After being forced to skip the twice-monthly USPSA matches for about 6 weeks straight due to injury and schedule conflicts, I was excited to make it to today’s match. It was a typical sunny, cool Northern California spring day — 60F, a bit chilly any time the sun was blocked by passing clouds, beautiful the rest of the time… and, of course, quite windy at times. This was also my first match shooting from my concealment AIWB (appendix in-waistband) holster. I’ll just note that everyone at TASC-IPSC (which is really a USPSA club) was totally cool with me shooting from AIWB, and in fact a number of folks struck up conversations to learn more about my setup and how it worked for me.
The obvious question is “Did my experience at Rogers improve my USPSA shooting?” The short answer is that it was a mixed bag. On one hand, I was definitely driving the gun with far more authority and my pace of fire was up considerably from previous matches. On the other hand, so much of USPSA competition is stage planning and fast, efficient movement according to plan that a week of standing in the doorway to the Rogers target array may have actually allowed those skills to decay a bit.
Two things were immediately obvious: (1) I need to find a way to avoid the excitement-induced adrenaline surge and elevated heart rate when stepping up to the line. It’s actively detrimental to my performance because it tends to lead to an imperfect grip on the draw, crappy trigger pulls, and poor accuracy. (2) My mental game is not what it needs to be. I had issues with carrying over frustrations from one stage to another, as well as trouble shifting gears and taking the 0.5-1.0 seconds to get myself squared away when I found myself struggling.
The first stage was an immediate indication of how the day was going to go: not only did I “win” the lottery and get drawn to go first, I was the absolute first shooter of the day. Nothing like coming in cold after an 6-week break, and going first, to test that mental state. I actually shot the first stage pretty well, despite one bobble when a full magazine refused to seat on the first try against a closed slide using the normal amount of vigor. In fact, watching the video from stage 1 (which will be embedded later tonight, after I trim the video because I forgot to shut down the camera) I ran that stage like a freaking BOSS. (At least by my standards.) My movement was slow, as usual, but I called every shot and I nailed those steel poppers FAST. That was absolutely the Rogers training in action.
The mental aspect didn’t become an issue until AFTER I finished the stage and found that the very first steel popper I’d shot (just below the centerline of the circle, with a heavyweight 147gr 9mm bullet) had failed to fall — and when they got the official calibration gun out, it *barely* fell after the match director shot it. I mean, this thing thought about falling for a good 1.5 seconds before tipping over after being hit with the standard calibration round.
This is where I did something stupid yet common among people with a fierce competitive streak: I got irritated about being penalized for an obviously balky steel popper that I hit fair and square. Yes, the calibration gun knocked it over, barely, but I just couldn’t let go of it. Instead, I tried to channel that anger into drive to do well on Stage 2. Not a good plan.
Managing round count and reloads: both crucial on this stage. It really screwed me up when I missed those “easy” shots at the large steel poppers 8yd away, and I never really recovered. I wanted it too much and pushed too hard, and that cost me quite a bit. If I had just steadied down and gotten back on my reload program, I would have been fine — but instead, I was just determined to burn down every target I had in my stage plan.
Besides lost time and slow movement, my biggest problem is that one of the targets fell completely out of my mental stage plan when I got flustered by not hitting those poppers. I didn’t even realize it until the end, because I was in such a rush to make up time that I forgot to come back to the pop-up target after it rose into view.
This could have been fun if I’d had ANY idea how to stage-plan it. Then I put two shots into the hard-cover (black painted) area on the left-side target at the back of the stage… and apparently had no idea where my shots were going because I didn’t realize my errors until afterwards. Yeah, those penalties hurt. You’d think I could hit a vertical strip that size after shooting 8-inch disappearing plates for a week straight, but noooo…
Stage 4 (Classifier)
I thought I’d done pretty well on this stage, with good draw times and fast shooting… right up until I finished the second string knowing that I’d gotten an off-angle grip on the P30 when drawing to the first target, and put both shots into the no-shoot area. Yeah, awesome.
So, there you have it: improved shooting speed and accuracy in general, occasional horrendous issues with getting a properly aligned master grip on the P30 when drawing from AIWB, and massive improvement needed in the mental aspects of my game.