It's the first "Introduction to USPSA" class at Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (Oregon) with more than one student.
Today I was honored to teach the first Intro class in 2009, where we had not one, not two or three but SEVEN (7) students.
Welcome Steve, Terry, Michael, Jim, Sam, Nelson and "Call me either" Andy/Andrew.
(I've given out cards with links to this blogsite so that they could view videos. Since my Video Gallery host has gone out of business, you can see my USPSA Videos here on YouTube.)
We all met at the ARPC range in Bay 4 at 1pm today, and got down to the serious business of learning how to compete in a USPSA match safely, and still have fun.
The first order of business was to try to sort out equipment. There was a 'blip', when Nelson mentioned that the new holster he had ordered for his "M9A1" (Beretta M92) was unusable. Why? He has an accessories rack on the bottom of the pistol. (You know, it allows the shooter to mount a flashlight or other accessories on the pistol.) We tried several 'alternate' holsters, including a USA Universal Holster and an Arredondo holster, but that lump of steel bolted to the dust-cover defeated all attempts to match holster and pistol.
Turning a problem into an opportunity, we decided that Nelson would shoot all of the training stages as if the stage procedures required that the starting position was "with pistol laying flat on the table" rather than to draw from the holster, as the other six students were required. This had the value-added benefit of allowing the students to realize that not all stages included drawing from the holster.
Having managed the administrative pitfalls, we spent the first hour of the training session going over the worksheets which the students had completed, based on the workbook they downloaded from the Internet. (Link not immediately available ... we'll work on that.)
The workbook includes an (open book) test, with the following questions:
- What can happen if you handle your handguns at your car?
- What do you do when you hear the "Stop" command?
- Why do USPSA competitors shoot classifier stages?
- What are the three types of stages?
- What is the penalty for a miss on a non-disappearing target?
- A hit in the "A" zone is worth how many points?
- Is eye and ear protection required in shooting a AUSPS match?
- Where CAN'T you handle ammunition?
- What does DQ mean?
- What is an RO?
- What is the biggest mistake new shooters make?
- At what point do you load your handgun?
- When is it okay to move forward on the range after a competitor finishes the stage?
- Whose responsibility is it to understand the course of fire?
- What is the penalty for hitting a "no-Shoot" target
- Where are the two places you can handle your handgun?
- What does "Comstock" mean?
- What is the goal of this trining program?
- Where is your tirgger finger during reloading your handgun?
- Does the fastest competitor win the stage?
I won't bother to detail the (four) stages which the students shot. But I will detail the lessons taught by each stage?
- Learn to respond appropriately to range commands: "Make Ready", and "If you are finished, unload and show clear", and "If clear, hammer down, holster", and "Range is Clear".
- Learn to engage multiple targets, and to perform a mandatory reload.
- Learn to engage steel targets, to engage targets from behind a barrier, and to engage targets from varying ports/positions/locations. Includes elements of how to transition from shooting on one side of a Bianchi Barrier to the other side of the Barrier.
- Re-enforce all the above skills, and include movement from one "shooting location" to another and consider the wisdom of "reloading on the move" consistent with the assumed skills set of a new shooter. Especially includes the concept of "Inside the box" vs "Not Inside The Box" (defining 'shooting location'.)
But the single "Unifying Field Theory" observed in previous classes has once again been common today: The new USPSA shooter need to deal with self-consciousness, miss-apprehensiveness, and basic stage fright.
I am encouraged when I see this. I recall my own first certification training, and first several matches, as being an excruciatingly painful exercise in stress as a motivating factor of competition.
The students in this class seemed willing to accept the syllabus, even if they privately thought that the first stage was far too simplistic to be of value:
"Upon the signal, draw and fire one shot at one IPSC target. Unload and show clear."
(All stages were "Comstock Scoring", so the students were aware that they could shoot as many times as they wished, but they were expected to actually hit the target with at least one shot."
I mention this 'simplistic' stage particularly because I have found that these minimum requirements perform three basic functions:
- There's not too much to remember. Important when the shooter is apprehensive.
- It allows the shooter to focus attention on the gun-handling functions which are typical of almost ALL stages, without being too distracted by the "shooting" phase of the exercise.
- Reinforcement by the Instructor is immediate. Both the shooter and the observers can encompass the entire sequence in short-term memory, so the lessons to be learned are both fresh in their minds, and the number of talking points are of an acceptable level of complixity.
After having taught this class several times over the past 8 months, I've decided that the four (sometimes, but this time, five) scenarios included in the syllabus suggested by Mike McCarter include as much usable information as is likely to be retained by most students during the time-span of one week.
To complete this certification process, the students understand that they need to complete a 'regular club match' without DQ'ing. Since the next ARPC match is next Saturday, that implies a seven-day retention period. Without specific experiential data, I assume that this is as long as the lessons learned can reliabley be retained.
(Interpretation: if you were in a student in this class you really need to shoot the match next weekend to complete your certification process. Anecdotally, I've found that students who decline to shoot the regular match the next weekend are much less likely to remember the lessons, and are significantly less likely to certify ... which is defined as "able to complete a club match safely, without DQ'ing.")
I'm confident that at least 90% of the students in this class have achieved an understanding of the safety rules, the rules of competition, understanding of how targets are scored, and both the procedures and ettiquette of participating in a USPSA match. During the class, both I and my Assistent Jan ("Yawn") worked hard to provide such other incidental hints and techniques which are not intrinsically part of the basic sylabuss.
We observed the basic tenets of training: Describe what you are teaching, demonstrate it, allow the students to experience the teaching lesson, and then describe what the students have seen during the on-hands phase of the training. We were careful to invite questions, to respond fully to each question, and to high-light incidental sub-lessons during the training.
Examples of sub-lessons:
- When moving from one side to the other of a barricade, pull your pistol toward your gut to clear the barricade; don't push your pistol into the air, because that may result in a DQ if your pistol barrel breaks the 180 because you are pointing it in the air;
- During movement from one shooting position to the next, it is mandatory that your finger NOT be on the trigger. It is the responsibility of the shooter to demonstrate a "safe" trigger-finger position; the Range Officer may voice a warning ("Watch your Finger!") if he is not certain that the finger is off the trigger. If he thinks the shooter's finger is on the trigger during movement, or while reloading the RO may DQ the shooter.