For 2020, the USPSA Back to Back Events Sponsored by SIG returned to Universal Shooting Academy in Frostproof, Fla., and were split into the Factory Gun and Race Gun Nationals.
After the range was clear of those “factory” guns, it was time to bring in the high-cap race guns of Open and Limited divisions to compete. Before that started, several stages would need to be altered for the second match, which was completed the morning before the staff competed on Oct. 21 for their two-day match—shooting eleven stages per day. During the last three days of Factory Gun, co-Match Director Shannon Smith and I would review each zone and discuss changes to take place prior to the staff match. Several stages would have a change in start position, some would go to an “anywhere in the shooting area,” while others would be moved altogether. A few stages would have some walls moved, in addition to the start position.
A three-day match, the Race Gun Nationals were broken up into three zones to be shot Oct. 23-25. All 22 stages would require 488 rounds for the high-cap race guns and their “drivers.” Because of the high-capacity magazines used in the race guns, simply changing a start position will make a stage plan completely different. Some, such as Stage 1 “Blue Before Sunrise” moved some fault lines and targets around to change it up. Retaining the Shoot House on the bay, the forward right fault line was removed and one of the downrange targets moved to stage left. No longer requiring a back-up at the start, competitors would take one target to the right, and go low for the shots through the port before racing over to the left side, where they faced an additional target on the outside left of the house, as well the targets through this port before moving forward through the house, engaging an array of stacked targets on the right, and ending with several targets spread from left to right outside the Shoot House rear. Glock’s Shane Coley shot 132 of the 140 points in the fastest time of 16.70 in Limited, taking his first stage win. In addition, 2019 Open Champion, Christian Sailer, wasted no time shooting this stage in 14.12 seconds. This score provided Sailer with an early lead.
“No One to Run With” greeted the race gun squads for Stage 2, with a start position change to anywhere in the shooting area. This was still being called a memory stage. Many competitors were starting on the far-left corner of the moon-shaped shooting area, taking all the available targets they could see from here, then a quick run to the center section to shoot the targets that were only visible from that area before finishing at the far-right corner. K.C. Eusebio swapped out his Carry Optics gun for an Open gun to take the stage win, while Coley picked up his second in a row with a 17.95-second run—not the fastest, but shooting 122 points of the available 130 was enough.
Thirty rounds were required on Stage 3 “Everywhere I Go,” that moved the start position from the rear fault line to a “hands on the banner” of the stage sponsor Federal. This would place competitors in the back-left-hand part of the shooting area with an array of targets to their left, and then they would need to work their way forward and to the right. The second position had a group of downrange targets that could only be seen from this area before moving further to the right. The center section of the stage gave the shooters the option of taking targets to the left, before an array stacked to the far right and picking up the lone mini-popper that was only available from the center. There was another array to the right behind the downrange wall before a hard transition to the final two targets to the left. Sailer edged out J.J. Racaza for his second stage win with a 9.2804 hit factor, Limited saw Mason Lane grab his first stage win, shooting 144 points in 18.21 seconds.
Three stages down in Zone 1 would put the competitors at the Standards, Stage 4 “Out of Tears.” The targets and par time were the same as the previous match. However, the engagement for String 1 was now engaging T1 and T3 each with four rounds before the mandatory reload, and engaging the center T2 target with four rounds in the eight second par time. String 2 was the same, with two rounds each with a reload and then two rounds each Strong Hand Only for a total of 24 rounds. The major scoring of Limited and Open would see higher point totals than the Factory Gun Match. Sean Hynds shot 110 of the possible 120 points in Limited and Christian Sailer shot 118 points, with the next five competitors in Open each shooting 111 points.
Stages 5 and 6 were basically unchanged, with Stage 5 “Hurts So Good” becoming classifier 20-02. With the race guns, there would be no reload as was needed in the previous Production match and the Classic Nationals where this was initially shot. With most shooters starting on the right side of the stage and working left, Limited saw Paul Kerr take the stage win, which he also won at the Single Stack Nationals. J.J. Racaza, shooting his Open Beretta, won this stage in 4.72 seconds—shooting 59 of the 60 points.
Stage 6 “Twice as Hard” swapped out USPSA targets for IPSC targets, requiring an uprange start and shooting either the paper or steel freestyle, stick the required reload and finish the remaining targets Strong Hand Only. Again, most shooters went for the cardboard freestyle, hoping to avoid the no-shoots with better control using both hands on the gun, and strong-hand on the steel. Chris Chamberlin nailed this stage with a 8.21-second run, with 58 of the 60 points for a Limited stage win. Open division saw William Drummond edge out Infinity teammate Sailer with a 7.13-second run and shooting all 60 points.
