I’ve filled in a huge gaping hole in my collection and acquired a .22 semi-auto.
Nothing spectacular about it, no 1 1/2 ounce trigger pull, no holographic sight, just a plain jane S+W M22, lousy front sight and all. I’ll be taking care of that front sight issue with a little bit of bright orange nail polish, and I’ll be using this to compete in the regular Sunday .22 match at Rio each month.
Previous to starting The Quest, I essentially hadn’t done any competitive shooting at all in the past year, aside from staff days prior to the Desert Classic and the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun. Therefore, I consider this a baseline to grow on rather than the be-all and end-all of my scores in USPSA.
The practice is working. Even with that long sabbatical from practical shooting, I shot better than this last classifier than the any one before it. A little more accuracy practice and a little more discipline can get me there, I think.
I think my goal at my next practice session should be to shoot my Presidente’s as cleanly as possible, ignoring speed and dropping every single shot (if I can) into the A Zone.
My best score on the El Presidente, ever! (Ignore the FTF on the second run. Please. I’m begging you.) On the third run, I tried to push my speed a bit with less-than-stellar (and predictable) results.
I also ran my Kel-Tec P3AT through an El Prez as well, just to get in some practice with it and see how it performs versus my competition gun.
The short answer? It doesn’t. I drew it from the same pocket holster I use for everyday carry, and I had my spare mag in my off hand pocket, just like I do when I carry it around with me. If I need to use my P3AT, I’ll need to rely on my awareness of my surroundings and have it prepped and ready to use, rather than relying on stopping someone from a draw with it.
At the night shooting class I took a couple of days ago, a good number of people said that they had issues with doing many things at once with a firearm in their hand. They had problems with stashing their flashlight in a safe place, performing reloads and just keeping everything straight in their heads in a semi-stressful environment.
I’ll admit I had some issues with this as well (memo to self: a magazine with four rounds in it and a fully-loaded magazine do NOT weigh the same), but for the most part, I did pretty well.
My initial approach to this stage was to shoot eight rounds at each mini-stage within the larger course for a total 24 rounds. But what happens if, for some bizarre (and all-too-common) reason, I totally charlie-foxtrot a portion of the stage? What if it takes five or six rounds to knock down a popper rather than just one? Now I have to do a standing reload, (which kills your time) and adjust how I shoot the rest of the course accordingly.
This is what practical shooting teaches you: How to respond with a firearm in your hand when things don’t go according to plan. You can learn to shoot a 4″ bullseye at 25 yards on the public range and a training class will teach you the best way to engage targets around barricades, but practical shooting gives you the mindset you need to quickly and safely respond correctly with your firearm when things go all to pieces.
I had the opportunity to go to a four-hour “Fight at Night” training class over at Rio Salado on Saturday night, put on by Brad Parker of Defend University. I took the class because I knew I had a big gap in my training when it came to low light and night encounters. Most lethal force incidents happen in low-light conditions, but for reasons of safety and convenience, we do most of our practice and training on clean, well-lit ranges. It’s like a karate student who spends all of his time in the dojo doing kata and never does any sparring.
The class covered many of the standardized flashlight and pistol grips, types of lighting (backlit, frontlit, etc.), how to manipulate your firearm with a flashlight (your prirmary hand armpit, btw, makes a handy-dandy flashlight holder when you need both hands free), the basics of using a flashlight as a defensive tool and some of the physiological effects of darkness on the human body.
And then we got to the shooting. And it was unlike anything I’ve done before.
Here we’re trying to learn to shoot with our off-hand while trying to deal with a backlit target without illumination from with our flashlights. The glow you see behind the steel targets comes from a couple of dozen road flares strewn about the berm, and I’m kinda happy I was able to get a couple of muzzle flashes in the shot. For safety reasons, we all wore glowsticks so the RO’s could keep track of our whereabouts, and the firing line was designated by glowsticks as well. If this sort of thing looks cool, well, it was. 🙂
I learned a LOT for this class.
* This was the first time I’d used my new CZ for anything other than practice on the range, and it performed without a hiccup, which increases my confidence for using it as an everyday carry pistol.
* I need night sights, a flashlight and/or a laser for every firearm I may use in a self-defense situation. The sights on my P07 are great in broad daylight or at sunset, but once the lights go out, they’re utterly invisible.
