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.

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.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Finally, To The Range

Work and family responsibilities kept me away from the range last week, and nearly did so this week as well. Fortunately, a visit from a family friend led to an unplanned excursion on Thursday. I was happy to clear up some work early, and even more pleased that Colleen could join us as well.

I generally schedule my range trips on the "off hours" to avoid crowds. Not so this time. The range was busier than I usually experience, but we still managed to get three adjacent lanes in the same bay.

A lot of targets out there

My session began at 10 yards, most of the time shooting fast 2 - 4 shot strings, and concentrating on not pushing the shots to the left when shooting fast, as I experienced recently. I also threw in some head shot work, enjoying the ability to see the small target beyond the new small front sight.

Feeling good, I pushed the target out to 20 yards. Of the next 50 rounds fired, I managed to keep all but 8 inside the -0 zone. That success I also attribute to the narrow front sight not covering the entire target at distance. I may be late to the party, but I am certainly appreciating the improved sight picture.

Finally, putting a new target at 7 yards, I ran a magazine each doing some SHO and WHO shooting. I was not as pleased with that portion of my practice session. Admittedly I was getting tired by this point, so will revisit one-handeds shooting, for an extended time, soon. The range time finished with several quick magazines fired at the timed turning target.

The serendipitous range trip turned out to be both a lot of fun, and a good practice session. It was enjoyable having Colleen and our friend along, for both the shooting, and the long drive to and from the range.

No More Anonymous Comments

For now anyway.

A while back, Blogger did away with supporting Open ID for commenting on blog posts. The only options now are Google ID and anonymous posting. I allowed anonymous posting so as to not force Google ID on folks. However, in the ensuing weeks, I've had but one legitimate post from an anonymous commenter. Lately, the anonymous spam posts have increased, reaching multiple comments an hour at times. Sadly, it's apparent theses comments are coming from a single spammer, but that doesn't stop my email from blowing up. Sometimes the spam comments are mildly entertaining, the latest don't even have that going for them.

I've disabled anonymous commenting. I may turn it back on later. Or I might not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Martyrs of Otranto

August 14 is the Feast Day of the Martyrs of Otranto. These faithful Christians were victims of muslim brutality and conquest in the Italian city of Otranto in 1480. Two days prior, on August 11, the town, which had been under siege for two weeks, was finally overrun by the Ottoman invaders. Subsequently, all men in the town over the age of 50 were slaughtered, and women and children under 15 were sent away into slavery. The leader of the invaders, Pasha Ament ordered over 800 surviving Christian men brought before him and commanded them to convert to islam or face death. The faithful refused to cave in to his barbarous demands.

One of the men came forth and spoke in a manner that we should all pray we could emulate,
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs.
Angered that they would not renounce their faith, Pasha Ament ordered all the men killed. On August 14, 1480, the prisoners were brought to a nearby hill and beheaded, while their families and friends were mercessly forced to watch. According to tradition, the body of the first victim, Antonio Primaldo, refused to fall over until the entire group had been executed. The destruction of the town complete, and its population decimated, the moslem invaders continued their march toward Rome.

A year later, in October 1481, the bodies of the martyrs were found to be uncorrupted and moved to the Otranto cathedral. On December 14, 1771, Pope Clement XIV beatified these brave men. On May 12, 2013 their cause for Sainthood was completed when Pope Francis declared the Martyrs of Otranto to be among the Saints in Heaven.

Martyrs of Otranto, Ora pro nobis!

Relics of the Otranto Martyrs

The islamic war on Christianity, and civilized people as a whole, continues to this day. The scimitar remains the conversion tool of choice for the barbaric cult. (That whole "religion of peace" meme notwithstanding.)

Today we remember these brave men and pray we remain as strong in our own wars against the minions of Satan.

Also see "How the 800 Martyrs of Otranto Saved Rome" for more on the martyrs and their place in the history of Christendom.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Old Blatz Beer Commercial

Saw this the other day over at New Jovian Thunderbolt.

