As I See It: Southern Chester USPSA

Southern Chester USPSA - Nov 2012 - Stage 1

Yesterday a mass email was sent out by Graham Smith, Match Director at Southern Chester USPSA, regarding the March USPSA Match. This email caused a bit of a stir among some of the local shooters (myself included). In a nutshell, Southern Chester would be reducing the round count of their matches to ease the burden of tracking down ammunition and/or components in the current market.

SCCPSA March Match

Our first match is scheduled for Saturday March 16.

I’m still working out the details but due to ammunition shortages, I am planning on putting some limits on the number of round required to keep it under 120 rounds. I’ll have a final plan shortly and will post the information on the match web site: www.formstack.com/forms/sccpsa-info

Pre-registration will be open the evening of Sunday 10 Mar and is recommended. This year we are limiting pre-registration to USPSA
members only. With the discontinuation of pistol matches at both Topton and York, we could be seeing even larger demand than last year.

Hopefully, all the storms will have blown themselves out by match day. But if not, check the web site for information on match status.

Graham Smith
SCCPSA Match Director

Leading up to to this email, I was under the impression that Southern Chester had an average round count that hovered at 180. Slashing that perceived round count all the way down to 120 came as a huge shock to me. As a shooter traveling roughly 90 minutes (each way) I suddenly worried that the ‘bang for my buck’ factor was going to be significantly reduced.

In all fairness, I was well aware that Southern Chester was going to be reducing their minimum round count. I briefly discussed this with Graham on a couple of occasions and the understanding was that each stage would have a target or two removed. This would break up some of the congested target arrays and allow targets to be spread out a bit more. In theory it sounds great, a target or two per stage shouldn’t dumb down the match and it will most certainly help ease the burden of finding ammunition and/or components. But how does one or two targets per stage equate to roughly sixty rounds!

This is where my ignorance came in to play. Remember that magic number I had in my head about Southern Chester hovering at 180 rounds, on average? That number was seriously inflated. In fact, in the past two years, Southern Chester has never broken a minimum round count of 160 (April 2012 was 158 round minimum).

Southern Chester USPSA - Min Round Count Report

Based on matches held over the past two years, Southern Chester has an average minimum round count of 138. The difference between the two-year average and the new proposed ceiling is 18 rounds. Since the club generally runs seven stages, that falls into the ‘target or two per stage’ that was discussed.

Value Engineering Stages

One of the main concerns with reducing the minimum round count of a match is preventing the stages from feeling too dumbed down. The nice thing about taking out a target or two per stage at Southern Chester is that stages usually have a little wiggle room in this area. One of the things that Southern Chester does, which I haven’t seen at too many other clubs, is use low angled targets within a foot or two of the shooter.

These angled targets can be viewed as a ‘gimme’ and typically make the sure the shooter advances to a pre-determined area of the stage. For example, a low target might be put just inside a ported wall so that the shooter has to come all the way into the port instead of shooting through it from afar.

In the case of my most recent stage design, I had a low target situated behind a low wall. This particular target presented problems due to range conditions (lots of rock in the ground which could cause a potential ricochet). This target wasn’t critical to the stage so rather than re-work its position, it was omitted to save a couple of rounds.

I would imagine Graham will take a look at stages going forward and value engineer them, for lack of a better word, to cut out any unnecessary targets, without dumbing down the stage.

WaltInPA - USPSA Stage 12 Stage Graphic - With Notes

Emailing My Concerns

Shortly after reading the original email from Southern Chester, and hearing grumblings online, I drafted a response outlining my concerns. At this point I was still under the impression that the average round count at Southern Chester was much higher than it actually was.

In addition to my concerns about the change in minimum round count, I was worried about the way registration was going to be handled going forward. Graham is predicting that the loss of USPSA at both Topton and York will result in an increased shooter turnout. Since the club can only handle a limited number of shooters, the pre-registration system would only be opened up to current USPSA Members.

The reason for my concern is simple, new shooters have just been shut out of attending matches at Southern Chester. Last year there wasn’t more than one or two new shooters showing up periodically. This year, however, there was a whole bunch of them at the Lower Providence match. This makes me think that some of the people that went out and ‘panic purchased’ a gun wanted to get out and put it to good use.

