The Gallery Rifle and Pistol Classification System

[As published in the Winter 2021 NRA Journal]

Anyone who has ever shot a Gallery Rifle & Pistol (GR&P) match in the UK will probably appreciate the fact that events are shot in classes or divisions. Not all events are classified – some do not have the competitive numbers to justify being divided as such and some events are simply not shot often enough. Generally the most popular events for the main GR&P gun types are defined as classified.

At time of writing the following events are listed as classified.The following classification structure was ratified for the start of the 2020 season when some of the more popular events had their number of classes increased and the less popular events had their number of classes reduced.

  • Timed and Precision 1:  GRSB, GRCF – 5 classes;  LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • Timed and Precision 2:  GRSB, GRCF, LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • Multi-Target: GRSB, GRCF – 5 classes;  LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • Phoenix A: GRSB, GRCF, LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • The 1500: GRSB, GRCF – 5 classes;  LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • The 1020: GRSB, GRCF – 3 classes
  • The Bianchi: GRSB, GRCF, LBP, LBR – 3 classes
  • Advancing Target: GRSB, GRCF – 5 classes;  LBP, LBR – 3 classes

Note:- classes apply independently to the gun types. Namely: GalleryRifle Centrefire (GRCF), Gallery Rifle Smallbore (GRSB), Long Barrelled Pistol (LBP), Long Barrelled Revolver (LBR)

In any of the above events competitors will have an existing classification of X, A, B, C  or D which will be based on scores recorded in previous classified meetings. A classification of U  may also apply and means a competitor has not shot the event before or they have dropped out of the classification window (see below).

 

The Philosophy

The philosophy is simple enough. Like many other sports, the GR&P classification system enables competitors to shoot numerous events within a class or division, therefore only against others of similar ability. The intention is to create an environment in which everyone has a chance to achieve their personal goals and compete against others of similar ability or experience. It also produces a general comparative measure against which to gauge individual progress and improvement by promotion, and now demotion, through the classes.

 

The Theory

The GR&P competitive circuit defines classified meetings. These meetings are run to national standards and scores for the events any competitors shoot are recorded and used to generate a shooter’s classification. It is the responsibility of the meeting organizers to record and submit these scores to the national system appropriately.

Technically, competitors will always enter a meeting with a classification, even if that classification is U. This is the division they will compete in for the respective events at that meeting. Anyone entering a competition for the first time will be placed immediately into the class their score maps to at that meeting. 

The class a competitor lies within will depend on their highest recorded score achieved over a historic three year window and will be continuously revised during the season after every classified meeting they submit a score for. The three year window was introduced at the beginning of the 2020 season.

There is no unclassified class – if someone enters a classified competition as unclassified (U) it is important to appreciate they will immediately compete in the class they achieve their inaugural score for. Just to be clear, a new shooter can immediately be placed into X class for any event and any gun type.

As a result of competing in a classified event competitors achieving a class promoting score will be reclassified before the next meeting. Changes made at the start of the 2020 season means shooters can also be demoted – more on that below.

There is no obligation for match directors to offer their events in the nationally defined classes. Many do but numerous factors may dictate whether this would be feasible (competitor numbers mainly).  However at an official classified match the competitor’s score will always be processed appropriately. Anyone shooting a class promoting score will be competing in that higher class at their next competition.

Class boundaries are reviewed annually by the Gallery Rifle working party/sub committee and published appropriately elsewhere. Consideration is given to the balance of active competitors within a class for each gun type. The general philosophy for class divisions is to keep an appropriate number of active shooters within the divisions as a pyramid – as shown below.

  • 3 classes – X = 10%; A = 30%; B = 60%
  • 5 classes – X = 5%; A = 10%; B = 20%; C = 30%; D = 35%

2020 Changes

One common dislike with the legacy classification system was the issue of class demotions – there weren’t any! Prior to the 2020 season anybody recording a promoting score would be moved into the appropriate class and essentially remain there. It would mean a single one-off extraordinarily high score could penalize a competitor and see them competing in a higher class than their ‘real world’ average. Unless a class boundary review fell in their favour this single outlier score penalized them for the rest of their competitive career.

Another flaw with the traditional system was the fact that competitor’s classifications were based on every score ever recorded. Theoretically this could be going back to 1997 but more practically back to the mid 2000s when the discipline’s data recording practices became slightly more formalized. Like any sport, a shooter’s classification in any event should reflect their current levels of ability, skill and expertise and not delve into any historic archive. Many shooters in the classification database were no longer actively competing and people also take breaks from the sport. A classification achieved 10+ years ago isn’t really relative for today. At the end of the 2019 season the decision was taken to review the overall system whilst still keeping it as relative and as easy to manage as possible.

Without delving too much into the machinations it was decided the simplest way to address the demotion and currency / score relevance issue was to reduce the classification window to a three year period. This means the division a shooter now resides in for any event and gun type will only be based on the scores achieved within the last three years.

The window slides forward on a rolling meeting by meeting basis rather than season by season. This allows the ethos of class promotions to continue to be realized immediately, as before, but also caters for class demotions as described below. Results data will continue to be processed after every meeting to update any potential changes to a shooter’s classification. 

Sliding Window

Demotion in the new system is implied. If a competitor has not recorded a class appropriate  score within the 3 year sliding window they will be demoted to the class in which they do have a recorded score. This could be a demotion to any class, including U, depending on how current the shooter is, and what scores they are shooting in that particular event and gun type.

One consequence of the 2020 changes is a shooter can now be class demoted by essentially doing nothing. The most extreme case will be by recording no scores at all in a particular event within a three year period. In that case they will drop out of the back end of the sliding window and receive a recorded class of U. A more realistic example would perhaps be a shooter who has recorded a single X class score in an event and has never recorded one since. Once that single X class score has regressed out of the back of the 3 year sliding window they will automatically be re-classified appropriately.

 

The Practicalities

Whatever system is in place it always has to be appreciated that somebody, somewhere, is administering it. For the classification system to function, scores data has to be submitted in an appropriate format to an appropriate location. It also has to be submitted in a timely manner so it can be processed to allow shooters to compete in their appropriate class at the next competition.

The detailed mechanics of data submission is not for this article. However match directors and organisers of classified GR&P meetings should be aware that the match is not complete until results are published and data has been submitted for processing. Whatever local systems are used for capturing and publishing scores please ensure it can also export data in the requested format to fulfil these requirements.

 

The Future

Apart from season to season reviews of the event breakpoints there are no immediate plans to change the system. It would be good to classify more events but that always depends on shooter numbers. There is always a balance between slicing events too granularly and offering meaningful competition.  More automated methods of generating shooter classifications is on the aspirational horizon as well as easier ways to submit and retrieve data. 

Of course the current overseers of the classification system would always be grateful for feedback and comment. Please contact us via the usual methods.

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