Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Consolation Beverages and Cigar

Other fun family activities have conflicted with my shooting opportunities for much of the fall. Fortunately, some of those other events still permit me to indulge in some of life's other pleasures. To that end, I covered all three of my favorite beverages at our recent college football tailgate. In addition to the different drink choices, the mild weather also allowed me to enjoy a long smoke, one that went quite well with all the selected libations.

Shortly after getting our tailgate set up for last weekend's college football game, I lit a Rocky Patel Vintage 2006 San Andreas. It was still "before noon" so I sipped a milky latte purchased from a ubiquitous chain. Typically my coffee is fresh-brewed and enjoyed black, but the creamy, vanilla-flavored drink presented a nice pairing, even if the actual coffee content was minimal.

Coffee completed, I moved on to one of my favorite sipping whiskies, Bulleit Bourbon. Obviously no complaints with this pairing, which served to alleviate the remaining morning chill.

A short while later, I still had plenty of cigar left and lots of time before the game. Not shown in the picture, the afternoon's choice of beer was Devils Backbone Cold Room Violation. This Imperial Red Ale was brewed in collaboration with Sibling Revelry Brewing. The slightly sweet caramel and mild bitter citrus flavors presented no conflict with the rich smoke.

This Saturday football outing unfortunately conflicted with the Rivanna IDPA Top Ten Match. After several years of shooting at the club, I was excited to have finally made the Top 10 cut. These pre-game indulgences helped to alleviate the disappointment of missing the match. Even though our team isn't doing well this year, spending a moderately warm November Saturday afternoon sipping and smoking is a pleasurable consolation.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Five O'Clock Friday: Selective Hearing

This was sent by a friend. It's an old one, but still funny.

Screw top bottles, it's been a while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Dunkelweizen and A Smoke

We headed over to 1781 Brewery on Sunday afternoon. I was interested in trying the Dunkelweizen I had seen mentioned on their Facebook page. After getting my beer I also checked out the humidor in the brewery picked up a Crowned Heads Le Carema cigar to enjoy as well.

Although the beer in the picture above seems to have a reddish tint with the sun shining through it, the beer was actually dark reddish-brown in color. The flavor profile had a creamy, malt base with a touch of roasted bread. At just 4.7% it was an enjoyable mid-afternoon libation. The rich leather and creamy notes of the smoke made for a perfect match.

With the time change and cooler fall weather, once the sun dropped below the trees, the temperature dropped as well. Although I was tempted to enjoy another round, of both these pleasurable treats, it was time to head off in search an early Sunday dinner to wind down the weekend.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Windy Day At The Range

A busy work schedule and seemingly endless days of rain made it hard to get out to the range last week. On Saturday, the wind was blowing steady but it was still a good day for a little range time. As I have the last couple outings, I was shooting the Compact SIG P320.

The range was muddy in places and had standing water in others. I found some relatively clear ground around the 10 yard mark, so did all my shooting from the same spot. Two targets were hung so I could work on some target transitions. The range rules prohibit more than two shots per string so I was limited to one shot on each target. Given the temperature, I practiced drawing from under my jacket too. On a few occasions I had to wait for the targets to return to their vertical positions after being pushed horizontal by the wind gusts.

At each magazine change I alternated the direction of the transition, or switched to two quick shots on the same target. I did also devote 50 rounds to shooting SHO and WHO. Despite being a shorter gun, I think the Compact is better balanced for one-handed shooting than the Full Size version.

By the end of my 200 rounds, I noticed some degradation of my shooting and concentration, but still felt it was a great practice session. Even more, it was simply good to spend some time outside and on the range. The coming weeks looks just as full as the past few, making this range opportunity all the more welcome.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Spontaneous Range Time

It's been cold and rainy for so long, I was actually surprised to pick up my phone Tuesday afternoon and see 70° on the display. That's too nice to be inside! I decided to leave the office a little early and get in some range time. Stopping by the house I grabbed a target, a couple boxes of ammo, and the SIG P320 Compact.

