I had never shot the Area 5 USPSA Championship before, so I did not really know what I was signing up for. To say USPSA Area 5 was challenging is an understatement. Unless you were there, you wouldn’t believe how difficult the match was for even the top-level competitors. I was just thankful I had decided to shoot Open with a red dot, as I have no idea how anyone shot that match with an iron-sighted pistol.
It was almost a relief shooting with the Super Squad to see and hear how difficult the stages were for them as well. I remember, on day two, speaking Ashley Rheuark about how out of all of her years of competitive shooting, she’d never seen a match as challenging as Area 5 was. Jessie Harrison’s opinion was that Area 5 outrivaled the USPSA Nationals in the complexity of the stages. Shane Coley left me with a laugh at the end of the match, commenting that the Area 5 Match Director should wait a few days before reaching out to him about sponsoring next year’s match. Shooting Limited Major would have for sure put me in last place.
For those not in attendance for the Area 5 Championship, I’ll do my best to describe the stages and what was going through my head before and after shooting them. One stage I will never forget is Stage 5, Did I Do That? which featured a bobbing tuxedo target, with an added no-shoot target stacked on top of it because the tuxedo wasn’t challenging enough. My favorite target array of the match was here. There was a mini popper at 30-plus yards that activated a second mini popper that bobbed behind hardcover. You had to time it just right to hit it as it was coming up, or kneel through a small window at the end of the stage to hit it from a better angle. I was just excited not to zero that particular stage.
Stage 15 felt like an impossible stage for most shooters to finish and was titled accurately, Can I Do This? The par time for the stage was seven seconds. It was an L-shaped stage with 12 targets that varied from open to open and no-shoot combinations. The starting position was outside of the shooting area, and when you stepped into the shooting area, the first four targets were presented to you from a window. A second window with the remaining eight targets was at the end of the L downrange. The best shot per target is what counted for score. I wish I had the statistics of how many shooters finished versus those who timed out, as it was one of the more challenging stages I’ve ever seen.
Perhaps the most talked-about stage was Stage 13, Where Did I Stop? Stage 13 required you to shoot two strings. Two shooting boxes were laid next to each other horizontally, one with an open paper, tuxedo and partial hardcover in front of it, the other with three partial no-shoot targets. The no-shoot targets were about half the distance of the other target array. You were required to shoot freestyle from one box, perform a mandatory reload, and finish strong hand in the other box. Then you’d shoot the second string freestyle from the opposite box you started in, perform a mandatory reload, and finish weak hand in the other box. The top 10 shooters on this stage were all pistol-caliber carbine shooters and Nils Jonasson shooting carry optics.
“Looking at this match on paper didn’t even come close to showing how difficult some stages would be,” Nils Jonasson said. “With far partials, movers with hardcover, difficult one-handed shooting, and mini poppers set much farther than a rational human being would deem reasonable placed everywhere. After 15 stages, I only managed to win three, but by staying reasonably consistent, I pulled out the Carry Optics win. My Canik SFx Rival functioned perfectly as I would expect, the match staff and facility were both accommodating and welcoming. Can’t wait for next year's Area 5.”
Many shooters who don’t shoot PCC would consider Area 5 a PCC-friendly match, but it was anything but that. The par time stage shooting area was so tight getting in and out of the first port window that most PCC shooters were performing CQB maneuvers to get their guns in and out quickly. Other shooting areas with tight window shots were just as unforgiving on carbines due to the length of the guns and where the next shooting position was. There was a heavy retreat stage for shooters to stay disciplined on when moving uprange, and small ports with head-shot-only targets on the left and right 180-degree line that tested a PCC shooter’s ability to swing from one side to the other quickly—not to mention the low ports on the ground, the high walls where some shooters had to use a platform to even see the targets, and other unfriendly carbine stages.
“I would definitely have to say Area 5 was one of the more technical matches I’ve ever shot. The Area 5 crew definitely put on a match to remember. I think it really surprised many of the competitors, including myself,” Justine Williams said. “Regarding the results, it was definitely a battle to the end for the PCC win. I wasn’t having the best match, but I decided to fight all the way to the end and was able to secure the PCC overall win. Happy I was able to win this for the second year in a row, and I’m super excited to return next year.”
