Shot the SC Section championship this past weekend and it was outstanding. One of the best matches I’ve ever shot. Highlights in no particular order:
Not bad scenery. The foothills of upstate SC in the spring were more scenic than I was expecting, and Belton Gun Club itself is pretty rural. Beats the flatness of Florida any day in my book.
Good quality stages. The stages were solid, and mostly of the variety of it being pretty obvious which targets to shoot from where. The options, as such, mostly came in how aggressively to move and how early to start shooting targets that were visible from multiple positions. Nothing too complicated, which is befitting a state match where you don’t necessarily want to require shooters to show up the day before to walk stages. You don’t need to make every shooter solve a calculus equation for the stage to be good. Sometimes you just walk up to a stage, see your stage plan, and get to adjust it for your risk/reward profile. (There was one memory-ish stage, which had lots of partials that made it pretty easy to tell targets apart. And one stage where you shot 10 rounds flatfooted twice. A bit lame, but not enough to ruin the whole match. You can tolerate a little bit of pretty much any bitter flavor.)
Staff running golf carts to keep shooters moving. The range had an odd shape where half the bays were on one leg of a Y and the other half were on the other leg. It could take a while to walk from the end of one to the end of the other, so there were golf cart shuttles running all day to keep shooters moving.
Printed, laminated WSBs (pictured above). On the front, the stage diagram from the match book, and on the back the stage description to be read to each squad. It’s totally standard to have these on each stage, but the match administration going above and beyond to get them laminated shows the attention to detail that went into this match.
Dual LabRadar chronos. I believe this is mostly the doing of Mr. Chrono himself, Bruce Braxton, but it still gives you the feeling that this match isn’t being run on a shoestring. (I could complain that without pulling the bullets, taking declared bullet weight makes the whole chrono exercise a bit pointless, since you could declare 147s and shoot 115s. But then again, allowing competitors to roll up to chrono with whatever ammo they want instead of taking it from their mags on a stage means it’s more or less the honor system anyway. A state match is pretty low-stakes, so I don’t imagine there’s a lot of cheating going on for the bragging rights of Section Champion.)
Staff reset. Every single stage had five or more staff members, almost all of them competitors who were clearly enthusiastic about putting on a good match. Because the staff were all competitors, they wanted to help you the best they could instead of getting grumpy when you did anything unusual. Reset was fast and efficient. This is the way every Level 2 and above match should run. Not much more to say.
Consistent scoring order. This was an interesting one, but it was specified in the WSB that targets would be scored in the same order for every shooter, so in theory you and a buddy (with the help of the Practiscore Competitor app) could compare your hits target-by-target. I can’t say this is really something all that important to the sport as a whole, but again it demonstrates an attention to detail that is unusual and very much appreciated.
Well-calibrated moving targets. The difficult on all of the movers in the match was quite good. Although there were three swingers in the match that were no-shoot partials, they were all at very reasonable distance and at a reasonable speed: not too far, not too fast. The clamshell target, despite being a disappearing target, was so tempting that no one I talked to or saw chose to skip it. The movers were balanced just right to be difficult but worthwhile. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a swinger set up so it presented on a 90 degree arc but you could choose between two different positions to engage it from. Slick.
Four minute walkthroughs. I’m on record as being a stickler for five minute walkthroughs, but honestly four minutes was good enough. The small squads (8 max) and not-particularly-complex stages meant a few times we actually didn’t even end up taking the whole 4 minutes as a squad.
Waterproof targets. It didn’t end up being that relevant because the weather was great for the match, but all the targets used were the Alpha Dynamics waterproof ones. If it had started to rain, no bags would have been needed. Just keep on shooting. This is a common place for matches to try to cheap out and save money, but that wasn’t done here.
Plenty of spare tablets. The match was using the bluetooth receipt printers for paper backups after each stage, and although staff on multiple stages we talked to were having problems with the printers, they were always able to swap them out or get a new working tablet. The equipment didn’t hold us up, even when it wasn’t working perfectly because the staff had backups and spares.
The match could have easily held more shooters. It’ll be at the same range next year, and I encourage folks to sign up. It will be worth the trip.