When you’re in a shooting competition, and especially when there are guns to be won on the prize table, there are no do-overs. If you completely and totally screw up a stage, you can’t call mulligan and try it again. You’re stuck with your score. However, if something goes wrong and it’s the fault of the match staff — like the targets weren’t reset or they lost your score — then you might get a re-shoot. But should you always take it, when given the option? . . .
This past week, I shot the FNH USA 3-Gun Championship with the match staff — Larry Houck wanted us team members to work the match and schmooze, so we needed to get our scores settled ahead of time. The staff shoot is always at least a little screwy, since it’s the first time that anyone shoots the brand new stages and there are always some bugs to work out. I’ll talk about the hiccups in detail in my stage breakdowns later this week, but suffice it to say that they were plenty. And thanks to those bugs, out of nine stages in the match we were given the option to re-shoot four of them.
I was squadded with Jayson Smith, and we jockeyed back and forth all match long as to which one of us was in the lead (well, amongst ourselves at least). By the end of the match, our raw scores were only four seconds apart. But that drive to get a best score may have pushed us to take more chances than usual, including taking those re-shoots.
At first glance, you’d think that a re-shoot would be a good thing. You just shot the stage, so you know exactly how it works and what you need to do better. It’s like you’ve had a free practice run. But as Admiral Ackbar would say, it’s a trap.
Unless you completely and totally screwed something up, re-shoots are rarely a good thing. Jayson passed on to me a little advice he picked up from some of the other team members: never take a re-shoot when you don’t have to. He should have heeded his own advice. While a re-shoot does allow you a second chance, it also makes you want to push the envelope even further in terms of what you can do. And sometimes that drive to go faster leads to some pretty huge mistakes.
Case in point: stage 5. It was a long range stage with steel targets out to 300 yards, and the first time we shot it I couldn’t see a damned thing. It was in the afternoon and the shadows were covering the impact area, so I couldn’t walk my shots in. I ran it in 158 seconds +60 seconds in penalties for three missed long range targets. Jayson ran it in about 115 seconds. Needless to say, I was pissed. And I wanted a re-shoot.
Turns out, we started in the wrong start position. The sheet we had said the start position was anywhere along the rear fault line. The “official” sheet said it had to be off the right fault line. Since the RO was at fault for reading the wrong stage description, those of us who started in the wrong spot were given re-shoots.
When I re-shot the stage, it was in the morning instead of the afternoon. The targets were bright and visible, and I had no problem hitting them. I ran the stage in 85 seconds, which was 53rd place overall for that stage (just ahead of Dianna Liedorff). Seeing my great success, Jayson wanted another poke at it as well. He ran it in 87 seconds… and then we realized where he ditched his shotgun.
In this competition, you staged your guns on staging tables but needed to ditch them into a dump barrel in order to be “safe.” If you accidentally grounded your gun on a staging table (assuming it was empty and safe) it was a 20 second penalty. Jayson had dropped his shotgun on a staging table, and earned a nice 20 second penalty. He went from a 115 second stage to a 117 second stage, losing 2 seconds.
That drive to go faster and beat his previous time almost landed Jayson a DQ, but instead only cost him two seconds in the grand scheme of things. Jayson had a good score already, but the temptation to get an even better one was too great. I’ve seen other re-shoots go even worse than that, doubling or even tripling scores.
The need to be the fastest and the best is what drives almost every competition shooter, and the opportunity to try again and re-shoot a stage is extremely tempting. But when given the choice of whether to re-shoot a stage or not, from now on my default position will be to pass. Unless something went horribly wrong, I know that the drive to go faster and the need to beat my previous time will probably do me more harm than good.
Re-shoots are like drugs. They’re very tempting, you figure a little can’t hurt and they offer the promise of making you feel like a million bucks. But just say no.