Held in late June, near Portland, OR, the 2008 Area 1 Championship was hot... damn hot... and full of the types of stages that really demanded you exercise the "Diligentia" aspect of the sport (that's accuracy, of course).

Several folks asked about adding in some video commentary and descriptions of the stages, so that they could what in the heck I'm shooting at in the videos - I tried to that here. If you like it - or don't - let me know ;) Also, I didn't shoot video of Stage 8, which was the standards. Its kind of a visually boring stage, so hopefully you're not really missing anything... Anyhow - here's the vid, and commentary after the jump...

The Tri-County Gun Club, host club for the match, is located in Sherwood, OR, near Portland. Its a rather spacious facility, and includes lots of trees and wild flowers on the berms. The weather was unusually hot for Portland, with record highs set at least one day of the match. The poor Oregonians were dropping like flies in the heat, causing the match to be called early on Saturday for health concerns. Even as a resident Texan, I have to say it felt awful warm outside in the sun. It was good weather for shooting, though, as long as you took steps to stay hydrated.

The stages were exactly the sort of thing you'd expect in an Area level match. These are not your father's hose fests, so to speak. There were a couple of small stages that yielded > 10 hit factor scores, but scores in the 7s were more common, meaning the match was definitely biased towards accuracy.

I finished up 5th at 94.7% of the match winner, USPSA President Mike Voigt. That's my best finish in a major match, to date. I also won two stages outright, also a first in a major match. That's a good step towards winning a match - cleaning up the mistakes, extra shots, and points in the other stages will move that result upward in future matches. We had a great squad - squad 24 had several junior shooters onboard. Its good to see some young blood in the game, especially with such a high level of skill. Ryan Leonard is going to give us some competition here in the near future - he won Stage 12, in fact. He also drove the video camera for me on stages where its not on a tripod - many thanks, Ryan!

The match was well conducted by a solid match staff and ROs. Even with the heat related fatigue, and the inevitable hiccups that occur in the course of a match, things seemed to proceed smoothly and professionally.

A couple of interesting tidbits. When our squad arrived at Stage 1, the ROs proceeded to give us the tally of foot faults and no-shoot penalties they had awarded through the match to that point. As you can see from the video, the fault lines force you into a tight shooting position on each side. This should be a clue - when an RO team is proud of their ability to award penalties, you can bet they're watching them like hawks, and are not likely to give you any benefit of the doubt on things like foot faults. Be absolutely sure of your foot positioning (I mean, you always should be, but in cases like this, you don't want to be planning on tricky things like putting your foot up on a fault line) - if it even possibly begins to look like you might sorta kinda be hanging over a fault line, and maybe could be sorta kinda possibly touching the ground..... well.... Let's just say they warned you right up front...

The only stage I heard any controversy about was Stage 9, House Calls. The stage started with you holding a BTI Mighty Mouse breaching ram, standing in front of a BTI Ram Breaching Door. Now, I gotta tell ya right up front - I had a LOT of fun on this stage. Most of us don't get to play around with toys like that much, or at all, and it was a hoot to go through that door, and shoot the stage. The problem is, the challenge presented by the door is quite physical - the ram weighs 42 pounds, which is approaching half of body weight for some ladies and juniors. In addition, it takes a solid, grounded whack to bust through the plastic "lock" and open the door. For most men, and some of the juniors, this isn't really an issue at all - and the prevailing match staff attitude of "be a man and bust through it" is fine. But most of the ladies couldn't get through the door - I heard of one lady taking 5 whacks at it before it opened. Several others just went around...

If you couldn't get through the door or wield the ram, you were allowed to run around the door and take two procedurals. That means the penalties were worth 3 or so seconds of time (based on the winning hit factor of the stage) - if you didn't get through on the first hit, you were basically better off having run around in the first place. There were several folks who were... shall we say, nonplussed? ... with the door. I can understand where they're coming from. The test was the same for everyone, of course - the contention is that it wasn't even do-able by some in the first place. No one likes to have to take a penalty simply because they can't physically do an action, and are otherwise unhindered (that is, they're not handicapped or something like that, that would require them to request special consideration).

Don't get me wrong - the prop was a lot of fun, and certainly a "real world" addition to the match. I'd encourage the match organizers to think about ways they can use the prop, though, that don't immediately require those of smaller stature to take penalties to successfully complete the stage. A message of "Be a man and bust through" is kind of tough to take... if you're not a man ;) That said... I would love to see the prop make a return at some point... that thing is just damn fun!