Getting Started In Practical Shooting

Getting started in Practical Shooting

Over two million people a week watch Top Shot on History Channel. 3 Gun Nation is in its second season, and TV networks are scrambling for more shooting shows. Shooting shows are becoming more popular as “Gun Culture 2.0” becomes more popular and more popular and people look to the practical shooting sports as a way to hone their defensive firearms skills.

And I count myself as one of this crowd. I didn’t get into the shooting sports because I grew up around guns, (though I did quite a lot of shooting in my youth), I shoot because a) it’s FUN and b) I want to protect my family’s life. I am fortunate to have a home range that is ground zero for USPSA in my area, so I thought I’d write a quick guide for everyone out there who want to get into practical shooting but don’t know where to start.

A quick word: I’m not “high speed, low drag” (the opposite, in fact…) and I’m not a Tier One Tactical Operator, I’m just a guy who thought practical shooting might be a fun way to get in some firearms training, so this advice is coming from someone whose first time at a match wasn’t that long ago… 

What you’ll need:

A serviceable and safe handgun, minimum caliber 38 spl./9mm. Almost anything out of the box in those calibers is good to go as is.
A safe holster on a belt. Nylon may (MAY work), Kydex or leather is better. No drop-leg, shoulder, cross-draw or small of back holsters.
Magazines or speed loaders and carriers for same. 
Ear and eye protection. 

What does this mean in real-world terms? 

$500-700 for a new pistol. Glock, S+W, CZ, Springfield, whatever. Get something you like, know how to use and are comfortable with. If you’ve recently bought a pistol for home defence, it should work just fine.

$50-100 for the holster and magazine carriers. Bladetech, Safariland and Blackhawk! are all good brands to look out for. 

$50-100 in spare magazines or speed loaders. Yes, you can compete with just two, but no, you don’t want to. 

$10-50 for a range bag to carry everything. Something big enough to carry all of the above yet easy to lug around with you from stage to stage

$40 and up for ammo. Here we get to the really expensive part of practical shooting. A typical match for my club is 4 stages, each with about 25-35 rounds fired. Add in misses and the need to keep your spare magus full and you’ll soon see that bringing 200 or more rounds to a match is a good idea. 

Pre-match training. Know how to use your gun and use it safely. You don’t need to be Annie Oakley, but you should know how to load it, how to unload it, how to deal with loading or feeding issues and most importantly, the basics of gun safety. An NRA First Steps is a great way to get the basic training needed, and I recommend for all first-time shooters.

Is it worth it? 

Oh yeah. A practical shooting competition will quickly show you how well you perform under semi-stressful conditions with a firearm. Under the artificial stress of the timer, simple things like reloading an empty pistol become the hardest thing you’ve ever done, and hard things like hitting a 25 yard head shot become nigh-impossible. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more you become confident in your firearms-handling abilities.

This is the reason I do this, (well, that, and it’s FUN) and it’s the same reason why humans have used games to train for combat since the days of ancient Greece. We train to be good when it doesn’t matter so we can be good when the highest stakes we have are on the line.

Concealed Carry On Campus Passes State House

Concealed Carry on Campus passes State House


The Arizona House has voted to allow people to have guns on public rights of way on college and university campuses.

Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth of Gilbert says they are streets and sidewalks and that people with guns shouldn’t get in trouble merely for passing through a campus. 

Ummn, so you can carry while going through a university or community college but not inside any buildings or facilities. And this is a big deal… why? 

I mean, it’s nice and all that. My family can be protected in our car when we go to a Sun Devils game, but we’re on our own once we go into the stadium.

I guess it’s better than nothing, but if Chicago’s gun laws are a zero and full constitutional carry on-campus is a 10, this new law is about a two and a half. 

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Planning For Plan B

Planning for Plan B

Pocket Protector

Michael Bane talked about training to your weakness this week on his podcast, and I realized I’ve been neglecting to train with my usual daily carry gun, a Kel-Tec P3AT. 

Oh sure, I’ll go the range with it to try a quick El Prez or the like, but I don’t train with if (or any of pistols, for that matter) in any other situation than standing up. 

But I can’t guarantee I’ll be standing upright if I need to defend my life: I may be sitting, I may be kneeling, I may be face down in the dirt, but I need to know how to get my pistol into action as quickly as possible from all of those positions, and that’s something I’ve never trained. 

For safety’s sake, though, it’s best if I do this in two distinct parts. One is practicing my draw and presentation with an unloaded gun at home. Ideally I should use a blue gun for this, but they don’t make a P3AT blue gun just yet, so instead I’ll use a homemade chamber flag and multiple, multiple chamber checks to make sure the gun’s empty and stays empty throughout my practice. I’ve not had a negligent discharge (yet) and I fully intend never to have one. 

