In 2017 the fifth Airsoft Surgeon Championship took place in Gloucester, England and once again, Nige from Airsoft Action was there to cover the event.
This is report from the October issue of the magazine…
Sharp-eyed regular readers might have spotted that I have left the word “European” out of the title of this report – and there is a very good reason for it but before I get into that, a quick recap for our newest readers…
“Practical Shooting” is a discipline that tests your ability to shoot both rapidly and accurately with a handgun, rifle or shotgun and can trace its roots back to “quick draw” competitions in the USA, where contestants would emulate “wild west” gunslingers. This lead to the formation of the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) in 1984 and since then practical shooting has become a worldwide phenomenon (except in the UK, of course), with many believing it to be the fastest growing international target shooting discipline.
The 1997 Firearms (Amendment)(N0.2) Act banned the private ownership of pistols (almost) completely in the UK and effectively destroyed a very active part of our shooting heritage; competitive pistol shooting. However, as the quality and supply of weapons has improved an ever-growing number of shooters are turning to airsoft as an alternative, including an ever-increasing number of “real-steel” shooters.
For the first two years the event was held at The Grange but is rapidly became apparent that a larger venue was needed to cope with increasing numbers and in 2015 it moved to StrikeForce CQB in Gloucester, where the vast, indoor space was almost perfect for practical shooting.
Back in 2013 it was hoped that there would be 35 to 40 entrants …and 84 shooters booked in! Three years later, when I spoke to RedWolf Airsoft’s Chris Kong (the driving force behind the event), a few months after the 2016 Championship, he said he would be delighted if there were 150 shooters in 2017 …and just under 200 booked in, making it the largest Practical Airsoft Shooting event ever held outside of Asia!
So what is Practical Shooting all about?
My introduction to practical shooting was when I went down to the East Barnet Shooting Club and watched a guy called Mark Hurding draw, aim and hit five individual targets in just a smidgeon over 2 seconds – and be upset as he normally did it in about 1.8! Talking to him later, I asked him what his advice would be to anyone coming into the sport. His answer was simple: “Shoot fast and don’t miss!” and I guess that sort of sums it up but, in truth, it is much, much more than that. Sure, you have to shoot as fast as you can and yes, the objective is not to miss but it is the balance of these factors that make it so challenging. Let me see if I can elaborate…
In airsoft, nine times out of ten you will be playing as part of a team/side/squad and although you are an individual, your actions will always be dictated by others. We all know the adage “no plan survives contact with the enemy” and that’s because the enemy doesn’t always do what we hope, want or expect them to do. On the flip-side of that, if you make a “mistake”, or something doesn’t go quite right, the effect is often mitigated by those around you. In other words (hopefully) your team mates will always “have your back” – and you, theirs.
Exactly like in a skirmish, the majority of individual shooters will be part of team and will represent their team at competitions but, unlike in skirmishing, they are only ever actually competing against one person… themselves! When you are out on a stage you are the only person responsible for every action, movement and shot you take. It is your responsibility to decide the best route through the course, which target to shoot and when, whereabouts you are going to reload (if needed) and where you will finish – all under the watchful eyes of a Range Officer and (usually) the rest of the squad you are shooting with. There is no “hiding” if you get something wrong or make a mistake but let me tell you (from personal experience), when you make it through in a stonking time and with a 100% score, it feels abso-bl**dy-lutely brilliant! Shoot fast, don’t miss… damn right!!
The 2017 Championship
I mentioned the word “European” earlier, or rather the lack of it and that is because The Airsoft Surgeon Championship, although still predominantly made up of shooters from Europe, with teams travelling from as far afield as Hong Kong and Brazil and with Europe being represented by shooters from Belgium, Hungary, GB, Bulgaria, Spain, Slovakia, Netherlands, Finland and Poland, it has become a truly International competition.
The twenty stages for this year’s event were designed by Paul Courtney and Justin Copper, from Watford Practical Pistol Club (WPPC!!!) who, I have to say, really excelled themselves with stages ranging from short and simple, right up to long and technically challenging – with a dose of “fun” thrown in for good measure. Mind you, I also heard the word “diabolical” used about one in particular – in a nice way, of course…
There was also a 21st stage, built purely for fun and to raise money for “Maggie’s”, a cancer care charity that “provides free practical, emotional and social support to people with cancer and their family and friends, following the ideas about cancer care originally laid out by Maggie Keswick Jencks.” Throughout the weekend anyone could have a go and the shooter with the highest score would win “The Maggie’s Challenge Trophy”. The Airsoft Surgeon also donated two of his stunning creations, jointly worth over £3,000, to be raffled off.
With nearly 200 shooters having to complete 20 stages in just two days, it was important that everyone worked together and Bart Verwijst, from the Belgium IPSC Action Air Team, kindly offered to assist by bringing their wifi-enabled pads across, so that scoring could be completed quickly and efficiently. This meant all scores were recorded on the pad and shooters simply had to tap a button to verify their score and send it off to the website that was doing all the work of calculation and collation (ain’t technology grand!).
The weekend kicked off with a Shooter’s Briefing and by 10 o’clock the sound of plastic hitting targets could be heard throughout StrikeForce. From end to end, StrikeForce is about 170 metres long and the space had been utilised to provide plenty of “Gun Safe” and “Gas & BB” stations, so that shooters did not have to continually walk back and forwards to re-load mags, or work on their guns.
Each stage is controlled by a “Range Officer”, I guess the “airsoft equivalent” of a marshal and, as with a marshal, their decision is final, however, occasion sometimes demands that a decision needs to be verified by “the boss”. At an airsoft site it is usually the site operator and at an Action Air match it is the Match Director that holds this responsibility, a role superbly acquitted on this occasion by Justin Cooper (who is also Captain of Team GB at next year’s Action Air World Shoot in Hong Kong). The Range Officer starts the stage with a “shot timer” and follows the shooter through, holding the timer in such a way that it records each shot, with the time of the last shot taken as the time it takes to complete the stage. This gives the shooter the opportunity to have a quick look round to make sure they have completed the stage before declaring that they have finished but, should they take a further shot, that becomes their final shot and the time to that shot then becomes the time to complete the stage, so they must balance the extra time taken against the potential to improve their score. This is important as their overall score for the stage, along with the time taken, is used to calculate each shooter’s “Hit Factor” and the shooter’s score (with the highest Hit Factor) is taken as the 100% score for the stage. The other shooter’s Hit Factors are then worked out as a percentage of the highest and that is then applied to the 100% figure to determine their score.
This may all sound overly complicated but it does mean that being fast isn’t enough, you have to be accurate too – and the converse is true also. It is a combination of speed and accuracy that is required to win and not just on one stage, you also have to have consistency and keep you level of performance at its peak throughout the competition. It is quite possible to go all the way through a match, shooting absolutely brilliantly, only to cock it up on the last stage and throw it all away!
It also means it really is “a level playing field”, as everyone, no matter their age, gender, stature or ability, shoots to the same rules and has just as much chance of winning as any other – and this year’s Championship was a perfect example of that, with shooter’s ages ranging from 9 to 70+ and, in certain divisions, more female than male shooters.
Thankfully, the system made scoring simple and with just a tap of the screen, scores were calculated and recorded automatically on “shootnscoreit.com” – so much better than mountains of paper and having to type every score into a computer!
After two days of superb competition, it was time to find out who had won – but not before the “Chris and Clarence Show” (i.e. Chris Kong and Airsoft Surgeon, Clarence Lai) had drawn the raffle prizes kindly donated by the many event sponsors, along with the two pistols for Maggie’s and thanked everyone who had helped make the event such a success.
These are the final results…