I’ve been shooting major matches for a few years now, including National events, and Area 5 made me question my ability to shoot a major match. I remember when I was first getting started in shooting USPSA and showing up to a major match only to see a new type of swinging target I’d never seen before, or a quick disappearing target I had zero confidence in shooting. Every stage at Area 5 felt like that experience all over again. I was intimidated and doubtful of if I could even complete some of the stages. In hindsight, I don’t think it’s a match I would attend again as a shooter unless I put some serious time into training, which I have a major lack of right now. I think shooting with the Super Squad and seeing some of their struggles made it 10 times worse for me because I knew I had no chance if they were having a hard time.
“Saying Area 5 was difficult is an understatement. Hardcover, no-shoots, and far mini poppers were on every stage with little room for error. The match really tested visual patience and the ability to stay on plan in the face of penalties,” John Vlieger said. “I increased my training tempo leading up to the match with the goal of around 200 rounds a day in the final two weeks, and I think that made all the difference. Getting quality time behind the gun with nothing but hard targets, difficult leans, and steel prepared my brain for the focus required. To quote a Greek philosopher, ‘We don’t rise to the level of our expectations; we fall to the level of our training.’ With World Shoot looming on the horizon, I am grateful for the opportunity to test myself and my training against the best. I'm ecstatic to bring the Area 5 title home and hope to keep it up all the way to Thailand.”
“The 2022 USPSA Cheely Custom Gunworks Area 5 Championship was probably one of the hardest matches that I've ever shot! The difficulty wasn't over-the- top, but there were many challenging targets and places where the shooters could be tempted to go a little too fast and disrespect targets,” Rich Alloway said. “For the lowest capacity divisions, like Single Stack major and Revolver, make-ups generally resulted in extra reloads, bumping up stage times and dropping the hit factors. Would a dot and a bunch of extra rounds have made the match a bit easier? Perhaps. But I shoot Single Stack for the challenge—and the mag cleaning.”
Instead of volunteering my time as an Range Officer for Area 5, I spent my time behind a camera lens, and I had a blast giving back in that way. Photography and videography, in my opinion, are majorly lacking in the shooting sports industry. The way social media and YouTube are these days, we have to make shooting look as fun as it is and at least include some quality graphics or videos along with our content. Who doesn’t love seeing brass flying in the air or their slide locked back in recoil? It is so cool to see action shots on the range when the perfect moment is captured on film.
I was in Michigan for almost a week and thought Area 5 was run efficiently and was a great location for a major match. The weather was cool in the mornings, yet still warmed up enough for this Florida-born gal during the day. The range had plenty of good-sized bays, the staff worked hard, and the folks who put the match on the ground did a great job.
“This year's Area 5 match was one of the smoothest and most trouble-free I've ever seen or been a part of. The range staff did their jobs professionally and efficiently, ensuring that competitors had an enjoyable experience,” Gary Johnson said. “The facility and the folks who run it also did a bang-up job. They went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome and spared no effort in providing the people and equipment needed to pull off a first-class match. Thanks and attaboys to the match staff and everyone at Brooklyn Sportsmen Club for another fun and successful match.”
“I would like to thank everyone for coming out. The staff did an incredible job of keeping the stages running and making Gary’s and my job easy and ahead of schedule. Thank you to all the staff,” Walt Paegel said. “Ken and his setup crew did a fantastic job. Each stage had its own unique shooting challenge. It was a nice balance and tested most of the shooting skills. I hope to see everyone at next year’s Area 5 Championship.”
Putting on major matches and participating in any capacity is not something to take lightly. Our sport thrives on volunteers and people willing to put matches on the ground. It’s also good to hear a little insight into what some of these matches mean for match directors and communities who host such an endeavor.
2022 USPSA AREA 5 LEADERBOARD
- John Vlieger
- Aaron Eddins
- KC Eusebio
- Nils Jonasson
- Max Michel
- Tom Castro
- John Browning
- Shane Coley
- Gianni Giordano
- Justine Williams
- Corey Scheel
Article from the November/December 2022 issue of USPSA’s magazine.