Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hiatus

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

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
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.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Every Day is Flag Day

Display it. Respect it.


Studies have shown that seeing the American flag improves brain function.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Patrick Henry On Liberty

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.... The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun."
-- Patrick Henry, Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

Fair enough.

The racist governor of Virginia should take note.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Now on Instagram

A few months ago, I succumbed and opened an Instagram account. My motivation for adding another social media account was to follow some cigar-related accounts. As such, most of my Instagram activity will be focused on cigars. I'll include some shooting, beer, and whiskey posts on occasion too. After all, they do go hand in hand at times.



Click the logo above to see the content. And follow if it interests you.

For those interested, I'm also active on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Never Too Hot For A Fire

Or a bourbon. Or a cigar.



After shooting the Cavalier IDPA match in the morning, followed by moving furniture around in the afternoon, I was sitting on the deck, on the verge of nodding off. We had discussed using the fire pit in the evening, but the temperature was still well above 80º and it would have been easy to forgo the fire.

But we had an old Swedish Fire log that needed to be burned before it rotted. And there was the bottle of Henry McKenna Single Barrel which had yet to be opened. This bourbon won Best in Show Whiskey at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. So we lit the log and opened the bourbon. Of course, that called for a cigar, in this case La Aroma de Cuba Mi Amor Reserva Maximo.

We just had to sit a ways back from the fire.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Weekend Cavalier IDPA

On Saturday morning over the Memorial Day weekend I headed off to the monthly Cavalier IDPA match. It had been three weeks to the day since I had last shot, or even touched the gun; not even to dry fire, or to clean it. It happens when life gets busy.

The first stage we shot, called "Cookout Prep," began by pushing a lawn mower forward, activating a swinging target behind us. After engaging the swinger, we worked our way around some walls to find more targets. I was pleased to shoot the stage just one point down, from a low shot on the swinger, but I did also earn a 3 point Procedural Error for forgetting a target at the second shooting position. Fortunately the target was visible to be shot at the last position so I didn't also get the associated misses.



"Cleaning House" was a -1 stage for me. Starting facing a wall, we turned to engage two nearby targets, one a head-only threat. After moving to engage a falling steel popper, the rest of the stage presented both open targets, and ones partially obscured by non-threats.

Next up was "Last Stand & Deliver." We stood at a table on which we had placed our gun and magazines. Targets were set in three sections of priority; two paper, three falling steel, and a single far "tuxedo" target. Our gun was downloaded to three rounds at the start, and all paper required three hits. Unfortunately I shot a little sloppy on this one, forcing extra shots on the steel, and had two misses on the last partial target.

"Roundabout" presented a meandering path through the course of fire. There were nine targets to be engaged from seven shooting positions. At six of those shooting positions we engaged a lone target, with three targets found at the last. Our path had us winding back and forth and around walls. I saw more than one shooter miss engaging a target by skipping a shooting position. I had one miss on this stage, adding to my total of 7 points down.

We ended on "Morning Commute." This two-string stage started with us seated at a table for both. For the first string we shot targets on both sides of the table, then finished with a two target array behind a non-threat. All shots were taken through a narrow, and slightly low, port through the walls. On the second string we again started out seated, but moved to find four targets to be shot from two or three points of cover, depending on shooter preference. I nipped the wall on the second string, saw the missed shot at the end, with a round left in my gun, but my mind never reacted to "Shoot it again."  I blame the heat. :-)



This was a fun match. The morning was very warm, but we finished all five stages in about 3½ hours. I had some disappointing stages, though I still enjoyed the shooting very much. The courses of fire were interesting and seeing friends is always fun. I may not be as competitive as I was in the past, but I am still having as much fun as I always have.

Memorial Day

As we begin the unofficial start of Summer, I hope everyone will take a moment to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. Celebrate the holiday as you wish, with food and drink, enjoying fun with friends and family, but do it remembering the reason behind Memorial Day. Without our fallen heroes this great country, and indeed the world, would be a much different and lesser place. We owe them, and their families, a debt that can never be repaid.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." -- John 15:13

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Eastern Divide Brewing

Activity on these Musings has been light of late, but that doesn't mean we haven't been busy around here. A lot has been going on, not the least of which was the celebration of our son's graduation from college. Over our four-day celebration, we made a visit to Eastern Divide Brewing in Blacksburg, VA.

