Friday, July 06, 2007

A1MG Stage 5 - "Burn Down The House"

This "rifle only" stage might very well be more properly referenced as "The Malf Stage", as I saw as many firearms malfunctions on this single stage as I saw on any three of the other stages in this match.

Why, I wonder, should this be true?

In my limited experience, and only as a spectator at this match, I can only conclude that the competitors were "pushing the envelope" in terms of firearms reliability. This 30-round Rifle stage presents challenges not really represented by any other stage in the match. (Indeed, it may be one of the paramount strengths of this match that the stages provide such a variety of shooting problems.)

The round-count is most important, in that it appears to offer a premium for a competitor who can engage all of the targets without reloading. This may or may not be true, but the suggestion is there. The lure to stuff as many rounds as possible into your fattest magazine (or pair of magazines) is there. And the irresistable temptation to challenge the capacity of your firearm ... is there.

Add to this temptation the fact that all of the targets are close, easy, and an open invitation to turn this otherwise indistinguised stage design into -- A Hoser Stage!

The result was far too often a dismal disappointment to competitors who had, they felt, reasonable expectations of Smoking The Stage.

This did not often happen, except in the case of those competitors who went into it with the intention of surviving the Siren's Song.

Those who did well on this stage seemed to be those who poured a libation to the gods of Functional Reliability, planned to reload at least once during the stage, and played it fast and not-very-loose.

In evidence of that theory, I offer the Video of The Malf Stage.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A1MG - Stage 9: "Get 'Er Done" (Gordon Baladad)

The point of "Multigun" competition (MG), rather than "3-gun" competition, is that the competitors may be required to demonstrate their profeciency with two or three firearms in a single stage.

In the USPSA 2007 Area 1 Multigun Match, all three firearms types (Pistol, Shotgun, Rifle) were used in only two stages:

Stage 4: Draining the Swamp

Stage 9: Get 'Er Done

It's difficult to choose 'the most excellent stage' between the two.

Essentially, Stage 4 pre-positioned the three guns 20 yards away from each other, and featured relatively close targets for each gun. The competitor had no choice in determining the order in which he would use each firearm to engage the appropriate target arrays, but there was a lot of movement involved. Essentially, that 'lot of movement' was running as fast as you could from position "A", where you had just used your pistol, to position "B", where you used your shotgun, and thence to position "C", where you used your rifle to finish the stage.

The distance between competitor and target was about 10 yards for pistol (large, cardboard Metric targets), 15 yards for shotgun (Steel plates), and 15 to 25 yards for rifle (more large, cardboard Metric targets).

In a dramatic comparison, Stage 9 put the competitor in a 'structure' (designed to look like an 'airplane', if you had a good imagination' and put all three firearms in boxes within easy reach. The competitor never moved out of the 'airplane'. In fact, it was theoretically possible to shoot all three arrays without moving your feet.

You use your pistol to engage 4 IPSC 'Metric' targets at 20-25 yard range. Some of the targets were partially obscured with white 'penalty' targets.

You use your shotgun to engage 8 steel plates (Pepper Poppers, US Poppers, heavy 'tombstone' plates and a single 8" round plate) at about 15 yards.

And you use your rifle to engage 6 'flasher' steel plates at varying ranges. At about 75 yards there are four targets ... an 8" steel plate, two 12" steel plates, and a US Popper. At about 120 yards there are two 12" steel plates. (I'm guessing at the actual target dimensions, but that's what they looked like from the shooting position.)

The difference between the two stages is that Stage 4 featured relatively close, relatively easy targets with movement between each array and the choice of sequence of target array engagement was fixed; while Stage 9 featured much more distant targets, no movement (other than whether to shoot sitting down or standing up) and the competitor was allowed to choose the order in which he engaged each array.

In the actual event, the target selection and distance on Stage 4 did not seem particularly challenging, speaking as a casual observer. The stage clearly provided an advantage to the competitor who could most quickly move (run!) from one position to the next.

On Stage 9, however, the ability of the competitor to run fast was never tested. The only skills involved were the ability to change from one gun to the next, and the ability to actually hit the targets accurately in the shortest possible amount of time. The fact that this stage design required the competitor to engage all targets from a single 3' square structure tested most rigorously the ability to actually SHOOT.

More, it also required the competitor to choose the tactics which most closely suited his individual skills set. The competitors had to actually THINK about what they were going to do, when they were going to do it, and the way in which they 'abandoned' one gun and picked up another may have an influence on the amount of time needed to complete the stage.

