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.


Grace Under Fire

When we talk about Practical Pistol (and 3-gun, and Multigun, and Rifle, etc.) competition, we rarely talk about the intangible aspects of the sport.

We never talk about sportsmanship. If we did, what would we say? "It's good; it's necessary; it reflects well on us as individuals to be good sportsmen; bad sportsmanship tends to lead the sport into disrepute." Vague stuff like that.

Fine, we really have nothing to say about sportsmanship. We accept it as a standard, but we don't really worry about living our lives that way. Either we're gentlemen and ladies, or we're oafs and buffoons. But we don't pay much attention to it, we take it for granted, because we don't really know what it is.

But we know it when we see it.

Here's a video example of sportsmanship.

Big Dawg shot a stage badly at an important match. He had a good game plan, but (like Dirty Harry) "in all this excitement, I kind of forgot ...". It was a complicated stage with so may different ways to shoot it, it's difficult under game pressure to remember exactly which way you had decided to shoot it. (When I shot the stage, I was so overwhelmed by the possibilities that I just found the simplest way to shoot it and ignored the fact that it was going to cost me a big time penalty.)

In the actual event, he failed to engage to US Popper targets.

That's frustrating, and embarrising and disappointing too. But he was squadded with friends who constantly tease each other, so he was vulnerable.

Worse, SWMBO had done exactly the same thing just a few minutes prior, and dealt with her disappointment privately. When she saw the mistake, she embraced and applauded him because, as she put it, "You Did It My Way!"

Many people would have felt taunted, and reacted with anger.

Big Dawg instead chose to accept it as intended. He didn't get mad, he just ... milked the moment. The result is a video showing two friends laughing off a mutual silly mistake, and turning a rainy day goof into an amusing story they can share for years to come.

Grace Under Fire in the societal sense:

When we talk about speed, power and accuracy, we ignore one of the most important factors of IPSC competition: physical grace.

I have talked to very good, fast-rising competitors who seem to have a natural talent for the sport, and one common theme when I ask them what makes them so good is that, as one competitor said, they "practice moving gracefully".

Maybe it's a facet of Situational Awareness, but good competitors always seem to know where they are in relation to the people and physical objects around them.

The U.S. Coast guard, a miltary organization who must daily accomplish their mission while at the same time keep track of the ship and the sea ("one hand for the ship, one hand for yourself") even has a webpage which defines the concept:
Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Those of us who are not sailors ... more important, those of us who spend most of our lives in safe environments, must learn a special combination of mind-set and physical acuity to keep us safe when we are running with guns.

The final safety feature, when our situational awareness fails us, is that we must learn to move as if we are dancers. Never a mis-step, only a step in a direction for which we had not planned.

It's embarrassing and painful to fall down. What is worse, is to fall down when we are holding a loaded firearm, the safety off and our finger dangerously near the trigger.

I've fallen while running a stage, and I bet many of you have done so, too. The trick is to fall safely, accepting the injuries involved with using your hands to keep the gun pointed safely and in a safe condition (some competitors report having actually flicked the safety ON while falling) rather than to worry about blocking your fall.

No, it's far far better not to fall, even though you may trip over obstacles which you did not perceive because 90% of your attention was focused on your goal, rather than your surroundings.

In this video, we see the lovely SWMBO navigating a course of fire which nobody in the squad had identified as particularly hazardous. What none of us had noted is that one of the firing positions was immediately adjacent to a vision barrier, the pedestal support of which was poking up higher than it should. The challenge is to move as quickly as possible between firing positions, but sometimes the need to set our feet 'just so' to stop our forward momentum, while at the same time being aware of the gun, the desire to position ourselves perfectly to engage targets ... [deep breath] results in an awkward encouter with a tripping hazard.

A professional dancer would handle this situation without comment. An athlete would take it in stride.

A Geek, even a Lady Geek, would probably not have been trained to deal with this rude interruption in a stroll across the park. But SWMBO has been competing in IPSC matches for going on 9 years now, and while not an athlete she has been taking dancing classes for some months.

Is it the IPSC competition experience, or is it the dancing classes which give her the ability to recover so adroitly?

No matter. She trips, but does not fall .. the gun is always pointed safely downrange, and she recovers almost unconsciously from an Unfortunate Encounter which may have left a less-body-aware person sprawling in the gravel.

We're glad that she maintained her poise, and even happier that she was not injured.

Was this just another of the common, everyday fortuitous "Breaks of The game" which turned out okay?

