Friday, October 19, 2012

Clean your gun regularly!

Or, if you don't like cleaning your gun .. buy an STI.

I've been running a little experiment for the past year.  I shoot my 10mm STI Edge twice a month .. once when I 'demonstrate' each training stage in the "Introduction to USPSA" class, and again the next weekend when I compete at my local match.

Then I take it home and don't take it out of the gun bag until next month.

Every now and then I look at the barrel ... from the outside ... by racking the slide.  I see a lot of dirty oil on the outside.  God only knows what it looks like on the inside.

Why do I look at the barrel?  I want to see if there's plenty of oil on it.  If it looks thin, I pour some more oil on it.  Usually 30 weight motor oil .. it works just fine as a lubricant.

Oh, sometimes I use a paper towel to wipe the old oil off the part of the barrel that I can see when I rack the slide, and then I pour more motor oil on it.  There's a technical name for this process.  It's called "Cleaning My Gun".

Sure, that's  not what most people would call it.  "Abuse" would be an alternative term, but I decided not to call it that, so it's not abuse.

I use to clean The Beloved Kimber by putting it in the dishwasher.  That worked fine for me, too ... although I occasionally actually ran a brass brush through the barrel.  See, I was using hard-cast lead bullets through it, and I do know the effects of leading on a barrel; reduced accuracy.  That's not generally considered to be A Good Thing.  Especially not good when you use the gun for competition (as I do).

But even when I 'cleaned' The Beloved Kimber, I always DRENCHED the wretch in oil.  Yup, motor oil.  Five bucks buys a pint of oil, and it lasts for years!

By now, you're either thinking that this is satire, or that I'm a complete idiot.  If so ... you're right.  I am an idiot, because I do know how people tell me to take care of a gun.   I just don't listen to them.  I take my own advice.

Oil it.  If a little oil is good, more oil is gooder.

I got that piece of advice from Dave Skinner, past owner and CEO of STI Guns, Inc.  He should know, since he built and sold STI pistols for years and years, all around the world.

The people who caution you not to 'over-oil' your pistol?  I think they need to define the term.  So far, I have determined that the problem with "over-oiling" your pistol is that it leaks out and makes the grip slippery.  My solution to "over oiling" is to wipe off the slippery stuff on the grip.

This isn't Rocket Science.  How much oil is in the crankcase of your car?  More than you need?  Well, it helps to have enough oil on machinery, but my EDGE doesn't have a crankcase.

My Edge works reliably, all day, every day.  The only time I have problems with it is when the ammunition I reload is "off spec".  That happened last month, when my seating die got loose and I cranked out a hundred rounds which were over-all length 1.275" instead of 1.250".  I didn't notice it until I got to the match and discovered that I could only put 15 rounds in the magazine instead of the usual 17 rounds.  I had a couple of feeding problems during the match, which was maddening.  When I got home, I reset my seating die to the correct specs, re-seated the remaining over-long rounds and cranked out a couple hundred more.  They worked just fine in the October match ... and no, I didn't clean my gun before that match, either.

I suppose I will actually clean the Edge sometime this winter, when the competition season slows down.  The days are short, the nights are long, and a Geek has to find ways to fill those idle hours.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll clean it.

Not that it needs it. 

My readers are smarter than I am ... and isn't that a good thing?

A few days ago, I talked about the 'angst' of being a range officer.  (see ARGHHHH!)

The crux of the exposition was that when an RO disqualifies a shooter because of a safety-rule violation, it's often as disappointing to the RO as it is to the shooter.  (The shooter never notices or acknowledges this, because being booted out of a match is an intensely personal event, and the shooter rarely notes the responses of 'other people'.)

The thing is ... being DQ'd is like farting on the subway, only worse.  You (the person being penalized) are aware of having performed an action which is socially forbidden.  You know it, you regret it, and you wish you could just go sit in a corner and everyone would ignore your indiscretion.  But there's this Transit Cop  (called a "Range Officer") who is watching your every move, and the Dude is both remorseless and unrelenting in his drive to show you to your friends and companions in the most unflattering light.  It's as if he doesn't like you, and is gleeful about exposing your digestive indiscretions to your fellow travelers.

