The event was superbly organized. Nine stages were fit into 4 shooting bays. The shooters were moved from stage to stage efficiently and safely. The 50 or so of us who shot Saturday completed all the courses of fire in about 4 hours. Each squad was divided into two groups of five, and we alternated through the two stages in each bay. The same "warm up" stage was set up in each bay and each shooter shot it to begin the match.
Shot in three strings, the warm up stage mandated freestyle, strong hand only, and weak hand only body and head shots. This was a little more challenging than most of the "get the match jitters out" stages I've encountered, but it got the job done.
In bay one, "Mall Rampage" started out with us dragging an "injured person" being cover and then shooting from low cover at partial targets. The theme of shooting from low cover appeared several times in the match. This provided the opportunity to shoot from positions rarely seen, and never practiced, but was still the source of much moaning throughout the day. In the same bay we found "Trash Raid." Here we started out shooting from retention before moving on to hit a stomp plate which started a swinger appearing behind a non-threat. Additional points of cover provided close, but tightly angled targets.
Moving to the next bay, we encountered "Save Your Neighbors!" Two targets were engaged on the move, before we again took low cover. Shooting from kneeling or prone, three targets were placed at 15 yards, with both hard cover and non-threats adding to the challenge. All targets required three hits each. However, I soon discovered that the left most target had a very nice group of three hits, all in the hard cover! Three misses for me right there.
Shaking that off, I moved on to "Save my kids... No, I mean goats!" After retrieving the loaded gun and spare magazines from a table, we moved to (again) a low barrel laid on its side through which we engaged the targets.
One of the stages I found the most fun was "Convenient My A--." The course of fire started with a close target requiring both a body and head shot. Moving to the end of a wall, there were two long shots to be made on a partial target and another head-body combination hit on a target from the cover of the wall. Advancing down range we stopped at another cover position for two more hits on the lone long target, as well as another target requiring head and body hits. Moving further down range we again engaged the same lone target with 2 more shots, and then leaned around cover to find two more head-body targets.
|Me. Photo courtesy C. Claxton|
The end result of the stage required a body and a head shot on five targets, and 6 hits anywhere on the target we had engaged from three positions. Given the non-threat covering the target, and the distance involved initially, I took care to avoid the penalty target, even if it meant hitting the target wide. When I reached the final shooting position, I fired the two required shots, as well as 4 fast make up shots, ensuring six -0 hits, before shooting the final two targets.
Another much talked about stage was "Peace and Quiet?" We started out seated on a the "porcelain throne" with the loaded gun at our feet. Retrieving the gun, we dropped to low cover (!), engaging the targets "under the stall wall." The targets presented close shots, and were arranged in three groups of two, with a non-threat in the center of each group. The decision facing the shooter was to slow down and make all heads, or shoot body shots and risk hitting a non-threat. My focus was on making the head shots.
My targets on this stage were all -0. However, I had also shot one of the non-threat targets — with two perfectly placed head shots! I retrospect, I realized my preparation for the stage involved the choice to make all head shots, and how to position myself to quickly and accurately make the shots. I never actually went over the target order in my head. Shooting slightly upwards from the crouch, the "jazz hands" marking the non-threats were obscured by the firearm. On the first array I simply moved across all three heads and shot them. A costly mistake, but a lesson learned.
In "Abducted" we shot five partial targets that were arranged behind a couple of non-threat targets. The targets were close but the -0 zones limited to either head shots or partial body zones. It was a stage that easily tempted you to shoot too fast. "Robbery In Progress" was the final stage I shot. Seated at a table, the shooting kicked off by shoving a briefcase off the table, grabbling the gun from a box, and loading it with a magazine also left on the table. Two partially exposed targets were shot on either side, followed by two more partial targets which were also obscured by a swinging non-threat that had been activated by the falling briefcase. There was a lot going on for such a small stage.
This was the first match I shot since getting a match bump to Expert at the VIR match a couple weeks ago. I was looking forward to the new challenge that created, and also slightly intimidated. Unfortunately too many mistakes prevented a good showing. I finished 6th of the six SSP EX shooters, and 15th of 36 in the SSP division. However, I've learned a few things, and will be all that much better prepared for the next time.
I found this to be a challenging match. There were lots of tight shots, long shots, and awkward shooting positions. Tightly angled shots under low cover are especially challenging. I was generally happy with my shooting on most of the stages. However, when I did poorly, I did very poorly. I would be lying if I said it didn't affect my mood afterwards. But still, it was fun overall. If it wasn't I wouldn't keep doing it. The failures at the match simply mean more reasons to practice.
The match was extremely well run and, to this shooter's point of view, went off without a hitch. No detail was overlooked by the staff. Parking lot attendants, donuts at checkin, water at every stage, attentive SO's who kept us moving and safe, creative stage design; the organization was superb. Adding to the pleasure were sunny skies and moderate temperatures, one could hardly have asked for a more pleasant day.
After the match, I enjoyed a relaxing BBQ lunch and a cold beer with friends before beginning the drive home. There was even time to shop for distilled spirits, as is our tradition when traveling to Maryland. It made for a most enjoyable day. Now, I am looking forward to getting back to the practice range and preparing for next time.
A few more photos from the match are posted here.