No, I prefer to believe it was just another common, everyday occurance of ...

Grace Under Fire, in the physical sense.

These videos can also be seen in higher resolution here. The "When Bad Things" video is 10mb, the "Tripping Hazard" video is 4mb.

Friday, March 02, 2007

USPSA Rule Book Update: Rule 2.5

Updating the rule book which regulates competition of any kind is kind of like making sausage: you may appreciate the end results, but you don't usually want to watch the process.

I've been competing in Practical Pistol competitions off and on for 23 (now 24) years, starting in 1983 under the auspices of Volume 1 of the USPSA Competition Rules.

We in USPSA have seen a lot of changes in competition rules. Some of the changes have been nearly seamless; some of them have generated bad feelings among the people who had to live (compete) under what they considered unreasonable expectations.

The current manifestation of the USPSA rule book is a case in point.

Incorporated in 2004, ex parte rules which were more appropriate to International competition (some countries in IPSC can't legally compete using the targets which were originally designed for this competitive shooting venue) chose to impose many Politically Correct rules having little to do with resolving problems which had been manifested in competition.

In 2006, as has previously been reported here, USPSA reached a meeting of minds with the International body (IPSC) which allowed the American Region to create it's own rules of competition.

Gone are rules which apply strictly to International and ex-American matches.

Added are rules which serve only to encourage participation by those competitors who, because of physical limitations, are not able to perform all of the actions readily performed by shooters who have full use of all limbs.

Rules which were subject to misinterpretation have been clarified, corrected, or simply deleted.

Finally, the USPSA rules can address practical shooting concerns which have little to do with competition in countries where the Second Amendment is little more than an expletive.

A sterling example of the tremendous improvement on Rules of Competition for Practical Pistol (which is the basis of rules for 3-Gun and Multigun) is that which deal with the conundrum: what do you do with a person who arrives at the range with a loaded pistol?

Concealed Carry is an increasingly important fact of life in America, where now 48 out of 50 states allow private citizens to carry concealed firearms. It's a curious fact that in most of America, you can carry a loaded firearm almost anywhere you go ... except to a shooting range.

Yup. IPSC matches, even here in America, feature "Cold Ranges." That means you can carry a firearm, but you can't load it until you come to the line to shoot a stage.

You can't take a firearm out of your car unless it is cased in a bag or a box. (The firearm, not your car.)

Since there is no provision for any situation except arriving at the range with all firearms secured, in Firearms Forums it is an eternal TFH (Thread From Heck) about the best way to handle the difference between legal concealed carry and Range Rules.

Do you drive to the range wiht your concealed handgun holstered, then stop on the road just before you enter the range and bag your gun?

Do you bag your gun before you leave home, thus rendering yourself without protection for the duration of the drive?

Do you go to the range and, under the cover of your trunk lid, remove your concealed firearm, unload it, and put it in a carrier ... thus violating the rules of IPSC competition and hoping that nobody notices, or says anything if they do notice that you are violating one of the primary safety rules?

This has always been an awkward situation for those who choose to travel armed, but now USPSA has suggested a way to avoid the conundrum entirely.

Announcing New Rule 2.5:

2.5 Unloading/Loading Station

2.5.1 If it is possible that some competitors arriving at a range where a USPSA match is being held may be in possession of a loaded firearm on their person (e.g. law enforcement officers etc.), (M)atch organizers should provide an Unloading/Loading Station to enable such competitors to safely unload their firearms prior to entering the range, and to safely load their firearms again on departure from the range. The Unloading/Loading Station should be conveniently located outside the entrance to the range (or outside the portion of the range allocated to the USPSA match), it should be clearly sign-marked and it must include a suitable impact zone.
Notice a couple of things about this rule:
First, it says "should", not "Must". This indicates that it is not a necessary prerequisite to identifying the even as a "Practical" match, or identifying any relationship to USPSA or IPSC at all.

The only purpose is to establish the acceptability of such an arrangement for the convenience of match patrons, and the understanding that competitors who take advanage of their Second Amendment rights are welcome, encouraged to attend, and are not required to resort to subterfuge in order to perform the simple act of moving (armed) from their automobile to (disarmed) the range environs.

In other words, it provides for a transition stage where participants can legally acknowledge "Cold Range" rules without giving up their "All Hot, All The Time" preferred mode.

You may think this is a minor issue; if so, you probably don't carry a concealed weapon as part of your daily regimen. You're probably not a Law Enforcement Officer, or Military, or a member of any other profession which allows ... encourages ... requires you to be armed at all times.

