How does the classification system work?
What Is It?
The USPSA classification system dates back to 1985 when then President Dave Stanford proposed a system of classifying a large number of competitors from a common database.
The USPSA classification system now enters thousands of scores each month and manages more than 10,000 classified members in six competitive divisions.
Hit Factors and Maximum Hit Factors
Members are awarded a class based on a series of percentages that are calculated for them. Each percentage is the score (hit factor) they shoot on a specific stage divided by the maximum hit factor used for that stage. The maximum hit factors are derived from the scores of the top shooters.
Classification Bracket Percentages
Grand Master 95 to 100%
Master 85 to 94.9%
A 75 to 84.9%
B 60 to 74.9%
C 40 to 59.9%
D 2 to 40%
Earning A Classification
To become classified, a member must have at least four valid scores from different classifier courses in the USPSA database. If more than four scores are in the database when the averages are calculated, the best four of the most recent six valid scores will be used. Any scores in excess of the most recent six valid scores are not used for the initial classification. Those scores over the most recent six may be used at the next monthly reclassification if they are within the most recent eight scores.
It is important to note that for INITIAL classifications ALL scores greater than 2 percent will be used to determine a classification. These scores will be continued to be used until they are bumped from the most recent eight scores in use by higher VALID scores. What this means is that even if a higher score is entered, but is flagged with a B or a C, the lower score will be considered valid and be included in the member’s current percentage.
Most of the scores will come from classifier courses set up by USPSA-affiliated clubs. The clubs are responsible for setting up these stages according to exact specifications and for administering them uniformly. They are part of the club’s monthly match, are included in the calculation of the match results, and are submitted for national classification of the member. According to USPSA board policy, members participating in matches which contain a classifier stage may be allowed to repeat that stage at the convenience of match officials, but this is for classification purposes only. The first score of the classification stage must be used to calculate match standings, but the best single run of the classification stage may be sent in for classification.
Within 30 days of the match, the clubs must send in a classification report, which can be generated automatically by the USPSA EzWinScore program, and $3.00 per competitor per division to cover costs of the administering the classification system. In addition, the $3.00 fee is due for each division regardless of whether the competitor shot all stages or just the classifier stage.
All valid classification scores received at National Headquarters by the 10th of each month are entered into the computer before the classification program calculates averages, unless there is a problem with the paperwork submitted by the club. For an understanding of what constitutes a valid score, read the section on the "Flagging System" on page 7. After the scores have been entered and verified as correct, the computer calculates a current average for those who have become eligible for a classification and generates a classification card. These cards are mailed out around the 15th of the month.
USPSA currently classifies previously unclassified members as well as reclassifies members on a monthly basis. Whereas new classifications are based on the best four of the most recent six scores in the system, reclassifications are based on the best six of the most recent eight valid scores in the system. Beginning in June 2006, a reclassification would occur if there were only five scores on record. In this event, all five scores would be averaged. If the member’s current average is in a higher classification bracket, the member is moved to that class. Members may also request to be moved to a higher class, not including Grand Master. The member must comply with the same requirements for requesting to be moved down in class.
Moving Down In Class
Members may request to be moved to a lower class because of age or injury. The member must send a letter stating the reasons for reclassification to a lower class along with a letter from the club president or section coordinator endorsing the request. After the request has been received, the member’s scores will be checked to see whether there are any recent scores that indicate the member is properly classified.
The member will be notified of the decision in writing, and if the request is granted, a new classification card will be sent.
Please note that even if a member’s current average drops into a lower classification bracket, the member will not automatically be reduced in class.
The Revolving Window
It is important to understand what is meant by "the most recent eight valid scores." Because the system is based on using the most recent scores submitted for a member, the scores are sorted by the match date in descending order. For Level I Specials, which result in up to six scores being entered for a given date, the scores are sorted by the course percentage in descending order. This puts the highest score shot on that day at the top and the lowest at the bottom.