We arrived at the brewery just before their noon opening time on a Saturday. In the next 10 or so minutes more and more cars arrived in the parking lot. The brewery has only been open a few weeks, but seemed to be attracting many visitors. The doors were opened a few minutes late and we streamed in. The visit started off with a laugh as the employee opening the doors locked himself, and us, outside. We all walked around to the side and entered through the large deck overlooking the surrounding fields and mountains.



Ten beers, two sodas, and a cold-brewed coffee were on tap. After a few minutes I settled on the  Black('sburg) Pale Lager. This is their take on a Black IPA. The beer has a roasted coffee flavor with an accent of pine and citrus hops. Quite tasty.

Other members of our group ordered Up-Nod Belgian Quad and Eastern Divide Pils. Stealing a few sips from their glasses, I found those beers to also be enjoyable.

Besides trying the beers, lunch was also on our agenda. Feast & Company is the onsite food service. We ordered a variety of meat pies, frites, and chicken wings to enjoy with our beers. While the food was tasty, getting it was somewhat of a trial. The catering service has apparently been established for a few years, but their service at the brewery is not yet settled in. A number of folks were lined up to order food by about 12:30, but no Feast & Company staff was yet taking orders. There were a large number of people working in the kitchen, however no one acknowledged the waiting patrons. I heard one person ask the bartender when the food service opened, and the reply was, "In theory, at noon." Finally about 40 minutes late, someone appeared to take orders.

When our beeper went off and we went to pick up our food, I was handed a cheese plate, even though we hadn't ordered one. I gave that back to the server who then went to find our proper orders. As we started walking away with our food, we realized we were missing an item, so we went back to the window and the server then found that item. Once back at our table, it was noticed that one of the wings orders was missing the sauce, I went back to the pickup window again to retrieve that. In the end, we enjoyed the fresh and flavorful food. Hopefully, the Feast & Company folks will get their system down soon.



With my meal, I opted for the River Valley Red Ale. This is a well-done Amber Ale with notes of caramel and nut. Another solid beer from this new brewery.

The tasting room at Eastern Divide is large and spacious. There is plenty of room between tables, so even as more visitors arrived it didn't feel crowded. In a nice touch, two self-serve cold water stations, with actual glasses, were also available. That is a very appreciated detail.

I suspect Eastern Divide will be a popular beer attraction in the New River Valley. The beers are well done and there is plenty of room, inside and out, for folks to enjoy the beers. I am confident we will return during future visits to the area.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Saturday Beer and Cigar

We headed over to 1781 Brewing on Saturday with the hope getting in a few beers, and a smoke, before the rain. We knew we had just a couple hours before the predicted weekend of precipitation began. I grabbed a "glass" of König Fruhling Doppelbock, and a Dunkelweizen for Colleen. Aware of the clouds rolling in, I lit up my RoMa Craft CroMagnon Aquitaine Blockhead LE. right away.



The Doppelbock had lightly toasted malt and caramel flavors, and well as a moderate 8.4% ABV. The Dunkelweizen was a lower 4.7% ABV and featured a bready yeast behind the malt. Both were quite enjoyable.

The RomaCraft cigar is one of my favorites. It's a full bodied cigar with earthy and espresso notes, touched with a hint of spice. While I started out enjoying it with the Dopplebock, I knew it would pair just as well with the Dunkelweizen. But, just to be sure, I grabbed a pint of that beer as well. (I was right.)

As we finished the beers and the smoke was down to the nub, the rain started falling. It was a short but pleasant afternoon break.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Another Glock?

In addition to the exciting stages in a well-run match, the Maryland State IDPA Championship features an extensive prize table. This year, fourteen guns were given away by random drawing. During that portion of the post-match awards ceremony, I was standing in the back of the crowd enjoying a cigar with some other smokers. Admittedly, I wasn't paying close attention to the names being called. With 184 registered shooters, I wasn't expecting to hear my name.

And then I did. I made my way to the front and was awarded a certificate for a free Glock pistol, courtesy of GLOCK, Inc. That makes two Glocks won by this SIG Sauer fan in less than year. 


I only recently received the Glock 19 I selected with the certificate I won at the IDPA National Championship. It's not even come out of the box yet. At least I have over a year to decide what to do with this certificate. 

