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.)

Friday, March 22, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Relax

And suddenly it was Friday. It's been a busy week. I squeezed in a trip to the range. We attended an amazing Joe Bonamassa concert. I had a checkup with my cardiologist, with all good news. I celebrated my birthday with a few good friends. With the doctor's blessing, I resumed the cardiac rehab sessions. In between it all, I've essentially returned to work full time.

Sitting here Friday afternoon and I realized, I am tired. But, the weekend is coming. I am planning to shoot an IDPA match on Saturday. The weather looks like it will be suitable for spending time outside at a local brewery on Sunday. I think a preparatory nap is in order this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Time At The Range

When I walked by the hall thermostat on Monday morning my hopes of hitting the range that day seemed suddenly at risk. But as the morning progressed, I realized I would not be deterred by the blundering prognosticators. Though cool outside, the skies were blue all afternoon.

They're just making stuff up

Taking an afternoon break from my work, I grabbed the range gear and made a dash for the range. I started out with the SIG P320 Compact, shooting with slow triggers pulls from 10 yards. Satisfied with that refresher, I moved to 15 yards and switched to shooting from concealment. Two shots, at one target, with no movement, was as close to a match scenario as I could get. Nonetheless, I felt like I was finally getting back into the swing of things after my extended time off.

Next I switched to the new P365 and put another 50 rounds through it, shooting from 10 yards. This outing I shot it better than the first time, but the tiny sights will take some getting used to.

Since I was using the paper practice targets, I refreshed them frequently. Even if the holes are mostly -0, I like to see where in the circle they hit. Especially as I shoot faster I can gauge, and correct, the inevitable leftward drift.

To my shame, I noticed in my shooting log that I had not practiced any SHO or WHO shooting since last fall. (Granted I haven't practiced much of anything of late.) The practice time finished with some one handed shooting with the last few magazines in the P320. More practice is definitely to come on that skill.

Despite the early morning doubts, it was a welcome break to pull the trigger a few more times. Hopefully I'll be seeing a gradual uptick in my range time in the coming weeks.

Evidence of a satisfying outing

Monday, March 18, 2019

Shooting With My Son and a New Gun

Our son was home last week for his Spring Break. His extended visits home are always fun, especially since we usually hit the range together a time or two. This visit was made more exciting since only a few hours before he arrived I had finally picked up that SIG P365 I've been eyeing. And, now that the DST time switch has occurred, the range is actually open late afternoon and early evening, allowing more time to shoot.

I brought along my SIG P320 Compact, the new P365, and he had his P226. Copious amounts of ammo and targets completed were brought along. Upon arriving we noticed the bay had a new layer of gravel. We've endured a few years of bare dirt (mud) so that was a nice surprise.

I started out shooting a couple of mags through the P365 from 7 yards. After that we did all our shooting from the 10 yard line. I was generally pleased with how I shot the little gun. It's pretty easy to control, despite the small size and a bit of kick. The aggressive stippling on the grip helps, but also leads to sore hands after a while. I used both 115 and 124 grain ball ammo, as well as some Speer Gold Dot Self Defense rounds. There were no issues with any of it. I'll try to get several hundred more rounds through the gun before t-shirt season when it will be added to my carry rotation.

We alternated between all three guns. I soon realized that I should bring out the SA/DA gun a little more often. 

Due to range restrictions, we did spend more time standing idle than actually shooting. The latest rules at the club forbid more than one person firing at a time, even though everyone stands on the same line. If you find yourself pulling the trigger at the same time as another person, all shooters must sort out a plan to avoid that offense. More than one person shooting is seemingly too difficult for the range officers to distinguish from a single shooter doing "rapid fire." Strings of fire are limited to two trigger pulls. This leads to a lot of "You shoot two rounds, then I'll shoot two, then you..." Shooters are also forbidden from even loading up magazines when another is shooting, using up even more precious time. On the bright side it allowed more conversation during the breaks together to load magazines.

Despite the restrictive rules, the outing was a lot of fun, and provided enjoyable father-son time. It was good to continue working out the "bugs" from my down time. Given his busy work load in school, my son had not been shooting in several months and appreciated the tune up time as well.

It's good to have a target repair minion.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy St. Patrick's Day


It's that time of the year when a Saint revered by many, especially in the Irish-Catholic community, has his good name and works twisted into an excuse to drink to excess and abuse the color green. As a Catholic of Irish decent, and a lover of naturally-colored beer, it pains me to see what this day has become.

It strikes me as odd that this day, meant to honor a great man and Saint, has evolved the way it has. Whether you accept the traditions associated with his life or not, there can be no denying the good he did. (As much as some of these stories cannot be proven, they cannot be disproven either.) Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery in Ireland, he grew to love the Irish people. Late in his life, he was around 60 at the time, Saint Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle to teach and convert the people he had grown to love so much. Certainly that is worthy of our respect.

Odd is it may seem, we actually have to remind people, and pubs, that St. Patrick was a man, not a woman. His name is Patrick, which comes from the Irish, Pádraig. Shorten his name to Paddy if you must. However, we do not celebrate "St. Patty's Day." Patty is a shortened version of Patricia, a girl's name. Feast-related debauchery is one thing, but transgendering our Saint is unacceptable.
So, celebrate the memory of St. Patrick. Enjoy a drink or two and some good food. There's nothing wrong with bringing a little revelry into the world, we certainly need it. I like a good party as much as the next guy. (And I certainly appreciate a good Irish drinking joke.) Drink your green beer if you must. Dress up in silly clothes. Dye your water fountain green. But please, remember the reason for this feast. Take a moment to honor the man and all the good he did. In our house we'll raise a toast, and a prayer, to St. Patrick in honor of his deeds and his country.

