In these days of matches being driven by round count the poor Short Course is often dismissed from consideration. With only twelve rounds to offer to the overall match round count, why bother? Well, there are a lot of reasons to think about adding in a short course to your match.
“But short courses are boring!” – They do not have to be. Consider the short course we had at Area 1 2018 in Missoula, Montana called Scarlet Winter. This was a 12 round Virginia Count Short Course with 12 USPSA cardboard targets designed by Jeff Turek. There were three shooting locations offered but only two needed to be used. But you say 12 cardboard, the math is wrong…that’s 24 rounds. Nope. One round per cardboard target. Start was outside the shooting area holding a wooden stake in one hand and a mallet in the other ready to put an end to the vampire in the coffin. But it’s a boring short course? Hardly.
This stage was one of the stages I got the most comments about on my side of the range (I was one of two RMs for the match). A lot of people commented to the effect that you don’t usually see so much movement in a short course, how challenging it was even though it was simple and straight forward, and not a few people whined about it being one round per. Double taps aren’t your friend in competition, friend. It’s all part of the puzzle for the shooter to solve.
Many people, when they think of a short course think of a stand a shoot. Often there is some sort of small barricade involved; quite often a Bianchi barricade because there is one available and it is easy to set up. Sure, a stand and shoot stage is simple and easy to set up…I’ll give you that. But they also tend to be boring. Scarlet Winter was far from boring because there was movement required, you needed a solid stage plan going in, and the folks without a plan were easy to spot. Remember that third shooting position I mentioned? Folks that used that tended to be the type of shooter that just shoots targets when they see them and go to every shooting location. It was Virginia count and I think the high round count for the stage was north of 24 rounds. See target, shoot target isn’t always a solid strategy when Virginia count is in the mix. And forgetting it was one round per target just provided entertainment for your squad mates
From a match production standpoint; a short course has a lot of uses. If you are running a Level II or Level III match and have a chronograph it is often a great idea to pair the chronograph with a short course as a single stage on the shooting schedule. This tends to work well. Just have every shooter report to chronograph right after they shoot the stage and have the last couple shooters go to chronograph before they shoot.
If you have a long course that is slower to reset because it has a lot of props or for whatever reason a short course put in afterward can help get squads back on schedule.
If you have a long transition moving squads across a longer distance and thus burning a lot of time on the schedule; a short course can get them back to shooting and back on schedule rapidly.
Sure, Scarlet Winter took longer to reset than your typical stand and shoot around a barricade short course but not so much that it didn’t help speed things up on that end of the range.
Short courses are also welcome additions to inclement weather matches. Fairly simple to set up, fast to shoot and reset and you can get your stages in for the match and get everyone back inside. Oh…inside you say? Yeah, Shorts tend to work real well for indoor ranges too.
So, consider the poor Short Course. If you are a stage designer: here’s your challenge…design non-boring Short Courses! Create shooting challenges and harder puzzles for the shooter to solve inside the construct of a 12 round (or fewer) stage. Learning to do this with a small stage can actually help improve your long course design. Because really, you can think of a long course, or a medium too, as a couple short courses glued together. Instead of giving one large puzzle to solve, how about multiple smaller puzzles that form a larger puzzle? Enjoy!