Saturday, March 03, 2012

USPSA Intro Class: March, 2012

There are some fairly interesting things going on with new shooters who are just starting out in the USPSA competition business, and it's fascinating to me how the program is expanding radically from the original concept.

Which is a much kinder, gentler way of saying that I'm learning as much from my students as they are learning from me.

Essentially, I'm not being as "kind and gentle" as I would have hoped to be; as it turns out, it's not doing any favor to the students if I'm quite as relaxed and easy going as I would prefer to be.

Maybe I should be more clear here. Previously, I've tried to give my students a 'break' when they do something unsafe. Previously, I've pointed out their error, and gently reminded them that they just can not DO this in "A Real Match". I found out last month (when a student made the SAME errors as during the class ... and I had to DQ the student) that criticism without reinforcement just doesn't work.

Student "W" and Student "M" both trained in August, and did fine. They couldn't either get to a Classification Match until February, so they both showed up at the February class for a refresher. (I don't mind accommodating students, and I was impressed that both "W" and "M" wanted to refresh their learned skills before attending the match."

While "W" did fine, "M" got the classic Match Jitters and forgot about the "keep the finger off the trigger when loading, unloading, or clearing a malfunction" Safety Rule. When that happened during the class, I just leaned over and quietly said: "By the way, you are DQ'd because you can't keep your finger off the trigger". Nothing much more was said, except that this did NOT mean "M" had to leave the class. In other words, no real penalty was applied. No lesson was learned!

During the pressure of Match Day in February, though, "M" made the same mistakes; I was obliged to Match DQ the student. I had no choice, one of the primary rules had been broken.

"M" was more embarassed than angry .. and perhaps a little self-disappointed.

So I was pleased when both "M" and "W" asked to go through the new student class again this month; that showed real determination, and I was impressed by the dedication of both to "beat this thing"; that is to provide mutual support and learn to deal with Match Jitters.

Also present today were three entirely new students: Jason, Mike and Rob.

The first thing I did was to declare that "M" ... who had DQ'd last month, would be my Demonstrator for class. This established some pressure which, while perhaps not as intense as might be experienced in an actually match, insured that this single student would ALWAYS be the first shooter .. with everyone watching.

(I don't know about you, but I've always felt at least mildly uncomfortable being the first shooter on a stage. It's not so bad now, since I'm so old and feeble that nobody expects much from me, and my memory is reduced to such almost-Alzheimer status that I've almost forgotten what it's like to be embarassed by screwing up on a stage.)

But I know (I can remember that far back) that it can be, for a new shooter, as if everyone is watching and being critical EVERY TIME you get up to shoot.

With "M" as my demonstrator, and "W" shooting last (if only to provide comic relief ... I can say that 'cause we are both personable and likeable) we had a solid shooting order.

Then the fun started.

It's not that "M" had problems ... on the contrary. We just witnessed mechanically perfect performance on every stage. No attempts to push the envelope; "M had a self-assigned role to provide a textbook perfect form as an example to the others, with NO violations of safety rules.
And it worked out just fine.

"W" performed as well, always looking smooth; it looked fast, too, which reinforced our mantra that "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast".

We had some ammunition problems, though.

Mike had a squib in the last exercise, which was personally disconcerting because I (as RO) never caught it. It's just that ... his gun suddenly refused to go into battery. Of course that happened when we played "El Presedente". Gun problems always happen on a speed stage, it seems. Still, I did not notice a difference in the volume of the report.

When he got the squib worked out, and switched to a 1911, he had high score on the exercise ... which provided us with an example to explain how every shooter's stage score was based on their relative 'raw' score to determine relative placement within a stage (This iss omething that we don't get to as often as we should ... and I think the class should include at least one stage where we 'do the math' so the competitors understand how placement works for each stage, and for the match. More on this at the end of this article.)

Jason had a crap holster, some kind of soft thing with a strap and he got REALLY tired of fastening the strap. Of course, his shirt kept trying to get between the gun and the holster, so it took him forever both to holster his loaded picture. He had this monstrous big 9mm pistol that looked like Tom Selleck's in the movie "Runaway" where Selleck portrayed a government agent tasked with killing Robots. We found ourselves in the advantageous position where we could make "ROBOT" jokes every time Jason came up in the rotational shooting order.

Jason had some other, more serious, problems related to his unfamiliarity of using his pistol in a competitive environment. This wasn't obvious until halfway through the live-fire exercise, when he shifted his grip slightly and ended with his off-hand thumb dangerously near the recoiling slide. I stopped him immediately, and then attempted to explain why.

It wasn't because he had violated a safety rule, I said, or because he was violating ANY kind of rule ... but because I feared for his safety. I went on to explain that if he shifted his grip an eighth of an inch it might result in the recoiling slide catching his thumbnail ... which could rip his nail loose from his hand. Worse, if he shifted his grip much more, it might result in a broken thumb. I counseled him to try another grip.

He (quite reasonably) asked if I would suggest another grip. I quickly demonstrated the thumb-over-thumb grip (left thumb holds the right thumb down) and the "High Grip" which necessarily puts one thumb on the safety (his gun didn't have one, but the de-cocker might serve) and the other thumb under it. He tried these grips ... and immediately began to 'tank' his shots into the low-C-zone and often the low-D-zone.

This illustrated the problems with this kind of instruction. The assumption is that the students are thoroughly familiar with their pistols, and the basics of safe gun-handling need not be addressed. In this case, Jason needed some personal coaching. As it was late in the day, it was impossible to provide him with the personal coaching he needed. The "old" grip he was using ... and which he adjusted (not to his advantage) during a stage, obviously wasn't working, and was dangerous. The new grips which he tried were not accurate, as they caused him to jerk the trigger. I'm hopeful that he can work with this at home to get past the problem of dunking his shots, but I'm concerned that he doesn't have time between the class and the match to work on it.

