Thursday, December 28, 2017

Family Range Day

My Christmas "stay-cation" had been so far, pew-free. Finally, on Wednesday we took a family drive down to the Winding Brook Indoor Range in Ashland, VA. This is the same facility Colleen and I visited last February. Unfortunately just a few months after we visited, the doors were padlocked by the landlord. Recently, this newly constructed range was reopened under new management.

There was a short line and a few folks on the waiting list to shoot when we arrived. The staff at Winding Brook was working cheerfully to get shooters into adjoining lanes as requested and we were assigned to our lanes without much delay.  Rather than possibly wait longer to get three lanes, we opted to share two. 

Our lane sharing arrangement worked out well as we rotated around and shot each other's weapons at various times. We used the "colors and shapes" targets during this outing. The distinct aiming points made it easy to have multiple shooters using the same target paper without needing to change as often. Most of our shooting was at 7 yards, though I did run the target out to 10 and 15 yards for a bit.

The range officer was very friendly and left folks to shoot without intrusive oversight. We observed one lady who seemed to be shooting for the first time. He gave her a quick tutorial and stepped in the help or answer questions as needed.

I was very pleased to learn that drawing from a holster is permitted at Winding Brook. I didn't take advantage of that during this visit, but it will be worth the drive to do so in the future. There are no other ranges local to me that allow both rapid fire and holster use. I've already got some drills in mind to run next time. Rifles and shotguns are also allowed at the range. The retail area and display cases are mostly empty at this time, though Winding Brook does have targets and ammo available for sale if needed. 

The facility is clean, modern, and the staff seems focused on getting people in to shoot. We heard "Have fun." from the staff frequently. I lament the range isn't a little closer, especially with the alwats-horrible traffic on I-95. However given the ability to shoot at any safe speed, and use a holster, it will be worth making the trip on occasion, especially if it's a family affair.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Washington's Crossing of the Delaware

On this night, December 25, 1776, neither the dark of night nor a freezing river deterred General Washington and his men from taking the fight against tyranny right to the enemy.

Merry Christmas

As we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, I wish all the readers of these Musings, a most joyful and blessed Christmas season. May the blessings of God be upon you throughout the season and the whole year.

The Church at Shepherd's Field, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
--  Luke 2: 1-14
Birthplace of Jesus, Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo by Colleen, August 2010

Today is born our Savior Christ the Lord.

-- Psalm 96

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Strangeway's Debut and Steal the Glass Event

Earlier this week, Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg hosted a Strangeways Brewing "Steal the Glass" event. As reported recently, Strangeways recently entered into an agreement to begin local distribution of their beers. Tuesday's event marked the first Fredericksburg appearance of the beers outside of the brewery. Colleen and I decided to stop in and enjoy a few good beers and some tasty food.

Four Strangeways beers were being poured this evening; Überlin Berliner Weisse, Helles Frozen Over, Tirami’Zu Brew Rum Barrel Aged Porter and Home for the Holidays Spiced Cranberry Sour.

I've been enjoying some sour beer styles of late, so I chose the Home for the Holidays Spiced Cranberry Sour. The attractive red beer has a refreshing tart fruit flavor with a hint of spice. The low 4.2% ABV was welcome as I emptied my glass quite quickly.

Colleen started with Tirami’Zu Brew Barrel Aged Porter. I stole only a brief sip, not wanting to disturb my soured tastebuds, but I think I'll check that one out at the brewery soon. It was full of creamy dark chocolate aroma and flavor.

We've enjoyed several visits to the nearby Strangeways Fredericksburg location, where they keep around 40 unique beers on tap, so having just four options from which to choose made for an easier than usual decision process. For our next round, to accompany our meal, we simply ordered "the other two."

This time I sipped the Helles Frozen Lager and Colleen claimed the Überlin Berliner Weisse. The Helles had a nice crisp, grassy bitterness. A lighter bodied beer than I typically drink, it went well with my French Dip Steak and Havarti sandwich.

While we were enjoying our dinner I noticed that Capital Ale House owner Chris Holder and Neil Burton, the Strangeways Brewery owner, were also in attendance to help celebrate the new distribution status. I hadn't seen either of them for some time so took the chance say hello and enjoy a quick chat about beer in Fredericksburg.

Besides two more glasses to add to our glassware collection, we obtained a bunch of Strangeways swag as well. We enjoyed a pleasant event talking, eating, and drinking. I'm can now look forward to seeing even more Strangeways beer variety at my favorite local establishments.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Songs With Black Rifle Coffee Company

It's that joyous time of the year when we start hearing Christmas music played everywhere. When the music is being played on steel, with guns, it adds to the fun.

It looks like the folks at Black Rifle Coffee Company had a blast putting together their own renditions of Christmas favorites. They even posted the bloopers for our enjoyment.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Common Sense Affirmed in Delaware

Last week, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that a long-standing ban on guns in Delaware State Parks violated the state's constitution. A lower court had previously ruled that the much sought after nirvana of "public safety" trumped the rights of gun owners. In acknowledging the Constitutional right to bear arms, the justices noted poignantly,
But that conclusion is based on the questionable notion — unsupported by reference to any evidence – that outlawing possession of firearms in an area makes law-abiding citizens safer because criminals will, for some reason, obey the regulations.

In other words, criminals don't care about your "gun free zone," be it a school, a movie theatre, a church, or even a state park.

See also  "Why legal guns can’t be banned from state parks" and "Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club v. Small."

