As part of my research for my Trans Equality in Shooting Sports campaign, I contacted an organisation called IPAS. What is IPAS I hear you ask? IPAS or Iron Plate Action Shooting is a CO2 multi shot pistol shooting discipline that uses metal plates as the targets and the aim (pun intended) is shoot the targets on the course of fire as quickly as possible. Speed and accuracy are the important things here. After getting a positive response from IPAS I decided that I would give this style of shooting a go. As newcomer and non-member I could only shoot at Open matches. I was originally going to enter the Open match at Lea Valley on 12th April but quickly remembered it clashed with a 1940’s dance that I was going to so I decided to enter the Open Match 6 days earlier on 6th April at Thorn Ranges near Dunstable in Bedfordshire just off of the A5. I entered the match via the Action Air forum via the IPAS section and competition section. From the thread on the forum I also got the Sat Nav post code for the range.
Before the day I checked and cleaned my new CO2 .177 Walther PPQ pistol, holster and magazines. I also made sure I had enough CO2 caplets and pellets for the day’s shooting (I took 10 plus caplets and two tins of pellets which turned out to be more than enough). All this went into my army surplus canvas holdall along with some water, thermos mug, cleaning gear and some biscuits.
My alarm went off at the ungodly hour (for a Sunday) of 5:30 in the morning and I put on my new white (a hang over from my archery days when archers had to wear white or green in competition) shooting shirt that I was given by my company to shoot in which has the company logo and the Firearms UK patch on it. The rest of my shooting outfit was black jeggings, trainers and a company baseball hat (how I loath those things). After a cup of coffee and a bite of breakfast, it was time to hit the road. As I wasn’t 100% sure of the location I left at 7am with my boss, long time friend and sponsor, Glynn. The weather was overcast with a slight chill in the air so I had my company fleece on over my white polo shirt. Fortunately the M25 was behaving itself and we arrived at the range at about 8:30, signed on and paid the £10 entry fee. Then we went looking for the most important item before the briefing, a brew. This was quickly located and hot cup of tea was quickly being enjoyed and was delighted to find out that tea and coffee was free (it somehow tastes better when it is free) but would have happily paid 50p to a £1 per cup. Some of the other competitors soon started to arrive and we started chatting. I was very nervous as this was a new type of event and location for me but the friendly IPAS people soon put me at ease. In all there were 35 shooters entered split between the Open class for those with Red Dot sights and standard for those with iron sights. I was entered in the standard class.
At 9:30 we had the mandatory safety briefing given by the organiser Paul and then put into squads of about 10 people for the day. The format was that we shoot 6 stages (the course of fire) in the morning and four in the afternoon. Each stage consisted of 5 runs ( a run is one go at the set of targets that make up a stage) through 5 mandatory targets for most stages apart from one with four mandatory targets and an optional target and the last with just two targets one to be shot twice. The targets were painted grey which were the mandatory targets (the one option had a white cross on it) and blue for the stop plate.
I was in Squad 1 and we started on Stage 1. I gassed my pistol in the gassing area and waited for my turn The nerves returned as it became my turn to shoot. At last it was my turn. I took off my jacket and I was ordered to the firing line by the Range Officer (RO) with the order ‘Face the targets, load and make ready.’ After I had loaded the 8 round magazine into my pistol, I put both hands in the ‘surrender position’ that is both hands above my shoulders and I wasn’t allowed to move until the start signal was given. The RO then said ‘Shooter ready?’ I replied that I was. ‘Stand by!’ a beep from the RO’s shot timer was the signal to start my first run in IPAS. As I heard the beep I reached for my pistol, drew it and fired at the targets. I hit all five with the stop plate last. I automatically re holstered my weapon as I had been trained to do all those years ago in the Army. The RO read out my time for the run and ordered me once again to ‘Load and make ready’. After five runs my fist stage was complete. I went to the reloading area to reload my magazines. My four fastest times counted with the slowest time being discarded. If you miss a target and don’t hit it before you hit the stop plate you are penalised 2 seconds. I think throughout the day I only missed one target so only got 1 penalty.
On Stage 2 I had a nightmare. As I was loading the pistol I dropped the magazine and had to use another. I started to get flustered and missed some targets so I had to keep shooting them until I hit them. This meant changing mags which all cost precious time (runs are timed to a hundredth of a second). My first three runs were each of around 30 seconds (30 seconds is the maximum time for each run so I dropped the 30 sec run I took but the 29.97 and 28.92 runs did count. My forth was a much better 8.43 after I told myself off for getting flustered and I slowed my self down which made me quicker. My last run on Stage 2 was 9.97. I was angry with myself at getting flustered when I dropped the mag, but I was loving this new form of shooting. It was a challenge. As the morning wore on I got into the swing of things and my times were coming down and three times in the morning my run time came down to below 6 seconds. One stage had an ‘option’ plate which meant you could miss it without incurring a penalty but if you hit it you had two seconds deducted from your time
After 6 stages it was time for lunch and a chat. Glynn bought me lunch which was a sausage in a bread roll for £1 which was all I needed plus another cup of tea. I chatted with some of the other shooters during lunch and soon it was time to back to the range for the final 4 stages of the match.
It was soon time to get back to range and finish the last four stages of the match. Once again I had a problem with dropping a mag on the second stage but this time I ignored it and had a reasonable run through the stage. The three squads did their runs through stages 7-9 and then it was time for the tenth and final stage of the day. This one was different to the rest as there were only two target plates. As I watched some of the others go through the stage I soon realised why. You shot twice at the lower plate as a ‘double tap’ (a technique I learnt in the Army where you fire two rounds as quick as possible without changing your aim) before hitting the stop plate. For some reason I had trouble hitting the stop plate but I didn’t have to change mags during a run. All to soon it was all over. I was happy having given a good account of myself with an average stage time (each stage was made up of 5 runs) of 34.859 seconds per stage and an average time of 6.972 per run. In the final results I cam 2th in class out of 22 (two went home at lunchtime due to another commitment) and 33rd overall with a combined time for all stages of 348.59 seconds.
I went home that evening tired but happy having thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had a great day meeting new people and trying out this, for me, new form of shooting competition. I vowed on the drive home that I would be entering another IPAS match as soon as possible. In fact I have entered another Open match at Lea Valley range on 12th July. To find out more about IPAS go their great website at www.ipas.org.uk They are friendly bunch.
Cost wise the match cost me a £10 entry fee, 5 CO2 caplets (which cost about £2 for 5) and about 300 pellets from a tin that cost me £4 plus my fuel to get there. It was a good cheap day’s shooting.