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Musings on Steel Challenge, World Championship Edition

Yesterday we talked about Steel Challenge, and today we’ll revisit the topic with the aid of video. This is a clip from the 2009 World Championship, on the Accelerator stage, so named because the big 18″x24″ sheet targets lure you in to shooting faster before your last shot on a 12″ plate at 15 yards. Check out the first piece of the video to see the stage diagram and get a flavor for the shooting.

The whole video is interesting and worth watching, but what follows are a few thoughts about some particular moments. First, we have Todd Jarrett’s winning run on this stage with just over 10 seconds total, meaning his four scored runs (dropping the terrible middle one) averaged about 2.5 seconds to draw and shoot five plates. Watch how smooth his movements are and how every transition exudes confidence. It doesn’t look fast (herky-jerky) like some of the other guys, but it is fast.

Steel Challenge is ultimately a giant exercise in calling your shot, knowing exactly where the bullet went whether on the target or off the moment you pull the trigger. High level guys like JJ Racaza in the next clip make up misses faster than seems possible because they aren’t waiting to not hear the ding on steel (which takes even longer than waiting to just hear a ding): as soon as he pulls the trigger and he knows he’s missed, and he puts a follow up shot on target. This is one of those phenomena that may seem like the pros just being all-around faster shooters, but it’s actually speed that’s gained by using an entirely different feedback mechanism: watching the sights or dot lift as the gun enters recoil.

Of course, shot-calling isn’t perfect. Witness, for example, Max Michel throwing a double tap because he mentally called the shot as a miss, when through luck or skill, it wasn’t. The good news is his double-tap split was on the order of .15 or .2 seconds. The bad news is, one or two tenths can be the difference between first and third. As it happens, Max ended up winning the whole match, but lost the Accelerator stage win to Todd Jarrett by… .14 seconds.

And finally, we have BJ Norris’ run.  Watching his amazingly fast and very consistent first two shots, I’m pretty sure he’s trained a lot on this particular stage setup and especially on running those first two targets as a double tap. It seems like it takes him a few tenths to switch from double tap to shot-calling mode while lining up on that far, third target, and never managed to hit a groove. He turned in a decent time and took second overall at the match, but in this particular case, trying to “game” that one set of targets didn’t seem to work out for him.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.

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