Saturday, May 28, 2005

Ducks In A Barrel

In my previous article on the Basketball stage, I promised to discuss our efforts to ensure that Range Officers would not apply procedural penalties inconsistently. Of course, nobody could have forseen that two entire squads of experienced shooters would fail to apply stipulated penalties. (We had no dedicated Range Officers; all ROs were competing members of the squads. The MD read the penalty as part of the stage walk-through, but apparently it just didn't register on the conscious mind of many participants.)

During conversations between the Match Director, "Barsoom", and myself, we did note that the classifier chosen for the match, "Ducks In A Barrel" (CM 03-01) stipulated order of engagement. This was an 8-round short course featuring 3 IPSC targets and two Pepper Popper targets. The steel Pepper Popper targets were to be engaged through a barrel, the paper IPSC targets were to be engaged outside of the barrel. The stage procedures read: "Engage the IPSC targets, THEN engage the steel targets."

(emphasis added)

We first questioned whether this explicit order-of-engagement was intentional and necessary. Querying THe Unofficial IPSC List, I learned that this question had already been addressed (via the Brian Enos Forums) to John Amidon, VP of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and head of the National Range Officer Institute of USPSA. His response was clear and unequivocal:

While it may seem as "what difference does it make what order they are engaged in" some classifiers have a specific engagement order, as in this one. The word "then" stipulates that order.
(Please note that the Brian Enos Forum thread included an image of the stage procedure document ... thank you FLEXMONEY.)

We noticed, in reading the forum thread, that several people had already shot this classifier and, not understancing the issues, the Range Officers had allowed them to violate the procedural stipulation and had failed to assign ANY penalties when the targets were engaged 'out of order'. These classifier scores were submitted to USPSA. Lacking any information which would suggest that the scores were not correct, USPSA corrected them and the reported scores were applied to the classification average for everyone who shot the classifier.

Next we wondered what procedural penalties SHOULD be applied. The question was whether a single penalty should be applied, or if 'per shot' penalties should apply. Having no other authoritative guidance, I wrote to John Amidon for a clarification. His response was quick, but I found it difficult to understand whether a single or multiple penalties should be applied under specific circumstances.

" ... the first responsibility to shoot the stage properly, is the competitor, the second is the match staff, they are also advised in the classifier book sent out, that if they have any questions on set up, to call before the match. The issue of how many procedurals is never a cut and dry thing, but if you keep in mind, to stop and think as an RO, before issuing the penalties, a viable solution is usually there."
To this, I attempted to apply existant USPSA rules regarding 'advantage gained'. I decided that there were no rules which applied 'per shot' penalties on more than one target: the only advantage to shooting the paper before the steel, in any combination, was that the Pepper Poppers were set up one behind another. There was a certain delay while waiting for the 'front' popper to fall far enough that the competitor could engage the 'rear' popper, and some competitors were using that time to index over to one or more paper targets and then back for the 'rear' popper. There was an advantage gained in that they may have been able to complete the index away, and the index back, in less time than they had spent waiting for the 'front' popper to fall. However it only applied an advantage in engaging the 'rear' popper, not in engaging any of the IPSC targets.

After I had communicated my decision to Mr. Amidon, and having received no corrections to my reasoning, I decided that a single penalty was sufficient under any circumstances. I communicated this decision to Barsoom, the Match Director, and he agreed that it was certainly sufficient in a 40-point classifier stage.

On match day, I learned that USPSA had decided that the classifier had been compromised by previous inconsistent application of penalties, and USPSA had pulled the classifier from the classifier book ... the day before the match!

Barsoom discovered this in time to substitute another similar classifier, and this is the one which was presented at our Columbia Cascade Section Points Match.

Considering that this classifier ALSO featured a barrel set so that the top of the barrel was only three feet above the ground, nobody was disappointed in the change ...

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... although most of us found it very difficult to shoot an open gun through the barrel while staying in the shooting box, because of the backblast.

I'm learning to enjoy my tenure as a Section volunteer. The most interesting things happen behind the scenes.

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