Monday, March 26, 2012

On Talking to Oneself While Shooting a Stage

I've read a number of the books by the top shots (Seeklander, Steve Anderson, Brian Enos, etc.) about competition shooting.  I've also tried to follow the blogs of guys like Ben Stoeger and others.  I've learned a ton from these guys.  But I don't think I've ever read anything about them talking to themselves while shooting.  I suspect that's because they don't do it and therefore it's probably not a good idea.

My suspicion is that the conventional wisdom is to keep quiet, suppress your feelings, and get on the with shooting the stage after you make a mistake.  I'm sure that's good advice.  But I often end up muttering to myself, expressing frustration, or even yelling when something doesn't go the way I envisioned it in my mental walk-through before the start signal.

And here's the deal: when I verbally express my annoyance or anger, I seem to be able to refocus and reengage the targets with better concentration.  I don't know if that's just me.  Or I may be just trying to justify my own idiosyncratic silliness.

For example, look at what happens in Stage #4 about 23 seconds into the stage when I have an incredibly squirrelly reload in the middle of the stage.  Did I lose my composure the rest of the stage?  Did I melt down and miss the rest of the targets?  Well, no.  I think you can see that I actually increased my effectiveness for the last half of the stage.  (– ignoring my uneconomical use of rounds. How do you get around that on stages with over 40 targets? It's almost impossible to remebmer which one's you've already engaged, especially the paper targets.)  It's like I said to myself, "This will not stop me from tearing up this stage.  Get back to it, Meyers.  Blast the hell out of those targets.  Don't let a squirrelly reload ruin your score."

I expressed myself verbally while shooting 4 of the 6 stages on Saturday.  Each time it seems to have helped me get my head back in the game after a slight setback with reloading or just missing some targets I counted on hitting (curse the Texas Star on Stage #5).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monster JUGGS Match

YouTube blocked the first video I uploaded because it had a copyrighted sound track. Arggh. So here's the whole match without any music. All that means is that you can now hear me better as I yell at myself and my gun.

Here's a quick match review.  First, looking at this video I see that I still need to loose about 10-15 lbs of weight.  Yikes, this is a video of the fat old man shooting.

Second, for some reason when I'm shooting USPSA with mutiple targets and the need to "run and gun"  I end up "crouching" too much.  I need to have a consistent stance, and one that is a bit more "upright."  I believe this is the reason why I had a couple of ridiculously bad reloads.  For example, in the middle of Stage #4 I couldn't find the mag well and yelled, "You've got to be kidding me."  I pretty sure it's because I'm not in my normal IDPA stance and so my hands and arms are not following the path that they normaly do.  I'll have to work on that.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Draw Time

A stunning example of how not
to grip a pistol. This is so bad it's hard
to look at.
I was able to get out for a few hours yesterday afternoon for my midweek practice session. I wanted to work on my draw. In my post about the steel plates match this past Saturday I mentioned that I was having some issues with a consistent draw and grip that day. Working on that today I noticed something helpful. When shooting without a cover garment I have typically placed my right arm and hand in pretty much the same position I would with cover. You know, arm naturally at my side and arm extended a few inches from my body. But today I tried something a little different. Instead of holding my arm out so that it did not touch the gun handle. I broght my arm in just enough so that the inside of my arm would barely touch the grip of my pistol. When the buzzer went off I would be able to find my grip much faster. Looking at the times, I believe I decreased my typical time for the first shot by about .20 – .30 secs or so. This may be a common technique. I really don't know. I'll have to look around and see. But it seems to work for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Breakdown to Vote

This girl is only 11, but she should be allowed to vote. In fact, we should make field stripping an AR-15 rifle a requirement for voter registration. That would solve a lot of problems.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Berry's 124gr HP
I've been using Precision Delta 124gr JHP bullets now for about 6 months in my S&W M&P Pro. But last month after ordering 5 thousand more I got a call from PD that their "machine" broke down and my order would have to be back ordered for a month or so. I've also used Hornady 125gr HAP bullets. They perform about the say as the PDs, with maybe a little more accuracy. But the HAPs are expensive, almost twice as much as the PDs. I use them sparingly, mostly at matches.