The second part is practicing shooting from sitting, kneeling and prone positions with my P3AT and other carry guns on the range, a fairly easy task to accomplish.

All this practice and training probably won’t make me into a robot mutant cyborg, but it will make me more fast and accurate on the worst day of my life. 

And that’s a good thing.



Thirdpower at Days of our Trailers gets a nastygram from an anti-gunner

Read your blog sometime. It’s disgusting and insulting to those who have lost loved ones to guns.

Well, I’ve been touched by gun violence and it affected me deeply, but yet I still enjoy the shooting sports and am very much in favour of protecting my family with a firearm should that (horrible) day ever arise. 

It was a late summer Sunday afternoon in 1981, and my pal Linda and I were riding in our buddy Wes’s Mustang, off to some event or another, taking a shortcut thru the entryway to Foothills Hospital, when Linda yelled out, “There’s a guy crawling through the bushes there!” 

We stopped, and we found a man who had tried to commit suicide by pressing the barrel of a 10/22 against the right side of his nose, pointing up and pulled the trigger. The bullet literally blew off his nose and lodged in his left eye. Having failed to end his own life and living close to the hospital, he was struggling to make it to the emergency room when we found him. 

Linda ran off to get help from the hospital, and Wes and I did our best to settle him down and get him to put down the rifle he was still carrying. Doctors and a gurney from the hospital soon showed up and we stayed around to give our accounts of what happened to the police as he was whisked away to the emergency room.

I was 17.

And I still remember his face.

I never went back to talk to him, heck, I never even got his name. Did he live? Why did he do it? Did he try to kill himself some other way?

I don’t know.

But I still remember what a gunshot to the head looks like, and more importantly, I don’t ever want to see myself, my wife, my kids or my friends in such a way either. 

I refuse to be a statistic for either side of this argument.

I keep my guns safe, I keep my family safe, and I practice so that I can be safe with a gun. 

And I keep praying for that man I met that summer.

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Top Shot : The Wearing Of The Green

Top Shot : The Wearing of the Green

Some quick thoughts about Top Shot Season Two as we await the team merger and the 1000 yard shot

– My Dad is watching this show. Now, growing up, I wouldn’t say that Dad was anti-gun, I’d call him more gun-neutral as he doesn’t share the same passion for firearms that I did. And now he’s watching Top Shot. Why? Because it’s good TV, and it reminds him of shooting .22’s on the farm growing up. Cool.

– I had a chance to briefly chat last month with Michael Voight about the USPSA’s involvement with the show this season, and he said that while there wasn’t any direct connection, the fact is, due to the nature of the challenges on the show, the USPSA and 3 Gun stand to benefit more from Top Shot than just about any other shooting sport. 

– How the heck did the producers of the show slip a Barrett .50 into the People’s Republic of California? 

– The History Channel is doing a great job on using social media to build up the fanbase. The Facebook page for Top Shot is first-rate, with exclusive video clips and online games, and Colby did a live-tweet of the show a few weeks back that I greatly enjoyed. On the blog side, History Channel is actively promoting last year’s winner Iain Harrison’s blog over at American Rifleman and Caleb Gidding’s post-show contestant interviews on his Gun Nuts podcast (Psst, Top Shot: Four words – Free Schwag For Gunbloggers. I take a size XL. HintHintHint).

– They’re also doing a MUCH better job with firearms selection for the challenges this season. Last season there was a collective “Huh?” from the firearms community as the relatively obscure TZ-99 figured prominently in the pistol competitions, but so far this year the guns have been tried and true favorites like the 10/22 and S+W Model 29.

– And there’s an exception to that last point: More than two million people got to see a USPSA Open Class gun in action because of Top Shot. Mike Voight and Taran Butler both said that Johnny Lim’s server crashed that night under the weight of visitors looking for a Razorcat of their very own. Cool. 

– History Channel needs to loosen up its advertising rules. It’s a freakin’ gun show, and Bass Pro Shops has to run fishing ads because History Channel doesn’t allow firearms-related ads? Seems like History Channel likes making money from gun shows , but doesn’t like anyone else making money from shows about guns. That needs to change, and quickly.

– According to Mike Voight, the show’s been picked up for at least three more seasons. Will we see “Top Shot All Stars” or “The Top Shot Traveling Shooting Exhibition and Marksmanship Competition featuring JJ Racaza, Blake Miguez, Maggie Reese and Chris Tilley – coming soon to a shooting range near you!” ? 
Time only knows.