And you're probably not licensed by your state/county to carry a concealed firearm, which typicaly requires a complex and complicated legal requirements to be bestowed on you. (Yes, I know, it shouldn't require any legal permission; I also know that babies appear magically in a cabbage patch after a long journey via the Stork Express.)

In truth, I don't care whether my local range incorporates this rule and allows me to unload before entering The Match without penalty. I don't even care, really, whether this rule change actually passes (although I think it should.)

What I DO care about is that USPSA has acknowledged that this is a situation which is problematic to a significant number of participants ... or even an insignificent number. It doesn't matter.

This rule is a positive and substantial recognition of the culture of America. If nothing else, it serves to put the world on notice that Practical Shooting Competition in America recognizes the right of its citizens to go armed, to protect themselves, and to do so without fear of penalty from one of the few organizations which nomitively professes a belief in the right of ever citizen to self-defense.

On top of all this, USPSA has presented this new rule as one of a number which define guidelines for conduct at shooting matches in America.

Can you believe that?

I live this sport, this organization, this country.

Not everyone can make this claim.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

USPSA New Rule Book Resources

I've finally completed my evaluation of the proposed USPSA rule book.

I'll decline commenting excessively here, now. I've made comments on at least one of the files to which you will find links below.

The purpose here is to provide you with documentation of the existing rules, the proposed rules, summary of the differences between the two versions and detail (both PDF and DOC format) of the new rules.

I've also made an exhaustive annotated version of the new rules, and both an annotated version including only those rules upon which I have a comment and those rules upon which I have a criticism or a proposed change.

Here are the links to the various rules sets and versions:

  1. The current (2004) version of the USPSA rules in PDF form (1.22mb)
  2. The current (2004) version of the USPSA rules in DOC form (1.33mb)
  3. The proposed (2008) draft of the new USPSA rules in PDF form (1.91mb)
  4. The proposed (2008) draft of the new USPSA rules in DOC form (3.08bm)
  5. A summary of the differences between the two versions in PDF form (15kb)
  6. A summary of the differences between the two versions in DOC form (92kb)
  7. Document with detail citations of deleted, new & changed rules in DOC form (352kb)
  8. Same document as (7), but with my comments/explanations added (411kb)
  9. The same annotated document, but not showing rules without comments (284kb)
  10. That same doccument deleting all comments except suggestions/criticisms (269kb)

The primary purpose of creating the annotated document versions is to facilitate your own understanding of the rules and to foster discussion. The goal is to provide you with the tools and references to provide your own feedback to USPSA via your Area Director.

Note the evolution of the final four documents:

Document (7) merely presents the text of the deleted rules, the text of the changed rules placed together with the existing rule, and the text of the new rules. Some comments are included to identify salient points of interest or to explain certain changes which only result in a reorganization or reformatting of the rules as they are presented in the draft.

Document (8) contains all of the information found in Document (7), but the explanatory comments have been expanded.

Document (9) contains all of the information found in Document (8), plus my comments evaluating the individual rules. Note that, by the use of highlighting, I have attempted to identify those parts of the original rule which have been changed or deleted, and the new verbiage (which often consist of entire new sentences, perhaps introducing new concepts or changing the meaning of the rule in whole or in part.) I even found a typo, which I high-lighted and identified by the phrase (sic) Consider this the Geek Comments document.

Document (10) contains all of the information found in Document (9), except those changes which I consider non-controversial or not needing comment in Document (9) have been deleted. This was created to minimize the amount of text necessary to identify changes/additions which I wish to draw to the attention of my Area Director. Consider this the Geek Lite Comments document.

In appreciation of a caution from my Area Director, note that the three PDF documents are copies of those authored by USPSA, who owns the copyright (they are reproduced here as a courtesy and a convenience, with my thanks to USPSA.)

The three *.DOC (MS-WORD formatted) files are converted from these PDF files, and USPSA owns the copyright of the contents. I only own the converted files, which are not copyrightable.

The remaining four documents contain USPSA rules, but my own comments are copyrightable.

You are invited to download these documents for your evaluation, and may copy my comments --- they are usually identified by special formatting such as color and font styles for emphasis, etc.. I only ask that you not change the text without noting your own changes, and that any references acknowledge my authorship where applicable.

(All files Copyright Cogito Ergo Geek - - 2007)

Please notify me of any broken links, my email address is always available at the bottom of the page. I have tested all of the links, and it is my belief that they all function correctly.