Friday, July 20, 2018

Competitive Pistol Training with Brandon Wright

I recently took part in an intensive two days of competitive pistol training under the tutelage of Brandon Wright of Wright Shooting. Brandon is a Distinguished Master in IDPA and a USPSA Grand Master shooter, and a member to Team Smith & Wesson. In addition to his shooting accomplishments, he’s an excellent instructor. The seven others in the class were folks I shoot with regularly, which added to the fun, and even created a bit of friendly competition.

Throughout the two days of Competitive Pistol II, Brandon reviewed, in great detail, both the fundamentals and advanced techniques employed in competitive shooting. We discussed not only the how but also the why of the techniques we covered. And we ran the associated drills, over and over, as our very observant instructor demonstrated, watched, critiqued, and corrected.

While the techniques we learned were applicable to action pistol shooting in general, the emphasis of the class was on IDPA competition. The major themes of the class were efficiency in getting to the shooting, and then making accurate shots. With the 2017 IDPA scoring change to one second penalties per point down, inaccurate hits became even more costly. Putting the gun where it needs to be quickly, gives the shooter more time to insure accuracy. 

Naturally, I won't give specifics here, you'll need to take the class yourself. General topics included different sight pictures, varying trigger presses, footwork and movement, reloading, and moving targets, among others. The individual concepts were reviewed and practiced. Different methods were timed and compared. A log book is a critical component of Brandon's training. Eventually we put our new knowledge all together and ran different small stages to see how it worked.

Stage planning was also covered throughout the course. Brandon reminded us frequently why it is important know our skills and strengths, especially focusing on the time it takes to perform various actions. We were able to shoot the small stages repeatedly in order to compare and different interpretations of ways to shoot the stage. We even got in a few mini-competitions throughout the two days.

I fired somewhere around 1,050 shots in the course. Though I came away with sunburn and achy muscles, it was an intensely fun two days of shooting and learning. Several days later I am still processing everything did. I took copious notes, and have been adding to them since. Brandon has an amazing ability to break things down into individual components, fine tune what we do, and put it all back together again. There were many "ah ha!" moments throughout the course, as well as many bad habits broken and falsehoods disproven.

Going in to the class, I knew there was a lot that Brandon could teach me. Despite the awareness of having a lot to learn, the class was a humbling experience. I believe that seven of the eight students in the class hold Expert classification in at least one IDPA division, yet Brandon found frequent areas for improvement; grip, trigger control, stance, foot placement, stage planning... Despite that, the training was both inspirational and confidence building. With practice, I believe I can make that new knowledge part of my arsenal and habits, and improve my shooting.

I found the investment in tuition, ammo, hotel, food, and gas to be all money well-spent. Fortunately, so much of what we covered can be practiced in dry fire, in my home. Now that my week of travel for work is over, I look forward to doing just that.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

No Blog Fodder

Tap. Tap. Is this thing on?

It's been a busy week, but not one that was filled with shooting activities, nor even good beverages. On the bright side, today is my "Friday" as I am taking tomorrow off to begin two intense days of competitive pistol training with a great instructor. I hope to have an AAR on that next week.

Next week I'll be stuck in America's worse run city for work meetings. It's my intent to experience nothing self defense related to write home about! We'll return to regular programming soon.

Meanwhile, have a look at some of these folks.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sanner's Lake July IDPA Match

It's been a while since we made it to the monthly match at Sanner's Lake in Lexington Park, MD. The past two I've signed up for have been rained out, so Saturday's unseasonably cool, and dry, forecast was a welcome sight. (And something I checked frequently in the days leading up to the match.) As I drove past the farms en route to the rendezvous to pick up my shooting accomplice, I noted the car thermometer read 68° and the corn stalks were moving in the breeze. It was going to be a pleasant day.

