Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Clean Gun is a Happy Gun .. not!

I was cheerfully shooting the "El Presidente" stage as a demonstrator on today's (okay, yesterday's) "Introduction to USPSA" class, when my 2011 STI Edge in 10mm ... just didn't feel right.

I did the "Tap Rack Bang" and charged on.  A couple of shots later, it failed to go into battery, so I had to perform the same remedial exercise again.

Now, I've been shooting this pistol with NO maintenance for the past year, in classes and in matches.  It probably has 1,000 rounds fired from it (based on my orders from vendors, where I bought new reloading components), and it has performed flawlessly.  But I cleaned the gun, and  oiled it (using medium weight oil appropriate to the weather) last night, and today ... well!

I'm not sure whether to claim that "The Gun Let Me Down",  or "The Sweet Old Girl Just Isn't Accustomed To Shooting 'Clean'", bu the one thing I DO know is that I was surprised at the failure of the slide to go into battery during a speed-shoot stage.

Or, it may be to a kind of "Psychic Shock" (if such is possible with an inanimate object like a pistol).

Well, that, and I'm not willing to consider that it might have been something that (_I_) might have done.

... other than cleaning the gun, of course.

Never mind ... that's the last time I'll clean THIS gun until this winter, when I have to change to a lighter oil.

"Does the fastest shooter win the stage?"

The "Introduction to USPSA" classes run for three hours (at ARPC, the First Saturday of every month).  One of the challenges is to present a HUGE body of information within this very limited time span, without boring both the student and the instruct staff.

The question which invariably comes up is:  in the balance between Speed, Power and Accuracy, which is more important?

The answer is, and always should be:  "It Depends:".

This was the essence on the final question on the test: Question Number 20:

20:  Does the fastest shooter win the stage?

The textbook answer is:   No.  After all, the purpose of the course is to shoot SAFELY, and shoot ACCURATELY.  (We always tell our students:  "Shoot for Accuracy: speed will come to you, as your experience increases".)

My comment was, and always has been:
"Well, sometimes the fastest shooter DOES win the stage.  It depends on the stage, and the shooter.  Fast shooters are often more experienced, and they CAN shoot quickly without sacrificing accuracy."

So instead of a drill about shooting behind a Bianchi Barricade, today I substituted shooting an "El Presidente" stage as the final exam.

I did this because about half of the students, during the Live-Fire Exercise, started competing among themselves to see who could shoot a teaching stage fastest, and still shoot all (or mostly) "A-zone" hits.  Surprisingly, they were doing a good job of it!

They were ready to learn a lesson that not every class could handle, so we gave them the opportunity to learn about DVC .. .with emphasis on the difference between the three factors of Speed, Power and Accuracy.

For those who aren't familiar with El Presente, here is a short description.

Shooters start out facing uprange in a shooting box, pistols loaded and holstered, and the starting position is Facing Uprange  with toes touching the back of the shooting box, wrists above shoulders.  On the start signal, turn, draw, and engage each target  with two rounds each.  Perform a mandatory reload, and re-engage each target with two more rounds each.  The targets are positioned 7 yards downrange of the forward edge of the shooting box, positioned on the supporting stakes about 40" at the shoulder, and about a foot apart".  Twelve rounds required, sixty points possible.

That may not be the perfect description of the stage, but that's the description we adopted.

All nine students attempted the stage, and for the first time we recorded both score, and time.  We had deliberately avoided recording Stage Time before, because we are trying to teach an emphasis on Accuracy.

The lesson we taught here was an education to all of us.

Here's a summary of the most salient scores on El Presidente, a 60-point stage:

Highest Score: 59 points in 19.78 seconds.  Hit Factor: 2.98   (9th Place)
Second Highest Score (highest time): 57 points in 14.61 seconds.  Hit Factor 3.90 (7th Place)

Fastest Time: 50 points in 7.03 Seconds.  Hit Factor 7.11 (1st Place)
Second Fastest Time: 56 points in 10.47 seconds.  Hit Factor 5.35  (2nd Place)

ALL scores sequenced by hit factor (place of finish)

1 = 50/7.03 = 7.01
2= 56/10.47=5.35
3= 46/09.57=4.81
4= 54/33.24=4.08
5= 56/13.91=4.03
6= 54/13.69=3.95
7= 57/14.61=3.90
8= 54/17.68=3.05
9= 59/19.78=2.98

What this taught the shooters  included:
  1. sometimes, the fastest shooter DOES win; and
  2. sometimes the most accurate shooter tanks the stage
Did I teach the wrong lesson here?  I spent the day teaching them to shoot for A-zone hits, and suddenly I show them that strong hits don't ALWAYS count as much as shooting faster?

I don't think so.

I think I provided a valuable lesson, in that if the shooting problem is "easy" (3 targets at 7 yards, for instance), shooting fast without a miss may ultimately score MUCH higher than slow, careful, ACCURATE shooting.

The exercise, hopefully, drove home the lesson that in ANY shooting problem, the competitor must always balance accuracy vs speed + power (shooting Major results in higher scores for a C-zone hit).

Yes, we want them to shoot safely, and that IS the primary purpose of this class.  But we also want them to be as competitive as their own personal skill-set allows, and sometimes we need to DRIVE this lesson home by allowing each to focus on the potential of their skills to perform well on a certain kind of stage.


I think I threw them a curve.  I taught them accuracy all day, and them I made them shoot a Speed stage.  I should have taught them the other side of the equation, as well.

In retrospect, I should have also included a stage where the same targets were presented at a range of, say, 15 yards.  Or better, 20 yards.  With about the same round count.  This would have allowed the shooters whose greatest skill is ACCURACY rather than SPEED to demonstrate their forte.

So you see, I learn as much from my students as they learn from me.

The next class I teach, I'll include TWO "Real Live" stages which focus alternatively on SPEED, then on ACCURACY.

Has anyone a suggestion on which Classifier stage would best present this contrast?  And which should I present first?  The ACCURACY stage, or the SPEED stage?