Dissecting a FTDR IDPA Penalty: Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club

Ever since I began looking into Competitive Shooting, I have heard and read great things about Ontelaunee Rod and Gun ClubOpens in a new tab.. For some time now the club has been on my list of places to visit. I was finally able to cross them off of that list today and upon doing so, they were added to my list of clubs to shoot at more often.

Even though I didn’t shoot the best match, I genuinely enjoyed myself and hope to shoot there again soon. While I was having a good day, there was one individual who’s mood changed towards the end of the day. After an argument with the Assistant Match Director, he was issued a FTDR (Failure To Do Right) Penalty for the way in which he shot a stage.

After the discussion that was had here a few months back, where a friend of mine damaged a prop during a match, I was eager to report back and get your thoughts on the matter. Initially, I was glad to see this shooter be issued a penalty. Now that I’m home and giving it more thought, I’m beginning to think it may have been the wrong call.

Stage 5: Left to Right

When I arrived at the club for registration, I did a quick walkthrough of the stages. Of the eight stages to be shot, there was one that was more complicated than the others. It consisted of 3 Strong Hand Targets, 2 Steel Poppers, 1 Swinger, 1 Up & Down, and 3 Weak Hand Targets.

Shooters were to begin the stage seated in a chair. At the buzzer they were to stand and begin engaging targets. The order varied for Right Handed and Left Handed shooters.

FTDR IDPA Penalty - Ontelaunee IDPA - Oct 2012 - Stage 5

The Root of the Problem:

It would seem that the Stage 5 Course Description was a little vague. Some shooters saw it one way while others saw it differently. The difference between shooting it one way versus the other was that some shooters were gaining a competitive advantage. In the case of the FTDR, the shooter gained a tremendous competitive advantage.

After reading the stage description, I formulated a plan and began watching the squad ahead of me shoot the stage. The first shooter I watched did just as I planned. He stood up, drew his gun, and began firing from a static position.

The next shooter to take on the stage did things a little differently. This shooter stood, drew his gun, took a big step forward, and fired from a static position. My gut reaction was that this person was closing the distance in the name of safety. By taking that large step forward, he was getting away from the chair and ensuring he didn’t bump into it while transitioning through targets. I didn’t see this as a big deal and continued to watch.

When the shooter that was issued the FTDR began the stage, he stood up and closed approximately half the distance to the targets before he began shooting. A couple of the shooters within earshot of me grumbled that what he did wasn’t right. At the time, I agreed with them.

FTDR IDPA Penalty - Ontelaunee IDPA - Oct 2012 - Stage 5
The Shooter in this photo did NOT receive a FTDR – It is for illustration purposes only.
The grey silhouette is approximately where the offending shooter was when he began shooting

Issuing The FTDR:

After the squad ahead of us finished, we began to get ready to shoot. The Assistant Match Director came over to see how far along we were when the issue was brought to his attention. That guy can’t do that, it wasn’t within the spirit of the game. The Assistant Match Director walked over to the next bay to discuss it with the shooter.

When the Assistant Match Director came back over to our bay, he announced that the guy just kept arguing with him over the issue and, as a result, he was throwing out the stage. A couple of the guys contested, saying that he shouldn’t throw out an entire stage based on a problem with one guy. After a few seconds of deliberation, the Assistant Match Director told us that the stage would remain and the offending shooter would receive a FTDR Penalty.

Ask The Readers:

It would seem to me that there are two big questions with regard to this incident. They don’t necessarily mean the same thing, which is what fascinates me about IDPA. The first question is obvious: Did the shooter break the rules of the game and earn himself a FTDR? The second question isn’t simple at all: Were the shooter’s actions in the spirit of the game?


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 - Iā€™m also the father of three little girls and a pitbull.

21 thoughts on “Dissecting a FTDR IDPA Penalty: Ontelaunee Rod and Gun Club

  1. I disagree with this call. The course description did not state that he could not move or that he had to “fire from P1” (indicating that the course of fire had to be shot from a single position. If the stage description doesn’t say that you can’t move, then you can.

    Did he gain a significant competitive advantage? He sure did. Should he be penalized for that? No. He thought outside the box and “gamed” the stage, but that’s not against the rules. Maybe the course designer intended the stage to be shot from one position, but the course description didn’t say that. So unless the SO specifically stated that the shooters were to fire from P1, or standing by the chair… then this person really did nothing wrong. He simply found a way to do it better. Even if the SO did say that you have to shoot from the chair, it a should only be a PE since it wasn’t written in the stage description .