Monday, December 18, 2017

Sanner's Lake December IDPA Match

The monthly match at Sanner's Lake Sportsman's Club was held on a very cold Saturday morning. It was to be my last match of the season and I wasn't going to miss it. However, I was having serious doubts about my sanity as I drove to the rendezvous point to meet top with travel companion Stuart. At least it was a shared insanity and sure to be a good time.

A smaller than usual crowd of hearty souls turned out for the match, but the staff at Sanner's Lake stood up their usual high quality match. I was shooting the Compact P320 in the CCP division on this cold morning in preparation for the Chesapeake Cup in February.

The first stage we shot had us facing four paper targets and two steel poppers which were backed by non-threats. Hitting the steel targets activated four more paper targets which replaced the first four. Target shooting order was important here. My knees were knocking from the cold and I had some trouble steadying the gun over the shivering. I hit one non-threat and my shots were scattered, but it was a fun stage nonetheless. Our squad ended up breaking down this stage at the end of the match and I was tempted to ask the SO if I could shoot it again for no score.

The next stage started out with the loaded gun on a table and we began 7 or so yards back from the table. Running to the gun we stepped on a pad that activated a swinger. The swinging target and five other targets were arranged in a line with some non-threats interspersed. Again, my shots were scattered and I earned more than a few points down. But at least the sun was starting to peak out from behind the clouds.

The third stage began with two close targets engaged while backing up. Moving to the left there were two targets shot around cover. We then moved right across the stage to shoot two more targets through a port. A quick sprint to two arms length low targets over some barrels finished the stage. I felt good about my run but was still 4 points down, though it was my best stage finish at 9th overall.

Moving on to the next shooting challenge, the sun was out, and the temperature had crept above freezing. The run began with three targets engaged around cover. There was one non-threat in the array and all the targets offered head shots as the largest part of the target. Moving to the next point of cover we faced three steel poppers and a paper target. One of the poppers and the paper had non-threats placed to add to the challenge. All paper required three hits each.

The SO and I laughed when as soon as I moved to the starting position a strong breeze blew up — and just when I was getting warm. I headed to the first shooting position and promptly shot a perfectly aimed head shot right on the non-threat! Arrgh! Moving to the next position I hit the first steel when I heard "Stop!" yelled. Fortuitously, the wind had blown over the paper target; I was getting a reshoot. (Maybe God is an IDPA shooter.) Quickly grabbing fresh mags I ran the stage again, this time just 2 points down.

With two stages left to go, the sun again went behind the clouds and we returned to the shady side of the range. The snow on the berms giving visible evidence of the cold. This next stage was shot from behind both ends of a wall of barrels, with the target arrangement mirrored on either side; an open target on the outside, a falling steel plate, and a swinger that was released by hitting the steel. The four paper targets all required three hits each. The left side swinger was much faster than the one on the right. It may have been one of the fastest swinging targets I've encountered of late. After I hit the steel, and the swinging target made its first appearance, I momentarily stopped to look over the gun to see where it went! I managed 5 of the six hits required on the moving targets.

The final stage was a standards stage requiring us to shoot weak hand, strong hand and freestyle. In a twist from the usual, it was all done in one string, six shots for each of three targets. All three targets were partially obscured by non-threats. We loaded three magazines with six rounds each for the stage, and the gun was holstered and loaded. Drawing, we transferred the gun to the weak hand and fired six rounds to a 7 yard target on the left. Moving the gun to the other hand and reloading, we then shot a 10 yard target to the right. After a final reload, the 15 yard center target was engaged with six rounds freestyle. Many of my shots on the last two targets were out of the -0 zone, but avoiding the non-threat. However, despite being 14 points down, I hit no "good guys," in what I felt was satisfying finish to the match.

I was not as accurate with the compact gun as I would have liked, though I was generally pleased with my shooting. There were too many -1 hits throughout my match. I did feel that I ran the stages smoothly and according to plan. Despite some sloppy shooting I finished 17th of 41 shooters overall, and 3rd of 10 in the Compact Carry Pistol division. My take away from the match is that I need to focus on getting a slightly better sight picture before breaking the shot with the smaller weapon. (I also learned I really do not shoot well in the cold!)

As is usual for the Sanner's Lake match, all six stages were finished in under three hours. The match was a lot of fun despite the frigid temperature and provided a satisfying finish to a great season of shooting. Now it's time to look forward to next year, and of course lots of dry fire practice to prepare.

I posted a few more pictures of the stages here.

Did I mention it was cold?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

A Scottish Christmas Story

A little seasonal humor before church.
A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, (In a thik Sko-ish axcent)

"I hate to ruin your day but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough".

"Dad, what are you talking about?'" the son screams.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer", the father says. "We're sick of each other and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her".

Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone, "Like hell they're getting divorced", she  shouts, "I'll take care of this".

She calls Scotland immediately and screams at her father, "You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife.

"Done! They're coming for Christmas - and they're paying their own way." 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Range Bag Evolutions

I've been taking part in action pistol competitions for a little over seven years. In that time, the contents of my range bag have gone through many phases. My first range bag was a medium size bag from Elite Survival Systems. I found it worked well for quick trips to the indoor range. As I shot more matches, especially long USPSA events, I found I needed to carry more stuff. So I obtained a much larger range bag from Shooters Connection. And then I added a folding chair. Then a cooler for food and drink. Then a folding wagon to haul it all around.

As I shot more IDPA matches, which typically aren't as long, and require carrying less ammo, I ditched the wagon. I switched my folding chair for a folding stool. I still hauled around a lot of stuff in the large range bag. There was plenty of room for all those things I just might need. When I was going to the indoor range, I would transfer the essentials to the small bag. And then repack the large bag for a match or the outdoor range. That always held the risk of forgetting something.

