Friday, March 30, 2012

Training – A shooting I shall go . . . A shooting I shall go . . .

I am on a quest to finish up the NRA Rifle and Shotgun instructor courses.  They are the two remaining that I am not certified for and it has been my intention to complete them before my Training Counselor  course in September.  It has been tough to find them – a search of a 200 mile radius of my home only found 3 rifle and I believe 4 shotgun trainings.  So, as I said in the previous post, I have 3-weeks until the shotgun course (probably to be spent on the trap range).  But, the Rifle Instructor Course is this weekend.  I’m ready to head out of town for a couple days and go “play”.
So, I have the Colt M4 .22calLR and a Ruger 10/22 target tucked away in the case.  Ammo, cleaning kits and – soon, clothing, netbook, reading material, clean undies – gonna be on the road within the next hour!

This will be my third Training Counselor.  I like that – you always learn something new from a different instructor – especially when you can dig into their teaching techniques.  How do they organize their information?  What aids do they use?  How do they teach “the basics”?  The NRA catch phrase is to give a new shooter the “Knowledge, Skills and Attitude” to learn to become a good shooter – or a good shooting instructor.  Of all of these, Attitude is the most critical – IMNSHO (In My Not So Humble Opinion).  If you hit an instructor that “knows it all” – they don’t.  But, they DO have their own experiences – which most will willing share and you can learn from that.  If class has “one of those” students who has “been there – done that” and simply waits to share with the class HIS thoughts – that person is missing out on a tremendous opportunity to learn from both the instructor and the other students as well.  Don’t be “that guy”.  When you have the opportunity to take a new shooting course, leave your ego in the parking lot and simply suck it all in, in the class room, at breaks and meals, in the evening if your are staying on-site.  There is just so much to learn from everyone, and an open-minded attitude is essential to get the most from virtually any course.

So, I shall go forth, listen, learn, keep my significant ego in its box and have a great weekend. 

If you have time this weekend – go learn something new.  A new drill, fine tune your stance, grip, work on sight picture, speed reloads, tactical reloads – something.

And, have a great time as well!!

Just the Basics . . . . Front sight, front sight, front sight . . . . . .

Yep, that’s the mantra I drum into new shooters.  Focus on YOUR FRONT SIGHT and PRESS the trigger.  If I can get them to do that consistently, I can fine-tune  the other issues – grip, stance, extension . . . .  all the little things that go into making a solid shooter.  There is such a temptation to just “take a quick look” to see where their round hit that focus is lost, frustration sets in and things slide sideways quickly.  I should take my own advice . . . .

True confessions – in nearly 50 years of shooting, I have never shot a round of trap in my life.   It’s just never appealed to me.  I love tactical rifle shooting – not a “long range” shooter – I love pistol shooting (though not just punching holes in paper), I love pheasant hunting (at least when there were still pheasants in Iowa), I love bunny hunting, squirrel hunting . . . . but I’ve never been hooked by trap shooting.

Well, last night I shot my first 4-rounds of trap.  The driving force behind this is that I am scheduled to take the NRA Shotgun Instructor training in about 3 weeks.  Part of the course is a shooting test – a round of trap, 25-rounds with a requirement to break 13 of the 25.  Heavy Sigh.  So, I thought I’d better do some trap shooting.  One benefit of being President of the local Izaac Walton League is that I have access to some amazing shooters – particularly trap.  Chuck comes to mind right away.  He’s a tad over 80 and usually shoots 20+ on every round.  His advice?   '”Bill, focus on your front sight.  I usually pull the trigger when the front of my barrel covers the bird.”  Watching Chuck, hearing advice I’d given over and over and over –  I’m thinking :  “How hard can it be??  Right???”  :)

There is an amazing amount of stuff going on with a trap shot.  You call for the bird.  It randomly flies out in one of about 6 different directions.  My mind went –“SHIT – THERE IT IS, THERE IT IS – GET IT, GET IT GET IT!!!”  Bang!!!  As I see the bird about a thumbs width above the barrel merrily flying on and splintering as it hits the ground . . . heavy sigh.  Front sight, front sight, front sight!!!   The mechanics are the same as with a handgun or rifle – RELAX, firm grip, good gun mount, solid stance and focus on the #*@#$^% front sight and just “cover the bird”.  Yep, nothin’ to it!  :)

Over the course of 4-rounds of 25ea I settled in.  My results??  First round – 8.  Second round – 18, Third Round – 11, Forth Round – 13.  Got some practicing to do!  :)

Remember – front sight, front sight, front sight . . . . . .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Loss in our Community

Our GunBlog community suffered an unexpected loss on Tuesday – Newbius.  Honestly, we had never met, yet he had become part of my “daily read” 
I pray that He touches Newbius’s family and comforts them.  Please, keep them your prayers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Welcome to Matt . . . .