* I learned I can trust my instincts. One of the drills we did was in total darkness: No lights, no nuthin’, just the backscatter of the lights of Mesa off the clouds overhead. Despite the lack of light, I was able to bang the steel four times out of four. Maybe I should close my eyes each time I go shooting…
The class was DEFINITELY worth the modest registration fee, and I’d recommend it (or any other low-light training class) to anyone who is serious about defending their life or the lives of their loved ones.
Really looking forward to this show because if it’s done right, it could point the way to greater exposure of practical shooting on the bigger cable networks, and, dare I say it, (“Dare! Dare!”), ESPN or broadcast TV.
(Yes, I’m the dorky-looking guy at 0:15, lower camera left with the grey hat. This is why I blog and not do a video journal…
Practical shooting is a lot like golf in that it’s a mind game: It’s you and what you can do vs. how the course is laid out. The only person you’re competing with in golf is your confidence in your abilities (“175 yards to hole? I think I can carry that bunker.”). I’m finding out that knowing what I can do and planning each stage based on that knowledge are the keys to a successful run.
For instance, I shoot Production, which means I start out with 10 rounds in each magazine (and usually another in the chamber at the start) and that gaur-an-frckin-tees I’m going to reload on almost every stage I come across. That also means I’m going to have a slight edge on Single Stack and Revolver shooters who shoot only 8 rounds before they have to reload.
Let’s see how this plays out in reality. Here’s a simple USPSA stage that I built using stagebuilder.com.
Comstock scoring, 24 rounds
Now, because the stage designer (me) decided to build the stage in a way that accommodates Revolver and Single Stack shooters, it makes the job of anyone shooting Production and Limited-10 a little easier. Also, there’s no real tricks to this stage: There aren’t multiple paths to each group of targets and no real “gotcha” opportunities for missed targets and failure to engage penalties, it’s pretty much a run and gun scenario, and if you’re shooting Open and have more than 24 rounds in your pistol, a decent shooter should be able to shoot the whole stage without a reload.
Here’s how I’d run this course.
If it’s a complicated stage (this one isn’t), I’d offload the thinking part by using making a quick diagram on a Stage Analysis form before I turn in my scorecard for the stage. I’m a kinesthetic learner: I need to physically grasp a concept before I can work on it, and sitting down and drawing out a stage allows me to grasp just what is needed to accomplish my goals. It also means I print out my emails, but that’s another story…
I then plan my reload points by physically walking the course, determining how many rounds are needed for each group of targets and then miming the act of reloading my pistol in each spot I’ve chosen. The nice thing about this is that I can usually do this part of my planning without interfering the other shooters as they also go through their prep for each stage. In this case, I’d plan on one reload between each group of targets, and hopefully that’d be it.
Then, as it gets closer to my turn to shoot the stage, I start to work on what order I’ll engage the targets. This is hard to tell from a stage diagram, so it’s something that has to be done on the course itself.
When I’m in box and getting ready to shoot, my mantra is simple: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast“, and I try to visualize a good sight picture with my pistol.
And then the timer goes off, the red mist descends, my brain locks up and all this planning goes out the window. 🙂
First, the bad news. The speed demon had me it it’s claws again, and I blew the Dot Torture Drill.
Dot Torture Drill (3 yards): 40 out of 50
But despite going backwards, I was able to narrow my focus more on maintaining a good front sight picture and accuracy, which resulted in better El Presidente times.
A B C D
2A D M
2A D M
2D A C
3A C D
A B D M
A 2C M
A C D M
2A B C
2 runs with P07, 3 runs with the CZ75, and 2 with my current carry gun, a Sccy CPX-1 (more on that gun later).
Run #2 was done for speed, run #3 for accuracy. Overall, my scores are MUCH improved from my last practice, so I have reason to be hopeful.
And I wanted to shoot my carry gun. It doesn’t do me much good to be a whiz with a megasuperdeluxeautoblaster competition gun and then fall to pieces when I need my pistol the most. My setup was my CPX-1 in an IWB holster concealed by a t-shirt and a spare mag in my offhand jeans pocket. The first run was for speed, the second for accuracy, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.
The Sccy has been a bit of a problem child for me: It’s gone back to the factory three times, and each time they’ve sent a new gun back to me along with two extra mags. Great service, but I prefer guns that have good warranties but never need them, and that’s why I got the P07.