I started my time at 7 yards, drawing from the holster and going for a quick hit on target. I also kept my "resolution" to expend at least one magazine each devoted to both SHO and WHO shooting. Moving back to 15 yards I became intrigued by the bits of clay targets littering the berm. I started alternating between the cardboard target and the broken clays, with surprising success.

Loading my last 20 rounds I moved back to the 25 yards line. (I was feeling bold I guess.) Most of those shots were fired at the clay bits as well. That exercise proved that the new sights were dead on, and that, with careful aiming, even I can hit a pretty small target at distance with regularity.

I soon lamented my decision to pack just 100 rounds. But, the quick outing gave me plenty of time to get home and finish up some of the work I had foregone at the office, thereby alleviating any guilt.

I think I will throw some clays in the car for the next outing too.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Pre-Game Was Fun

Arriving at our tailgate spot, we got our limited setup ready to go. It was a Thursday evening game so the festivities were somewhat subdued. I quickly had my essentials ready to go.

The beer options for the day were from Devils Backbone. I kicked things off with India Black Lager, brewed in collaboration with Wynwood Brewing Company. The dark, mildly hoppy beer was paired with a Perdomo 20th Anniversary Connecticut cigar. The beer went down quickly, although I didn't think it was an ideal flavor match, being a little heavy for the lighter cigar.

My second try was Mile 842 Hoppy Lager. This is a malty lager with a nice touch of citrus. I was a bit surprised how well it paired with the mild, but slightly spicy smoke.

The tailgate area is crowded, and folks are friendly. I had no complaints about the long smoke, and even met a couple other folks enjoying their cigars. I did observe that we had less people cutting through our space and bumping into our seats while I was smoking.

The cool weather, good beer, fine smoke, and plenty of food made for enjoyable afternoon. Unfortunately the game was less satisfying.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rivanna IDPA and Weapons Master Match

The biennial Weapons Master match was held this past weekend at Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club in Charlottesville. The match consists of 3 pistol stages, 2 shotgun, and 2 rifle stages. Shooters can compete in just the pistol portion or the complete match. I have shot neither my shotgun nor rifle in quite some time, preferring to focus my time with pistol shooting, so I opted to just shoot the handgun stages.

It was a somewhat cool morning, with scattered rain showers as I drove to the range. Fortunately the rain clouds dispersed before the shooting started, giving us quite a pleasant morning for shooting.

The first pistol stage was a "standards" stage, with one long string of fire that required freestyle, strong hand and weak hand shooting. We started at 15 yards and engaged three targets with two rounds each. Advancing to 10 yards, the targets were engaged again SHO. Finally we moved to 7 yards and repeated the engagement WHO. I ended up 7 points down, one jerked SHO shot into the -3 some contribution significantly to that score.

The next two stages were fun adaptations of stages we shot last weekend at the Potomac Grail. On the  first we started facing a wall with a narrow gap in the center. There targets were shot from retention with our wrists held to our chest. We then moved to both ends of the wall to find six more targets shot from cover. A few low shots saw me -3 for the stage.

The final stage had us pinned in a corner and shooting two targets from strong hand from retention. There were three more arrays of three targets each placed further back that we then engaged in priority. Two of the arrays presented some tight shots due to non-threats centered in front of the target pairs.

Though the pistol match was brief, requiring about as much time to shoot as I spent driving to the range, I was glad I went. I enjoyed the shooting, and as always the camaraderie with other shooters. I finished 6th of 40 in the pistol portion and 2nd of 16 in SSP.