Don't get me wrong. I would never complain about a free gun. However, the irony is not lost on me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

MD State IDPA Championship

Last Saturday I made the trip across the Potomac River to shoot the Maryland State IDPA Championship, held at the Sanner's Lake Sportsman's Club. This annual event was upgraded to a Tier 4 match this year, so I was hoping for an especially exciting, and challenging, match.

The match lived up to both expectations, with twelve stages offering some quite unique and interesting shooting opportunities. (Match book here.) The club makes use of electronics to control many of the movers. Rather than just simple swingers, those targets move in programed intervals. Though the entire match was a blast, there were a few stages that especially stood out to me. As I have done in all matches this year, I competed in the CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) division.

The first stage our squad shot, after the opening "warm up" stage was called "Home Defense." Beginning with targets in the open, the course of fire ended with us shooting from a prone position. The only time I am able to shoot prone is in a match. Although the requirement often elicits groans from my fellow competitors, the be truth be told, I generally welcome the opportunity. Perhaps due to that feeling, this turned out to be my highest finishing stage.



Another stage was entitled "Coming Down the Hallway." With laser activated movers, a variation of the fun course seems to pop up in the club's sanctioned matches often. Triggered by entering a hallway, an extremely fast "up and over" target appears very briefly. A swinging target further down the hallway is set in motion at the same time, and makes just four appearances before being hidden. The key to hitting the first is to start shooting as soon as you enter the hallway, not waiting to actually see the target. Then, you must get to the end of the hallway before the swinger disappears for good. I managed just one hit on each those targets, and ended up 13 points down on the stage. Despite that, this stage tied for my second best stage finish.

Probably the most talked about scenario was "Hi Jacked Again." The entire stage was shot prone, from inside the trunk of a car. We began with our gun laying next to us in the trunk, with the trunk closed and latched. Pulling a handle released the trunk lid and we then engaged the targets, which included an up and down mover activated by a hit on a steel popper. Shooting prone, over the edge of the trunk, meant some neck strain for me, but I still got a kick out of shooting this one. Interestingly, this was the stage finish that tied with the previous stage mentioned. It seems I shoot better when the scenario puts me in extra awkward positions — probably because it forces more concentration and careful aiming.



"Out for a stroll" placed us in the woods shooting targets set along a trail through the trees. Not only was it fun, but the shade of the trees was a welcome respite from the afternoon sun. The eight targets were all laid sideways as simulated wolves, so we had to keep in mind just where the -0 zone was in relation to the target.



Stage planning was an important aspect of the match. Seven of the twelve stages required downloaded guns, unloaded guns, or guns and/or ammo left on a table or in a box. Adding to that the limited 8 + 1 round count required for the CCP division, meant I did quite a few tactical reloads. One stage started all semi-auto shooters with nine rounds in the gun. That gave me a chuckle thinking about the majority of the shooters who were shooting in the typically 10 + 1 divisions.

We enjoyed a tasty lunch from Southern Bobby-Q. The lunch options included chips, green beans, corn, baked beans, pulled pork, chicken, hot dogs, and Italian sausage. One could have indulged in quite a feast, though I opted to restrain myself, somewhat.

My finish in the match wouldn't win me any awards. I was disappointed in a couple stages, but still thoroughly enjoyed myself. All things considered I was generally pleased. And that, not trophies, is the whole reason I do this.




The day was long and exhausting. It was also immensely enjoyable. Shooting started at 9:00AM and finished around 4:00PM. Shooting with many of my regular match companions made it a day of good humor and mutual support. After the match we made our customary run to the local liquor store for supplies. The drive home after the awards ceremony kicked off with a filling meal at a local Mexican restaurant. I should go without saying, I slept soundly that night.

More photos from the day are here.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Sunny Day For IDPA

The Saturday morning sky was blue and bright as I drove to the monthly IDPA match at the Cavalier Rifle and Pistol Club. A light jacket was required while we waited for shooting to begin, but the air quickly warmed, despite an intermittent strong breeze. By the end of the day I would have sunburn on the back of my neck and legs. I guess it's time to dig out the sun screen.