I remember Blatz was often the beer of choice during those lean college years. In those days we looked for quantity over quality. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Decompress

It's been a slow no blogging week. Life is good, however I've had neither the time nor the inspiration to write.

I changed positions at work a few months ago, and it's keeping me busy, even if I am enjoying it. My brain is always "on" while working through finances, contracts, licensing, and so forth. When I get home, after a few final checks of my mail, I am ready to relax. Period.

That usually means sitting on my screen porch, sipping coffee, or a beer, or maybe a bourbon. I try to avoid having my laptop with me, preferring to simply stare into the woods while I recharge.

But, it's the weekend. Here's hoping for refreshment and replenishment.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Sanner's Lake July IDPA Match

On Saturday, I joined three friends for the trip across the Potomac River to shoot the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake. I was looking forward to shooting the new fiber optic sight outdoors in sunlight. The Delaware State IDPA Match was also taking place over the weekend, so attendance at the monthly match was low, with just 38 shooters participating.

The first stage had us moving and shooting around walls. Seven targets requiring two hits each were found on the stage, along with a non-threat and a barrel stack adding to the challenge. It was a fun, quick stage that got my match off to a good start, shooting down zero.

Next up was an unusual Standards stage with a lone target set at five yards, and engaged in four separate strings. String 1 was draw and fire one shot, string 2 was four rounds low ready, three shots strong hand only from low ready was required for the third string, and two rounds weak hand only from low ready finished the stage. This turned out to be too complicated for my early morning brain. After firing just two of the SHO shots, I moved the gun to my support hand and awaited the start of the next string. After a bit a I heard a whisper behind me, "Wasn't it three shots?" D'oh! I quickly transferred the gun back and fired another shot. Game over. That delay was 5 seconds or more, and moved me to the bottom of the pack for that stage. Moving on...

The next stage was shot from behind a barricade with three target arrays set down range. Each pair of targets had a non-threat in the center, with the center array requiring shots from both sides of the barricade. I ended up shooting this stage twice. On my first run, as I moved my gun to the second target on the left side, it wasn't there! Looking over my gun I saw the target had blown over and was laying at a 45 degree angle. The stage was reset and I made another run. This was another good run, which I shot just two down.

"Bad Invitation" was shot from a seated position with the gun loaded with six rounds and set on the table. Three paper targets and a falling steel popper where set up on each side. The left and right arrays were shot in two separate strings; three paper, a reload from the belt, and repeat the second string for the other side. I shot the stage just two down. However, the posted online results that evening showed a HNT and a PE instead of the two down one targets. I learned later this was a result of improper data entry on the tablet, that error dropped me down some 8 spots in the posted rankings.

Stage five was another Standards stage with six targets placed from 5 to 16 yards. Starting with the gun held in the support hand at low ready, the closest target was shot WHO, the next SHO, and the final four, freestyle. I was 6 points down for the stage.

The final stage we shot was the IDPA 5x5 Classifier, which was incorporated into the match to, theoretically, discourage sandbagging. I was confident going into the stage. I shot at a pace I was comfortable with from my practice this week, and which would have upheld my classification. Unfortunately my shots were all grouping low, leading to significant points down. I was also aware at the time that I rushed the final head shot and shot low.

I had some good stages, and some disappointing stages, never really finding my groove. Although I shot most stages well, I never really felt like I was fully engaged. I "officially" finished 13th overall, and 6th of 18 on SSP — if the scores are to be believed. In a post match review with others, unfortunately several scoring errors were in evidence similar to the ones mentioned above for other shooters as well; where target points down were entered as PE's and HNT's. My overall placement was likely 10th or 11th. Match staff were in short supply, and there was some unfamiliarity with the scoring devices by the willing volunteers. There was no Lexus at stake and I was there for the practice above all. While disconcerting on paper, I'm not losing sleep over it, but will be sure to review future score tabulations more closely.