The Sanner's Lake puts on a remarkably well organized match with six quick and fun stages set up. The first stage we shot had a long wall across the bay with targets to be found at both ends and in the middle. Starting with a turn and draw we engaged a couple of targets before moving to a narrow opening in the center. From there we shot paper targets and two falling steel poppers. Continuing across the stage we made a hard lean around the wall to finish on a distant targets placed back across the middle of the stage. Shooting just -3 made for a good warm up.

Next up was an interesting array of targets we engaged while standing behind a barrel, with some leaning or small shift in stance required to open up some of the shots. Three threat targets were set behind two non-threats. The center target was placed upside down, with the head just peaking out below and between the penalty targets. The requirement was to have four body and two head shots on each target, and all magazines were downloaded to just 6 rounds. There were several things that played with my head on this stage.

As I fired my first string of six, two each across each target I put two tight shots in the upper portion of the center target and immediately thought, "D'oh, that target is upside down!" I knew right there I was already down 2 for the stage. I reloaded and the second mind game hit me, and I found mysef thinking, "Was I supposed shoot SHO or WHO?" That is often the case when we have these downloaded stages shooting the same targets after the mag change. I took my next six body shots on each, this time placing them all correctly. After the final mag change I finished with the head shots. Made them all, but also nipped the bottom of a non-threat.

Stage 3 started with a short run to cover where we engaged two distant targets, again with a menacing non-threat placed in front. Three close targets were shot through a port, before we moved to finish with two more targets from cover. Hitting the targets a bit too wide while avoiding the distant non-threat, I was 5 down for the stage, all on those two far targets.

The next stage provided another chance to strategize. Standing behind a barricade, we had to engage five paper and two falling steel poppers, using priority from either side of cover. Again, all magazines were downloaded to six rounds. That meant if I shot everything clean, I'd only need to do one reload. I finished confidently, and as we began to score the SO asked, "Did you see that steel?" To my frustration I had left one of the poppers standing. I had called the shot good. I had heard the ping. But I apparently only nicked the steel. If I had noticed the miss I would have needed to perform another reload; since my reload is much faster than the 5 second penalty, it would have been a good tradeoff. I guess I should remember to look at the steel.

Stage 5 also included falling steel and may have been my favorite run of the match. Starting at a close target, we fired six shots on it while retreating around a wall towards a center opening. At this position we shot a steel plate which activated a swinging arm holding two non-threats placed in front of three steel poppers. The poppers had to be knock down during their intermittent exposures. Hitting everything one for one meant having one round left before moving to the next point of cover. There was a lot of discussion about intentionally missing one steel to go to slide lock. For me, and many others, there seemed to be no issue with that miss coming up on it's own when trying to hit the steel too fast. :-) The stage ended on three targets, again fronted by two non-threats. I was happy to shoot the stage just one point down.

The final stage was shot while seated. The unloaded gun and all magazines were on a table in front of us. We began the course of fire by pulling a rope to activate a swinging non-threat which moved between an array of three targets in front of the table. To either side were more targets, with non-threats present as well. All targets were to be engaged with one head and two body shoots. All the target groups were of equal priority so there were many theories proposed on the best timing of the shots to avoid the swinging penalty target. I opted to shoot the center group first, then move to the sides. When I made the last head shot in the center group, I had a brief thought that it may have been a miss, and even more briefly thought to go back. Alas I did not and finished the stage -5 due to that miss.

I was generally pleased with how I shot on this day. The one HNT and two misses contributed about half of my points down. I still managed to finish 8th of 47 Overall, 6th of 22 in SSP, and 4th of 6 in EX classification.

While the courses of fire were not overly complex or extravagant, they did test a variety of skills and offered some challenging shots. What they also did was make you think. (And that's where they often trap me.) You had to be cognizant of target engagement order, work with the timing of the movers, and watch for temptingly placed non-threats. It was an extremely fun match, made all the more enjoyable by the unseasonably nice weather. We started shooting at 9:00AM and were driving away from the range before noon. After quick stops to shop for distilled beverages and lunch, I was back home in plenty of time to, well, do nothing except sit on my porch and enjoy the wonderful weather.

Did I mention the weather?