“Take it to the Limit,” Stage 7, would finish up this zone on day 1 for the competitors. The start position on this 26-round stage went to an “anywhere in the shooting area” for the shooters, with most opting to start on the left side. From here there were two targets to the left and one downrange only available from the front corner, with the option of taking the mini-poppers from here as well. To the right was the port with two low targets and the option of the mini-poppers if you didn’t already shoot them. Moving to the right of the long rectangle shooting area opened another target to the right as well as the popper that activated the swinger—and don’t forget the left-side downrange target was only available once you moved to the right. The last position on the right side of the shooting area had two more targets. U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shooter John Browning grabbed his first stage win to finish out the day in Limited with a 14.83-second run. John Vlieger grabbed a stage win with a 12.86-second run, shooting 126 of the 130 points.
Day 2 began with Stage 8 “Let’s Dance,” a 32-round stage with the swinger and bobber still in place, but the start position moved from the rear fault line to a forward position center stage. The change made this a tougher stage, requiring not only a forward movement to get the arrays downrange, but now would push competitors into an awkward position to shoot the activating steel for the movers before retreating back up range. The left side of the stage had arrays in two positions and there were two targets back behind a wall on the right. The stage required some dance moves to hit all the positions. John Browning kicked off day two with a stage win here, as did K.C. Eusebio with his blazing 14.48-second run.
“The Forecast Calls for Pain” left the eight IPSC targets in place for Stage 9, and the four poppers remained. The start moved to the rear of the shooting area with competitors now working forward on this fast 20-rounder with two activated swingers. Lesgar Murdock grabbed his first stage win in 8.48 seconds, and Limited saw Mason Lane pick up another stage win.
Stage 10 “Have a Cigar” was unchanged from the Factory Gun match, since this was going to become Classifier 20-01. The 12-round stage with five USPSA targets and two poppers was ready for the race gun shooters. Mason Lane, who wasn’t on the same squad as the rest of the top Limited contenders, grabbed another stage win along with K.C. Eusebio in Open division.
In the same bay was the Virginia Count stage “I Can See Clearly Now,” with a change in how the targets needed to be engaged before the required reload. The three USPSA cardboard targets required four rounds in them, and competitors had to engage at least either T1 or T3 (or both) with the four rounds, and then perform a reload and engage the remaining target with four rounds. With a 3.66-second time, T.J. Kane won the stage in Limited, and Phoenix Trinity Team member Ben West ran this in 3.64, shooting 58 of 60 points to earn his first Nationals stage win.
The other double bay in Zone 2 had Stages 12 and 13. Stage 13 was unchanged and would become Classifier 20-03. Stage 12 “Let’s Go Crazy” moved the unloaded firearm start to the back-right side of the stage, still requiring only 12 rounds. The move of the unloaded firearm changed this stage up enough to keep it still one of the more interesting small stages of the match. With just the 4x4 shooting area to work in, shooters were forced to use three of the four corners to engage all the targets. Gianni Giodano took a stage win with a 5.24-second run in Limited, and Infinity teammate Lesgar Murdock added a second stage win in Open.
Stage 13 “It’s Déjà vu All Over Again” was the same as Factory Gun, 12 rounds with the four poppers in the center section. With the center section being poppers instead of the cardboard targets like on Stage 5, there were more competitors who started on the left side of the stage, taking the two outside targets on the left, coming in on the right-hand popper and back out on the far-left popper before finishing with the two targets on the right side. Coley’s Limited run added another stage win for him and John Vlieger also added another stage.
A start position change on Stage 14 “Further on Up the Road,” a 32-rounder with 13 USPSA targets and six poppers, would put competitors in the center of the rear fault line. The far left and right would require some leans for shooters, but it was easier to go left first on the buzzer to take the left side targets before moving to the port. The center section was open, with a popper that activated a swinger and two more targets to engage before moving to the right for a bank of five poppers. Shooters would need to take a hard lean at the far-right position of the shooting area to get the last array of targets. Nils Jonasson, shooting his Canik production gun with extended basepads and scoring minor, snagged the stage win with a 16.85-second run. Christian Sailer shot 155 points in 13.56 seconds for another stage win.
Stage 15 “I Say a Little Prayer” was a fun way to finish the day for competitors. A 20-round stage with an “anywhere in the shooting area” change for the start would have as many competitors work left to right as there were going right to left. Two poppers with one activating the single swinger and targets in arrays with wall sections set up to require competitors to use the far left and right sides of the shooting area made this a challenging stage. Shane Coley finished with the fastest Limited time of 9.75 seconds for a win, and K.C. Eusebio racked up another win in Open.
