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Excessively Hard Shooting Challenges - MD's need to know the skill set of their customer base


CHA-LEE
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I have seen a growing trend lately in both Major and Club matches where shooting challenges within stages are being setup in a manner which is excessively hard versus the average skill set of the customer base attending. For example, shot difficulty causing excessive quantity of Misses or No Shoot hits across the majority of the competitors attending the match. I think that Match Directors or Stage Designers forget the basic concept that a match is a "Product" which needs to be appetizing or desirable in order for customers to justify purchasing. Customers attend matches to enjoy shooting the stages. Not get force fed an excessively hard shooting or movement challenge where they are primarily worried about surviving the stage without racking up penalties. I am yet to hear ANY competitor say they had a "Great Time" attending a match where they racked up double digit shooting penalties. Unfortunately that is exactly what has been happening with many recent Nationals or Area matches in 2022.

 

I have listed below some common misconceptions vs realty. Hopefully this will help MD's and Match Staff make reasonable shooting/movement challenges for their Match PRODUCT which customers will enjoy consuming while also producing valid skill tests.

 

Misconception - We need to make these shooting challenges HARDER because this is a special/major/important match.

Reality - Making the shooting challenges harder because the match is somehow different fundamentally changes the product you are offering. Customers appreciate consistency of product much more than unpredictable variability.

 

Misconception - I am going to make these shots really hard to slow down the GM's.

Reality - On average, the GM's are the ones practicing the "Hard shots" and know what it takes to make the hits. The Average match customer is NOT practicing those shots and simply get punished by these shots. At a minimum, if everyone is struggling with hitting the difficult shots, the GM's are still going to be missing them "Faster".

 

Misconception - XYZ Major match is coming up so we need to increase the shot difficulty in the club matches to prepare people for XYZ Major match.

Reality - The Competitors who are currently NOT practicing excessively difficult shots are absolutely not going to "Fix" That skill issue during your club match by being force fed those shots. Matches are not "Practice". Practice is Practice and marksmanship skills can only be honed and improved during Practice.

 

Misconception - Marksmanship must be tested by deploying excessively hard shooting challenges.

Reality - USPSA is founded on testing PRACTICAL shooting and movement skills. The shooting challenges need to be PRACTICAL in comparison to the average skill level of the competitors as well as accounting for the limitations of their gun & ammo. Just because a well tuned pistol and ammo can shoot a 1 - 2 inch group at 50 yards doesn't justify testing that as a PRACTICAL shooting challenge. The Average USPSA Competitor (B/C Class) CAN NOT consistently hit a head size target at 15+ yards on the clock during a stage run. That known skill limitation of the majority of your Customers needs to be accounted for during stage design.

 

Misconception - Competitors enjoy difficult stages

Reality - Competitors "Enjoy" stages where they have a reasonably good chance of hitting the targets while using their preferred strategy. Properly designed stages have targets with reasonable shot difficulty yet provide opportunities to engage targets on the move in order to reduce stage time. In this scenario the shot difficulty is chosen by the competitor based on their strategy (Shoot it stationary or on the move). Nobody enjoys super difficult shots or mega awkward forced shooting positions. 

 

Misconception - If you don't like it, then come and setup the stage yourself

Reality - Yes, USPSA is primarily a volunteer sport that can't happen without a bunch of dedicated volunteer help. No, you can't use that as an excuse to dismiss or reject valid match/stage product feedback. In the end, a match is a PRODUCT that people pay to consume. Paying customers are entitled to providing feedback on the PRODUCT they purchased. Listen to customer feedback to help improve your product. If you feel like the issue is due to NOT having enough staff to produce viable shooting challenges, then add more people to your team. 

 

Misconception - I am only a Competitor/RO/CRO/RM/MD and am not responsible or entitled to make changes to stages before the match starts. Or, It was like this when I got to the match so there isn't anything that can be done after a stage is setup.

