Its very interesting to see the variety of experiences here.
I came on as a second match director for our area this year. Two years ago, we got 30 or so for local matches and about 100 for level 2. Last year we got 50 to 70 for locals and 120 or so for level 2, and it was obviously growing. This year I was brought on and noticed the writing on the wall early. Our Jan and Feb matches filled completely, 72 guns. with decent weather. I went from hosting 7 stages/7 12 person squads to 6 stages/6 10 person squads/TWO flights (morning/afternoon). We immediately began filling the 120 spots. I then expanded more to set up Saturday mid day and the set up crew of 20 shot Saturday afternoon, making for a 140 entry total. Its still filling and in need of further expansion. So our experience is congruent with the USPSA report of growing numbers.
Personally, I have been involved for 3 years. I have ALWAYS paid attention to classification. Doing math at the end of each match posting if I had personal bests to see what my new percentage will be. I have seen this to be the case with MOST Steel Challenge shooters. So much so an app, Matchtracker, is taking off cause it allows you to do this on your phone on the fly. I believe this is one of the main attractions of Steel Challenge. Nearly all people I interact with watch their classification. To say people don't care about their classification is to not understand the sport at all. Sure there are some who may not. Some of those may not understand it yet either. Usually once they do, they care. I can tell you there is heartache if a stage is set up improperly and we have to throw it out, cause it doesn't go to classification. People, the vast majority of people, not only care about their classification, they watch it closely. The other match director I work with incorporated wild cat stages cause he thought people would think its fun. It kinda was. But my feedback was most were not interested in shooting a stage not for classification. Some told me they would reconsider driving as far as they do to shoot a stage that's not a classifier. We held a Rimfire Challenge match on a week with an extra weekend, thinking it would give everyone something different. We had ZERO overflow from our large Steel Challenge base. Several came from far to shoot the match cause they already shoot Rimfire Challenge, but we got nothing from our Steel Challenge crowd. When asked why? The answer was unanimous - cause none of those stages count for any classification and shooting them is a waste of time. People care about classification. A lot. Even at the low levels. D trying to make C and all the way up.
As far as changing the way classifications are obtained or calculated, from reading most of the posts here, its just blind opinion. It doesn't seem too many actually understand how it works or even where the numbers are obtained, nor the fact that its not just a numbers game, but a concentrated effort of thought by some really great people. One of them being Zack Jones, who has been gracious enough to post here. For the record, he pushed for the 3 second penalty in Outer Limits instead of 4, but was overridden by higher powers. The classification numbers mostly come from the Worlds scores. Participation is also considered. WHO is also considered. Many things are considered and the more I learn the more I see what an amazing job is being done to provide us a competitive system.
I could not disagree more with overall match scores being a classification. That is way too unreliable with far too many variables. As long as everyone is doing the same, it really doesn't matter too much anyway. But classifying on a per stage basis shows what any one competitor is capable of. No, we don't always shoot our classification, which is the exact reason our classification should not be based on the whole. You may shoot a 80 percent two weeks in a row. However, you shot Roundabout really well and Outer Limits poorly one week versus shooting Outer Limits really well the second week, but tanked Pendulum, still giving the same score. Neither scenario shows what you are capable of.
My classification shows what I am capable of if I show up and shoot all 8 stages to my full ability. That's an extremely rare occasion, if ever, to actually happen, so my classification should not be based on the whole. If it were, one persons classification may be held high because he shoots Roundabout really, really, well, but the others mediocre. What happens when a match doesn't do Roundabout? This is still slightly true now, but nowhere near the discrepancy if graded as a whole all the time. Whole times would be based on completely different combinations of stages. Very few clubs run all eight. Usually its a different 4 or 6 from last week.
Last, only obtaining classification above level one matches would not work well, nor support the sport. Not many new shooters, D or even C like to pay the entry fees or the expense to travel to level 2 matches. So they would not be participating in the major aspect of Steel Challenge - the goal of classification. People who don't care are the great minority, I assure you. Level 2 classification only would also create, even unintentional, vicious sandbagging. Shooting for years and obtaining the skill level of a GM, however shooting one match to be a D and stealing the show. Also, as it should for several reasons, USPSA requires membership for level 2 participation. Most people don't want to pay for a membership to only use it once a year at the local level 2. They get it and keep it to keep track of their classification.
Competitors care about classification. On a large, quickly growing scale. The system as it is now is actually solid. And its carefully thought through when changes are made, adding the human element. The only real issue is the lack of ceiling for GM where there can be as much of a difference in shooters as comparing a D to an A. But that's true in any sport. And I thank those involved.