If you have ever competed in an IPSC match, you're aware of the Evil Range Officer.  If you have ever been DisQualified from an IPSC match, you are aware of the shame and self-loathing which accompanies being ceremoniously BOOTED from what had previously been "A Fun Day At The Range".

And if you are a Range Officer ... you don't need to read this stuff, because you already know how hateful it is to be a Transit Cop on the IPSC Subway.  The ONLY person on the range who hated a DQ more than the shooter, is the RO.  And that's the honest truth.

Okay, so much for the shared angst.

THE INTERESTING PART of blogging isn't what the writer writes.  It's what the readers contribute in their comments!   And this article is an excellent example of that premise. (Don't feel you need to click on the link .. it's the same thing you saw linked earlier here.)

I had some things to say, and most readers either got it, or didn't get it,  or kind-of got it but somehow missed the point.

The three people who commented on the article were perfect illustrations of those three variations.

He Gets It
The Hobo Brasser (Mark) is an experienced IPSC competitor and Range Officer.  We have both been 'officiating' at IPSC matches for years .. okay, Decades if you insist on details ... and have worked every level of competition from club matches to USPSA National Matches.    I don't know how many people I've DQ'd, and I doubt that he does, either.  At one time I could tell you, but I've lost count.  It's not a statistic which brings pride to a man from the doing of it.  But Mark wrote to acknowledge that kicking a fellow competitor out of a match is something done reluctantly, and I'm pretty sure that he has often given shooters the 'benefit of the doubt' even though we're not suppose to do that.

This is a man who 'gets it'.

He Sort-of Gets It, but Misses The Point
An "Anonymous" commenter (Blogger commenting isn't very insistent about requiring commenters to identify themselves) kind-of got it.  A couple of salient phrases include that I am "...too critical of newbies..:", a note that "... some stages are inherently unsafe ...",  most interestingly the following:

"... some IPSC safety violations are much worse than others.  Rather an occasional finger in the trigger guard than breaking the 180."

Yes, some stages are inherently unsafe.  Actually, ALL stages are inherently unsafe, depending upon your point of view.  For the Range Officer, that IS the point of view.  Some stage designs are more challenging than others, and  one might say that they "require a closer adherence to the safety rules".    But that would be wrong.  ALL stages require a close adherence to the safety rules.  Safety isn't a judgmental thing which can be loosened or tightened according to circumstances.  Safety is an absolute, and the most important thing.  We do NOT slack off because a stage design is simple and the Shooting Problem is easy to resolve.  Or, as Anonymous has inferred, because the stage design is complicated.  There's a basic principle of competition here, which is stated in the rule book as "no competitor may protest that a stage is too difficult".

Having your finger in the trigger guard during movement, loading or unloading, or clearing a malfunction ... is that a lesser safety issue than "breaking the 180"?  (Note: "breaking the 180" means pointing your gun at another person, either actually or potentially.)  If you accept the premise that there is a sliding scale which penalizes one violation of the safety rules more severely than the other, then you must also decide whether the person who "broke the 180" pointed his gun in a direction where another person was standing, or not.  Is that pertinent?

No, it doesn't matter.  The shooter has lost control of himself and lost focus on the safety requirements if he breaks the 180, or if he has his finger on the trigger when he is not actively engaging a target.  BOTH actions are absolutely forbidden.  BOTH have the same penalty ... we see that he is not performing safely in respect to one safety rule, so we don't let him shoot any more.

As Steve McQueen's character in "The Magnificent Seven" observed:  "We deal in lead, friend."

As for the suggestion that we are "..too critical of newbies..."?  No, we are not.  We evaluate new shooters under the exact same rules and requirements as we apply to people who have been competing in this sport for decades.  I have Disqualified Master and Grand-Master shooters for violating the safety rules, and I've witnessed (while not functioning as the RO myself) other Range Officers DQ highly experienced and exceedingly well qualified shooters for doing the EXACT same thing as "newbies" do.  Finger on the trigger.  Breaking the 180.

