Friday, December 16, 2011

Who's an idiot? This guy!

Don't know what exactly I did, but I seem to have misaligned something in my shoulder and it's not working itself out as quickly as I would like. But, since I'll be out of town for Christmas and New Year's and then SHOT in the middle of January, I probably won't have a lot of opportunity to shoot. At least not weekly like I typically do.

So instead of doing what I should, treating the injury and resting it (and pondering going to a chiropractor), my stupid ass is gonna shoot a match tomorrow. There are better shooters than me there, so it's unlikely that I'd win anyway. How much damage could I possibly do? Guess we'll find out! If I cripple myself, I guess I won't be shooting for a few days.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Missapplication of Principles: Motor Skills and Hick's Law

Some things refuse to go away. The items in the title being used incorrectly to illustrate a point are the ones that are my biggest of pet peeves. It's not that they don't exist or aren't factors, it's that they are misapplied as descriptors and misunderstood. And much of the time, they are used as a basis for advocating one technique over another, giving a false picture.

Most often, the gross vs. fine motor skill argument is used to advocate slide grabbing a pistol rather than using the slide stop. Now, to be clear, I use, and as far back as I can remember, have always used, the slide stop to run the slide. However, I don't care what technique is used as long as one isn't getting chosen over the other on bad information. If you're gonna be a slide grabber, go ahead and be a slide grabber. Just don't tell me it's a "gross motor skill, which you'll revert to under pressure." That simple can't be true.

OK, so what's a gross motor skill? By definition, a gross motor skill is a movement that uses large muscle groups. In terms of using a gun, the easy definition to understand is that gross motor skills are everything that happens above the wrist. A fine motor skill, by contrast, is anything that happens below the wrist. The argument is that the ability to do fine motor skills deteriorates under pressure, and that is, of course, true. But examine that a little more closely, and you'll find that it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Consider this: if you can't use your thumb to release the slide via the slide stop and must grab the slide over the top to do that job, how can you possibly use that same thumb to release an empty or faulty magazine, or control the trigger with the index finger from that same hand? I'm not saying that slide grabbing is wrong; it's a valid technique and it works. Just don't tell me the reason to choose it over running the slide stop is that I can't use that thumb and index finger. If that were true, nobody would ever be purposefully shot because the hands wouldn't work at all.

Incidentally, the reason I chose to run the slide stop is because I put both techniques on the timer, and running the slide stop is considerably faster. The timer is the way I've proven, or had proven, different ways of doing things with a gun. Except in terms of it's use by politicians, time doesn't lie.

Which leads us to Hick's Law. I won't bother going into the history of it, because the Internet doesn't care about that when they're misusing it anyway. In short form, Hick's Law says that it takes your mind too long to choose between two tactics. Worse with three! Therefore, I will show you one response." In terms of raw choices, that's true. If you give an untrained person choices, they'll struggle and make errors in attempting to complete the task as they try to pick a way to do it. No argument there, but this post is about arguments, so what's my beef with it? That beef is, once again, the Law being misapplied. 

Anyone who's been around shooting and training for any period of time has no doubt heard the phrase "another tool for the toolbox". But, just as it is with a mechanic, just having the tool doesn't mean much. In the hands of the professional mechanic, the right tool is the fast way to get a job done, and done correctly. It's really no different at the core of fighting with weapons. The tool doesn't really become a tool until close attention here, here's the difference maker...until you MASTER it. Obviously having a choice and not knowing exactly how to use it in a pressure situation won't help much. But master that skill, and combine it with other mastered skills, and you have the gunfighter that nobody wants to go against. One last example: consider Anderson Silva, UFC Middleweight Champion for quite some time now. He's got kicking skills from muay Thai and karate, a black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu for ground fighting, and has knocked out just about everybody he's faced with precision striking skills. Watch him fight, and you'll see a fighter who mixes techniques as he sees fit, and there's no lag time between them. Why is that? The skills have been MASTERED. 

For the Love of Pete, if you're going to make an argument for or against a particular technique, make sure the reasons you use are valid. I'd rather hear somebody say "I prefer to do it that way, I'm more confident and comfortable with it" than to misapply physiological or psychological principles in the process. That crap won't go away once it gets out there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Musically unusual

In what seems like a different lifetime, I was a bass player. I did that for about 12 years until I came to a couple of conclusions: first, I wasn't creative or talented enough at it to get anywhere with it, and second, other musicians, especially guitar players, are typically a PITA to work with.Being in bands just got old, although I loved playing live. I got to play in a house band for a little while that played Sunday nights at the church in an attempt to try a different format. That was back in the '90's, but I still remember it fondly because my brother was the drummer at the time. He's a bass player now. It was a big church, and the attendance was pretty good. There were probably in the neighborhood of 700 people there that night. Good times.

