Sir Walter held their annual classifier match this past weekend, giving USPSA competitors a chance to rack up four new classifier scores. Since classification is based on the best six of your most recent eight classifiers, this was a huge opportunity for me, especially since it meant knocking off some 28% classifiers.
My goal going in was to make B-class, where I’ve been in Production since the fall. To do that, my six best recent classifiers would have to average 60% or above.
The first stage of the day was a classifier. It was still pretty chilly out, so I had taken off my heavy jacket, but left on my tucked-in fleece vest. This wasn’t a particular problem since it didn’t restrict access to the gun or mags, but as you can see during the reload, the open pocket caused me to fumble momentarily. Would have been nice to figure that out on a non-classifier warmup stage.
I felt really bad about this one immediately after shooting it for not zipping up my pockets and hurting my reload, but the video shows it was a fairly minor impediment. What actually cost me a lot of time were those makeup shots on steel. Even the right-hand popper that I got the first time, if you look closely, you can see I hit it maybe an inch from the edge at 7 o’clock. That could have easily been a miss which would have put me close to having to do a disastrous second reload.
Despite those issues, I ended up with a hit factor just one percent shy of B-class. I’m sure given a chance to re-shoot this with my pockets zipped up, and making sure to call my shots on the steel, I could get a solid B-class run.
This stage was the field course, which was a “memory stage” where you could see multiple targets from multiple positions, and some only from one position but not any others. This meant you had to make sure to shoot the right target at the right time, and not just hose everything you can see. That’s what caused my hesitation at the second port where I transition to a target without shooting it and move on. I ended up shooting that target later from the fourth position because I didn’t have enough bullets to shoot it then.
My time of 27 seconds was about 4 seconds off the stage-winning pace for Single Stack, which could probably be made up by moving and reloading faster and maintaining better control of the gun. The sights were really bouncing around when I was letting that muzzle flip four or five inches. I also had two head box hits from pulling the trigger while the sights were still coming down.
Overall, for being a 32 round memory stage, meaning I had one spare bullet unless I wanted to do an extra reload, I’m fairly happy with this one.
The second classifier of the match, another barricade stage, but luckily I could shoot this one entirely around the right side. Having six targets and nine shots, I shot the stage very deliberately which worked out fairly well. The fact that my splits for the big poppers were the same as my splits for the little ones means I was either aiming too much on the big ones (much easier target) or too little on the small ones (and just got lucky to go 3 for 3).
As an aside, this video is an interesting illustration of how much faster the small poppers fall: notice how the second and third poppers hit the ground at the same time, despite me having to take the time to aim and shoot a second shot at another target. Ditto for the fourth and fifth poppers.
A 63% classifier, this barely helps me get in to B class, but being such a short and fast classifier, shaving off a few tenths anywhere would help a lot. Todd Jarrett managed to shoot this one in 2.74 (versus my 4.58).
This stage by far discouraged me the most, primarily because I had a miss on one of the left targets and a delta that only very barely broke the perf on the other. Watch for the dust puffs on the berm on my third and fourth shots. The fourth one is clearly the miss.
I had a lot of trouble shooting around the left side of that barricade squatted down. My splits and hits were better on the right side, which means something was messed up about my stance, position, or technique. The long splits on the poppers were me stretching to lean around the barricade and find the targets, not waiting for the gun to settle or anything. I literally couldn’t see the poppers.
The only amazing thing about this stage is that the classifier score isn’t worse than mid-C. If that miss had even been a delta, this would have been a 67% run, a solid mid-B score.
This was a fairly straightforward stage where I chose the most obvious stage plan and Todd, as you can see on the video, didn’t, and got me by almost 8 seconds (although that gun hiccup cost me a bit).
What’s interesting in that comparison is that my splits are basically the same as his except on the outside targets with the no-shoots on them where I noticeably slow down and he… just… doesn’t. His only concession to the difficulty of the target is shooting the target with the no-shoot last on the right hand array instead of as he came in to position to get the extra stability.
By reloading faster, he was able to shoot coming in to position on the last array which saved him having to set up hard the way I did, and without a doubt shooting on the move on the middle was the way to go. A lot to learn from this stage.
The last classifier of the day, another barricade stage, this one was a little wonky by the time we got to it. Those big heavy poppers have a tendency to shift around as they slam down in to soft mud a few dozen times over the course of the day. I’ll attribute this score, the worst classifier of the day, to that (still a mid-C run despite being, to my mind, absolutely terrible).
Maybe because we were shooting almost directly in to the afternoon sun, but I totally lost my front sight after that first shot. The second shot was more of a guess and it didn’t pay off. I re-shot this one and shaved my time from 8 seconds to 6.5 and could have done even better, time permitting.
For some reason, I had vastly more trouble programming the memory part of this stage (the targets were set up so you saw similar arrangements from the different ports, but they were in fact different targets). Maybe because it was the end of the day and the match was dragging out because we had to wait almost 45 minutes for the squad in front of us (that’s when I got time to reshoot the last classifier), but this stage was a struggle. Which made the fairly good execution of it that much more of a triumph.
At the second port, I got lazy and just shot at the easiest target available, a big popper, and missing it, instead of sticking to my plan and shooting the targets left to right. I was weary. Pretty happy with my draw here, though: no excess movement, just using the arms to bring the gun up to my eye.
You could start anywhere in the shooting area on this stage, and most people on my squad started all the way to the right, cut the corner outside the shooting area to what was for me the third port, and then continued to the left. This gave up two big advantages for no good reason.
One is that, like on the fifth stage with Todd Jarrett, it’s always easier to reload moving toward your dominant hand (left-to-right if right handed). You can bring the gun to your face and reload in your workspace while maintaining the 180.
But even for divisions that didn’t have to reload much on this stage, being able to come around the corner and take that target coming in to position as I did saved a significant amount of time, much more than was saved moving uprange outside the shooting area, then having to turn around and set up hard to shoot from that port.
This ended up being a decent match for me, giving me good enough classifiers to be an estimated .75 percentage points away from B class (and definitely make it if my reshoot counts). Not the resounding victory I was expecting, but not bad. Classifiers do tend to reward the skills they specifically test, which are a subset of the full range of skills to win USPSA matches (cue argument about replacing the classifier system) and in this case, I just wasn’t prepared. I don’t dry fire with a barricade ever, much less a shooting box which I found definitely constricts your range of motion in a way using cover in IDPA never does.
This match was much more of a learning experience and much less off a tour de force than I was hoping after my winter of dry fire, but I have definitely taken away a few things to up my game.