For example, if the competitor chose to shoot the rifle first, it may be awkward to 'abandon' a rifle with a fixed bipon in the same box in which the shotgun rested. Would the shotgun be tangled in the rifle bipods? In that case, it may be better to shoot the Shotgun first, and pick up the Rifle later.

On the other hand, as long as you are already sitting down, it might be better to shoot the Rifle first. If no bipod is involved, it may be a smooth and efficient thing to change guns while standing up, going directly to the Shotgun and finishing off with the pistol.

On Stage 9, I saw competitors using all tactical variations in the order in which they used each firearms, and not all of them were as advantageous as the shooter had obviously hoped they would be. I saw one "heavy-metal" shooter using an iron-sighted .308 finish with the rifle targets, use nearly 4 minutes to NOT get all the rifle targets, to the point where he had sweated into his eyes and quit without hitting all the far targets. He threw up his hands, tossed his earmuffs and hat, and buried his face in a towel to get rid of the perspiration stinging his eyes.

Here is a video of one Tactical shooter, Gordon Baladad, who chose to shoot Rifle/Shotgun/Pistol. it worked well for him, and I was able to film from a position right behind the 'airplane'. The video will serve to show what it's like to shoot this stage.

Note that these videos are also available here in the original WMV version on Jerry the Geek's Video Shooting Gallery. This video is a 10mb download

A1MG - Range Master Clarification

After I posted my video on Stage 3: "Don't Rock The Boat" I received an email from that match's Range Master (and NASSAONLINE.COM partner) Tom Chambers. He provided some information which I didn't have before. I thought you might be interested, so when I asked him if I could post his email here, he graciously gave his permission:

A few points of 'clarification' on your blog.

The seat on the dinghy runs lengthwise-there was no board sitting on seats. Shooter sat on the seat, straddling it or with both feet on one side and the shotgun was on the seat in front of the shooter. BTW, I built that dinghy almost 20 years ago to use on my sailboat where it did yeoman's service all over the northwest, including 2 trips to the San Juans and a trip up the west side of Vancouver Island. It's been sitting and rotting on my back patio for the last 7 years and I thought it was time to give it at least one more chance at being useful.

Stage 8, "Field of Dreams" , the long range rifle stage that got tossed had 5 targets that you engaged 3 times for a total of 15 targets. The 3 at 300 yards were worth 10 points each(a miss would be -20 pts) and the 2 at 350 yards were worth 20 pts each and a miss there was -40 pts.

We had just 2 squads get through this stage in 4-1/2 hours. This was the only stage where I had assigned stage RO's. They tried very hard to move it along but their efforts were in vain. I gave one of them a break and ran the last 4-5 shooters. One of them took 750 seconds and hit 4 of the 15 targets, expending 170 rounds in the attempt. There was no way we could get the other 60 shooters through during the match so Mike and I made the decision to toss the stage out.

The Montrose Toast

I think that this should be the thought of every man
who steps up to the starting line and takes his gun in hand.

The Montrose Toast defines it all, the weakling never wins;
'Tis courage that determines who goes home with Winner's pins.

He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all.
-- John Graham, Marques of Montrose
(1612 - 1650)
from "My Dear and Only Love"

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's Berkley!


I've done it again.

I mis-spelled the name of my Internet Host.

Brian BERKLEY has gone the extra mile during the past three years to not only host Jerry the Geek's Video Shooting Gallery, but also a lot of "other files" which I have from time to time considered necessary to support this blog.

He supported my efforts to convince the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club to use their space for my files. So far, I have well over 2GB on the server. Since I've evolved into the sorta unofficial photographer for the Columbia Cascade Section, they feel that I can share the space they've already paid for.

And when his hosting service was becoming too busy for him to handle alone, Brian not only found a faster server in Texas and transferred many of my files there, but he worked with them to set up the software necessary to support the Gallery.

What have I done for him?

I spelled his name wrong.

Every stinking time, I throw an extra "E" in there. It was bad enough that I spelled it wrong last year when I wrote an article about Mike McCarter and the Annual Single Stack Tournament which he hosts under the auspices of the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club. I apologised for that, and promised it would never happen again.

But I did it again this week, when I was blogging about the 2007 Area 1 Multigun Match.

How lower than a serpeant's ass I feel.

This time, I vow ... never again!

I've written his name on a file folder label, and pasted it to my monitor.

Maybe I'll even remember to 'look it up' the next time I write about him.