Another conclusion I reached was that I would never be as good as either of these guys. Two of my favorite bassists are Victor Wooten with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and Otiel Burbridge with Aquarium Rescue Unit. Besides that these guys create these huge grooves, they're capable of doing anything, so there's improv in there within driving the song. It's an amazing talent that very few have.

Victor is probably the best overall bassist in the world, in my book. I love that he's so dynamic and forceful within the very unusual framework of The Flecktones, and he can do all that with only four strings. Take a listen to this:

Otiel Burbridge is...I dunno how to describe him except a groove machine. When I first heard these guys, I knew the bassist was black, but I was pretty sure the rest of 'em were, too. Surprise! Otiel plays a six string, but he uses all of it, and what he plays with all those strings drives the song...and he can sing his solos, too. ARU might just suck without him.

Bass players make everything better...just as much as guitarists make everything difficult. LOL!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Love/Hate of the seasons

Ugh. I tell ya what, I love the changing of the seasons and how landscapes totally change. I see that and I'm sure the Big Bang is total hooey. But where the hate part comes in is with these wild fluctuations in the weather, specifically humidity levels or temperature. When the weather changes, it's awful hard on the old man.

I'm feeling like crap this morning because my sinuses are a mess, and that's because overnights have been cold and dry. The high today should be around 85. It's been really dry (relatively) in the south lately, so the humidity is going shoot back up, and I'll be able to feel that in my knees. It ain't all that fun.

It's one of those situations that just is, I guess. There's only two seasons in California: warm and beautiful and the few days of rain and jacket weather. Here in KY we have a hot, humid summer followed by a short fall and a humid, cold winter with ice and snow. Spring is my favorite time, but it's short, too. The season changes tend to be abrupt, and it just beats me up.

I'll put up with it because I'm not giving up my guns.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I don't wanna do that, it's hard.

Another revelation: I don't practice what's hard often enough. Over the past several weeks, I've devoted range time to doing those things that I'm not good at, don't practice that much, and frankly don't use often but still have a need to know.

As I've mentioned before, my ammo budget is about a hundred rounds a week. With that small number of rounds, what I do with them becomes much more important. I end up asking myself where the best value is, whether that's in working on improving what I'll probably need all the time, or some things I may need in a limited number of circumstances. The bottom line is, ya never know. I try to consider that I may end up in a fight that's outside the statistics. With my luck, it seems like that'd be a virtual certainty, but there's no way to determine that. To that end, I've decided it's worth some practice time to try to improve those areas.

Those areas are longer range pistol shooting (25 yards) and one handed shooting, both with strong and weak hand. One handing I'm passable with, by that I mean if I only had one hand, I can lay on some accurate fire. With so little ammo available, there's no way I'm ever going to get really good at it, but at least I don't start over from square one every time. I'm left eye dominant, which makes shooting lefty a little easier...but probably not enough to notice. Perhaps the only real advantage I have is that I can be at the range as long as it takes and I don't have to worry about anybody but me. The flip side of that is that I'm the only one of the guys I shoot with that isn't married. I think I'm also getting decent at making myself practice under all kinds of conditions. What else am I gonna do? All my home boys have wives. LOL!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trying to get organized with practice

My ammo budget is rather limited these days. What am I's always been limited. I love what I do, but I'm not getting rich doing it. I'll take donations, in case either of my readers were wondering.

Once again, I digress! The point is that with a limited budget, maximizing the value of each round becomes critical to being able to improve. To that end, I've attempted to get more organized with what I'm practicing. This came about because there will hopefully be a Classifier shot at our club again soon, so a couple weeks ago I decided to bring the Classifier COF out to the range to reference and to work on what I didn't do very well on. There are parts of that test that I don't work on much, such as one handed and weak hand shooting. Other parts, like shooting and moving, come easy to me, thanks to about ten years in marching bands. Having that course of fire to base practice on was very useful. The actual Classifier is a 90 round exercise, so it works pretty good as a practice test.

If you've been reading here for a while, you may have noticed that I really like shooting with Matt E. It used to be Matt and Paul J, but Paul punked out and decided to move home, get married to a wonderful lady and go to college instead of staying here and shooting with me and Matt. He may have made the right choice, but the jury is deliberating. ;)

Anyway, Matt and I have, in the recent past, shot some interesting Standards, including the 10-8, Hackathorn, and the Operator Standards. There are others, including Kyle Defoor's, the FBI's, and more. The nice thing about these is that they're not incredible wazoo difficult tests, but in the aggregate, your score will suffer if you have a weakness in any of the tested areas.

