Pass Right, Score Left

Five days, four guns, nine disciplines and over a thousand rounds, that was the Arizona Desert Midwinter competition for 2010.

And I’m pooped!


My good friend from Pennsylvania, Tony Brong, came out for the competition this year. Like many of you, I’ve been following Tony’s blog for some time. Tony is an accomplished Bullseye competitor and I consider myself lucky to know him as well as benefit from his Expert (soon to be Master) observations.

Our blogging and emailing friendship grew when Tony and I both shot the August 2008 Dutchman 2700]at the Palmyra club when I was in Pennsylvania for two consecutive weeks on business. The weekend “break” with Tony was great although I can’t say the same for my shooting.

With Tony returning the visit at this year’s Arizona Desert Midwinter event, I can’t say much more for my shooting as I had been “on extended hiatus” from shooting for several months due to personal issues, but getting to spend time with Tony again and to introduce him to all the wonderful people I’ve come to know at the Phoenix club was, well, wonderful.

More PA in AZ

Don Kling, now an Arizona shooter, originally hails from Tony’s club back in Pennsylvania. Although their times at Palmyra didn’t overlap, they both knew many of the same club members.

Don calls the matches in Phoenix, both International and Conventional segments. Each has unique requirements. In Conventional, for example, it is not only common practice but typically encouraged for shooters to load their magazines at the end of each string before scoring targets. That way when they come back to the line, the next string can begin without delay.

But in the International disciplines, this is considered a safety violation and is grounds for immediate expulsion.

In International, shooters are forbidden to touch ammunition or firearms until commanded to “Load”. They then have sixty seconds to load a magazine or whatever the weapon requires, and no more than what the next string requires – typically five (5) rounds – and otherwise make their weapon ready to shoot.

At the end of that sixty seconds, the “Attention” command is announced and shooting ensues about three seconds later.

Well, for Bullseye shooters who are unaccustomed to but otherwise eager to try the International forms, Don patiently explains the difference in rules. He then follows up with an inspection and one-on-one “correction” with anyone who needs a little extra attention.

And don’t forget your ECI – Empty Chamber Indicator – typically a 8-12" piece of brightly colored weed-wacker (grass trimmer) line that is threaded through a gun’s empty chamber and out through the end of the barrel. The NRA (Conventional pistol rule maker) mandates these in every NRA sanctioned event.

But when, during an International segment whose rules don’t require ECIs, Don called “Empty Chamber Indicators in place”, one of the shooters objected.

“International rules don’t require those, Don.”

Without missing a beat however, Don replied, “I’m calling the match and I do.”

That was that and ECIs were promptly put in place.

Scoring Jury

Scoring of a shooter’s target for most Bullseye matches other than at the annual championship in Camp Perry is almost always done by the person to the right of each shooter.

At the beginning of a match, each participant is given a blank score card on which they write their name and firing position number.

The command, “Pass right, score left” tells the tale. (The shooter at the extreme right end passes his card to the one at the extreme left, who then has to make the long trek to the other end of the targets each time around. Some ranges will make smaller “loops” where the line is divided in half to save walking distance.)

Immediately after scoring a neighbor’s target, each shooter looks at his own target to see his score – scorers write the score on the target as well as on the scoring sheet – and to see if he agrees with it.

Late in the Desert Midwinter match, a shooter challenged the scorer’s call on a critical shot. The scorer and shooter discussed the matter but could not come to agreement. As per the rules, Don then formed an impartial jury and included several expert and better level shooters including Tony. Tony’s participation as an unbiased outsider who knew none of the individuals made him a particularly good choice.

After each of the jurors had carefully examined the target and listened to both the shooter’s and the scorer’s case, they voted. And both shooter and scorer, after seeing and hearing the honest assessments applied to the case, accepted the outcome with no further argument.

Does It Count?

Some shots, while dramatic, can end up being worthless.

This one, for example, is called a “skidder” and before looking at the possible numerical values, the scorer must consider from which side of the target the shot entered – did it enter from the front of the target or the rear?

You see, a shot fired on a turning target, if the target has turned away from the shooter, may over-rotate slightly and allow a late shot to hit the backside of the target first.

Shots fired after the target has turned away from the shooter don’t count.

But if the shot enters from the front of the target, it is good. The scorer then looks to see what was the lowest valued ring encountered and, if the shot also marked the next higher ring, the shot is scored for the higher ring. If not, then the lower score is entered.

Skidders can also obscure – destroy would be a better word – other holes in the target and make scoring unusually challenging for the remaining holes.

Dan Norwood

This gentleman is one of the top finishers at this year’s competition. He is on the United States National Guard Marksmanship Team.

And he’s a gunsmith.

Bill Weldon, one of the regulars at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club knew Dan’s abilities and when I asked Bill to recommend a gunsmith to put a roll trigger on my wad gun, Bill suggested I ask Dan.

I did.

And he did.

In ten minutes using the extensive collection of tools he carries with him to competitions, Dan disassembled my 1911, measured and then dressed the parts, adjusted the three tongues of the flat spring and, voila, I now have a roll trigger. (Dan would later help Tony with his centerfire gun.)

Winners and Losers

In the end there are those who received awards and rightly celebrate their win.

And there are those who didn’t receive anything and perhaps some of them felt they lost.

I shot better than expected in some events, worse in others. In that respect, you could say I won some and lost some.

But a week later, I couldn’t tell you my scores.

You see, I’ve become pretty good at filtering what is important from what is not. I remember the faces you see above, the kind acts, the sincerity. I remember the smiles, the laughs, the jests and the good-natured ribbing. I remember the people.

So, I shoot Bullseye for the people.

Tony is one of them. So are Don and Cara and Dan and the shooter who challenged the scoring of his target.

Next time you stand at the line, look at the person to your left and then the person to your right. They’re gonna be good people, honest people, sincere people.

Pass right, score left.

You won’t lose.

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