Friday, June 11, 2010

The Revolver Match, V.1

In the interest of updating past posts, Dear Reader(s) may wish to hear of the outcome of the below-mentioned ICORE match at Home Club The Second a couple of weeks past.
First of all, we're thinking of it as a genuine success. The actual competitor count was 28, a not-shabby number for a club-level match on a 90+ degree day.
The weather got the festivities off as the story of the moment. Setup Saturday was getting nearly unpleasant even by 10am. At this club, they start setup officially at 8am, and we were barely half-done when the humidity set in for sure and folks began moving perceptibly slower.
The happy side, though, was that setup turnout was actually rather high. That went to the very nature of the event.
My regular USPSA cohorts arrived in force, a touching display of solidarity with the new guy on the range racing about finding things at a club he'd never done a match at before.
The club's PPC contingent brought about five or so as well. These folks are also mostly cowboy shooters and while I may never understand thumbcocked five-shooters with six holes in the can, much less conchos, I know they're a good bunch of people who don't mind putting out effort to have some fun.
For a 119-round, five-stage match, that's decent number of hands on deck and we were pretty nearly done by noon.
Thanks to some advance work, I knew that my Limited Division and SSP fellows were going to bite the bullet and actually dig out or borrow revolving guns to shoot the match. We were of course bombarded by plaintive e-mails seeking equipment waivers, but I stumbled onto a solution- the aforementioned rangebuddy SS taking the whole revolver scene (briefly) seriously and thereby taking a stand as well: if she could manage to stroke a sixgun, so could her other 1911 trigger-presser friends.
Hardly any grumbling a-tall.
I'd like to take a moment and go soft with Dear Reader's permission here and remark upon the confluence of these disciples of disparate disciplines coming together just to work on Yours Truly's little ol' revo match. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'd gone all kumbayah here, but the mix was really gratifying.
And the help was excellent, and I thank every one of you for taking up a steaming Saturday morning to pitch in. Maybe it's just payback/karma/balancing-out stuff, and past efforts on our parts were just being repaid in the manner of good people everywhere, but I still enjoyed it. Thank you, folks.
One issue was that the D-1 targets themselves didn't actually physically arrive on the range until 7:30am on Sunday, match day. As experienced match directors may expect, some kinks emerged once cardboard started going up. The second field course in particular needed some real rearranging as time dwindled.
Fortunately, registration was in my partner's capable hands and all I had to do was staple, run, pound fault lines, run, bark orders that sounded like polite requests to the couple of hands available, run, adjust, and finally arrive in a sweaty and none-too-appealing heap at the shooter's meeting site.
I had assigned myself to the smallest squad, coincidentally containing program director-partner Phil and, oddly, SS, with whom I never, ever squad for some reason.
Screeching to a dramatic halt as they were getting near done with the stage, a modest 27-round field course compressed into a narrow, hard-sided bay, I unbagged the beloved Webley and proceeded to completely ignore a target during my disjointed run. Nice. On a stage I freaking designed.
With a basket of penalty seconds to wallow in right from the get-go, there was no need to get too competitive. It wouldn't be until our fourth stage that I actually got enough brain cells diverted from match-directing to firing a revolver at targets in order to produce a decent run.
But before that, I had to endure the big Embarrassing Moment. Just as everyone was finishing up their first stage, I turned to see what looked like a proverbial Chinese fire drill in the driveway running up and down the range behind the bays.
"Where do we go?!" was the common plaint, and I stood dumbly wondering how my match had turned into a slapstick comedy in less than an hour.
As it happens, Club O apparently doesn't have an established squad rotation direction. Now, who ever heard of such a thing? It had never crossed my mind, short a trip as that may be, to even mention rotation. I'm accustomed to the USPSA program's northbound hops and it just isn't that way for everyone else.
New match directors, beware! Find out the new club's direction or suffer!
The heat was not our friend that Sunday. The mercury hauled itself upwards of 86 almost immediately and if I had wanted to spend my Sunday in the company of a soaked-T-shirt contest, I could hardly have done better. Sadly, it wasn't as attractive as it sounds.
But no one really complained, not about that. In fact, things went on really pretty smoothly. The one drop-turner target operated flawlessly, and the door to be shoved open in large field course Stage Five worked every single time without coming adrift or sticking. That last was a bit of a surprise for this stage builder, as the contraption that constituted that section of that stage was shaky at best. One of our folder wall panels (as detailed here) was hastily screwed to the door frame and adjoining panel in order to provide rack resistance and it worked.
The scoring was comprehended well, another common issue when non-ICORE people are holding the clipboards for the first time. It's not hard, it's different, and everyone got the hang of it quickly.
Back on the one-world, can't-we-all-get-along front, I'm proud to say a few of my other home club "N" lads arrived to play and it wouldn't be giving the story away to point out they finished second and third overall behind Program Director Phil, who took the day as a personal playground and "warmed up" for July's Central States Regional ICORE match by finishing first with a yawning chasm of some thirty seconds of lead.
Indeed, SS completed the day in ninth overall, seventh Retro, despite finding the Comp III speedloaders uncooperative.
I perhaps ought to preserve a bit of decorum and decline to mention my 18th-overall placement, but I did manage a pretty decent classifier run on our last stage of the day. Phil said, just before triggering off the timer, "This one's the one that counts..." and it had the needed effect. Fortunately.
In retrospect, while I am used to seeing rather more than 28 for a turnout, that's probably a good number under the conditions. We were satisfied enough to schedule another, for the remaining available Sunday at this club, of August 29th.
I'll say this- if we get even three-quarters the help, hard work, and cooperation we did for Match #1, I will be pleased indeed.
A week later, hanging out at the club after a little AR match, I was approached by a couple of members who'd seen the match and decided it looked fun enough to do the next one. One even proclaimed he'd ordered a brand new competition holster just for the occasion! Not only that, SS is rumored to be considering putting aside the 1911 one more time in favor of a 625 (no damned speedloaders, you know).
Hard not to be happy about that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Multigun is More

