Still got the shutter bug.

Even though it’s been at least a dozen years since I tripped the the shutter for a living (and five years since my last big gig), I can still pull out a good shot or two when needed.

Did a day’s worth of shooting for the day job over the weekend, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

Naples Gun Range VIP shooting range in Florida The Alamo by Lotus Gunworks Womens shooting instruction in Naples

Gear for the shoot, if you must know, was this cheap-o Chinese lighting kit, a flex reflector and my old D70.

Oh, and gaffer’s tape, foam core and a-clamps, because let’s face it, when you get right down to it, those are more important than the camera.

No, really.

Things might have gone a bit smoother on the shoot if I had access to my old reliable Speedotrons, but hey, time (and gear) marches on. Besides, I picked up the entire new system for the price of one flash head from my old lighting kit. Granted, I now have four 200w/s monoblocks instead of 9600w/s worth of lights that can (and have) lit up a basketball arena, but what I have works for me, and that’s the way I like it.

Match Report: USPSA at SWFPS

Had a chance to shoot an actual, honest-to-goodness USPSA match over the weekend, my first since October of last year. The match was held at the Southwest Florida Practical Shooters range up in Ft. Myers, about an hour away from my house (man, I miss the days of having 3 good ranges within an hour’s drive…). The range itself is a nice little gun club, with 5 bays, a 200 yard rifle range and stand for shotgun.

And man, it felt good to shoot some actual honest-to-goodness USPSA again!

The stages were nicely designed and the competition pretty decent, with two Master-Class Open shooters on my squad. I had been working a bit on my draw and my moving while reloading before the match, so I was curious to see what effect that would have on my times. In addition to this, I’ve been digging into Beyond Fundamentals quite a lot recently (having just re-bought it in Kindle Edition so I don’t lose the durn thing again), and I was interested in seeing what effect that would have on my shooting.

Here’s video of stages five and six.

First impressions: I’m quite happy with my movement: I’m setting up nicely for ports and  moving in and out of shooting positions quite well, sometimes TOO well, because I left a popper standing (a popper that fell in calibration, of course. Sonuva&@#$!….). Stage strategy is good, as is adjusting between the difficulty of the targets, for the most part. I still need to work on focus with my long shots, but other than that, I can see progress. Maybe not the progress I want at the speed I want, but progress nevertheless.

Update: Looking at the scores, I came in second in Production on stage six.

Out of two Production shooters in the match.

I was beaten by an A class shooter who ran it two seconds faster than me with 6 more points. The good news is, I know where I can pick up those two seconds (moving out of shooting positions faster) and where I can pick up the six points (better hits on closer targets).

Cool.

Learning for a lifetime

Thinking more about yesterday’s post, what’s more important: Teaching techniques, or instilling the passion to learn how to stay safe?

It seems to me that tactical trainers get caught up in the superiority of the gun-fu they’re teaching and then forget that what they’re actually doing is *teaching* first, perfecting gun-fu second.

An example:

There’s a small husband and wife firearms training team here in Naples that could teach the big boys a thing or two about customer service and creating repeat business. They both have great training creds (Givens, Farnham, Suarez and others), and work well together. They have a weekly demonstration/lecture class at a local church and then host a “range day” on the weekend where people can practice what they learned earlier. Their clientele is both single men and woman, and more couples than I’m used to seeing in a firearms training class. They also have a lot of older, retired people in their classes, but you know what? That’s the market here in “Heaven’s Waiting Room”.

In other words, they create loyal customers by knowing their market and teaching to their market. They don’t teach advanced-level gun-fu, but they get people used to using their guns and stay aware of their surroundings. I’ve seen how they train people, and I know they’ve made an impact on the lives of the people they’ve taught.

And unsurprisingly, one of them is also a middle-school math teacher.

So it turns out that people who are good at teaching also make good firearms teachers.

Who knew?

Welcome to Worst-Case Scenario Land, Population… You.

Hundreds of middle-school and high-school teenagers decide to bum-rush a movie theater near Orlando, shots ring out, general chaos ensues.

Orange County deputies are trying to figure out why hundreds of teenagers suddenly rushed into the movie theater at West Oaks Mall in Ocoee Saturday night.
Deputies said as many as 900 kids, described as being in middle or high school, attempted to rush the theater at once.
About 200 teenagers were able to get in before the security gates were closed.
Witnesses said several fights broke out with reports of shots fired.

Best case scenario: Don’t be there when this sort of thing happens, but that would mean not going to the movies ever again, and that ain’t an option for my family. Best advice I can give is know where ALL the exits are and have a flashlight or some other less-lethal compliance tool to get people out of your way.

Match Report: SWSFA Handgun Challenge

I travelled up the I-75 Saturday to shoot the Handgun Challenge match at the SW Florida Sportsman’s Association. The match rules are a hybrid of USPSA and IDPA and are light weight, unobtrusive and make a lot of sense. The match was very low-key and laid-back, and started with something I’ve never done before, a man-on-man shootoff.