More photos of the stages are here.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Preparing For A New Arrival

Relax, I'm talking about a new gun.  :-)

The money invested in new firearm goes well beyond the cost of the gun itself. There's always a variety of holsters to buy, magazine carriers, extra magazines, and of course copious rounds of practice and self-defense ammunition to verify the operation of the weapon. Since I am anticipating the purchase of a SIG P365 at some point in the not-too-distant future, I've been "pre-loading" some of those supplies. The calendar in spring and summer is also full of holidays when many suppliers offer sales, so I've been taking advantage of those as well.

No one waits until the baby arrives to begin preparing the nursery, right?

Still to be added; belt magazine carrier, extra magazines...  And the gun.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: Who's Line Is It Anyway?

It's Friday. Let's start the weekend with a laugh.

Cops. Terrorists. Guns. No sex. No profanity. 
They probably wouldn't allow comedy like this on TV these days.

Dry Fire for Summer Carry

It's heating up out there, in more ways than one. Summer is no time to let down your guard. During the warmer months, I prefer cargo shorts and t-shirts for casual wear. (I actually prefer cargo pants all year, fashion be darned.) During these thin cover garment months my holster and gun is harder to conceal, and ends up against my bare, and often sweaty, skin. To overcome that, I'll occasionally carry a compact gun in a Sticky Holster in the front cargo pant pocket. Instead of a magazine pouch on my belt, I use a SnagMag carrier for the extra magazine.

Drawing from the pant leg pocket holster is slower and less convenient than my regular IWB holster setups, so some of my dry fire time is spent drawing from the Sticky Holster. In the unlikely event I need to get the gun out, I neither want to think about where it is, nor fumble the draw.

Retrieving the extra magazine from the SnagMag in my pocket is also a different motion than grabbing a mag from the belt. I use the SnagMag frequently but I still practice. This spare mag carrier is easy and quick to draw from, but it's needs to be practiced so the motion is second nature.

The down side of dry fire practice with both of these products is the time to "reset" between draws. Both the holster and the mag carrier must be removed from their respective pockets in order to be reloaded and then repositioned.

Dry fire practice manipulating the gun is so often seen as merely a competition shooter's practice routine, especially for those of us without regular access to a range where drawing from a holster is permitted. Regular live fire with your EDC gun is critical, and dry fire practice is just as important. When you change your carry position, be sure to practice getting to the gun quickly and safely.

Stay safe. Stay alert. Stay armed.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

This Week's Range Session

I have mixed feelings about this week's practice session. It's probably best summed up as "Well, almost."

I started out with some SHO and WHO shooting at 10 yards. That part of the afternoon I was especially pleased with, despite not having practiced those skills in a while. Following that, I hung a target at 20 yards to get in the distance practice that I had skipped last time. After the first magazine I pulled the target in close enough to see the holes, and noted I was shooting low. I adjusted my aim fore the next 40 rounds and saw a lot more centered holes. At the distance it's hard to focus on a specific spot on the target so I wasn't expecting touching groups, but still need to work on tightening it up a bit.

For the last third of my 150 round allocation I decided to have another run at a fast Julie Golob 50 round drill. I did this one at 10 yards and tried to shoot it as quickly as possible. I had the same issue I typically face at the indoor range; the head shots drift low. I am not sure if that's due to the target being set higher than typical or if I subconsciously shy away from the target hanger. Sometime I should hang the target much lower on the cardboard and test that theory. (Did I mention lately how much I miss having an outdoor practice range?)

Still, any range time is good range time. Adding to the enjoyment, my son is finally home for the rest of summer and accompanied me, as he'll hopefully do often this summer. I enjoy shooting with him, and it's fun to have company for the drive. And now I also have some ideas for the next practice time at the range.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America 
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ...

July 4th, the day we celebrate our Founding Fathers' bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed citizenry. This day shows us why those on the left have such a great fear of freedom-loving Americans with guns. And indeed they should be afraid, and would do well to remember history.

Happy Independence Day!

May God Bless These United States