Stage 1 had us starting with just six rounds in the gun, and facing a row of three close targets. Each target in this stage required a minimum of three hits. After shooting the first two targets, we reloaded and engaged the third before turning to move through the rest of the course. Since I was shooting CCP, with just 8 rounds loaded I had a decision to make at that point. In order to avoid a standing reload later, I opted to shoot 4 rounds on targets three and four, to set up for reloading on the move. SSP capacity shooters had a different strategy.

The next stage had a classic "seated at a table" start, with a twist. The unload gun was placed on the table, spare mags on the belt, and the third, starting magazine was "on the shooter's body." Some folks stuffed the mag in their waistband, others in a pocket. The first three targets were engaged in the open, either seated or standing. The shooter also had the choice of which side of the table they ran to, depending on which direction they were going to shoot the stage. There was also an array of three targets, that were engaged from either end of a wall, or depending on the shooter's confidence, from just one side of the wall. There were plenty of choices on strategy here. For some, there was also the decision to do a tactical reload while moving down their chosen path.



The third stage was the "standards" stage, shot in two, three target strings. A symmetrical course of fire was set up with a pair of open, partial targets to the left and right of the starting position, and a third target pair behind wall. For the first string, the gun was held in the right hand, at a 45 degree angle. The right two targets were engaged, then we moved to shoot the third around the right side of the wall. The second string was the same, but was shot left-handed using the left side targets. I had no misses, but I definitely need more practice shooting one-handed.

Stage 4 started us with hands on a wall, then turning to engage to open targets while on the move up range towards a wall set across the bay. The first shooting position center on the wall was through a narrow opening where we saw a couple of distant targets with non-threats menacingly placed midway to the targets. The final position had us shooting a couple more targets, again with dangerously located non-threats. The middle array of targets were also open to make up shots form the last position.



Walking through the stage I kept thinking, "Those are really tight shots." Heck, even if I planned to take the makeup shots at the end, there was still a good chance of hitting a non-threat. Interestingly, as I shot the course, those narrow gaps seemed less foreboding than they did during the walk through. At the end, I shot the stage clean.

The last two stages were quick ones, set up in the same bay. Stage 5 had two very close targets separated by a non-threat, each requiring two body and one head shot. This is one of those stages that can lure you into shooting too fast. I recently experienced that on a similar stage at the Virginia Indoor Regional. At that match I ended up pulling the trigger too fast and had a -1 hit on one of the body shots. This time I kept telling myself to slow down and shoot no faster than I could see the sights. Funny thing is, when it was all said and done I found I had shot really fast, but I recall seeing the sights on every single shot. My time of 3.26 seconds, and zero points down, ended up being a fifth overall stage finish.



Stage 6 began with just a single round loaded in the gun, the gun in hand at low ready. The initial target had only the head available and required one shot. Reloading after that initial shot, the stage finished with an array of three targets set up behind wall and fronted by two non-threats. That array offered options of shooting either from the left side or right side of the wall, or using both sides, depending on the shooter's comfort level. The non-threats all but forced head shots on two of the targets, at least from my perspective, when shooting around the right end of the wall.

This was just my fourth match this year. It was though, the first one at which I've felt truly comfortable and relaxed. I managed to just squeak in to the top half overall, finishing 19th of 40 shooters. The simple highlight for me was that I had no misses and hit no non-threats for the entire match. As I continue to recover from my "event," each outing is just a bit better than the last. I am not up to my previous performance level but it was certainly a most enjoyable morning spent shooting and visiting with friends. I can't wait for the next time.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Joyful Easter

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.
-- John 20:1-9

It's Easter. This is the fulfillment of Our Lord's promise of eternal life. It is the ultimate triumph over evil. We are reminded that our daily struggles are not for nought, that our final reward is eternal. However, the evil one refuses to give up. He knows that if we give in to despair we won't experience the promise of the Resurrection. He fears that we might reject his tricks and lies. Satan hungers for us to join him in his eternal torment. With his never ceasing attacks on our faith, attacks on our freedoms, attacks on the sanctity of life, it's a battle that evil has already lost, but continues to fight.

So on this most glorious of days, we are reminded that we must continue to face oppression and persecution head on. The Prince of Darkness is hard at work in this world. His minions do his bidding willingly, if naively, deceiving with false promises, and twisting the truth until evil is mistaken for good. We are led to believe that evil doesn't exist, and that material happiness outweighs the value of human life. Government fiat replaces personal responsibility. We are tempted to live like there's no tomorrow. But today, the empty tomb reminds us otherwise. The promise of Easter gives us the strength to persevere.