I'll see if I can contact him between now and then, so we can work "one on one" to develop a grip he can use.

The final student, Rob, was so boring. He had no problems. He was shooting a true 1911, which fact I may here be seen present as an unfair suggestion that 1911's solve all shooter problems. (In the spirit of "Full Disclosure", I note that I have seen a plethora of students who could not safely handle a 1911 frame. On the other hand, my own son can't drive a stick shift ..... )

Still, I was impressed with his performance if only because it was relatively problem free.

This should not be interpreted to suggest that the other students universally encountered problems. I DQ'd more than one shooter, and I deliberately stood the shooters down and had them reshoot the problematic exercises after everyone else had finished the problem. I had told the class before we began the Live Fire exercise that they would be embarrassed during the class. When I asked one shooter (who had been 'rewarded' with less-than-exemplary comments) whether I had embarassed him, he said: "Yes, but I get that all the time at home".

I considered that as a sane, reasonable response indicative of a mature response to criticism; they weren't ignoring the criticism, but didn't find it so uncomfortable that they were so uncomfortable with the training environment that they would not feel comfortable shooting in competition. That was the goal in this newer approach.


After Mike had problems with his pistol, he switched to the 1911 which Rob had been using. IF the results are worth evaluating, he "won" the competition for the "El Presente" stage with his 1911, a fact which I mentioned earlier.

All of the students fired the "El Presente" stage under conditions which I attempted to be as difficult, and "judgemental", as they might expect to find in "an actual match". I made it clear that their scores would be recorded, and that their performances would be evaluated to determine the "winner" of the stage. (I'm not certain that I made that as clear as it sounds, but I'll work harder in my subsequent classes to apply the formula so as to impose as much pressure to perform as they might find in a match.)

I've computed the the scores for that wrap-up stage ... and I am sorry that this format doesn't provide non-proportional type so I can present the results in columnar format. Still, here's how the students raw performance worked out:


Raw points: 55 Time: 11.59 Raw Score: 4.74 Percent: 100 Final Stage Score: 60.0000 Points

Raw points: 52 Time: 12.15 Raw Score: 4.27 Percent: 99.3468 Final Stage Score: 59.7468 points

Raw points: 57 Time: 15.06 Raw Score: 3.78 Percent: 79.7468 Final Stage Score: 47.8481 points

Raw points: 52 Time: 18.07 Raw Score: 2.87 Percent: 60.5848 Final Stage Score: 36.3291 points

Raw points: 42 Time: 27.56 Raw Score: 1.52 Percent: 32.8675 Final Stage Score: 19.2405 points


Raw score is points / time
Percent is raw score divided INTO raw score of highest scoring shooter (Mike)
Final Stage Score is Percent x maximum possible score for the stage (60 points)

Again: this is the kind of example which should be provided (class time being available) to all of the students in future classes. Everybody wants to know where they finished ... and especially how they got there!

Hacker Attacks - Everybody's Doing It

(Koff Koff!)

Last month I got an email from my ex-wife, offering to give me the low-down on a GREAT money-making opportunity working at home!

After I quit laughing, I emailed my ex. She replied that she hadn't sent it to me, and didn't know anything about it. So I deleted the email, and quit worrying about it.

A few days later I received an email from a high-school friend, offering to give me the low-down on ... yep. You guessed it, another GREAT money-making opportunity working at home. So I deleted the email.

Two days ago I received an email from my daughter, with the heading "blessedday". The email contained absolutely NO content! So I wrote to her (did NOT replay to the email) and said "No content? What's with this?"

This afternoon when I got back to the range I found a reply from my daughter. She said it was news to her, she had scanned her computer and found no virus or bugs, but she did change her password and hoped that would clear up the problem.

I wrote back to say her mother had a problem lately too with her email address book being used to send bogus emails (one of which was sent to me), and concluded with the smug assurance that "... you didn't get that from MY side of the family!"

Smug didn't live long. The very next email I read was from a utility vendor informing me that the credit card I used to pay my bill was due to expire next month and I should change my payment information in order to continue uninterrupted service.

I don't pay that account with a credit card, and even if I did, it wouldn't be expiring. SO I contacted the vendor directly (via email ... not by replying to the original email) forwarding the 'bogus' email and asked them to please investigate and LET ME KNOW whether they had screwed up or whether this was just another "Phishing" attempt.

(Look up the term "Phishing" if you're not sure, but generally speaking it means someone is trying to get me to reply to the EMAIL rather than directly to the vendor ... who can NOT be reached using the email address provided. The hope is that I will provide private information including credit card account number, etc.)

What does this mean to you?

In case you haven't been attacked before, please be aware that there are naughty people out there who would LOVE for you to reply directly to their emails. Always verify the source of dubious emails even if they seem to come from a friend or family member.

Oh, and I checked my AntiVirus provider (Symantic) and they have no reference to a virus identified as "blessedday". Doesn't mean there isn't one ... just means it hasn't been identified as a "virus". That is, there is no software embedded in the email by that name. This should NOT be taken to mean that there's not someone out there sending apparently innocuous messages which, if YOU reply to it directly, will consider this a confirmation of your email address as an "active and legitimate" email address and continue to send you unsolicited messages ... or send you an email message which DOES have a virus.

As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus use to say in almost every episode of Hill Street Blues:
"Let's be careful out there!"