So I tried some of Berry's plated bullets. I got a couple thousand 124gr hollow points.  I've now run about 1500 through the pistol and have had no issues whatsoever.  In fact, they may be a little more accurate than the PDs or the HAPs.  I'm getting good results with 3.8gr of Titegroup with an OAL of 1.100–096.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Swollen Finger

I need to figure out what's wrong with my ring finger on my left hand.  It's been swollen and hurting for months.  I can't close my hand all the way.  And I can't get my ring off my finger either.  Is it broken?  If it's not, then shouldn't it have healed after 4 months or so. At least the swelling should have subsided.  I should probably visit the doctor, but I'm afraid he'll immobilize it in some way and I won't be able to shoot this Spring.  That's not an option.  It hasn't really hurt my shooting. I don't notice it much in matches. But I suspect that if it was normal, I'd have a better grip with my weak hand.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Personal Notes on Steel

This is a brief review of my performance at the ARPC Steel Plates Match on March 17.  First, what I need to work on.  In a word: consistency.  Mainly consistency from string to string and stage to stage.  I need to work on pacing myself.  Begin a bit slower on each stage.  Try to focus on consistent scores. Then maybe on the last string of the stage, let loose and push my speed.  Second, I need to check my equipment before I come to the line.  I said something about that in my last post. Third, for some reason yesterday, I was having trouble coming out of my draw with a good grip.  I'm not sure why that was a problem.  But I surely need to work on it in dry fire practice.  If I had problems in a particular string, it almost always was associated with a bad draw and grip from the start.

Fourth, trust my instincts in close range shooting.  I'm pretty fast in close.  And I normally don't need to use my sights all that much.  Just shoot.  In the two close range stages I did best when I just let it rip and didn't get too concerned about sighting in.  That's not to say that I wasn't aiming; it's just not the same kind of aiming as when you are engaging a 10-inch plate from 15 to 20 yards away.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Two Lessons

Two lessons learned or reinforced from the Steel Plates Match today at ARPC (March 17, 2012).  First, if you don't clean your gun before the match, that's okay.  But make sure you at least check the front fiber optic sight to insure that it's not black from your previous outing.  I got up to the line on my first stage and couldn't hardly see my normally nice-and-bright red FO front sight.  Not good.  I had to get off the line and clean it quickly.  Problem was: I cleaned it "dry" with a towel and knocked it loose.  I had no problems with it until a few stages later when the FO filament fell out in the middle of shooting a stage.  Turns out that that stage was a pretty close one and not having my FO front sight didn't really affect my last two strings.

Second lesson: Don't leave your repair kit with all of your extra parts and stuff at home. Bring it to the range, especially on a match day.  Luckily, Will (who is shooting his S&W 625 .45 cal revolver in the embedded video) had some extra FO inserts in his bag.  Once I got a new one on the pistol everything was fine.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I just watched the pilot episode of Awake on my new iPad while riding the excercise bike.  I was surprised to see the main character—a detective—carrying a full sized 1911.  That's unusual.  Seems like every LE officer on TV carries a Glock.  The first thing I noticed was the Wilson Combat magazines in his mag pouch.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Stage Review

I haven't had a chance to see myself shoot a stage in a match for a while. I've not been capturing videos with my hatcam or worrying about asking someone else to hold a camera while I shot. I've just been shooting and not trying to worry about much else. So when I found out that someone else caught me shooting stage #3 at the match this past Saturday I thought I would analyze my performance.

The first thing to say is that this was the first stage of the match for me.  The first stage is something of a warm-up stage for me.  I don't want to push myself but be deliberate and get my hits.

It looks like I started off pretty well.  I got my pistol and secured the extra magazine in my mag pouch without any issues.  I might have gotten to the first shooting position a little faster, but when I got there I had my right foot planted and so had a good solid position to engage the targets from cover.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Practice Vids

I had a little fun at the range late yesterday afternoon capturing a few videos. I captured a bunch just to analyze my draw and also my reloads. But this one is just the old Mozambique drill.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This is a Sport, Folks

Someone who is relatively new to IDPA will often be frustrated with his initial classification.  He may have been shooting pistols for many years.  He may even be a law enforcement officer.  He is an otherwise seasoned shooter, so when he classifies as a Marksman or even a Novice he's not a happy camper.  I understand the disappointment.  I should say: I remember the disappointment.

But what the new IDPA shooter needs to appreciate is that the classifier is meant to give you a "handicap," if you will, so you can compete against shooters at relatively the same level as you are.  The classifier is designed to provide the shooter with an accurate indication of where he ranks in this sport.   IDPA is a sport.  Yes, of course, you get some training for concealed carrry.  Anytime you shoot, especially when you are stretched in the way that IDPA and USPA challenge your mental and physical skills, you are training to use your pistol in self defense situations.  That's great.  But the fact is: IDPA is a SPORT.  It's right there at the very beginning of the Official Rule Book:
IDPA is a shooting sport that uses practical equipment including full charge service ammunition to solve simulated "real world" self-defense scenarios.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Professional Idiot

