Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas

Christmas is here. After the shopping, after the wrapping, after the decorating, after the seemingly endless barrage of marketing, the true celebration begins.

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another, 
"Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place, 
which the Lord has made known to us."
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, 
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God 
for all they had heard and seen, 
just as it had been told to them.
--Luke 2:15-20

In fact, this joyous celebration continues until Epiphany on January 6. Surprisingly few realize that the season of Christmas only begins today, December 25.  It it is disappointing to see the lights and decorations disappear the day after Christmas. Surely as Christians we believe the birth of Our Savior is an event worthy of more than a single day of rejoicing.

However you mark the season, I wish you a very joyous and peaceful holiday season. May it be spent with family, friends, and good cheer.

Merry Christmas!!!

The Church at Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Friday, December 20, 2019

December IDPA Match

A plethora of fall activities, both family and work related, have severely limited my opportunities to hit the range of late. I managed to hit but one IDPA match and just two trips to the indoor range in November. December had looked to be a washout, but the folks at Sanner's Lake rescheduled their match to Sunday last weekend, which turned out to fit my schedule. This would be the last shooting activity of the year for me.

Despite days of wet and cold weather in the week leading up to Sunday, the day was dry and, relatively, warm. I was joined for the trip across the Potomac River by three regular shooting companions.

We started out on a stage that involved both strong and weak hand shooting. It was certainly quite the stage to "warm up" on. Three "tuxedo" targets were set against the berm, two further limited by non-threats. The targets were engaged from progressively advancing shooting positions across the bay, shooting freestyle, strong hand only, then weak hand only at successive targets. A second string reversed the direction. An errant weak hand shot cost me a -5 and was my only miss of the match.

The next stage started us seated on a stool. There were three targets behind a non-threat that we engaged strong hand only while advancing to the first shooting position where we found a lone distant target. Two more groups of targets were visible from a second position of cover. I dropped just one point on the stage.

Next up was a stage I enjoyed very much. It was also the first stage we shot mostly in the sun, which helped to take some of the chill off. Standing behind a row of barrels we shot a paper target and three falling steel targets in the open. Then from cover, there were six more paper targets arranged among barrels and non-threats. The final target from this position was a low, leaning target set very close to the cover wall. Perhaps it was the bright sun, or simply that I was getting warmed up, but the shooting felt very smooth on this stage and the sights aligned quickly. I dropped two points in the final target.

Seven targets set in a line in front of a toolbox on the ground greeted us at the next stage. The first two targets in the array presented only head shots, while the last five were open, offering a fast shoot. Our unloaded gun and all magazines were placed in the closed toolbox and we started standing, facing up range. Since the gear was on the ground, dropping to and shooting from kneeling was the logical choice. After careful aiming on the first two targets, the rest of the group could be shot as quickly as the sights appeared on target. All my shots here were -0.

After the stand and shoot stage (actually kneel and shoot,) the next course of fire offered lots of movement. We started be engaging a single open target while moving backwards to the first point of cover to shoot at two distant targets that were placed partially in front of a non-threat — watch out for shoot-throughs. Next we shot a single target through a window in the wall, before moving to the last fault line to find more targets. I dropped two points here.

The last stage our squad shot again gave us the opportunity for movement while shooting. The first targets were engaged from cover. From this same position, one could also engage two additional targets in the distance, if a non-threat at a menacing position in the middle could be avoided. My observation was the only the taller shooters opted to do so. The rest of us had to weave around the wall the shoot from another spot. On the way to that optional position there was an open target to be engaged along the way. The course of fire ended at another shooting position where two final targets were found. I ended my shooting day with another -0 stage.

As is typical for the matches at Sanner's Lake, the shooting went fast and we were packed and in the car by 11:30. As is also typical, we made a stop to acquire distilled spirits, and to eat a tasty Tex-Mex lunch.

The stages in the match were interesting and fun. Traveling, shooting, and dining with friends made for an enjoyable day. I managed to get home with enough daylight left to do some yard work, and then enjoy a fine Drew Estate Joya Black cigar and hot coffee on my deck in the waning sun.