Here's wishing you a blessed and joy-filled Easter. May the joy of the Resurrection remain in your life all year long.

Mass at the tomb of Jesus
The Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
Photo by Colleen, 2010

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Simple Fun at the Range

When it's a busy week at work, few things beat a trip to the range to unwind. My first attempt in the week was interrupted by, well, work. (So I settled for a relaxing cigar break on the deck.) On Thursday my purposefully cleared calendar actually stayed clear, allowing time to shoot.

Since I've been shooting the Compact P320 a lot recently, for this outing I packed both the Compact and Full Size versions of the SIG P320. I had intended to split the ammo between the two guns, but in the end I stuck with the larger gun for most of my time.



For the first 100 rounds I shot at distances from 10 to 20 yards, pushing the target back every ten shots. I then set the target closer, at 7 yards, and activated the intermitted target exposure for 3 seconds each time. From low ready, I fired 2 - 3 shots each time. Often when using the turning target I end up just getting off the shots quickly. This time I concentrated on seeing the sights settle on target — a unique concept I know.

Finally I did some shooting with the Compact P320, working out to 20 yards. After I packed up my gear and started to leave the bay, I realized I had forgotten to retrieve the target carrier which was still sitting at 20 yards. I turned around and the RO said he'd get it, but I told him "I can't see it from here, so I should check the hits." I had felt I shot well, and indeed most of the holes where in the -0 zone.

This wasn't intended as a hard core "practice" session, but simply a diversion from a busy and slightly stressful work week. And you know what? It worked.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Limbo

A 3:00 thought for Good Friday.
The ancient greyness shifted suddenly and thinned like mist upon the moors before a wind.

An old, old prophet lifted a shining face and said:

“He will be coming soon. The Son of God is dead; He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred all souls. They wondered if they dreamed

save one old man who seemed not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing, hushed them all to ask if any had a welcome song prepared.

If not, would David take the task?

And if they cared could not the three young children sing the Benedicite,

the canticle of praise they made when God kept them from perishing in the fiery blaze?

A breath of spring surprised them, stilling Moses’ words.

No one could speak, remembering the first fresh flowers, the little singing birds.

Still others thought of fields new ploughed or apple trees all blossom-boughed.

Or some, the way a dried bed fills with water laughing down green hills.

The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam on bright blue seas.

The one old man who had not stirred remembered home.

And there He was, splendid as the morning sun and fair as only God is fair.

And they, confused with joy, knelt to adore

Seeing that He wore five crimson stars He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung. None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,

A silent man alone of all that throng found tongue — not any other.

Close to His heart when the embrace was done, old Joseph said,

“How is Your Mother, How is Your Mother, Son?”
-- Sister Mary Ada

Monday, April 15, 2019

Fratello Cigars & Adroit Theory Collaboration

Fratello Cigars and Adroit Theory Brewing joined forces to release a beer specifically brewed for pairing with the Fratello Bianco cigar. The new Imperial Stout, named Terminal Decent, is the result of a collaboration between Fratello owner Omar de Frias and Adroit's Mark Osbourne. Developing Palates reports...
Mark Osbourne owner of Adroit and Omar wanted to create the perfect beer pairing with the Fratello Bianco. “Fratello Bianco is all about earthiness, cocoa, coffee notes and liquor.” said de Frias “We felt like Bianco would be fantastic for this pairing as we brewed Terminal Descent with Chocolate Malt for sweetness and Chocolate Rye for a spicy bite without the normal astringency or bitterness associated with such a deep roast.” said Osbourne.

Terminal Descent will be available at some Virginia and Maryland Total Wine stores and Adroit’s tasting room in Purcellville, VA on May 1. I look forward to trying this cigar and beer pairing — as a public service for readers of these Musings of course.

See "Beer News: Fratello Cigars And Adroit Theory Brewing Announce Terminal Descent" for more on this upcoming treat.

