Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday Match Review – 2014 USPSA Area 5 Championship

This was my second Area 5 match. Last year when I shot this match it was only my 2nd major USPSA match. I don't have that many more major matches under my belt now, but I've had enough not to be trembling like a leaf in the wind on the first stage of A5.

The word for me in preparation for this match was "control." Not speed. Not just accuracy. Control. I think I achieved my goal. It was a controlled match. I wasn't out-of-control fast like I sometimes am. In fact, I was a bit too slow this time. But, hey, I can speed up now that I know I can shoot a big match like this without a mike on every other stage.

 Last year I was 30th overall in production (out of 95 shooters). This year I was 18th out of 83.

I screwed up two stages; both of them had to do with hitting steel poppers. There were a ton of poppers in this match. And 25% of the metric targets were covered to some degree with no-shoots. Lot's of risky shots in this match. And like every match that Ray Hirst designs there were tons of hidden targets. I saw a lot of shooters blow by targets without even realizing what they did.

I have two videos. Both of them are from stages that I didn't do very well on.  Sigh.

Here's the matchbook.

Here are the combined results.

Oh, one more little thing.  A little thing that can become a big thing.  On two separate stages my foot slid over the fault line and I had to take the time to step back within the bounds of the shooting area.  After the second incident I figured out what happened.  In both cases rocks had piled up next to and over the wood that marked the fault line.  So when I ran up to the edge and put my foot down, expecting my shoe to encounter the fault-line board and stop, instead my shoe slid right over the board because of the rocks.  After that I started clearing away the rocks at my anticipated shooting position on every stage before the start signal.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Month of May

It's been a while since I posted anything.  I've just been busy with all sorts of real-life matters—work, family, etc.—the stuff that always seems to get in the way of shooting.  Sigh.  So here's a summary of what has happened since the middle of April.

After my class with Ben Stoeger, April 12-13, I immediately switched from Production to Single Stack.  My dry- and live-fire practice was dedicated to preparing for the SS Nationals on May 1st.  I actually enjoyed the change.  And I rediscovered my appreciation for my STI Sentry.  It's very accurate and reliable.  I had no troubles with it at the two matches I shot—a club match at Sparta and the Single Stack Nationals match at PASA park.  I didn't do that well at the Nationals match, but I will definitely be back next year.  My rounds didn't make major power factor at the chronograph stage. My PF was 164.9, so I got bumped to minor scoring.  That didn't help.

In May I helped run the MO State IDPA Championship at ARPC.  Shooting this match is always a challenge because the Match Directors and Safety Officers shoot on Friday morning and run through all the stages rather quickly—10 stages in less that 3 hours.  It's not always easy to keep your head in the game when things are moving that quickly.  I was doing okay throughout most of the morning until my second-to-last stage (Stage #2).  I had a rare death jam in my M&P after inserting my reload magazine.  It took me at least 30 seconds to clear that malfunction.  That cost me the match.  Even without that problem I honestly don't think I would have beat Stephen Lutmann in SSP.  I just wasn't shooting that well.  But I would have come a lot closer without that jam.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Match Review - Sparta USPSA, April 19

The match director Dave Bianchini for the USPSA club matches in Sparta, IL (at the World Shooting Complex) always puts on challenging and fun matches.   The bays at Sparta are able to accommodate stages with 180 degrees of movement.  But Dave always invents some cool field courses.

This was my first USPSA match with my STI 1911 Sentry, and my first shooting major power factor. I like it.  A lot.  I was shooting Single Stack to prepare for the Single Stack Nationals in a few weeks (May 1st), so I needed get some practice running around stages with a heavier gun, reloading with 1911 mags, and doing stage planning with only 8 rounds to throw at every array of targets.  It wasn't has difficult as I thought it would be, just different.

Since the USPSA rules forbid stages where more than 8 rounds are required from any one position, they are all in theory Single Stack friendly. The reality is, however, that if there is steal in that 8-round array, you better not miss or your reload plan is screwed.  That only happened to me once on Saturday.  And wouldn't you know it, the first stage of the day had 17 pieces of steel, including a Texas Star. Not a good stage to start my SS practice.  That was my worst stage.  After that, I did pretty well, except for a jam on the last stage that cost me about 4 seconds.  I still don't know why that happened. That's the thing about 1911s that I don't like—they can be finicky with reloads and all that—at least for me.