Reality - Everyone at the match should have a vested interest in producing valid PRACTICAL shooting challenges within the legal boundaries of the rules. If the match hasn't stated yet, then the stages can be modified to make them better or more reasonable. I have lost count of how many times I have seen an unreasonable shot difficulty within a stage then tracked down the MD or Stage Designer and asked them these simple questions. "Could a B/C Class skilled shooter make that shot consistently?". Followed by "What are you testing here? Skill or Luck?". Then offer a potential change for making the shooting challenge more reasonable.

 

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I agree. I have never been to nationals but usually go to a state, regional and other level two matches every year. I occasionally see poppers out maybe 40 yards or a really fast swinger that has steel hardcover positioned so that you have to shoot it as it swings at top speed. Also a standards stage that starts with a 50 yard string. I'm a "B" shooter but still can make those shots although a miss is not a surprise. I haven't seen anything that I thought was ridiculously difficult. For me it's mostly getting in and out of the Cooper tunnels depending on how low they are.

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I don't like stages where the majority of targets are more difficult than average. One or two hard shots in a couple stages is good I think when if you to test people on accuracy or testing ability to transition speed (fast-slow-fast) or if you had just got their heart rate up and want to push them under the extra biological stress. Those are all components of practical shooting. 

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Agree and disagree.  50 yard fixed-time standards used to be a staple at matches even when we were all shooting single-stack .45 ACPs.  Nationals in Tulsa fifteen years ago had a row of US poppers at 35-40 yards with no shoots behind them.  I think Ray Hirst racked up the most no-shoots on that stage and he was RM doing calibration shots. :)

 

These days when everyone has a dot there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth if there's even one target at 40+ in a match, so expected accuracy standards have dropped.

 

That said, punitively-hard targets (like those US poppers w/NS) or walls of no-shoots with targets peeking out are lame.  Dumbing everything down to not-scare the noobs or be 'fun hosing' is also lame and was prevalent not that long ago. I suspect the recent trend to 'hard' is the pendulum swinging the other way and maybe this will start it swinging back again.

 

Find a balance that works.  Challenge your shooters a bit, but don't hose them with penalties.  If you want to put a target at 40 yards, make it an open target so people can call shots and do something about it or if they can't, throw two at it and drive on.

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I’ve said this for years… and echo all your comments..

 

I add that competitors should also reset and paste targets.  “I’m 3 deep in the hole and need to stay dry to have a good run” is garbage… 

 

people that do that are seen and laughed at behind the scenes.. 

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As a Match Director myself, I use the results of each match as a measuring stick to assess viable shot difficulty for the average competitor attending. If 50% or more of the competitors are racking up shooting penalties on a single stage, then some element of that stage was "Too Difficult" for the average competitor to successfully hit the targets. Since every match and club has a unique skill level of competitors, what is considered "Too Difficult" at one place may be "Too Easy" at another place.

 

Its the JOB of the Match Director to use the hit rate Success/Fail data from the match results to fine tune what that Sweet Spot needs to be for their average customer base. The main issue I see with this is that existing MD's are not even looking at the match results in this manner to help tailor their PRODUCT to their customer base. It ends up being one match after another of just "Winging It" from a stage design or shot difficulty perspective.

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As a MD I try to do the same. I look at it thru a GM perspective and also look at it thru my wife's perspective (C shooter). I know what she can and can't do. I want everyone to have a good time. 

Then try to balance it. 

Nobody ever says on the drive home "that was an awesome match" while having 7 no shoots, 5 Mike's, etc.

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As a match director/stage designer I will say if you want to have a HARD shooting challenge set it up as a fixed time stage and use distance or hardcover rather than no shoots, this removes the penalties for those unable to make said shots while still rewarding those who can.

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37 minutes ago, shred said:

Agree and disagree.  50 yard fixed-time standards used to be a staple at matches even when we were all shooting single-stack .45 ACPs.  Nationals in Tulsa fifteen years ago had a row of US poppers at 35-40 yards with no shoots behind them.  I think Ray Hirst racked up the most no-shoots on that stage and he was RM doing calibration shots. :)

 

These days when everyone has a dot there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth if there's even one target at 40+ in a match, so expected accuracy standards have dropped.