UPDATE: As I published this post, I saw this tweet from Adroit Theory. The beer is now available at the brewery.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mid-Week Range Trip

I've been thinking about getting to the range ever since my disappointing performance at last week's VIR match. I really wasn't happy with the number of points down, and a frustrating lack of trigger control. Competing with the compact gun exasperates any sloppiness in aiming and firing. My goal for my next range outing was to work at some longer distances which would emphasize the need for proper sight alignment and a smooth trigger press.

I had 200 rounds with me and a stack of targets. My intent was to shoot not just slow single shots, but also strings of 2, 3, or 4 shots. I warmed up with 50 rounds with the target at just 10 yards. Next I moved the target to 15 yards for another 50. The next 50 rounds at 20 yards really tested not only my shooting, but my ability to see the target. Finally, another 50 rounds back at 15 yards shot even more quickly made for a satisfying finish.

I typically start seeing more errant shots after about 150 rounds, so I had to concentrate on staying sharp as I fired the last groups, all from low ready. Needless to say I felt pretty good about the finish. The cardboard backer at the range was new when I started, and the RO commented on the decent hole I had left in the center after the 200 rounds.



I refreshed the target about every 25 rounds so I could better track the progress. I believe I counted just 7 hits outside of the -0 zone for the entire session. Now that I've got a few weeks before I shoot another IDPA match, I'm hoping for more time for continued "refreshment" after my health-induced break.

Of course, after all that fun, I had an hour's drive home. Some loud Blues coming from the car speakers eased the time spent on the highway.

Friday, April 12, 2019

VSSA Membership Promo

If you are a Virginian who enjoys shooting, hunting, or who simply cherishes your 2nd Amendment rights, now is a great time to get a membership in the Virginia Shooting Sports Association. If you join or renew VSSA for three years between April 1 - and June 30th VSAA will send you a knife with the VSSA logo engraved on the blade. A three year membership is just $60, which is a significant savings over the $25 yearly membership. And who can't always use another knife? You can read more about this promotion at the VSSA blog.



About the VSSA:
The goals of VSSA are to:

• unite shooters, hunters, sportsmen, collectors and all other law abiding firearms enthusiasts to promote the safe and responsible use of firearms

• promote the development of the shooting sports and the facilities necessary to the shooting sports; and,

• provide a united voice to all levels of government to defend the shooting sports, and firearms ownership.

Yes, I renewed my membership for three years.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

2019 Virginia Indoor Regional IDPA Match

Last weekend I met up with a couple of my regular shooting companions, and we traveled down to the Norfolk County Rifle Range in Chesapeake, VA, to shoot the Virginia Indoor Regional IDPA match. Although this would be the third year I completed in this challenging match, I think I felt extra anxious as it would be my first sanctioned match in many months. My shooting of late has been limited. This would be a change from last year's match when I spent the two months prior practicing, specifically shooting with a flashlight. Still any day at the range…

The match consists of 10 scenario stages, plus a warm up stage. The scenario stages are made up of five courses of fire, first shot in the dark and then in the light. Minor modifications are done to the stages between the dark and light runs. At this match, dark means no light, not low light. IDPA rules require that flashlights be hand held, not pistol-mounted.

All of the stages were challenging and quite a bit of fun. Some offered unique tests, in addition to the whole "in the dark" thing. The course of fire descriptions are uploaded here for reference.

"Alley Oops" started with the gun loaded with just six rounds. Spare loading devices were placed in a grocery bag, which also held a five pound bag of flour. The bag, and our flashlight (for the dark stage,) was held in the support hand. The "puzzle" was to figure how to manage the flashlight, and get the magazines out of the bag after dropping it.

At the start of the lights out run, I dropped the mag, switched the flashlight in my strong side hand and used it to retrieve and stow the magazines from the bag. Then, switching the light back to my support hand, engaged the first target with the required six rounds, and reloaded on the move to the next target shooting position. That was entirely too many moves.

In the next, lights on, run, I started by setting the bag down, rather than dropping it. That left my magazines on top of the bag of flour where I had placed them. I then engaged the initial target. After shooting the first target, I grabbed the two magazines at once, stowing just one and reloading with the other. That seemed to work a bit better, and meant less juggling of items.



The starting position for another stage pair, "Shotgun Went Boom," was holding a shotgun, shouldered and aimed at a cone down range. For the first run, the flashlight was held also in the support hand. At the beep we placed the shotgun in a barrel and moved up range to cover, from where we engaged a round steel target through the -0 zone of a standard IDPA target. Any hits outside of the steel were considered misses.

