Over the past couple of weeks, Pennsylvania has been seeing temperatures in the nineties. Being outside in this type of weather isn’t horrible but it can be uncomfortable if certain precautions aren’t taken. This week, however, we have been hovering at roughly one-hundred degree days. Factor in the humidity and I break into a sweat just walking from my air conditioned car to my air conditioned house.
Despite how nasty the weather has been, I had every intention of bearing the sun and running around with a gun in my hand. The USPSA Season in these parts is short enough, I didn’t want to give up a day on account of excessive heat. When I began asking around to see who I would be shooting with, I received some disappointing responses. Three of my team mates deiced to skip the heat and I was left to shoot the July USPSA Match at Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club alone, or so it seemed.
After a few minutes on Facebook, I learned that a handful of the usual suspects were going to be braving the heat as well. My mindset went from “Okay, this might suck” to “Hot Damn, this is going to be fun!” The only decision I needed to make was if I wanted to head down to the club early to help with setup.
USPSA in July: Setting Up
The night before the match I gave a lot of though to heading down to Lower Providence early to help with setup. On one hand, the heat was going to be fierce and I didn’t want to be out in it any longer than I had to be. On the other hand, I knew the heat would keep people away and the match crew might be in serious need of volunteers.
Like I normally do when I’m torn on making a decision, I asked my wife for her opinion. She could see both sides and told me that it was ultimately my decision, but if I were to go, make sure I took plenty of fluids. Before closing out the discussion, she also added “Be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen because you know how your pasty ass burns.”
At 4:30am the next morning, I climbed out of bed and began my preparations for a day of shooting and setting up. I stepped out of my air conditioned house at 6:00am and though to myself “This doesn’t feel so bad”. The temperature reading from my car displayed 77 degrees. By the time I got to the club, it was in the low 80s.
Setup lasted roughly two and a half hours. By the time we were finished, My shirt was soaked through with sweat but I felt pretty good. The heat wasn’t a major issue and I saved $5 on registration, which isn’t a great deal of money but it is $5 that I can re-invest in shooting later.
USPSA in July: Shooting
The turnout for the match was even lighter than I expected and I wound up on a squad of six shooters. By the time the first shot broke, I had consumed a large bottle of water (I think it was roughly a quart) and was on my second coat of sunblock. The sun was rising higher overhead and the shade in the wide-open range was quickly disappearing. Fortunately, the club setup an easy-up canopy for each squad to huddle under.
The more time we spent on the range, the hotter it became. Weather be damned, I came to shoot. Instead of going easy, I pushed hard and shot every stage at what I considered maximum speed. My accuracy suffered but the small squads and fast-paced stages made shooting in this manner loads of fun.
The heat was oppressive and I was out of breath after each run. My shirt was soaked through, my newly acquired boonie hat was hot to the touch, and sweat was beading up through my thick layer of sunscreen. By the time we reached stage four, I was running out of gas. The simple task of taping targets was becoming a chore. At this point all I wanted to do was get out of the sun and soak up some air conditioning.
I grossly underestimated how much fluid to bring. I had consumed a large bottle of water during setup and two large bottles of Powerade that I packed in my range bag. Fortunately, the club thought ahead and had Gatorade and water on hand. I drank one bottle of Gatorade and three 8oz bottles of water before the last stage was complete.
USPSA in July: Breaking Down
It was around 12:30 when our squad finished shooting and we were facing one of the larger stages to break-down. I was exhausted and didn’t want to leave the shelter of the pop-up canopy, but I had to do my part. I doused my hat in cold water and stepped into the sun one last time.
The metal target stands were too hot to comfortably handle, so I left that to the guys that packed gloves. In about a half hour we had all of the walls down and stacked and the barrels put away. At that point I bid farewell to my squad mates and grabbed one last bottle of water for the ride home. When I climbed into my car, the temperature display was showing 109 degrees.
USPSA in July: Tips for Survival
Had the match been longer, or if the squads were larger, I don’t know if I would have made it. I was getting a dull headache towards the end and I was experiencing chills. My guess is that getting an odd chill in 100 degree temperatures is a bad sign. Had I not arrived early for setup, or if I hadn’t been pushing so hard through each stage, I think I would have been able to take the heat for a little while longer.
One important lesson that I learned from this match is that USPSA in the summer months is less about shooting technique and more about endurance. Understand your limitations and avoid overexertion in high heat. It is also a good idea to get a rough idea of how much water you’ll need, then double it to be safe.
In the event that you are shooting at a range with little shade, bring your own. I purchased a hat with a brim all the way around (it kind of looks like a tan version of Gilligan’s hat) and it went a long way in keeping the sun off of my face and neck. Light colored clothing is a good idea, unfortunately my Custom Gun Finishes shirt is dark and probably didn’t help in that regard.
A few of the guys brought along big, colorful, umbrellas and joked “It is all the rage in Parris, no reason why we can’t use them here!”
Ask The Readers
Do you have any tips for shooting in the high heat of summer?