I was well pleased with my shooting on this day. It's been almost a year of recovery from the medical emergency of January. It feels good to be shooting reasonably well again. In this match I placed 8th of 46 Overall, and 2nd of 14 in the SSP division. All in all it was an exceptionally pleasant way to wind down the weekend and my shooting year.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation. 
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington
Although President Washington proclaimed this day of thanksgiving and prayer in 1789, the Thanksgiving Day we celebrate today didn't become a national holiday until1863 when President Lincoln established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving! I wish you a day filled with family, friends, and fond memories. May God bless your life with His gifts today and everyday.

This Never Gets Old

It just wouldn't feel like Thanksgiving if I didn't laugh at this again.

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It Was a Cold IDPA Match

Over the weekend, I joined a couple of friends as we traveled across the Potomac River to shoot the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake in Lexington Park, MD. Leaving before dawn, and feeling the cold morning temperature, left me questioning my choices to start the day. As the sun rose, it gave very limited relief, with the thermometer barely cracking 50° all morning.

The first stage our squad shot started us facing both near and far targets from behind a barricade. Then we moved down range, engaging targets in the open as they appeared. Arriving at the end of the course, we found both threat and non-threat targets behind a stack of barrels. Shooting the course -0 was a nice way to start the day.

The next stage I thought offered a fun course of fire. From the start, we engaged an open target with six rounds, then turned to shoot a couple distant targets that were partially hidden behind a non-threat. Moving to the next point of cover, the course ended with a few more partial targets, with more non-threats restricting open shots.

The fun course became less so for me as I arrived at the first point of cover. As I looked around the barrel, the rising sun hit my right through the side of my glasses. I moved back a bit but the damage was done. I had a bright yellow spot burned into my vision that remained for the next 20 seconds or so. It made the sights on the gun hard to see. I did my best to get through it, but ended up hitting a non-threat and earning quite a few points down. Disappointing, but the match goes on even after a little adversity.

The stage labeled "Carnival" was probably my favorite of the match. We started the course of fire standing at a table, with a tennis ball in our strong hand. Down range were three targets, placed in different orientations, which were partially obscured by a both a non-threat and a row of bowling pins placed on barrels. Moving just slightly side-to-side allowed the shooter to get shots at the targets around the obstacles. Of course, shooting the bowling pins out of the way was an option, but that wasted both time and ammo.

After engaging that first group of targets, there were more targets to be found by moving to the left and shooting through a port, and by also moving right and shooting around the wall. The targets to the left were challenging in that a fairly heard lean was required at the fault line see the targets. The array of three targets and three non-threats on the other side offered an especially deceivingly target array. The non-threat covering the center target also extended behind the most leftward target. Taking the "open" shot to the center -0 would also lead to a shoot-through — right into the head of the non-threat. And it did catch some folks.

Next up was a straight forward "Standards" stage. Four paper targets, requiring three hits each, and four steel poppers were placed down range of a barrel barricade, half visible from each side. It was a quick shoot and resulted in my best stage finish of the match, — 6th overall and 2nd in SSP.

After the steel, the next challenge face was a course of fire combining both distance shooting and head shots. To add to the interest, this was a limited stage which meant there would be no make up shots. We began with six rounds in the gun, and engaged three distant targets partially blocked by non-threats. Then while reloading we advanced to shoot three head shot only targets from behind a barricaded of barrels. I felt really good while shooting this stage. Even my fingers were beginning to warm slightly. As I was engaging the head shots, I could see the hits on the heads. I probably got a little too confident and rushed the very last shot, pulling it off target for a miss.

The last stage our group shot was a two string course requiring both strong and weak hand shooting. Three close targets were placed to the rear of two non-threats. The first string required 5 body hits and 1 head shot on the center target, all shot weak hand only. The second string was shot strong hand only and called for 5 body and one head on each of the two outside targets. This was one of two -0 stages I shot this day.

It was a good morning of shooting, despite the cold. The one sun-blinded stage did have an adverse affect my overall finish. Despite that, I managed 16th of 52 overall, and 8th of 25 in SSP.  The match moved quickly and we finished all six stages in about 2 1/2 hours. The quick, well-run match is a welcome foil to the two hour drive each way to shoot it. The travel time is made also made more bearable by the company of friends. As is tradition, we shopped for distilled beverages after the match, and consumed a filling lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.

I think I was still feeling the chill later in the evening. A roaring fire in the back yard, watching the sunset, while enjoying with some bourbon and a couple good cigars, helped to finish the day a little warmer than it started.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Irish Pubs

We enjoyed more than a few pubs during our trip to Ireland. The beer, the whiskey, the food, the music, and the friendly people made everyone of those visits memorable. (Okay, some of those memories might be little fuzzy.

