Shooting outdoors? Use that sunscreen!

After an annual skin cancer check, I was told I have a Stage 1A Melanoma on my right forearm. It’s actually no big deal. A 30 minute procedure next week should clear out the cancer and no further treatment is required. They do advise more frequent full body skin cancer checks going forward. The recurrence rate appears to be 2-3% so extremely low.

I feel like I should be freaking out. Instead I’ll just publish this as a reminder that if you are going to be in the sun, use your sunscreen. I love to spend an afternoon on an outdoor range. I just need to add sunscreen to my list of other protective devices. So now the check list is: eyes, ears & skin.

Benefits of Competition: Reinforcing Safety

Through the door-crop

I shot the Wake Action Pistol Match on March 20, 2017. The photo above is from a match 2 years ago. But it’s the same door we opened before shooting targets downrange last Monday.

I’d rather go shoot a match than practice on a “square range”(*) . Why? We deal with many situations and each and every time the range safety officer points out what safety issues will be cause for a disqualification.

In this case: You have a loaded gun in one hand. Don’t sweep your other hand or body with the muzzle of the gun when you reach to open the door. Never, never, never let the muzzle sweep any part of your body.

I don’t have a law enforcement or a military background. Where else would I get exposure to situations I’d never see at square range? At a local pistol competition! So I’ll start posting short descriptions of learning opportunities that reinforce safe gun handling skills as they occur.

—–

(*)Square Range: a typical indoor shooting range where you pay for time to shoot in a lane at a single fixed target that can be set at various distances. You can’t move, or shoot multiple targets, or run a timer to get feedback on speed (if there are also other shooters). At some ranges you can draw from a holster but not all ranges allow this.

Awesome customer service for the S&W M&P

20170311_122431-crop

I went shopping for a replacement M&P Pro and found a reasonable price on a used gun over at Triangle Shooting Academy (TSA). I’d been watching both Armslist & the Carolina Shooters Club forum for a used Pro since my last one was liberated from my house. I wasn’t seeing any used guns posted for sale unless they had been liberally modified and the seller wanted over $1000 for the firearm. Since I mostly shoot IDPA the excessive modifications would make the gun illegal to shoot. I looked at these “For Sale” ads and  thought “Good luck with that!” and waited. And waited. I finally decided I was tired of waiting and started calling every gun store in driving distance. TSA  had what I was looking for.

Of note, I paid $75 more than I paid for my 1st used M&P Pro. I bought the first in November 2015 and the second in February 2017 – 15 months apart. They are much more scarce than when I originally shopped for this gun.

In the photo above, you can see the used gun I bought up top and a friend’s CORE below. They are basically the same gun but the CORE has the option of a removable cut out on the slide to place in red dot optics. Also the front and back sites are higher so they can co-witness with the optics, if mounted.

There are two other differences visible in the photo above:

  • The CORE had an aftermarket trigger. The Pro does not (in this photo, stay tuned).
  • The CORE has the upgraded / stippled small back strap and the Pro  has a regular, un-stippled small M&P 9mm back strap.

It appears the previous owner either swapped out the small back strap with another M&P non-Pro owner or S&W ran short and shipped it this way.

I resorted to eBay to purchase the proper back strap. I found none for sale. I looked at a few forums and found some posts leading me to believe S&W was restricting the resale to verified Pro or CORE owners.

So I called S&W and hit “3” for M&P Customer Service. I explained what I had and what I wanted. The gentleman at S&W M&P customer service dropped a small Pro back strap in the mail to me. No charge.

That was a lovely experience. Thanks S&W!

I will be watching my mailbox for it’s arrival.

A beautiful day to shoot IDPA (March 12, 2017)

Triple Shot(big)
I started my day with a snow covered car. And a commitment to pick up a holster and 3 mag pouches from the local guy (D&D Holsters) I bought them from last year. My house was burglarized last fall, most of my shooting gear was stolen and I was in the process of rebuilding. This was the last bit of equipment I needed to shoot my next match. The forecast predicted that the snow wouldn’t stick and my holster would be ready for pickup at noon, so I took a broom to the car to remove the snow and I headed north to The Range in Oxford.

I had no intention of shooting a match. Really. There was snow on the ground! I think the last match I shot was back in May of 2016. I needed to practice with the new gun and the new holsters. I wasn’t sure I even remembered how to do a reload on the clock.

But an hour later I arrived and the weather had turned beautiful. It was 50 degrees and warm in the sun. I ran into friends I hadn’t seen in months. Everyone of them encouraged me to shoot. The holster I picked up fit the gun with a minor adjustment and the mag pouches were perfect with no adjustment.

I was short on ammo since I was sure it would be much too cold for to shoot. A friend filled that gap and said he’d give me what I needed if I ran short.

  • Was I ready to compete? No.
  • Was all my gear the way I wanted it it? No.
  • Was my gear sufficient? Yes.
  • Could I be safe? Yes.

I sighed up and shot the match. I was a good decision. Thanks to everyone who badgered me into it!