This guy has the gall to say at the end that he's "a professional"! On the one hand, I'm reluctant to link to this and give this guy more hits.  On the other, there are lessons to be learned from watching a dumbass (mis)handle his gun.  Like: never try to catch a gun that you drop.  That this guy still has his guts intact is a miracle.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pulling Shots Before Reloads

Click to enbiggen
In an otherwise nicely shot IPDA club match yesterday I had 4 mikes.  I was very pleased with everything else.  In analyzing what went wrong I figured out that 3 of the misses were right before a reload.  I have 11 rounds loaded in my magazine (= SSP division capacity).  Analyzing each stage, it's pretty clear what happened.  I shoot my 10th shot and it's on target (a zero or one), then the last shot locks the slide back but misses the target left and high.  I'm not following through on the shot before my thumb goes for the magazine release and the muzzle of the gun lifts and fades left as I position it for the reload.  Working on a fast reload, I'm forgetting to concentrate on that shot right beforehand.  Definitely something to work on in the weeks to come.

Friday, March 9, 2012

1911's and 2011's

Oh. My. Goodness.  I just got back from some practice at the range with my friend Tim.  About 300+ rounds.  Of course, I shot my M&P 9mm.  But I also broke out my STI Trojan 9mm (1911).  We shot some Bill drills and I was able to compare the guns.  I've been shooting my M&P for about a year.  It's become second nature to me.  This was the first time in a long time that I shot any of my 1911s.  I forgot how silky smooth they are.  Shooting a Bill Drill (lots of shots on target as quickly as you can pull the trigger) reminded me how superior the 1911 is to the M&P—for trigger pull (no pre-travel) and for quickly reacquiring your sight picture after each shoot.  Wow.  I would go with my STI Trojan 9mm tomorrow in our club match if I hadn't experienced some problems this afternoon with the slide not locking back after the magazine went empty.  I think I need to increase my recoil spring from 11# to 12#.  I'll try that next week and see.  But if I get that fixed, I may just transition to ESP and use my Trojan for a while.

I just went back and looked at the scores from the IPDA Postal Match. I shot my M&P in SSP and my Trojan in ESP.  I was faster with the Trojan.

And Tim shot his new STI Eagle 9mm (2011) this afternoon.  He let me shoot it, too.  Very, very nice.  I want one!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I have a little extra disposable income from lecture honorariums.  But I'm conflicted about how to spend it.  I've already ruled out buying a new gen3 iPad.  My gen1 works just fine and I don't really need the eye candy offered by the newest iPad.  So that leaves me with some gun options.

Option #1.  Buy a new Smith & Wesson M&P Pro 9mm.  This would be a back-up to the one I already have.  I've got a lot of rounds through my M&P and I'm afraid it's going to need some work soon.  I can imagine it breaking down at a major match and me not having a back up.  If I pull the trigger on this option, then I will be committing myself to shooting my M&P 9mm regularly, both in IDPA and USPSA.  The advantages to this are: 1) I've already got the equipment for this pistol; 2) it's a 9mm so I don't have to buy new dyes for my reloader; 3) 9mm rounds are less expensive; 4) I've spent a lot of time practicing and competing with this gun already; 5) the only extras I would have to buy are: a Dawson Precision FO front sight, a DP FO rear sight, and a Apex Tactical AEC trigger kit (all of these to match precisely what my current M&P); and 6) I can easily add a magwell and special basepads to shoot this gun in ESP division in IDPA.  This is a really attractive option to me.  I can just work on getting really, really good with this gun.  I'd be shooting Production in USPSA and in IDPA I could shoot SSP and ESP.  I like the idea of sticking with one pistol for a few years and perfecting my game with it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Little Things

Dillon Precision case gauge
. . . very little things, like imperfections in your brass.  They can bite you big time.  Last year at the Backstoppers Match in August I had a "death jam" in my STI .45 while shooting stage #5.  I had had jams pretty regularly in other matches before that.  But having one that took 30 seconds (!) to clear in a major match was devastating.  And it was perfectly avoidable.  For a while I thought it was the gun.  Or the bullets I was using at the time.  It was neither.

At the time I was not checking every completed round with my case gauge to insure there were no bulges or imperfections on the brass that would keep the round from sliding in and out of the chamber freely.  I was checking maybe two of every hundred.  Really stupid.  Each piece of brass is different.  If the brass doesn't fit in the case gauge, it may indeed get seated in the chamber just fine because the slide will strip it off the top of the magazine and force it in.  But once in the chamber and fired, the empty case may be wedged in so tight that the force of the recoil is not enough to insure its extraction.  In fact, in the case of "death jams," tugging hard at the slide afterwards is often not enough force to extract the round.

