Last weekend I shot what will most likely be my last USPSA match of the season. With winter setting in, many of the clubs in my area and closing up shop, in terms of outdoor action shooting, until Spring.
In an effort to get as much shooting in as possible, before Winter break set in, I shot three out of four weekends this month. Of those three weekends, I wanted to make sure that I got a chance to shoot at what I consider my home club, one last time this season.
Back in July I shot my very first USPSA Match at Topton Fish & Game and enjoyed it immensely. This club takes an approach to stage design that is very hit or miss with the people I’ve shot with over the past few months. When shooting at Topton, you can expect to face some serious distance shots. It is this type of shooting that some enjoy (I fall into this group) and others dislike.
Heading into this match I expected distance and plenty of steel. Not only did I get those very two things, I got more than I bargained for. Ever since I started shooting USPSA, I have been gambling by attending matches with only four magazines. I’ve been meaning to pick up two more but a trip to two local gun stores left me empty handed.
Having only four magazines really bit me in the ass this time around. I faced a stage with 32 steel targets at distances starting at 40 yards and moving in to 10 yards. For the first time in 5 matches, I ran out of ammo and left 8 pieces of steel standing. The penalty hit I took on this stage was greater than the points I earned, giving me a big fat zero on the stage.
My showing on this single stage took me from what I estimate to around 4th or 5th place out of 10 shooters in Production Division down to 8th place. I walked away from the match very disappointed but I learned a very important lesson. If you are going to shoot USPSA at Topton, you’d better make sure you have 5 or 6 magazines at the ready.
Stage 5: Steely Speed VI
My first stage of the day was Steely Speed VI. I shot this particular stage with my heart pumping and virtually no time to create a game plan. Getting out of the house a little later than I expected and the match starting about a half hour sooner than it was supposed to (I still managed to arrive about 20 minutes before registration was noted to close on the club website), I arrived with squads already broken out and shooting.
After finding the match director, I got the green light to shoot but needed to gran a score sheet and fill it out. With the squad just about finished with the short stage, I ran back to the registration area, filled out a score sheet, and ran back. I had enough time to hand in my score sheet and load up my magazines before I head “Walt, you ready to shoot?”
I glanced at the stage description, said yes, and stepped into the shooting box. Fortunately, the stage description was very simple. Because this was a classifier stage, all that was required was for me to quickly engage six steel poppers at a distance of 45 feet.
At the buzzer, I took a step forward and dropped to my knees to see through a port in a fence directly infront of me. I pressed out and began pressing the trigger. I cleared the stage with eight shots in a time of 6.50 seconds. Despite my feeling a bit flustered, I did rather well and came in 3rd on the stage.
Stage 6: Barrel Tunnel
I didn’t realize it until I arrived at the match, but this was a classifier match. Four of the six stages on the day were setup as short stages with little movement. After having just shot a match like this at York IWLA the weekend before, I was eager to stretch my legs and have fun.
Barrel Tunnel was the first of two stages where I would get the opportunity to do just that. Unfortunately, I went a little overboard and shot the stage much faster than I was capable of doing accurately. When the buzzer went off, I mashed the proverbial gas pedal to the floor and didn’t let up until the stage was complete.
At the buzzer, I drew my pistol, took two steps forward and engaged a target to my right. I continued forward and engaged a closer target that was tucked behind a barrel. I engaged both of these targets at a speed that was comfortable.
Turning left, I engaged two targets that were a mirror image of the first. These targets are where I went into warp speed. I don’t even think I had a sight picture when I took my second shot at each target. I moved back to the right and engaged another barrel shrouded target with complete disregard for a proper sight picture.
I reloaded my Smith & Wesson M&P and engaged a target on the left. I took slower shots on this target because I knew I was moving faster than my skill allowed. Both shots felt solid and I moved on to a pair of swingers at the end of the stage.
