Confucious say…

…man who aim at published stage descriptions, miss.

This is another reprint from the earlier version of the blog – the stages referenced are from 2008, but the article is still quite valid!

It seems like a discussion periodically appears on the Benoverse around someone trying to determine the best way to shoot the stages of a major match solely based on the information presented in published courses of fire. The latest one at the time of this writing occurred in the thread for the 2008 Area 6 stages. Usually, the discussion is started by someone making their first trip to a major match, and they want to make the most out of their preparation time and get a jump on their stage strategies. Unfortunately, they’re headed down a dead end with that thinking – trying to gather strategies from a written course description is like trying to determine the most scenic drive by looking at a road map. You can glean some information, but its mostly a worthless exercise.

Published course descriptions ARE useful for some things, though. Let’s take a look at the useful information you can glean from them, and how you can use that to better prepare for the match.

There are various perspectives on what is usable in a published course design. Matt Burkett and Saul Kirsch have both written information on the subject, so my take on this is certainly not something revolutionary or 100% original. Your mileage may certainly vary. Let me give you some thoughts and then walk you through what info I gather from some real world examples of upcoming 2008 matches!

There are some relatively hard facts in the course descriptions that are logistically important. You can get the rough round count (this might change, but usually stays pretty close), and have an idea about the number of stages you’ll encounter. This is important in that you can insure that you have enough ammo with you for the match – shipping ammo ahead of you is rapidly becoming an important factor for remote matches.

You can identify any particular skills that you might want to brush up on before the match. For instance, you can examine start positions, required shooting positions or styles, etc, and spend a little bit of time on each on in your practice, if they are strange or awkward. That will raise your comfort level with those particulars during the match.

Depending on the division that you shoot, you may be able to make some notes on particular strategies to investigate when you have a chance to walk the real stages at the match. For instance, as an Open division shooter, it can be advantageous to reload to my big stick, depending on the construction of the stage, to gain extra capacity in the latter half of the stage. If I spot a course description that looks like it might be a viable thing to check out, I’ll note it down. I won’t, however, get stuck on that idea – walking the real stage is the only way to tell for sure. But, this gives me a checklist of items to look at when I first walk the stages.

If you know the range the match will occur on, and you know the style that the course designer tends to use, you might be able to get some idea of the distances involved. Again, don’t get too wrapped up in it, but if you suspect some long distance, it would never hurt to put some practice time on shooting long range targets.

Finally, if there’s a classifier stage, you can actually set that stage up in practice. You can overdo this – you want to be fresh and sharp on it in the match, so if you choose to set up and practice the classifier shoot it a couple of times, and leave it. At some point, you risk being complacent in the match.

Ok, let’s look at some matches – first the 2008 Double Tap Championship. The stages can be downloaded here. I know from shooting this match in the past that Robert Porter likes to design relatively up close, run and gun types of stages. He sometimes uses creative “carnival” elements to keep things interesting. The bays at the range are relatively shallow, so the longest shots are likely to be 18-20 yards, and there won’t be many of those. Here’s what I can glean from these stages, besides the round count of approximately 340 rounds. Skills to practice:

  • unloaded gun on one table, mag on other table
  • loaded gun on table, seated and standing
  • uprange, wrists above shoulders
  • kneeling on ground, strong hand grasping object
  • strong hand on door knob, weak hand in front pocket
  • both hands flat on wall
  • facing uprange, hands on object, push object over
  • shooting strong hand only on the move
  • moving low under objects
  • low light target engagement (probably do this in dry fire at night)
  • movement on a narrow surface (get a 2×12 from Home Depot, and stay on it)
  • brush up on flow across close, wide open targets at high movement rates

Things to check up on when I get onsite:

  • Stage 1 – timing on the swinging mover
  • Stage 2 – plan a route carefully through the barrels
  • Stage 6 – examine timings on the swinging hardcover targets
  • Stage 7 – timing on swinger
  • Stage 9 – confirm ability to shoot on move on the bridge
  • Stage 11 – pick a port to shoot through carefully

There are a couple of stages that involve placement of an object in a container or something to that effect. Unless you have the exact objects, its not real useful to practice this. You already know how to put one thing inside another – simply do them very technically and correct in the match, and you’ll be good. Take some time in your walkthrough to get familiar with the objects and understand how to manipulate them correctly and safely, and trust that you’ve already got what it takes!

Ok, on to the 2008 Area 6. The stages are linked in the thread on the Benoverse I mentioned at the top of this post! 267 rounds for this match, if I’m counting correctly. Versus the DTC match, A6 has several short speed shoot and standards stages that, while pulling down the round count, vary the challenge a bit more. Its been quite a while since I’ve shot at South River Gun Club – I know the basic layout, and the size of some of the berms, but don’t know enough to make guesses about distances to targets. The ill-named “Classic” targets appear on one stage, the rest are Metric targets. Stage 4 might off the change to reload to the big stick after the first 3 targets, so I’ll check that out onsite. The skills list I’ve pulled:

  • some emphasis on steel targets
  • some emphasis on port work, and nailing positions
  • loaded gun inside briefcase or similar
  • wrists above shoulders draw
  • draw from wrists above shoulder to weak hand only
  • reload to strong hand only
  • start holding object in front of chest with both hands
  • start with strong hand on door knob, weak hand on “door bell”
  • Classifier CM 08-03 Six

Onsite, I’ll need to double check these details:

  • Stage 8 – can shoot freestyle while keeping port open? Timing of swingers
  • Stage 9 – Timing of swinger and disappearing target. While an unlikely option, will leaving the 10 points from the disappearing target provide any advantage?
  • Stage 11 – examine positions, and devise simple to follow, efficient plan
  • Stage 12 – timing on Pendulum and Mover targets

So, again, none of these things are revolutionary… Note that I’m not really pulling apart any strategies, just noting down some discrete skills to make sure I’m familiar with, and some key points to look at so that I don’t overlook them during my stage recon before the match. Diversity of practice and a broad base of skills developed in practice and matches is always what’s going to carry your performance, but brushing up on the specifics will help add to your confidence when you step up to those stages at the big match.

I hope you find this helpful, and that it sparks some ideas on how you can approach published stage descriptions in a useful, creative way before you head out to a match. If you have additional thoughts, feel free to pop them into a comment!

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/confucious-say/

2 pings

  1. DR Performance says:

    Confucious say … man who aim at published course description, miss! http://bit.ly/k1YNFd

  2. xre says:

    RT @drperformance: Confucious say … man who aim at published course description, miss! http://bit.ly/k1YNFd

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