– There is an excellent opportunity for one of the bigger firearms training centers, (maybe one in the Northwest with a prominent show alumni on staff… ), to get some nice PR and free advertising by offering free pistol and rifle classes to Jay when he either loses a competition or (shudder) wins the whole thing: Lord knows he needs the training… 

And now, on with the Green Team and on to the .50 cal! 

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Mother Of Mercy, Is This The End Of Glock?

Mother of mercy, is this the end of Glock?

In a word, yes. No. Maybe.

Richard over at Guns For Sale has an provocatively-titled post arguing that demand for Glocks has peaked, and other guns are on the rise, and he may be on to something here. 

All successful companies reach a point where they discover a cash cow that brings in money hand over fist. For Microsoft, it was Windows-MS Office integration, for IBM, it was the server-terminal environment, for Sun, it was Sparc, for Apple, it was… 

Apple is a special case. More on that later. 

When a company discovers a cash cow, the tendency is to milk it for all it’s worth and avoid doing anything that might interrupt the revenue stream from that popular product. The emphasis is on refining existing products, not innovating new ones. Companies become successful and big and most importantly, risk-averse, making them vulnerable to the next innovation coming down the line. 

Microsoft supplanted IBM because IBM was too focused on the server-terminal environment to see that desktop computing was the next big thing. Google upstaged Microsoft because Google saw that relevant information was more important than operating systems, and Facebook is in the process of upstaging Google because we trust our family and friends to give us relevant data more than we trust programmers in Silicon Valley. 

Which brings me to Apple. Apple has been on top of the hi-tech world for ten years now: It’s gone from having Microsoft and Dell to worry about to squaring off against Google and Amazon, and it’s been successful so far because senior management has realized that we, the consumers, are in charge of what we want, not some faceless product marketing dude in middle management. In order to stay ahead of the innovation curve, Apple is willing to kill its cash cows when needed, even in their prime, something very few companies are capable of doing. 

Glock needs to do this. The Gen4 pistols are nice, but they do have issues, and let’s face it, in an industry that ain’t exactly known for rapid innovation, Glock has pretty much stayed still, churning out the same size and shape of pistols with the same action for thirty years. They may stay on top for a while, though. To borrow a phrase from the IT world of 40 years ago, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”, and that’s where Glock is right now: They are the safe choice, the one to chose because everybody else is doing choosing them too. 

Will they stay on top forever? Of course not, no company ever does. Who will knock them off? Someone who hits the sweet spot of price, performance, placement and promotion like Glock has these past decades. Maybe Ruger, maybe S+W, maybe some gunsmith in a garage with a great idea. 

Heck, it may even be some guy from the backwoods of Utah

* Disclaimer: I have no dog in the “Glocks vs. 1911” debate: As far as I’m concerned, there are CZ’s, and there’s everything else. 

** Instead of going for the music reference, I went for a movie line in the post title

Jerry Miculek : Practical Rifle

Jerry Miculek : Practical Rifle

The Practical RifleImagine learning how to run the lane from Michael Jordan, having Peyton Manning as a QB coach or picking up putting tips from Tiger Woods. 

Jerry Miculek is to practical shooting what each of those men are to their respective sports (Yes, I know, Saul Kirsch, Rob Leatham, etc. need their props as well, but Miculek has been the face of practical shooting for many years.), so when an opportunity came up to review his DVD on running the rifle in practical shooting, I jumped at the chance to get a copy. 

Production and Presentation: 5 out of 5
I’ve had to sit through far too many training videos that look like they were shot on VHS-C and slapped together on the weekend on a home computer, so the production values of this DVD came as a pleasant surprise. The menus are attractive and well-designed, the sound engineering was clear and consistent, and most importantly, the production team seems to have solved one of the big bugaboos about practical shooting: How to make an exciting sport to participate in exciting to the spectator as well. The producers of the DVD use front and rear-facing gun-mounted cameras, overhead cameras, target-mounted cameras and multiple shot angles to really show off Jerry’s shooting skills to great effect and bring all the things he does home to the viewer. 

Teaching and Instruction: 5 out of 5 
One of my biggest regrets (in fact, my only regret) is that I never served in the military, so I was a total newcomer to the AR when I bought my first rifle. I found plenty of resources online on how to care for and maintain an AR, how to sight it in, what doodads and gadgets work best for practical shooting but precious little on how to shoot a rifle in a three gun match. This DVD fills in that gap extraordinarily well.
Two things jump out at me in particular after watching all three discs. 

1. Practical rifle shooting is much more physical than practical pistol.
Let’s face it, in IPSC, we shoot everything either standing up, on the move or leaning against a barricade: We rarely hit the deck for a long shot and shooting while kneeling is almost unheard of. This is not true in practical rifle, where prone shots for long targets are quite common and VTAC barriers abound. Getting into good shape is a priority for good three gun shooting, and therefore it needs to be a priority for me as well. 

