Plastic Fantastic

Lower

Earlier this year, I won a gun (ok, an AR Lower, but it counts, right?) off the prize table at the Superstition Mountain Mystery Three Gun.

And here’s what it turned into. 

Cav Arms lower + MagPul

  • CavArms Lower
  • 16″ Dane Armory barrel
  • VM HyTech Upper from my old AR
  • Magpul forend 
  • No-name handle and front sight

It’s unbelievably light, shoots very well and will make a great plinker/defense gun for when I don’t want to use the UEBR.

Shooting sports

Michael Bane write about the growing popularity of the (non-hunting) shooting sports

The big trend for 2010 is the bigger than expected successes of shooting competitions on television, led by TOP SHOT on History and 3-GUN NATION on Versus. I hear channels are scrambling for more shooting programming. 

Well duh. What took them so long?

First-person shooter games have been around for thirty years, which means for thirty years, we’ve been running around and shooting things in a virtual environment. It only makes sense that the same impulses that drive us to blast the legions from hell would drive us out to the range and try our hand at the real thing. 

So what would a TV-friendly shooting show look like? Well, a lot like Top Shot or 3 Gun Nation, actually. Head-to-head competition is what makes slalom skiing so exciting, and that’s another sport that relies on technique to shave thousands of an inch at every opportunity, which is also happens to be the key to winning practical shooting. 

And, to quote Jules Winnfield, personality goes a long way. Top Shot drew in so many viewers because we were attracted to the people of the sport, and not just the sport itself. NASCAR gets this, practical shooting needs to learn this, too. 

A few more things to get practical shooting more TV-friendly: 

– Reactive targets and/or real-time scoring. Waiting around for an RO to yell out “Two Alpha” (or in my case, “Charlie Mike”) is boring. Steel is good, some kind of electronic target that shows hits in real-time would be better.

– Side by side comparisons of runs. Why did Mike Voight beat Taran Butler on Stage Three? Was it because he shot a bit faster or a bit cleaner? Showing the same run using identical camera angles and editing would go a long way into helping others understand the sport. 

– Colour commentary. Many, many football fans rely on the experts in the booth to tell them why a wishbone offense is a better idea in a given situation than the shotgun, and it’s the same with practical shooting. Why did a competitor screw the pooch on a given stage? Why did one do better? Without a colour commentator, you have to be involved in the sport to know why. A good TV host can open the competition and the sport to people who aren’t shooters, making it even more popular. 

If paintball can be shown on ESPN, why can’t USPSA? Imagine how popular IPSC would get if Dave Sevigny was on the Wheaties box… 

Just a reminder…

The Central Arizona Bloggershoot is this Saturday. Come celebrate the resounding defeat of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and/or blow off your frustrations at the direction our country has taken. 

Date: Saturday, November 6th
Time: 8 am (-ish) to whenever (Kevin’s getting there at 7am: I like my rest, so I’m planning for 8).
Location: Elsy Pearson Rifle Range, Casa Grande
Food: Bring your own, and water too
Targets: Bring those too

The gun you have

I still dabble in photography, even though it’s been almost ten years since it was my full-time job, and photographers are still equipment-obsessed, a trait they share with firearms enthusiasts. Camera companies spend millions of dollars on ads that show the wonderful, striking photos you can take with your SuperTouchDeluxe XV3 (now with MondoPixel technology!), and photographers fall for it, thinking that all they need is the latest technology to turn into the next Yousef Karsh.

But the fact is, great photos can be taken with any camera, and chances are, you can defend your life with just about any firearm. It’s not the tools you use, it how you use the tools you have. Tam’s post on The Firing line nails it wonderfully.

Two reasons people are anti-training (perhaps not coincidentally, this is also why people are anti- competing in organized shooting sports):

1) “It costs too much.” Somebody has fifteen guns, a motorcycle, a PS3 with plenty of games hooked to his flat-panel TeeWee (not to mention the PS2 and PlayStation in the attic), and who knows how many other toys, and a $200-$400 handgun training course “costs too much”. Hey, Skippy, how ’bout selling that Taurus Raging Judge you were bragging about buying last week and using the proceeds to get yourself taught how to use one of the fourteen other guns you already had? (And maybe sell one of those and take an MSF class for your motorcyclin’ while you’re at it.) The problem is, people can’t point at new mental furniture and say to their friends “Look what I just bought!”

2) People can’t shoot, but think they can. At the range, nobody is really watching them shoot and, face it, everybody else at the range is awful, too. But if they go to a class or enter a match, it will get proved officially: “Joe/Jane Averageshooter: First Loser”. It takes humility to learn and lose. Humble people don’t boast on their adequacy. So most people go and buy another gun instead, because when they open the box on that gun, it won’t look up at them and say “You stink!”; it’ll say “You just bought the official pistol of SWATSEAL Team 37 1/2! Congratulations!”

