Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Fish Flop

When I have new people (and they're always new) taking the Introduction to USPSA class, it helps a lot if they come with experienced friends. Often, these are the people who have already talked them into trying IPSC competition, and as part of the encouragement they bring them to the range in time for the class.

I like to draft these experienced shooters to be "Demonstrators". That means I run them through the exercises in the "Life Fire" portion of the class, so the folks see what it is suppose to look like when someone actually shoots the stage scenario. Then the new people try it. It's all part of the "We tell you what to do, then we show you what to do, then you do it, then we talk about what you just did" school of training.

That's the exception rather than the rule, though. Usually the "new people" are members of the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club, and they've done little more than contact Mike McCarter -- by "boss", sort-of -- and make arrangements to sign up for the next class.

That was the case last weekend. I had four "new people" for the class: Bruce and Margie, and Bill and Loci (pronounced like "Lucy", except the OH instead of the EWE sound). I was delighted to have two married couples show up. It's much more fun when couples can go shooting together, and it's an especially good sign when a man wants his wife to join him at the range.

I also had another member, who had been an IPSC shooter before but came by for the class-room segment. I had hoped he would be able to stick around for the "Live Fire" exercises, but unfortunately he had other commitments for the rest of the afternoon.

Acting as my own Demonstrator isn't the best approach. It's difficult for me to act as my own Range Officer, so I have to wing it. As usual, this means I hand the buzzer to one of the students, walk them through the Range Commands a couple of times, and then we just sort of wing it. This does have a slight advantage in that they learn the Range Commands faster, but they are distracted from the demonstration.

We worked this through the first hour and a half of the Live Fire exercise, when my friend WhiteFish showed up.

I asked him if he would be Demonstrator for me, and he decided he could do that. He got his gear out of the car and "geared up" while I was finishing the current exercise, and then I described the next exercise to the class ... and also to my Demonstrator.

This was going to be the first time we were going to try moving from one shooting position to another. We would start out engaging three IPSC targets from Box "A", then move down-range and to the right and engage two steel targets from Box "B", which was behind a Bianchi Barricade.

I hadn't noticed it, but WhiteFish was wearing his disgustingly dilapidated pair of pointy toed cowboy boots. When he half-turned to the right and started out of the box, those toes caught the one-inch high shooting box and he fell like a Helicopter with a shot-up engine.

Except for the auto-rotating part, which a Helicopter can do but a Whitefish cannot.

It was a thing of beauty.

He did everything exactly right. He turned it into a hip-roll, and even though his gun-hand was on the downhill side, he sacrificed his elbow by sliding it along the gravel. In doing so he kept the muzzle pointing downrange and his Open Glock out of the dirt.

As the dust settled, WhiteFish was curled in a semi-fetal position. I was standing over him, timer forgotten (it was still at shoulder height, pointing at the Fallen Warrior) when he looked up at me.

"Are you alright?" I asked him, conscious of the four pair of eyes behind me who have GOT to be thinking "Are we sure this is how we want to enjoy the Shooting Experience?"

My Downed Demonstrator looked around, checked himself out, and not finding anything broken nodded and said "uh huh".

"Well, the clock's still running. We're waiting on you."

My compassion for my fellow man is legendary.

WhiteFish jumped up crawled uphill until he got his feet under him, and advanced toward the Bianchi Barricade at his best speed. I noted that it was about half the velocity he had obviously been trying for Before The Fall.

But he got 'er done.

Still shaken, but not stirred, he took an extra moment to get a good bead on both the Pepper Popper and the U.S. Popper down-range. They fell with all the alacrity, but none of the style, which he had just demonstrated.

After completing the unload-and-show-clear thingie, we turned it into a teaching moment. Yes, we had planned this out ahead of time and of course he had deliberately scraped about a pound of skin of his elbow just to make it more realistic.

One of the students, I believe it was the naughty Loci (whose mother, it occurred to me, may have not known the correct spelling for Loki) asked if we would run through that one more time. She believed she may have missed some of the nuances.

Bill asked if this would be on the Final Exam.

Margie, every the practical one, was heard to mutter "I'm not doing that, no way!"

And Bruce was ... just not saying anything. He knew he was the next up in the shooting order, and he appeared to be calculating the distance from Box "A" to Box "B", and the height of both shooting boxes.

We finished the class, taking an extra class just because we were having so much darn fun. As we were hauling the target stands and steel back to the Prop Room, I offered WhiteFish ten bucks a day if he would just come out to the class once a month and Take a Dive for us again. I allowed as how it would be a great advertising gimmick, and I would split the "take" with him after we started selling tickets.

No, he didn't agree to it even when I upped the offer to twenty bucks.

Then I told the class about the offer, and his refusal.

That's when Loci turned to WhiteFish, and sweetly offered to pass the hat. The whole class was willing to chip in for an Instant Replay, if he would just wait until they retrieved their cameras from the car.

One thing is sure: if WhiteFish squads with me at the Certification Match next weekend, I know that I'll have four new shooters signing up for the same squad.

Plus, of course, the inimitable Hobo Brasser, who is always happy to end up the Last Man Standing.

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