Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Isn't that cheating?

Above The Groucho Line:
Ten years ago, The Unofficial IPSC List was the place to talk about competition shooting on-line.

Since that time, many other online venues have become available and most of these dialogues now occur in 'forums' or 'blogs' (like this one).

But when all we had to communicate with was a listserver mailing address, shooters of all stripes would use "The List" to discuss the most bizarre subjects.

Not surprisingly, some subjects came up again and again, and were fiercely debated with just as much vehemence on the umpty-umpth iteration as we enjoyed the first time it came up.

Also not surprisingly the same subjects are now discussed repeatedly on forums. See below. The difference is, the listserver/email discussions were ephemeral. The forum entries stay around for years and years. Also see below.

The three favorite topics (almost arbitrarily chosen) were:

1) Isn't that cheating?

IPSC is an acronym which includes the word Practical. There is an element (always has been, always well be) in IPSC competitors who were determined to insist that all stage designs, all rules of competition, and all equipment meet the 4th IPSC Principle of Practical Shooting that "Practical Competition is a test of expertise in the use of practical firearms and equipment. Any item of equipment, or modification to equipment, which sacrifices practical functionality for a competitive advantage contravenes the principles of the sport."

What some considered an "innovation", they considered an "abomination", and they were wildly indignant that the sport could be so arbitrarily prostituted to meet the needs of the sport to attract new participants.

Note: I can't blame them for this interpretation. In fact, this is the very point which caused Jeff Cooper to resign his position of 'President For Life' of IPSC, and entirely disassociate himself from IPSC for the remainder of his life.

They didn't like the introduction of stages which were not "revolver friendly". (That is, no target array required more than the six-shot ammunition capacity of a wheel gun.)

They didn't like the acceptance of high-capacity magazines, compensators, or electronic dot-sights.

On the other hand, when the IPSC rules changed to split the competition into two "Divisions", they didn't like that while "STOCK" division specified equipment restrictions more in keeping with the original vision of Col. Jeff Cooper (the originator of Practical Pistol Competition, originally "Combat Pistol"), it still allowed people too compete in the new "OPEN" division, using equipment (pistols, magazines, holsters) which were decidedly not "practical". No, they weren't required to compete directly, but they were still outraged that the new high-tech equipment was permitted to compete at all.

The equipment was not "practical", and so it must be cheating.

(NOTE: The "Stock" division quickly changed to the Modified division. Later editions of the IPSC Rule book introduced other divisions. In the United States, the USPSA version of the rule book used the term "Limited" division instead of "Modified", and eventually introduced "Limited 10", "Production", and "Single Stack" divisions ... which are differentiated almost entirely by the equipment restrictions.)

2) "IPSC will get you killed!"

One of the popular gun-rags (magazines: eg: "Guns & Ammo", not saying that's the gun-rag in question) of the time ran an article titled "IPSC Will Get You Killed". The thesis was that the rapidly evolving rules of IPSC encouraged non-Practical (read: "Not Tactical") practices which are not supportive of "Combat Shooting". For example, in IPSC competition you didn't have to seek cover; instead, you stood in the open and engaged (shot at) targets without cover, you made magazine changes while exposed to "enemy fire", and you may be using equipment which was too bulky to be easily concealed and (electronic dot sights warning) required you to 'turn on' your sights: "What if your battery runs down? You don't have a sight, and the Bad Guys will kill you!"

3) "IPSC: Is it a game, or is it training for personal defense?"

This third topic was the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back". It was also the theme which allowed us ... forced us ... to find a way to accommodate all competitors under a common understanding.

The "Tactical Shooters" remained outraged. They felt that they had joined under the impression that ISPC competition would teach them how to defend themselves. Now they were forced to either discontinue their participation, or accept that, while IPSC may teach them valuable gun-handling skills, the successful competitor would usually win turn in a better score than the Tactical Ranger. (Sorry, that terminology is probably hurtful to the Tactical Community. Suck it up.)

In the final analysis, it became clear that the majority of competitors were not involved in IPSC competition to learn how to use their carry guns to defend themselves; most competitors were there to shoot as accurately as possible, as fast as possible. All considerations involving true "Practical Shooting" (combat shooting, defensive pistolry, whatevery) were going to be ignored if they were not competitive.

Competition includes getting the hits in the highest scoring portion of the target, as quickly as possible.

This is supported by the scoring algorithm:

Stage Score = Points minus penalties / time.

That's it.

Ultimately, you receive no points (no benefit, in terms of a competitive advantage) for assuming a defensive position by seeking cover, retaining partially depleted magazines, or evaluating the stage to determine the greatest threat and engaging/neutralizing that threat first. In fact, any stage-time devoted to tactical activities is penalized, because it consumes time and imposes awkward shooting positions which your competitors spend doing reloads and discarding magazines, moving to the next shooting position, or just shooting more targets.

The objections noted by the "Tactical Rangers" ... sorry, get use to it ... were reduced to two choices: either go somewhere else where they could spend their range-time training for a gunfight, or stay and play.

Fortunately, IDPA (the brain-child of Bill Wilson) came along about that time. While even IDPA is not practical enough for some of the practitioners, at least nobody has said that "IDPA Will Get You Killed!" ... yet. Some IPSC competitors trickled over to IDPA. A few trickled back to IPSC, for reasons which are beyond the scope of this subject.

You will perhaps notice that these three themes overlap. Give yourself a pat on the back for being aware that the single greatest source of angst for IPSC competitors during the 1990's was that we thought we were competing because it was fun, but we 'felt' that we should be training for some kind of personal Armageddon. Until we resolved this issue, we didn't know who we were.

Now we know: we're gamers, we're players, and we do this because we enjoy it, and we like the other people who have the same gamer attitude.