My current "small" bag, and a friend's minimalist bag
Eventually I grew weary of carrying the weight of the large bag. At the start of the year I decided to dump out the contents of both bags and start over. I went through all the gear and put only the items I used regularly into the smaller bag. Of course I did add a few things I rarely or never use; plastic bags, all-in-one tool, first aid gear, including a tourniquet. (As an aside, I keep a tourniquet in my cargo pants pocket as well.)

Hauling the smaller bag around a match is much more pleasant. I see many shooters who obviously carry even less; spare bullets and not much else it seems. I've never been able to convince myself to go to that extreme. In my car there is also a box with extra gear such as lead wipes, towels, extra eye and ear protection, the folding stool, and a larger first aid kit, among other things.

Soon I found there there wasn't always enough room for food and water in the bag. So now for longer matches I also bring a small backpack. In that bag I have the food, water and any extra clothing I might need depending on the season.

I've even considered that wagon again for larger matches.

The other end of the spectrum

Friday, December 15, 2017

Déjà Vu Beer

Earlier this week I was in Washington, DC to meet with some folks from work. After the work of the day was done, I had some time to kill before we were heading out for dinner. so I stopped into the hotel bar for a beer. Sipping on a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, looked at my Untappd account to confirm I had indeed "ticked" off that ubiquitous beer. Indeed I had. In fact, I saw that in December, 2013, within just a couple days of the date, I was in that very same bar, drinking that very same beer.

Either these business meetings are too regular, or the hotel's beer menu is very static. Or both.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Range Date

My weekly range practice session was especially enjoyable this week. Colleen met me at my office and we headed over to the range together. We've not been able to have a range date for many months so I was looking forward to it.

As luck would have it, the range was a little busier than usual when we arrived, but it soon cleared out. It also seemed much more cold than usual. But, the shooting fun still happened! 

Due to range's opaque walls between shooting positions, we were shooting at the same time, rather than together. I peaked around the partition a few times for brief chats whole reloading magazines.

I spent most of my time slow shooting at 7 and 10 yards. It was one of the few range trips I've made recently when I had no specific plans in mind. It really was just about enjoying a lunch-time date with my wife. We'll have to make it a more frequent occurrence. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: The Dry Fire Primer

There is copious material available both in print and online on the subject of dry fire practice. Books by Ben Stoeger, Mike Seeklander, and Steve Anderson have long been on my reading list. A new publication, The Dry Fire Primer by Annette Evans, is the latest edition to my shooting library. The book comes at a good time for me as this is the time of year I typically step up my dry fire time.

One might wonder if there is anything left to say on the subject. However, the Dry Fire Primer takes a slightly different, but highly useful, approach to the topic. The book is not a compilation of specific drills. Instead, the author discusses in detail the reasoning and techniques behind dry fire practice. Annette Evens expands on the topics that others might only touch on in an introduction.

Available in Kindle format, the 66 page could be easily read in one sitting. Despite the brevity, the pages are filled with useful information. It's not all new or ground breaking, but it is helpful to both new and experienced shooters. Many times I found myself thinking, "Exactly!" as I read something that matched my experience. Or even, "I never thought of it that way.

A major focus is on safety. The author frequently reminds us that dry fire is silent, there should be no "bang." Throughout the book, tips are included that help emphasize that point. Consistency of technique between live and dry fire is also a well-covered point. Since there is no "bang" it's easy to get sloppy with things like grip pressure or safety. The book includes tips and reminders to avoid such issues.

Honesty in practice is another important topic throughout. Did you really beat that par time beep? Did you really have a good sight picture? Evans provides advice on overcoming those slips, and making the practice time truly beneficial.

The author is a proponent of using a shot timer in dry fire. I always use a timer for the starting beep to begin a drill. Evans' focus is on the par time to add further benefit to the practice. Besides a good measure of improvement, the pressure of beating the clock adds stress and can one help discover weaknesses in technique. To be honest, in the past I made use the par time feature of my shot timer frequently, but eventually got away from it. I will be taking Evans' advice going forward.

Besides all the useful hints and advice on how to, where to, and when to dry fire, the book is also motivational. While few would deny the benefits of regular dry fire practice, no matter how brief the sessions, it's often difficult to find the time in a busy day. The Dry Fire Primer offers the motivation to actually work it in to your regular routine. The emphasis is on quality practice, not the quantity of time spent.

The Kindle book is packed with useful tips and suggestions. It's a short read. But you'd rather be doing the practice than spending a lot of time reading about it. Right?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alewerks Hop Marrow - For Both Of Us

Long time readers of these Musings will know that Colleen and I have different tastes in our "go to" beer preferences. She will most often gravitate to the dark, roasted, and chocolate flavors. The hoppy beers feature prominently on my lists. Colleen will also enjoy the strongly hopped beer on occasion, but when we're out for a meal it's the Stout section of the menu that gets her attention.

On occasion, after stealing a sip of her order, I will switch to the same beer for my next round. But the power of suggestion rarely moves in the opposite direction. While out for dinner recently, it did just that.

It so happened that on this occasion we had both gone the Stout route. Colleen was enjoying the excellent Hardywood Gingerbread Stout while I sipped a Chili Chocolate Stout from Old Bust Head Brewing. Finishing my beer I went with Hop Marrow IPA from Alewerks Brewing.

I was quite impressed with the Hop Marrow. The aroma was very strong pine. In fact I remarked, "It smells like Christmas tree." The citrus and piney hops in the flavor were delightful. After taking the requisite shared sip, Colleen noted that while she rarely has a second beer with dinner, she just might have a Hop Marrow.