We'll see. I'll be featuring Brian in some of the Multigun videos I'll post in the next week. Let's just see if I can get it right.

And if I don't?

Brian will just point it out to me, without comment. But I'll know I've disappointed him.



Monday, July 02, 2007

A1MG Stage 3 - Don't Rock The Boat

As mentioned earlier, Stage 3 was probably the funnest stage in the 2007 Area 1 Multigun Tournament. It balanced (and I use the word advisedly) fast shotgun with not-so-fast mid-range rifle shooting.

It may not have been quite so fun during the shooting of the stage. We watched as each competitor stepped into the boat for the first time, and every one looked just like a cat trying to coax himself into the water. That first cautious paw -- er, foot -- withdrawn when the flat-bottom boat began rocking on the hard plywood platform, was an almost universal response. Everyone used both hands to brace on the gunwales of the boat and kept most of the body weight there until both feet were inside the boat. Then the experimentation with where to put the feet, where to sit.
Then the shotgun, loaded and placed so it is sitting on a board placed longitudinally on the boat seats. Most found that they could straddle that board, put the butt of the shotgun on the board between their legs, and rest the barrel of the shotgun on the bow of the boat.

A few decided to put both feet on the right side of the board, since they were going to shoot the first eight steel plates on that side. (See the stage setup here at NASSONLINE in PDF format.)


Of course, I didn't watch every competitor who shot this stage, but those I did watch all opted to shoot the first 8 targets from the boat, reloading in the boat if necessary to complete the array. Then they exited the boat (under the emphasis of adrenaline, MUCH less cautiously than they had entered) and stood on the dock to reload. One Open shooter, Craig Outzen, opted to reload before and during his exit. Hard to tell if there was any advantage.

Outzen's performance is depicted in the video included below.

Still, the stage procedures allowed engagement of all targets from the dock, and I didn't witness that. In the actual event, it seemed to matter little whether you shot the first eight shotgun targets sitting down or standing up, the boat didn't actually rock much once you became familiar with the balance point. The boat with move with every shot, but it looked easy enough to compensate.

Perhaps that's why this stage was more fun for the spectators than for the competitors.


After placing the shotgun in the box, the competitors retrieved their rifles from the other box on the dock. There were eight cardboard "Metric" targets downrange, and white 'penalty' targets covered most of the shooting area of each target. Although the range to the targets was short of 25 yards, it left only a very small scoreable target area for each shot. I was impressed that (a) there were fewer miss/noshoot penalties recorded, (b) the winner of the Open division won even though he had a ten-point procedural penalty, and (c) the winner of the Tactical division completed the stage in only 0.52 seconds more time (with a higher raw hit factor) than the winner of the Open division.

Division winners for this 160-point stage:

LIMITED: Kyle Nice (58.15 seconds, 156 points)
OPEN: Robert Johnson (45.10 seconds, 150 points - 10 penalty points)
TACTICAL: Carl Carbon (45.62 seconds, 149 points)

The Video:
Featured competitors, in order of appearance -
  • David Heyden
  • Darrell Humphrey
  • Chris Schiatano
  • Craig Outzen
  • Gordan Balladad
  • Carl Schmidt

Area 1 2007 Multigun Match Results - McCarter Interview

The match results for The A2 MG match can be seen at the USPSA Website - click on "Match Schedule and Results" on the left-hand sidebar, and the resulting webpage has the "Area 1 Multigun Championship" as (currently) the fourth item. Click on that and you can see the match results except that the last names of the competitors are indicated only with an initial. This is done to protect the privacy of the competitors.

However, if you're a member of USPSA you can see the full-names in the match results by clicking on the "Member Page" icon at the top of the USPSA home page and entering your userid and password. Again, click on the "Match Schedule and Results" sidebar button and follow the above directions.

Here's what you get:

2007 Area 1 Multi-Gun Championship
Albany Rifle and Pistol Club
Division Name USPSA Competitors
Limited Patrick Kelley -- 21
Open Robert Johnson -- 20
Tactical Carl Carbon -- 42
Total: 83

(I've deleted USPSA Member Numbers from this display) .

"Field Of Dreams" Stage Thrown Out:

Note that only nine (9) stages are listed. The long-range rifle stage ("Field of Dreams") was thrown out of the match due to the excessive stage times. This WAS the biggest choke-point of the match, with some competitors actually registering times of 700 seconds on this stage.

There were only five targets, but they were presented at 300 to 350 yards distance. There were three positions -- two standing, one prone -- and competitors were required to engage all five targets from each position.