Good heavens, I've mentioned more than once in these chronicles that I have DQ'd my Significant Other for having her finger on the trigger during reloading.  It made for an awkward ride home after the match, but mostly it was because she knew she did wrong, and she deserved it, and she was embarassed.  It took a few days for her to admit it was the right call, but she was also a Certified Range Officer and she knew the rules as well as I did ... and she applied them with equal severity to new shooters and experienced shooters alike.

And yes, I have been DQ'd myself, a fact which I tell ALL of the people who go through my "Introduction to USPSA" seminar.

So ... no, I don't think I'm "too critical of newbies".  I think I'm helping to insure that it's safe to be on the range when people are running around with loaded guns.  I think that families can come play this sport because mean people like me watch everyone with a gun to make SURE that both rules apply:

Rule 1: don't point your gun at other people
Rule 2: even if you do, don't have your finger on the trigger

See?  Belt AND Suspenders ... you have to break at least two rules before you can begin to endanger another person, and I'm standing between you and the peanut gallery so you KNOW that I'm very aware of what you are doing with your gun and I WILL stop you.

Has anyone reading this article, and the preceding one, happened to notice that the Range Officer is the one most likely to be injured if an unsafe (proscribed violation of the Safety Rules) act went UN-punished?

He doesn't get it at all
"Rivrdog" (a retired Sheriff Deputy who is very keen on defensive pistol usage) is  a dear friend whom I haven't seen as often as I would like, and he does NOT compete in this kind of shooting sport.  As a consequence, he tends to be quite critical about all things "IPSC", and I don't really blame him at all.

I'm not quoting him completely, and I may not be quoting him entirely accurately (you can go read his comment), but essentially this is his point:

"Complex stages are a figment of a stage designers mind, and in no way resemble ... shoot/don't shoot defensive shooting....."
"Defensive shooting is simple"
"The action competition could be great training for the Defensive pistol shooter, but not because of 'The Rules' which prohibit defensive movement necessary to ... tactics and which develop deadly habits, such as waiting for a command before engaging a threat".

These comments mirror closely articles which appeared in shooting-sport magazines a decade ago, usually under the heading "IPSC Competition Can Kill You" or something similar.

Yes, forty years ago IPSC WAS "combat pistol" and the emphasis was on BOTH Defensive and Aggressive shooting against an armed aggressor.  Read the rules in Rule Book #1 ... it has you climbing walls with the use of a rope because scaling an obstacle was a useful 'combat' drill.

We don't DO that shit anymore!

Here is today's mantra:

"It's A GAME, folks!"

We're not training people to defend themselves.  If you want that stuff, go do IDPA or take a "Home Defense" class (I did the latter, don't do the IDPA thingie 'cause I'm not interested).

Yes, it is irrational to have people stand fully erect in a shooting box and, upon the signal, engage all targets as they become available.  Standing reloads.  No hiding behind barriers except as a complication at the whim of the stage designer.  Thirty-round stages.  A dozen targets which stand in one place without moving.

We are NOT training people to shoot people.  We shoot cardboard, and knock down steel targets.  We have participants in all walks of life, including psychologists, computer programmers, nurserymen, mothers, fathers, and children.

What we DO do, is we teach everyone who packs a gun to practice basic rules of safety:
  • keep your finger off the trigger until your gun is pointed at something you want to shoot
  • keep your gun pointed in a safe direction .. ALWAYS!
  • always assume your gun is loaded, but never load it except under the direct supervision of a safety officer
Gee, that's pretty much the basic rules of gun safety, isn't it?

Here's another thing to consider:  We don't teach you to defend yourself against an aggressor, but we do teach you to handle a gun safely.

You would be amazed, perhaps, to hear that the  "Introduction to USPSA" class is more focused on breaking people of bad gun-handling habits than teaching them how to compete.  That's not the original intent of the class .. .that's just the way it happens.  We start out telling them about the "Seven Deadly Sins of IPSC" (finger on the trigger, breaking the 180, sweeping,  negligent discharge, etc.) and then we talk about 'how to compete'. 

So, yes, Rivrdog is absolutely correct in his evaluation of the sport of Practical Pistol Shooting; it is anything but "practical".   It DOES teach you bad habits, if you rely on a gun to defend yourself.

But it also teaches you how to rely on yourself to handle a gun safely in a competitive environment.

