Sunday, September 16, 2018

We Survived IDPA Nationals

The 2018 IDPA National Championship is a memory now. Our merry band of four travelled to Talladega last Tuesday. We spent Wednesday recovering from the drive and prepping to shoot on Thursday. Literally. All. Day. Thursday. The shooting lasted beyond dusk and the last stages were shot by car headlight.



Friday was our recovery day. BBQ, beer, bourbon, and cigars can do wonders for the tired body. We travelled back on Saturday, driving through the leading bands of Florence. The match was an interesting experience, and I am glad I made the trip. I'll do a more in-depth report in the coming days, after more a bit more time to digest the week. I shot not as well as I hoped, but at least as well as I expected. There were stages where I impressed myself, and others where I did not. Overall, I am happy.

More to come, but now I need to clean guns and start thinking about the next match...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

September 11, 2001

Some never learned history. Some have forgotten history.



Neither is acceptable.

Remember. Learn.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

September 9 is "Buy a Priest a Beer Day"

A tradition initiated by the folks over at The Catholic Gentleman, "Buy a Priest a Beer Day" seems a worthy event.
On this festive day, faithful Catholics all over the world take their priests out for a beer and get to know them better. It’s a beautiful Catholic tradition that goes back to the time of St. Hopswald of Aleyard, the first man to take his priest out for a beer.

Okay, St. Hopswald wasn’t real, but your priest is real. Priests are people too, and they enjoy socializing over good food and drink as much as anyone. They also have a thankless and difficult job, a job that we couldn’t get to heaven without. Priests are the lifeblood of the Church, and they deserve some appreciation.

So with that in mind, I would challenge you to do something concrete to show appreciation to your priest on September 9th. Yes, it could be taking him out for a beer, or it could be inviting him over to share dinner with your family. Be creative if you want, but give back to your priest somehow, and let him know that his ministry is making a difference.

Even if you can't do it today, most of the priests I know would appreciate the gesture any day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Sanner's Lake IDPA Match

My memories of this month's Sanner's Lake IDPA match are a mixed bag. On one hand, I shot as well as I think I ever have — for the first four stages. For whatever reason, I lost my edge on the last two. But on the bright side, the good shooting on the opening stages somewhat offset the breakdowns at the end.

The first stage we shot, "In the Line of Fire," found us seated at a table with the loaded gun on the table and reloads on the belt. Six targets were arranged from three to twelve yards out, some partially hidden, some open, each requiring three hits each. I was just one point down for the stage, shooting a bit low on one target near the non-threat.


"Last Man Standing" was next for us. Starting at either end of a wall of barrels, a nearly symmetrical arrangement of targets was to found around either end. There were two pieces of steel to be engaged as well. The steel was painted beige to match the cardboard targets, and the earthen berms, and placed in front of a cardboard target. Some of the targets on either side required a challenging lean around cover in order to engage.

I was pleased with my run on this stage. I remembered the lesson from the Brandon Wright class and got my gun up as I moved into position before I could see the target around the barrel. I left the first position as I fired the last shot, another lesson learned, but at the same time felt I may have shot a little low. Sure enough, that was my two points down on the stage.



On "The Last Deal" we started facing three open targets at an opening in a wall of barrels. Then moving to either side, there were targets to be engaged, again testing our ability to shoot while making challenging leans around the corners. This was another good run, with just one point down.

The next stage was one I particularly enjoyed. Entitled "Welcome Home," we started by engaging three targets in the open while retreating. Arriving at the first cover position, we found two targets fronted by a non-threat. My plan was to take an extra shot on the first array while backing up in order to go to empty at this position. Making all -0 shots here allowed that plan to pay off. After a quick reload while moving, the next shots were on two steel poppers placed menacingly close to a non-threat. And again, those poppers were painted to match the color of the non-threat. A final quick sprint to the last target finished the stage. A down zero run gave me a 2nd place overall finish for this course of fire.



At this point, I was feeling great. I did have a nagging thought in the back of my head, reminding me I was on track to (finally) get through a match with no hits on non-threats. Getting at least one in a match seems to be the bane of my shooting of late.

As I approached the bay with the final two stages, I saw the next stage, "Left Behind," had some tight non-threat shots. But the stage after that, the final one, had none. Make it through this stage and it's golden.

The stage started with some shots from both sides of a barrel stack. The next position had the tight non-threat shots, essentially requiring head shots. Another move and a couple more targets, and another non-threat was seen. The final position had an interesting array of two targets. The first one had a steel plate behind it that activated a swinging non-threat if you made a -0 body shot. The final target was mostly blocked by the non-threat at rest, and intermittently revealed once the swinger started. The shooter had the option of going for head shots on both targets, avoiding any worry about the swinging non-threat, but risking hitting it at rest. I opted to activate the swinger and take two easier body shots. And then...

Photo credit.