Still, the match illustrated some of my own weaknesses to be addressed. Despite all my practice recently being of the "stand and shoot" variety, I tend to not do as well on "stand and shoot" type stages in matches. Sight impatience? Head games? I'll figure it out.

The match ran quickly and smoothly, and we were leaving the range by 11:00. While fun, the stages were a bit less exciting than we usually see at this venue. I suspect that the limited staff and poor weather in the days before the match led to simpler stages being set up. However, the long drive home was full of fun conversation with friends, not to mention stops for lunch and to shop for distilled beverages. I have some things to work on in future practices, and am looking forward to improvements going forward.

More stage pics here.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: Printing Guns

Almost finished.

Beware of "ghost guns" this weekend.

A Better Practice Session

I managed to get in another visit to the range this week. (Actually it's not the range time that's hard to find, it's the time to travel to and from the range that eats up the afternoon.) I felt I needed another session after the mixed results last time.

I started out shooting at 10 yards, at a moderate pace, alternating between body and head shots. I'm starting to feel a lot more confident with the head shots now that the front sight doesn't cover the whole target. I can start trying for -0 hits instead of just "on paper" when aiming at the head zone.

A fresh target in place, the next 50 rounds were fired in rapid, 4, 5, or 6 shot strings. Shooting as fast as I could get an acceptable sight picture, I was seeing the benefits of the narrow sight even on the larger target zone and feeling more confident in my shot calling.

Next up was a bit of longer distance shooting with the target set at 20 yards. Here again, I was seeing the benefit of the competition sites. More target area visible behind the sight means easier and more precise target alignment. Until the final magazine, when fatigue led to faster, more careless shooting, the majority of the hits were in the center -0 area.

Opting to shoot one more box of ammo, just to finish on a "high note," I hung the target at an easy 7 yards. Splitting the shots between the head and body zones, I dropped just one head shot into the -1 head area.

Speeding up shooting by the 50 rounds of extra fast trigger pulls, my typically short range time is finished even more quickly. Most days the travel time for a range trip is four times the time spent shooting, unless there happens to be an incident on the highway, at which point the ratio becomes even more lopsided. However, the shooting is fun and beneficial, so it's an acceptable tradeoff, for now.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Doctors and Guns

When it comes to gun ownership, it seems that family physicians are not always supportive. However, I am fortunate to have some health care providers who are not only accepting, but take an active interest firearms.

When I'm getting a chiropractic adjustment, I need to remove all the thicker objects from my belt and pockets. The conversation usually turns to range visits and guns. The chiropractor asks about recent match experiences, so I tell him about anything that hurts when I'm shooting.

Our family doctor will often look at my weigh-in data and then ask what I'm carrying. In true patient / doctor familiarity, he often remembers what I wore during my last visit.

Still don't like going to the doctor.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

National Shooting Sports Month

The National Shooting Sports Foundation has declared August to be "National Shooting Sports Month." This is an idea I can get behind.

Here's some suggestions for marking the month from NSSF....
1. Bring Someone New
There’s nothing quite like seeing the excitement on a friend’s face after they take their first shots. Bring a friend or family member to the range for the first time.

2. Try Something New
Are you a hardcore handgun shooter? Then pick up a shotgun and give sporting clays a try. Are you primarily a shotgun shooter? Then hone your handgun skills or sign up for a local International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) match.

3. Rediscover Shooting
Haven’t shot in a while? Dust off your shooting gear and head to the range, preferably with a friend. Learn a new game, like action pistol or skeet shooting.

4. Find an Event Near You
At you’ll find National Shooting Sports Month events at ranges and retailers across the country. If there’s not an event listed in your area, use the website to locate a range near you to enjoy a fun, safe day of target shooting.

5. Make it a Date
Ask your spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend to go shooting. You’ll have a great time together. By the way, women are the fastest growing segment in target shooting (and hunting), and more gear than ever is being designed for their fit and comfort.

6. Cash in on Deals
Retailers and ranges will be offering specials during National Shooting Sports Month. You can find a participating business near you and take advantage of these offers.

