Timing gun

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A timing gun was used during drum corps competitions in many competition circuits including DCI and the CDCA. It was a gun that fired blanks, usually a starter's pistol to indicate to some judges when to begin and end judging the corps that was on the field. Corps usually used the time after the gun was sounded to signify the end of some judging to "pull out all the stops" without fear of loss of points due poor technique. The gun was usually fired by the Timings and Penalties judge.

This method lent itself to the tick system of judging and the timing gun was phased out in DCI competitions soon after that system was replaced with the present build-up judging system.


The timing gun was used in DCI through 1983. A single shot would sound on the first note of music or the first step of drill, signifying the start of the clock.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s pagers were used by DCI field execution judges to fufill the same function as the timing gun.

The show time in DCI until the 1986 season was 11 1/2 minutes, at which time the gun would sound 2 shots, to 13 minutes. At the sound of the 11 1/2 minute gun, all judging would cease except for General Effect. Another single shot would be fired at the 13 minute mark, signifying a corps going overtime.

The 11 1/2 minute gun was used by some corps for dramatic effect in their shows although it was difficult to synchronize.

1984 was the first year the timing gun (or other means of timing field judging) was not used, and judging went through the entire program in all captions from that time.

Starting in 1986, show times were reduced to 10 1/2 - 11 minutes.

DCA used the gun through the 2004 season, but as the shows were judged in their entirety, there was no time warning shot prior to the overtime gun.


  • The shot can be heard at the very end of the 1983 Spirit at Atlanta show, although they beat the gun by a bare whisker to avoid a penalty.