If you look at that chart you will see that my accuracy was really good.  The one mike I got on the last stage was the first shot I fired after my reloading jam and I was just pissed.  I need to work on that.  When something like that happens in the middle of the stage I can lose it really easily and then the whole stage is a wash.  But back to the point.  I was really accurate at this match.  I was slower than I would have been shooting Production with my M&P, and that might have contributed.  But truth be told, that STI Sentry is so much more accurate than my rickety M&P.  Sigh.

I do need to work on SS reloading in dry fire practice for the next 10 days.  Besides that, I think the SS Nationals match will be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Striker Test

A friend recommended an interesting way to test the relative power of strikers.  Unload your gun, of course.  No live ammo around.  Cock your unloaded pistol, point the pistol straight up, and insert a pencil in the barrel with the eraser side down.  Pull the trigger and watch the pencil move.

I did this with both of my M&Ps and the pencil only moved about an inch.  The pencil never even came close to leaving the barrel.

When I tried this with my STI Sentry (45) the pencil launched from the barrel and almost stuck in the drop ceiling in my basement.

No wonder I get light primer strikes in my M&P when I use hard primers like Remingtons, CCIs, or Magtechs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Match Review - Sparta USPSA

This is a Tuesday afternoon match review of the USPSA club match in Sparta, IL, on Saturday, March 15th.  Honestly, I'd really like to forget this match.  I didn't shoot well at all.  But I suppose it would be helpful for me to analyze it just a bit.

I had issues with my reloads all day.  Come to think of it, I've had issues with reloads during dry fire and live fire practice all winter.  One of the issues has been the failure of the magazines to drop with any kind of consistency.  I've had problems pushing the mag release consistently.  As I have thought about this for the past few days, I've come up with what may be a partial answer.  At the end of the shooting season last year I switched out my grips on my M&P.  The M&P comes with 3 sizes of grip inserts.  For 3 years I've been using the medium-sized grip.  In the Fall last year I decided to change to the large grip.  I thought it might give me more surface area to grasp the gun and help with my accuracy.  I think that experiment failed.  The grip may have felt better with more of my support hand in contact with the left side of the gun, but I can't see that it did anything at all for my accuracy.  What it did do is cause me to have to stretch my thumb farther in order to depress the magazine release button.  That's caused problems which I should have identified earlier as a problem.  Instead, I just tried to work through it.  But I've not been able to work through it.  I switched back to the medium size grip on Sunday and dry fired the gun for the past three days with almost no reload issues.  Dang. How come I didn't notice this earlier?

My accuracy problem has nothing to do with the grips.  The M&P contributes to the problem a little. It's just not a terribly accurate pistol.   My 1911 is so much more accurate.  Even so, that's not the real problem.  My trigger control is the issue. I just need to work on that.  Hard.  I took multiple shots on poppers and steel targets that were 10 yards away and easily hittable.  That's not the gun. That's me.  I've been sloppy in my IDPA matches as well, with way too many points down at the end of the match.  Sometimes I am tempted to change to a CZ, but I don't think that will really solve the problem.  I don't think the problem is my gun, but my gun control and technique.  Anyone that knows my shooting style, knows that I am a "hoser" and not a "turtle."  Slinging shots at targets as fast as I can is my besetting shooting sin.  Perhaps Lent is a time for me to give that up and work hard on accuracy.  Sigh.

This was the first USPSA match of the season.  And by the end of the match I had settled down some.  The final two stages were much better, if not entirely satisfactory.

Here's a video of Stage #6, I think.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Morning Match Review - March ARPC IDPA Club Match

Last month the match wasn't worth talking about.  Our monthly match on February 8th was very cold.  I think it was 15-20 degrees in the morning when we were shooting.  And we were standing on a couple of inches of ice and snow, so there wasn't a lot of movement.  Every time I took my hands out of my pockets to load or shoot, my fingers were hurting bad.  It's really no fun shooting in conditions like that.  And it's probably not really very productive for practice.

This Saturday (March 8th) we had better weather.  It was still cold, hovering around freezing.  But it wasn't as bad as February.  We had 6 really good, challenging stages so the match was fun.  Lessons learned?  First, I pulled a mike on the only swinger in the match.  I continue to be frustrated by stupid swingers.  I need to work on them a lot more before the real competition begins with major matches.

Second, I think all my dry-fire practice over the winter paid off, mainly with draw times and transition times.

Third, as for stupid mistakes, I dropped a partially full magazine on one stage while moving from one position to another.  I had to stop and retrieve it.  I don't think I lost 3 seconds doing so.  Sometimes I go into USPSA mode in IDPA matches.  I'm not sure there's a great deal I can do to fix that.  It's unconscious.  I'd be more concerned if I accidentally went in the IDPA mode at USPSA matches.