I'd like to give a welcome to Matt, thanks for tagging along!  Please, offer any comments you wish, any thoughts on post topics you'd like to see and any experiences you'd like to share. 

Thanks for joining group following along, I'll do my best to make it worth your while.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The art of staying alive – shoot your carry weapon!!!!!

A person who has chosen to carry a weapon for personal defense has entrusted their life to that weapon. Of course, there is the skill set to learn and integrate into your mind, body and muscles. There are the tactics to learn, the art of concealed carry, the use of cover and concealment, the integration of the Cooper’s “Condition Codes” – and a myriad of other details that we all strive to make seamless if/when we are presented with a life or death situation. Surely we all spend hours on the range practicing and enhancing the most basic of these skills – our marksmanship.
Yet, there is a single bottleneck that, in the shortest of seconds, can simply cast all our efforts to the wind. A weapons failure.

No, no – not a misfire, hangfire, failure to feed or a double feed (the “fab 4”). We can train for those, account for those, and on a lucky day we can survive the seconds that they would add to putting down the threat that is barreling at us intent ending our life.

What I mean is that sickening, gut wrenching feeling when you press the trigger and . . . . . . . . . . . nothing. Zilch, zip, nadda. You are about to die.

So let’s chat about this a bit. Full disclosure – this has never happened to me in an actual moment of engagement. I have always felt a satisfying crack from my weapon at those moments – or have been able to clear my weapon quickly enough that it did not affect the outcome. My discomfort came on the range this weekend during our very first steel shoot – and momentarily left me a bit unsettled. Just a bit more disclosure – in my 40+ years of shooting, I have actually never experienced a total weapons failure. Ever. I have had the “fab 4”, I have had ejector failures, failures of my sights, failures of ammunition – but never a weapon that literally died in my hands. To add a bit to my discomfort – it’s my carry weapon.

We had our steel shoot this weekend. It was just an intro to the whole sport. Two stages were set – “Pendulum” and “Accelerator” - , the range brief was given, timers posted and off we went. No scores this weekend – (yeah, right, ok, no written scores – just a few braggin’ rights) – just introducing our members to the mechanics of steel shooting. I shot one of my .22/45s, my Glock 17, my Springfield 1911 and my LC9 (my carry weapon). All worked without fail until I got to the weapon I carry every single day to protect my life, the tool at the end of all the training and needs to go bang each and every time. And . . . . it died, quit, failed, took a dirt nap!!!!

I shoot this weapon frequently – on every range trip, in every type of weather I’m willing to shoot in. I have had it for a year and have not had a single failure of any kind – including the “fab 4”. In fact, the night before I put a 9mm LaserLyte round in the chamber a used it for dry fire practice with out incident.

So, I empty the LC9 of my Hornady Critical Defense rounds, reload with standard 115 grain FMJ rounds and step to the firing line. The timer gives the commands to load and make ready, confirms that “the shooter is ready”, has me “standby” and at the beep I engage the first plate. I press the trigger, and press the trigger, and press the trigger (the LC9 has a horrendously long trigger press normally) and press the trigger, and pres the trigger until I am at the very rear of the trigger guard area. I press just a bit harder and a second later – BANG! “That was weird, must be the round”. I move to engage the second plate – only to have the above process repeated yet again, and again, and again – as the 30second “Par Time” sounds. I unload and show clear, step to the shooters table – and mentally do an “OH SHIT”.

A couple of things popped through my mind. My LC9 is dead. Kinda pissed me off – only a year old, surly under 1,000 rounds through it (I usually shoot 2-3 magazines each range trip) – what the heck is the deal? A couple rounds of dry fire confirms that the trigger mechanism is definitely toast – and a Google search confirms I am not the only one who has experienced this problem. So, today I will get an RMA from Ruger and send my LC9 off for repairs.