 

That said, punitively-hard targets (like those US poppers w/NS) or walls of no-shoots with targets peeking out are lame.  Dumbing everything down to not-scare the noobs or be 'fun hosing' is also lame and was prevalent not that long ago. I suspect the recent trend to 'hard' is the pendulum swinging the other way and maybe this will start it swinging back again.

 

Find a balance that works.  Challenge your shooters a bit, but don't hose them with penalties.  If you want to put a target at 40 yards, make it an open target so people can call shots and do something about it or if they can't, throw two at it and drive on.

 

21 minutes ago, CHA-LEE said:

As a Match Director myself, I use the results of each match as a measuring stick to assess viable shot difficulty for the average competitor attending. If 50% or more of the competitors are racking up shooting penalties on a single stage, then some element of that stage was "Too Difficult" for the average competitor to successfully hit the targets. Since every match and club has a unique skill level of competitors, what is considered "Too Difficult" at one place may be "Too Easy" at another place.

 

Its the JOB of the Match Director to use the hit rate Success/Fail data from the match results to fine tune what that Sweet Spot needs to be for their average customer base. The main issue I see with this is that existing MD's are not even looking at the match results in this manner to help tailor their PRODUCT to their customer base. It ends up being one match after another of just "Winging It" from a stage design or shot difficulty perspective.

 

14 minutes ago, echotango said:

As a MD I try to do the same. I look at it thru a GM perspective and also look at it thru my wife's perspective (C shooter). I know what she can and can't do. I want everyone to have a good time. 

Then try to balance it. 

Nobody ever says on the drive home "that was an awesome match" while having 7 no shoots, 5 Mike's, etc.

 

5 minutes ago, MikeBurgess said:

As a match director/stage designer I will say if you want to have a HARD shooting challenge set it up as a fixed time stage and use distance or hardcover rather than no shoots, this removes the penalties for those unable to make said shots while still rewarding those who can.

 

All of these have a lot of good points. While  I doubt I ever get to shoot one of Cha-lee's matches, I've always thought they sounded like they'd be damn good from the points he makes on these forums

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Also back when I used to run matches I set one one time that every stage was an ass kicker. At the end of that match I swore to never do that again. It sounded like fun while I was sitting around home thinking of a tough match, it was not.

 

A tough stage, or a tough shot in a stage is perfectly fine. I don't even mind 50 yard standards as far as difficulty, though they tend to be boring, but every stage having a ton of no shoots, far shots, and hardcover gets old quick

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I agree. I hate being punished and I also hate blazing at 5yd open targets all match.

 

If you're connected with stages and the words "force" "mess" or "screw" come to mind I'd say you're making a mistake.

 

Same goes with prop gimmicks. 

 

Something average will be made harder by the better people because they'll push it. The same average will just be acceptable for the middle skill levels. The lower skill levels have too much to worry about and are just in survival mode.

 

Edit: I do not want to go back to slap leather days.

Edited by rowdyb
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The last OPN/LTD/PCC/PRD Nationals, Area 2 and several other Level 2 and local club matches I have attended this year are contributing to this for me. But this isn't a 2022 matches only thing. Its been steadily increasing year over year from what I have seen. Basically, when you have shooting challenges hard enough where NOBODY can shoot the match clean, its too hard.

 

All of the Success/Fail data is visible on Practiscore. Look at the match results to see the shooting penalty counts across the masses within a match. If the bulk of the competitors can't shoot the match clean, then it points to something not being right.

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2 hours ago, varminter22 said:

 What is practical about a carry gun with a 30 round magazine?  

 

  1. Name one CO legal handgun that has magazines that can hold 30 rounds
  2. I'm seeing more and more people carrying a 22 round mag either in the pistol or as a reload, concealed.  After what I've seen over the last 2 years I'd say that's very practical.
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