This match is likely the final one of my shooting season. I was a fun wind down. Now I look forward to preparing for next year with dry fire and range visits.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

1781 Brewing Company and Em.bargo's Cigars

After (enough) chores for the day were done on Saturday afternoon we decided to head over to 1781 Brewing Company and Wilderness Run Vineyards for a quick beer. I had seen a posting about a fall release that I was interested in trying out, L’ Automne Red Ale,

L’ Automne is an 8.5% ABV Imperial Red Ale with a rich malt backbone and a touch of hoppiness to balance. The beer is quite hazy and "thick" in appearance, with a creamy mouthfeel to match. Colleen opted for the Saison De L'Orange, and crisp, slightly tart, Farmhouse Ale.

Quickly finishing our beers, we opted to enjoy another round of the same. We also grabbed some food from TÄ-KO Taqueira food truck. The beef and pork tacos were fresh, full of flavor, and we gobbled them down quickly.

Em.bargo's Cigars sets up a small seating area at the brewery on weekends, complete with a couple warm fire pits. There is also a selection of cigars on hand to purchase. I grabbed a RoMa Craft Intemperance to enjoy with my beer. Smoking is permitted throughout the grounds and we opted to find a seat at a picnic table located in some dappled sunlight. It was a moderately cool afternoon but the sun was bright, making for a pleasant time outside enjoying the view of the surrounding vineyards.

About when we were preparing to head home, some friends who we hadn't seen in a while arrived to have some drinks and listen to the band performing that evening. We were persuaded to stay a while longer, and enjoyed the conversation, the music, and another beer. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

No Pasting Needed

I've been so pleased with the Dawson sights I put on my full size SIG P320 this summer, I decided to order a set for the Compact P320. I installed the sights recently and I finally had a chance to try them out last week.

I hung a slightly used IDPA target and shot my first 10 shots from 7 yards. All seemed well at that distance, so back to 10 yards I went. Still good. Now 15. I'm having a good day. Let's try 20 yards. Yep, I can live with that. After the first 50 rounds it was confirmed, the sights are well within my own shooting ability.

Since I hadn't shot this gun in a while, I also expended a couple magazines shooting strong and weak hand only. The rest of my 100 rounds was shot from the 10 yard line while trying to use target focus rather than sight focus. 

When I'm practicing with cardboard targets, I typically will only paste holes outside the -0 zone. I was pleased that I didn't need to break out the target pasters for this outing. (The pasters shown were left from a previous practice.)

Even though my match schedule is sparse for the rest of the year, I think I'll be shooting this gun for a change of pace.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

2018 Potomac Grail IDPA Match

I've been looking forward to the Potomac Grail IDPA match for some time. Held at the Thurmont Conservation and Sportsman's Club near Frederick, Maryland, the Level 2 match featured 13 interesting and unique stages. Last year's inaugural event was shot in a half-day format, which led to a race to shoot all the stages before dark. This year shooting was done in full day format. (After the IDPA Nationals I've had my fill of shooting until, and after, dark.)

The Thurmont facility is very nice. Parking is on grass and right at the shooting area. It's a short walk from end to end to get to all bays. The event was very well-organized and seemed to run smoothly. We started shooting promptly at 9:00 AM, took a short break for lunch, and still finished by 2:30 PM. I was on the road home by 3:00 PM. The timely finish was most welcome as the traffic on the drive home, especially through Loudon County, VA, was horrific.

The match director for this match is Cody Claxton, the IDPA Area Coordinator for Virginia, Maryland, DC, North Carolina, South Carolina, and, wait for it, Iraq. Match directors generally have a style in their matches that one will come to recognize. In Cody's case, he likes to put us in odd positions, either at the start, or while shooting. The stages at the Potomac Grail were no exception. It would take too long to describe in detail all thirteen stages, but I will touch on some of the most interesting. I've also uploaded the match book here for those who want to follow along.

Our squad began our day on "Police Lines." This quick stage required us to shoot strong hand only while carrying, and looking through, a police riot shield. We experienced a brief rain shower at the start of the match which led to the clear window being rain covered when I shot, adding to the challenge. In retrospect I should have asked for a towel to clear the window, but I shot the stage fine nonetheless.

