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The Back to Back Nationals completed on the 29th September, once the awards had been presented and the prize table sucked dry of all the goodies, the USPSA staff spent the next couple of days returning to HQ and handling all the myriad bills and other assorted post-match tasks that follow any major competition. But there was to be no respite to the work-load, the Production Nationals were just around the corner and with many competitors taking part in the US-IPSC Nationals in Florida the need for communication and information regarding the Production Nationals was vital.

Indeed the organization of the Production Nationals was taking place during the registration of the back to back Nationals at the Utah range and throughout that match. Paperwork for the next match hotel was being finalized at the Awards ceremony. There is only so much work that a small group of people can accomplish and the 2013 Nationals schedule pushed the USPSA Staff and volunteers almost to breaking-point.
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Indeed the organization of the Production Nationals was taking place during the registration of the back to back Nationals at the Utah range and throughout that match. Paperwork for the next match hotel was being finalized at the Awards ceremony. There is only so much work that a small group of people can accomplish and the 2013 Nationals schedule pushed the USPSA Staff and volunteers almost to breaking-point.

But the show must go on; The tireless work of Troy McManus and the hard-working Range Officers pulled the stages together just before some rain fell on Tuesday, and then spent Wednesday running themselves through all eighteen stages of the match. Meanwhile at the USSA Lodge, the competitors dribbled in throughout the five hour registration window to pick up their shooter packets and perhaps make a last minute purchase of National’s merchandise that had been pre-shipped to the range.

As with the Limited Nationals there were several ‘ghost’ squads as participation was over sixty competitors shy of the anticipated 360 (and that included the Range Officers). Competitors have only so much vacation time and money and while having a separate Nationals for each division is a lofty and reasonable goal, the reality is that attendance on these last three Nationals was significantly lower than previous years, and also left USPSA struggling to find enough volunteers to work the matches.

As a chilly dawn broke on the 17th October it greeted the first competitors of the 2013 Production Nationals, gloves, down jackets, hats and scarves were discarded as each competitor shivered up to the starting position at 7:45am. With limited daylight hours at this time of year it was necessary to start early to finish early, though in hind-sight they could have started later.

Many of the top women competitors were shooting on the AM-PM-AM schedule which allowed for media coverage of the match to capture both the women and the men’s Super Squads that were competing on the opposite schedule (PM-AM-PM); Though a squadding issue left some of the top women on other squads shooting in different areas. Top CZ contender Sara Dunivin was joined by a former Production Champion, Jessie Duff shooting a 24/7 OSS from Team Taurus. Jessie had switched to Limited & Open after the 2009 Nationals and had never shot the OSS in a match prior to this one.

The 24/7 OSS had only recently been added to the Production List but the USPSA web-site did not show the gun as being valid, there was a discrepancy between the database maintained by NROI and the USPSA web-site but this was soon rectified after confirmation from John Amidon.

Joining Jessie Duff was new Taurus team-mate Alex Larche also shooting the 24/7. Athena Lee, no stranger to Open or Limited was giving her CZ a run in her first Production contest, joining her was Lisa Munson, Gabby Franco and Maggie Reese. Athena, Maggie and Gabby have all participated in the History Channel’s Top Shot competition.

They started their match in area three of the competition shooting some of the largest stages of the match (13-18), which the top men would not shoot until the final day of competition, as they started on the short stages in area one (1-6). This offset made it difficult to keep track of who was winning especially as Randi Rogers of Comp-Tac and S&W’s latest Team Member was shooting the stages in area two (7-12).
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Its hard to imagine a worse scenario from a media perspective; It was impossible to determine who was leading during each day of the contest and the potential for bad weather could have altered the outcome of the match especially if there was a repeat of the catastrophic weather of 2008 which had turned the range into a swamp. It was the variation in weather and stage conditions that first led to the creation of the Super Squad concept as a way to level the playing field and ensure that the contenders compete in similar conditions on each stage. And while it still applies to the top men, for some reason it does not apply to the top women that are most likely to win, this is an issue that needs to be formerly addressed by USPSA. There is more pressure shooting in the super squad, ask anyone that’s ever been in one.
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Sara Dunivin handily beat Jessie on Stage 16 their first stage, which had the competitor start facing downrange directly into the sun as it peaked above the berms in the early dawn, targets were posted to the left and right of a long corridor with three targets tucked behind no-shoots at the end.