    Just my two cents.

    1. Todd,
      How do you feel about the initial call to throw out the stage? Granted, it didn’t happen but had other shooters not have contested, it would have been tossed.

      What happens if the SO of the FTDR Shooter felt the action was fine, then my SO (different guy, different squad) felt the opposite. In that situation, you may have two squads shooting two somewhat-different stages (although they are the same on paper)?

      I’m very new to the game of IDPA and sometimes think I know just enough to be dangerous (as far as rules and penalties are concerned)

      Thanks for the comment

  2. So here’s the deal. He found a better way to shoot the stage than everybody else . Good for him. He gets a better score. That’s the game. You can’t throw out a stage just because some dude did it better than you did (or in this case, better than everybody else did).

    If two SO ‘s disagree, then it goes to the match director (or in today’s case, the acting match director as the actual match director was at the PA State Match today). It’s then his /her job to be fair and impartial about it. Read the stage description and make a decision based on what it actually says rather than what the SO or other shooters think it should mean. A shooter can’t be expected to be clairvoyant, so if a course designer wants a shooter to do something specific, then the stage description should specifically say that. Shooters SHOULD be looking for the best way to complete a course of fire. They should certainly NOT be penalized for that.

  3. So here’s my other two cents. There are “purists” within the sport of IDPA who seem to believe that everybody who does IDPA should approach it from a “real life training” point of view. You’ll hear them say stuff like “that stage is ridiculous, that would never really happen. …” A lot of them will shoot matches with only an actual carry gun from an IWB holster or whatever holster they actually use in a daily basis. And that’s fine. That’s what IDPA is for. But the fact of the matter is that IT’S STILL A GAME, AND THERE WILL BE GAMERS. And that’s fine too. When that guy ran forward, everyone who saw it probably thought, “that’s not what he was supposed to do” assuming that the shooter knew what the course designer intended. There are also a lot of things that are common in IDPA stages, when you go from sitting to standing, and the stage description doesn’t say “while moving to P2…” then you stand still. Well, maybe the purists can learn something from the gamers. The course description didn’t say stand still, so why would you make yourself a static target to your cardboard attackers?

    1. Todd,
      I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. As a USPSA shooter, I can appreciate the good gaming of a stage. When it comes to IDPA, my competitive drive isn’t nearly as intense. At the end of the day all I want is a respectable score and to have fun (where as with USPSA I want to win).

      I guess because I have a ‘purist’ slant, some things strike me as being a little dirty. Baby-steps backwards when the stage description calls for the shooter to retreat to cover is a good example of this (has nothing to do with this, just needed an example). That isn’t to say all gaming is dirty, some of it is quite genius.

  4. I did not shoot this match, but I would agree with the FTDR. Here is my reasoning:

    A) IDPA normally wont have every single little detail of a stage written down and some things are assumed – based on the layout and the stage, it would be assumed that you stay at the chair, no cover was available, and it was to be shot standards style.
    B) IF you want to say it didnt say stay at P1, then the shooter should have retreated to behind the chair and used it for low cover – shooting around cover as specified in the course of fire. Reload would have been behind cover in order to follow IDPA rules.

  5. There is an old joke in IDPA that the way to shoot the course of fire is how the SO tells you to. The reward for being smarter than the MD is often 20 seconds.

  6. Forget for a minute how the COF was intended to be shot, arguing with a MD, like arguing with an SO/RO, can appropriately be grounds for an FTDR. It’s not that you must agree with the MD on all things, but you should respect the MD’s call.

  7. Mark, it would be a PE at best and in all the matches I’ve shot, NEVER seen a folding chair as cover.

    You’re correct in the they don’t spell everything out, for example: 2 shots on paper, concealment required unless otherwise noted, etc… But if you want the guy to stand still, tell him to “shoot from P 1”.

    I see your point about standards stages, but given the steel activated moving targets and the seated start position, it wasn’t really a standards stage. Certainly not a normal one.

  8. I too don’t see what the guy did as wrong, he complied with the directions of the stage. Screw the “spirit of the game”. The spirit of any game is to win within the rules. I don’t read anything in the stage description which kept him from doing what he is doing. As for wanting to toss the stage, how can you do that when a bunch of other squads went through it without a problem?