At the end I saw I had hit no non-threats, but had a miss on one of the head shots. When the scoring tablet came to me to approve, I saw 15 points down! "You had some misses," said the SO. I didn't learn exactly where, but am assuming I simply avoided the non-threats too much. I had actually felt I shot the stage well, but obviously I was distracted. Lesson learned; focus on the individual stage, not the match. But, hey, no non-threats were hit. :-)

I was now admittedly somewhat distracted for the final stage, which was a standards stage. Nine targets in a line at 5 yards. Four overlapping pairs with one lone target, and most were partials. The directions were simple; gun unloaded on the belt, reloads on the barrel, draw and fire two shots, only, at each target. The smart way to shoot this was to shoot across the target line, hitting the head shots on five targets, reload, then finish with four body shots across the line. Should have been simple and clean. Instead I opted to shoot up and down on the the paired targets as I moved across the line — slower and way too many transitions. I actually managed to drop one head shot too.



The last two stages were a let down to say the least. I let the pressure of an meaningless goal distract me. Instead of being dialed in to my shooting as I had been, I don't even recall being all that aware of my shooting on the next to last stage, and it showed. Despite the rough finish to the match, I managed 9th place of 61 Overall, and 7th of 33 in SSP. Reviewing the scores, those misses caused a significant drop in placement.

That all said, it was still an extremely fun match. We had a great squad of shooters, many of whom I had never shot with before. The six stages were completed in just under three hours. Stuart and I made our monthly beverage shopping stop, and enjoyed a tasty Mexican lunch on the way home. The weather was on the humid side, but otherwise it was a fine day for shooting. This was my last match, and perhaps last range trip, before we head off to the IDPA Nationals in a couple weeks. It's time for some dry fire...

More pics here.

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Beautiful Morning for IDPA

On Saturday morning, when I headed out for the monthly Cavalier IDPA match, the dashboard thermometer read 57°. There was definitely a touch a fall in the air. The temperature would eventually climb to around 81°, but still a most pleasant morning for shooting. I hadn't made it to this match since May and was looking forward to returning.

Five stages were set up in the new large bays. As I walked up to the first stage, I thought the shadows were playing tricks with my eyes. Facing two rows of targets, we saw numerous black vertical lines and non-threats, among which we were challenged to find seven valid targets.



The stage designer had added lines matching the target sticks to both threats and non-threats. Two of the threat targets were in a row behind the others, which drew several shooters into shooting them out of priority. Even on the threat targets, hits in the black didn't score. The targets were all shot from low cover behind a barrel. It was an interesting and unique stage, and I shot it -2. The stage designer also happened to be on our squad, and was subjected to much good-natured ribbing.

Cavalier stages typically involve a lot of movement, and the next stage was no exception. Our unloaded gun was left in a box, and all magazines were placed in a second box. We started the course of fire away from those two boxes and ran to retrieve the contents. Moving to one side of the course there were targets to be shot from two points of cover. After which, we made a run across the stage and down a tight winding hallway to find more threats. I dropped a magazine during my reload which cost some time, but shot the stage just one point down.



Stage 3 consisted of two quick strings. For the first string we had a close line of five threat and two non-threat targets to our left. To the right, a lone target much further away. After shooting that string, we moved to stand centered on a wall. Behind the wall were two targets set behind a non-threat. Each required two body shot and one head shot; the left target from the left side of the wall, the right target from the right. I shot the stage -2, both points dropped on the first string.

Stage 4 was a simple stage, and at the same time, quite complex. At the start we engaged two distant falling poppers. Shifting slightly we found three nearby paper targets. Leaving cover we ran down a hallway, stepping on a stomp plate on the way. That activated a swinging target and swinging non-threat; the non-threat passing in front of the threat target at a varying rate. The swinger was engaged on the way to, or at, the final point of cover where two distant targets were also engaged.

There were almost as many opinions on how best to run the stage as there were shooters. I decided to do a reload with retention on my way to the stomp plate. There was little movement between shooting the swinger and turning to engage the final targets so I didn't want to waste time reloading there. Despite miming my tactical reload multiple times before shooting, I dropped the magazine on the ground instead of pocketing it. I lost some time picking it up after completing my reload. That habit is one reason I rarely opt for that reload option, and the reason I should practice it more.

The final stage had me wondering if it was two stages in one. There were 16 targets placed throughout a labyrinth of walls. Each target required but one hit, instead of the usual "best two per paper."



As we wound our way through the course, we found from one to six targets at each position. The six target array was fronted by four non-threats, which made slowing for head shots necessary for some targets. As I neared the end of the course, my mind started with the doubt, "Did I miss going into a corner to find a target?" I was admittedly distracted at the end and I think shot the last few targets without full concentration. When I finished, the SO confirmed I had shot all targets, and I walked away with a smile for a successful match. Suddenly I heard, "Hit on a non-threat." Sure enough, after a clean match I had pulled a shot into the last non-threat on the last stage of the match. As I remarked,  "At least I'll get over it before the next stage I shoot. Next weekend."



Despite that whiff at the finish, I was generally pleased with how I shot. I felt good about accuracy, speed, and stage planning. I finished 12th of 43 handgun shooters overall, and 6th of 19 in SSP.

As always, the stages at Cavalier are challenging and never boring. Match director Chris and his staff always come up with interesting, fun courses of fire that put our skills, both shooting and thinking, to the test, in a most enjoyable manner. I always enjoy the time spent shooting and the conversations with friends and fellow shooters. After we finished shooting, we broke down the stage, and I was on the road home by 12:30. The sunny drive on country roads, with good blues on the radio, soon had me forgetting that final errant shot and looking forward to the next time.

More pics of the fun stages here.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Range Time

It's fun to go to the range, hang a target at 7 yards and shoot fast. Maybe even activate the timed turning target too. But sometimes it's good to practice the stuff that you don't do as well on. After feeling a little shaky with my one-handed shooting last weekend, I decided to start with that when I hit the range this week.

I opted to shoot the drills at 7 yards, mainly so it would be easier for me to confirm my hits, and adjust as needed. After firing the first 30 rounds SHO, I was fairly pleased, and my hand was tired. I switch to WHO for 20 more rounds. The goal in both cases was strictly pressing the trigger without moving the gun. Next time I'll add in some work on quick follow up shots.



Next it was time for distance work, this time at 25 yards. I often think back to when I started this sport almost 10 years ago, I was lucky to hit the paper at that distance. (That was the case at even 10 yards!) Now at least I can keep the holes generally in the -0 zone. On this day I was contrasting my practice with the guy in the lane next to me who seemed to be hitting 1 inch dots on the paper at 25 yards — but with an optic, and a bench rest.

Next up in the "practice your weaknesses" session was 10 yard head shots. I tend to shoot low, especially at the indoor range, when aiming for the head portion of the IDPA target. This time I focused on not doing that.

And finally, I hung the target at 7 yards, activated the timed turning target, and shot fast. Sometimes you just have to have fun too!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Rivanna IDPA Match

There was thick fog in the fields as I headed to the monthly IDPA match at Rivanna Action Pistol Club on Saturday morning. The sun was behind the clouds but I knew it was going to be a warm, humid morning. It's Summer. In Virginia. No surprises here. I did drive through a bit of rain, but a quick check of Dark Sky on my phone confirmed it was only a passing shower.

As we waited to start shooting, my glasses were already fogging up from the humidity, but at least the skies were somewhat overcast. The opening stage for our squad had us standing with our back centered on a small wooden fence, facing five targets placed behind a bunch of barrels, each target requiring three hits each. The stage brief indicated the center target was to be shot first, followed by the rest in any order. A step or two was required in order to get shots on all targets. I got the first stage jitters out of the way, with 4 points down.



On the second stage, we started facing up range, weak hand on our "credit card in the ATM." Turning, we engaged three targets while standing, and a fourth as we moved to cover. At the next position there were two targets, with non-threats positioned such that I took "safe" headshots. Moving to the final cover position we found three more targets. I shot the stage zero points down, but had an otherwise good run fouled by a hit on a non-threat target at the last shooting position.

Next up was a fun stage shot while seated at a table, the unloaded gun and all mags on the table to start. After loading the gun, we engaged two up close targets first. Four targets fronted by non-threats were placed midway down the stage. The final three targets were longer shots with two of the targets well-hidden behind a "good guy." Some leaning in the chair was required to make the shots.

To my delight, I turned in my best performance on this stage, shooting just one point down. It seems my longer distance practice of late paid off. After hitting a non-threat on the previous stage, this was a good pick-me-up.



The final stage brought in the strong hand and weak hand only shooting. I struggled with these skills in practice the other day, but took my time and tried for good hits, regardless of time. The stage started with us shooting from behind a barrel stack; three targets WHO around the left side, then three SHO around the right. We then ran to another position to shoot three more targets freestyle. I took a few extra shots and didn't feel I shot all that solidly, but ended up just 2 points down.

Even with limited trigger time time the last couple of weeks, I was moderately pleased with my shooting. Obviously the one HNT stings, but accurate distance shooting and lack of mental errors are satisfying. I placed 8th of 55 overall and 5th of 28 in SSP.

It took a while to get all shooters through the 4 stages set up in two bays. We finished shooting around 1:00PM. The match offered a good balance of challenges; shooting while standing, shooting on the move, shooting while seated, SHO / WHO shooting, as well as a mix of close and distant targets. While quite humid, the weather was not overly oppressive, especially considering it's August. There was a brief sprinkle while shooting the last stage, but the rain held off until the match was over. It was quite a fun morning with friendly folks and good shooting.

More stage pics here.