The Field in Kilkenny provided a refreshing lunch on a rainy afternoon.

The lamb stew I had went very well with a properly poured Stout.

Tynan's Bridge House Bar is reputed to be one of the oldest pubs in Kilkenny. 

Our delightful server offered us copious choices of Irish Whiskey.

The aftermath.

Early morning keg retrieval was common activity in every town.

Dingle, the only town on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry was hosting a food festival during our visit. We found seats in John Benny's Pub for a quick lunch of…

…Fish and chips. And a pint.

Murty Rabbitt's in Galway was the site of a dinner feast.

Seafood chowder and brown bread…

…and Shepherd's Pie.

…and a pint.

After dinner we headed down the street to An Púcán for music…

…and more pints and whiskey.

To be continued…

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Saturday Morning IDPA

It's been two months since I was last able to get to an IDPA match, and five weeks since I even touched the gun. Needless to say I was very much looking forward to Saturday's Cavalier IDPA match. As I made the morning drive and was enjoying the colorful fall foliage, I spied a very bright rainbow in the sky directly in front of me. I knew it was going to be a good day.

As is usual for this event, there were five fun stages of shooting fun in store. The first stage had the shooter starting facing wall with the option of going right or left to begin the course of fire. Targets were found by traversing a winding course through the array of walls.

I was the first shooter on the stage and thought I had my plan well in mind. That plan had a momentary hiccup when I remembered where I wanted to do my reload, but failed to fire the extra shot before dropping the mag. I immediately realized my mistake so picked up and reinserted the empty mag before firing the next shot, thus avoiding the penalty. I considered the recovery a win, though my "mental malfunction" earned some good natured ribbing from my squad mates. The joshing was the start of a fun morning of banter among the fun-loving squad.

Shooters started the next stage seated, with the gun and ammo all staged on a table that was by running around a corner behind the chair. After retrieving the magazines and loading the gun, one proceeded to find targets around three places of cover. It was another fun stage, despite eliciting groans of aching knees.

The next stage was quite unique and one that generated a lot of discussion and questions around the shooting requirements. Simply put, the stage brief called for two hits on each body, and one on each head, and all targets engaged in proper priority. The twist was that the "heads" were not connected to the "bodies." In fact, for some targets, the heads were not even visible from the same point as the respective bodies.

The priority of the targets very much was dependent on how the shooter moved along the firing area. Having a good stage plan, and remembering it, was critical to avoid penalties and not skipping targets. In retrospect, it was not has difficult to understand as it was unusual. The priority of targets did manage to trick a few shooters, but I dare say everyone enjoyed it.

Stage 5 had us again starting in the middle of a wall, with a choice of directions to move. There were nine targets lined up at the back of the bay. Getting to the targets meant navigating an array of walls, moving left to right and front to back, depending on the shooter's plan. There was nearly the number of options to complete the course of fire as there were shooters.

The last stage of the match included those "dreaded" steel poppers. It's interesting to me that, even though the steel target zone is larger than some paper scoring zones, steel seems to get missed more. As one shooter remarked, "The thing about steel is you know when you hit it. The other thing about steel is you know when you don't." The entire stage was shot while seated and consisted of three paper targets and three steel. The paper all requiring three hits on each. I did need one make up shot on steel but was otherwise very pleased. The stage was quick and a successful way to close out the match.

I thought this was an exceptionally enjoyable match. Matches are made even more pleasurable when the shooting comes together, and the folks you are shooting with are so much fun. I was also pleased with how I shot on this morning, especially after my hiatus. I had just four points down for the entire match to finish 6th of 36 overall, and 2nd of 19 in the SSP division.

It felt great to be back on the range, and on a morning of pleasant fall weather besides. Maybe I'll even find some time to practice before the next match.

Friday, October 25, 2019

A Fratello Sunset in Killarney

At the beginning of the month we were blessed to make our second pilgrimage to Ireland. For ten fun days we explored historic sites, ate good food, and enjoyed numerous pubs and live music. The scenery on the Emerald Isle is breathtaking. At the same time the tragic history of religious persecution, land theft, and forced starvation imposed upon the Irish people is never far from mind.