Sure enough, a second glass of Hop Marrow soon was set at her place. That's high praise for the beer indeed.

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Dry Fire Season

I suppose it's always dry fire season. I am a proponent of regular dry fire practice, I just don't do it as often as I should. In the warmer months I am able to shoot a match most weekends, and hit the range for practice weekly. Now, as I look at the calendar and I see that the match schedule is sparse for the coming months, I begin to preemtively miss the shooting.

It's this time that I find it easier to get motivated the put on the gear and go into my dry fire dojo. I actually do enjoy dry fire practice, I just don't enjoy getting ready to it. Once I start I almost always end up doing a few more reps than I had planned.

This time of year I put on a fleece jacket when I dry fire. Not because it's cold in the basement, but because I'll typically be wearing it when I compete in the coming months. An added challenge currently is the obstacle course that has developed in our basement. We've been doing some renovations and clearing of the house recently so the basement is filled with furniture, boxes of books, and other items in temporary storage. Temporarily gone is the open area I used to use. Instead, I place targets around "all that stuff" and make use of the copious cover opportunities.

It's all fun, but the range still beckons...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Shopping

This is the store I need.

If you are shopping for me, you need this store too.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Strangeways Brewing Expands Local Distribution

This is great news for craft beer fans in the area. I look forward to seeing more Strangeways Brewing beer in my fridge and in my glass.
(Fredericksburg, VA) – Virginia Eagle Distributing Company (VED) — is pleased to announce that a formal distribution agreement has been signed with Strangeways Brewing (Strangeways). The distribution area will include all markets that VED covers.

“A very important decision for a craft brewer in the state of Virginia is aligning with the right distribution partner,” says Neil Burton, Founder Strangeways Brewing. “Brown Distributing, in our home market of Richmond, has worked with us from day one and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Partnering with VED was the next logical step to our expansion plans. They simply build brands in Virginia and we want to be part of that story.”

Known for producing “Virginia Craft beer for the intrepid palate,” Strangeways has developed a cult following. Albino Monkey (a 5% ABV Belgian White) leads their flagship brands, while Woodbooger (a 6% Belgian Brown) and Überlin (a 4.75% Berliner Weisse) round out the year round choices. Their Richmond and Fredericksburg taprooms always feature 36+ unique beers and they have been recognized by RateBeer as Virginia’s Best Brewery Taproom for three straight years, listed as one of ten U.S. breweries to watch from D.C. to California by bon appétit, as well as one of the South’s Best Breweries by Southern Living.

“For about two years, VED has not opened distribution from new suppliers,” states Scott Heinz, COO of Virginia Eagle Distributing. “We (VED) simply could not find a partner that aligned with our company’s goals and vision…until now. Neil and his team at Strangeways have done a great job growing their base business in Richmond and we believe that they are ready to advance their footprint. This is the right partner for us.”

Immediate distribution areas will include Fredericksburg city, as well as Prince William, King George and Spotsylvania counties. Expansion into the Northern Virginia and Charlottesville markets will follow.

“Most successful brands have used a targeted approach to growth.” states Scott Heinz, COO of Virginia Eagle Distributing. “We (VED and Strangeways) believe that local consumers in the Fredericksburg/Northern Virginia markets are looking for a quality craft beer option. We want to satisfy those consumers before considering expanding to other markets within the state.”

About Virginia Eagle Distributing
Virginia Eagle Distributing is the largest Anheuser-Busch beverage distributor in the state. We service over four million Virginia residents, 22,000 square miles and more than 60 counties, independent cities and towns. Our estimated 7,500 on and off-premise accounts, including local grocery and convenience stores, restaurants, clubs and bars, are offered a wide selection of products consisting of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers & imports, the best in local craft beers, ciders and select non-alcoholic offerings.

VED has built a reputation of excellence through their expert team of salesman, warehouseman, drivers and a professional marketing department. Each of these invaluable employees is asked to uphold the company’s mission to be the most professional and customer focused company within our industry.

Hat tip to

Friday, December 8, 2017

Range Trip: Talon Grips First Impressions

I was reading an article recently where the author mentioned Talon Grips. It so happened that I had just shot my son's new SIG Legion with its highly textured gips, and had noted how much I liked the extreme texture. In fact, one of the things that attracted me originally to the SIG P226 E2 design, was the deeply textured grips on that model. Over the years I think the texture on that gun has lessened (or filled with skin.) My current weapons-of-choice, the P320 models have textured grips that are not quite as extreme.

I started doing more research on Talon Grips, including how they might affect my division choices in both USPSA and IDPA. I prefer to compete with stock guns, in the applicable divisions. Fortunately, the addition of the grip tape does not affect the gun's division standing. Being just .4 mm thick, the grips also do not significantly alter the grip size, nor is it a permanent alteration of the gun.

Talon Grips come in two versions, either with a rubber texture or a granulate texture. The granulated style is reminiscent of skateboard tape, or 100 grit sandpaper. The rubber version is slightly less extreme and is recommended for carry guns, as it it less likely to stick to clothing. I ended up ordering the rubber grips for two SIG P320's and the S&W Shield. 

I decided to apply the grip tape first to the Compact 320. The application process was quite simple. After cleaning the gun with the enclosed alcohol pad, I removed the backing and applied the grip tape to the gun. The Talon Grips are custom cut for each gun model, and the fit is very precise. I spent some time making adjustments until I was pleased with the result. Frankly, the fit is so close to the contour of the gun that it's easy to get obsessive with having it "just right." The installation is finished by heating the tape with a hair dryer and pushing it tight to the grip frame. I repeated the heat process multiple times, pressing and squeezing until the grip was form fit to the gun and the edges seemed well sealed.