The last day of shooting started off in Zone 3 on Stage 16 “Got My Mojo Workin.” This stage had the most activators of two swingers, and the bobber hidden behind the steel barricade with just the center circle to shoot through to test the race gun shooters. The start position moved to the right side of the rear fault line, allowing competitors the option of taking the first target array to the right, then move to the far-left side for the poppers, disappearing swinger and the two outside targets. If they went left first, they would have to pick up the two targets to the right before moving downrange for the poppers and swinger, then left to finish up on the bobber and two downrange targets. Mason Lane shot 146 of the 150 available points for the stage win, and Cody Baker grabbed his first stage win in Open with a 15.35-second run.
Stages 17 and 18 were doubled up in the bay in this zone as well. A 20- rounder, Stage 17 “Let It Be” had some targets moved around as well as the start position. The start moved from the right and was now on the left side, and two target positions were changed which forced competitors into two positions on the right side of the shooting area. Andrew Hyder picked up his first stage win of the match with a 13.2153 hit factor, and Shane Coley stacked up another stage win.
Stage 18 “Gimme Back My Bullets” went from an unloaded start to a loaded start, with the gun still on the top of the barrel, three cardboard with one being a disappearing max trap activated by both the right or left mini-poppers. The chance to rush and pick up no-shoots was still here, maybe even more so with the loaded start now. Phil Strader doubled down and won this stage in Limited, just like he did in Production division, this time with a 3.58-second run. Open division had Lesgar Murdock take another stage win, as the competitors moved to Stage 19.
“Don’t Stop Believin” still had the 45-yard target and the long dash to get from one end of the shooting area to the other. There was a target moved downrange to the left that eliminated one of the ports now on the right-hand side of the stage. The far-right side targets required two different positions in order to engage everything before ending in the front right hand side of the shooting area. The target that was moved added another long shot at the start, which was now a hands on the wall instead of feet touching marks on the fault line. Todd Jarrett, still putting moves on this long course-of-fire, won this stage with 158 of 160 points in 26.46 seconds. Open had Eusebio slide in with a 19.53-second run for another stage win.
Stage 20 “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere” also went to the start of “anywhere in the shooting area” on this 24-round stage. There wasn’t a significant advantage to start on either side, so it really came down to a preference. Most Limited shooters were starting on the left side since they had to do a reload; going to the right was a safer bet for the right-handers. Mason Lane’s 11.96-second run grabbed another win for him, as well as another for Eusebio with a 9.31-second run.
Two stages remained for the Race Gun Nationals, as the competitors moved to Stage 21 “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” 31 rounds with the start position moving to the back of the rear fault line. Tight shots with no-shoots and hard cover as well as “through the ports” shots that were needed kept the competitors on their toes. The 14 USPSA cardboard targets with a swinger that was activated by one of the three poppers were present to really test the shooters. Nils Jonasson pulled another stage win in Limited with the fastest time of 13.70, while Eusebio grabbed another win, shooting 145 points in 12.23 seconds.
Stage 22 “Let the Good Times Roll” also went to a “start anywhere in the shooting area” for this last stage of the match. Since the right side required a hard lean into that position, almost all shooters started on the left and worked their way forward after taking the first two targets on the left side. The center section had two swingers activated by different poppers that would require competitors to get their timing down, then a quick move to the port for three targets before ending on the lean in the final position. Cody Baker ended the match with a final stage win in Open, and Paul Kerr took this last stage in Limited.
As the match drew to a close, the Limited Super Squad was figuring out that Mason Lane, who was shooting on a different schedule, was racking up stage wins that would lead him to his first National Championship as the Limited division winner ahead of AMU shooter John Browning. Open division was a tight race as well. Christian Sailer ended up winning, adding back-to-back awards to his trophy room. Jalise Williams took yet another Ladies National Championship in Limited division, while Jessie Harrison returned to the podium once again to claim the Ladies Open National Championship.
The 2021 USPSA championship calendar is set, with the first Nationals slated for May 7-9 (staff shoot May 5-6) at the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park in Talladega, Ala., for a 3-day match featuring Production, Single Stack, L10 and Revolver. Next, USPSA returns to the Talladega Marksmanship Park for the Back to Back event on Oct. 16-18 (staff Oct. 14-15) for Carry Optics and Pistol Caliber Carbine divisions, and Oct. 22- 24 (staff Oct. 20-21) for Open and Limited.
Article from the January/February 2021 issue of USPSA magazine.Photos by Jake Martens.