As many as two squads were backed up on this stage, and according to Match Director Mike McCarter they had to drop the stage to allow all competitors to complete the match. The first day, each squad was expected to complete seven stages. Some squads were on the range until after 7pm the first day. Some squads still had 5 stages to shoot on the second day.

McCarter notes that "this is a young sport" and match administrators are still learning from experience. Chances are that long-range rifle stages will be much simpler in future Multigun matches. In the 2006 Multigun Nationals (held July 7, 2006 on this same range) similar problems were encountered with this kind of stage.

USPSA On Top Of The Problem:

In a telephone interview tonite, McCarter stated that Area 1 Director Bruce Gary had already begun the process of bringing these and other Multigun problems to the attention of the USPSA Board of Directors with the intention of establishing a change in the competitor rules allowing the match to set a time limit on stages.

Moving Targets
One of the successes noted by Mr. McCarter was that the eight moving targets experienced ZERO Range Equipment Malfunctions. This was due, according to McCarter, with the "hinged sticks" designed by USPSA RM Jay Worden.

These are 1" square wooden sticks which have been sawn apart in the middle, then rejoined with a simple metal hinge. An eye-screw is affixed to the stick near the hinge, and the cable to the activating device attached to this eye-screw. Further, the joint between the two halves have been sanded so that there is a slight bend in the assembly, so that the stick looks like a leg with the knee joint where the hinge is. It's intuitively obvious how to set the stick correctly ("Eye-screw toward the activator") in the target array, and it breaks reliably every time.

Cost of construction: under a dollar, and you can make one in your garage in a few minutes. No, the eye-screws don't pull out of the wood because the stick 'breaks' so easily.

"Snipe hunt" 28-round Shotgun Slug stage:
McCarter also discussed the problems with shooting a large number of slug rounds through a shotgun on a single stage. This stage included a number of IPSC targets to be engaged at relatively close ranges, but also some steel targets at ranges of about 50 feet. Shooting 12-guage Shotgun Slugs is a grueling exercise in pain management, as soon as the adrenaline wears off. He suggested that the wave of the future for Multigun shotguns may be moving to 20 guage. These are still classified as Major Power, and using a sabot round further aleviates the punishment, according to McCarter.

I'm not sure if Benelli makes a 20 guage auto shotgun comparable to the 12-guage guns which are currently so popular with Open Division competitors, but this sounds as if it might be worth looking into for Multigun matches next year.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

2007 Area 1 Multigun - Still Photos

It's 11:30 Sunday Night. The match is over, I don't have access to the results (yet), and I have 3.5GB of photographs and videos from the match to sort, edit and present. I'm sun-burnt, bug-bitten, achy from standing all day for 2 days, tired and I stink of sweat, dirt and sun-blocker.

There's no way I can present all of the stories I have to tell before I pack it in for the night. I've been downloading files from my Digital Geek-cam and sorting through them for the past seven hours.

I could tell you about Darrell losing a shoe un-assing the boat on "Don't Rock The Boat", the guy who swept me with his AR this morning, Higbie dumping his SUV in the six-foot deep ditch on the other side of the North Road across from Bay 7. (I didn't get to see this, but his squad-mates told me about it and they "almost" put out a call on the Range Officer Radio Network so I could get a photo - but they didn't, which probably saved me from embarrassing a friend.)

Also, I could talk about the old buddys I saw, whom I haven't seen for months or years but they came out to just WATCH a by-Gawd honest-to-Pete Multigun match. This was much the same as I did, devoting my entire weekend to take pictures and talk to (and listen to) the 84 people who paid good money just so they could fight heat, insects, equipment malfunctions (theirs) and very FEW Range Equipment Malfunctions (the host club) for the honor and glory of saying they went there and did that.

I couldn't do that. Well, I could if I was willing/able to invest a ton of money and a slew of time to indulge myself in the masochism which is MultiGun competition.

(I could even tell you about the $37,000 Prize Table ... but I won't. Except that Chuck Anderson -- Columbia Cascade Section Competition Director -- performed his usual magic with the Vendor Community. Thank you, Vendors, for sponsoring an excellent match!)

I covered the 2006 USPSA MultiGun Nationals a year ago (less a week), and I was impressed then. The quality of this match was no less. And the quality of the people I talked to ... and didn't get to talk to ... is similarly impressive.