The added challenge to this stage was that hits on the steel did not make the usual "ping" sound confirming a hit. In the dark run, the smoke from my pistol all but obscured the steel. The lighted run of this stage was my best finish of the match.

"Well Guarded Hostages" was the Standards stage of the match. Five threat targets were fronted by two non-threats. The height of the targets varied, and the non-threats allowed only a few inches clear on some of the targets. The dark version required simply two body and one head on each. Things got a little more complicated when the lights came on. The two body and one head requirement was joined with, "Each threat must be engaged with 1 shot each freestyle, strong hand only, and weak hand only. Shooter may choose what order to shoot each style (free / strong / weak) but once a style is started, shooters must finish all shots of that style before switching to the next style)." There was a quite a variety of executions observed for this one.



Shooting all eleven staes took just four hours, as the match is exrtemely well-organized. On our travel home, we stopped to enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner, adding to the fun of the day.

Despite the initial nerves, once shooting started I felt surprisingly relaxed. I felt no pressure to repeat my performance from last year, and simply allowed myself to enjoy being there. Surprisingly, I shot most of the stages better in the dark than in the lighted versions. Overall, I did not shoot anywhere near as well as I hoped. That was both disappointing and frustrating. I did however, enjoy myself immensely. That's the important part. I'm looking forward to next year, and being in continued good health, AND getting in more practice prior to the match.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Saturday Beer, Food, and Smoke

After our morning shooting outing, we headed over to 1781 Brewing to enjoy the pleasant spring weather. We claimed a table out back overlooking the vineyards. It was a pleasant view even if the fields were still barren. Both Colleen and I ordered pints of the brewery's Dunkelweizen. I am a fan of this style in general, and I enjoy 1781's version when I can. The low 4.7% ABV, the nutty, slightly sweet caramel and toasted bread flavors make for an easy sipper. I suspect it will be going off the tap list in the coming weeks as they bring on the summer selections.



Full disclosure, one of the motivating factors for the visit was a posting on Facebook about the weekend's food option; The Turkish Kabob & Gyro Food Truck. After a lengthy viewing of the menu decided on the Chicken Kabob Wrap and a Chicken Gyro Sandwich. The food was served promptly and warm. There was a mix up and I ended up with a Beef Gyro instead of the chicken, but I decided to try it instead. Both the meals were quite tasty. We'd certainly check out this vendor again.

I made the decision that it was time to finally enjoy a cigar, for the first time since December. I had brought along my travel case with three options, just in case the urge came. I settled on the Tatuaje 10th Anniversary Bon Chasseur, with another serving of the Dunkelweizen. The medium bodied smoke with cocoa and coffee notes was a satisfying "first" smoke.



It was such a pleasurable afternoon that we ended up sitting for a bit longer than we had planned. The evening's musician arrived and was setting up as I finished my beer and smoke. We listened to few songs before finally deciding we couldn't sit at the picnic table bench any longer — next time I'll actually bring the folding chairs from the car!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Therapeutic Range Time

On Saturday morning, Colleen asked, "Do you want to go to the indoor range this morning?" At first I wasn't sure I felt like making the drive. However, it's been several months since we used our membership, AND I did really want to shoot. The decision was made and we embarked on the one hour drive down to the Winding Brook Range. We arrived in the midst of the Saturday morning rush so we would have had to wait for two adjoining lanes, instead we opted to share a lane.

I first brought out the SIG P365 for a little more time with it. Colleen also shot a couple magazines through the gun. She then shot her S&W Shield while I loaded my P320 magazines. As I watched her shoot I thought, she sure doesn't lose any accuracy after extended absences from shooting.

When it was my turn again, I shot about 100 rounds at 7, 10, and 12 yards, while holding a flashlight. I figured I should get just a little practice before next week's indoor match. Even though drawing from the holster is not permitted, I practiced hitting the switch and bringing the flashlight to the gun as I got it on target. I also wanted to fire multiple round strings to test my grip, since I'm limited to only two shots at the local outdoor range.



For the final 50 rounds, I progressed through 10, 12, 15, and 20 yards, shooting 10 rounds at the first three target stops, then 20 rounds at the furthest distance. Though it can be frustrating, this is one of my favorite drills to test sight alignment and trigger control. It also enforces a bit of patience on my part as I have to bring the target in every few shots to confirm my hits at 20 yards.