Not Good
You can use a case gauge like the Dillon Precision one pictured in this post. Or you can just drop the rounds into your barrel and insure they go in and out freely.  And some barrels are more finicky that others.  The factory barrel on my M&P Pro 9mm is very forgiving.  The brass has to be very bulged for it to stick.  My Storm Lake match barrel, however, is very picky.  I have to watch carefully or I'll get a FTE.  I'm comfortable now with using the Dillon case gauge for the Storm Lake barrel.  I know that if the round has any trouble going in, it gets discarded.  Doing this adds more time to the reloading process.  But every since I've begun to case gauge every round I've had no jams in any matches.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Matt Burkett's Podcast

Matt Burkett has started up his Practical Shooting podcast again.  This first episode on mental preparation is pretty cool.  But I don't think I'll be visualizing my run through any given stage 30 times before I get to the line.  But maybe that's just what I will need to do to shoot at that level.  Besides that one thing, the podcast is really good (even though the audio quality of Mike's call in is pretty poor).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Steel Yourself

(Click to enbiggen)
I shot the steel plates match today at ARPC. The weather was cold, but not miserable. It warmed up a tad toward the end.  There were 5 stages, pretty standard stuff.  But there's something to learn at every match.  Like don't walk up to the line without checking that your magazines are full.  Sheez.  I ran out after 4 shots in the first string on one stage.   Dumb.  Also, I'm pretty quick and accurate with short courses of fire (15 yards and in), but I need to remember to slow down when the plates are 15-35 yards.  Slowing down is hard for me these days.  And did I say that I hate the Outer Limit's stage.  I hate it!  That's the one in the picture.

We had two new shooters in our squad.  New to steel plates and new to competition shooting, I'm pretty sure.  They needed some coaching.  And everyone helped out just fine.  One of the shooters was missing a whole lot of shots.  That can be really frustrating with steel.  He had a good attitude about it all.  That helped.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Difference a Year Makes

I'm not sure who came up with this spreadsheet analysis.  I thought I got it from Will, but I think John P. created it and gave it to me last year.  At any rate, it's a nice little spreadsheet.  Columns A-E contain classification scores for the ideal minimum in SSP division.  Column F shows my SSP classifier scores one year ago (March 2011).  When you compare those with my times and scores yesterday (Column G) it's evident that I increased my speed.  Increased accuracy?  A little bit, but not as noticeable as raw times for each string.

(Click to enbiggen)
And thankfully, that's the last SSP classifier I will ever have to shoot!  Yippie!

Watch & Learn

What do you have that you have not received? And if then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?  - 1 Corinthians 4:7

Any progress that I have made in this sport can be attributed largely to watching, listening, and learning from other more accomplished shooters.  I don't believe that I would have improved much if I had simply gone to the range every week by myself to shoot drills, at least not at first.  Whether it's been at matches or at simple practice sessions I can't count the number of times when I've seen someone do something or heard someone give some advice and had an aha! moment.  And it's not just on the range.  You can learn a whole lot in the car driving to a match with friends.  Competition shooting is inexorably social. The guys you hang around with will help you grow and make progress in the sport.  IDPA calls this "fellowship," but it's not simply about good conversation and friendly talks waiting for your turn to shoot.  It's an essential part of learning to shoot well.  Don't neglect that dimension.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

IDPA Classifier Today

Well, today was a good day.  A very good day.  I classified as a Master in SSP this afternoon.  I think I was just ready for this.  It was surprisingly smooth.  I was very relaxed and didn't push my speed.  I had only one miss, and that was on Stage #1, but not a head shot!   But I suspect I had two bullets through the same hole.  It was just impossible to prove.  How could I miss a body shot on Stage #1?  But even with that miss my score was still well below the threshold.  For future reference, here are the numbers:

On Tinkering

No one ever tells you when you start competitive shooting that it helps if you are a tinkerer.  You think you can buy a pistol, a holster, some ammo, and start working on your shooting skills.  But no.  Turns out that you have to tinker with your gun.  Tinker with your magazines.  Tinker with your ammunition.  Tinker with your mag pouches.  You even have to tinker with your clothes.  The tactical pants I got have these large pockets in the front and sides, but they have a little velcro patch in the middle to keep the pocket closed.  Well, because of that little velcro thingee I can't pocket a magazine quickly.  With one brand of pants I could take a knife to the stitching and remove the patch so that the pocket remained open. But with the other pair I couldn't do that. The stitching was way too tight and I was afraid I'd cut a hole in the pants.  So I had to take a lighter to the plastic side of the velcro, the side that has all those little hooks.  I just melted them down so they wouldn't catch.  That's just one of a hundred other things that have to be tinkered with in order to work well for competition.  More on this later.  Just be prepared to do a lot of jerry-rigging if you want to have equipment that works well in competition.