Now, hopefully in the near future Chris W and Bo R. will be added to the clan, once they get memberships to the range. Both of these dudes are excellent shooters, and good guys to train with. Along with Casey B, that'll make five of us that shoot together, and points out the need to get organized. What I hope to do at some point is to put together a calendar and have everybody have a particular day to bring whatever COF they want to use, whether it's downloaded from somewhere or made up before hand. So, I've begun the collecting of COF's and compiling them in a binder and separating them by type of firearm (handgun, carbine, or both). I'm hoping this will be an easy resource to maximize limited ammunition.

I'm also pondering getting shirts made and having an informal "team" for the monthly matches. The name's picked out, but I have to check with a buddy of mine that does small run custom printed t-shirts. That part could be fun, and has the potential to get big. Have to see where that goes somewhere down the line.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My job doesn't suck: flash suppressors and cans in the dark

My bro Matt and I spent last night on the range, doing some night shooting, and testing flash suppressors and several of Surefire's cans. The only downside to last night's festivities was that there was no photos or video.

We found out several things: fiber optic sights are as useless at night as white dot or black sights are for being seen by old eyes. My MnP and G17, which were the guns I grabbed holsters for (Safariland ALS with X300's using the MLS system), both lack night sights, but I have lights on both, which makes night sights somewhat less important. The steel plate bay we were shooting in was slightly back-lit by a security light up on the ridge (the range is in a former quarry) and my FO front sight just became a black front sight on a black target at night. I couldn't see it at all. With the light on, the front sight profile stands out, but that leads to the next issue.

There's a bit of a recurring theme with ammunition: smokeless powder isn't really smokeless; it just smokes less than black powder does. I was using some PMC Bronze 115 gr. FMJ 9mm, which is decent ammo in terms of consistency and least in terms of bulk ammo. It's also really smoky. That doesn't matter much during the day, but at night, with sights that aren't particularly visible and a bright light on the gun, the smoke obscures everything. The wind was non-existent for most of the night, so smoke stayed where it was. Waiting for it to clear was an eye opener.

We tested the Surefire 212A on a few different guns: Colt and BCM lowers with Mk 18 and 416 10" uppers, and my 16" carbine. To compare against, we used Matt's BCM 14.5" M4 style upper with a KAC QD flash hider. We shot some 55 gr. Winchester, 68 gr. M855 and 77 gr. ball similar to Mk 262. The difference in flash was dramatic, even though I expected that with the 212A being a longer unit. Even so, I was very impressed with the flash reduction. So far, just about the best I've seen, rivaled by the Smith Vortex. The big difference to me is that I can run a Surefire suppressor on it and it doesn't ring after every shot.

Next we did a little test of the M300 vs. the M600, and how far they reach. Again, the air was still, and smoke made a big impact, even with Matt running the 212 on is 416 and me running the Mini on Schwaggie. Out to about 35 or 40 yards, there's not too much practical difference, but as the distance increases, the M300 doesn't have the reach. Where that really matters is in being able to see the edges of the target. Seeing the edges makes centering the target much easier. We were shooting a steel plate about the size of a B27 silhouette. Past 50 and out to 75, I shot the plate while Matt lit it up with the M600, and we moved all the way back to 100, but with the M300 getting hits were more a matter of guesstimating and basically remembering where the target was. Under the weather conditions we had-hot, humid and dead still at 10 o'clock at night-it got tough to really define the target with the M300.

We also found that at about 25 yards, hammering a steel target with a rifle and a tac light at night at high speed is a heck of a lot of fun. Just wish I had gotten some pics.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The wait is over: The OBR has landed

In my previous cryptic post, I mentioned something was supposed to arrive and something was gonna happen with something. Or something. It has, in fact, happened: on Friday afternoon, my Larue Tactical OBR was delivered. It was a happy, happy day.

There's a little more to the story, though. Here's the back story.

I got the notification that my rifle was shipping and was to arrive on Wednesday, the 20th. It only takes a couple days to go from LRT to ATS, so I was expecting to have it Wednesday afternoon. While watching the tracking info, I was dismayed to see that the package had an intercept and return request on it. I knew that could be done, but I'd never seen it before. After running though a number of scenarios that didn't make a lot of sense, I called Larue and asked them. By this time, it's fairly late in the day, and everyone in the shipping department had left for the day. The sales guy who took my call, though, promised to research it first thing in the morning and call me back.

Oh, look! Sub-back story! It's like Dennis Miller is writing this article. I'm the admin of the Lightfighter forum, which is most definitely a pro-LRT place, and has been for a very long time. Because of that history, Mark Larue offered a special rifle to the moderators of said forum. My rifle originally came with UDE furniture, but my buddy Joe wanted that color furniture for a project, so he swapped me black for UDE. Somewhere in this post I've got a photo or photos of the logo that LRT applied for these guns.

