Monday, March 5, 2012

First USPSA Match of 2012

On Sunday it was time for the first USPSA match of 2012, held by Fredericksburg Practical Shooters. I've been looking forward to getting back on the competition horse and seeing what results may have come from my winter range workouts.

The day started out cool and overcast. And, it pretty much stayed that way all day. There were a few moments a brief rain sprinkles, but never enough to even break out the plastic bag to cover my gear. I was glad I had light gloves in my bag to wear when I'm not shooting.

I thought the stages offered a wide variety of challenges to test our skills. There were long shots when watching the front site was critical, and stages where you could go as fast as you felt comfortable. There were open targets, and targets that were almost completely hidden, or crowded by no-shoots. A few pieces of falling steel were thrown in, as well as a moving drop turner. Most of the courses of fire were intermediate in size, consisting of 12-24 shots, so we got to do plenty of reloads, and there was a lot of movement required on the part of the shooter.

While all of the courses of fire were interesting and challenging, there were a couple of points that stood out in my mind at the end of the day. Our squad started on Stage 3, which was a straightforward course with 12 targets to be engaged from 3 different shooting areas. Here it is —the first shots on the first stage at the first match of the year. It was just the stage to get the me warmed up for the rest of the day. Stage 4 looked pretty straightforward, with some strategically hidden placed steel as well. But this stage was deceptive as there seemed to be a fair number of shooters running past targets without engaging, or shooting and missing. There was one upside down target, with it's bottom half (which was at the top) blacked out as a non-target which I managed to fire at and miss with both shots!

Stage 6 was a fun course. There was a mix of paper targets and steel at the start and the finish. In the middle were two ports that gave a view of seven targets down range. The course designer had placed a no-shoot, and the walls, so that you had to use both ports to hit all 7 targets, and you couldn't see them as contiguous groups. Stage 7 had the shooter moving down a center runway, hitting targets on either side. This was a good opportunity to try shooting on the move if you were so inclined. At the end of the course was a drop-turner activate by a falling steel popper. Once the popper was hit, the drop-turner would briefly face the shooter as it lowered, and then disappear. I managed to get three shots off, and on the target, earning an A and C hit. This target make me think, if I can hit it so quickly, why does it take me so long to aim at the non-moving targets? But then again, I don't get to shoot these disappearing targets often enough to know repeatable that is. :-)

In all there were 7 stages to be shot, including a classifier. The Fredericksburg matches are always well-attended and make for a long day. This match was no exception, with about 120 shooters spread over 6 squads. I arrived at the range at 8:00AM, and the match kicked off at 9:00AM. My squad finished shooting at 3:30PM. The chair I carry around essentially serves as a table for my range bag, as there's little time for sitting since we stay busy pasting targets between shooters. By the time I arrived home I was hungry, tired, and my legs were a bit achy, but I was happy to have played that day! Despite a few misses I was pleased with my performance overall. Did the Winter range time pay off? If not in obvious ways, I did find myself going into each stage with a little more confidence, and not excessive jitters. There are always improvements to be made and things to do better, but really the key point is to have good, safe fun. And that I did!

Fredericksburg has two new Match Directors this year, and it seemed to be an unanimous opinion that they did a superb job putting together a fun match. This was a great match to kick off the season. I came home tired and looking forward to a well-earned cold beer. I can say I'm already looking forward to next month's match!

A shooter steps off on Stage 7

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