Now and then, we get questions from folks asking if thus and such is “legal” in terms of stage design. Sometimes these things are a good idea and sometimes they are not. And occasionally, we roll out the “just because it might be legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea” response.
It’s actually amazingly simple to create a stage that no one will enjoy. Remember the old 100 Yard Standards? I shot that several times with Iron Sights and I never had fun or much of a score. Keep in mind that when I was younger I did a bit of handgun silhouette shooting so playing with iron sights at distance wasn’t exactly something new, but I still stunk it up pretty badly.
Other ways to create things that do not ramp up the fun factor are to drop a bunch of mini-poppers out at 50+ yards; “better” yet, make some of those almost impossible mini-poppers activate other targets like movers, so the FTE and miss penalties wipe out your score if you can’t take down the popper; do a bunch of Upper A/C zone only cardboard out 30+ yards, maybe waving around on a swinger moving so fast the cardboard almost flies apart, and so on. The possibilities are only limited by the distances you have to play with and how many fewer friends you want to have when you get done. It seems like the distance thing has become more prevalent with the advent of PCC with folks trying to create a challenge for PCCs and losing sight (pun not intended) of everyone not shooting PCC at the match.
Sometimes people get the bright idea to toss in physical challenges that aren’t going to be fun. I’ve mentioned things like breaching doors and very heavy battering rams before. We also often see requirements to run a fair distance before engaging the first target, carrying props that are fine for a beefy young male but might not even be possible for a Junior or Lady shooter that isn’t a weight lifter or didn’t grow up on a farm. Dragging a Rescue Randy mannequin around (usually 150+ pounds) springs to mind. Or things that are painful like crawling through tunnels with gravel or such on the ground. Oh yeah, sign me and my “gonna need TKR soon” knees up for that one.
And then people come up with things that are just flat out unsafe. I shot a match once where you had to start with your hands immersed in a bowl of lime Jello. My Limited gun is pretty grippy but I has having a helluva time controlling and hanging on to it even after taking a minute to shake as much of the offending green goo off as I could. If I had needed to rack the slide; no way. In retrospect, I should have arbitrated the stage as being unsafe and/or refused to shoot it. But that was a long time ago at a club that doesn’t exist anymore, I was a lot younger, and quite obviously LONG before anyone ever heard the term COVID. I’ve seen similar things done with mud, ice water/slush, and so on.
Taking this metaphorically toward one of my favorite things now, food: I do not know of anyone that thinks a steady diet of ghost peppers, Scotch bonnets, habaneros, and so on is a good idea. They can be amazing in small amounts in the right situations/pairings but most normal humans aren’t going to try to exist on those alone.
In all these instances we are left with one overriding question: Why? When I have asked stage designers and match directors why they want to do these sorts of things I invariably get an answer back that equates to “because we can and no one else has done it”. Okay…”Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” and maybe no one else has done it because it is a bad idea.
Now I am all for unique props and challenges. The “rollercoaster” stages from a couple of recent Area matches spring to mind. As long as it is built to withstand the rigors of a match, handles people equally well from 80 pounds on up to 450 pounds, isn’t going to generate a massive backup in the squad rotation and, it is safe; go for it! The Dark House stages from Pasa Park sounded interesting even though I never got to experience them myself.
My very first Area 1 match had one stage which was simulated to be inside a submarine complete with bulkheads that had to be stepped through and rather subdued lighting courtesy of a couple layers of “blue tarp”. My fiber optic front sight was pretty worthless because there wasn’t enough light (and what there was there was blue light) and then the final array was out a window you had to open so the eyes were trying real hard to adjust quickly to the sudden bright light. Everyone I talked to after they shot that stage wanted to do it again because it was so much fun and I vividly remember it seventeen years later.
My point here is that there are ways to make stages challenging and interesting yet still make them appeal to the shooters. The key, at least to my mind, is to present challenges but also balance that with easier situations. Sure, give them a mini-popper at 30 yards but make that the “spicy” part of the stage and make it not be so detrimental to scores if it isn’t knocked down that every person that doesn’t get it feels entirely defeated. If they come out and say “Gee, guess I need to practice Minis at 30 more” but have a smile on their face; great! If they are cursing and questioning why they ever thought this sport was a good idea…yeah, not so good.
So, let’s bring this back to the food metaphor: Ever go some place kinda fancy that does a multi-course meal where each course is paired with a different beverage? When you get done with the whole meal you realize that all the flavors and textures of the meal formed a symphony of gastronomic delight, right? Oh, you haven’t? Okay, stop thinking dining inside at McD’s and getting ketchup from the pump instead of from the little packets is fancy, grab your significant other, bribe a neighbor to ride herd on the rugrats if necessary, and go have a nice night out with a five or more course meal and pay attention to the whole meal, the presentation, flavors, textures, everything (Hint: This sort of experience has been known to have other benefits…just saying).
We can relate this same concept to stage design and even match design. Each stage can be viewed as a course with each target array presentation providing a different flavor or texture including a bit of spice where it works, maybe a couple swingers with partial hard cover or no shoots protecting them followed up with an array of eight poppers to knock down giving that satisfying “ping, crash” we all love so much; with the full match being a satisfying meal that you will remember.
So let this be a challenge to all the stage designers out there. Build a match that pays attention to all three principles of our sport, Accuracy, Speed, and Power and comes together and forms a symphony of shooting delight.
Think you have a total winner match designed that will knock our socks off? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entries must include at a minimum:
— Six stages
— Must include WSBs as per 3.2
— Overhead Views
— Match Book Views and detail images for complex target arrays.
Cannot be all Long courses; remember, we want variety. Must include at least one Virginia Count stage. Cannot use any published classifiers. Do I have to say this…Must be legal for a Level III USPSA Competition Rules or MultiGun Rules match! Cannot be from an already submitted Form C. They have to be possible for a typical club to build in typical bays with typical props or anything special must be easy to construct. Individual efforts only, one entry per USPSA member, employees of USPSA/NROI are not eligible. All submissions become available for USPSA to use and/or publish; credit will be given where due.
We’ll judge them and post a few of the best ones here on the blog. Deadline: May 31, 2022
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