    But this is one of the reasons I’ll never shoot IDPA. Way too many stupid rules and limitations and not stupid “spirit of the stage”. But that’s just me. šŸ˜€

  9. The stage called for “stand, draw & engage.” But according to your description ” This shooter stood, drew his gun, took a big step forward, and fired from a static position.”

    That is pretty clear to me. He did not follow the stage instructions and did gain an unfair advantage.
    Moving is not engaging. If he had shot while moving forward, then he’d have a case to argue.

  10. annette, I see your point abut arguing w/ the SO and MD, and thought about mentioning that earlier. But I really don’t know how bad the argument was and how long it continued. As far as I know, it could have been a respectful discussion. The original question was in regards to whether or not the shooter deserved and FTDR for how he shot the course of fire.

    The stage description only says “stand, draw and engage T1 – T3 STRONG HAND ONLY.” It does not say to do it “from P1” or behind cover or any other specific point. It does not say do not engage on the move. The instructions only tell the shooter that he/she is not to shoot while seated and that he/she is to engage T1 – T3 strong hand only.

    The fact that he stopped moving before he began firing is not relevant since there was no position of cover to move to. If there was a position of cover, then you could make the argument that he should have been firing while moving. But again, even if there was a position of cover, it’s a PE not an FTDR.

  11. This may be a little off-topic but does IDPA specify a minimum safe distance for shooting steel? In USPSA, a shooter can be DQ’ed for a safety violation if they engage steel targets inside of the minimum (I think it is approximately 21 feet) distance.

    In the event that there is a minimum safe distance AND the steel was close to it, what would happen in this case? If the shooter closed the distance on the paper, I would imagine he would take the steel as well (it makes no sense to run back to shoot steel, then forward again for the moving targets).

    Who is in hot water in that case?

    The Staff for not being concise enough in the written stage briefing, or the shooter for not knowing what was in the rule book?

  12. The description should have stated it… but this is a standards stage and should have been shot as such. The guy was outside of the spirit of the game. I think the FTDR is warranted and the guy that took the “large step forward” should have received a procedural.

    If you are going to to something drastic… clear it with the SO and ignore all this mess.

  13. Shooter could have cleared his intention with the SO like normal thus avoiding the whole mess. FTDR stands as far am I’m concerned. Really, the CoF should have been written correctly, so I’d agree with throwing out the stage as well.

  14. A shooting box would have solved this whole issue. I’m disappointed one wasn’t used, but not surprised, especially if the stage designer and match director don’t shoot much besides IDPA.

  15. IDPA rule book page 75 appendix 9 section c. Steel targets should not be shot closer than 10 yards.

    The way the stage was designed complied with the rule book. Running forward violated the rule book.

  16. “On the start signal stand, draw and engage…”
    Seems pretty clear to me. There’s nothing in there about “advancing on the targets” And as Kerry pointed out, advancing on the steel violates the rules and is unsafe.
    It definitely seems well outside the spirit of the rules to assume that anytime a specific firing position is not listed in the COF that the entire bay is a free fire zone. My feeling is, if you want to do something like this, you ask the SO before you start… if you don’t, you’re taking your chances for an FTDR.

  17. First, there is non such thing as a “free fire zone” in IDPA. That’s a USPSA thing. Second, FTDR’s are supposed to be used rarely, when it’s clear that the shooter was trying to cheat. I think there are enough valid arguments regarding this situation to determine that there were some parts of the course description that were open to interpretation and was not an instance of trying to deceive or circumvent rules. If his distance to the steel was so close that it was unsafe, then the SO should have given the “STOP” command and had him reshoot. You don’t allow a shooter to continue a course of fire if he’s doing something unsafe. So for those of you who are chomping at the bit to give this guy an FTDR, remember this the next time you do something you’re not supposed to during a stage because you didn’t understand or interpreted it in a different way and take your 20 second penalty without complaint.

  18. I was there that day. And even if he stepped forward, to me it wouldn’t have been advantageous. If it was just forward he would actually put himself in a worse position for the fringe targets as they were cross-body. I do think he deserved the FTDR. The stage didn’t say anything about firing on the move. Everyone I saw played it the same way, stand, draw and fire from P1.

    For those not familiar with the stage:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPD0jGNtKuc (forward to 7:33, ignore my crappy shooting)

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