The USPSA Indiana Section was back for 2023 after a two-year hiatus. There was a small window of opportunity to get a match in, so several of us got together to get a match on the ground. The host club was the Riley Conservation Club outside of Terre Haute, Indiana. The club held the match the last time in 2020 and has been the host for the USPSA Area 5 Steel Challenge Match for several years.
Steve Wright is the Indiana section coordinator, and was the co-match director with myself as the match director and Daniel Hart as the range master. The match was planned to be a one-day match with nine stops and 10 stages. The volunteer staff was embedded in the squads and shot the match with the regular competitors on the same day. This is not how the match has been run traditionally, but with a limited schedule, it was decided this would be the most efficient way to get a match in 2023.
As a former Indiana Section Coordinator and Match Director for several years, I went back to the basics when it came to the stages. Some of them were updated from previous USPSA Indiana Sections, and some were heavily influenced by stages that have been used in prior USPSA Nationals, but would work with the bays and props at Riley. If you have shot any of the old matches or some of the more recent USPSA Nationals, then the flavor of the match was familiar to you.
The 10 stages were split up across the nine bays with a mix of challenges for the 94 competitors. I like to always have a few things in a match to test shooting skills—a little strong- and weak-hand shooting, a timing challenge on a speed shoot with some activators, some long field courses with plenty of options and some down and dirty hoser stages. Since I think I used up all the hardcover targets available at the USPSA Handgun Nationals prior to this match, there were lots of open targets for competitors to push their speed, but many transitions and places to get tripped up going too fast as you blended positions.
The stages were also somewhat of a dedication to Aron Bright. Many of the long-time Indiana shooters have missed his uniquely candid way of being himself on the range. "Coach," as he was known to most, lost his battle with cancer in January 2021. If it wasn’t for him, I would have never stepped up to be the Section Coordinator in 2009. He was a match director at Riley for many years as well as taking that role for Section Match in 2013. He was there with me as the co-match director for many of the more memorable matches like the “Blazing Saddles,” “Live Freestyle or Die Hard” and “Spaceballs the Match.” I was lucky enough to be able to shoot with him at the last Indiana Section Match in 2020. It was one of the last matches that he was able to shoot. I hope that he was able to smile and laugh at us while we were out there doing our best to keep the tradition going.
Stage 1 “Gratuitous Movement” would have irritated Coach off, which is why I did it. This was a different way to test strong- and weak-hand shooting, something that was borrowed from 2022 USPSA Carry Optics Nationals that I borrowed from the Western Pennsylvania match that year. It was a “Standards” type of stage, but with three shooting areas and two strings. There were six IPSC targets that on string one had to be engaged with only one round each, then perform a reload and re-engage with one round only strong-hand. The targets were laid out so that you would have to hit each shooting area going back and forth. The second string was the same, but after the reload it was weak-hand only. Virginia count for a total of 24 rounds, this was a difficult stage with the amount of movement from side to side while making sure you engaged each target, hopefully accurately. John Martello, shooting Open, ran this in 33.53 seconds with a 3.0719 Hit Factor for a stage win and one of the faster times combined. Riley Fox won the stage in Pistol-Caliber Carbine with a 34.61-second run shooting 116 points.
“Live Freestyle or Die Hard” was a stage that was updated from a previous Section Match, 14 USPSA targets for 28 rounds that had competitors start anywhere in the shooting area. There were several different ways to attack this stage; there were three ports that would require target engagement through them and some tucked-back targets that were going to make you use the whole shooting area. With 15 competitors in Limited division, Joe Sanchez grabbed the stage win here with a faster time over Eric Stanley. Josh Espinosa, with his freshly earned Master Class card in Carry Optics, took second behind Joe Ornelas’s 14.33-second stage run.
Stage 3 “He Rode a Blazing Saddle” came from that previous section match, with several changes to shooting area. This was also a 28-round stage with 14 USPSA targets. A center start in the shooting area had everyone looking at a target to the their direct left. You were going to have to go left for several targets that were spread out down the far side of the bay and one that was only available from the back tight left-hand side. Darting back across to the far right gave you another group of three targets before you headed down range, taking four more to the right and ending with an array spread out across the back of the bay. Alex Cerajewski wasn’t as fast as Daniel Mathis, but had 135 points to his 131 and earned the stage win in Open. There were 13 competitors in Limited Optics and Dave Del Rosario ran this in 15.50 seconds with 120 points for a stage win.
“Know Why The Truth Hurts” was not only Stage 4, but also one of Coach’s often-used comments before he “hurt you with some truth.” This is also a type of stage that I have run at many of the USPSA Nationals, a simple Speed Shoot with only three targets this time. Engage any two targets with four rounds each, then perform a reload and engage the remaining target with four rounds. The targets are stacked close together and the outside two are diagonal hardcover, while the center was a half-target with hardcover. You want to go fast, but you can screw up with dropped points, misses and penalties pretty easily if you don’t do the reload. Cody Dengler, known for running more than just his Single Stack, had a fitting 6.66-second time on this one, with only one dropped point. He is proud of this and should get it printed on a shirt.