I realized as we drove home that this was the most relaxed I've felt shooting in some time. Lately my time has either been under match pressure or at the local "conservation organization" ranges. I've realized that I am often somewhat on edge at the local range due to past range officer behavior and the occasional presence of unsupervised, careless strangers. This trip to the range was most therapeutic and I was very thankful that my wise wife suggested it as part of my healing. Hopefully future visits will be more frequent.

We treated ourselves to a couple of fresh baked treats from a local cookie shop for the ride home. The stress free shooting, tasty cookies, and the wonderful company made for a most delightful outing.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cavalier IDPA Match

I made it to my second IDPA match of the year last weekend. I had been looking forward to shooting another match, and hopefully being less stressed than my last match outing. The morning was sunny, with just enough cool breeze to require a jacket. Really a fine day for shooting.

I'd gotten in a few visits to the range to practice the interim and felt a bit more comfortable with my return to competition. In fact as I approached the line to shoot each stage, I actually felt pretty relaxed, unlike the anxious feeling I felt during the first match after my "event."

As is usual, five fun and challenging stages awaited us. The first stage our squad shot was a "simple" stage done in two strings. Standing between stacks of barrels, we faced the right side of the stage. After shooting a target between the barrels, we made a nearly 180° turn to shoot a target behind the left barrel row. Finally a center target further down range was engaged. For the second string, we started at the same position. However, this time we ran a ways down range to find three widely spaced targets requiring three hits each. I thought this was a fortuitously good warmup stage to shake off any jitters.



Next up was a course of fire that started at an arm's length target requiring two body and one head shot. Following that we zig-zagged around the walls to near and far targets from cover. Some of the targets required hard leans around cover. Since the "walls" are open netting, on one of those positions I was actually able to stick the gun around the corner and "point shoot" the target while looking through the fence. Although not my best placing stage, I shot the stage just one point down.



The next two stages I thought truly tested our ability to adjust to a mixture of close and distant targets. On the first we started seated, before moving to engage three very close targets. Then arriving at cover we had to slow to shoot a further target with some tight non-threat cover adding to the challenge. The rest of the stage included more shooting around walls, along with a couple more non-threat targets that seemed to be taking a beating.

After that we moved to shoot an interesting set up with three pairs of targets at increasing distance, each target in a pair was placed on the opposite side of the bay. Shooting in priority meant swinging back and forth as you engaged the targets near to far. In the center of the last two targets there were four steel poppers. The paper targets started with head shots only, followed by two partials, and finally two open targets. All shooting was done from a shooting box.

I felt good going into the stage. But I missed the first shot on steel, which seemed to shake me. Each subsequent target then requiring two shots to hit. As I remarked at the time, "At least it's good reloading practice."

The final stage was opined to be the hardest, though I think it was probably the most fun. Our unloaded guns and all magazines were placed on a table, and we retrieved them and loaded the gun at the start. The targets throughout the course of fire were mixed in with numerous non-threat targets. What made the stage extra challenging for those of us shooting in lower capacity divisions, was to avoid standing reloads we had to make two reloads with retention, or tactical reloads. That, added to the need to stow the extra magazines at the start, made for a lot to think about.



I generally avoid doing a tactical reload, which requires pocketing the partial magazine rather than dropping it like an empty mag. So often I drop the mag out of habit, then lose time picking it up to avoid the penalty. I also frequently rack the slide out of habit, ejecting a possibly needed round. Since I was the last shooter on this stage, I had lots of time to get my mind set to do two error free reloads. I also got in some practice picking up two magazines at once and inserting them smoothly into my mag pouches. The preparation paid off and I shot the stage penalty free. It was good to finish with a smile.

In the end, despite feeling relatively relaxed, I still shot faster than I saw the sights much of the time. I did have zero hits non-threats and had just one miss, on a close head shot, but shot enough -1 and even -3 hits to significantly affect my score. Nonetheless, it was a welcome and fun time spent shooting. I felt healthy, energized, and happy to back on the range with friends. I am sure it will only get better as I continue on a steady recovery path. (Admittedly, I also enjoyed a much needed nap after the workout of the match.)