I had chosen a down vest that morning due to the cold so this was my first match using a down vest as a cover garment. It worked fine.

I remembered what I liked best about shooting a match: spending time with friends. I’m not competitive. I always place near the bottom of the list. But I really enjoy the sport and I’m a safe.shooter. They asked me to help out with scoring so I pitched in and did that as well. Once the match was over I checked in with the guys who were running the timer to get feedback on how we worked together. I’m glad I did. I’ll be able to do the job better when I’m asked again.

The timer keeper is responsible for ensuring no one wanders into the line of fire as well as recording the time, the points down and any penalties. I was focused on the scoring part of that list. I was aware of where the rest of the squad was subconsciously but I’ll be looking more actively to keep other shooters safe if/when asked to help again.

We shot moving targets, we moved and shot stationary targets, we shot both paper & steel, we shot through walls and had to back down a hallway and make a right to get yet more “bad guys” (targets) in the shoot house. It was sunny and warm. It was absolutely a good decision to participate. It was an excellent day.

I’m working on making peace with my poor scores and enjoying the good parts of the day. Like the triple hit I made on a target from my first stage (above). The requirement was 3 shots per target. This was at t 15 yards, I think. That’s a sweet grouping and really made me smile. I have much to work on but I’m really thrilled when I see results like this.

 

Concealed Handgun Permit Renewal Notification Letter

Postcard from the Sherriff

Postcard from the Sherriff

After I made an appointment and submitted my paperwork to renew my CHP in Wake County, I received a postcard to remind me to do just that. It arrived about four and a half months (18 weeks and 3 days to be exact) prior to the expiration date. Since you have to start the process all over again from scratch if you let your permit expire, this is a nice service from the Sheriff’s Department.

This is my first experience at a renewal. Five years ago when I originally got my permit, no part of the process was online. Now you can download the paperwork, pay for the renewal and book an appointment to submit the paperwork. The process requires a notarized signature, so I doubt the in-person step will ever be waived, but it will be interesting to see what technological changes will occur in another five years.

Raleigh Police Accepting Applications for First Citizens Police Academy / Due March 10th

Citizen's Academy logo

The program is designed to increase transparency and enhance understanding between the community and the police. It’s an outreach effort with a 30 hour commitment. Lots of details here: Citizen’s Police Academy

I’m putting in an application. It would be nice to see a friendly face there on Thursday nights if I’m accepted.

—- March 29, 2017 Update —-

I received a letter stating they received an overwhelming response and all the seats are filled for the first session. I sent my application just before the deadline. It’s still on file and I’m hoping to get in a future session. The letter included a brochure with an overview of the course topics. I don’t want to scan in a copy of the brochure without permission but I will list the topics included:

  • Week 1: Orientation  / Department Overview and Structure, Policy Distribution, Volunteer Program, Recruiting, Selection and training of Officers.
  • Week 2: Communications
  • Week 3: Overview of Legal System
  • Week 4: Specialized Units
  • Week 5: Patrol and Investigative Techniques
  • Week 6: Specialized Units (in addition to week 4)
  • Week 7: Practical Exercises
  • Week 8: Ride Alongs
  • Week 9: Forensics/Crime Scene Processing
  • Week 10: Graduation

It looks like a variety of interesting and useful information for citizens and for anyone considering a career in law enforcement.

Renewing a Wake County Concealed Handgun Permit (CCW)

Wake County Permit

I purchased a pistol a few weeks ago and at the time the sales person pointed out that my Concealed Handgun Permit would expire in July. It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been 5 years since it was originally issued. Here’s a link to the blog post on getting the new permit: Getting a Concealed Handgun Permit in Wake County, NC

It was February but I decided I had some free time so I’d take care of it.

The actual name attached to this permit can be confusing. The front says “CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMIT” while the back says “CCW Permit”. CCW typically stands for “concealed carry weapon”. I’m not sure why they use different terminology on the front and back. Most folks I know call this a “CCW Permit”.

I found this page that appeared to have the link to a renewal: Wake County Sheriff Office Concealed Handgun Permit Application. I filled out the form, paid by credit card ($81.59 with convenience fees) and booked an appointment to drop off my forms the following week.

A few days later I had a dentist appointment. I’m out to my dentist and my chiropractor about shooting IDPA and having my CCW and I mentioned I’d be downtown the following week. My dentist said there was a restriction on how early you could renew. I did further research and found a web page here that mentioned “no more than 90 days prior to the expiration date”. 

I was about 6 week too early so I called the contact number promptly at 9am the next morning and asked if I should reschedule the appointment within the 90 day window. The person I spoke with said they were fine if you started 4-6 months in advance. So don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

My appointment was at 1 pm on March 1, 2017. I got lucky with parking and arrived at 12:30 pm. They took me right away. I was asked to sign and date 2 pages then address an envelope to myself. Once approved, they would mail my permit in that envelope. I was done in about 15 minutes. Parking cost was $1.

