At the beginning of August 2014, Nige again headed to the Grange to cover the 2nd Airsoft Surgeon Championship. This is his write up from the October Issue of Airsoft Action.
The Airsoft Surgeon Practical Airsoft Shooting European Championship 2014
In 2013 I had the great pleasure to cover the 1st Airsoft Surgeon European Championship and at the time, said that I was looking forwards immensely the next one which was promised to be bigger, better, more competitive and with more shooters. If just those four factors were used to judge whether the 2014 Championship was successful, then I can only say that “YES” does not come close!
Everything about the championship had grown (including possibly the longest title ever); it would be run over three days; there would be more shooters competing over a total of sixteen stages, covering a much larger area and with longer and more complex Courses of Fire. There would be more prizes and, for the first time ever, a “European Champion” title would be awarded – but more about that later.
The event started on Friday 1st August and I arrived early to find The Grange feeling very much like the Marie Celeste. There was evidence of activity and hole-marked targets indicated that shooting had been taking place but not a soul could be found. The silence was broken by the sound of my mobile; it was Chris Kong inviting me to meet him and the rest of the RedWolf team for breakfast. Not being one to miss the opportunity for a “Full English”, I was soon sitting down to the largest fry-up I have seen in a very long time and, of course, took the opportunity to chat to Chris and Clarence about the upcoming tournament.
They had been expecting in excess of 100 shooters but last minute problems and illnesses had prevented a couple of European-based teams from making the journey, however there would still be over 80 participants, which was 25% more than in 2013. I asked who had already been shooting and Clarence reminded me that the Range Officers (ROs) were holding their own competition before the event-proper, to test the stages and iron out any last minute hitches. All except one were outdoors but with reasonable weather forecast that should not be a concern.
Back at the Grange the ROs were already kitted up and ready to continue and I was keen to see how the courses worked, so followed them out and watched as they shot their way through the remaining stages. From what I could see, they more than lived up to expectations. The ROs were thoroughly enjoying the challenging stages and I took the opportunity to find positions from where I could photograph, as nobody is allowed in front of the firing line whilst the range is “hot”. It also gave the ROs chance to test a new shot timing device that had been specially flown in for the competition by sponsor Double-Alpha Academy.
Shot timers do what they say, they detect and record the time of each shot taken and the final time recorded is the time taken for that particular shooter on that particular stage. However they tend to be big, unwieldy devices that need to be hand-held and are difficult to operate if you are shooting solo. The “SHOTMAXX” timer is a very sophisticated wristwatch-type device with loads of functions beyond the scope of this report – suffice to say that every RO would be using these, so timing consistency would be guaranteed.
With the RO’s match complete we made our way back to the Safe Zone which was filling rapidly with people and from the numerous languages, it was apparent that competitors had, once again, come from a number of different countries. It was great to see loads of faces from last year’s Championship amongst the crowd, along with Victor from Popular Airsoft and Vincent from V Dynamics who was once again sponsoring the tournament by providing IPSC-standard targets. Vince had not only sponsored the targets, he was also accompanied by Jurgen Ronsse, a very successful real-steel Practical Pistol shooter who would be shooting in an airsoft match for the very first time. It would be interesting to see how well he could make the switch and what his thoughts about airsoft Practical Pistol would be by the end of the tournament.
It was time to get things going. Chris Kong and Airsoft Surgeon, Clarence Lai, welcomed everyone to the Grange and officially opened the Championship. Shooters were grouped and appointed both an RO and a Scoring Official who would accompany them throughout the tournament (the RO’s role is very much more complex than just timing each shooter and doing the scoring and I will be looking more closely at what they do in a future article) and with introductions and instructions over, everyone filed out to the Stages and the Airsoft Surgeon Practical Airsoft Shooting 2nd Annual European Championship got underway – and it quickly became apparent there was a problem… Wind!
Out on Stage 3 the wind was playing havoc with stand-up targets known as “Poppers”. These small metal targets are designed to be knocked down by the impact of a BB and, while they won’t be pushed over by a gentle breeze, the wind swirling round the stage was constantly blowing them down and so it was decided to pull the stage out of the championship completely. This is one of the things I like about Practical Shooting, if there is a problem of this sort there are rules in place to deal with it simply, efficiently and fairly; with consistency and no grey areas.
I am not a pistol shooter but that does not mean that I cannot recognise “skill” when I see it and I do not think it would be an understatement to say that some of the skills on show were simply stunning! To be able to shoot that fast, with such accuracy must be great to do… It is certainly amazing to watch. The fastest time I witnessed was on Stage 2 when Ka Chung Chow from Hong Kong scored maximum points while shooting 4 IPSC targets, 4 poppers and avoiding a no-shoot area in just 4.36 seconds!
Think about that for a moment. It has probably taken you longer to read the last two sentences than it took Ka Chung Chow to complete the stage and to do that, he had to draw his (holstered) pistol, engage eight individual targets, putting two shots into the centre of each cardboard target and knocking down four small, metal targets at ground level. Interestingly, just a whisper behind was real-steel shooter Jurgen Ronsse… Was this a sign of things to come?
Day one of the Championship came to a close and as everyone made their way back to hotels, or the on-site camping area, we were all looking forwards to day two. What we were not looking forward to was the weather forecast… Rain!
Saturday morning was grey, wet and miserable – exactly not what was wanted but as shooters started arriving, the sky brightened and although clouds were scudding across the sky the rain was holding off but it wasn’t to last. Showers throughout the day did little to dampen shooter’s enthusiasm but when the heavens opened during the afternoon it was decided to call it a day and make way for The Airsoft Surgeon’s “Friendship Barbeque”.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay to see if Clarence’s cooking skills were as good as those with a pistol but I can’t finish writing about Saturday without mentioning something that will make every shooter there either smile, or wince…. Stage 16!