I had brought along a few cigars to hopefully smoke on the trip. Unfortunately, smoking is banned indoors in Ireland, even at the cigar shops. For a few days we enjoyed the beautiful and serene setting of the Cahernane Manor House Hotel, in Killarney. The grounds of the manor house offered a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a smoke after a long day of touring, and before an evening of music at a local pub.

This Fratello Bianco Boxer was enjoyed while I watched the sun set behind the distant mountains. 

The view was made even more interesting by the sounds and antics of an angry bull chasing the native elk out of his pasture, as well as the bleating of sheep in another pasture.

Over the coming weeks, I'll share more tales of the places and people, as well as the beer and Irish whiskey that we enjoyed during the trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tailgate Cigar and Whiskey Pairing

The weather was nearly perfect for last weekend's college football tailgate party. The partly cloudy sky allowed enough sun to come through to knock off any full morning chill. Though rain was in the forecast, the precipitation held off until after the game, except for a few last quarter sprinkles. The mid-afternoon kickoff had us starting the festivities late in the morning.

While we snacked and chatted, I lit up a Powstanie Habano Toro This cigar had been hiding in my humidor for over a year. The well-rested stick provided creamy chocolate and woody notes throughout. A touch of cedar spice lingered in the background. Powstanie is a favorite, though I typically reach for the Broadleaf wrapper versions. I think I will pickup a few more of these to stash away.

I had also brought along a bottle of Larceny Bourbon. This wheated bourbon has caramel, oak, and vanilla notes with very little spiciness. The smooth sipping whiskey was an exceptional compliment to the flavors in the cigar.

Perhaps it was the atmosphere, or just my mood at the time, but I felt this cigar and bourbon combination was one of the most enjoyable pairings I've had in a while. 

On top of the tailgate fun, we were treated to a very exciting football game. Our guys pulled out a win in what turned out to be the longest game in ACC history. It was a nail biter at times, but a great cap off to a fun day.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Guns, Beef, and Cigars: A Smoky Saturday

A few weeks ago I found myself with a rare Saturday of free time. Colleen was away for the weekend, there were no shooting matches to attend, no travel plans, and no household chores that couldn't be ignored.

After a quick cup of coffee in the morning, I headed down I-95 to the indoor range. Now that the summer weekend travel traffic is over the drive is quick, relatively speaking. I prefer to arrive right at opening time, to be finished before the range gets crowded. I spent about 45 minutes turning money into smoke and noise. I spent about half my time shooting at an IDPA target set at 12 or 15 yards, trying to get good groups of 3-4 shots as fast as I could reset the sights after each shot. I also spent some time working on accuracy with smaller targets. It was a fun and satisfying session, especially since my range time has been extremely limited the past few months.

Driving home, I realized I hadn't given the rest of the day much thought, being unaccustomed to such an empty schedule. As I contemplated the rest of the afternoon, my stomach made a suggestion to find food, and soon I was seated at a local "BBQ" restaurant. A platter of smoked brisket, smoke-flavored beans, and fried okra took care of my grumbling stomach.

After that tasty lunch, I decided to head over to the cigar lounge for a smoke and visit with the folks there. I chose an Oliva Serie V Maduro Especial in a torpedo vitola for my afternoon enjoyment.

There are notes of rich, creamy chocolate and a bit of spiciness throughout. Cedar and nutty undertones add to the flavor profile. The full bodied cigar went quite well with a vanilla latte grabbed from the nearby over-priced coffee chain. After a couple hours of pleasurable smoke and conversation, I reluctantly took my leave of the shop and headed home. Still with plenty of time left for other serendipitous activities the day would bring.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Fall Tailgating: Beer, Cigars

With the advent of fall, our weekend activities often revolve around college football. Fall also means the store shelves are filled with one of my favorite styles, the malt-rich Oktoberfest lagers. Afternoon tailgating before a game provides the opportunity to combine good beer, good food, and a good smoke.

The tailgate preparations included picking up a six pack of Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest. The brewery collaborated with Germany’s Bitburger Brewery to create the 2019 version of the seasonal release.

Though not visible through the plastic cup, the beer is an attractive copper-red color with a creamy head. A rich malt aroma greats the nose. The flavor profile has toasty malt, caramel, and a sweet breadiness. There's a mild, but pleasant bitterness in the finish, along with thick mouthfeel. Overall, a very enjoyable drink.