The next stage, set up in the same bay, "Caught In A Corner" had us shooting while jammed in a tight space. The first very close targets were shot from retention, before the final four targets were engaged freestyle.

"Train Terminal Terrorism" was a unique stage, which made use of a full-size replica caboose. (I'm assuming this is used by a Cowboy Action crew that shoots at the club.) Starting outside the caboose we turned to engage a target, with six rounds, through the entryway. Moving into the rail car, there were three target arrays, of four targets each, set from 2 to 15 yards. Those twelve targets required just one hit on each. Most of the targets had only head shots available. The 15 yard targets "technically" offered part of the body area, but for all intents and purposes, they were head shots too. Not feeling confident I took one or two extra shots on the far targets. I was later informed that I actually had made 2 or 3 good hits on each. Go figure.

One of the more unusual stages was "Grappling Fight." The starting position had us lying on our support side, our arms around the chest of a body dummy, weak arm underneath, strong arm on top. Our firearm, downloaded to six rounds, was placed on the ground in front of us and our "grappling partner." Three target arrays were down range with each target requiring three hits. Non-threats and hard cover added to the challenge. At the start we engaged the first two targets strong hand only. Then after a reload we shifted our position to kneeling, with one knee on the chest of the dummy, and finished freestyle.

It was my turn to shoot first on this stage, and I had a moment of "What do I do next?" when it came time to move to kneeling. Despite the challenging shooting positions and tight shots required, I was just three points down for the stage. When I first read the matchbook entry for this stage, I wasn't sure how it would work. After shooting, I literally wore a smile having enjoyed the challenge greatly.

Next up in the same bay was "Compressed Standard." This one offered indeed the most unusual shooting position I've encountered. We stood in front of a wall with a narrow opening in the center. The fault line was a mere 14" back from the wall. We stood between the  fault line and the wall, with the gun at our chest. Our wrists had to remain against our chest the whole time and the gun barrel extended into the opening. Three open targets were shot through the opening, and we aimed by turning our bodies like a turret. It was good shooting fun.

"Sharks All Around" had as walking a 2x12 plank for the entire course of fire. Open targets, t-shirt covered targets, hard cover targets, and non-threats were engaged from various locations along our balanced walk. Staying on the boards was actually easier than expected and the stage was fun to shoot.

"Hold On To Your Kid" saw us carrying a "child" in our support arm. The entire stage was shot strong hand only. Eight threat targets with one swinging, one steel popper, and four non-threats, were found on the course. There were SHO shots taken from both side of cover as we moved between positions. I had a mental error shot one of the targets only once. I still can't explain how I muffed that. The PE and -5 miss added to what would have been a -2 run.

Up until the last stage our squad shot, most of the targets had been within 15 yards. That trend was broken on "40 Yard Standards." Eight targets were placed in a line, requiring increasingly longer shots as you went down the row. The first two targets were shot from a standing position, the next two while kneeling, and we went prone for the last four. Two required hits on each meant a minimum of 16 shots fired, but there was a limit of 18 shots allowed on the course. I saved my "extra" two shots for the final two targets. I didn't shoot well on the last few targets, apparently shooting low. I do wish I had the opportunity to practice my prone technique outside of a match.

As noted previously, the match was exceptionally well run. Our squad had only 6 shooters while most others I think had eight. We occasionally backed up to other shooters, but never had to wait too long. The longest down time was the 30 minute or so lunch break we took.

I had a great time at the match. We had a friendly squad of shooters who encouraged, and also ribbed each other as required. The staff all worked hard to keep the match going smoothly and promote an enjoyable experience. I was generally pleased with how I shot, although I don't feel I quite shot to my ability. Even 13 quick stages challenges my consistency and stamina. I had one regretful HNT and earned one PE for a mental error. Overall, I placed 58th of 129, a total which included 4 PCC shooters. The stats work out to 17/41 in SSP, 26/34 in EX and 6/7 for SSP EX.

