Some stages in a shooting competition are pretty straightforward. “On start signal, shoot every damned thing you see.” Simple enough. But stage designers like to throw curveballs — make you do something that’s out of your comfort zone. Like shooting with your non-dominant hand. Or dragging a dummy around while shooting. Or moving between two positions. Its simple to remember, but there’s a catch: you need to know what’s going on before you step to the line. Take the above video for example, the record of my stupidity this past weekend forever recorded on the internet…
The third stage in that sequence was a USPSA qualifier. I’ve shot plenty in my time, but never this specific one. The stage was setup so that there were two ports, right and left, that you needed to shoot through. Normally there’s a reading of the stage description and a walk-through by the RSO, but that wasn’t happening this day for some reason. So I glanced at the description, checked out the stage, and was promptly called to go first.
And I absolutely smoked the stage. It was a glorious thing. Steel was just effortlessly falling before me, and it seemed like there was a magnet in the A zone that was drawing my bullets in. It was perfect. Until I saw the RO’s head shaking, and he told me “you’re not going to like what you just did.”
Apparently, unbeknownst to me, you’re supposed to shoot half the stage through one port then the other half through the other port. Oops.
The penalties basically zeroed out my score for the stage – I didn’t earn any points. And I had to shoot harder to make them up on the remaining stages. But it all could have been avoided if I had simply read the damned brief myself.
Its true that the RO will typically discuss the stage before you shoot it, but if they don’t then its ultimately up to the shooter to know what’s going on. After you acknowledge the “do you understand the course of fire” question you’re on the hook for the whole shebang.
I had become complacent, figuring that I knew what was going on and could game that stage a little. turns out I was wrong, and it cost me more points than I’d like to think about. The good news is that there were some other nail-biters of stages that caught everyone else, so I might just come out okay in this thing. But from now on, I’m reading the whole brief myself.
Newbies — take note.