Yes, it's an artificial environment.  We're lucky; our targets are not assumed to be 'shooting back at us'.  So we have all these nurserymen and computer programmers and housewives and children as young as ten years of age ... as well as sworn police officers, ex-military, and even the home-commando wanna-be's ... competing against each other in a totally benign, totally safe environment.  We may not practice defensive shooting, but we do practice and REQUIRE safe shooting.

That makes it fun for the whole freakin' family.  We want everyone who is capable of good judgement to enjoy the sport.

Let me say this once again, just to ensure that nobody misses the point.

It's a GAME, Folks!

If you want more, you can find the training in other venues.  But when you go there, you will know how to defend yourself without shooting yourself in the foot because you learned the basic rules by competing at IPSC/USPSA matches.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interesting 'field course'

Albany Rifle and Pistol Club, October Match .. stage 3:  "Are You Fast?"

Funny little stage this weekend, involving not only awkward physical positioning but some awesomely convoluted stage design!

Picture this:  A shooting hours (more or less), flanked on the right by a Pepper Popper and three Metric Targets, and on the left by two US Poppers and two Metric Targets.

Shooting position is on a 3'x5' box, right in front of the closed door. 

Behind the door?

Two 'swinging' targets, activated by opening the door.  The door is locked, and the shooter 'unlocks' the door by knocking down the Pepper Popper on the right outside wall.  (Actually, the door activates the left inside swinger, which in turns activates the right inside swinger.    It's complicated.)

Inside the competitor also engages a static metric target on the right side of the house;  there's also another static target on the left side.  But it's positioned so that the only way to engage it is to hunker down and shoot through a 12"x10" cutout in the opened door.

Starting position?  Standing in the box and stretching to put both hands on a mark to the left side of the door.

I know, it's not obvious from this description, but essentially you can take your time and shoot the stage with a minimum of contortions.  Or, if you ARE fast .... you can shoot it with a minimum of movement as long as you are limber enough to perform a total Aerobics workout in 15 seconds or less.

The standard way?  STRETCH to reach the mark on the left side of the door, but when the buzzer goes off engage the targets on the right side of the house ... hitting the Pepper Popper last to activate the swinging door.
Then grab the two fast-moving swinging targets before they bob behind strategically placed soft-cover barrels..  The tall static target on the right side of the house is almost a 'gimmee'.  However, you have to twist left and stoop down to engage the static target on the left side of the house.

Seven shots on the right side of  they house, and eight shots inside the house.  Production and Limited 10 shooters have to reload sometime between those two arrays.  Limited and Open shooters have the luxury of engaging both arrays without losing time.

Then taking a step to the left, placing your foot carefully ON TOP of the back left corner of the shooting box (because you can't see the last target without extending beyond that point), take US Popper / cardboard / Pepper Popper / cardboard in whatever sequence suits you best.  Yes, it obviously CAN be taken in under 15 seconds.  No, not many of us did.  (Okay, THREE of the 56 shooters managed it.)

Here are three views of the stage being shot.  Apologies for the poor quality; I was so slack-jawed watching people trying to beat this mini-monster, I forgot to actually aim the camera.

Which is pretty much the same way I shot it .. yeah, I got a miss on the stage, but I'm not going to admit missing a static target;  here, or anywhere else!


Oh geez,

I'm either getting too old, or too soft, for this game.
 I had seven new students in my "Introduction to USPSA" class this month.  Five of them enrolled in the ARPC Monthly Match this weekend, and two of them DQ'd.

One was DQ'd because he came onto a stage where he was suppose to start with his pistol on a table, and he drew his pistol and placed it in the starting position before the Range Officer gave him the "Make Ready" command.  (In fact, the RO wasn't even looking at the next shooter ... he was still talking to the Last shooter.)

This is the second time I've seen this happen in the past year; the previous time, it wasn't the shooter's first match.  Obviously, I haven't been training my students as assiduously as they deserve.  I'm not beating myself up too bad about this, though, because they have all learned the range commands.  It's just that most people spend a lot of time on the range in a more 'relaxed' environment.  You know how it is ... you have two or three (or more) people on the range, they all put their pistols on the counter without the supervision of a Range Officer or a Safety Officer, and they have trained themselves to accept this as a normal condition.