I opted to pair the beer with the limited release Fratello D.M.V. in the District of Columbia vitola. The medium bodied cigar features a rich leather flavor and moderate spiciness. The two hour smoke offered the chance to open another refreshing bottle of the Oktoberfest.

Sadly, our team is not having a good season, and the game following the tailgate fun was most disappointing. However, as fans, we will look forward to the next tailgate, along with more enjoyable beer and cigar pairings.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


And suddenly it's September. Sorry friends, I realized that the last Musings were posted on July 31. I'm still here, but have taken a bit of a break from the blog. Not to fear, craft beer, whiskey, and cigars are still being enjoyed, frequently. I even managed to shoot a couple of IDPA matches in August. I just happen to be enjoying living life more than writing about it, for the time being anyway.

Life changes abound. Our son has graduated from college, and is working and living on his own. Colleen and I are enjoying the chance to live a bit more "on a whim." Sometimes that means an unplanned trip. Sometimes it just means more time spent doing nothing. And not thinking about writing while I'm doing it is a refreshing break.

This isn't a "blog closed" announcement. Consider it a hiatus.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Weekend Smokes and Other Small Pleasures

After starting the weekend with the excitement of an IDPA match, it was time to slow down and relax during the evening. A couple of drinks on the deck with Colleen, along with a good cigar made a fine finish to the day. 

The Old Fashioned was made with Four Roses Small Batch bourbon and the smoke was the CAO Mx2. The Mx2 is a full-bodied smoke producing strong notes of coffee and earth with spicy and sweet notes coming through as well. The pairing made for a flavorful and refreshing repast as we enjoyed the cooling evening air.

On Sunday, after a hearty breakfast of omelets and homemade cinnamon raisin bread, we headed to a nearby Civil War battlefield for a short hike. We hit this same trail regularly, it's a pleasant shaded walk in the woods and is a nice change from our daily "exercise" walks in the neighborhood.

After freshening up it was time to head over to one of our favorite Sunday afternoon haunts, 1781 Brewing, for some good beer, music and a cigar. The afternoon performer was "Hokie Joe" who plays an entertaining mix of Blues, Rock, and Country. It was a fun mix of music that could be enjoyed while carrying on a conversation. My beer selection for this afternoon was Sea Monkey IPA. It doesn't seem to me that 1781 offers many IPA style beers, so I was looking forward to seeing what they did with this one.

The beer is easy drinking and quite flavorful. Rich, juicy citrus notes of pineapple and mango treated the nose and the palate. The finish is clean and refreshing with very little bitterness. I believe the ABV was listed around 6.5%

The chosen smoke was Fratello D.M.V. This limited production cigar was released last fall in four vitolas designated as Delaware, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland. I picked up some of each during a release party at my local cigar shop in December. The cigar seems to have sold out at most places fairly quickly. I selected a "District of Columbia" Toro for this pairing. The cigars are medium plus bodied with flavors of coffee and spice. The finish is creamy and lingers for some time. The beer and the smoke meshed quite well. I quickly needed a refill on my beer as I enjoyed the 90 minute smoke.

This would have been the last of my supply of the D.M.V. in this vitola. Fortunately, I spotted a few more recently during a trip, and bought the last of the stock at the shop. I'm looking forward to enjoying them in the future. Maybe with an IPA again.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Saturday Morning IDPA

After last weekend's match cancellation, I was looking forward to getting my "fix" this Saturday with friends at the monthly Cavalier IDPA match. While a bit warmer than the unseasonably coolness of the prior few days, Saturday morning was still quite pleasant. We finished shooting before the afternoon heat set in. The match, as usual, ran quickly and offered some interesting twists along the way. A few photos from the morning are uploaded here for those of you who wish to follow along.

The first stage was shot in two strings. The first string had us starting facing the side of the bay, and had just three paper targets requiring three hits each. The first close target require shooting from retention, one-handed with our shooting elbow held against our side. The second target required turning to the other side to engage, before returning to finish on the final target placed behind the first.

The second string consisted of three falling steal targets placed strategically behind barrels and spread across the bay. The first steel was right in front of the shooter at the start, the other two became visible by moving to each side of the bay. The first target was also visible from the same place we could see the second. Surprisingly, most shooters did not choose to shoot from just two positions, rather taking the longer route of setting up at three positions. I saw that shorter route, but I actually started wondering if I was missing some obvious reason not to do so. I did choose the shorter route and this was also my best stage of the day.