I immediately liked the feel of the new grip in my hand, but the real test comes in shooting. I was able to take the gun to the range this week for a trial run. I spent time with slow aimed fire, and also fast strings of 2, 3, or 4 shots. Simply put, I am very pleased with the Talon Grips modification. Although the textured rubber surface does not seem overly extreme, the gun feels very stable in the hand. The texture is prominent enough that I feel it, but it doesn't grate on the skin. The extra texture and "stickiness" of the rubber is especially evident when shooting one-handed. I was able to get a firm, stable grip even when shooting support hand only.

I will probably find time this weekend to apply the grips to the other two guns. I'm especially looking forward to seeing how they benefit the smaller Shield. It's an easy bet I'll be ordering additional grips for some of the other pistols as well. 

I recall Talon Grips was a stage sponsor at the 2017 Delaware State IDPA match. Their grip material was used on the steps on a bridge prop. It was also a stage where I messed up my stage execution and earned a PE. But I won't hold that against them. 😀

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Feast of St. Nicholas

I am glad I often reread my own blog posts. I almost forget to dig out some Samichlaus for tonight! While I do that, please enjoy the post that reminded me.

Reposted from December 6, 2016.

Today, December 6 is the Feast day of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas, was a wealthy and generous man. His generosity towards others led to him being the inspiration for the tradition of Santa Claus and gift giving. He is also one of several Patron Saints of brewing. It's not entirely clear why Nicholas was chosen as a Patron Saint of brewing. Tradition states that Nicholas was having a beer at an inn where the inn keeper had murdered three boys and packed their bodies in a barrel of brine. Nicholas was offered some salted meat with his beer. Due to a local shortage of food, Nicholas became suspicious, found the bodies, and brought the boys back to life. He died on December 6, 345 A.D. or 352 A.D.

Inspired by this feast day, is Samichlaus Bier. Samichlaus is a 14% ABV doppelbock that at one time was billed as the world's strongest beer. The name means "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German dialect of Zürich. Brewed only on December 6 of each year, the beer is aged for almost a year and released in time for the following year's feast day. Samichlaus was originally brewed by Brauerei Hürlimann, and later by Feldschlösschen Brewery. It is currently produced by Schloss Eggenberg of Switzerland.

We have a tradition of opening an aged bottle of Samichlaus Bier on the evening of December 6. Tonight I'll dig through the boxes in the cellar and find something old to enjoy. Even if you can't get your hands on Samichlaus Bier, raise a pint to St. Nicholas today for his generosity and the traditions of giving he inspired.

Another tradition surrounding this Feast involves children leaving their shoes out the evening before, and St. Nicholas would fill them treats such as candies or fruits so the children know he had visited. It is from this tradition that we get the Christmas stocking.

Big kids sometimes get treats too.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Shadow Hawk Inaugural IDPA Match

Shadow Hawk Defense is a new, 150 acre range facility in Hedgesville, West Virginia. In addition to their private training ranges, they have built dedicated shooting bays for hosting competitive shooting matches. A monthly USPSA match started in September and has been well-received. On Saturday, the range hosted its first IDPA match. An unexpected opening in my schedule allowed me to participate.

As I headed out early Saturday morning for the 2 hour, 10 minute drive the dashboard thermometer read 28°. I watched it climb to 34° at one point during my travels, only to drop back to 30° when I arrived at the range. The drive was pleasant and I enjoyed watching daylight arrive in the mountains. Some of the drive was quite rural; at one point I stopped to let a group of chickens cross the road (literally.)

I opted to shoot in the Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) division at this match, using the SIG P320 Compact in an outside the waistband holster. Eight fun stages were set up in large four bays. The first four stages were adapted from stages we shot at the Potomac Grail match in October.

"Caught in the Kitchen" had us shooting from underneath a table. In October I shot the stage from a prone position, and did quite well, with just one point down. This time I opted to kneel, with a less satisfactory outcome; 10 points down and one HNT. I typically shoot well from prone, so I am not sure what compelled the change.

In "Local Gang Robbery" we started on a close target, shooting from retention. Then while retreating, engaged two head shot-only targets. The stage finished shooting from cover with 6 shots on a partially hidden target.

The stage "Girlfriend's Ex Got Coffee" had a fun start where we held a cup of "coffee" which we threw at a plastic covered target. There were two targets to be engaged while backing up to cover. At cover we dropped to a knee and reengaged the targets.

"Retreating Upward Standard" is based on a stage I remember all too well from the Potomac Grail match. Starting with the gun in the support hand we shot three t-shirt covered targets while retreating to a barricade. From that cover position three head shot only targets were engaged freestyle. A second string reversed the order of the target engagement, and started with strong hand only shots. At my previous run on the stage I forgot to shoot strong hand only, earning penalties. No such brain malfunction this time.

The stages "Moving Out of DC" and "Lawless and Kidnapped" made double use of an arrangement of walls and targets set up across the wide bay. For the former, starting with a magazine downloaded to eight rounds, we engaged two open targets on the move before hitting two more distant targets from cover. Moving down range two surprise targets were dealt with while moving to a final shooting position around a wall.

The latter stage of the pair started with the same initial four targets. We then continued across the bay to engage a steel popper from cover. The falling steel activated a drop turner that could be engaged from that same position or while advancing towards it, all before it disappeared. Arriving at cover there were two partial targets to be found. A quick run to the end revealed a final target behind a wall.