Awesome Al Austen showed up. He hasn't shot an IPSC pistol match for a year, but he came by to support his pal Higbie (he of the semi-drowned SUV). Dan Nelson, who has been out of the IPSC circuit for two years as he tried to build a new business, was there as a competitor. He admitted he couldn't remember which end of the gun pointed down-range, but he got through the weekend without insurmountable problems.

I filmed a lot of people, and by the 2nd day I began to feel self-conscious about it. It seemed that every time I turned the camera on, the shooters ended up fighting equipment problems. Chuck Anderson found that Remington shotgun shells were just a little bit off-spec, causing extraction problems. Bruce Gary (AD1) forgot that loading Siamese-Twin magazines in his AR caused feeding problems if they were fully loaded. Brian Berkley had problems with both his AR and his Shotgun when I filmed him. (Brian said: "I don't care, I volunteered to help run the match. The actual shooting is just a bonus, I'm not here to win. I just came out to shoot.")

Brian's attitude was representative of a lot of people there, who just wanted to shoot.

John Clark said he got half-way through a stage and discovered that the stock of his shotgun was coming loose! He just shoved the stock back against the action, held it tight with his shoulder, and kept on shooting. He got through the stage just fine, according to him.

You may notice some familiar names. Most of the folks who were instrumental in presenting this match actually shot the match. Exceptions, of course, were Match Director Mike McCarter and Range Master Tom Chambers.

Here's my impressions of the match:

Worst stage of the match:
The long-range rifle stage ("Field Of Dreams"). With a very small number of targets, competitors couldn't afford to leave a target hit. Rumor has it that some folks shot 200 rounds at five targets, just to avoid a zero score. Well, I probably heard that wrong, but it was certainly a choke point in the match.

I never got around to visiting that stage. Life is too short.

Best stage of the match:
The 'airplane' stage. All three guns, and if you planned to shoot it "pedal to the metal and hair of fire" you were just asking for trouble. It was hot, and after shooting a couple of magazines at the six rifle targets the sweat was rolling into your eyes. I watched a 'heavy metal' shooter (iron sights on a .308) finally throw up his hands after two magazines and throw off his earmuffs, and his hat, just so he could grab a towel and wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Maximum frustration, maximum challenge.

Most boring stage of the match:
Stage 1: "Shooting for Dummies". All pistol, nothing but. Start with a 40-pound dummy over your shoulder, shoot four targets, dump the dummy on a table and shoot the other dozen-or-so targets. Terver Ott dumped the dummy on the table and ... it slid off! He had to go back and lift it onto the table After the stage was over, he came BACK to the table and began pummelling the dummy! (Too bad I had turned the camera off, it was a sight to see.)

I chose this stage for 'most boring', because it was the only all-pistol stage and we see that all the time in regular USPSA matches. In the actual event, it wasn't a bad stage ... just not really 'MultiGun'. The most boring stages to watch (as compared to boring to shoot) were the all-shotgun stages. WAY too much time was spend reloading. I'll include a lot of shotgun video and usually leave in the reloading if only to illustrate the problems of reloading in Tactical and Limited Divisions.

Think there are no problems reloading shotguns in Open division? Think again. All those tubes hanging down along your leg can be problematic when you're trying to move around obstacles. SEE the "Don't Rock The Boat" stage, where Craig Outzen almost stumbles when trying to reload while exiting the boat.

Funniest stage of the match:
"Don't Rock The Boat" You had to shoot at plates with a shotgun while standing in a flat bottom boat which was sitting on a plywood platform. Every time you shot, the boat rocked. Darrell lost a shoe climbing out of the boat, but it didn't slow him down much. He finished the stage with one shoe off, one shoe on, diddle-diddle-dumpling My Son John.

(I actually got the video, which I'll show someday, but I didn't have the camera rolling when he went back after the stage and calmly retrieved his wayward shoe and returned it to the proper foot position.)

By the way, if you're looking at the stage designs at NASSONLINE.COM you'll notice that the stage numbers don't correspond to the stage numbers I cite here. That's because, when it came time to set up the stages, not all of them actually fit well in the designated bays. The match administrators compensated by fitting the physical limitations and didn't worry about the 'paper' version of the match. That's characteristic of the great Mac and Tom team. Whatever it takes to put on a good match.

Tomorrow, I'll start editing videos and will present them either here or on the Geek Video Shooting Gallery. In the meantime, I've selected 81 representative still photos and hosted them on the Gallery. You can look at them and maybe get a reasonable impression of what the range and the match looked like.

Stay tuned: film at 11.

It's now midnight, so that means ... more tomorrow. Maybe I'll even find the link to the Match Results!