The month of August has been a whirlwind of activity. It started out with my wanting to compete in a Sanctioned IDPA Match and being required to meet the match criteria under a rather short deadline. I spent a little time out of town and when I returned, it looked as if shooting the Liberty Match at Valley Forge wasn’t going to happen. The desire to shoot was reignited when I learned of an IDPA Classifier Match going on at Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club.
Suddenly, what looked like an impossible task in getting classified was very possible. Joining the organization and shooting the match was simple enough, the only area of concern was making the minimum Marksman Classification. All that mattered was making the cut, I didn’t care about earning a higher classification but in the back of my mind, I wanted more than Marksman.
On the morning of the match (this morning, in terms of when this post was written), I got all of my gear in order. I prepared for a normal IDPA Match as well as an IDPA Classifier Side Match. With plenty of ammo on hand, I climbed in my car and made the drive out to Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club.
I arrived, had some friendly conversation with shooters I know from Facebook and USPSA, then introduced myself to the Match Director. During our brief conversation, I learned that the days match was setup as either an IDPA Match or an IDPA Classifier, not both. With a Sanctioned Match on the horizon, I need all of the practice I can get and looked forward to the higher than usual round count.
With my hopes dashed, I signed in for the classifier and found myself shooting with a familiar face. The first two shooters were run from start to finish (One of those shooters is a new Safety Officer and was going to help run the remainder of the shooters). Within 30 minutes, my friend was done for the day. I can’t imagine how board he was for the remaining 3.5 hours of the day.
Up until this point, I was under the impression that the IDPA Classifier had to be shot uninterrupted. Three strings back to back, to back. Instead, all shooters shot one string then waited for others shooters to finish their string. We then moved to String 2 and the same format was followed. By the time we got to string 3, the bay next to us was open and we were split up. This left me firing my first round around 11:00am and my last around 2:00pm.
I found myself getting tired of standing around and became bored. By the middle of the day, my spirit was broken and there was no chance of me finding the rhythm that I use to carry me throughout a USPSA Match.
Going into the IDPA Classifier, I set the bar very low. All I cared about was making Marksman. To me it was all that mattered. After all, without it I wouldn’t be shooting the Liberty Match. As I stood around, after registration, I was talking with friends and was assured that the only way I would miss Marksman is if I tried to bomb it.
I began hearing predictions of high Sharpshooter or Low Expert. Expert, in my second IDPA Match, you’re kidding, right? I was introduced to a couple of new people and the predictions continued. Before I knew it, I felt like I had to pull off some sort of miracle and morph myself into Bruce Lee with a gun.
Perhaps I belong somewhere between Sharpshooter and Expert based on my USPSA experience, but I suddenly felt as though I was being put up onto a pedestal. Simply making Marksman wasn’t enough, now I had expectations to live up to. I tried to put it out of my mind when it came time to pull the trigger but every mistake was compounded by the thought of how well I should be doing.
When it was finally time for me to step up to the line and begin my first string, I tried to clear my mind. I knew that my biggest problem would be separating USPSA Habits for IDPA Habits. My first IDPA Match made it painfully obvious that this game is played at a much slower pace than USPSA. If I could forget that the word “Expert” was uttered earlier and keep my mind on shooting at a solid pace, I would be just fine.
When the buzzer sounded, I pressed out and began shooting. Before I knew it, I fell into USPSA Habits and began pushing myself. I missed a seven yard head shot and the words “Oh Shit!” boomed through my mind. The Safety Officer walked up to the target to check on it before moving on with the string and I could feel the panic building.
When the string was scored, I was crushed by being 12 points down. The long delay between strings made things worse as it gave me ample time to think about how I was now behind and needed to make up time. I knew immediately that that was the wrong mindset to be in but I struggled to let it go.
Despite my better judgement, I shot a little faster in String 2 and wound up 15 points down. While I didn’t miss any shots, I did get sloppy. My poor performance, coupled with the long delay between strings, had my interest waning. My competitive drive was sputtering and I just wanted to be done with the Classifier.
During String 3, I deliberately slowed down. I was beginning to worry about even making Marksman at this point and didn’t want the day to be a complete waste. I began to feel like I was taking too long, so I picked up the pace. When the Safety Officer remarked that I was “Burning it up”, I had a bad feeling. Targets were scored and I was an abysmal 39 points down.
After the match was finished, I snapped a photo of my score sheet and a friend offered to break it down for me. I stood by, nervously watching him make calculations on his phone and jot down numbers. A couple of other friends gathered around and a time in the 160s was uttered. I met my too-low goal of Marksman but I was ashamed of the time.
One friend blurted out “That can’t be right, I’ve seen Walt shoot”. That was followed by “You’re going to walk away with a match bump and a win at the Liberty Match”. I hate the idea of winning like that but when a Sandbagger joke was made, that hurt. It was a joke and there were no ill intentions made by it, but it didn’t change the fact that I shot a miserable IDPA Classifier.
It wasn’t until I imported the photo for this post that I double checked the numbers. It looks like there may have been an error made somewhere as I am coming up with 143.05, which puts me inside of Sharpshooter with about 9 seconds to spare. If my calculations are correct, I came closer to the expectations put on me but I still shot what I feel is a lousy IDPA Classifier.
The competitive part of me is embarrassed. This type of performance can’t happen again. It won’t happen again.
My Dirty Little Secret:
in the subject of this post, I promised you a dirty little secret as a way of grabbing your attention. Despite how long this post has gotten, I suppose I should deliver on that promise. I’m kind of surprised my fellow shooters haven’t picked up on it already. Simply put, the biggest hole in my game is performing on static stages.
This problem with my USPSA game translates to IDPA, especially the IDPA Classifier. I’m not sure what the problem is, perhaps it is a mental thing, but something always seems to go wrong when there is little movement. I suppose on a USPSA Field Course I can make up for any hiccups with a bit of hustle from one position to another.
Not to make excuses, but I think the IDPA Classifier plays to my weakness. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and serves as a cold, hard reminder that I need to practice my fundamentals. I think lots of dry-fire practice is in order before I re-shoot the classifier (which I would like to do before it expires next year) In fact, if I could shoot the classifier again, before the Liberty Match, I would.
This Poison Pen post was written after stewing over what I felt was a very disappointing IDPA Classifier. I hadn’t double checked the figures yet and started pouring out what was on my mind. I’m in much better spirits at this point (after a few kind words from my fellow shooters via facebook and Twitter).