Both of these stages were a lot of fun. None of the shots were exceptionally difficult, though a few of the shots were tight or required hard leans. One had to balance speed of movement with accurate hits, and there was enough movement to make speed matter.

The final two stages also made use of a single set up, but still provided unique challenges of their own. The stage was set up across the bay and shooter had options for which direction to engage the targets. In "Truck Stop MS-13" I engaged the first three targets around left side of a wall. There were various targets, open, reduced, and head shot, to be found at three more positions moving left to right across the stage. The far right wall also hid a steel popper. After engaging the popper, a short move back to the left gave a view of the activated swinger.

The shooting scenario of this same course of fire was switched up for "Hold Onto Your Kid." The course designer was inspired by the internet video of the cop in Brazil shooting bad guys while holding his child. The "child" in this case was a large stuffed animal which was carried on our support side, forcing the entire stage to be shot strong hand only. Reloading could be done while holding the child in the support arm, moving it to the strong side, or setting on the ground. After some dry runs holding the large stuffed doll, I opted to maintain the support side hold. It was also stipulated in the stage briefing that the "child" had to be held properly, under the arms — we could not use the classic IDPA upside-down-by-the-leg child carrying hold.

The starting position for this stage was in the center of the course of fire. Since one cannot pass in front of unengaged targets, the targets on either side of the center wall were shot, before opting to move left or right. I moved to the far left and worked my to the right. As with the prior run, a final shift back left for the swinger finished the run.

I was thrilled to shoot the stage just down 2, even shooting one handed, with no make up shots. Alas, at the end of the run, the SO informed me I had swept the "baby" during my first reload. That gave me a 10 second Flagrant Penalty on top of an otherwise excellent run. Those are the breaks of the game.

Eight stages makes for a long match but it all flowed very well. We experienced no backups waiting for squads to finish. The temps eventually rose to the mid-50's, and the sun made an appearance as well, providing for a really pleasant day of shooting.

The ranges at Shadow Hawk are still under construction, but it is already an impressive facility. The pistol bays were wide with high berms. There were (I believe) five bays completed and I was told six more are planned. Each berm had benches for sitting, a large table and trash cans. Porta-johns are conveniently placed as well. It's those little details that add up to a great place to shoot. I suspect this will become a popular location for both monthly and sanctioned events.

I had a great time at the match. I felt good about shooting the compact gun, after a slightly rough start. Eight stages of shooting made the long drive, and early morning alarm setting, worthwhile. Only six shooters of 40 total were entered in the CCP division and I placed 3rd in the division. I also ran into some old friends I hadn't seen in a while, and made some new friends as well. I'm looking forward to returning for more matches in the coming months.

A few more pictures from the match are posted here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Relax

There's no better way to wind down after a long week than with a bit of smoke and noise. Especially when that's followed by good beer or two.

I'm looking forward to both this weekend.

Image via Twitter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Range Trip - Two SIGs

We've been living in construction zone for a few weeks as we undertake some renovations at home. Add to that stress from the craziness of catching up after the 4-day holiday weekend at work, and I was more than ready for some range time relaxation. My second P320 was returned from SIG last week after having the upgrade work performed, so I was most anxious to test it out.

I packed both the Full Size and Compact P320 versions for this outing, as I wanted to compare them directly. After spending time jumping back and forth between the two, it's hard to truly feel any difference between them. I did notice that I seemed to shoot the Compact model a bit more accurately then the Full Size. That's not what I would have expected, although I have been shooting the smaller gun more frequently of late. Undoubtably, there's more shooting practice that will need to be done to resolve that difference.

After shooting both guns over several trips to the range, I can say I do like the trigger enhancements performed by SIG as part of the "voluntary upgrade." While I was not worried in the least about the supposed safety issue, I am happy to have taken advantage of the offered "fix."

I shot longer and put more rounds down range than I typically do during a quick lunch outing. I'll have a bit more catching up to do at work, but it's worth it. The break was a most welcome diversion.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving Day Range Trip

In what has become an annual outing, my son and I hit the range early Thanksgiving morning. It was a beautiful sunny, 31° day as we arrived and unloaded the gear. By time we finished about 90 minutes later it had warmed by 10 degrees, but the cool temps didn't dampen the enjoyment.

We hung a couple of the "color shapes" targets and focused on slow fire from the 7 yard line. While he shot his new SIG Legion, I worked with the P320 Compact. I made a brief diversion to my P226 and also fired a few rounds with his gun.

I've found my concentration lately with practicing slow fire with patience in watching the sights during the trigger press is paying off. Working through all eight shapes on the target with 10 rounds each, all but three were in bounds. Considering the blurriness of the targets even at that distance, I'm happy.

The biggest thrill, as always, was shooting with, and advising my son. His groups were quite impressive, and his gun safety awareness is exemplary. He's had a good teacher. ;-)

Finally, looking at the amount of brass on the ground, we decided we better stop and begin the chore of picking it up. And there was also the promise of a bagels and smoked salmon breakfast waiting at home.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Remembering Blessed Miguel Pro

[Reposted from November 23, 2013.]

November 23 is the Feast Day of Blessed Miguel Pro. Born on January 13, 1891, in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium in 1925. He returned to his home country in 1926, in the midst of that country's Cristeros War. After being falsely accused of an attempted bombing, Father Pro was executed by government forces without trial

Blessed Miguel Pro's final request was to be allowed to pray to his heavenly Father.

After which he refused a blindfold and faced the firing squad bravely, proclaiming ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Father Pro's executioners initially failed at their task, and the deed was finished at point blank range.