Breaking old bad habits which experienced shooters have learned is almost impossible.  They are highly motivated, because they want to learn Practical Shooting competitive skills .... but the biggest problem is not what they don't know, but what they don't KNOW that they don't know (to paraphrase Dick Cheney).

And if I don't see these Bad Habits during the class, there's not much I can do to break them of their unsafe attitude regarding one specific situation.  The best thing I can do is to include the admonition to "DO NOT DRAW YOUR PISTOL UNTIL TOLD TO DO SO" .... which is already included in training the students to do ONLY what the Range Officer tells them to do, when and how he/she tells them to do so.

In this kind of situation, it's a blessing that the Certification Procedure requires each student to complete a match 'safely'.  Except .. the example which I witnessed last Spring involved a shooter who had already completed a safe match;  but he had never been presented with this particular challenge.

In the match, I wasn't the RO .. but I had just shot the stage and was moving back to the Squad Area when the Range Officer (he wasn't certified, but the most experienced non-certified member of the squad) said "Oh oh ... what's this?".   I looked around, saw the pistol on the table, and said: "Match DQ".   It's pretty obvious when you see a gun out of its holster and the last shooter hasn't even cleared the range!

The other New Shooter DQ this weekend involved a shooter who was in the middle of a stage, moving laterally, reloading and experiencing a 'failure to feed' situation.  He was trying to do four things at once (move laterally, reload, keep the muzzle pointed downrange, and clear a 'jam') and under the pressure of competition on the FIRST stage of his FIRST match .... didn't take his finger off the trigger when the reloaded magazine didn't feed the first round smoothly.

In this case, I was the Range Officer. I saw that the competitor was getting confused in his initial attempt at multi-tasking with a loaded pistol, but I wasn't in a position to see CLEARLY whether his finger was on the trigger ... or merely resting on the trigger guard.  During lateral movements, it's especially important that the Range Officer be well ahead of the competitor, but it's difficult to move with your head cranked around far enough to keep an eye on the gun.  I shouted "FINGER!  FINGER!" as a warning to the competitor that he may be verging on a violation of the safety rules (keep your finger off the trigger while moving, loading, reloading, or clearing a malfunction).  And I moved faster, so I could position myself where I could clearly see the exact positioning of his trigger finger. 

Two steps later (an eternity in IPSC time) I saw him rack the slide, and his finger was not only inside the trigger guard but actually on the trigger.

I shouted "STOP!", but he was so jazzed up on Adrenaline that he merely looked quizzically at me, and continued to move (and turn the corner to the end of the lateral vision barrier) without stopping.

I shouted "STOP!  STOP!  STOP!" and continued to shout at him until he realized that he needed to do what he had been trained to in the class:  Stop, point his firearm safely downrange, take his finger off the trigger and wait for further instructions from the Range Officer.

Those instructions were, of course:
Unload and Show Clear.
If Clear, Hammer Down and Holster.
The Range Is Clear.
This was followed by the announcement that he was DisQualified for unsafe gun handling/finger on the trigger when moving/reloading/clearing a malfunction (all at the same time .. but he HAD kept the muzzle pointed safely downrange).  We got him back to the squad area and instructed him in the procedure necessary for him to initiating processing of a DQ:  sign all of his unused score sheets and mark them as DQ, then turn them into the stats shack.  I marked the time and wrote DQ on the score sheet for that stage, and signed it.  And patted him on the shoulder, said "bad break, Pal", and encouraged him to stay for a while because he could learn much from watching other shooters.

Which is the same thing I said to the man who drew his pistol without RO supervision, an hour later.

The thing is ... I think I'm beginning to take this personally.

I HATE to DQ shooters.  More, I hate especially to DQ NEW shooters.    Ultimately, I hate to DQ New Shooters who were learning "Introduction to USPSA" in the class I was teaching only one week earlier!

That's a severe Bummer, Man.  I am disappointed that they didn't have a good First Match Experience, and disappointed because I'm pretty sure I let them down.

Not only did I not teach them well enough, but I didn't spot their deficiencies and correct them in the class.