As each new score is entered for a member, an older existing score is "bumped out" of the most recent eight scores. An exception to this is when a club submits scores so late that the scores are already older than the most recent eight in the system. Even though these scores are entered into the database, they will not be used for classification purposes because they are no longer within the most recent eight "window."
Sometimes it is difficult to determine what scores were used for a member’s current average. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that by the time the question is asked, more scores have been added to the database and the list no longer looks the same as when the calculating routine was run. It then becomes necessary to look at the dates the scores were entered into the database. Any score entered after the date upon which a new current average was calculated must be excluded when selecting the most recent eight scores. The averages are not always calculated on the same day each month, but the calculation usually occurs somewhere from the 11th through the 14th of a month. USPSA does not resume entering scores until after the 15th of the month. Knowing this, a member can figure out which scores were in the database when the average was calculated.
In addition to the sorting order, scores are evaluated and flagged to indicate whether they are valid scores.
The Flagging System
In the past, range officers were allowed to cross out classifier scores if they believed the score was not representative of the shooter's skills. Crossing out scores is no longer allowed, and the USPSA classification system database has been programmed to recognize invalid scores. All submitted scores will be entered into the database; however, invalid scores will be "flagged" to indicate that they will not be used to calculate percentages. Scores flagged with "Y" were used to calculate the member’s current average.
The first three flags—A, B, and C—are assigned when the score is entered into the computer. The remaining flags are assigned when the monthly classification program is run. The flags are:
A - Scores that are more than 15 percent above the member's classification bracket may be given an "A" flag and not used for classifications. Reasons for assigning an "A" flag include seeing evidence that the stage was not set up or run correctly, or if all the member’s scores on file are significantly lower than the one being entered. For example, if a C-class shooter has no scores higher than 65 percent, it is likely that a 95 percent score will be flagged with an "A." This is done to prevent the member from being moved to a class higher than the member can reasonably be expected to perform.
B - Scores that are more than 5 percent below the bottom of the member's classification bracket (e.g. a 54 percent score for a B-class member), or less than 2 percent of the stage maximum are flagged with "B."
C - Scores that are more than one class below the member's highest classification in any other division are flagged with "C." For example, if a member with an ‘A’ classification in Open division submits a C-class score in Limited division, the score will be assigned a "C" flag. An exception to this is if the member has not established a classification in a division. If a member is not classified in a division, all scores higher than 2 percent will be entered in that division until a classification is earned. However, if the resulting classification is more than one class below the other division’s classification, the member will be automatically moved to the classification bracket that is one class below the other division.
D - The lower scores for classifier courses that have been shot more than once and are within the most recent eight are flagged with "D." Only the highest score will be used for classification. If the highest score is older, the lower scores "D" flag may be replaced with another flag. It is possible that the lower score may even be reflagged with "Y" after the higher score moves beyond the most recent eight and used to calculate the current average if the score is one of the highest six scores.
E - Scores that are no longer within the most recent eight (six for initial classifications) are flagged with "E." If a member earns an initial classification with more than six scores in the database, the seventh score and any additional are flagged with "E." If no additional scores are entered before the quarterly reclassification, the seventh and eighth scores will be reflagged based on the "best six of the most recent eight" criteria. Scores flagged with "E" will be removed from the system periodically to keep the sizes of the databases to manageable proportions.
F - Scores that are the two lowest scores of those being considered for classification purposes, six for initial classifications and eight for reclassifications, are flagged with "F."
Y - Scores that were used to calculate the latest current average are flagged with "Y." Scores flagged with Y may later be changed to other flags depending on the criteria already mentioned above. For example, if a member shoots a classifier a second time and the new score is higher than the previously entered hit factor, the previous score will be given a "D" flag at the next calculation if both are still within the most recent eight.
No flag - Scores that have been entered since the last time the classification system was run are not given a flag if they appear to be valid, i.e. the data entry routine did not assign an "A," "B," or "C" flag. These scores have not yet been evaluated by the classification routine and will be assigned the appropriate flag the next time averages are calculated.