Yep, a half-dozen years in this sport, and I’ve never shot a shoot-off, mainly because I’d shot so long out at Rio, and no matter how good you’d do there, you’d end up shooting against Rob or Angus or Nils, and that was the end of that.

But at this match, I did pretty well. I ended up in the final round (there was about a dozen shooters there), but I had my @ss handed to me by a little kid who was much faster and better than I am.

Sigh.

stage

The other part of the match was one stage you could run through multiple times with multiple guns. I ran through it twice with the same gun: Once normally, and once REALLY concentrating on accuracy in order to go down ten points or less. Here’s video of me on the concentration run.

I had no presuppositions for this match. I’d never shot it before, I’d never been to this range before, I had no clues about divisios or rules or whatever. My pre-match strategy was literally “Ok, let’s see what happens and go from there”. In short, I was as close to the Zen ideal of a “beginner’s mind” as I’ve been in the last few years, and just relied on innate, unconscious shooting.

The stage design also encouraged this approach, as aside from headshot at the end, there weren’t any really tricky targets, and the course of fire was easy with no memory games needed.

What’s REALLY interesting is the time/score between the “unconscious” and the “conscious” run. 2 years ago, in order to shoot my best, I needed to concentrate hard on the A Zone/ Down Zero zone and get my hits, because that’s what I found led to success.

Today? Not so much.

Scorecard

I’m almost TEN SECONDS up faster on the stage running it with my unconscious mind and almost four and half seconds up faster with points down figured in.

Remember when I said I think I’ve reached the point where Brian Enos’ book can help me? I think I now have proof that I was right.

So what’s stopping me from shooting unconsciously all the time?

  • Stage Design: Anytime there’s multiple opportunities to shoot the same target from different locations or blow past a port, I need to think about things and that slows me down.
  • Precision Over Speed: I still slow down and *think* about hitting long-range or precise shots, and the time to think about slowing down takes as much (or more) time as focusing on the front sight and making the shot. I’ll still need that front sight focus as I progress, but I think I can shift mental gears quicker over time, improving my score.

Other than that, I’ve very satisfied with what I see and where I am. On to bigger and better things.

Update: Edited for clarity.

The Fundamentals Never Go Out Of Style

The Fundamentals Never Go Out Of Style

Had a fun little night-time training session with Jeff and Robyn from Step By Step Training last week. I learned a lot about my gear (memo to self: Get night sights for the Shield, STAT!), and talked with them about a bit about what drives their passions.

Me? I’m a gamer, with trainer tendencies. I’m concerned about my personal protection, but I’ve decided my path to mastery (or at least not-suckery) goes through learning to shoot for shoot’s sake.

An explanation.

Going back and looking at that match video from earlier this month, nothing there, by itself, is “tactically unsound”. Most (if not all) of what we can “tactical training” has to do with NOT shooting a gun. Getting a smooth draw, quick reload and fast, accurate hits is something at applies to training range and pistol match alike.

So why some people think that “competition will get you killed on the streets” is something I’ll never know.

There are three reasons to film a match.

One is to share your exploits with your friends and family.
Another is prove to yourself just how dang good you are (or think you are…).
Thirdly, to show where you need improvement.

This post is about that last item.

Here’s two of the stages at nice little practical match at Louland Gun Range just south and east of Naples. I reminds me a lot of the Tuesday Night Steel match at Rio, except one of the stages (as you’ll see) uses paper targets.

Lessons Learned from Stage Three

  1. Holy cow, is my draw ever slow! I don’t need a shot timer to measure it, I need a sundial!
  2. REALLY like my movement out of that first position. I’m on the move less that 0.2 seconds after the BANG. I set up in the box leaning slightly to the right, which allowed me to push off and start moving to the next position with no wasted motion.
  3. My splits are long here (0.6 seconds) but I’m getting my hits, and there is no difference between the split times in-between shots on the same target and shots on a new target. Cool.
  4. That is not a reload, so much as an interpretative dance about reloads. Based on my many, many times running an El Pres, I know I can do it better and faster.

Lessons Learned from Stage Two

  1. Again, the painfully slow draw. Something needs to change there, and soon.
  2. I drop a missed shot on a popper on the second array, which goofs up my stage plan…
  3. … but I recover for some turn’n’burn rapid fire on that stationary target. I’m happy with my speed and hits there.
  4. Speaking of speed and hits, after I send another miss downrange, my splits on those last two targets are very good (for me) and again, there is no time difference between shots on the same target and shots on a new target.

So all in all, there is areas where I need improvement, and areas where my improvement has paid off. I’m not going to beat Rob Leatham, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be better.