I am saddened, but hardly surprised, at the ignorance of the American public regarding the persecution of Catholics, and of the Cristero War that took place in Mexico in 1926 through 1929. Some 250,000 people lost their lives in a persecution that was supported by the government of the United States with both funds and air support. Given the ever-growing intolerance towards Christians, especially Catholics, in the United States, we would do well to remember.

Christ the King, by the intercession of Blessed Miguel Pro, I beg you to answer my prayers. Give me the grace and the strength necessary to follow your heroic example and to live my Catholic faith in spite of all temptations and adversities. Amen.

Images from Wikipedia.

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."

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Today, like every day, I am thankful for my loving family, my faith and the freedom to practice it, for my health, for my friends, and for the abundant blessings I enjoy as an American. In these perilous times we should be especially conscious of our freedom and never forget how tenuous it really is.

The following prayer was shared by Father Kevin Cusick on his blog "A Priest Life." I found it especially poignant.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Father in Heaven, Creator of all and source of all goodness and love, please look kindly upon us and receive our heartfelt gratitude in this time of giving thanks.

Thank you for all the graces and blessings. You have bestowed upon us, spiritual and temporal: our faith and religious heritage. Our food and shelter, our health, the loves we have for one another, our family and friends.

Dear Father, in Your infinite generosity, please grant us continued graces and blessing throughout the coming year.

This we ask through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord Who Lives and reigns with You in unity of the the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Gun Owner

Our son is no stranger to firearms. He built his own AR rifle a couple years ago and he's also an experienced handgun shooter. However, he's been looking forward to actually buying his own handgun for a while. After celebrating his first legal beer in the U.S. recently, our now 21 year old son finally made that purchase he's been anticipating for a long time - a SIG Sauer P226 Legion. Detouring by the gun store on his way home for Thanksgiving break, he picked up the gun he had already paid for online. Then on Monday he met me at the office at lunchtime and we headed over to the indoor range to try it out.

After he shot the first few magazines through the gun, I asked for a chance to shoot it. I have to admit to a bit of envy of the high end SIG he opted to start out with. He's long enjoyed shooting my "basic" P226. He's been working hard and saving for some time in preparation, so I don't blame him for "going big."

I also brought along my SIG P320 Compact. I had only put 50 rounds through it since the trigger upgrade, mainly to check function. This time I shot a more organized practice session at 7 and 10 yards. I was more than happy with the groups I was getting. After 100 rounds, I checked on my son, who was doing quite well, and was very happy with his purchase. I watched him for a while longer, much to my own enjoyment. I offered him my last box of 50 rounds, on the condition he let his dad shoot one more magazine with the new gun.

As with my pleasure over his choices for good beer, I'm also glad he has good taste in firearms too.

My son told me that when he bought the gun, the person who handled the paperwork and the person who verified the purchase, both wished him a happy birthday. When the range proprietor checked his ID he too remarked "Happy Birthday." It seems I'm not the only one who enjoys it when someone makes that first purchase.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Sinkland Farms Brewery

We visited a new brewery this weekend. It's not often we check out a new place as soon as it's opened, preferring to let the kinks get worked out first. But we happened to be in the Blacksburg area for the second day open for Sinkland Farms Brewery in Christiansburg so we stopped by for drinks and food.

It was already dark as we drove down the road to the brewery, relying on the address entered in Google Maps. As it turns out, the GPS had the location a bit off and when we were informed "You have arrived" we saw nothing. Colleen noted that she saw cars in a field a short way back and we found the brewery. Unfortunately, the sign as the road was not lit and we had driven by. But, finally arriving, we were in for treat.

Passing through a large sliding door in the barn, we entered a spacious seating area, complete with several large umbrella heaters and two fire pits. Copious light strings hung from the rafters added to the festive feel. We stopped at the bar first to review the menu. After ordering a couple beers we headed outside to the food truck. The Creole That food truck was on site serving hearty cajun-style meals.

My opening beer was Sink Or Swim IPA. This "sessionable" 4.7% ABV IPA has rich citrus and fruit hops, but notably low bitterness. It made a perfect accompaniment to my Shrimp & Grits food choice. Colleen opted for the Yukon Cornelius Stout, which she enjoyed with Cajun Shrimp Mac & Cheese.

We sipped our beers while enjoying some live Blues from the Howling Mudbellies. We both remarked how the music volume was load enough to be heard, but not too loud to preclude conversation. That's a balance often lacking, and why we often avoid venues when they have live music, even if we would otherwise enjoy it.

Thoroughly enjoying the food, the music, and atmosphere, and most importantly, the beer, we opted to try out a few more of the offerings. I ordered a pint of Elvis On Velvet. This Amber Lager is described as "malt forward, barely any hops." Another well-done beer, though a little mild for my personal preferences.

We also ordered tasters of Pumpkinfest Lager and Sophisticuffs Belgian Strong. The pumpkin lager had a nice balance of sweetness and the classic "pumpkin spice." I was sorely tempted to order another, this time a full pint. Colleen drank the Belgian Strong, which I neglected to try.

John Bryce, the owner and brewmaster at Sinkland Farms Brewery brings extensive experience to the Blacksburg venture. He's served as a Manager of Brewery Operations at Starr Hill Brewery, a Production Manager and Shift Brewer at Old Dominion Brewing, and as Head Brewer at Capitol City Brewing, among other brewing experiences.

It was fortuitous timing that we were in the area for the opening weekend at Sinkland Farms Brewery. We had quite a pleasant evening enjoying a tasty dinner and several excellent beers in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. I have no doubt we'll be making return visits to the brewery during future stays in the Blacksburg area.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Now It's a Family Affair

He grew up visiting craft breweries and hearing all about good beer. This weekend our son got to do more than watch.

