Sunday, June 08, 2008

June USPSA Training

I arrived at the ARPC range an hour early Saturday, to set up the bay for the "Introduction to USPSA" class. I discussed the exercises to be presented during the class with Mike McCarter ("Mac"), who was responsible for the instruction, and almost as an afterthought I asked him how many students had pre-registered for the class.

"One", Mac said, "and he hasn't shown up yet."

This wasn't as disappointing as you may expect.

While preparing to set up the bay, I had met and introduced myself to an older gentleman, Pete, who explained that he had brought his grandson for Mac's Junior Team Training and Practice.

During our conversation, I mentioned that the sport is addictive, and added "You realize, of course, that if you're going to be bringing your grandson to USPSA matches, you'll soon want to start competing yourself."

Pete said that he had already planned on that. He explained that he had competed in 1996, and although he hadn't participated in over a decade he expected to shoot the matches along with his grandson.

When I told him that certification & training classes were available, he wondered aloud whether he should repeat the training that he had already received in 1996.

I told him that (as an example) I had dropped out of competition for a while in the late 1980's, and when I re-entered the sport I made it a point to re-take the training. I had realized that my shooting skills had atrophied along with my understanding of the rules, so I benefited from the refresher course.

Pete thought it over quickly, and asked if he should register for the July training.

"No need for that," I replied. "I'm teaching the course today. If you have a pistol, holster, magazine carriers and some ammunition with you, why don't you just take the class today? Since you're a returning competitor, I'm sure there will be no problem. And the class is free."

Pete agreed, and after I had double-checked with Mac I had one confirmed student for the class.

In the meantime, Brian B. showed up with his son, Nathan, who was also there for the Junior Practice. Brian had brought along his friend Adam, who was ex-Coast Guard, specifically for the Introduction to USPSA course.

Brian had loaned Adam a Glock, along with an equipment belt (belt, race holster, magazine carriers, and three magazines.) Adam had a brick (250 rounds ... far more than was needed) of ammunition for the Glock, and a healthy attitude toward training.

That's two, which is one more than is necessary to justify a class.

I should mention that the class is essentially a "Field Exercises" class. The students are expected to have completed an online-workbook (requires MS Word) to demonstrate that they have read the current USPSA Competition Rules. They should have completed an open-book test, and they can expect to be questioned about their answers before the range portion of the class begins.

The entire class, both the 'classroom' component and the 'field training' component, is scheduled for two to three hours, total.

Pete hadn't seen a rule book since (assumedly) 1996. Adam had received the workbook, but hadn't completed the test. He had not brought his test, which is a guide for the instructor to re-affirm the basic principles and rules of USPSA competition.

Since I didn't know what my class participants knew ... and worse, what they didn't know ... we had to wing it.

Just to add flavor to the experience, Adam was using a borrowed gun, which he had never fired.
Pete was using a new gun, which he had never fired.

However, both had experience with shooting pistols, so all we had to do was (in nor particular order) :
  1. Gun-handling skills, how to use your pistol, learn the controls (both trigger-safety);
  2. Basic rules of USPSA competition;
  3. Safety rules;
  4. How targets were scored, and how scores are ranked compared to other competitors;
  5. Penalties (Miss, FTE, etc): how , when and why they are applied;
  6. Match Disqualification (DQ) for violation of Safety Rules, and why and when they could be expected to be imposed;
  7. Range etiquette: be ready when it's your turn to shoot; everybody works ... taping targets, resetting steel, painting steel between shooters, etc.
  8. When and how to reload;
  9. Movement, reload, clear jams ... finger obviously OFF the trigger!
  10. Range commands, what the competitor does in response to each command;
  11. Definition of 'in the shooting box', what is 'not in the box', what is 'out of the box';
  12. How to interpret stage procedures, with emphasis on starting position ("Hands naturally at sides", "wrists above shoulders", "facing uprange" [turn, then draw], "pistol laying flat on table" (how to pick up a 'grounded' pistol');
  13. Barricades and ports (stay well back of barricades and ports, don't point the pistol in the air or at your feet when moving to the other side of the barricade, etc.);
  14. "Other" technical considerations [How to avoid tension in shoulders & back when engaging targets, keep hips & shoulders square with the targets, pivot with the legs, not the shoulders, etc.]
Obviously, some of these (especially the last couple of points) are beyond the normal course syllabus. However, although we had to start with basic essentials which are assumed to be already understood before the session begins, we managed to discuss a lot of 'helpful hints' during the allotted time: we started a couple of minutes before 1pm, and completed ... including answering questions ... at 3:08 pm.

Better, we managed to discuss 'New Shooter Self-Consciousness', which in my mind is one of the primary concerns for the person who is looking forward to shooting his first match.

Both Pete and Adam completed the class with the sense that this was not too complicated, that they were welcome by more experienced shooters, and they could expect as much supported as they needed (and probably more help than they really wanted) at future matches.

It's a fact that most USPSA competitors truly enjoy having New Shooters join them. It's a complement to a squad to have a New Shooter assigned to their squad; it is demonstrable affirmation that the squad is sufficiently mature and responsible that they are willing and able to support a nervous "NuGuy", and make him or her feel entirely welcome.

Mike McCarter is the USPSA Junior Program Coordinator, and as such he is dedicated to welcoming and training Junior competitors ... who are the future of The Sport.

At a local level, Mac is committed to ensuring that ALL new competitors enjoy the support and encouragement which they may justifiably expect from a sport which actively recruits. USPSA not only wants to retain as many members as possible, we want to "Grow The Sport". This implies that we are willing and eager to make the shooting experience a positive experience, and that we will take whatever steps are necessary to insure that every competitor is safe, knowledgeable, and welcome.

USPSA competition is a volunteer sport. Only a few people are paid for their contributions; most of the community works for expenses; usually, not even for that.

We enjoy the sport, and there will come a time when every participant is given the opportunity to "Give Back To The Sport".

This is how we pay our dues. If we didn't really enjoy it, we wouldn't do it.

When we completed our training session, Adam and Pete asked if they should help put away the props and targets on the bay.

I explained to them that they don't need to worry about that. The Juniors brought everything to the shooting bay before they started their own practice session; when that is finished, they'll clean it all up and put everything away. Their equipment and ammunition is supplied for them, and this is how they "Give Back To The Sport".

Pete and Adam need to find their own way to contribute. I have no doubt they will find a way.

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