However, the bigger OH SHIT came at the moment of failure and “looking over my shoulder” through the next couple of rounds. When I shoot on the range I never poke holes or hit plates – ever. I have always practiced with the intent of putting down a threat. Always. So imagine my discomfort when I engaged a threat that was within 30 feet while experiencing a total weapon failure. I did exactly what I chide some other folks for - I tried to fix the problem while engaging the threat. I stared in disbelief at the weapon in my hand and allowed the frustration and confusion of the moment overcome my actual need to get back on the true task at hand – defending my life. Had it been real world – my chances of survival would have diminished because of the game my head was playing – reacting to the weapon rather than the threat.

So, a couple of lessons learned.

1: Shoot your carry weapon as frequently as you shoot all others. Perhaps not as many rounds, but at least as many times.

2: Practice using the other defensive weapons you carry on you person – a knife, tactical pen, defensive flashlight, hand to hand skills – you weapon may not go bang when you need it to.

3: Treat every range trip seriously. If you are just putting holes through paper – step up your game and broaden your weapons practice to include everything in your EDC.

So, today I am back to my Glock 36 and am playing with a new drill structure to integrate alternate weapons into my training. And, am trying to set aside the disquiet nibbling at the back of my neck.

UPDATE:  Just for a chuckle – here’s a video of me at the shoot.  It could have gone better.  Here on “Accelerator” the right most circular and rectangular plates kept giving me problems.  I hit the 10th (yes, that’s what I said – 10th ) round to finish up the right circular plate and had nothing left to hit the stop plate.  Still, even a crappy run on steel is a pretty sweet way to spend an afternoon!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Commentary – To stand against evil . . . . . .

I’ve been feeling a bit Schizophrenic of late, today especially.  Heavy sigh . . .
I have another Defensive Pistol class coming up in a few weeks. I always need to switch gears a bit from my NRA classes. The NRA, in their very PC way, “forbids” the word “weapon”, asserts that you “shoot to stop the threat” – and presents the idea of defending yourself, your family and friends in the softest possible way. I accept this and follow it to the letter – it is certainly within their right to expect this from instructors teaching their courses.

Yet, for my own Defensive Pistol courses, I do my best to make it very clear that an individual, in a personal defensive encounter, uses a weapon to cause the greatest possible harm to the attacker – this will “stop the threat” and insure their family, friends – not to mention themselves – will live to see another day. They need to “stand against evil”.

To the schizophrenia. The LT I mentioned a few posts back lost a medic this past week. “Doc” and two others had been hit by an IED before Thanksgiving. Two died in the vehicle – “Doc” made it, made it to Germany and back to the US. And held on until last week. I always hoped my time in war would help those that came after not to experience it – to not pick up friends and put them in bags for the trip home. I’ve watch the LT come through scouts, Bill on a minigrow in the wilderness, graduate college and ROTC, take Ranger training – and now listen to his “war stories” – and find my  time spent in war saved him from nothing. Of course, neither did my Uncle Vic’s time in a B-17 over Germany save me from the Central Highlands – and so it goes. Taking a lot of words to say some of my past history has been on my mind of late.

I’ve added a couple of books to my reading list that I’m working through. The first is: On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. David Grossman Taking another person’s life is not a normal action for humans. Yet, for the folks taking a Defensive Pistol class – hesitation can mean the difference between survival and death. Lt. Col. Grossman’s writings explore this process – both from the preparation POV and dealing with the aftermath. I’ll do a full review once I complete the book.  That said, from what I have read so far, if this is not on your reading list, it is worth your time.
The next book added to the list is: Warrior Mindset written by a number of authors. How do you teach and train an individual to have a warrior mindset – especially a new shooter that has decided to carry a weapon for personal protection. I’ve skimmed the book, looks “detailed” – which might be good or bad, I’ll let you know. The purpose for the student is to enable them to adapt the mindset of a warrior in their daily life – to prepare and train for an encounter that could end their life. And - to do this while being a “thinking shooter”.

These are nuances that I am trying to blend into the Defensive Pistol class – along with the raw mechanics of threat assessment, engaging a threat and the draw-presentation-engagement-threat assessment process. Ultimately, it is the mindset and the willingness to take a life that will determine if all the mechanics I teach are even employed.

The final piece of my schizophrenic existence was my Lay Formation class (part of the 3-year Catholic Lay Formation process I blogged about earlier). Today we focused on the core principles of Catholic Social Teachings, the principles of a Just War and Catholic Pacifism. Actually it was a very interesting day with lots of good conversation and introspection. However, given my reading material and personal focus lately, I needed to mentally shake my head a few times throughout the day.
Just to put the cherry on the top, I stopped by the range on the way home and sent a couple hundred rounds down range working a bunch of 2-second drills.