Oh yeah, and it’s pretty scenic down here in the Sunshine State.

Practical shooting in Florida

Cover drill

Miami ViceI’m doing something many men never, ever do, and that’s re-thinking my wardrobe. For a lot of guys, “wardrobe” consists of jeans and t-shirts with logos on them, and that’s ok, they’re guys.

I, however, have had a conscious “style” for the last 20 years, and it was black. Black t-shirts or long-sleeve shirts (NEVER a polo shirt or short-sleeve dress shirt), no logos, no brands and either jeans or khakis, and it served goofy artistic me very well, as I what I wore became part of how people thought of me.

It’s called “branding”, people, and it’s not just for corporations.

But it’s time for a change. I’m going to be changing gradually this year to something more tropical and lighter weight, and part of what I need to consider in my new wardrobe is concealed carry.

For daily wear, I’m gravitating towards guayabera shirts in white or off-white and khakis. I’ve liked them for a while now (ever since I lived in Costa Rica) and apparently they’re pretty darn good for concealed carry as well, so that takes care of my off-work sartorial needs.

For work, that’s easy. I have a uniform (first time I’ve had that since I worked fast food). It’s a nice black Columbia Sportswear shirt which needs to be tucked in, and for a bunch of reasons (the least of which is to help acclimatize people to such things), I want to open carry inside the store. I’m looking to pickup a nice OWB holster for the P07 for shop use, but that presents a problem: What do I do when I walk outside the store? Florida doesn’t have open carry (yet), so for the first time in my life, I need a cover garment that isn’t an untucked shirt.

I’ve narrowed it down to three options, and I’d appreciate your input.

  1. A lightweight IDPA “Shoot me first!” vest. There’s a ton of fishing going on here, but almost none of it involves the stuff you need a vest for. I’d stick out like a sore thumb in a vest, but on the other hand, I work in a gun store, and looking all tac’d out would not be a bad thing.
  2. A lightweight dress shirt, like something in chambray or linen. I *love* chambray shirts, I used to wear them all the time layered over a t-shirt. A shirt like this would conceal the gun and not look too out of place, and it’d also be my least-expensive option. Downside: Stray winds exposing the gun. Florida’s “brandishing” laws seem pretty good, but still, why take a chance?
  3. A lightweight suit jacket. Properly made, a summer weight jacket is very easy to wear in the all but the hottest of climates, and as Naples has MONEY, it’d make me look a bit spiffier outside of work. Downside? Being nicknamed “Crockett”.

Your thoughts? Is there something I overlooked?

A Year To Remember

long range AR

Wow, what a year.

Right off the bat, I want to thank everyone who stopped by the blog. There are millions of things to read out there on the internet, and I’m always humbled that people consider what I blather on about here to be worth their time.

It’s been quite a year. Being on TV. Hosting an *incredible* SHOT show party. Writing some more stuff for Shooting Illustrated. Training with Paul CarlsonTraining with Rob Pincus. Getting hired to market a gun store. Getting hired to market an even cooler gun range. Shooting rather well (for me) in a 3 Gun match. Shooting at the home of the Bianchi Cup. Shooting my first-ever precision rifle match. Shooting over 60% in a classifier. Starting a dry-fire regime to not suck as much.

Gun wise, things were quiet. I won a lower at Superstition which I turned into a dedicated precision AR (it’s that gun that leads this post), and I bought another lower and a Sig brace from my last employer that will probably turn into a 9mm AR pistol.

Meeting Bob Owens and Katie Pavlich and Chris Cheng and so many, many more cool people. Seeing this amazingly beautiful country. Seeing snow fall once more, and then having the brains to leave it behind for warmer climes. Spending Christmas afternoon on the beach. Worshipping and singing in the choir in a small-town Baptist church of 100 people and a huge mega-church of 1000. It’s been a year like no other, and thanks once again for sharing it with me.

Now, on to 2016!

Window of Vulnerability

broken_windows-570x427

I was JUST in the process of buying the needed items for my Three Day Bag in order to make it more useful for the colder climes of Missouri rather than the dry heat of Arizona, and now it looks like I’ll need to change those plans once more to accommodate my new life in Florida.

This un-nerves me a bit, as my family and I are particularly vulnerable right now. We know next to nobody, so we have no support system in-place. We’re not familiar with the area (we still use Siri to get to the grocery store) and we’ve no idea about the roads out of town or what to do when the levee breaks. We are VERY vulnerable right now, and I don’t like that.

Even worse, we currently live in a small apartment, so stocking up on anything is pretty much a no-go due to space. We have room for a week’s worth of food, and that’s about it.

So over the next few months, it’s going to be on my shoulders to learn the threats to life here in this corner of the Sunshine State and create appropriate responses so we can live our lives can go on with as little interruption as possible.

Stay tuned.

Exit question: What gun for Crocosaurus?