Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dangerous Corner

At the Dundee USPSA match last week, we were treated to a lot of interesting challenges. Generally speaking, it was a fun club match and it helped us to hone our skills in preparation for future Level II and Level III matches.

It also provided the opportunity, if not intentionally, to learn about stages which had been built with challenges which might prove dangerous to all but very experienced competitors. In fact, almost EVERY competitor was challenged by the target engagement problem on the left side of the stage, which required shooters to lean far beyond the optimal point of body balance to engage two IPSC targets.

While it's not permitted for shooters to protest that a stage is 'too difficult', this particular stage featured a body-position far out of balance along with the need to run to the shooting position, stop on the exact location where the targets could be successfully engaged, and then move to the next (far downrange) shooting position.

I personally found the stage exceptionally difficult to shoot, because the footing was poor (there was a metal prop support there, made of L-Frame steel, which was a tripping hazard) and the angle of shooter-to-targets was uncomfortably close to the 180-line. In this uniquely designed bay, shooters were never confident that their muzzle was safely within the legal direction dictated by the confines of the shooting bay, and there was a real concern that the gun might inadvertently end up pointing in the general direction of the spectators.

This stage would have been much safer to shoot if the restricting vision barrier had been moved a few inches farther downrange, allowing the shooter to achieve a balanced stance and to NOT maneuver his pistol muzzle so close to the 180 line in order to clear the vision barrier support, both while going into, and exiting the narrowly defined shooting position.

I'm sure I'm not the only one of the almost 50 competitors who found himself so off-balanced that he almost fell.

And while the good news was that Left-handed shooters didn't experience this near-vertigo imbalance, the stage clearly offered an advantage to left-handed shooters.

After I had shot the stage, and as I was drafted to work as the Range Officer, I asked SWMBO to position herself in a spot where she could easily view the shooters at this position in the stage layout, and record some videos of the various ways in which participants resolved the shooting problem.

In retrospect, I do wish I hadn't asked that of her. If a competitor had actually broken the 180 line at that point, it would have placed her in a position of some risk.

In the actual event, no unsafe conditions (speaking in terms of having the muzzle of the gun pointing at SWMBO) were ever experienced. However, this happy state of affairs is more a credit to the gun-handling skills of the members of the squad, than to my own judgment.

The following video demonstrates poor vs good techniques. My own run is demonstrably "poor", in that I almost fell at the Dangerous Corner. The final clip, "Dave", shows how the stage may be safely engaged. I may be amiss if I don't mention that Dave is left-handed, and the state is certainly much easier for a 'lefty' to shoot than a 'righty'.

If nothing else, this situation emphasized the value of every USPSA match ... even a "Club Match" ... to conduct a walk-through before the match actually starts. Had I seen this stage earlier in the day, and had I the option, I would certainly have objected to the safety hazard demonstrated on this stage.

Watch the video, identify the unsafe situation, and please comment.

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