Can IPSC/USPSA competition teach you skills which may prove to be valuable in a "self defense" situation?

Only if you carry a firearm, or keep one handy in your home. Or, as Grouch Marx so often said:

You bet your life.

The Groucho Line:

(I loved that guy. What a sleaze ... the original Geek!)

All of this reminiscing was inspired by my evening Internet Surfing, which turned up a 2003 page in the "The High Road forum".

On June 7, 2003, member jptsr1 opened the topic "Isn't That Cheating?":
I don't mean this in an accusatory tone, but for those of you who have a "special" gun and carry rig for IDPA, does it feel like you are cheating a bit? I'm going to be participating in my first IDPA event soon and ill be shooting my G26 out of a Royal Guard because its as close to how I carry every day as I can get (I actually carry it in a pocket holster or on my ankle). As I'm researching the boards looking for tips and tricks, I see a lot of post referring to "my IDPA rig" or "the gun I use for IDPA". Are you supposed to shoot what you carry or what you can carry?
The following comments (among many) were included:

Member Pat S immediately replied:
Some approach IDPA as a training exercise with their carry gear. For others it is merely a gun game like IPSC. Both can play the game, just accept the fact that the "gamers" will be posting the best scores. If you approach the stages from a tactical aspect to where the bad guy targets in the stage could shoot back you will be dreadfully slow on most stages, but tactically sound.

If you're looking for tactical exercises you won't find them in IDPA you'll have to look elsewhere. What you will get is an opportunity to refine your shooting and gun manipulation skills under a slight amount of stress.

Once you've gotten your gun handling skills up to the level you would like you might look into scenario based tactical exersises. Especially if you carry a gun for self defense. You'll probably have to seek out a training school for these.
Wow, what a rush.

First, it's a game.
Next, the gamers may beat you.
Finally, if you really want to be tactical, seek training 'elsewhere'.

This is the same thing we said about IPSC in 1997, before the advent of IDPA. Now we learn that IDPA ... the response to "IPSC CAN KILL YOU" .. isn't Tactical, either.

But wait, there's more.

Big S is still bemoaning the "Equipment Race":
Most of the *cough* practical *cough* types of sports, including shooting, start off with their hearts in the right place but quickly become exercises in who can bend the rules the most without breaking them. It's human nature. Think of Sammy Soza with the corked "practice" bat. That's practical baseball. Don't get caught seems to be the watchword.

Why does IPSC have $4,000 rigs that you can't hardly conceal in a briefcase? Because the rules say you can. IDPA is not far behind.
[ED: Emphasis Added}

Later, Grand Master (and professional shooter) Matt Burkett contributes in a reply to faustus:
"Here's a secret if you are good with your IPSC race rig, chances are you are good with your carry gun."

Great statement! People that can shoot, can shoot anything. You won't find a highlevel [sic]IPSC open shooter that can't shoot a limited or IDPA gun.

Remember that if there is a clock and a scoresheet, it is a game. Please do not think that IDPA is tactical or can be approached that way. It is a test of shooting skills from concealment under pressure and can be a heck of a lot of fun. It will help develop your shooting skills and your carry equipment if you choose to use it. If you want to develop your "tactical" skills, go to an FOF class and learn what happens when people are actually shooting back.
This is classic IPSC List theme #4: "It's the shooter, not the gun."

Finally, classic IPSC List theme #5: "Bring What You Got" per member El Rojo:
I tend to look at it as practice. If I use my Glock 27, 870P , and my M1A at a three gun match, I might be at a disadvantage. I will just see how good I can do with what I have. What I have is all that I got, so no need to worry about anything else. Be good with what you have and be confident in your own skills. For those guys that beat you, make them your friends and not your enemies. :D
I really enjoyed this exchange, and there are more "classic IPSC themes" to be explored. I encourage you to go there and read the whole thing.

(There's also a 'wannabe' who pipes up from time to time, spouting bold assertions about how great he is but never convincing anyone. He's generally ignored, and rightly so. See if you can pick out the 'wannabe'. No, this isn't a contest, you don't win a prize if you name him in the Comments section. Just ... know him, avoid him, don't be him.)

The point of the exercise is, competition shooters like to talk about their favorite sport. Their concerns are common to us all, and they continue to re-hash the same questions. Even six years after they were"asked and answered", we continue to debate the major points.

This is a good thing. This is healthy dialogue (and often more respectful than the earlier versions ... it took me years to learn not to be accusatory when discussing these subjects, and I lost not a few valued friends due to the resulting acrimony.)

If you think you would like to involve yourself in this sort of dialogue, I encourage you to view, and perhaps even join in online forums to see what people are talking about, and what they say.

The following is a list of some of the more popular online Shooting forums, many of which are represented in links on the sidebar of this blog:

The High Road (Competition Shooting sub-forum)
Ask IPSC (questions for IPSC)
Vince Pinto's "Global Village" (the official IPSC forum)
The USPSA Forum (you must go to the USPSA Home Page, and sign on to the Members' Page which requires a userid and password. These are available from the first page of the Front Sight magazine, which you will receive if you are a USPSA member.)
The Brian Enos Forum
Canadian Gun Nutz, for our Canadian readers.

Most of these forums will allow you to view posts and threads as a guest; some of them require that you join, and sign on, before you can view them. All of them require that you join and sign on before you can post your own opinion.

Also, note that I am a subscriber to most of these forums, so my links may take you directly to a URL which assumes you are a subscriber, and if you are NOT the link may seem unworkable. Just delete the right-hand portions of the URL to the first backslash (\) and that will take you to the home page where you will be given the opportunity to view, or join, the forum.

Enjoy, but be polite!

Jerry the ("It's A GAMER, Folks!) Geek


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