LRT did, in fact, get right back to me. Turns out that after my rifle had shipped, mark saw the logo on another receiver and wasn't happy with it. He had it recalled and fixed. Mark's known to be a perfectionist; it showed in this case. So, they fixed that logo and still got the rifle back out to me to arrive by Friday. How cool is that? No wonder so many think so highly of  Larue. Here's the end version of the logo:

I took it out and got it on paper after the IDPA match on Saturday. It was bloody hot again, and there's no overhead cover on the rifle half of the range. The upper and lower fit so tightly that I gave up on boresighting. I did get 'em apart when I got home, but I was already baking trying to get 'em apart at the range, and decided to just shoot it. I don't have a precise zero because I didn't have the precise distance. It was so dang hot that I wasn't as concerned about that as I was about being close enough to only adjust a little when I did zero "for real". I plan to dope with 168's, but had 150's to get close with. Pretty darn pleased overall, though, even with sweat running into my eyes.

As to the specifics of the rifle: its an 18" barrel, with collapsing Magpul CTR stock, with the LRT RISR. Trigger is a two stage Geisselle match unit. It's awesome. The bipod is the Harris BRM-S with the Larue LT130 QD mount, and the scope mount is the Larue LT111 OBR QD mount. The rifle came with a Magpul 7.62, 20 round magazine, but so far I've only used the two LRT mags. They worked flawlessly.

The scope is the new Weaver Tactical 4-20X50, 30 mm tube. It's FFP (first focal plane; the reticle gets larger with magnification) and has side focus, a very handy feature. It's MOA adjustments with a mil-dot reticle. The glass is as clear as some much more expensive scopes; the clarity is outstanding. I haven't tested the tracking yet, but reviews say that it tracks excellently. They retail about $750 and are a very good buy.
Also of note: the iron sights are the Dueck Defense 1 o'clock offset units, available through Surefire and their authorized dealers. They're a set of A2 sights set up to allow addressing close range targets without changing magnification of the scope or some variation of point shooting. All you have to do is lift the elbow. I borrowed these from a friend from Surefire. I've fooled around with it a bit, but I really wanted to work 'em out and give 'em a good going over.
I couldn't be happier, Larue Tactical rules, and everybody needs one o' these bad boys!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The waiting is the hardest part

I have a new toy on it's way to me...or something. I shoulda had it a couple days ago, but there are interesting reasons why I don't. So, instead of making several posts that don't have the whole saga, I'm gonna wait a bit and write one post to cover it all. I know that's horribly cryptic, but it'll make sense once it's in hand.

I will say this: normally, when stuff doesn't show up, it's because somebody dropped the ball. That's not the case this time. I think you'll be impressed with the steps taken.

Monday, June 06, 2011

are 9mm, .40 and .45 really all the same?

Since there's a push on for small carry pistols and everybody seems to want to buy them for carrying (not much for shooting, but a lot for carrying), there appears to be a feeling running through the Intardweb that the 9mm, .40 and .45 are all the same, with all kinds of gun store BS sayings to go along with defending the little guns.

Consider this: if all you could have, if the only option available was eight rounds, would you want them to be 9mm or .45? Not all the same.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Undecided and decided: The Magpul BAD Lever and X300 DG switch

I added a Magpul Battery Assist Device, AKA The BAD Lever, to Schwaggie on Thursday-Thanks Joe!-and worked it out a little bit on Saturday, before being overtaken by events, and by events I mean a need for a Large Double Bacon Cheeseburger from Becky's Country Cafe in Woodlawn, TN.

Overall, I'm convinced of the utility of the part. It makes reloading faster, which is a good thing. Eject the empty magazine, insert the fresh magazine, perform push/pull, and while re-gripping the fore end, the index finger of the firing hand releases the bolt and prepares to resume firing. The thing is, this is something that requires training and a good bit of practice to do safely. The issue I found was that going to the trigger was automatic, which is not a good thing when the task at hand is activating the BAD. In other words, it's very easy to take a swipe at the lever with the index finger, and continue curving in to the face of the trigger. That's something that can be trained around, but it's not just a quickly overcome action. The upside is that the bolt can be released conventionally, with the support hand as well, so the rifle will operate normally even with the lever installed. If anything, it makes the paddle of the bolt release a little bigger and easier to press. Mine installed with no issues whatsoever. Make sure the part works as it should with your rifle before you go to a fight with it. I know, but some people need to be told everything, especially the obvious.

The utility is there; there are good reasons for running this part. However, it's not like a rail panel; it can't just be dropped in and mastered without practice. With practice, once again it's a winner of a part from the crew at Magpul. The reason this company comes out with so many popular parts isn't because they're cheap (they're reasonably priced and a fine value, certainly not cheap) or because SEAL Team 6(3+4)*(34/2)^10 uses them. It's because those guys shoot and apply what they know and learn.

