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"The rule book says(if I'm not butchering the rules) that if the charging unit starts out of max range of the ranged attack (as is the case here) the attack is resolved at the maximum range of the ranged attack."

The reason the rules are written as they are, as in so many other cases, is to simplify and speed up the game. I think you're overthinking this issue. All that the rule is meant to convey is that each model that is eligible to fire (front rank, front two ranks if on a hill, etc) makes a single attack at EITHER maximum range of their weapon, or the starting range of the charge, whichever is the closer of the two. Simply take a shot for each of your gnoblars using the rules for firing at 8" range and resolve it appropriately.

For fluff reasons, you can picture each gnoblar throwing trash as soon as the enemy comes within his personal range. The idea is that they're quickly getting off the first available shot and then getting ready to get up close and personal with the chargers.

For game purposes, it doesn't really matter at which point they shoot, since all shooting is resolved at once. The same interpretation works with skirmishers as well as with rank-and-file missile troops.

Hope that helps!
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