Saturday, May 01, 2010

Introduction to USPSA: May 1, 2010

This blog was originally created to discuss matters relevant to Practical Shooting (IPSC and USPSA). Unfortunately, since SWMBO has been unable to continue her competitive career due to illness, I have found that I have less time and resources ... and, yes, interest ... in competition for its own sake.

I still love the sport, of course. I enjoy shooting for its own sake, and I have met interesting people and made many, many new friends in the course of my 27 years of participation (with a LONG hiatus from 1988 to 1991, due to personal constraints.)

But I find it difficult to generate the enthusiasm when faced by a loading press which does not cooperate as it should. I don't want to spend almost as many hours loading for a match as I do actually shooting the match. So I have self-limited myself to shooting one, perhaps two matches a month, even in generally clement weather.

So I anticipate with joy the opportunity to introduce new shooters to what I consider one of the most exciting, entertaining and challenging sports in the history of human endeavor.

(I feel that I am justified in engaging in hyperbole, because this is absolutely the most fun you can have with your clothes on.)

ALL OF THIS is introduction to another story about my voluntary function as the instructor to Albany Rifle and Pistol Club's "Introduction to USPSA" class.

The May, 2010, class at ARPC was unique in that of the six people who signed up for, and actually completed the course, half of them were women.

Those of you who know me personally are aware that I believe the BEST thing about USPSA competition is that it supports, and actively encourages, women to enter the sport.

And the fact is, women are not only "competent" in Practical Pistol competition, they are the easiest to teach. Also, they learn faster, are less liable to make the same mistake twice, and they are definitively there to have FUN!

(If you haven't noticed, the nicest thing that Women do for humanity is that They Make Men Civilized. Although women may feel self-conscious about competing in a sport which they perceive as a "man thing" -- in the presence of a woman, men tend to be more conscious about being civilized and do not appear to feel the need to be "Manly". The coarse language disappears; men are not competing against each other for the sake of Macho appearance; and men become people, focused on having fun, rather than pissing higher on the wall than the next guy.)

In today's class, the ladies (and they are all ladies) ranged from a charming ingenue daughter, to wives, equally charming and equally individuals in their own rights.

At the beginning of the class, they seemed to be not entirely certain that they should be there. But they had been the object of quiet encouragement and they were all ready to do whatever it takes to effect their entry into a "Man Sport".

At the end of the day, they were having fun. They discovered, individually and as a group, that this was not a "Man Sport". It was a safe place where they can advance at their own rate, and they were treated as individuals and valued for their own contribution.

I watched them in wonder, as I always do, as they opened up and asserted their personalities.

At the end of the first exercise, I called for people to go downrange and tape the bullet-holes of the single target which everyone had shot up.

Who actually found the tape and taped the targets ? The three ladies.

By the end of the class, everyone was fighting over the rolls of tape, men as well as women.

Aha! A strike for equality; everybody works the stage. Nobody is "better" than anybody else. Nobody is the designated support person. And everybody wants to go downrange and look at the targets, to see how the last shooter has done in the everlasting urge to hit the A-zone.

I was impressed by this group of shooters, not only because all of the participants were willing to learn (by no means a universal trait) but also because everyone was a good shot. Every person in the class knew how to shoot, and we saw some spectacular performances. Not on every stage, not on every exercise, but there was not one person present who failed to take the Pepper-Popper and the U.S. Popper as a personal challenge, and to shoot much better when the target was much more difficult.

It's not that they couldn't shoot better when engaging cardboard targets. It was just that they weren't as focused on the big fat brown targets. When the target was obviously harder to hit, they payed attention to sight picture and sight alignment and knocked the steel targets down as if it was easy. Which it was, but it was not obvious in their earlier performance.

Example: the ingenue daughter. Her shots had gone all over the paper targets, often missing them completely. But when she had to hit the much smaller steel targets, she took them down (One! Two!) with no observable lack of confidence. She perceived that the target was more difficult, so she applied her shooting skills much more assiduously. The Pepper Popper went down on the first shot, which hit in the exact geometric center of the aiming circle.

The only problem she had, was that the targets weren't sufficiently challenging. That girl can shoot!

It may take some experience to convince them of it, but all of the shooters are good shots.

And I have no doubts about their abilities. Many of them need experience to build their confidence. Okay, everybody needs that when they first begin shooting competitively. But there isn't a one of them that I would not be glad to squad with in a match. They're bright, they're safe, and they're willing to learn.

I can't speak more highly of any group I've every taught. And we had two shooters, not members of the class but family members or friends, who donated their time and their experience to help everybody there. One was the husband of a new shooter, one was the father of The Ingenue; they helped me get through the day, and they helped the new shooters at least as much.

So, guys: there is no reason in the world why you should not encourage your wives, daughters, and "Significant Others" to learn how to shoot competitively. This is NOT a "Man Sport"; this is a "Family Sport". And if you can convince them that they are ... how can I say this? ... valued as new shooters; if you are willing to spend the time and the money to support them; if you can share the experience with them without over-coaching them (a common error) -- there is no reason why they cannot enjoy the sport at least as much as you do.

Today I had 50% Ladies in the Introduction to USPSA class. If this ration continues both you and I will profit.

I will profit because the sport will grow. Every new shooter is a positive benefit to the sport, and it is a sport which women may generally be better than men on the average.

And you will profit because it is much, much more fun when your family shares the experience with you.

Trust me. I have never enjoyed a match so much, that I would not enjoy it more if SWMBO was there with me, laughing like a Lark and thanking me for introducing me to so many very good people.

Dundee -- SWMBO with a borrowed gun:

(SWMBO shooting steel 'on the move' ... pure poetry in motion!)

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