7. Practice Firearm Safety
The shooting sports are safe. As a responsible gun owner, you can demonstrate how to safely handle your firearms on the firing line and securely store them when they’re not in use.

8. Celebrate Freedom and Tradition
In addition to passing on the great tradition of target shooting, you can educate others about the unique American freedoms that make participating possible.

9. Share it!
#LetsGoShooting is the theme of National Shooting Sports Month. Share the hashtag and your experiences on your social media networks, and remind others to give target shooting a try.

10. Win a Great Prize!
Finally, enter the sweepstakes at and have a chance to win great prizes from National Shooting Sports Month sponsors.

Now, get to the range! If you want help or company, let me know.

Monday, July 30, 2018

New Sights, More Practice

I had a decent practice session this weekend. My goal was to work more on sight acquisition with the new sights on the gun, and familiarize myself with what is an acceptable sight picture using target focus.

Starting out at 10 yards, I ran through 50 rounds, shooting at a moderate pace. Firing just one or two shots per string, a few shots drifted outside the -0 zone. Still, I was generally pleased.

Emboldened perhaps, I pushed the next target out to 20 yards for a slow 50 rounds. The hits weren't as good, but generally stayed within the -1 zone. The shots tended to be low, so I made a note to work on that some more next time.

Next I moved to the opposite extreme and hung a Dot Torture target paper at 3 yards. I've struggled with this drill of late, mostly because of a lack of patience when trying to shoot slowly. I had a miss on a transition shot between circle #3 and #4. I might blame that on the green laser dot from one lane over repeatedly crossing my target. After the miss I knew I wouldn't beat my 49/50 record so I shot the rest of the drill quickly, to finish 47/50.

I typically limit my indoor range practice to 150 rounds, but an extra box of ammo had somehow snuck into my range bag. :-) I finished the session shooting ten, 5 round strings, pushing as fast as I could get a flash of the red fiber dot. The first 20 rounds were fired from extension at a stationary target. For the final six strings I shot from low ready, at a timed target set to a three second exposure.

Looking at the target after those runs, although most were -0, the hits were generally concentrated in the lower left quadrant of the center circle. When I push the speed, I'm apparently pushing the gun to the left. During the Brandon Wright pistol class, Brandon encouraged me to use a little more trigger finger when we were working on fast trigger presses. I will be sure to pay some attention to that next time.

Overall, I found this practice to be both beneficial and fun. One can't ask for much more than that.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Straw Safety

High capacity packages!

Right there on the aisle where a child could get hold of them.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: National Scotch Day

Happy Friday! It's also National Scotch Day.

I'm not really sure of the origins of this "holiday," but who am I to argue?


Outdoor Dry Fire Practice

Most of my dry fire practice takes place indoors. Since the majority of that is working on draws, reloads and trigger manipulation, hanging some targets just about anywhere in the house suffices. Lately, I've been wanting to devote time to movement and wide target transitions, both of which are more difficult in a confined area. So I moved to the backyard.

Hanging a couple targets from the deck, and laying out a couple of shooting boxes, made for a suitable practice area. I was little concerned about raising the notice of the neighbors, but a quick scan revealed plenty of tree cover. On future sessions I think I'll breakout the target stands and a barricade too.

As a bonus, the sweat rolling into my eyes added another element of match shooting realism.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Back To A Fiber Optic Sight

I may be the last person in the shooting sports to figure this out. But here I am.

In 2015, I changed the black front post on my SIG P226 competition gun to a fiber optic sight. I shot with that for a couple years, before going back to the plain black sight. I felt the fiber sight didn't offer enough solid mass in front of my eyes to get good sight alignment. When I switched to the P320, I actually blackened out the SIG Night Sight on the front. I've shot that way with a fair bit of success.

One of the topics of the Brandon Wright class was "target focus" vs. "sight focus." Frankly, this was a new concept to me; I've always used front sight focus for all my shooting. I also felt somewhat constrained to this sight picture by needing distance correction in my eyes. I couldn't see the sights in focus wearing my distance Rx, so I shot without the corrective lenses, which meant I saw sharp sights but blurry targets.

