Whats behind a World Class Stage design

Everyone loves to pay their match fee to be entertained by challenging stages when they attend an IDPA sanctioned match. Much has been written about what goes into designing a challenging stage in various forums and magazines.  Here is a photo of our stage Shotgun from the IDPA World Championship Match:


There are a number of clubs around the country that are widely known for putting on matches with unbelievably difficult stages. But as a shooter, or someone who is casually interested in shooting sports, a stage that takes maybe 15 seconds to complete has hundreds of man hours going into the design and engineering of the stage.

This years entry into our history books is Saving Miss Fifi. A 18 round stage composed of 9 sequential moving targets. Once you stepped off of your starting point, you kicked off a sequence of movers that disappeared after 1 second each of showing themselves. If you stalled or missed the exact correct sequence of events, then you missed having the opportunity to make the hits necessary to prevent hurting your overall score.

Have a look at the sequence through the eyes of what a shooter saw (insert WIDE eyes here)  IMG_5118  This link is a dry run rehearsal during the final set up. The last target has a non threat in front that was not yet painted but made the stage more difficult to shoot.

Here is a link to a video of what was going on behind the scenes: IMG_5119

Here is a video of the stage being shot for score: Jose Stage 7


 The TEAM of Safety Officers

  • A technical security manager and Expert class shooter ( original stage¬†designer and¬†QA for¬†each moving element. This included paint and prep for match¬†)
  • A nuclear plant operator and Master class shooter and local MD ( Co-designer of the stage, supplied actuators and moving target stand arrays)
  • A retired Navy Chief, marine mechanic & Sharpshooter ( Chief Mechanical Engineer )
  • A telephone technician, Master class shooter and local MD ( debug stage design )
  • A truck driver,¬†SOI and Sharpshooter ( transportation and stage art work)
  • An Operating room assistant & Expert class shooter ( stage reset )
  • An IT manager¬†& marksman who volunteered to help the team ( stage reset)
  • A¬†Sporting Goods Sales Rep who helped record all of the work and effort this team put into this years stage. ( the videos)


Admittedly this is a combination of Band of Brothers and F Troop who are today soaking in epsom salt and alcohol (not necessarily in that order) from what became perhaps our clubs most physical stage to date in terms of resetting and reliability.

The project that began on a cocktail napkin took over five months to go from conception to a final design that everyone trusted would be reliable  over 500 repetitions.

Reliable is the operative word for difficult IDPA stages. While it is simple to throw together a stage that looks like a McGyver rerun on television. The reality is, the hard lessons of equipment failure have always forced match directors to view crazy stages with caution otherwise their match might receive an unfavorable review from the competitors who are their customers.

This is the 3am anxiety attack that everyone feels before the first match and why this team was up and at the range early every day triple checking every possible thing that could go wrong in order to intercept it and prevent it from occurring on the clock for a shooter.

It was physically demanding and exhausting for this team that made sure this stage held up for the 24 squads that shot this years match.

600 lbs of ballistic barriers. 9 movers and platforms to bolt the stands on. Visual barricades, Pressure plate actuators, weights ( for gravity ) cables and hardware clamps, springs and crimp connectors. The entire set up required two trucks and a trailer loaded to division capacity along with an assortment of tools and hardware for spares in order to have a fast turn around for any unanticipated problems.

What does all of this cost? Good question that many people dont bother to consider when putting together a stage or a match. Each of the movers run around $350 a piece. Thats $3150. The actuators are around $200 each. Brings us to $3750. $1500 in miscellaneous expenses such as cardboard, wood, paint, cables, mounting hardware, bolts and ballistic barriers. Sub total $5250. $1500 in commercial art work rounds up to $6750. In the end, about the only thing re-usable are the target stands and actuators.

So lets sumarize, for the love of our sport, if you want to run a stage that has everyone talking, prepare to spend several thousand dollars in cash and spend hundreds of hours in total, working to create and run the stage for everyone to have their 15 second run. In the end, it is rewarding to get through the match and not have all the work thrown out because of an inconsistency, or worse a failure of the prop design. Thats it.

Well that,  and a web page to come back and reflect on once you have revovered.  20130307_131939

Not even a perky Miss Fifi could perk up some of our crew. In the excitement of all this work, how could someone possibly forget to bring his range bag to the match?

IMG_0026 How ever greatful most of the shooters were to experience this stage, none are more greatful than the members of our club for the hard work that our A Team put into helping at this match. It was the 5th year for some of us who worked this match.


Riding into the sunset



So as we put this match behind us, when some of you wonder why we are going to shoot easy stages for a while at our local matches, we will just send you to the link here to read about the story of a World Class stage.