In addition to my email, I would assume that Graham received a couple more. This resulted in a second email being sent out, addressing both of my concerns.

SCCPSA March Match – Q & A

Some questions have come up about the changes this year so rather than trying to answer them one by one, I’ll try and cover the major points here.

The decision to reduce the round count was not taken by me alone. This came up at the Mid-Atlantic section meeting and several clubs stated that they were going to cut back a bit at first until it could be determined just how people stood on ammunition.

The planned change is not drastic. Round count for an average match in the past has been in the 140-150 range for 6-7 stages. What is being done is removing a couple targets from each stage and spreading the targets out a bit more.

Regarding the limit on pre-registration to USPSA members… Registration is a balancing act. For every new shooter allowed in, one slot is removed that might otherwise go to a regular shooter. As we have done in the past, there will be some slots held open till match day.

Not to put too fine a point on this but there is an open invitation to anyone who wants to become involved with running a match. I would be more than happy to turn over the entire process of registration to someone willing to do the job.

Graham Smith
SCCPSA Match Director

Pre-Registration at Southern Chester

Despite Southern Chester being a popular local match, the USPSA program has parameters to stick to. A township ordinance prevents shots from being fired before 11:00am and the Club requires that all ranges be cleared by 4:00pm to allow the membership use of the ranges (before the pm township ordinance kicks in). This five hour window limits the number of shooters which can attend the match.

I’m not sure where the number originated but Graham once told me that the club tries to create stages that can be shot and reset in no more than three minutes. This has caused issues with some of the more elaborate stages I’ve tried to get entered into a match but without this number in place, the match runs long and problems arise (I can remember seeing people waiting for USPSA to finish so that they could get on the range and shoot).

As I understand it, a cap of roughly 75 shooters is in place for registration. An allotment is set aside for the setup crew (which is guaranteed a spot), an allotment is set aside for pre-registration, and a few spaces are set aside for walk-ons. I don’t recall anyone having ever been turned away. Between no-shows and walk-on spaces, everyone who shows up seems to be squadded.

Southern Chester USPSA - Attendance Report

If Graham is correct and there is a spike in registration, due to Topton and York eliminating their USPSA Programs, and if this months Lower Providence match is an indication of what is to come with new shooters, there will most certainly be a problem. Spaces will fill quickly and the program may actually exceed its capacity and begin turning shooters away.

Screw the Maximum Capacity!

If registration becomes a problem and shooters begin arriving at Southern Chester in record numbers, why can’t the club simply raise the ceiling from 75 shooters to something like 100? They could expand and use the 100 Yard Range too! That would be awesome!

While I would love to shoot a challenging eight stage local match for $20, I just don’t see it happening. I took that magic 3 Minutes per Shooter number and applied it to the USPSA attendance records at Southern Chester.

Southern Chester USPSA - Time Report

On paper Southern Chester has averaged 69 shooters over the past two years. If you allow 3 Minutes per Shooter, that comes out to roughly 3.5 hours to shoot the match. Add in a five minute walk-through for each stage, unexpected stage backups, the occasional prop failure, and the squad moving from bay to bay, and that original 3.5 hours quickly draws closer to the maximum 5 hour mark.

But what does all of this mean for me?

To be honest with you, I don’t know. With the gun environment being as turbulent as it is, we could be facing an entirely new problem in no time at all. If you plan on shooting regularly at Southern Chester (which I’m planning on doing) I would take a few steps to ensure I’m shooting.

Register as Early As Possible:

I realize registering as early as possible is a given but it is worth emphasizing. If you can’t pre-register to guarantee yourself a spot, arrive early and get on the walk-on list. If you arrive early enough to help with setup (and actually help with setup), I’m pretty sure you’ll be shooting the match.

Bring Plenty of Ammo:

Reduced Round Count isn’t nearly as reduced as I had originally thought. If the plan is to spread targets out a bit, I would not be at all surprised if targets got further away and shots became more challenging. This could mean a lower round count on paper but shooters firing more rounds. Plan accordingly.

Offer Feedback:

After a match is finished, spend a few minutes talking with Graham. He seems open to shooter feedback and has listened to a variety of my suggestions. Knowing what shooters are enjoying (or not enjoying) helps mold the following months match.

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