The question was put to the test at the 2015 CZ-USA Production Nationals; Spread out over twenty challenging stages, the top competitors in one of the most popular divisions battled it out for 2040 points at the PASA Park range in Barry, Illinois. With temperatures topping out at 90 degrees and the high humidity at this time of year, the match was going to be a test of stamina as well as ability, and thanks to a deep field of talent the determination of our National Champion came down to the equivalent of a ‘C’ zone hit.
The match organizers had created an unusual relay system for squadding giving the competitors the choice of shooting in three half-days or one full-day and one half-day session. The top women were spread over three relays and four separate squads, while the top men were spread over three squads that were all shooting at the same time. With the top competitors spread out over four days and three relays and the use of paper scoring it was impossible to calculate who was leading at any given point. It was only at the end that the closeness of the contest became apparent.
Thanks to a combination of Minor scoring and magazines that are limited to ten rounds, shooting in Production becomes an exercise in accuracy, missing a single shot could force a standing reload and too many ‘C’ zone hits will easily overwhelm even the fastest stage run; And perish the thought of hitting the ‘D’ zone as that’s four points that will never see the light of day again. Calculating the most efficient method of attacking a stage within these restrictions is what attracts so many to this division, and makes it one of the most difficult to master.
There are two certainties in life, death and taxes, with regard to PASA Park we can add a third, the ‘standards’ stage which this year consisted of three turning targets, the outer two with diagonal hardcover. There were three strings, the first at 30 yards required two shots on each target, a reload and a further two shots per target. The remaining two strings were at 15 yards, each requiring two shots per target, one run strong-hand and the other weak-hand, all strings had an eight second time limit. A total of 120 points were available and Elias Frangoulis shooting the polymer-framed XDM 5.25 dropped a single ‘C’ to take a stage win, sixteen points behind was Bob Vogel shooting a Glock who tied with Ljubisa Momcilovic from Serbia who was shooting his CZ. It was clear that the striker-fired guns can hold their own in the accuracy department. Ljubisa was joined by a solid cadre of CZ competitors including Robin Sebo who just missed out on the podium at the last IPSC World Championships. Momcilovic would finish the match in sixth place, ahead of Leatham and Max Michel.
Nationals rookie Candice Juliano earned a seventh place finish on this stage, just four points behind IPSC Production Champion Maria Gushchina from Russia who was shooting her CZ. Juliano suffered from the same inconsistencies that afflicts many competitors at their first Nationals, though she was able to take a 12th place finish on Stage 1 and finished just a single point behind Julie Golob who was competing with her trusty M&P.
There was a mixed bag of small, medium and large stages to challenge the competitors, nine of these stages had 16 or fewer rounds and there were four stages that were over thirty, with a plethora of partial targets along with such a variety of stages, any mistakes were going to be tough to come back from. Finding the right strategy for every stage could save fractions of a second, and with a field as strong as this one those fractions could make the difference between victory or defeat.