Brandon showed us how target focus shooting works on close targets. He also rightly derided my gun sights throughout the weekend. (All in good humor.) The opportunity to shoot Brandon's gun, while wearing my distance Rx, showed me how valuable the red fiber optic was when combined with target focus. This was an enlightening experience for me. So much so that I placed an order for new sights after the first day of class as soon as I returned to my hotel, even before I showered and went out for dinner.

This weekend I replaced the stock sights on the P320 with a Dawson Precision competition sight set with a black rear and fiber front. I elected to wait until after the Rivanna match, rather than jump into a match with an untested installation. The swap was surprisingly quick and trouble-free.

On Monday I took a trip to the indoor range to try out the new sights. My first group of 10 shots at 7 yards elicited a comment of "Show off" from the range officer, so I figured the sights were installed well. I spent the rest of my time shooting at 10, 15 and 20 yards to confirm the sight picture and point of aim. I wasn't shooting from rest but the sights seem to be where they should be.

When shooting head shots at 10 yards, it was almost breathtaking to be able to see the head of the target through the rear notch, behind the front post. My previous setup required guesstimating the head target location since it was essentially covered by the front post.

I shot some 3, 4, and 5 shot strings as fast as I could see the red dot return. I am still shooting without my distance Rx, which means I'm probably leaning more to sight focus than target focus. Even so, I am enthusiastic over the results and looking forward to getting in more practice.

I need to spend much more time getting accustomed to the new sights and to using target focus for close shooting. I'll do most of that in dry fire. I also have a much needed appointment with my optometrist in a few weeks, so eye glass changes may be coming.

Even though fiber optic sights are pretty much the standard for competitive shooting, I've never really understood how to use them properly. You can teach an old dog new tricks, and I for one, am looking forward to learning a few.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Open Carry is Constitutional

So says the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
(Reuters) - A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantees a right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense, finding that Hawaii overstepped its authority to regulate firearms possession outside the home.

The ruling by a three-judge panel on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, makes the San Francisco-based court the sixth U.S. circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment that way and could set the issue on a path toward the U.S. Supreme Court, which has not taken up a major gun rights case since 2010.

The fact that this comes from one of the most liberal and anti-rights Appeals Court in the nation must have the leftists breaking out in hives.

Wouldn't it be funny if this ruling was upheld by SCOTUS and the snowflakes started demanding we carry concealed because seeing a gun scared them so much?  Sweet, sweet, schadenfreude.

See "U.S. appeals court upholds right to carry gun in public."

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

July IDPA at Rivanna

I headed out early Saturday morning for the monthly match at the Rivanna range. Rain was forecast for the afternoon, but if the prognosticators were to be believed, we'd have good weather for shooting.

We started off facing a simple line of eight targets. However, looking behind them, we found three non-threat targets positioned to catch "shoot throughs" if one was not careful. Shooters could engage any of the targets from either, or both, of two shooting boxes. Many took a conservative route and shot from both positions to take advantage of the safest angles. Since I was feeling bold, I opted to shoot all the targets from one box, adjusting my lean as necessary.

I couldn't see for sure if the non-threats were clean from my shooting position. I anxiously awaited the squad in the adjoining stage to finish so we could move forward and score. The plan worked, I hit no non-threats and finished -3 points down.

The next stage had us facing some distant targets from either side of a wall. A parallel wall down range offered closer shots at some of the targets. Shooters had the choice of shooting all targets from either end of the further wall, or using time to move forward to take closer shots on some targets. There was a head shot only target that tempted many shooters to the closer position. In another moment of boldness, I opted to shoot all the targets from the more distant wall, saving the time involved in moving up range.