Jessie came back strong on the next two stages beating Sara easily to move ahead but as they looped back around to Stage 13 it became apparent that Jessie was having some issues. Her accuracy dropped through the floor as she plugged C and D hits with increasing regularity. The gun that had shot point-of-aim throughout practice - and the first three stages - was now hitting left costing her valuable points that she could not afford to lose. Sara capitalized and move ahead of Jessie by a comfortable margin despite a miss on Stage 15, where she still beat Jessie by twelve points!
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The PM-AM-PM schedule was the best in terms of weather and the Men’s Super Squad took advantage of the warm conditions to post some incredible times on the first stages of the match. Starting on Stage 2, they moved along to Stage 6 and then looped back to Stage 1 to finish their match, two hours ahead of schedule. These were the smallest stages of the competition and the range crew kept them ticking like a fine swiss watch as the squad polished of each stage in about twenty-five minutes instead of the scheduled forty-five.

Blake Miguez and Nils Jonasson had both registered for the match but were not present when the competition started so the squad was a little on the small side. While the Super Squad was starting their match Phil Strader walked over to the Men’s ‘B’ group and pulled Bob Krogh over into the Super Squad to help balance the numbers, even though Bob had already shot his first stage.
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Fresh from yet another victory at the US-IPSC Nationals, Eric Grauffel had traveled to Tulsa to compete against the best Production shooters in the USA. He started his match with a win on his first stage until Angus Hobdell beat him by 0.8 of a point later in the day. Eric was in the lead from the very start and he would hold that lead for the remainder of the match, no-one else came close to challenging him, the competition was on for second place and the title of National Champion.

Some poor runs for Ben Stoeger and Dave Sevigny had pushed them down to twelfth and thirteenth respectively but both competitors were soon moving up the leader-board as they posted some solid runs on the smaller stages. While Eric’s continued performances were pushing everyone else down, only Stoeger and Sevigny were able to make any inroads on the leader. Frank Garcia was the surprise of the first day, posting some terrific scores that kept him in second place albeit twenty-one points behind Grauffel.
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The second day of the competition and clouds were already forming in the morning and the temperature was noticeably colder than the day before. The Men’s Super Squad would shoot some of the higher round count stages later that morning but started with a couple of short stages. The first of these was Stage 8 called ‘Pure Accuracy’, a four-string stage with a barricade and four full size targets. Each string started with the competitor facing downrange with wrists above shoulders and required a single hit on each of the four targets, freestyle from the left and right side of the barricade and then strong and weak handed for the final two strings. It had been a while since Eric Grauffel had shot a Virginia Count stage as they are no longer recognized in IPSC. After the briefing Eric asked if “Is this Virginia?” to which some wag replied, “No, it’s Oklahoma !”.

Ben Stoeger took top honors on this stage while Frank Garcia effectively ended his chances with a Miss and a ‘D’ zone hit that cost him nearly 35 points and dropped him all the way down from second to ninth on the leader-board.

Eric took the last of the speed shoots on Stage 9, but Ben Stoeger was not far behind, dropping less than 0.9 of a point to the 5-time IPSC World Champion. Onwards to the chronograph and an opportunity to have some fun as the squad played the ‘Velocity Game’, trying to guess their average feet-per-second, entry fee was a dollar and winner takes all. Matthew Mink took the pot with a guess that was only 8 fps off his average.
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Stages 10 & 11 followed, with a win for Eric on the first one and solid run on the second opened up a 39 point lead over Ben Stoeger who had moved into second place on Stage 8.

Onto Stage 12, “One for Leftys” featured a long narrow shooting area that required the shooter to move left or right to engage the targets behind some walls. Sevigny tore it up ! Stomping Eric by over a second and with better hits he wiped nearly 14 points off the Frenchman’s lead on a single stage !!