All the children of Ireland cry out to thee:
Come, O Holy Patrick, and save us!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Lesson

No matter how you celebrate tomorrow, please remember. . .

Note to marketing folks, St. Patrick was a man, not a leprechaun.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Regina Cigars - Supporting Good Works

Just because I'm on a short break from cigars, doesn't mean I can't make preparations for my future enjoyment. Recently, Colleen told me about a company called Regina Cigars that she had come across online. Run by faithful Christians, the company is using the sales of its cigars to support good works. From their website...
Our goal is to bring you finely crafted cigars that are lovingly hand rolled using exquisite blends from around the world. Part of our mission is also to help raise awareness and financial support for persecuted & displaced Christians, particularly those suffering hardship as a result of the recent conflicts in the Middle East. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Regina Cigars will go to "Aid to the Church in Need" which seeks to supply emotional, material & spiritual support to hurting Christians around the world.

Obviously, I was intrigued. And when your wife suggests you buy cigars, it's best to jump right on it. The company lists about 20 different cigars of Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Dominican origins. All of the cigars feature exquisite religious artwork on the bands. I made a trial purchase of a sampler consisting of five Honduran blends. These particular cigars were blended by Christian Eiroa, founder of CLE Cigars and former owner of the Camacho Cigars company.

The cigars are resting in my humidor now. I am looking forward to lighting them up soon. Already though, I'm tempted to acquire the rest of the line to support the charitable works, and to collect the bands!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Five O'Clock Friday: DST

Daylight Savings Time starts on Sunday. I look forward to enjoying the added time in the evenings.

Mornings are long enough. Why don't we just agree to keep the clock set on DST next fall?

Have a great, even if shortened, weekend.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Returning to Normalcy: IDPA Match

My long-awaited return to shooting an IDPA match arrived last weekend when I was able to shoot the monthly match at Sanner's Lake. I had been almost two months since my heart attack and I was nervously awaiting the event. I was worried I'd be delayed even longer when I went back in the hospital last weekend to have another stent put in. But upon my discharge the cardiologist stated, "Do your normal activities as much as you can." Okay. Game on!

I have been walking regularly, but I was still under restrictions on lifting. I was confident from a health perspective, but was still feeling some angst and nervousness. It was a cold Saturday morning when I met my two travel companions and we headed to the range in Maryland. I wasn't sure if I was shaking more from the cold or from the nerves

This month, the organizers did something a little different. Instead of the typical 6 stages in 6 bays, the match consisted of 12 short stages requiring 5-12 rounds each, and shot at distances of 3-10 yards. Two stages were set in each bay. At least I wouldn't have to worry about a lot of running.

As I approached my first stage, my heart was racing and I was feeling atypically tense. The stage was simple; gun and reloads on the table, all loaded with 6 rounds. The requirement was two shots on each of three targets, reload, then two shots on each of the targets support hand only. I was reminded of my early days of shooting — flinging bullets downrange with abandon. Sights? What sights? I actually did better with my support hand as I was forced to slow down a bit.

That first stage over, I went back to my chair to think happy thoughts and force myself to relax. The rest of the match went better, though my two month break certainly showed both in shooting and stamina.

The stage with the most movement had us running downrange to engage targets as they appeared behind barrels, finishing with three low targets behind a wall of barrels. This was the fourth stage we shot and I was at last feeling a bit more relaxed.

Another stage required three hits on a close target before moving along a wall to shoot a steel popper and a target that intermittently appeared from behind a non-threat. Instead of the the falling steel activating the mover, shooter stepped on a pad, either on the way to the popper or by taking a step back to activate. Most folks opted to shoot the popper first, then reach back with a leg to activate the quickly appearing and disappearing target. I enjoyed the stage quite a bit despite putting a very nice 2-shot group on the non-threat in my rush to hit the disappearing target. That 10 second penalty did me no favors in the standings.

We started another fun stage by holding down a swinging non-threat that would move in front of three targets placed at increasing distances down range. Releasing the fast moving swinger, you stepped back and put four shots on each target. This turned out to be my best stage of the match.

Four of the stages in the match were set up as the four strings of the IDPA 5x5 Classifier. I was happy to see that included as I can check the box on having current classifications in all the divisions I might shoot in the next year.

I generally prefer longer stages with more movement, to the shorter, standards types stages. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the match very much. The format worked for this point in my return to normalcy. My friends were most generous in pulling the gear wagon and filling in for my pasting duties. I was able to sit when not shooting. They also offered support in a way only good friends can; including remarks about toe tags and splitting up my gear in the event of an incident. And really, I wouldn't want it any other way.  :-)

It was a small step, but one in the right direction. After a heart attack and two hospital stays, and only one limited range trip this year, I really can't complain. There's still some healing and recovery on the road ahead but I'm very excited to be on the way back to the usual fun activities. It's a few weeks until the next match, so I have time to brush up with dry fire and maybe even a range trip or two.