Also on Thursday I obtained a DG Switch for the Surefire X300 on my MnP FS. I also took this new part to the range and tried it out as well. While not necessarily perfect-it requires the firing hand to trigger it, which means that a tightened firing hand grip is needed; not necessarily desirable for marksmanship. It does make triggering the light about a million times easier than using the support hand thumb. The key is learning the grip pressure needed to trigger it. If it comes to firing the gun, the light's gonna be on. What I'm learning is the nuances of the switch pressure to be able to keep the light in the "off" condition. This thing is the HEAT! Go get a DG switch for your X300, but because it's a better way, not because DG stands for DevGru, which it does. With Surefire products, it's pretty easy to tell the ones that were designed with their team of shooter's input. The DG switch is one of those parts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Latest pics of Schwaggie

Apparently, the rule is "take a photo, then change something again." I just shot these on Saturday evening, and then Saturday night I switched the QD swivel point to the opposite side of the stock to help the rifle hang better on the sling. The stock is pretty nice. It's a bit longer than most of the other stocks on the market. I had a CTR on this rifle about a week ago, and could run that stock all the way out. This one I run in a couple notches...or out a few notches, depending on which direction you count. It's a little heavy, but not a deal breaker in terms of weight.

I was not intending to go with an FDE color scheme, its just that FDE was the color that came to me. To that end, I kinda wish I'd grabbed a black mag, but the tan one was on top of the pile. It looks like I'm gonna be getting some XTM panels in the near future (and a BAD lever), so I'll probably do that checkerboard kind of thing, just because I can. I'm not what I would call a Magpul fanboy, it's just that they make good stuff and it finds its way to me pretty often. They sell a ton of stuff, so it would figure that some of it would get distributed to those in a position to give it to me. :)

Also new to Schwaggie is the Surefire 212A flash suppressor. It works pretty well as a brake, it works like WHOA as a flash suppressor. It's a bit longer than most, so on a 16" barrel it's reaching out there a bit, but not bad enough to do anything about. Next time it'll probably be on a 14.5" and permanently attached, but this barrel has a lot of life yet. The rifle money is already earmarked elsewhere, so I'm not sure where that 14.5 is coming from just yet.

Anyway! On to the new photos.

Monday, May 16, 2011

News: My blog is still NC-17. The people rejoice!

Back in, what, '07 I think, I found a link to a site that gives a movie rating to blogs, and now to facebook and stuff. Just because I got curious, I had to have it rated again. Of course, there's even more references to guns-I shot some new pics of the carbine again, so yet more gun posting will be happening-so of course I kept my rating. What's different, though, is that the stuff that brought me that rating originally isn't the same stuff that does it now, other than guns. I'm OK with that.
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • gun (48x)
  • shoot (16x)
  • dead (7x)
  • kill (4x)
  • dangerous (3x)
  • zombie (2x)
  • steal (1x)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Bin Laden reportedly unarmed when he was shot: my thoughts

According to several news outlets, Osama Bin Laden was unarmed when he was terminated with extreme prejudice. The newsies seem to think this is a big deal. here are my thoughts: so what? All it shows to me is what a coward this guy was, that he didn't even bring a knife to a gun fight. Apparently his wife put up more of a fight than he did. Was it in some way "dishonorable"? Goat Lover (that's bin Laden, if you weren't sure) caused the death of 3,000 of my fellow Americans. Pardon me if I don't think two to the heart and one to the mind equals that out. Never arrest a terrorist tomorrow when you can ghost one today. Nice to see that those involved were good enough shots to end this thing Right Freakin' Then. I tip my hat and raise my glass to the personnel involved. Bravo Zulu!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Matches and Training: Not the same thing

I had this abstract idea for a whole series of posts that were under the title of "Free Advice is Worth the Price", but the organization that would require doesn't work very well with my Stream of Unconsciousness style (I have a style?) of writing. Suffice it to say that there will be posts of that ilk coming, but I may or may not tag 'em as such. If I do that, then I'll have to go back through the old posts and tag those that belong under that heading, and then you know where that will lead:

Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
Mayor: All right, all right! I get the point!

Clearly, we can't let that happen, so I'll just throw 'em up (that's a nice visual, huh?) as I think of 'em. I have much to rant about. This could become a long, long list of posts. Muahahahahahahaaaaaa!!!

As the weather gets better, more shooters get to shooting matches, and forum members begin talking about shooting matches. Talking doesn't always lead to actually competing, but there is talking. And there's almost always talk of shooting a match because it's "good training". Match shooting is a lot of things: good experience with shooting under time pressure, a way to shoot a different course of fire than you usually do, and most of all, it's fun and a way to hang out with shooters. There are more reasons than that to compete, too. However, the one thing that competing isn't, is training; good bad or indifferent. They're totally separate things.