Stage 16 was the only indoor stage and there had been whispers that it was particularly devious, however the doors were locked and nobody could get in to take a sneaky peak. The rain gave the opportunity for everyone to cycle through the stage and I accompanied the first group to do so. I have to say that the sight of a line of very experienced shooters standing there, some with mouths agape, staring at what lay hidden in the stage was something to see!
On the face of it, Stage 16 looked fairly simple… Two poppers hidden behind a wall to the left, four cardboard targets clearly visible to the right of the wall and a sliding door that would move across to hide the cardboard targets when the right-hand popper was knocked down. The sliding door had a lower-half drop-down flap, so the decision would be whether to go for the clear targets before the poppers, or shoot the poppers first and not have to waste time going back to them (but would have to open the door-flap and shoot from a kneeling position).
In the interests of fairness, the RO knocked down the right-hand popper to demonstrate the action of the door – and revealed the stage’s hidden secret… A windmill with two contra-rotating arms, each bearing four cardboard targets – but the front most were no-shoots and would attract penalties if hit. Dealing with the rest of the stage is fairly straightforward but shooting a moving target when adrenaline is coursing through you is difficult enough normally, imagine how much harder it must be when you have to shoot four moving targets (twice!), without hitting the no-shoots crossing in front of them! Not for the feint-hearted and no wonder the shooters looked so surprised!
Sunday brought the return of good weather and the tournament was quickly underway again, to take best advantage of the sunshine.
It is at times like these that good organisation pays dividends and Jim Sephton and his crew at The Grange are past-masters at getting things organised. Realising that everyone had shot Stage 16, it was decided to move the problematical Stage 3 inside, so that it could be completed and anyone who had shot it previously would have their score wiped and would re-shoot. By late afternoon the shooting was over and all that was left was to wait for the scores to be calculated and see who would be going away with the prizes – and that is something else I like about this sport…
Although you might possibly have an idea of who may perhaps have won, you won’t actually know until everything has been calculated, as it is a clever combination of time and points gained that determines your eventual score for each stage. It is only when all those have been added together that the eventual winner is determined. It is perfectly feasible that a shooter could go right through a match and be way ahead, only to make a mistake at the last moment and throw it all away. In Practical Shooting the old adage “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” could not be more apt.
The lull in the proceedings gave everyone the chance to take a look at the stand set up by Double-Alpha, laden with enough goodies to make any pistol shooter’s Bank account start to sweat. On hand was the man behind Double-Alpha, Saul Kirsch, an ex-World Championship real-steel shooter and also experiencing airsoft Practical Shooting for the first time. I hope he won’t mind me saying that when I first met him earlier in the weekend, I got the feeling that he wasn’t “sure” about airsoft but by the end of the tournament, all of his reservations had disappeared and he could see what a hugely positive step forwards airsoft brought to Practical Shooting. So much so that Saul very kindly agreed to an exclusive interview, which will be published in the near future.
On a side note, the Double-Alpha Shotmaxx timers performed flawlessly and I don’t think any of the ROs would disagree that they were much simpler to use, especially as they kept both hands free at all times.
At last it was prize-giving time but not before a whole bunch of people were made very happy by wining prizes in the free participant’s raffle. Prizes included everything from chronographs, to Saul’s books on Practical Shooting and masses of other stuff, even the sweaty shirt off Clarence’s back – I kid you not! But the happiest man had to be Jeroen Berkepeis from the Netherlands, who won a top of the range Airsoft Surgeon pistol (and nearly fell over when he discovered just how much it was worth!).
Then it was onto the final scores and announcing the Championship’s winners.
There were six Divisions being contested and a full list of the winners can be seen alongside this article however, unlike last year, an extra award had been added which would create the eventual European Champion. This would be given to the overall highest point scoring European shooter from any category or division and went to Jurgen Ronsse, the real-steel shooter sponsored by V Dynamics and was shooting in an airsoft tournament for the first time!
I guess that answers the question as to whether the two disciplines can cross-over and shows all those real-steel shooters out there that might “look down their noses” at airsoft Practical Shooting, that AIPSC is an equally valid and professional shooting sport and, if you think you are good enough to take on the best airsoft shooters out there, get yourself booked into next year’s Airsoft Surgeon Championship and find out! (Note to self: Get off soapbox, Nige.) Incidentally, Jurgen has also agreed to an exclusive interview with Airsoft Action, which will be published in the not too distant future. It will be fascinating to hear his thoughts and views on his transition and the differences between real-steel and airsoft.
As I drove away from The Grange, I left with a hugely positive feeling about airsoft practical shooting in general. I have tried in my own small way to nurture it and watching it grow over the past three years, can only see good things for it in the future. Yes, I know it is completely different to “normal” airsoft but aren’t two of our greatest strengths diversity and inclusiveness? Personally I believe it has the potential to be as big as the game we all love stands today and from what I saw over this weekend, has set the stage for a truly pan-European and possibly even Worldwide Championship.
All that remains is for me to add my hearty congratulations and thanks to everyone who made this such a special event; to all the shooters who took part, especially the winners; to Clarence Lai, Chris Kong and Jim Sephton for once again putting on such a successful tournament and to all the sponsors, of which there were too many to list here.
I would also like to express my personal appreciation to the Airsoft Surgeon, for giving my daughter Lisa her first ever pistol lesson and, judging by the results, she is now not only going to kick my butt with a pistol, as well as a rifle but come next birthday she’ll be asking “Daddy, please can have one of those nice Airsoft Surgeon pistols?” Geez! Thanks Clarence!!