I don’t know how I did on the swinger on the left, but I took three shots on the swinger on the right to ensure at least two hits. When it was time to score the stage, my squad mates had a laugh at my misses at the close targets and my well placed shots on the difficult swingers (I drilled the one on the right with a tight grouping of A’s).
My stage time was the best of the day at 15.02 seconds and earned me 4th place. However, I had 20 penalty points for two misses. This is a clear indication of how much emphasis is put on speed, even if I felt as though I shot the stage poorly.
Stage 1: El Presidente
My third stage of the day was El Presidente, another classifier. To be honest, I was getting sick of seeing this stage pop up as a classifier in matches. Of all of the classifier stages, this one seems to be used most frequently.
Facing up range, the shooter is to wait for the buzzer, turn, engage three targets at 30 feet, reload, and engage each target once more. After shooting the previous stage so quickly and poorly, I knew I had to dial things down a bit and find my natural rhythm.
I shot the stage in 12.14 seconds and earned 5th place. After the targets were scored, one of my squad member approached me and gave me a little pat on the back, telling me “thats how you do it, keep shooting at that pace and you’ll do well.”
Stage 2: Can You Count
My fourth stage of the day, and third classifier, was Can You Count. This stage was rather simple. At the buzzer, we are to draw and fire 5 rounds at a target 6 feet away, reload, and fire 5 rounds at a target 10 feet away.
The hardest part of this stage was keeping track of your rounds and remembering to reload between targets. The first target is so close that aiming isn;t really required, point shooting works well. The second target can be approached the same way but using the front sight is a little more important. After shooting, you do it all over again with a second pair of targets setup as a mirror image of the first two.
I cleared this stage with all A zone shots in 14.39 seconds, earning me 7th place. this stage was a good lesson learning recoil management. The better you are at controlling muzzle flip, the faster you can clear the stage. The first place shooter cleared the stage in 10.56 seconds, however, he wasn’t the fastest time of the day. It seems that the individual in last place shot the stage in 7.89 seconds, however he was penalized 100 points (I would guess that he didn’t reload between targets and was penalized for the following 5 shots).
Stage 3: Times Two
Times Two was the last classifier of the day and the first that allowed for a little bit of movement. At the buzzer, we are to draw our pistol and fire two rounds at an array of three targets. These targets are situated at 30, 33, and 36 feet from the shooting box. We then move to a second shooting box and engage three more targets setup much the same way.
After engaging the first three targets, I reloaded my pistol while moving to the second shooting box. I completed the stage in 12.40 seconds and earned 3rd place in production division.
At the tail end of the last leg of the stage, I opted to fire one additional round at a target. I did this because I felt like I pulled a shot and wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a D zone hit. As it turns out, I scored 3 C’s on this particular target. Had I not shot that last round, I probably could have shaved a second off of my time.
Stage 4: Steel Fun
Steel Fun was my last stage of the day and it was the one stage that I was most disappointed with. From a box 40 yards away, we are to engage eight steel poppers. Once all of this steel is down, we then move to a second box situated 30 yards from a series of 8 steel plates. Once cleared, we were to move to a third box located 20 yards from a series of 8 smaller steel plates. The last shooting box was about 10 yards from a series of 8 even smaller steel plates.
With 40 rounds of ammunition, my plan was to take as much time as I needed to drop all steel in as few shots as possible. This allowed for me to miss no more than 8 targets if I wanted to clear the stage.
The stage started out fairly well and I began nailing the poppers at 40 yards. My first stumble came when the last popper didn’t fall and I began moving to the next box. I had to stop and go back to the box to try and drop the plate. I was able to do so in short order.
The second shooting box caused me the most grief and I wound up missing a lot of targets. I had just enough to rounds to clear the third string of steel before I ran out of ammo and had to prematurely end the stage.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I explained that I took such a large penalty hit on this stage that I wound up with zero points and tied for last place. Had I arrived with more magazines, I think I could have cleared the stage and did fairly well. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case.
Shooting USPSA at Topton Fish & Game – Nov 20, 2011
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