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Thread: What else could the USPSA classification system be like?

  1. #1
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    What else could the USPSA classification system be like?

    @GJM suggested in a different thread that a discussion of how the USPSA classification system could be revamped to better reflect match performance. I think that's a fair question, so here it is.

    I'm not going to detail here how the USPSA classification system works. I assume most reading this subforum already know that. If a reader unfamiliar with it wants some background, all one would want to know is here: https://uspsa.org/pages/about/classification

    As a way to kick off the conversation I'll bring up a sport that has some important parallels to practical pistol competition: sporting clays. The relevant similarity is that both sports have non-standardized courses of fire. Sporting clays target presentations, like those of USPSA (and IPSC and IDPA) are never the same from match to match. even at the same range/shooting ground.

    US Sporting Clays (governed by the National Sporting Clays Association) has no classifiers. Your classification depends on how you place within your class at every match you go.

    The basic system works on the premise that it takes a certain number of "punches" (aka points) to move up in class. As the classifications go higher, the number of punches needed to get into them increase.

    Punches are awarded on a sliding scale based on how many people were in your classification at a particular match. The more people in your class at a particular match, the higher the number of punches for the class winner and the deeper the punches go within class.

    Examples:
    • 1 to 2 shooters in a classification at a particular match = no punches for anyone
    • 3 - 9 shooters in class, 1 punch earned by top score in class and all those who tie it
    • 10 - 14 shooters in a class, 2 punches for high score and ties, 1 punch for second highest score and ties
    • 15 - 29 punches in class, 3 punches for high score and ties, 2 punches for second highest score and ties, 1 punch for third highest score and ties
    • etc.....


    Punches earned in a calendar year carry over one more year. You lose punches earned more than one calendar year back from where you are.

    Having climbed up that system from E (the bottom) to A (3rd highest classification) I think the system is pretty fair and does what it's supposed to do: group shooters of similar ability. It's not perfect, and there are variations on that theme, but I think a similar system would better reflect overall competitive ability in USPSA compared to what we have now.
    Last edited by Alpha Sierra; 12-21-2019 at 04:26 PM.

  2. #2
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    I used to be a very active Sporting Clays shooter. No classification system is perfect, but I saw a lot of sandbagging where competitors would show up a major event with a low classification then miraculously shoot an extremely high score to dominate their class. Mix in side money betting drove the sandbagging even more. "Money corrupts..."

  3. #3
    I think it would be interesting if USPSA classifications weren't basically earned for life. What if you automatically dropped a class if you didn't shoot in a given division for over a year? Or if you could drop a class by shooting under the % for your class? I know the common argument against this is that sandbaggers will take advantage but as someone who mostly just shoots club matches I think worrying about prize tables determined by class placement might be overblown for the vast majority of shooters who don't travel to major matches.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ranger View Post
    I used to be a very active Sporting Clays shooter. No classification system is perfect, but I saw a lot of sandbagging where competitors would show up a major event with a low classification then miraculously shoot an extremely high score to dominate their class. Mix in side money betting drove the sandbagging even more. "Money corrupts..."
    I should have said this from the get go: there is no system that can account for sandbagging. None.

    Yes, there's sandbagging in NSCA. Just like there is in every shooting sport. So I humbly suggest that we don't even consider the issue because it can't be designed out of the system. Any system.

  5. #5
    I think I missed the original discussion, but in USPSA is there really a big disconnect between classification and match performance? I'm aware that there are "paper GMs", but is the issue larger than that? The goal of divisions seems like it should be keeping lower divisions fair, so if someone wants to shoot against other GMs, that's fine.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheRoland View Post
    in USPSA is there really a big disconnect between classification and match performance?
    The question, as I see it, is what should classification measure?

    Should it measure your match performance against that of others within your division? Or should it measure your ability to perform on standard exercises?

    Or something else?
    Last edited by Alpha Sierra; 12-21-2019 at 06:54 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by TheRoland View Post
    I think I missed the original discussion, but in USPSA is there really a big disconnect between classification and match performance?
    No. The biggest disconnect in USPSA is that JJ, Ben, Max, Nils are GMs, as is a bunch of guys who can't even come close to 85% of those guys match in and match out. Sure, you get an occasional underclassified shooter ( a B class guy taking fourth at the CO Nationals) and you have a number of aging GMs that can't do what they could anymore. That said, with all its imperfections, the classification generally reflects match placements. I also think that it is a better way to measure things than match performance. Match placement depends on who shows up and what mood they are in. Classifiers are just so much more consistent and reproducible. If USPSA wants the classifiers results to correlate even better with field courses results, the simple answer is to introduce classifiers set in a field course format. It would be a bitch to set those up accurately but it is not impossible. I just don't think it is needed.
    “Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by YVK View Post
    No. The biggest disconnect in USPSA is that JJ, Ben, Max, Nils are GMs, as is a bunch of guys who can't even come close to 85% of those guys match in and match out. Sure, you get an occasional underclassified shooter ( a B class guy taking fourth at the CO Nationals) and you have a number of aging GMs that can't do what they could anymore. That said, with all its imperfections, the classification generally reflects match placements. I also think that it is a better way to measure things than match performance. Match placement depends on who shows up and what mood they are in. Classifiers are just so much more consistent and reproducible. If USPSA wants the classifiers results to correlate even better with field courses results, the simple answer is to introduce classifiers set in a field course format. It would be a bitch to set those up accurately but it is not impossible. I just don't think it is needed.
    You have much more USPSA experience than me, but I thought that the issue of people aging or having their skills deteriorate so that they can't shoot to their peak classification isn't solely exclusive to GMs.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by YVK View Post
    with all its imperfections, the classification generally reflects match placements. I also think that it is a better way to measure things than match performance.
    Is there any objective evidence that it does?

  10. #10
    That's correct. It is just more noticeable, or attracts attention, when people have higher ranks next to their names. B class guys don't really win matches so if they lost a step and are finishing inside of a C class folks, nobody's noticing.
    “Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.

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