The beer was Right Mind Brewing Tommy Dinkus 80 Shilling Scottish Ale as we celebrated his 21st birthday with dinner and beer, for the whole family.

This dad is proud the "factory beer" stage was skipped.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Another Week Gone By

Well, shoot. (Or not.) Another week has passed in which I managed no visit to the range. After last week's meeting schedule I had even preemptively blocked off time on my calendar for this week. Alas, life intervened. I did get in a little dry fire; practicing drawing from under the heavier clothing of the season, but it's truly not enough.

This cannot stand.

I now set my sights (heh) on next week. Good health depends on it.

On the bright side, it's Friday.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Sacred Sig

I've never understood the mindset of surrender that would leave one to believe the wooden doors of a church were talismans which prevented the deranged from entering with guns, or any other weapons of mass destruction. (No pun intended.) As recent events have made abundantly clear, personal safety requires personal responsibility, no matter the location. The growing threats come in many forms.

I have mused on the topic of Catholics and guns previously. Relevant to Virginia residents, a former Attorney General also opined on the legal aspects of carrying in a church, noting that "carrying a weapon for personal protection constitutes a good and sufficient reason under the statute to carry a weapon into a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held there."

Yesterday, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf tackled questions on the propriety of being armed, for both laity and clergy, on his blog. Among the topics covered, somewhat tongue in cheek, was a suggested prayer to be used by a priest when vesting with his firearm before Holy Mass.

Domine, scutum noster et salvator, firma manus meas ad debellandas inimici insidias et digitos meos doce ad proelium contra omnes diabolicas potestates.

Translated from the latin, the prayer reads, "O Lord, the shield of our God and the Savior of the law, without prejudice to the hands, teach my hands to war, and my fingers against the wiles of the enemy, and cleared away all the diabolic powers."

That's rather a nice thought I think.

Read Fr. Z's entire post at ASK FATHER: Firearms at Mass, laity and priests.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Humor

Today's pre-church chuckle.
Sitting by the window of her convent, Sister Barbara opened a letter from home one evening. Inside the letter was a $100 bill her parents had sent. Sister Barbara smiled at the gesture.

As she read the letter by the window, she noticed a shabbily dressed stranger leaning against the lamp post below. Quickly, she wrote, “Don’t despair. – Sister Barbara,” on a piece of paper, wrapped the $100 bill in it, got the man’s attention and tossed it out the window to him.

The stranger picked it up, and with a puzzled expression and a tip of his hat, went off down the street.

The next day, Sister Barbara was told that a man was at her door, insisting on seeing her. She went down, and found the stranger waiting. Without a word, he handed her a huge wad of $100 bills. “What’s this?” she asked.

“That’s the $8,000 you have coming Sister,” he replied. “Don’t Despair paid 80-to-1.”

Happy Sunday.

H/T to Old NFO.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thank You Veterans

To all the men and women who have given so much to make this country great and who have fought to maintain the freedoms we cherish, today we pause to say "thank you." Your service is not forgotten.

Thank a vet today. Better yet, thank a vet every day.
"Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have." -- Ronald Reagan

Friday, November 10, 2017

VCDL: Legal Protection Plan Comparison

The Virginia Citizens Defense League has put together a comprehensive comparison of legal protection plans available to civilians in the event they are involved in a self defense shooting. One can face daunting expenses and legal obstacles as the result of a self defense shooting, even when it's justified. As such, these plans are recommended by many experts in the field. There are many types of protection plans available, covering different situations and levels of service. Choosing the one that's right for you can be a difficult process.

The VCDL document currently compares seven different offerings. The online resource will be updated as plans change and new products or service providers become available.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chainsaw Bayonet?

Yep, they really are that clueless.

I have little doubt that there's a democrat Congressman clucking his tongue and planning legislation to ban such an abomination.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Need. Range. Time.

I've mentioned my post-match desire for range time previously. This week instead of wanting to hit the range to fix some errors made when shooting a match, I feel a need to hit the range to spend time emphasizing the things I did right. I felt I shot pretty well last weekend, and that makes the urge for range time even more intense.

Alas, my work schedule is full of meetings and out of town visitors this week, which leaves little opportunity for a lunch break away from the computer. Unfortunately, now that the clocks have been set back, the outdoor range closes at 4:00PM. As a result, after work shooting is not an option until the return of Daylight Saving Time next spring.

The gun that I enjoy shooting the most, the full size SIG P320 has been shipped off to the manufacturer for the trigger enhancements. If I do squeeze in a range trip, I'll select an alternative weapon or two to shoot. Now is not the time to slack off on the practice level. With the continuing leftward political shift in Virginia, I expect the violence and oppression of personal rights that accompanies leftist politics to grow in fervor. Keeping up the skill level is important.

See you at the range!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Things Atheists Say

Recently I saw an online comment that made me scratch my head. The poster was stating his wishes for a departed friend. He said something along the lines, "I don't believe in God, but just in case there is a heaven, I hope ...." He then went on to state how is friend might find joy in heaven.

If you don't believe in God, I would presume you don't believe in Heaven. But if you allow that Heaven might be a reality, by extension you allow that God might also be a reality. If wish for a friend to find a joyful Heaven, you must actually believe in God, despite your claims to the contrary.

Years ago I had a similar exchange with a coworker, also an atheist, who had a friend going through serious health issues. She called me one day and asked, "I know you are a faithful person, so would you please pray for my friend?"

I thought, if you don't believe that God exists, why would you think that my prayers to Him would help your friend?

I offered those prayers nonetheless.