If you want to take better pictures, learn about light and get some training, because chances are the camera you have is up to the task. If want to defend your life, learn to use the gun(s) you have, because they’re the ones you’ll need if your life is on the line.

Bloggershoot!

Time for another Arizona gunblogger get-together in Casa Grande! 

Date: Saturday, November 6th
Time: 8 am (-ish) to whenever (Kevin’s getting there at 7am: I like my rest, so I’m planning for 8).
Location: Elsy Pearson Rifle Range, Casa Grande
Food: Bring your own, and water too
Targets: Bring those too

Last year’s meetup was a heck of a good time, and we hope to see even more people out there this time. RSVP here or at Kevin’s

The camera you have

As I’ve said before, I was a full-time commercial photographer for 10 years before I switched careers to web marketing, and I was/ am a die-hard Nikon guy. I carried an FG all over Latin America (Why an FG and not one of my F3’s? An FG is light. More on that later.), and I could usually be found with a bag of SLR’s hanging off my left shoulder, and if that wasn’t enough, I had a studio full of Hasselblads and Sinars to fall back on.

But I loved my Olympus XA. The other cameras I owned were/are great (an FM2 with motor drive can double as a hammer in a pinch. Ask me how I know this), but they were bigger, and I didn’t carry them around all the time. My XA could fit into a pocket, had a first-rate lens in a useful focal length, was manual focus and gave some control over exposure settings, even though it was an aperture-preffered automatic.

Because it was so small and yet so versatile, I carried one with me all the time and a result, I got some pretty good shots with it, shots that I couldn’t get if I didn’t have a camera with me.

To quote Chase Jarvis, what’s the best camera for you?

The one you have with you.

My XA is gone, sold off with the rest of my pro equipment, but I’ve found a great substitute for it in my iPhone. Between Camera+, Tilt/Shift Generator and Perspective, I’ve got a pretty useful artistic tool with me everywhere I go.

Agave ;Dylan

Now, what does all this have to do with guns?

Quite a lot, actually.

My carry gun is currently either my Kel-Tec P3AT or my Sccy CPX-1. Neither would be considered a high-end tactical firearm, in fact either of them would probably blow up in to a fine plastic mist if I tried to put them through even the most basic of torture tests.

But I have at least one of them with me wherever I can, and that means they are currently the best self-defense gun for me. Is a Springfield EMP or a Sig P238 a better firearm? Maybe, probably, in fact. But I don’t own either one. What I do own I shoot, and what I practice with as well. I am confident that if, (God forbid), I need to use either one, my P3AT or Sccy will be the best guns I own.

Sometimes good enough is good enough

“Know thy enemy, know thyself, and you will be invincible.” 

– Sun Tzu

When I was a professional photographer, once someone found out what I did for a living, I’d usually at a party, “Say, I want to take better pictures, what kind of camera should I get?” 

My answer to this was always “Well, that depends. How many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”, which would usually end that part of the conversation as the would-be photographer grapples with the concept of shooting an entire 36-shot roll of film each week, much less more than one, where it was not uncommon for me to burn through two dozen rolls of HP5+ or TMZ covering just one high school basketball game. 

The point I was trying to make is that it’s not the camera that limits the photographer, it’s his or her ability to put in the time necessary to realize their vision and their desire to push their creativity that limits a photographer.

Looking back on this now, I realize my answer to the wannabe photogs was/is snarky and condescending: People want to take better pictures not to become the next Mark Seliger, they want to capture memories that are more evocative and aesthetic, something all of us share. 

Which brings me to practical shooting. I’m blessed/cursed to call Rio Salado Sportsmans Club my home range. It’s loaded to the gills with USPSA Grandmasters. It’s a blessing in that each match is challenging and exciting, but each match is meant to be challenging and exciting to shooters like Rob Leatham, Vic Pickett and Matt Burkett. 

This can (and does) discourage beginning shooters. Imagine cranking off the best golf drive in your life and then have Tiger Woods shoot behind you and out-drive you by 100 yards. 

The upside to this, though, is that in the words of The Chairman Of The Board, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. And  another great thing about shooting at Rio is the opportunity to participate and shoot in some 1st-class matches like the Desert Classic and Mystery 3 Gun, which bring in shooters from around the country. I get to meet some of the best shooters in the world, and the prize tables for each match can be really good

All of this explains why I’m shooting a laid-back, easy-to-shoot steel match with friends on a regular basis rather than the more difficult but less friendly USPSA matches at Rio. I like Rio: I do all my practicing there and I’ll still shoot a USPSA match there as often as I can, but right now, it’s important that I believe I can shoot well and do so when needed, even in the toughest of competitions. My practice sessions are there for me to prepare me physically, the steel matches are there to prepare me mentally. My standard for success needs to be me and the progress I have made, not the best shooters in the world can do.