Sir Walter USPSA, March 2017

Ben BerryMatch Debrief

Since my last Match Debrief, from the 2017 NC Section match five months ago, a lot has happened. I went to Nationals, and many of the same problems from the section cropped up again, particularly a bad habit of pulling the trigger sideways and pushing shots in to hardcover straight at 9 o’clock. This has been a major focus of my training since then, and I’ve been lucky to have a number of 60 degree days on the weekend this January and February to get out and practice.

March is mentally the start of the competition season for me, since Daylight Saving Time ends and it starts to be warm enough to really shoot well at club matches. This weekend’s match was still pretty chilly at times, but it was a good chance to come out and shoot and see how the winter break and early training has been coming along. On the whole, it was a very consistent match for me, shooting a lot of points, but slowly.

Results on Practiscore

Stage 8

This was my favorite stage of the day, both because I found the design really interesting, and because I rather like how I did on it.

First of all, the design offered a type of option you don’t see very much: a choice between shooting a target from 1) further away, but with a short transition or 2) with a wide transition but relatively closer distance. I came up with at least three viable stage plans for this stage in Production alone and ultimately just picked the one that put the most number of targets straight in front of me. Also, no target was particularly far away or hard, but there was also disaster lurking everywhere, which is fun.

For my performance, I was very happy with how I ran the gun, particularly at the end. My efforts to fix the “pulling the trigger sideways” problem mentioned earlier seemed to really pay off at the end when I had two of the tightest groups I’ve ever shot in competition, and I wasn’t even trying to be particularly accurate. The gun was just tracking right back to where it lifted from, which is a good feeling.

What appears to be trigger freeze on the third target is actually, I think, a manifestation of the same thing that happened later on stage 1: starting to move my arms too early before I’ve broken the last shot. That too has been a longtime problem that’s dogged me, particularly on steel. I’m not happy about it, but at least it’s not out of character for me.

Stage 1

This was a really interesting stage with technical elements like the port you had to hold open, and targets spaced out just enough that you never could really set up hard. Except for the plate rack of course.

Steel has been a weakness of mine for some time, due to a combination of the “pulling the trigger sideways” problem and my issue of pulling off targets too early. It goes something like this: I see a good sight picture on the steel, and start to move my arms at the same second that I start to pull the trigger. Gross motor skill beats fine, blah blah blah, and I end up pulling the shot (not yanking) off target.

Being aware of that, I was very conscious to try and follow through on each plate and go one for one. I was so sure I had a good call on the last plate that I decisively dropped the mag, before I realized that I had, of course, pulled off the target too early. Out of nowhere, I realized on the fly I could just shoot my last round and reload the gun on my way to my next position. I have never practiced something like that, and if the run to the next position had been any shorter, I probably would not have done it. But somehow, it the moment, it seemed like the right thing to do, and I think it as the best salvage of a bad situation.

Now, to stop pulling off targets.

Stage 2

For the rest of the match, I was very conscious, bordering on deliberate, to shoot steel without pulling off early, and managed to do it. This stage was another one that I quite liked, because it had a lot of little options and interesting details for a stage that was “only” 23 rounds. (For contrast, Stage 3 was 28 rounds, and much more straightforward.)

This was another stage with lots of targets to find, and choices on when and where to take them from. I ran my plan exactly as designed, with only two hiccups in execution. The first was on the last reload, I cleanly missed the magwell on the right-to-left reload. But, as I’ve been practicing controlling the magazine all the way in to the gun, I still had a good grip on it and was able to recover and had plenty of space to get the reload done before needing to shoot. The second was just on the last target where I started blasting before I had finished transitioning. I shot four shots at it, two quick charlies that I called as bad, followed up by two alphas. Mentally, I was just pulling the trigger until I had two good hits, and so there is no real perceptible difference in my cadence. I’m not thrilled about the extras, but I like hate that I called them and made them up without any hesitation at all.

Stage 3

Right as I cleared my mind at “Standby”, the idea that I might back up in to the RO popped in to my head. Before I had a chance to get rid of it, the buzzer had sounded. Everything turned out just fine, but that little kernel of doubt was enough to make me feel like I was playing catchup for the whole stage, leading to a really loose and unfocused run on the stage. Nothing went catastrophically wrong, but the mystery mike on the second drop turner, the genuine trigger freeze, the lost time hunting for the targets at the third position, and the extra shots at the end all just added up to be generally unimpressive.

In the future, any time there’s a start position where I’m moving back at the start, I need to just glance over at the RO and see that he’s far enough away to remove any doubt that it’ll be a problem.

Stage 4

This stage called for one of the goofier stage plans I’ve come up with in a while, splitting an array of full size poppers between two positions based solely on the “how could I possibly miss?” theory. I think it largely worked out and let me take out the risk of shooting to ten on an array of steel. Plus it just looks cool on the grams, you know?

This stage was an example of my inconsistent grip, where the gun was just bouncing around way more than I like at the third and fourth positions. Everything turned out okay (with a makeup shot in there for good measure). But with that much hard cover, I would really rather have a solid control of the gun and keep it returning right to the A zone.

Stage 5

Definitely the worst stage of the day for me, because I was very deliberate with how much I aimed and still not confident, leading to extra shots. It was five and a half hours in to the match, the sun was going down and it was getting cold again, and we had waited a little while for the squads in front of us, which all just added to just not bringing a sense of urgency to the stage, all of which I should have better compensated for.

Of course, nothing went terribly wrong, and in the final tally I ended up being extremely accurate, but at the cost of being 4 seconds slower than the stage winner.

I think the contrast between the targets on the left of the stage in the shade, with the sun behind them, and the targets on the right of the stage that are brightly lit is pretty interesting, as well as the fact that half the poppers were brightly lit and half were in shadow. As a competitor who doesn’t get to pick when you shoot a given stage, there’s not much I can do about this, but perhaps next time I’ll be more cognizant to aim on the dimly lit targets and trust my sights a little bit more on the brightly-lit ones. As it was, I shot everything at a slowish pace that wasn’t well suited to either.

Stage 6

For me, this stage was all about the steel, and going 8-for-9 is a result I’m actually pretty happy with. That tells me I was in control, but not going so slow that I removed all risk.

The one charlie was my second shot on the second paper target, as I, of course, pull off it too early. I actually called it a delta at the time, but it was too late to go back by the time it registered in my head.

Stage 7 (CM 03-08, Madness)

Another stage where nothing really went terribly wrong, but nothing really went well either. The 4 charlies took this from a 96% run to an 85%, a good example of why speed isn’t all that matters in classifiers. These days, I don’t need classifiers per se, but it is still nice to use them to track overall progress. This classifier is quite doable in Production, but I just didn’t have it in me at that point.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I shot a fairly consistent match, which is always a plus. It’s hard to figure out what to work on when every stage has a different problem. For me, going forward in to the next two weeks of training before my next level 1, I have to work on consistently gripping the gun like I did on Stage 8. I have to figure out a way to train to stop pulling off targets early (I can’t reliably reproduce the problem in practice, oddly enough). And on these long match days, I have to make sure to monitor my energy levels, and bring more coffee.