The results of the match can be found here.  No pictures or videos this time.

And here's Ken's USPSA-style analysis of the match.

I don't like 94.5% accuracy at all.

This coming Saturday is the first USPSA match for me in Sparta, IL.  I'm looking forward to the USPSA season!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

1000 .223 rounds loaded!

My first batch of .223 rounds are now loaded.  There are just under 1000 rounds here.  It's the kind of thing you just have to take a picture of before they are all gone.  I need more stripper clips!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Krebs Extended Safety

The stock safety on the Sig 556 is just too small.  My hands aren't huge, so I had a hard time engaging and disengaging it with a normal grip.  The Krebs extended safety is great.  I installed it last night and it's perfect.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

.223 Update

So I went to the range today. Yeah, I'm a fool.  It was 22 degrees and windy.  It was crazy cold.  My hands were hurting after about ten minutes of exposure.  Fortunately, it didn't take too much longer than that for me to chrono and group my new test .223 rounds in my SIG 556.  

I only shot about 25 test rounds.  They all cycled and went bang, even the 5 or so that had questionable case gauge results.  Cool.  I'll take that.  Groups were okay.  About 1/2 inch at 25 yards. I didn't have access to anything longer than that today.

They chrono-ed at about 2700 fps.  I think that's about right for a 16 inch barrel.  All my reloading manuals say 26grs of W748 should yield about 2900 for a 55gr bullet at an OAL of 2.215.  But they are all using a 24-inch barrel for the tests.  So I think I'm just about right. Besides my factory 55gr ammo crono-ed at about 2800 the other day.  I'm not too far from that.  My load is 25.8gr of W748 under a Hornady 55gr FMJBT bullet with an OAL = 2.215.  I my up the powder load a grain or two.

The next batch of bullets I buy, however, will be 62gr.  My rifling has a 1-7 twist. That's a bit fast for a smaller 55gr bullet.  I notice that the 62gr factory ammo groups a little better for me.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Reloading .223 rounds

So I started the process of learning to reload .223 ammo this week.  This included, of course, laying out the cash to purchase all the extra crud I would need for these rifle rounds.  I've been loading 8-10 thousand rounds (a year) of 9mm and/or .45acp for some time.  But rifle rounds are new to me.

I needed to add the necessary stuff to my Dillon 550B to be able to start the project.  So I got the Dillon .223 caliber conversion kit (shell plate, decap & resizing die, bullet seating die, and crimping die).  I got two new tool heads so I could recap and resize quickly without the brass having to pass through the other dies before the necessary case prep work.  I also got the Dillon Super Swage 600.  It's an expensive tool, but it works really well and quickly to remove the crimp from the primer pocket of each case.  Of course, I needed a Dillon .223 case gauge as well.  For case prep (de-burring, chamfering, etc) I bought the Lyman Case Prep Express.  It's well worth the money.  It saves a lot of time.

The other time-saving tool is the World's Finest Trimmer.  That contraption works great.

So once all this new stuff was delivered I spent an afternoon and evening setting it up and working with it all.  There was a lot of trial and error involved—a lot of error.  But I finally figured it all out.  Here's the process:

- clean the brass
- lube the brass (Dillon case lube)
- decap and resize the brass
- clean the lube off
- check the head space with case gauge
- swage the primer pocket (w/Dillon Super Swage)
- trim the case (w/Worlds Finest Trimmer)
- run the case through the Lyman case prep stages to debut and chamfer the primer pocket
- remove from the reloading press the toolhead with the decap & resize die
- insert the toolhead with the powder drop, bullet seater, and crimper dies.
- run the brass through these three dies
- case gauge the rounds and check OAL

Viola!  Here are my first 20 or so rounds.

Now I need to head to the range and make sure these work so I can load a bunch more.

Monday, January 20, 2014


This is another obligatory Winter post.  Nothing much going on around St. Louis when it comes to shooting matches.  We had to cancel the December and January ARPC IDPA matches because of snow. I've been out to the range for live-fire practice maybe once every two weeks when the weather breaks.  I'm planning to head out this afternoon.  The weather looks good (48 degrees and sunny).

I finally got my Sig 556 that I ordered a year ago.  I took it out yesterday to zero the sights.  It shot flawlessly.  And maybe the best thing about this rifle is that it is much easier to clean than my AR-15.  Here are some picts: