Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Rain Break and an IDPA Match

Once again, Mother Nature smiled upon the Cavalier IDPA match. Like last month's match, the morning broke clear and relatively cool. Despite rain the night before, and later that evening, the sun shone during the morning's shooting event.

Our shooting began on a deceptively simple, two string stage called "Get Off My Lawn." Starting with hands on a lawn mower handle, we engaged five threat targets in tactical priority in the first string. There was a lone non-threat target to draw in anyone tempted to go too fast. The second string started the same way, but we had to move the left to find a single steel target hidden behind a barrel.

The next stage, "Unlucky 7," started with engaging two close targets while retreating cover. After engaging a lone target at that position, we moved forward and left across the stage. Targets found at two more points of cover tested our skills in shooting with sharp leans around cover.

In "Holy 7" we were seated in the pew in a simulated church. Our gun and magazines were in a bag at our feet. (Off body carry is always a bad idea, IMO.) There were three closely spaced non-threat targets directly in from us.  The placement of seven targets down range required careful aim between and around the non-threats.



There was a slight slowdown during my shooting of the stage as I lost my place in the targets. Even though I had a plan, and ultimately shot the targets in the planned order, not being able to see more than one or two of the targets at a time combined with the multiple levels of priority led to some hesitance. I have no doubt that challenge was by design.

"Hall of 7" was based on a stage at the National match; the stage designer was one my companions on that trip. Gun and all mags were placed on a table where we were seated. After engaging two targets in the open, we moved right across the bay, stopping at four positions to shoot from cover. After the far right most position, we moved down range to finish the stage. Lots and movement and lots of cover made for a fun course of fire.



We finished the match on "Deja Vu 7." Starting with our gear on a barrel, we loaded and took care of two close targets. After moving backwards to a point of cover, we then progressed left and forward to shoot from three more points of cover. Short target distances made this a stage where one might be tempted to shoot too fast. A couple of non-threat targets made that a dangerous temptation. I avoided the non-threats, but aimed too high on the target with a non-threat tacked to the front. Interestingly, I hit the target exactly where I was aiming, but apparently misjudged where on the target I needed to hit, and made a tight group of two holes — right in the -1 zone. I was -3 on the stage, but those 2 points were exceptionally frustrating, and I credited that mistake with dropping me three spots in the overall standings. But, I hit no non-threats the whole match. :-)



The range is under some temporary restrictions to shoot only in to the back berms while they establish the grass on the side burns. Despite that restriction, the match designers put together some very good stages. The creative use of walls and target placement provided a wide range of shooting angles and challenges. One would hardly notice the limitations.

I felt pretty satisfied with how I shot. My 14 points down was a little higher than I would have liked, but I still managed to finish 11th of 45 shooters, with one of the top 10 being a PCC shooter.

After the work and stress of last week's IDPA Nationals, I was very much looking forward to the relaxed enjoyment of this local match. It was indeed a pleasurable morning of shooting. I got to visit with friends, including some I had not seen in a while, and meet some new ones as well. Good shooting is best when paired with good people and this was an especially enjoyable match.

More match photos here.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

IDPA National Championship

I've been meaning to write about my experience at the IDPA Nationals, but have found it hard to organize my thoughts. I'll post some thoughts here, and perhaps more in the future.

Held at the impressive CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park, the match was large, and long. The stages were generally challenging, without being overly difficult. There were some hiccups as can be expected in a undertaking this size, though they detracted little from the overall experience. I was expecting a little more stage "pizzazz" than we saw though. I did enjoy the pneumatically-powered and electronically-controlled targets. That so many of the stages were similar to what I often see at regional, and even local matches, serves as a compliment to our area match directors.



As noted previously, the shooting day was long. Since our group was on the low end of the points needed to qualify to shoot the match, we had last pick of the time slots. That meant instead of shooting in two half days, we shot the entire 18 stage event in one day. Shooting started promptly at 9:00AM. We finally finished around 8:30 PM. Our final stage was illuminated by car headlights. I felt there were a few match administration issues that added delays and extended the day. That the complete match could not be shot in the light is my biggest disappointment of the experience.

The weather for the day was hot, and humid, with a couple rain showers mid-afternoon. In a great example of watching out for shooters, there was a water wagon that made continual runs up and down the bays all day delivering cold water and soda. The much needed refreshment arrived several times while we were in each bay. Even if one was shooting when the water wagon came by, it was only a short time before it came through again. This touch was very much needed and appreciated. Another welcome detail was the trailer ride provided when we needed to move from the last bay up the long distance to the other end of the range. The transportation of shooters and gear was a welcome saver of both time and energy.



The SOs that ran us through the stages were all quite friendly and also efficient. Despite standing in the heat all day, with days to go still, they remained cheerful. I really expected to face a few sourpusses in the course of the day, but found just the opposite.

Excepting a few frustrating issues, the match was generally well-run. Putting on a match the size of the National Championship is no small feat, and overall I'd call this one was a success. The day was really all about the shooting. I admit to being a tad disappointed with my overall finish, yet at the same time was pleased to finish where I did in a national level match. There were a number of stages that I particularly enjoyed, which I'll describe below.

"Moving Standards" started with three static targets that were engaged weak hand only. We then moved to engage three more targets strong hand only. The last three targets were all disappearing targets that were exposed at varying times. The times varied at each exposure, but was the same pattern for all shooters. Being challenged to shoot movers one-handed is something I don't recall from my prior matches. Despite finishing 11 points down, I enjoyed the stage.



"Triple Threat" was a fun stage with a unique swinger holding three targets which moved back and forth behind a row of barrels, exposing the targets for only brief intervals. That swinging array was activated when we pushed our "child" out of the way. That action also activated a swinging non-threat that was moving amongst targets at the final shooting position. Getting good hits on the fast moving triple swinger was a challenge. After an intermediary shooting position that included a steel popper and a few paper targets, the next challenge was to arrive at the last shooting position before the swinging non-threat had slowed too much, or worse, had stopped behind a threat target. Even though I was -10 for the stage, which included a miss on the left most swinging target, this stage produced my second highest stage finish in the match.



After dropping our laundry basket in the stage "Dirty Clothes," we engaged a row of threat targets obscured by non-threats and shirts hanging on a clothesline. Depending on your personal "vertical challenges," you could shoot over, under or between the line of laundry. I shot from a single position while squatting slightly. While I shot the stage just -2, it was also my second lowest stage finish in the match. There were obviously a lot of shooters who completed the course much more quickly. I was moving slowly at this point it seems.



The scenario for "Office Robbery" featured a car that had "crashed" through your office. The stage offered a couple interesting challenges. Although our gun was loaded and holstered at the start, all the magazines for reloading were staged at a separate location inside a filing cabinet. Also, there was a threat target inside of the vehicle. Instead of the typical shooting from, or through, a vehicle, in this scenario we shot into the vehicle. It was a fun stage that I shot -0.



One of my favorite stages was "Grocery Aisle." The main shooting feature of the stage involved two disappearing targets which appeared at varying, but repeated, intervals from either side of the aisle. The targets were activated by the shooter knocking a can off the shelf. There was a static target between the moving targets, and most shooters were opting to shoot one of the disappearing targets, then the static target. They would then wait a second or two for the second mover to reappear. Other targets were then engaged on both sides of the "grocery aisle."

My original plan was to follow the same routine. However, as I watched the target movement as others shot, I was imagining my timing in my head. I started believing that I could get shots on both targets on one exposure. I made up my mind to do just that. I also knew success depended on not fumbling my draw, so made a mental note to revert my plan if the draw was slow. The buzzer sounded, I hit the can and drew, turning to face the left target and firing three shots. I made a quick transition to the right side and fired three more. I think that my third shot may have gone into open space as the second target disappeared. I finished the stage and anxiously listened for the SO to call the scores. All stationary targets were -0, and the two movers were each -1. I was unable to see if I had 2 or 3 hits on the disappearing targets, but was ecstatic to have scored so well. This was my highest placing stage, 119th overall and 36th in my division.



After that high point, which was on the twelfth stage we shot, the next few stages were a let down. I was getting extremely tired and found myself shooting a little sloppy. I felt slow and was pulling shots to the left. (I actually went to a safe area and confirmed my sights had not come loose.) Fatigue was setting in, and I was thoroughly wet from rain and sweat. It would take much concentration, and a large sugar cookie left over from lunch, to finish on a high note.

With two stages to go, the sunlight was fading. "Gun Store" was a stage shot while standing, with 6 threat targets arranged in three levels of priority. In the dim light, I stood no chance of seeing my hits on paper, of which there were to be three on each. I had to concentrate on technique. The SO's needed flashlights to score the stage, and I was just 1 down.

One stage to go, and it would be a challenge. The sun had set, and they were lining up vehicles at the front of the bay to light the stage. This only helped so much as the stage was deep, with walls and barrels blocking much of the artificial light. The stage started with a steel target that activated a swinger. The stage finished shooting prone under a low wall. While shooting prone, there were six threat targets, two of which were exposed by shooting two, 4 inch wide steel plates which fell to release the targets. I was excited to shoot the stage, both for the interesting course of fire, and to be done with the match. At the same time I was irritated by the poor conditions.



Hitting all the targets required shifting from side to side, as well as a reload while prone. Adding to the challenge, some persistent issues with my neck muscles made it quite difficult to raise my head to see the sights. Fighting through all the issues I had a very good run. Even though I could barely see them, I hit the kicker plates 1 for 1. My total was just -3 on the stage. Despite mixed results throughout the match, I would have a strong finish to reflect back upon.

Would I shoot Nationals again? If you had asked me at 8:30 on Thursday evening, the answer would have been an emphatic "no." In retrospect, it's still a "no" if I had to do it all in one day. There isn't enough daylight in the day, nor do I have the stamina of my youth. If the opportunity presents itself again, and I have enough qualifying points to get my choice of shooting over two days, I would consider it. Our schedule of Thursday shooting also made it impractical to stick around for the Saturday evening awards banquet. I think attending the social event with other competitors would add to the enjoyment.

Looking at my final score numbers, I initially felt some disappointment. I finished 229 of 355 overall. Other stats are 65 of 103 in SSP division, 92 of 109 in the EX class, and 26th of 29 in SSP EX. Since I was bumped to EX in the spring, I'm typically still in the lower range of the classification. However, looking beyond the numbers and factoring in the level of competitors, I'm satisfied. I learned a lot and gained some good experience. There was enjoyable shooting, and a five day mini-vacation of fun, food, and drink with good friends. Our group had rented a cabin on a nearby lake for the week, so even the non-shooting time was enjoyable. When it's all said and done, there's little to complain about.

As I reflect more on the match, there may be more posts in the future. Although the stages changed in some places, the match book can be viewed here. I've also put more photos from the day here.

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.