Training is the time spent learning skills: the manipulations required to operate the gun, drawing from the holster, reloading, and marksmanship, among other techniques. Technique is the difference between the trained and untrained shooter. It's evidenced by speed and movement with less wasted motion. It's easy to spot a well trained shooter, because everything they do is smooth and sure. The untrained shooter has much more movement, both in their actions and in their shooting. The gun moves around in their hands much more, their reloads are not smooth. Do not take this as a knock on untrained shooters; everybody was untrained once. Some still are. That's simply the way of it. The way out of it is to get training and then spent time on the range regularly practicing those learned skills and learning new ones. Training is what allows a poor shooter to be a decent shooter, and good shooter to be a great shooter, and a great shooter a grand master-class shooter.

As an aside, the topic of phenomenal shooters has come up in the shop from time to time, because we've gotten to meet some as they pass through the area, or are stationed across the street from us. I've come to the conclusion that some people are gifted towards being amazingly talented shooters. The rest of us have varying degrees of talent and coordination that allows us to get to that same level. The difference is that, while it may have taken Jerry Miculek a few hundred thousand rounds to get as good as he is, it'll take me a few hundred million to get to where he is. Given the funds and the time, though, anybody can do it.

Shooting matches is where a shooter goes to test their skills, not learn them. This is why the organizational bodies (IDPA, USPSA, Zoot Suit Shooters Association, etc.) group shooters into classifications of weapon and skill level, so you have a chance to win your class when you're in a match with Rob Leatham or Sgt. Horner. You won't beat them, but you may beat the rest of the shooters with your skill level. If you want to get to their level, you gotta train to get there. Which leads us to the "training value" of matches.

Do not confuse the training value of shooting matches with training. What a match will do, especially the Classifiers (the standard course of fire that the organizational bodies use to score your abilities to classify who you shoot against with your skill level) is to show you where you have weaknesses. When I started shooting matches, I confirmed something I knew about already: transitioning targets was a weakness of mine. Luckily, Ernest Langdon happened to have a meeting on Fort Campbell one day and had some time to kill. While Matt E. and I spent a couple hours talking about robots, shooting, and competing, Matt was smart enough to say "We're not gonna let you leave here until you teach us something." Ernest gave us a short class on getting your eyes to the target before the gun. What I was doing previously, and what many, many shooters do, is to swing the gun along with your eyes to the next target. What happens when a shooter does that is that the gun swings past the target. As soon as I was able to make some use of Ernest's training, I stopped having that problem. That was confirmed with shooting matches: my transitions were much, much better, and I was much faster than I had been (I'm not fast now, just faster than I was. I've got a long way to go to get fast) between targets as well as increasing speed on individual targets. That was an area where shooting matches showed a weakness that I was able to begin to address and improve.

If you don't want to meet new shooters, try different courses of fire with people watching and comparing yourself against other shooters, then there are still things you can do. 10-8 Performance has the 10-8 Standards, and there are others like the Hackathorn Standards and Mid South's Operator Standards. These are set courses of fire, with specified time limits and scoring, that will expose weaknesses in your game. They can be found by Google-ing for them, and you'll find others, too. They're generally not "hard" in and of themselves for each skill, but you either have those skills, or you don't. If you have no skill at all with your support hand, you'll score lower. If you have trouble with long distances (who doesn't?) or transitioning targets, you'll have problems getting good scores. But, all you need is a pen and pencil to keep track of that stuff, and work on it. Generally, these COF's don't use that much ammo, either.

One area that shooting matches can hurt training, is getting wrapped up in "winning the match". If that's the most important thing to you and the purpose of your training is defensive in nature, you may do some things in the shooting games that you wouldn't do on the street. An example: you've been trained to scan and assess, but you don't do that during a match because "it's just a match". In IDPA, they're big on reloads with retention, which is an administrative action. It's always on the clock, in my experience, but that's not something you should do under a time limit. IIRC, the IDPA rule book says it shouldn't be timed, but it always has been in the matches that have used it as part of the specified COF. I'm not gonna lay blame, but suffice it to say that if you're concerned with time you may not execute that reload as you've been trained to.

Can that be countered? Yes; shoot the match only within the techniques you've been trained to use. You probably won't win, but you will test your skills. If you're good, you'll win anyway. Shoot that match with your carry gear in your carry clothing, and see how it stacks up. You may lose to a guy running a G34 with trigger work, but you know you did it with your regular carry gear and did the best you could, while noting your weaknesses.

