Wednesday, February 23, 2005


As of today, I am no longer eligible for awards in the Senior Category.

I suppose it had to happen sometime. I console myself that growing old(er) is not so bad, considering the alternatives.

But I'm thinking, why did it have to happen NOW! Now that I'm finally figuring out how to play this game. Now that I finally have accumulated good equipment that works reliably, and I no longer am handicapped by my gear. Now that I have the leisure time, and sufficient disposable income, to afford to shoot regularly.

My once-skinny frame (I'm six feet tall, and when I got out of the Army in 1970 I only weighed 126 pounds) now has a prominent bulge above my belt, and the waist-line is now AT my hip-bones, not ABOVE them. My eyes are becoming increasingly short-sighted, so the iron sights of a pistol are just a grey blur. I tire more easily, I lose energy in hot weather, I'm generally weaker and my endurance ... didn't endure.

Okay, so I'm whining. I should be grateful for all of these things I just listed, that I have my health, that I live in a great country which recognises my right to participate in shooting competitions. I know that.

Unfortunately, one thing I don't have is talent. We see some people who compete in IPSC matches and they seem to just fly through the stages. They have the coordination and the natural ability to move quickly, hit the targets, and make it look easy.

Me? I have to work at it, every time. It has taken me over 20 years to learn how to shoot IPSC with some small degree of competence.

I do have a few arrows in my quiver.

A few years ago I took a one-day shooting class from Travis Tomasie. He taught me to take just a LITTLE more time on double-taps and save time on indexing between targets. He taught me how to move into a shooting position and out of it again without wasting time. Other lessons improved my reloading speed and reliability, grip and trigger-control, and the best way to 'dope' a stage. The main result of these lessons was that I learned how to save time on a stage without sacrificing accuracy; eliminate unneccessary movement, and use every tenth of a second productively. One of the most productive lessons was learning to call my shots.

I moved from Limited to Open class, where the electronic dot-sight minimized the loss of visual accuity. This also allowed use of a compensator which saved time between shots, and the 'big-stick' magazine which eliminated some reloads in most stages.

The chances are that I'll never shoot much BETTER, so I'm learning to shoot SMARTER. Frequently, there are ways to shoot a stage that cater to my presonal strengths. Seeing these opportunities is necessary before I can take advantage of them, so I've put a lot of time into analyzing each stage before I shoot it.

I can still shoot on the move, call my shots, and when necessary shoot over the top of the slide instead of looking for a sight on hoser stages. (At a match last weekend I turned my dot OFF so I wouldn't be distracted by it when engaging a dozen very close targets. I got mostly A-hits, but was penalized on a string of pepper poppers backed by a fat no-shoot ... which I dinged.)

Brian Enos's "Practical Shooting - Beyond Fundamentals" is at my elbow as I write. I've read it several times, and will continue to re-read it because it provides valuable reinforcement of the skills I know I have ... but sometimes during the excitement of a stage I forget about them and try to go faster than I can shoot accurately.

On days when everything is working together and I'm focused, everything is easy and without effort. It's the days when I start out already tired, or work too hard in non-shooting activities (resetting moving targets, RO-ing) or I'm otherwise distracted that I make a lot of foolish mistakes. I still need to learn to pace myself. I need to husband my strength instead of trying to do my job plus the work that others can do.

But you know what? I still love this game.

I find that I have just as much fun on days when every stage falls into the toilet as I do when everything clicks. I enjoy the opportunity to be outdoors, to spend time with my friends; the old chums as well as the new friends I hadn't met before. It means a lot to me, that I can spend a day at the range with SWMBO making loud noises and slaughtering innocent sheets of cardboard.

Yep, the years have taken a lot away from me. But they have given me rewards that I would never have imagined before.

And sometimes I can pass on some of the techniques and tips I've learned over the years to some of the young men and women who are new to the game.

Watching them grow, and learn to love the game, is probably the best reward of all.

Maybe growing old(er) gracefully is just another new lesson for me to learn.

I'll work on that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you get older , you will be looking forward to Social Security. The same people who organized the swift cowardly slobs for revenge, to smear vietnam vets and spread lies about Kerry' fellows in coastal div 11, and kerry himself('boob bait for the bubbas' to paraphrase Moynihan, are now trying to orginize a similar campaign to scare the folk about Soc. Sec.