Overall, the Potomac Grail was an exciting match that offered some out-of-the-ordinary shooting, without being onerous. I enjoyed the challenge of shooting from some positions that I don't, and can't practice. That mental error PE stuck in my mind for much of the weekend. Interestingly, the exercise of compiling this review, helped to remind me of the rest of the match, and the enjoyable and entertaining day of shooting we had.

I've posted some additional stage photos here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Controversy Over Guns and Coffee

Who knew that selling coffee could be so controversial?
WASHINGTON (WMAL) – For two years the owner of a gun shop in Hamilton, Virginia has been fighting to sell coffee, and Monday he may finally get approval to do it.

Zoning restrictions have prevented the owner of Bullets and Beans from selling coffee at his shop to people who are waiting for background checks or doing other business. Monday the Hamilton Town Council is scheduled to take up a proposal that would allow Kevin Jones to sell coffee for a 6-month trial period.

They must be selling some really good coffee, as one of the community's concerns is "coffee sales could snarl up traffic in the area." Frankly, a two year battle to sell coffee seems more like a path of obstruction by the gun grabbers than anything else.

See "VA Gun Shop Owner Continues Fight To Sell Coffee" for more.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Bill Coors Dies at 102

The former chairman of Coors Brewing Company passed away this weekend.
Bill Coors, a pioneer in the American brewing industry and former chairman of the Adolph Coors Company, died peacefully at his home Saturday at 102.

Molson Coors confirmed his passing in a statement published Saturday.

Bill Coors began working for his grandfather Adolph's brewing company in 1939. Twenty years later, he became company chairman, during which he created and developed the aluminum can, a key milestone for the beer industry.

Despite a lot of skepticism at the time, the aluminum can contributed greatly to the expansion of the craft beer movement, especially in recent years. They are lightweight and preserve the flavor of the beer much better than glass bottles. But, the bigger part of the story is that Bill Coors lived to 102.

Maybe I need to drink more Coors.

See "Beer giant Bill Coors dies at 102" for more.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Relaxing Before the Match

I spent the evening before the Potomac Grail IDPA match at a hotel in Frederick, Maryland. Searching for local attractions I saw that there was a cigar shop just a few minutes from my hotel. Rather than sit in my room, or a local pub, I headed over to Quartermasters Cigars to browse.

Besides the well-stocked humidor, the shop has a large lounge that’s open to the public. I decided to pick up a couple cigars and enjoy one there.

There were a lot of regulars in the lounge on this Friday evening, and I may have been the only visitor. I saw many folks with cigar travel cases and a plethora of beverages. Unfortunately I was not prepared with a beverage other than a bottle of water, but that sufficed for this evening.

I enjoyed the smoke while catching up with email and news on my phone. Then it was time to head back to the hotel room for a little dry fire before the match. It was a most pleasant evening.

A report on the match will be a few days coming.  Now posted.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Musing For Eleven Years

Today marks the 11th birthday of these Musings. I think that's something like 77 in blog years. It's been a fun journey so far. The blog has been through some changes, with varying amounts of activity over the years. Since the summer, posting has slowed due time constraints. I did manage to keep up the shooting related posts, mainly for my own use in journaling the range trips and matches. I'm looking forward to some recreational time this fall to explore more beer, bourbon, cigars, and of course, more shooting.

Thanks for playing along the last 1.1 decades.

October 6 also marks the date of the first train robbery in the United States in 1866. Take that for what it's worth.


Friday, October 5, 2018

A Glock for the SIG Guy?

I was surprised to get this letter the other day informing me I had won a certificate for a Glock pistol at the IDPA Nationals.

I've never owned a Glock. I've never fired a Glock. But a free gun is a free gun! I have a few months to decide what I'd like. A big .45? Or a compact 9mm perhaps? Maybe I'll build a PCC from it.