Well ... actually, I did spot some of them.

One of the students could NOT learn to keep his finger off the trigger when he did the "Unload And Show Clear" thingie.  A military veteran, he had generally good gun-handling skills, but nobody had ever taught him the extreme safety requirements of IPSC competition.  I class-DQ'd him on five of the seven exercises for the same thing, and I finally said that I wanted him to squad with me at the match.  And I made a BIG point of announcing to the entire class (including his daughter, who was also in the class) that YOU HAVE DQ'D .. AGAIN!     

[After the match, I talked to his daughter -- who had also taken the Introduction to USPSA class last weekend, and was witness to his continued embarrassment on  each event of his Training DQ --- and she told me that he was so self-conscious about DQing in the match that he spent the entire match with his trigger finger pointed up in the air every time he wasn't actually engaging a target.  Embarrassing?  Absolutely.  Effective? Entirely!]

Shame and embarrassment are powerful teaching tools.   If you have a student who has some serious bad habits from previous experiences, the only way to correct them in a two-hour live fire exercise is to make that student afraid to ... do whatever "unsafe act" he is doing,

I have them for one hour of discussion, and two hours of "Live Fire" exercises.  Start slow, with extremely simple exercises.  Accelerate the complexity of the exercises, until the folks seem to experience difficulties ... then address the reasons for the confusion; that's when the learning experience starts to pay off for the people who want to compete so badly that they'll give up a Saturday Afternoon to go to the range and listed to an antiquated also-ran rant and run them ragged fro three hours.

Okay, so except for all the bloviating, that's not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

So, why all the Angst?

I think my problem here is a matter of two issues.

First, I've made a major investment in these folks.  Not only have I assured them that they can do this, but I've also assured them that this sport is so closely monitored that is safe for ever person ... man, woman and child .. who is sufficiently mature that their judgment and ability to take direction precludes conscious violation of the safety rules.  And, in the few situations when those rules are violated "accidentally", the Range Office is RIGHT THERE enforcing them.

In other words, if there's an unsafe person on the range .. we will remove them.

What we don't say is:  "Sometimes that Unsafe Person is you!"

Here's where that "ANGST" thingie comes into play:

The thing is ... it has been my experience that some of the finest people I've ever met, I met on the shooting range.  I'm not sure whether it's because we have similar attitudes and priorities, or because I spend most of my time socializing at pistol matches.  Maybe it's just me.

But I know that I have an investment in the people that I train for competition, and every time I hear myself shout STOP STOP STOP!  UNLOAD AND SHOW CLEAR!  *(etc.)*, ... underneath that stern "Drill Sergeant" exterior, there's a failed trainer saying "dammit, I didn't train them as well as I should have!"

I don't mind it much when I shoot a match poorly ... well, I've become accustomed to that and my expectations aren't so high that I'm easily disappointed by my performance.

But I really hate to do a bad job of training people who have such a strong desire to "try something new, something really out-of-the-box".

My great fear is that they will be so turned off by their bad first experience that they will give up the sport entirely, out of sheer disappointment.

Let's Look At The Numbers!

So I thought for two days whether I should even write this article.  Who wants to  read about Geek Angst, for crying out loud?  Geez, I don't even want to WRITE it .. why would you want to read it?

Then I got out my training records, and started doing The Geek Thing:   crunching numbers.

Since January 1, 2011, I've had about 90 people go though the course.  (This ignores July, when I take my vacation ... I don't know who I've not recorded.)

Of those 90 people, between 20% and 25% of the attendees NEVER SHOW UP FOR THEIR CERTIFICATION MATCH!   I don't why.  Maybe they think they want to compete, until they get a taste of it through the class and decide it isn't really something that interests them.  Maybe they just want to learn some gunhandling skills that they can't get anywhere else at the low low price of FREE!  And maybe they figure out how much this new sport is going to cost them, and they decide they just can't afford it.  *(I know that I can't afford it ... and I've been doing it 'anyway' since 1983 ... which probably tells more about me than I want to have generally known.)*

Of those remaining people, about 10% do NOT safely complete their first match.  They have a choice of either just ... giving up, or coming back next month.