I've shot matches using match gear and match guns, meaning stuff I only compete with. I determined that the match I shoot this month will be with my carry G19 and my carry Safariland 529 holster. I may actually finish lower than I usually do, but so what? I'll be using it as a test of my technique, not just to win the match.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

My job doesn't suck: DCAEK and RAM on top of a trigger job

About a week ago, I was visited in the shop by Bruce Gray of Grey Guns and Randy Lee of Apex Tactical Specialties. I didn't realize that Randy's company also uses the letters "ATS" until he handed me his card. I shoulda have noticed that earlier, as I've only been with my employer since before they were called ATS. Duh. Yeah, I got that attention to detail down!

Bruce's shop specializes in customizing H&K and SIG pistols; two guns that are not all that easy to work on. Randy's shop, of course, is best known for their replacement parts for the SnW MnP...and I just happen to have one of those. We spoke about MnP's for a while, and I inquired as to whether Apex had a dealer's program. They do, and that's something I'm going to push for in the near future. Because I'm kind of a big deal on the Intardweb ;) Randy gave me a DCAEK and RAM kit. I was very curious as to how these parts would perform because my pistol has already had a trigger job done to it by Greg Derr of Derr Precision. Greg did amazing things towards improving the stock trigger as it came from the factory.

When I got the pistol, the factory trigger had a hitch in it that felt like the trigger had reset when it had not. Greg was able to smooth and lighten the trigger, as well as to improve the feel of the reset, although the reset still wasn't like a Glock or 1911...probably because it's not a Glock or 1911. Because of the polishing and trigger work already done, I didn't put the entire DCAEK in the gun...yet.

I installed the new sear spring and hard sear as well as the RAM unit. These were relatively simple drop in units, except that the parts and the tweezers I was using to put them in were both magnetized. That's a plus and minus: the spring and plunger are tiny parts, and they're also very light, which means they're easily moved out of position. Putting them in just takes some patience and a light touch, but it's easy to lose both of those in short order. The RAM was even easier to install, as it's only two relatively large parts.

I did not use the replacement Ultimate Striker Block as the S&W part has been polished to within an inch of it's life by Derr Precision. I also did not install the heavier trigger return spring. I may still put that spring in, as the trigger is pretty doggone light right now. The most interesting improvement, though, is in the reset. It's about an eighth of an inch, and much more definite than it was.

My Tru Grip panels showed up yesterday, so I installed them last night as well. Tru Grip is by far my favorite addition to polymer guns. They use a grip tape that doesn't shed and is a somewhat finer grit than any others I've tried, but the "stickiness" of the grip is outstanding. In addition, they wrap the front strap as well as the back strap, and the design allows for use of any of the MnP back straps. I was concerned about using the Tru Grip with my CTC Laser Grips, but it works fine. No need for extra holes or any such extra stuff.

All these parts are most definitely Haji approved. Next up, besides perhaps swapping in the heavier trigger return spring and the Apex striker block are, if I can source them through our regular distributors at work, will be a set of Warren Tactical Sevigny Fiber Optic Competition sights, which I have a set of on my Glock 17. Currently the MnP has a stock front sight with the white dot painted orange with a paint pen and a 10-8 Performance black rear sight. The main reason for wanting to change them is for consistency: I shoot that G17 more than any of my other pistols, so I've got more time using that set up than any other. I'll just have to see if I can get 'em for that gun or not, through our regular sources.

One more note about sights: if you have a fiber optic in your front sight, you've found that sooner or later they get dirty and dinged up and need to be replaced. If you shoot a lot, that can be fairly frequently. I went on a search for replacement fiber optic rod a while ago, and found out something interesting. The rod is a standard size; in terms of the Warren front sight, it's .040". Now, if you buy that stuff from "gun" sources, you'll pay about .50 an inch and pay quite a bit in shipping. What I found in my travels around the net was that FO rod is available from other sources, namely hobby shops. It's used very frequently for tail lights and stuff like that in modeling and radio control cars. It's also a ton cheaper. The place I got mine from, Oakridge Hobbies, send me 80 inches of the stuff for $10.50 shipped, which works out to about .06 and inch if my math is correct. It probably isn't, but it's still a whole lot less than fiddy cent a inch. I'll be covered for FO rod for quite a while to come, for cheap. Can't beat that with a stick.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pet Peeve: T-Marked

The longer I'm around guns, the more I find things that annoy me because they've become misunderstood and misused. One of those is the term "T-Marked", especially when applied to railed fore ends. "T Marked" used to refer to the flat top upper's modular interface, but as rails were designed to make the area where the rail and upper receiver meet more seamlessly, the term expanded to be used with rails, too. The purpose was so that things attached to the rail could be removed and replaced in the same location easily. That most couldn't be expected to retain zero in most cases is kind of beside the point.