After polishing off Stage 7, their final stage of the day Eric had still managed to increase his lead to thirty-six points over Ben Stoeger, but that Stage 12 run by Sevigny had moved him to just 12 points back in third place. On the final day the race would be between Stoeger and Sevigny for the National title.
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In the afternoon a light rain started falling intermittently, combined with cold temperatures and biting cold breeze over the lake all added to the misery of the female competitors. Randi Rogers was shooting the largest stages of the match over in area 3 but the other top women were fortunate to be on the straight-forward speed shoots (1-6) that required little movement across ground that was starting to get a tad slippery. The Range Crew kept these stages moving swiftly so the competition was over quickly in the worsening weather. It was just as well as later that evening the rain fell, heavily.

Jessie was still having some aiming issues on the first three stages, dropping a plethora of points and Sara was able to take advantage on Stage 4 but slower times on the next two stages still allowed Jessie to gain some valuable points over Dunivin. Sara grabbed a bunch of points back on Stage 2 as more accuracy issues caused Jessie to miss the final two poppers resulting in a standing reload. By the end of the afternoon Sara had opened up a sixteen point lead on Jessie Duff. But that lead was subject to change as the Men’s Super Squad would compete on the biggest stages of the match on the final day; The same stages that many of the top women had completed on day one, as the High Hit Factors changed so could the lead. It was impossible to calculate the leaders at this point.

As the second day ended, the rain fell... heavily and for much of the night.

In the early hours just before sunrise and the final day was getting under way, and the temperatures could best be described as frigid, the damp conditions from the previous days rain made it feel even colder. The ladies started on Stage 10 and Jessie soon pulled back more than half of those sixteen points that Sara had gained on the second day, and polished off the rest on Stage 11 to open up a comfortable twelve point lead. A slow time on the Stage 7 speed shoot “Double Deal 2” nearly cost Jessie her lead as she seemed to take forever to fire her first double-action shot, it was not enough to fall behind Sara but it was a close thing. They had two more stages to go and Randi Rogers had already concluded her match, finishing on the speed shoots in area 1 it would now be a waiting game to see if the top men would alter the final placings when they shot the big stages in area 3 that afternoon, Randi’s lead looked insurmountable.
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The final afternoon the sun was shining, the clouds cleared and the weather was perfect for the top men to battle it out for the US National Title. As far as the overall winner was concerned that had all but been determined on the first day, Eric Grauffel was unable to maintain the 36 point lead going into the final day, instead he increased it to 94 points after winning four of the remaining six stages. It was astonishing to watch.

There were few options on the field courses so it became a ‘game of numbers’, whether to shoot some targets on the move to save time but risk those lower scoring peripheral hits or stop at a certain position and aim for solid ‘A’ zone scores. This is where Grauffel seems to excel, being able to read the stages and make that determination to maximize the available points in that trade-off between speed and accuracy.
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Halfway through the final day and an unfortunate DQ for Bob Krogh on Stage 17 following an AD during a reload as he moved down-range. Bob stopped himself and remove the magazine from the gun before the RO had a chance to call ‘Stop’. It was a disappointing end to his match but there is no doubt that this is a future top contender in USPSA.

There were only two stages left in the match, and JJ Racaza won the first of these on Stage 18, but Eric took the final stage of the match and an overall win on Stage 13 beating everyone on the squad by 1.5 seconds.

Eric once again proved to be un-stoppable, but there were moments in the match where he was beaten on stages. But to beat the World Champion outright requires reading the stages as Eric does and then shooting at near perfection for the majority of the match. Everyone had bad stages, Eric had fewer of them than anyone else and his stage wins were huge, and that is why he wins, over and over again.

Ben Stoeger was able to narrow the gap a little on the first stages of the last day but after Eric stepped on the gas the margin began to increase again. Dave Sevigny was able to close to within 0.28 of a point of Stoeger but was unable to capitalize; Stoeger was on a roll to his third Production National Championship.

After the scores had all been entered it became apparent that Randi Rogers convincingly beat the other women at this match, overcoming Jessie Duff by over seventy points who in turn just edged out Sara Dunivin by five points. Next year will see Randi shooting in Smith & Wesson colors alongside Julie Golob who is expected back on the circuit in 2014.