I understand the freestyle nature of USPSA stages. I like designing stages with options targets (targets that can shot from multiple locations) and watching as every shooter on a squad shoots the stage a little different. This makes our sport fun and challenging for each shooter.
With that said, when I design a stage I lay out the fault line how I want shooters to move throughout the stage. But sometimes shooters will find a short cut to move through the stage quicker, this is what we call “gaming a stage”. It is legal in USPSA, however it often goes against the designers intent for the stage, as it usually means leaving the shooting area and reinterring somewhere else.
I am learning it is my task as a stage designer to position barriers and targets in such a way that shooters are forced to stay within the designed shooting area in order to view and engage all targets.
One mistake I am working to overcome, is designing a stage as a shooter. That is, designing and building a stage the way I would shoot it. I have been told by my mentor (one of the best stage designers in the game, Pete Rensing) to:
• Design and build the stage as a stage designer, according to the rules of stage design.
• Review the stage as a Match Director, looking to see that everything is set up properly. Proper number of targets, target locations, target heights, start position, no shoot-throughs to other targets, wall, or barrels, etc.
• Walk the stage as a shooter, develop a plan as to how I want to shoot the stage.
For my last match, I reconfigured stage #4 by placing a wall across the path, and redirecting with fault line. However, once again some shooters chose to game the stage by running around the new wall.
Here is a video of John McClain gaming stage #4 Starting Gate:
Here is how I shot the stage, staying within the shooting area.
Here is my post stage run interview:
You’ll notice we do know how to have fun at our local matches.
I was so focused on my stage design, and how I might have designed this stage differently that I didn’t even think about the fact that everyone who ran around the wall was in fact violating Rule 2.1.9 and chould have been disqualified from the match.
USPSA Rule Book states: 2.1.9 All berms are off-limits to all persons at all times, except when access to them is specifically permitted by a Range Officer (see Rule 10.6.1).
This was another learning experience for me. And, by the way, I would not have DQ’ed a shooter for running on the berm and around the wall (not at a local match). I would have given him the option to reshoot the stage, and make it a learning experience for him or her as well.