?
    Thank You!

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for the comment, you’ve got a lot here to talk about (all of which are great points). Like you have a passion for IDPA, I have a passion for USPSA. If there was a single misconception about USPSA that could be wiped off of the face of the earth, I would love for it to be “You have to be an athlete to shoot USPSA / IPSC”.

      Just like IDPA, you have the people shooting USPSA to win, you have those shooting for pure enjoyment, and you have those in between. If you are going to be attending matches anyway, why not shoot? I’ve been beaten up on by larger and older men on more than one occasion. It is all about finding a balance between speed and accuracy to be as efficient as possible. Shooting and moving fast is great but neither trump accuracy.

      I agree with your take on the score keeper. I take that role very seriously when shooting USPSA and know that if the RO misses something, I’m supposed to catch it. I’ve played the role of scorekeeper at IDPA Matches once or twice but I’m very uncomfortable doing it. I don’t know enough about the rules to be a ‘good’ scorekeeper and just wind up following the SO around and writing down numbers.

      The inspiration behind this topic was that I’m planning on taking an RO course in 2013 (They have to be sanctioned by USPSA and there wasn’t one close to home this year). I was also considering taking an SO class if one became available. I was curious if I could be ‘good’ at both jobs or if there would be a problem bouncing from match to match, acting as an RO one weekend and an SO the next.

      Thanks again for the comment.

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