Next up was a version of a stage we shot at the Virginia State Match in June. The course was set up by one of the guys who accompanied us on that trip. Nine threat targets, and a few non-threats were placed behind walls over a spread out course of fire. The "gotcha" spot on this stage was the two very close targets on either side of the wall at the starting point. There was another target placed about 20 yards downrange, that appears first in priority, before the very close target. At the state match I saw many shooters get lured into shooting out of order. No one on our squad Saturday got caught by that. The far target is also visible to be shot at the end of the course if makeup shots are needed. I did and ended up making two my -1 make up shots for two more -1 hits. I earned some well-deserved ribbing from my squad mates for that.

The next course of fire started with just six rounds in the gun. At the start we engaged a near target with all six rounds, before reloading to finish the stage. The challenge on this was the non-threat that was behind the initial target. Shoot-throughs hits on the non-threat are penalized, so one had to be careful of the engagement angle. It was a fun quick stage though.

Stage four offered a challenge that was a bit out of the ordinary. Our gun was loaded at the start, but all of the magazines for reloading were placed in a bag. Instead of stowing the mags we had to carry the bag with us, and reload from the bag. There were barrels at each shooting position where we could place the bag if we chose. Other options were to shoot one-handed, or shoot with the weighted bag still in our hands. We also had the choice of two start positions, on opposite sides of the course. Each starting option faced an array of three targets, but each array presented a different arrangement of exposed targets, non-threats, and hard cover. The selected starting array would be shot from a close distance, while the other would be shot from a greater distance. I opted to start with the array that offered larger open target areas, but with a non-threat in the center, and shot strong-hand only. At subsequent positions I set the bag on a barrel, shot two-handed while reloading from the bag. After these initial arrays, we ran down a hallway to engage four falling steel targets from either side of a wall. Although the steel seemed to jump out of the way of my bullets, this was a fun, but challenging scenario. Old habits of reaching to the belt for reloads is hard to break. Although the course of fire was more challenging to describe than to shoot.

The final stage gave us the "opportunity" to shoot from a somewhat uncomfortable position. Starting with the loaded gun and all magazines on a table set a few feet in front of the start position. Three targets were engaged through a low, long port in the wall. Shooting the targets required leaning, crouching, or kneeling. I knew I didn't want to take a knee and try to get up quickly to finish the stage. I sort of half-kneeled, without touching the ground. It wasn't a comfortable position but it was quicker to get out up from. The stage finished with two target arrays with both an open and a head-shot target each side.

As is typical, the match ran pretty quickly. The courses of fire were challenging, fun, and presented some unique shooting tasks for our enjoyment. I felt I shot pretty well, with no procedurals, no hits on non-threats, nor any misses. It was a good feeling to shoot a clean match. I did shoot a few too many points down on a couple stages, and could shoot a little faster overall, but I was quite happy to shoot as I did. I finished 20th of 39 overall and 7th of 18 in SSP division. Not quite back where I want to be, but certainly making progress. And now to start planning for next weekend's match.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

No Shooting Today. Alternative Plans Made.

The original plans for today included shooting the monthly IDPA match at Rivanna. I haven't been able to make it to that match since last October and was really looking forward to it. However, with the thermometer predicted to peak over 100° today, the organizers cancelled the match. I was disappointed, but it was probably a wise decision.

On the other hand, it gave me a rare Saturday morning to sit in my happy place on the screen porch enjoying my coffee. I will not be deterred! Grabbing the floor fan, I decided to enjoy an, also rare, morning smoke with my coffee.

At the time,  the Dark Skies app on my phone informed me it's 92° out, and feels like 103°.  I couldn't tell though, it was still surprisingly pleasant. (Relatively speaking.) I grabbed one of the Regina Cigars I pick up this spring. Regina Cigars 'Michael' is a medium bodied, earthy smoke. It paired will with the black, dark roast coffee.

I enjoyed the extra relaxation to start the weekend. A bonus with heat wave, is that none of my neighbors were running lawn mowers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Weekend: Beer, Cigars, & Friends

While there were sadly no shooting activities on my schedule last weekend, I was thankful for some fun times with friends and family, along with good beer and good cigars.