Which brings me to my final take-away from today and the past week or so. I want to prepare people to stand against evil. I want them to fight. I want them to win. I want them to go home at the end of the day. If we, as people who have chosen to learn the art of personal defense, who have chosen to be the “sheep dogs” do not stand and fight – if we depend on others, wait for others, assume that “they” will protect us, we are lost.

We must all stand against evil.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Commentary – train the way you fight.

It’s almost become a trite saying in the shooting/training community. It makes so much sense, right? Obviously you should train the way you fight. So what does that mean exactly?

My son called this week, his IDPA shoot had been canceled because of mud so we had a few hours on our hands this afternoon – what to do, what to do. So off to the range we went – I with my trusty Ruger .22/45 and Springfield 1911 and he with his Glock 17 -   his IDPA weapon of choice. Of course, shortly after his call indicating he was on his way the snow started. Not a light dusting type, but a “I think I’ll kick your ass” type. Heavy sigh. I’m getting tired of winter range work, I’m really ready for some green, warm and sun.

That said, the range called – we answered. I’ve taken to just using 3x5 cards as my target. I put 6 of them on the range target stand and will go through various drills while rolling through the different cards. Something about “aim small, miss small” comes to mind.

However, for me, my ability to actually focus on the front sight as I work my drills has diminished. Actually, a bit more than that. When my three white dots are aligned, it actually looks a bit more like a wide, blurred white bar. Past a distance of about 5 feet, no problem, less than that – blur city. When I am telling my body “front sight, front sight, front sight” it is responding – “What the hell’s that!!”

The boy looks at me, hears my grumbles and suggests: “Hey pops, how about switching to a fiber optic front sight?” I’ve been tempted to make some equipment adjustments . Of course, if I put on my glasses things are dandy too. These are a couple of solid alternatives. And yet, is this the way I would enter into a gunfight? Would a fiber optic front sight effect my draw, my weapon’s fit in my holster, my ability to see it in different light levels? As for my glasses, I only wear them to read or use the computer. When I am on the street, they are tucked away in a pocket somewhere, certainly not available to quickly throw on as I move off the x, draw my weapon from concealment and engage the threat.

Which brings us back to real life, I will engage my threat sans glasses with a sight picture that appears to be a blurred white bar made up of three separate, very fuzzy dots. And that’s the way I train. As frustrating as it may be, it is the only option that makes sense to me.

I notice that many of the competitive shooters I watch have moved away from training for personal defense to training for their next match. This seems to be most noticeable in follow-through and recovery before the next shot. I see weapons withdrawn to the high-ready very quickly, I see few “scan and assess’ drills and the desire to “unload and show clear” seems to take precedence to insuring their threat is down.

Now, will this have any tragic affect? Probably not. In fact the chance of any one of us actually drawing our weapon to defend ourselves, our family or a friend is very, very slim. Yet, if it happens, if a life is in the balance – are you training the way you would fight for your life . . . . or how you intend to win the next match.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First round of steel

Too much fun!!!  One of the other Ikes officers couldn’t wait until I finished up my work.  He calls – “Bill, got your gun in the car??  I have the steel targets assembled and painted – wanna  shoot??”  Does a bear crap in the woods??  (they do, seen’em)  Suddenly, my work magically cleared up – imagine that!!!  So, range bag in the car, a .22/.45 and a 1911 in the bag, couple boxes of ammo and off I went.
IMAG0004Here’s a photo of the setup we used to “range test” the targets.  (no, seriously, the NEEDED to be range tested!!)
  Jerry was nice enough to shoot a quick video with my cell phone. 

It was just too much fun.  There were a couple of guys there patterning their turkey gun – so they just had to try it too.  What a hoot to watch them.  I think the chapter has a hit  on its hands.  Can’t wait for the first chapter shoot!!

MMMmmmmmmm . . . . . Steel . . . . .

Through a rather tumultuous summer season of storms – both natural and email – I became president of our local Ikes.  Honestly, it’s been a lot of fun since then.  And, one of our new projects for this summer are steel shoots.  As a result of this decision, this morning at 9 AM FedEx called.  The driver said he was at the chapter house with a pallet with our Action Target steel targets.  That would be 12 ea. 8” 550 steel rounds and 4 ea. 8” x 14” 550 steel rectangles.

Guess what I’m doing this evening!!  :)

I’ll post some photos of our construction efforts – may have to wait for the weekend to wring them out.
It feels just a bit like Christmas today!!