That's two guns won now. In both cases, the prizes were outside my normal interests. At least that's a good way to try new things.

Thanks to GLOCK, Inc. for their support of IDPA.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Monday Range Time

Even though I shot three IDPA matches in September, including the IDPA Nationals, I did not get in any trips to the indoor range for practice. I sure didn't get a good ROI on my membership fees in August! On Monday, I finally made it down to Winding Brook Indoor Range, for the first time in five weeks.

This visit was a quick one, and I brought along just 150 rounds. For the first 100 rounds, I hung an IDPA target at 10 yards and shot at various speeds. After each mag of 10 rounds, I altered my pace; shooting slow, single shots, or rapid groups of two or three shots. For a few of mags I concentrated on head shots.  A couple of mags were also devoted to one handed shooting, alternating between strong and weak hands.

Finishing up with the target hung at 20 yards, the last 50 rounds were dedicated to slowish fire for distance practice. This was the most time consuming part of the outing as I had to bring the target in every 10 rounds or so to see the holes. With close, rapid fire, a drift to the left is not uncommon. However at this longer distance I was seeing the holes drifting to the right. I am probably concentrating too hard on not pushing to the left and creating the opposite issue. For my very last 10 shots, I focused intently on that side-to-side push and saw a very nice vertical line of hits right in the center. Vertical consistency is a point for next time.

I was fun to finally get back to doing some basic practice and simple shooting. Hopefully the frequency of range outings will pick up for the fall.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Friday Beer and Smoke

We're getting an extended break from days, no weeks, of rainy weather. After finishing work and errands Friday, Colleen suggested that we do a fire. I uncovered the wood pile and hoped it was dry enough to burn. It wasn't long before we had a nice fire going as we watched the sun set.

I opted to enjoy O'Fest from Devils Backbone. Despite gravitating to the hoppy beers in general, I always look forward to the Oktoberfest beers that fill the shelves and draft lines this time of year. The Devils Backbone offering pours an attractive dark amber color with a thin white head. The aroma has notes of sweetness, bread, and caramel. Rich, malty sweetness, bread, and a hint of grassiness greet the palate. I found this to be quite a tasty lager.

I grabbed an Ave Maria Immaculata to smoke with the malt-forward beer. The flavors of the beer and the cigar were in harmony and were very fitting for fireside enjoyment. Soon enough I had to go inside to get a refill for my glass. Imagine my disappointment when I realized that the six-pack was empty and there were no more to be had.

Sticking with the style, I did find a Sierra Nevada Octoberfest in the fridge. This one is, in my opinion, not quite as good as the Devils Backbone but certainly enjoyable. Soon the fire burned down, and our glasses were empty. With the approach of fall, I'm looking forward to many more evenings sitting outside around the fire pit.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Holy Archangels, Intercede For Us

September 29 is the Feast of the Archangels — St. Gabriel, St. Raphael and St. Michael. These are trying times for Christianity and freedom in general, both at home and abroad, with attacks coming from all directions.

Politicians and activists continue to push laws to restrict the free practice of religion. To my utter amazement, people actually stand in the street proclaiming how proud they are to have killed their own children. In the past week we saw a "trial" that would make Stalin proud. People with evil in their hearts, worked to destroy a man and his family, simply because they feared he might uphold the Constitution of this country. The satanic forces of islam continue hundreds of years barbarism and remain relentless in attacking and killing Christians around the world, including right here at home. The Catholic Church is being attacked from within by men who have given in to Satan and his perversions. To anyone paying attention, it's obvious that the evil one has established a stronghold in this world.

We must fight, physically and spiritually, and never surrender to the evil that seems so prevalent. Now is the time to implore the intercession of these warriors to fight for us, and with us. I pray daily to the most powerful of these Holy warriors, St. Michael, to ask his aid and guidance.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls.

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.

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.