Our monthly "men's group" meeting was on Friday. Each month we meet at a local pub or brewery for beer, banter, and other conversation. This month we opted for an outdoor gathering at 1781 Brewing Company. A bunch of of the guys took advantage of the cigar-friendly location and enjoyed fine smokes with their beer. My selection for the evening was a Camacho Imperial Stout Barrel Aged which paired quite nicely with the 1781 Brewing L'automne Imperial Red Ale.

The fun of the evening left me thinking about the possibility of organizing another gathering, with the specific intent of including cigars. A future herf group perhaps.

Later in the weekend, Colleen and I got out for our irregular Sunday afternoon "date." We too opted to head over to 1781 Brewery. The scheduled events at the brewery included live music and food served by a Jamaican-themed food truck. We arrived a little before the music started and settled at a table in the shade of trees.

Heading over to the food truck, we ordered both curried chicken and jerk chicken dishes. The meals included cooked cabbage, rice and fried plantains. The 1781 Extra Special Better (ESB) helped offset some of the heat from the jerk chicken, and offered a nice pairing

Finishing the food, it was time for a smoke. For this outing I brought along a Rocky Patel Sun Grown Maduro. This is one of my "goto" cigars, at least currently. I try to keep some of the Robusto vitola on hand, but this time enjoyed a longer smoke in Toro. Naturally, another pint was called for.

After a few hours of July afternoon heat, we called it a day. Sitting inside the cool house later that evening had me day dreaming about the next outing, and the possibilities of other craft beer and handmade cigar pairings to be enjoyed in the future. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sanner's Lake IDPA Match

My Independence Day (Weekend) celebration included shooting the monthly IDPA match at Sanner's Lake in Maryland. I'd only been to the club twice this year, once for a monthly match and once for the Maryland State IDPA match, so I was looking forward to getting back.

Saturday turned into a very hot and humid day. When I left my house early in the morning to meet my traveling companion, the temperature was already above 80° and climbing. However, this match runs quickly so the heat would be less of a factor. The match director also made concealment garments optional to help cope with the heat.

My first run started off well enough. The course of fire began with our loaded gun on a table, along with the magazines. Running to retrieve the weapon, we engaged a couple paper and two steel targets through a port. Next we found targets, and non-threats, on either side of the barrel wall. Any magazines needed for reloading were retrieved per the shooter's plan of attack.

In what was to be the theme of the day, I shot with too many points down, but still this was my best stage of the day.

Next up was a standards stage shot in two strings. Starting with 5 rounds in the gun, we shot 4 body and one head shot on a target, reloaded, and repeated on a second target. The second string required the same pattern on two different targets. I had a plan. The timer beeped. I no longer had a plan. I ended up shooting too many shots on one target, which cost me a PE and a miss.

Stage 3 was a short run with four shooting positions among the barrels. The final two targets were to be engaged from both sides of a barrel, the right side right hand only, and then with the left hand only around the left side. After the mental error of the previous stage, I made sure I had it ingrained in my head to shoot the last two targets with the proper grip. I did so, but still with too many points down.

Next up was a somewhat confusing stage with 18 targets spread in a maze-like arrangement of walls, some shot in the open, others from cover. Each target required just a single shot. Another planning failure had me running by a target without engaging, earning another penalty and miss.

Stage 5 tossed us another challenge. A symmetrical arrangement of targets was set on either side of a barrel stack. This time, the right side targets were to be shot left hand only, and the left side targets shot right hand only. My still lagging one-hand shooting skills left me too many points down, but at least no penalties!

Finally we arrived at the last stage. While I was enjoying shooting, I was tired and off my game. We were seated at a table facing two targets and a non-threat. Picking the gun up off the table, the two engaged the targets while seated. Then we dropped to kneeling on the side of the table and shot some paper and steel set at 90 degrees to the first array. Fun and fast. Maybe too fast. I managed to hit two non-threats.

As excited and well prepared as I felt going into the day, this would not be my best match. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the shooting challenges and the friendly squad of shooters. There is hardly a better way to spend a summer morning. Some days are just better than others. If it wasn't fun, even on off days, I'd stop doing it.

We were done shooting all six stages in just two hours. That left plenty of time for adult beverage shopping and a leisurely lunch on the drive back to Virginia. A shower and a drink at home afterwards cured any hurt to my pride left from the match. Now on to the next time …

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day

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

Today we celebrate our Founding Fathers' foresight and bravery in declaring independence from an oppressive government. It's a truly American holiday, made possible by a well-armed citizenry. It is a reminder to those of us who stand by those principles enumerated in 1776 that we must continue to both celebrate and defend them.