Your Scores On The Web Page
Members who want to verify their classifications may call the national office or check their scores on the USPSA web page at http://www.uspsa.org. Please remember that the classification data shown on the web page is updated once a month, usually about the 12th to the 15th of the month. This is not live data. The main reason is that the contents of the score databases in Sedro Woolley are never static. Scores are entered every day by hand, except between the 11th and 15th of a month when the calculating routines are run and reports generated. It is also during that period that data is transmitted to the USPSA web site. After the data is placed on the web server, a program runs during the night to update the web pages and classifier data for members. Since the data entry is still, for the most part, a manual process, mistakes occasionally are made. Staff members run through a list of procedures at the end of each data entry cycle to ensure that the mistakes are removed before the classification averaging routine is run. In addition, club presidents and section coordinators send in requests to have scores moved from one division to the other because a mistake was made at some point in the match registration. Because it is important that the members see only the correct data, a monthly snapshot is made and presented on the web page.
USPSA staff members frequently receive phone calls or e-mail from members asking why a particular score does not appear on the web page. Usually this is because the club had not submitted the match results before the snapshot was made and sent to the webmaster. Those scores should appear the next month unless the club is having problems submitting results. Another reason is that members sometimes don’t give clubs their membership numbers or let them know that their numbers have changed. With the popularity of the three-year and five-year memberships, scores are sometimes missed. If the membership number is not known, scores cannot be entered.
Scores From Major Matches
A shooter’s performance in larger matches and tournaments may also be used to help establish a classification. In order for overall scores from a Level II or Level III match to be entered as a classifier, the match director must submit an Application for Level II or Level III match with the "Results for Classification" check box marked. Please note that there is no guarantee that the overall results will be used. As a minimum requirement, the results and competitor list will be reviewed at the USPSA office to determine whether enough top shooters completed the match and performed at a level high enough to be considered a national standard.
If the match is determined to have satisfied all of the requirements, the final score of the match may be entered as a classification score for each shooter. Each division is evaluated based on this criteria so it may be possible for scores from one division to be used while the other division is not.
Level II and Level III matches also may contain classification stages taken from the National Classification Course Book; however, the match director does need to submit the classification report which is generated by the EzWinScore program. Stats officers can program EzWinScore to calculate the correct activity fees for the various levels of USPSA matches when setting up the match on the computer. Select Setup - Match Info, then select the appropriate match type from the drop-down list. Fees for classifier stages are established when the stage is defined. Beginning with EzWinScore version 2.00, classifier files have been pre-defined for you. When defining a stage, set the Classifier drop-down list to Yes to display an additional listing of all authorized classifier stages. If the classifier stage you want to shoot is not listed, it is no longer authorized for use.
In addition, if the competitor shoots an Area Championship or major tournament and wins first or second in a class higher than his or her current classification, the member may be promoted to that higher class, except for Grand Master.
What The System Measures
Many shooters use the classification system as if it were a huge postal match. Their goal is to obtain an Master or Grand Master classification, and they can get discouraged when they see their percentage changing from time to time.
Recently, some members have come to believe that the system was intended to indicate the highest performance level they could reach. Unfortunately, it is a simple matter for members to shoot a particular classifier over and over until they achieve as high a score a possible, then they send that score in to be used. This results in a classification that does not reflect reality, and in most cases, members who have done this cannot realistically compete at that higher level.
It is understood that anyone can do poorly on a classifier stage for various reasons, and this is why the USPSA board of directors has allowed members to reshoot a classifier stage for classification purposes. This permission should not be construed to mean that members can shoot classifier stages repeatedly until they have a score they like. The integrity of the classification system is at stake.
What the system was really designed and meant to show is how well a member can perform on a regular basis so that they can compete against shooters of their own relative skill level. It adds to the fun and excitement of practical shooting, the greatest shooting sport going!