Multigun is more.

My work partner of thirty-some years is as much a tool enthusiast as anyone who's been in the trades as long as he has. He's not blind, though- he recognizes that there is such a thing as overdoing it.
For all these years, he'll conclude a discussion about such an excess, whether it be tools proper, equipment, accessories, materials, or whatever else has gotten to where there's not enough space or time to contain it, with these final words:
"Too much stuff."

That's often an excellent description of multigun competition.

In the last five years or so, multigun competition, most especially in the form of USPSA 3-gun, has seen very considerable growth. There was a time when an interested shooter would wonder at how he or she might have stumbled upon this amazing and complex contraption, become enthralled of the sheer muchness of it, and then puzzled at how there were so few opportunities to actually shoot a multigun match.
There's a good reason there aren't so many: it's too much.
Unless one has actually assembled a real-life stage, it's often hard to see what the difficulty is. I wouldn't want to take a high-and-mighty, you peons don't get it position on this, but if you haven't ever actually built a stage, well, even a simple stage is more complex and interconnected than it seems when you're actually shooting it.
Shoot-throughs leap out of what looked like a good design like snarling gremlins at Halloween, trashing the best of arrays and demanding all sorts of wall-repositioning.
Steel targets creep closer and closer to the potential shooters' position as if to create distortions of space by jamming in close and displacing fault lines like toys floating in a stormy lake.
Angles of fire that were so intriguing back on the desk suddenly turn into vanilla pudding with little redeeming value.
Then... go multigun and your problems multiply, just like that.

Often the toughest block to a good flowing stage are the abandonment issues. Yes, we all have abandonment issues, but when you're looking for handy places for adrenaline-saturated hotshots to leave powerful rifles and shotguns on their frantic way towards the rear berm, things can get even more crowded with points- drop points, shooting points, steel clearance points, and so on.
It can get downright claustrophobic lost in all those points.
So, having sorted out and carefully established all those issues, then you move on to providing something for the shooters to actually shoot at.
Arguably the most important point about simply adding long guns to the familiar pistol stages you're accustomed to is that: long guns are long, and that means long ranges. Much longer. Things get longer and longer and... further apart.
Not only do you have to differentiate between the various guns' targets, you have to create spaces within the stage for the full scope of the gun's run. But if you do expand the space to suit the problem you're trying to create, your good-sized bay shrinks into a little shoebox and you start wishing you had an airport instead of a bay to set up in.
That expansion creates a whole new problem, though, in that the stage becomes physically huge, requiring so much walking that it becomes a sort of a low-speed cross-country event, most especially for the weary-footed range officers dragging themselves around the thing again and again.
Stage reset times climb into many minutes. The match slows as squads stall in stages and the competitors' attention spans snap off. Fewer people are helping reset and upcoming shooters forget what they got in the car for earlier in the day.

The simple fact is, you can put on a six-stage, 130-round action pistol match for forty competitors and have a hope of being down to the last shot fired in four hours if you did your part right.
But getting through even four multigun stages will take quite a bit longer, and shooter's ennui will be thrice the problem it might have been for your nice, efficient pistol match.

Home club N just opened up their multigun program and ran headlong into the clock on the wall. Some of the best club-level match putter-onners I have the privilege of knowing threw the kitchen sink at the match, and got bogged down in four bays full of clogged drains.
These heroes (they're my heroes, and guys like them should be yours, too) pushed themselves harder and harder and yet the match still wouldn't end.
The weather was awful, an energy-sapping 90+ degrees and bright sun with nowhere to hide on a range known far and wide for being the best place to shoot in the winter. Unfortunately, the characteristics that make for those kinds of winter-shooting benefits help turn the place into an open-topped microwave oven on a hot summer day.
No cats blew up, but soggy, sagging, dragging officials and shooters put away bottles of water as fast as they could be trucked in and still the place looked like it was a giant wide-screen epic being projected in slow-motion.
They fretted and discussed and worried over getting the total match time down. Efficiency is not often the front-burner topic at shooting matches, but it became so for Our Heroes, as they tried to re-engineer their lavish creation into something they themselves would be interested in attending the following month.
Things will indeed be changed, and more care will go into compression and efficiency, but in the end, they're just going to have to face the basic, fundamental fact of multigun matches:

They're just too much stuff.