CategoriesRule of the Week

Rule of the Week: Unsafe firearm handling and the 170° rule.

I have noticed while shooting stages such as the Mine at the Oklahoma Territorial Marshals, the Fort at Indian Territory SASS, and the Ghetto Mine at Lincoln County Cowboys, that it is quite common for shooters to return back uprange once having finished the stage in such a way as to no longer have the barrels of their long gun(s) pointed in alignment with the 170° rule.

This confused me. As written in the Shooter’s Handbook the 170° rule is always to be observed at any particular time while on the range. But again, I’ve observed seasoned cowboys and cowgirls with years of Range Officer experience under their belts return uprange on one of these stages with their barrels pointed in a safe direction, but not within the 170°. So I did what I thought would be the most sensible thing in this situation: I called Roy’s Creek Dan.

Among other skills and accomplishments, Roy’s Creek Dan is an excellent cowboy gunsmith, a SASS End of Trail World Champion, and a Range Officer Instructor. From years of SASS experience and communication with the Range Officer Committee, Roy’s Creek Dan is virtually a walking SASS Shooter’s Handbook encyclopedia.

As soon as I brought this up with Roy’s Creek Dan, and before I could even finish describing my question, he knew where I was going. And his answer certainly did simplify things. According to Roy’s Creek Dan, the 170° rule only applies from the time the buzzer goes off until the last shot of the stage is fired. At all other times, the applicable rule would be Unsafe Firearm Handling.

Unsafe Firearm Handling is a bit of a catch-all, and is not exactly defined in the Shooter’s Handbook, other than as a reason for a Stage Disqualification Penalty. The spirit of the rule is contained within the Safety & Handling Conventions — All Firearms (page 15 of version 25.1 of the Shooter’s Handbook). With regards to the handling of your firearms other than during the shooting of the stage, this largely means pointing the barrels in a safe direction at all times while carrying them. From the Shooter’s Handbook:

The muzzles of all long guns must be maintained in a safe direction at all time (generally “up” and slightly downrange)

Rather than the 170° rule, it is Unsafe Firearm Handling which covers the shooter returning uprange, and this explains why I’ve never seen anyone penalized for breaking the 170° while doing so. This seems like common sense, but I’m glad to have this clarified for myself and I hope you find value in it as well.

CategoriesRule of the Week

Rule of the Week: Discarding of Long Guns

As I’ve seen this particular rule come to the fore in a few different matches lately, I’ll be highlighting it as my first Rule of the Week post.

From pages 17-18 of version 24.2 of the SASS Shooter’s Handbook (emphasis mine):

Long guns will be emptied and discarded with their barrels pointed safely downrange. This condition may be corrected on the clock, prior to the next round being fired. If the long gun is not discarded empty prior to the next firearm being fired, only the shooter may return to open and/or clear the firearm at the end of the stage under the observation of the CRO/TO. Should an empty casing/hull be ejected or found in the action or chamber, or a live round on the carrier of an open action, a Minor Safety Violation (MSV) will be assessed. However, if the action is opened, and a live/unfired round is ejected, a Stage DQ (SDQ) will be assessed for a long gun with a “live round under a cocked hammer having left the shooter’s hands”. In this case, there is no opportunity to correct this condition before firing the next firearm, as the penalty takes effect upon leaving the shooter’s hands.

–If the long gun is the last firearm used, it must be cleared prior to it leaving the shooters hand(s) at the unloading area.

–This does not apply to firearms shot out of sequence, made safe, and then restaged.

Shooters Handbook Vers 24_2 MASTER (

A recent example: A shooter fires nine shots from their rifle and sets the firearm down, barrels pointing down range, action open, but with a live round on the carrier. In this case, the shooter may return to the rifle before the next round is fired, engage the final target, then proceed with the stage and this would be a No Call. If, however, the shooter proceeded to fire their next gun (or were to place the rifle on the reloading table prior to clearing it if it were their last firearm used), then the shooter would be assessed a Minor Safety Violation.

A quick reference to this rule can also be found on the RO Pocket Card as the first item listed. The RO Pocket Card can be found as Section 8 of the Shooter’s Handbook.