Stage 5 “Because It’s The Truth” is the follow-up to the first question, and usually what you said to yourself right before Coach laid it on you. I received many truth moments from him. This was an eight-round speed shoot with four poppers and two IPSC targets. The IPSC targets were a stacked swinger with a no-shoot between them and activated by one of the poppers. This was all timing, and would require some patience on those swinging targets. Teagan Richmond was on it that day in Pistol-Caliber Carbine with a 4.75-second run and 32 of the available 40 points shot.
The first USPSA Indiana Section match I did was the “Shoot to Thrill” match with all AC/DC song title names for stages back in 2009. Stage 6 “Shoot to Thrill” took a stage from a recent USPSA Nationals and flipped it around to work in the wide but shorter distance bay at Riley Conservation Club. Starting downrange on the far right side, competitors had to work their way back uprange and to the far right. There were 13 IPSC targets with two poppers, one activating a swinger. Alex Cerajewski had the fastest overall time of 14.73 seconds that also gave him another stage win in Open.
“Spaceballs the Stage” was one of the more tricky stages to break down in any division, with lots of options to take this one on. It was choppy and had some hard target presentations, along with the ability to engage some targets multiple times if you got a little lost on your stage plan execution. It happens, and it did here for several of us. Eric Stanley won this in Limited, but in second on this was Lafe Kunkle who decided to shoot Limited with his eight-round single stack. This was not an easy stage, especially with a low-capacity firearm.
Stage 8 “On a Mission from God” was another one of those stages that I like to do with an unloaded table start from a seated position. Once you grabbed your firearm, there was a door that you had to get open to take the first array of targets. There were two that were also going to be visible from pretty much everywhere so, depending on rounds and your plan, you had to decide when to get them. A hard left after getting out of the doorway opened up another array with a double-stack target, then there was a final charge down range to the last group spread out from 10 to 20 yards from the last position. Joe Ornelas blistered this one in 17.48 seconds for another Carry Optics stage win. In Pistol-Caliber Carbine, David Richman took the stage in 18.41 seconds, shooting 148 of the 160 points
“Make My Day” was a long 32-rounder with 16 IPSC targets spread out on the biggest bay at Riley Conservation Club. There were many ways to go about this stage, as there were several targets tucked back behind barrels and available from different positions. This was a modified stage from a previous USPSA Nationals that was turned around, cardboard targets added and poppers removed. David Colon in Limited Optics had a 7.4307 hit factor, completing the stage in 19.11 seconds and shooting 142 points.
Riley Conservation Club has a little hidden stage area down a drive and in the wooded area and that is where Stage 10 “Marvelous” was set up. This was a straight-up “hose them as fast as you can,” with three rounds per target scored on the 11 USPSA targets that were crammed into the tight shooting area. What seemed simple enough was really sucking people into going way too fast, trigger freeze, forgotten reloads, dropped mags and rounds in hardcover that was on two of the targets. Everything went just as I had planned—it was “Marvelous.” The fastest overall time, 8.48 seconds, was thrown down by Jake Fearnow for a Pistol-Caliber Carbine stage win, while Daniel Mathias in Open division had a 9.98-second run for the win.
The weather almost cooperated—almost. It was cold with a drizzling rain most of the day. Despite that, we were able to get through the match. It was a long day for the working and shooting Range Officers, as they were running the squads, making their stage plans and shooting. Jan Wright made tacos for everyone, with the help of Becky Hart and other Riley family members. Of the 94 competitors, there were 15 in Limited, 15 in Open, five in Production, one in Revolver, two in Single Stack, 37 in Carry Optics, six in Pistol-Caliber Carbine and 13 in Limited Optics. The match was presented by longtime Section Sponsor SNS Bullets. Division, Class and Categories that were recognized per Appendix A2 for a Level 2 match in the USPSA rules received gift certificates from SNS Bullets. The match also awarded Indiana Section Residents for their division performance.
Already scheduled to be back at Riley Conservation Club the weekend of September 20-22, 2024, I will be back as the match director, digging through my pile of poorly-drawn stages that a few trusty Range Masters like Tom Palmer and Walt Paegel make presentable for me. Registration for the match will open March 1, 2024, and there will be more details to follow on the on USPSA Indiana Section Facebook page.
Big thanks to the Range Officers, stage staff and all the folks at Riley Conservation Club, especially Matt Dennis, the match director at Riley for the regular monthly matches. He was out there helping with setup, but was unable to attend the match. Steve and I will be recruiting Range Officers and staff before March 1. Contact Steve Wright at [email protected] if you are interested.
Article from the January/February 2024 issue of USPSA’s magazine. All photos by Jake Martens.