When I hit my position to shoot the head shot target, the angle I needed to shoot from was greater than I had felt during the walk through. Despite my earlier confidence, I didn't feel I was getting a solid aim. And indeed, despite slow fire, I did miss one of my head shots. In retrospect making the run to the second wall may have paid off. Disappointingly, I tagged one of the non-threats as well. This stage became an exercise in "shaking it off."

Stage 3 was a "standards" stage with three barrels arranged in a large triangle, and three open targets set down range. A magazine downloaded to six rounds was placed on each barrel, and the empty gun holstered. The stage description called for loading the gun at each barrel, and shooting the three targets "one the move" from each position. The latest IDPA rules prohibit any penalties for not moving while shooting, even if the stage brief calls for it. It is up to the shooter, knowing his own skill level, to make the determination of when shooting on the move is beneficial.

For this particular stage, the best option for the "game" would be to run quickly to the next position and shoot while standing. Of course, doing so left the shooter facing good natured shouts of "Gamer!" from his squad. While I did make a fast run to each position, I found myself taking the shots while moving into place. Old habits are hard to break I guess. Even though I dropped five points, I finished the stage 3rd overall.

The fourth and final stage was an interesting course with six targets, all requiring 3 hits each, placed among several walls. All of the targets were either partials or blocked by non-threats, or both. After engaging two up-close targets we retreated to four other shooting positions to shoot a single threat target at each. There were as many options for shooting order as there were targets, and shooters differed in their approach. I opted to move left to right in the middle, then right to left at the back. Though adding a couple extra steps, it put my standing reload at an "open" head shot and I finished on a tight leaning head shot with ammo to spare if needed. One low shot had me -1 for the stage for a strong finish to the match.

The predicted rain held off long just enough to complete the match and get on the road. It started sprinkling shortly after I began my drive home, becoming heavy from most of the drive. Despite a few miscues, I was pleased overall. I remembered a few things from the class last weekend, but still need to get in practice to tune and ingrain that training. The final score had me 5th of 45 overall, 4th of 19 in SSP and 2nd of the 3 shooters in SSP EX. It was a very fun morning of shooting and enjoying the company, and banter, of friends.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Rebellion DC Whiskey Bar

I spent most of last week in Washington, DC, stuck inside a hotel. Seated in a meeting, I was using the Untapped app to see if there was anyplace nearby for good beer. A listing for Rebellion DC popped up, and I noted the tagline, "Bar, American Restaurant, Burger Joint, Whiskey Bar."

Checking out the website I noted they claimed some 300 Bourbons and Whiskey's. Reviewing the online menu, though it was outdated, five different vintages of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon were listed. I also remembered that a coworker was a fan of said spirit. So, plans were made, and we ventured over to Rebellion one evening.

Arriving and taking our place at the bar, I was thrilled to see the extensive display of bottles behind the bar. But, where to begin? In this case, we both opted for Pappy's. My companion ordered the 20 year old, while I was slightly more budget conscience with the 15 year offering. The higher proof of the 15 year Bourbon is noticeable, especially compared to the 20, and it was quite an enjoyable libation.

We started a discussion with the bartender, asking about interesting recommendations for our next pours. He told us about WhistlePig The Boss Hog IV - The Black Prince.

The online reviews we checked were quite favorable. This unique rye won Best Whiskey at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. At the prices I saw online, I'll likely never indulge in a full bottle, but a single pour, why not? I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Despite the 119.2 proof, this was a smooth and flavorful drink.

A long day behind us, and an early start ahead of us, we called it a night. After so many meetings and conferences in DC over the years, I am glad I finally discovered this unassuming bar with the amazing whiskey offerings. The libation selection is outstanding and the staff was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. It was a very enjoyable diversion from the business of the week.

On our Uber ride over to Rebellion, we noted that we passed by the hotel where we hold our winter meeting each year. Plans are being made for a return visit...

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Going to IDPA Nationals!

Were in! 

This September, I will be shooting in the IDPA National Championship match.

Four of us who shoot together regularly will make the road trip. I'm looking forward to an exciting adventure.

There are fun times ahead! (And lots of practice to prepare.)

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.