Or was it?……
This week I was back to my “old” club, the one at which I have been shooting IDPA matches for the last four years. Regular readers may recall how weather (rain) issues have sometimes caused the match director to change out a “regular” IDPA match for some sort of modified steel challenge match. This allows for less movement of the participants (less risk of slipping on wet terrain) and, by using only steel targets, we do not have to worry about the cardboard IDPA targets disintegrating in the rain. Typically these modified matches have included elements of true Steel Challenge matches with added tidbits like Texas Stars, plate racks, Polish Plate Racks, etc. On this particular occasion, however, we would be shooting six actual Steel Challenge stages.
The pistol bays had recently been renovated (MUCH improved), and each of the three bays would be set up with one stage. After each of the three squads had shot in each of the bays, the bays would be reset with the second group of three stages and we would shoot each of those as well. This re-boot was easy to accomplish because the match director already had the necessary target stands staked down where they needed to be. The reset took all of five minutes to accomplish.
This was a two-day match, and the rain was actually an issue on the first day (I was shooting on the second day). Weather was hot and muggy, with a high temp by the end of the match (around 1230) around 90 degrees. The sky was mostly sunny. I hydrated well before, during, and after the match.
Nothing unusual for me here. I chose to shoot in the Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) division, using my usual Generation 3 OD Glock 19, modified as per this article. I used a Bravo Concealment outside the waistband holster, my no-name kydex dual magazine carrier, and used Blazer Aluminum 124 grain ammunition.
I had never shot a true steel challenge match before. The match director told me that, despite my IDPA CCP intentions for this match, to just load up with 11 to start and have spare magazines loaded with 10 rounds each. Not sure if that (or anything else I describe from here on) was true “steel challenge” rules. I also do not much care. All that really matters is that we were all operating under the same rules for this match.
The stages were set up with 5 targets each. One target had a red stand indicating that it would be the “stop target”. The stop target is the target that must be shot last. Once it is hit, there is no going back to shoot other targets. The other 4 targets can be engaged in any order, and you can shoot as many rounds as you want, but each must be hit one time. We would shoot each stage five times in a row, and our lowest time on each stage would be “thrown out”. If a target was not hit at all it was either a 3 or 5 second penalty (cannot remember which, and this was not an issue for me). We shot without cover garments from a “surrender position” for each stage. Lowest overall time wins.
Stage One: Smoke and Hope
This stage features some big targets where speed would be of the essence. Missing those big steel targets would be inexcusable (I did have to make up one shot on my last run as I pushed it…..which was still inexcusable!). My fastest string was 4.17 seconds. I finished this stage 13th out of 37 overall, 2nd of 3 in CCP.
Stage Two: Pendulum
This stage is the polar opposite of the prior one, where trying to rush at the expense of accuracy could really cost you. My fastest stage was 5.27 seconds. I finished this stage 6th out of 37 overall, first in CCP.
Stage Three: Showdown
This stage was a little different in that you would shoot two strings from one box on the ground, two from the other, and then shooter’s choice for which box to shoot the last string from. I did my first two from the left side and the next three strings from the right. My fastest string was 4.63 seconds. I finished this stage 12th out of 37 overall, 2nd of 3 in CCP.
Stage Four: Accelerator
This was an interesting stage that I liked a lot. I shot it left to right (except for the stop plate…..a few people in my squad did the same but shot the stop plate, ending their runs!). My fastest string on this stage was 4.82 seconds. I finished this stage 8th out of 37 overall, first in CCP.
Stage Five: Five to Go
Back to the smaller targets. I enjoyed this stage, though on my first run I had a stoppage (gasp!). As there was no brass (aluminum) sticking in the chamber or ejection port, and no light strike, my only thought is that my support hand must have bumped the slide lock lever and locked the action open. I didn’t really take the time to diagnose, I just did an unload-reload and kept shooting. In the end, that was the string that would be thrown out. My fastest string was a 4.95. I finished this stage 7th overall, first in CCP.
Stage Six: Roundabout
On my first string I tried shooting this left to right (except for the stop plate), but was not satisfied. So then I went near-to-far and did much better, though still not great compared with my peers. My fastest string was 4.54 seconds. I finished this stage 10th out of 37 overall, 2nd of three in CCP.
In the final standings I finished 7th out of 37 overall, first in CCP. I fired 172 rounds. Since we shot 6 stages five times each, shooting it clean would mean firing exactly 150 rounds. This means I had to take 22 makeup shots along the way, which is unacceptable to me. On a side note, our usual IDPA matches require me to shoot around 110 rounds, so I usually just bring 150. Thank goodness I had, for no particular reason, thrown an extra box of ammunition in my bag. A few people ran out of ammunition (one guy in my squad was down to 15 rounds when we got to Roundabout, and so would just shoot two targets and then the stop plate on each string!). I felt like the match director could have communicated in advance about our ammunition needs.
I did not feel great about my performance here, but some of my squad-mates really could have done a better job setting themselves up for success. For example, I made sure I had a full magazine before each string. But some of my squad mates might shoot 7 rounds on the first string, and then just reholster. Then, when it was time to shoot the second string, they would HAVE to execute a reload on the clock! I saw this happen at least ten times during the match. Also, while my accuracy was not where I really wanted it to be, some of my squad mates were having to reload on the clock, not because of the reason outlined above, but because they were missing so much. I can at least say that I did not have to execute a single reload on the clock.
I should note that, of the 6 people who finished higher than me, two were shooting Pistol Caliber Carbines, one was a Master class shooter (in my squad, as it happened), and two others were guys who regularly win the matches at this club. So I feel pretty good about where I finished compared with my peers.
While it was interesting to do something different this week, and I do like the sound of ringing steel, overall I found the match kind of boring. Other than trying to figure out the best order in which to shoot the targets on each stage, there was no thinking involved. Still, it was time spent shooting, so better than most things I could have done that day!
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, please post them below or on our Facebook page, as we always welcome civil discourse.