Most people DO come back.  It seems that, if they care so strongly about competing, they're willing to do whatever it takes to improve their skills set and experience so they can compete safely.

I've seen people who wanted to get individual instruction.  This is good for me; I'm retired, and I'm bored.  Any excuse to spend an afternoon at the range is a GOOD thing for me,   so I've been happy to meet them during the week for a refresher.  *(And some folks can't make the First Saturday class, so we arrange our schedules so they get the class whenever we can.  Not often, but maybe 3 or 4 times a year.)*

Also, there have been 5 or 6 people during the past 2 years who just couldn't wrap their mind around the concept of safe gun-handling skills.  Some of them I have reluctantly progressed to the competition phase of the training ... one of them I DQ'd as an observer when I was filming him at a match and he pointed his muzzle at me during a reload!  A couple of them I required to take extra training ... but after all that effort, they never showed up at a match.

But the people who DQ'd at their first match?  Ten percent, and not ONE of them quit!

A couple asked to take the class over again.  And they have competed safely every match since then.  One was so determined, he went to the Dundee match as a "new shooter" and completed safely.  He sent me a link to the scores to prove that he could do it!

And a couple of the people who I worried that they were "marginal' in their gun handling skills payed closer attention than I expected them to, and they have been competing regularly .. and safely ... ever since.

So, what's the point?

After all this worrying and feeling bad about DQing New Shooters, in the final analysis I realized that the people who really wanted to do this thing we do ... they will do it, whatever it takes.

And the people who don't really want to do it?  They'll drop out.  It's probably best for everybody when they do, because they aren't really committed to competing, and competing safely.  Whether it's ego, or expense, or inconvenience .... it's a self-regulating system.    Nothing I can do would make a difference to them.

I've been worried about discouraging people from enjoying the sport.  My concern was that I might be driving people away.  I'm not doing that when I DQ a new shooter.

What I AM doing is a careful, selective weeding.  I try to get New Shooters in my squad, and I (and other experienced Range Officers) regulate them exactly the same way as more experienced competitors.

Either they can do this, or they cannot.  They get all the chances they want, but they cannot accommodate the skill set needed to compete safely,  they figure it out for themselves.

How does this look to other shooters?

I talked to the father of one of my students after that match.  We discussed safety, gun-handling skills, and all the other fol-d-ral which are critical to running and gunning.  We agreed that people who are new to this sport need to see that this is not only safe, but also that safety is aggressively enforced for the good of us all.   We recruit families, couples, parent/child couples ... and we couldn't grow this sport unless we could demonstrate (and they can see) that safety is our primary concern.

We won't allow unsafe shooters to compete.  Not in the long run, not for a match, not for ten seconds.

Sometimes I am the unsafe shooter.  If I realize it, I don't compete that day.  And the days when I don't realize I'm unsafe ... I'm confident that there is a Range Officer watching over me like the Angel of Safety and he or she will stop me, and make me stand down before I hurt myself, or someone else.

We have a "Belt and Suspenders" approach to safety.  We tell you what NOT to do; we make rules which forbid unsafe actions; and at the first indication of a lapse of total concentration on safety ... we make you stop and bag your gun for the day. 

IPSC competition is safer than High School Football.

We're going to keep it that way.

And I'm not going to beat myself up any more for DQing new shooters.  They'll survive, or not.  But we will all survive, every day.


PS: the following is a link to a YOUTUBE video about "Firearm Negligence".  A little of it addresses what we generally consider "Negligent Discharges", which is what you get when someone has their finger on the trigger when they shouldn't ought to.  And that's why we have the "FINGER FINGER!" rules.  If you're trying to shoot at a target, you have to have your finger out of the trigger guard .. not just off the trigger.

The rest of it is a sad and sorry set of situations (alliterations deliberately incited) when someone who has NO idea what to expect is given a firearm which is more gun than they can handle.  That's a really stupid thing to do to someone, especially to someone for whom the instigator supposedly cares about.  Just ... consider this a good example of a bad example, and realize that this is exactly the sort of thing which turns a potentially safe and happy shooter into someone who hates guns and has only bad things to say about them!

Firearm Negligence - YouTube