Saturday, March 03, 2007

USPSA new rule 1.2.1

The USPSA Draft of proposed new rules of competition serves four general purposes:
  1. It removes all rules what are IPSC specific (that is, rules which are applicable to International competition under the provisions of the IPSC competition rules, buth which have not bearing on American competition. Example: Appendix D7 inclusion of the definition of "Modified" Division, which is not recognized in USPSPA.)
  2. It clarifies rules allowing fair competion by people who are unable to perform some physical acts required by published stage procedures. A good example is the requirement for "weak hand" grip during classifiers. Some people are unable to fire a pistol with their "weak hand". The new rules identify the situations, and provide solutions which the RM can apply so that the shooter can continue to compete without either incurring unfair penalties, or incurring an unfair advantage over other competitors.
  3. It removes rules which are not deemed suitable for USPSA competition because Americans simply deny that they are necessary. An example is the rule which penalize only the first to hits on a penalty target, no matter how many times it is actually hit by the competitor. Supposedly, this rule was imposed so that new shooters would not be discouraged by what they may consider 'excessive' penalties. Americans generally believe that you are responsible for your actions, and also that the rule was poorly written.
  4. It removes or rewrites rules which, due to vague phraseology, were ambiguous and subject to misinterpretation.
Most of the new/rewritten rules are carefully considered and crafted, and the reason why the changes have been made are obvious to the experienced USPSA competitor.

However, there are other changes which may have escaped the attention of some readers. The purpose of these rules may not be immediately obvious.

Rewritten rule 1.2.1, defining 'General Courses of Fire', is a good example:

1.2.1 General Courses of Fire: "Short Courses" must not require more than 8 rounds to complete and no more than 2 shooting locations. "Medium Courses" must not require more than 16 rounds to complete and no more than 3 shooting locations. Course design and construction must not require more than 8 scoring hits from any single location or view, nor allow a competitor to shoot all targets in the course of fire from any single location or view. "Long Courses" must not require more than 32 rounds to complete. Course design and construction must not require more than 8 scoring hits from any single location or view, nor allow a competitor to shoot all targets in the course of fire from any single location or view.

In reading this rule, we are struck by the changes which have been made. In the 2004 rule book, the definition of the Medium and the Long COF included this verbiage:

Course design and construction must not require more than 9 scoring hits from any single location or view, nor allow a competitor to eliminate a location or view in the course of fire by shooting all available targets at an earlier location or view.
The high-lighted clause dissallowing compeitotors to 'eliminate' locations or views is confusing at best. In its most extreme interpretation, it would require competitors to engage at least one target from every shooting box, and through every port ... even though the presence of several ports or boxes had been intended to allow the competitor to determine his own "best solution to the shooting problem", which is the essence of the Free-Style Principal of IPSC competiton.

Several years ago I emailed John Amidon, USPSA Vice President and head of the National Range Officers Institute asking for a clarification of this IPSC rule. Mr. Amidon focused on the last part of the clause: "... shooting all available targets at an earlier location or view", and determined (officially) that the intent and effect of this rule is that, in Medium and Long COFs, the competitor may not 'shoot at all targets from a single location or view'.

This is effectively an imposition on the stage designers and the match set-up crew. If they fail to set up at least one target which can only be engaged from a different location or view from another target, the stage is not acceptable in USPSA competition.

(NOTE that there is no penalty applied to the individual competitor who finds a way around this rule. However, if that happens in a match the stage must be thrown out of the match. Alternatively, it must be re-built to deny this access and everyone who has already shot this stage must be required to reshoot it for score. It is usually more productive, although still disappointing, for the match administrators to remove the existing scores from the match standings and disallow any more participants to shoot the stage.)

The new rule version is much more clearly stated, and the confusion described above has been eliminated. The consequences of bad stage design or stage construction has not changed, but since the rule is easy to understand it lessens the probability that stages which violate this rule will be inadvertently presented.

This is one of the Ten Good Reasons To Rewrite The Rule Book. (Actually, there may be many more ... even if we only consider nonsensical, arbitrary and/or inapplicable rules. Perhaps this is a valid subject for a future article.)

While I support the rewrite as presented, there is another change inserted into the rule which has been a Forum Topic on the USPSA Members Forum:

Course design and construction must not require more than 8 scoring hits from any single location or view
The 2004 rules were a bit more generous (or problematical, depending on your point of view) in that they limited stage design to 9 scoring hits from any location or view.

So why the change?

Before we start the discussion, we need to define some terms.

A Location is a physical, geographic spot on the ground. If you shoot at ('engage') a target from one place, that's a 'location'. When you take a stop, you have arrived at another 'location'.

A View refers to either shooting through a port, or any other physical restriction on your view of the target(s). Note that this may be accomplished by changing your stance ... standing, squatting, sitting, kneeling, prone.

The difference between one location or view and another is that a certain amount of time must be expended in movement of the body, rather than movement of the firearm.