The thing is-and if you've been reading my blog for a little while, you know there's always "a thing"-that those markings only apply to a quarter of the rail. T Marks refer to the letter "T" and a number. The number starts at 1, and proceeds from the rear of the receiver forward to the muzzle. "T" stands for...wait for it, it's very complicated...Top. There's a Left, Right, and Bottom, too, with the numbers corresponding to those on all sides.

I know, stupidly simple. However, I just saw a photo in what's supposed to be the preeminent gun magazine showing the right side of the rail with it's clear R Marks, saying that it's T Marked. It's a pet peeve...what am I gonna do except blog about it, and on my birthday? I shoulda stayed on the range today, I think.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Carnitas! The web is a wonderful thing

My fish taco obsession led me to do some online searching recently, and I found that there isn't a whole heck of a lot of stuff that can't be bought through the intardweb. I was searching for Rubio's Fish Tacos recipes, and found a recommendation for Porkyland Extra Thick corn tortillas. Turns out that this was a fine suggestion. I followed a link or two and ended up at a place called Mexgrocer that has not only the tortillas, but spices, tortilla warmers, and even pre-cooked carnitas.

For those not from SoCal, carnitas are slow cooked pork. That's awesome enough to just be abbreviated to SCP, its so universally amazing. There's very little, if anything, that SCP can't make better. Tacos? That's what I had for dinner last night and again this morning. Burritos? Obviously? Chocolate cake? You know it. SCP is yet another reason that the Pig is a Magical Animal.

They package them in a shrink wrapped bag within a tray within a cardboard cover within a mylar bubble wrap bag with a couple of gel cold packs. It works perfectly. A little microwavin' and it was on to carnitas tacos. The funny thing is that it costs quite a bit to get all the condiments necessary that I didn't have laying around. I had Cotija cheese, but most of the rest of it was out of stock. After buying lettuce, sour cream, salsa stuff, avacados, six boxes of 9mm, and everything else, the bill was rather high. No matter...the tacos were more than worth it.

I couldn't get pics because I couldn't keep 'em around long enough. I think the next step will be to take some of my six dozen corn tortillas (actually a little over five dozen after dinner last night and breakfast this morning) and make some rolled tacos with 'em. Most of the time, rolled tacos are made with shredded beef, which is great. I'm considering making them with Magical Carnitas to see what happens. Seems like a good idea to me.

I think I used to be a gun blogger and now I'm a food blogger. There's no tellin' where I'm goin' next!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

What to do when you can't have Mexican food

For the first time in Five Long Years, I was able to be home in San Diego for Christmas. Got to spend a lot of time with the family, especially Mom, and saw some good friends while I was there...although I didn't get to see as many as I would have liked. I was only there for a bit over a week, so there's a limit to what can be done. I finally got to visit the USS Midway-highly recommended, by the way-and hit Casa De Pico and Mardi Gras Cafe, before a bit of a mishap.

The crown on the root canal I had done this year has apparently come loose, which cause OUTRAGEOUS amounts of pain. Enough that if I bumped it while I was asleep, I was no longer asleep, and in fact was awake for a couple of hours before the pain was knocked back to where I could go back to sleep for another couple hours. Why this matters is that if you know me, you know I have proven without a doubt through long experience that there is no Mexican food in Kentucky. Here I was in Mexican Food Heaven, and I could hardly eat any because I couldn't chew. That's true agony.

Because of this, I've been exploring the Intardwebs for authentic Mexican ingredient sources, and cashed in my Christmas gift card on a deep fryer. The bottom line is that I HAVE to have some fish tacos. I'm a native SoCalifornian. They're part of my DNA. I've simply found that if I don't have fish tacos at least about once a year, I may experience spontaneous combustion. I'm sure having them more often than that is good for my health, too.

A few weeks ago, I found a pork roast "kit" that (IIRC) Tyson makes. It comes with a couple pound pork roast with a spice packet, and onions (big chunky hogs of onions. Awesome!), carrots, newpa tatoes (red skin potatoes, sometimes called New Potatoes, or Newpas if you enjoy funny sounding words like I do), and celery. All ya need is a cup of water (Helpful hint: I don't use tap water; our water here is awful) in the Crock Pot, put in the roast, arrange veggies around it, and mix the spice packet in a bit of water and pour over the pork. Let it go for six hours. Ten might be better, but I can't stand to wait that long, so I do it on high for six. It's delicious.

That got me thinking about how easy it'd be to do carnitas, so some exploring the Webz again came across several variations of how to do it in a crock pot, then fry it a bit to crisp it up. I have some ideas to try, make no mistake. I have no doubt that this project will be explored completely throughout 2011. My New Year's Resolution: make killer Mexican cheap and sleazy taco shop food at home. My only concern is getting so fat I can't get through the door anymore, and I'll just have to stay home and make more. It's gonna be a good year.