Our forefathers were explicit. We have certain rights which are granted by our Creator. Government derives power from the consent of the governed. Despite these establishing words, there are those in this country who wish to restrict, redefine, and even remove basic God-given rights from the free citizens of these United States — rights which are neither the government's to give nor to regulate. The recognition of this is what gives government legitimacy. Failure to do so forfeits the right to govern.

Despite the freedom and blessings available to all citizens, those on the left endeavor to limit free speech and gun ownership. They impose limits on the open worship of God. They so fear our founding principles that even the sight of the American flag is offensive to them. We see daily reports how these lovers of tyranny are ever more frequently turning to violence in order to destroy the nation that was founded 243 years ago. With egregious attacks and lies, all while hiding behind masks, they seek to restrict liberty and create a compliant and submissive population.

They would do well to remember history.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 1, 2019

June Shooting Recap

June saw a return to (almost) a normal shooting schedule. A couple of range trips and a couple IDPA matches made up the mix.

At the beginning of the month, there was a quick trip to the outdoor range with the compact SIG P320. Giving some discipline to my practice, I spent most of the time working on those not fun things that we often hate to practice; support and strong hand only shooting, and precision head shots at distance. I had to burn through a few mags to find the groove. In the end I was moderately pleased, but still in need of work. Interesting, I was doing better WHO than SHO.

A couple weeks later we were off to the Virginia State IDPA Match in Bristol, VA. On some stages I did extremely (and surprisingly) well. On others, the results were disappointing. A few "good guys" got in the way, and some mental errors crept in as well. (The above mentioned one-hand shooting practice was apparently not enough preparation.) I thought the stages offered a variety of challenges, without being overly complex. A common theme seemed to be luring the shooter into engaging targets out of order when shooting around a wall. There were a lot of shooters getting "the finger" for shooting out of priority.

This match is held on the side of a mountain, in quite a beautiful setting. Although there was the threat of rain for most of the day, it only rained for a few brief periods. We did get wet while waiting, but most of our shooting was done without rain. Shooting the match included a four day "adventure" with friends. Staying in a mountain cabin, we enjoyed copious beer, whiskey, and cigars during the mini-vacation.

A few days after the VA State match, I made a trip to the indoor range. I certainly have not gotten a good return on investment on my membership this year. Hopefully, that will change in the coming weeks and months. The range was empty when I first arrived. A couple other pistol shooters showed up before I finished. I left realizing just how "pleasant" the indoor range is without rifle shooters in the next lane!

For this outing a took along the Full Size SIG P320. I've only shot the gun on one other occasion this year. I also had the P365 with me, with the intent to shoot it more, but ended up not doing so. I decided I needed a little accuracy practice so I began with the color shapes target that my wife is found of utilizing. The first 150 rounds was spent shooting those aiming points at 7, then 12 yards. I was very pleased with the hits here, even working in quick 2-4 shot strings. Finally I hung an IDPA target at 15 yards and shot the last box of ammo. In a switch of my usual routine of loading up all my mags at once, I loaded only 2 mags of 10 at a time. The result of the frequent breaks to reload magazines was that my shooting stayed sharp through the entire 200 round range session. It was some of the most enjoyable time spent at the range this year, and the traffic on the Interstate, coming and going, was surprisingly light.

June was capped off with the monthly Cavalier IDPA match. Originally this event conflicted with the VA State match. However, due to a scheduling change at the club, the match was postponed a week, much to my delight. I took the SIG P320 Full Size to this match too shoot in the Stock Service Pistol division.

The morning was hot, and then it got hotter. But at least there was no rain. Five fun and quick stages offered a variety of challenges. There was lots of movement required, with little stationary shooting — just as I prefer. Thanks to skilled SOs, and an active squad helping to paste targets, we were done shooting in about three hours. I earned one PE, and tagged a non-threat, but overall was pleased with how I shot. I turned in the best performance of my limited match shooting this year, finishing 15th of 41 overall and 3rd of 16 in SSP.

Just six months after my health scare, I am extremely happy to be getting on the range with some regularity. Shooting well, and seeing friends is a great combination. Hopefully, the trend will continue, with an associated increase in accuracy and efficiency.