The purpose of such a distinction is generally accepted to allow a person using a limited-capacity firearm to reload without incuring a time-penalty. That is, you have to spend time moving anyway, so you can reload during that second or two which is already invested in movement.

Reloading without any change in position or view is called a "Standing Reload", which sometimes occurs no matter what the stage design allows or mandates. This most often occurs when the competitor misses a shot, thereby wasting ammunition.
The generally accepted reason for this "required hit-count limitation" is that it doesn't force limited-capacity competitors to make a standing reload, even if no targets have been missed. Since match participants who are competiting in the Limited-10 and Production Divisions can have no more than 10 rounds in their magazine (plus one in the chamber, hopefully), a nine-round limitation has not been deemed to constitute a hardship on these competitors.

After all, they have the option of reloading before they begin to shoot from this location or view, so they probably have 11 rounds in their gun. If they miss more than two shots they will have to make a Standing Reload, but that's just part of the game -- the Conventional wisdom is: Don't Miss!

So why make the change from 9 scoring hits to 8 scoring hits required?

USPSA Members on the USPSA FORUM have suggested that it is an accomodation to the Proposed Single-Stack Division. Ignoring any other theories, this makes the most sense to me.

Unlike Limited-10 and Production divisions, Single-Stack Division competitors are limited to 8-round magazine. Adding the one round up the spout, that gives them a maximum of 9 rounds in their pistol before they have to make a Standing Reload, assuming they miss a couple of shots.

Perhaps this hit-count limitation was reduced to encourage the new division?

We don't know. Nobody has told us yet.

But if that was the intent, there are a couple of reasons why some people may consider the justification insufficient.

First, the Provisional Single-Stack Division is, well, 'provisional. USPSA is allowing people to shoot matches while declaring that they are competing in that division, but it's not yet official. The new rule book includes that Division definition in Appendix D7, but as of the date of this writing it has not been officially accepted. It's unclear whether this is the unofficial official acceptance of this division, or whether it is a matter of USPSA positioning itself so that the official rule book is ready if and when it is officially accepted.

Very confusing levels of officiality, granted. My guess, in this limited context, is that USPSA is ready to accept the new division, but has not due to something like "we said we would give it a 12 month trial run" (or however long) and they can't legitimately accept until the trial period has been completed.

Let's leave that point for a moment, and get on to the other reason why some people may consider this inadequate justification for the hit-limitation change:


Revolvers may be the Cat's Pajamas for you hard-core ICORE folks (Jerry V., I'm talking about you) but for most of us they are, sorry, the Red-Headed Stepchild of IPSC competition.

Revolvers are available which hold 8 rounds. However, the USPSA rules mandate that, if an 8-round capacity Revolver is used, it must be declared as Limited-10, Production, Limited or Open Division.

Here's the rule in the Proposed (Draft) rule book:
Appendix D5: Revolver Standard Division
16. No limit on cylinder capacity, however, a maximum of 6 rounds to be fired before reloading. Violations will incur one procedural penalty per occurrence
. Rule 6.2.5 reads:

6.2.5 Where a Division is unavailable or deleted, or where a competi­tor fails to declare a specific Division prior to the commencement of a match, the competitor will be placed in the Division which, in the opinion of the Range Master, most closely identifies with the competitor’s equipment. If, in the opinion of the Range Master, no suitable Division is available, the competitor will shoot the match for no score.

So what we have here is ... failure to communicate.

USPSA is doing a great job on this rules update, what with making the draft available to the membership for comment. Unfortunately, not all of the comments are going to fall into the "Yeah! You guys ROCK!" category. This is one of them.

I would like to know why this hit-count limitation has been changed, and whether it's really necessary. Also, whether USPSA thinks it's fair and necessary. After all, they have no compunction about ignoring the Revolver Division capacity limitations, why should they treat Single-Stack any different?

Note that I care.

I'm shooting in Open Division. I have a handful of 170mm magazines into which I can stuff 26 rounds of .38 Super ammunition, and one up the spout. I can load 'er up on Saturday and shoot for three weeks, including misses. I'm a Big Cheater, and I'm just proud to be here.

Well, actually I do care.

I want the rules to be fair, and consistent, and if any changes are to be made I want to know the reason before I buy into them. It doesn't really matter if the rules apply to me. What matters is that rules are not made or changed carpriciously, without any justification.

This is a problem which we have had to contend for the last two versions of the IPSC rule book, and it has caused a lot of hard feelings over the years.

We have a New Beginning, a New Hope (forgive the Star Wars references), and it would be best if we can reliably expect that rules changes are based in reality, driven by improvement and resolution of defined problems.

It would be less helpful, and the results less acceptable, if the perception continues that the rule-making process is capricious and arbitrary.

We've already done that, been there, own the T-shirt. That's the reason why USPSA has distanced itself from IPSC rules.


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