2. Shooting a rifle quickly is a vision thing.
After you learn to run and run with the gun, you need to start thinking one target ahead of where you’re shooting now, without messing up the shot  you’re on. I’m not there yet, but I hope to be soon. 

Overall Value: 4 out of 5 
If you’re looking for a DVD on how to care for and maintain your AR, this ain’t it. It’s also not a DVD on how to hone your tactical carbine skills (there are other great DVD’s out there for that). What this DVD does, (teach how to use a rifle in the sport of practical shooting), it does VERY well. There were at least a half-dozen times when I paused the disc and thought more on what was being said. Some of it was blindingly obvious, (well, obvious to everyone except ME, that is), like how to set up a pair of coupled magazines on your rifle, some of it not so obvious, like the advantages of crossing your ankles while shooting prone. 

If I have a complaint, it’s that there seemed to be a little bit of “filler” at the end where Jerry’s talked about the mental game and how he preps for a match. It’s good stuff, but it could have been left out and added in as a printed insert just as easily.

Overall, The Practical Rifle neatly fills in a gap in the training library of the practical shooter and has great tips for beginning shooters like myself. It takes some of the mystique out of running a rifle quickly in competition and gives real-world insight on improving accuracy, speed and consistency in shooting competitions. 

FTC Notice: Brownell’s provided me with a copy of the DVD for review

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How The Game Is Meant To Be Played

How the game is meant to be played

Compare Kelly Neal (who won Tac Limited) on Stage 7 to my pathetic attempt

The biggest thing that jumps out at me is the difference in weapon-handling skills: I bobbled the rifle load and had an FTE while he ran smoothly the whole way. The good news is, those are learned skills and easy to fix, so I can make a pretty drastic improvement pretty quickly if I tackle those things first.

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Arrive Home Safely

Arrive home safely

The devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina sparked a lot of interest in disaster preparedness: From government websites on how to prepare for an earthquake to TV shows about surviving a systemic breakdown, survivalism is now the new black.

And I’ve caught the bug as well: I’ve written about preparing a kit for your office and getting ready on the cheap, and I’ve recently packed a “Get Me Home Bag” for my car, based on a UTG Man-Purse Messenger Bag.

Old and busted

And it didn’t really work. I had too much stuff for the bag, making it clumsy to carry and putting too much weight on my shoulder. I needed something else, and Brownell’s was there with a Paladin Go-Bag.

A Paladin Go Bag from Brownell's

Right off the bat, I could tell the Paladin bag was better-built and more rugged than the UTG bag. It had a pleasant, solid feel to it and looked like something that could handle a lot of abuse. Also, while it looked only a bit bigger than the UTG bag, it had a cavernous interior pocket and multiple outside pockets. The Go Bag is the perfect compromise: It’s bigger than a messenger bag, but smaller and more portable than the more-common three day assault pack.

UTG v. Paladin

And my, can it hold stuff!
I’ve crafted a three-day kit for the unique needs of living in the Phoenix metro area, and the Paladin bag swallowed it whole. The purpose of all this stuff is two-fold: Get me home from work if a major social disturbance or disaster interrupts my normal commute, and something to take with me on trips outside of Phoenix that’ll keep me going for at least three days.

72 hours on the go

Some highlights:
– Hydration pouch
– First Aid Kit
– Light sticks
– Flashlights
– Extra Ammo
– Knives
– Survival blankets
– Trauma Kit
– AM/FM Radio
– Signal mirror
– Water Filter
– Water Tablets
– Solid Fuel Stove
– Molefoam pads for sore feet

Some Arizona-specific items include a trowel, plastic sheet and tubing for building a solar still (Yes, I know, they’re not 100% effective, but in the desert, some water is better than none), sunscreen and a big floppy hat.

Does it all fit inside the Paladin bag? Yep. Easily, in fact.

The bag was fully up to the task of carrying all my gear, though I will say that the big interior pouch is hard to keep organized. A few mesh bags would be a good thing to have with this bag to keep all your little bits and pieces in one place.

GO, bag!

And even better, it fits great inside the trunk of my car, much better than its UTG predecessor.

Junk in trunk

That’s a couple of jugs of bottled water and the Go bag in the back of my Honda Civic. Honestly, the bag and water go in there like they’re made for it.

In all, I love this new bag: It was designed for serviceman to bring the essentials of life with them wherever they go and it works great for us civilians for the same purpose also. I have full confidence that if I ever need it (and I REALLY hope I don’t), the Paladin Go Bag will hold up to the task.