Of note: I was told that if my current permit expired before receiving the renewed permit, it was OK to continue to carry, however, I could not use the expired permit to purchase any firearms.

I’ve done my part ion the renewal process. I’ll update this when my permit arrives to document how long the process it taking at this time.

 

 

 

 

Freedom Munitions Brass Refund

FM AmmoFreedom Munitions has good prices on ammunition. They run flat rate shipping specials and on major holidays they often offer free shipping.  I don’t reload at this time so I’m always shopping for bargains.

They offer a brass refund program that works like this: place an order, mail them brass, and they will credit up to the total cost of the order at the current rate they are paying for brass. Full details are here.

I placed an order for ammunition in February and had been collecting brass with every range trip so decided to give it a try. I saved $28.60 on my order.

  • I mailed a USPS medium sized flat rate box of brass for $13.45. Based on the weight, the Post Office person said the cost to mail in a regular box would have been just over $80, so a Flat Rate box is the only way to make this cost effective.
  • I received a refund for $42.05
  • The net credit was $28.60.
  • The brass was mailed 2/25/16.
  • I received the credit on 3/9/16

I might have been able to fit a bit more brass in the medium box, but it was essentially full. It was very heavy. I’m not sure I could lift a large flat rate box if it was full of brass. It’s a hassle to pack the brass and haul it to the Post Office but for just over $25 I’d do it again.

 

Shooting a BUG match with a Snub-nosed Revolver

GirlGoesBang hat

I’ve written about the BUG (Back Up Gun) matches at The Range in Oxford, NC that are offered on months with a 5th Sunday. The one I’m writing about in this post was on January 30, 2016.

I’ve made a habit of shooting these matches with my smallest guns, which are the guns I carry. In the past I’ve shot my Springfield XDS in 9mm and the Ruger LC9s Pro I picked up last year. Note the caliber. I stockpile 9mm as I made a decision a few years back to only buy 9mm handguns. I did purchase a .22lr prior to my first 9mm handgun and it’s great for new shooters. The only other exception was the first gun I ever bought, a snub-nosed .38 Special revolver. A previous post mentioned the steps I’d taken to get it back into reliable shape.

The BUG Match at The Range in Oxford is still using 5 rounds as the maximum round count for BUG guns, so I bought a box of .38 special ammo on sale at Walmart (Perfecta at just under $15/box) and brought along the M&P Pro with a couple of boxes of 9mm ammo. I had the exact number of rounds needed for the BUG gun: a box of 50. That wasn’t good planning, it was dumb luck. I’d recommend at least 60 rounds for your BUG Gun in case you need to do a reshoot on any stage.

If you plan to shoot a BUG match, you don’t need holsters. You can use a gun rug or gun case to transport the gun from stage to stage. Just DO NOT take the gun out of the case until it’s your turn to shoot and the Safety Officer asks you to load and make ready.

Shooters were placed in 3 squads and started on alternate stages (1, 2 and 5). My squad started on Stage 5. That turned out to be fortunate for me as the shoot house, the stage with the most movement, was Stage 4 and my last stage of the day. I learned a few things about the revolver on the other stages that were helpful to know before shooting that stage.

Stage 5 was two strings of 5 shots with the BUG only. Reloads are off the clock. So the first “aha!” moment was at “Load and Make Ready”. A speed loader would sure come in handy for this. I picked up 2 of these a few weeks later.

I put 5 rounds of .38 Special in on pocket and 5 rounds in another pocket so I had the exact number of rounds and could load as fast as possible even if I was loading one by one.

My next “aha!” moment was when I pulled the trigger and there was no BANG! As hard as it is to hear with ear protection, I clearly heard my RO say “Pull it again!” (Thanks Frank!)  I had 5 shots for 5 targets. The next 4 trigger pulls did go bang so I put the sites on the 5th target and pulled a 6th time. This time it went bang. I had experienced my first malfunction drill with a revolver.

It’s amazing how many thoughts can go through your head in a short period of time while you are engaged in a serious activity. But I did have a conversation with myself. “That’s what you get for buying cheap ammo and never shooting it. So what’s the harm in trying to shoot that first round again? None. Wow, since it was the first round, I know exactly where the malfunction was. I wonder what I’d do if it was a different round? Figure that out if you have to. Now pull the trigger!

Stage 6 was also two strings of 5 rounds. Be careful what you ask for as I had another round fail to go bang and I had no idea which round it was. When I counted to 5 I still had one target left so I put the sites on the target, started counting from 1 again and pulled the trigger as fast as I could. If I got to 5 again I was going to stop and unload. It went bang on pull 3 so clearly a second firing pin strike was firing these rounds. I was pleased to see when we scored the targets that with the fast pull I actually hit the cardboard.

This revolver is small and the trigger is long and heavy. The sites barely peak over the top of the gun and I was serious about getting good hits, so except for the last target on stage 6, I pulled slow and steady. I pulled so slow that a friend encouraged me to try it single action. Basically, it hurt him to watch me shoot so slow. Really.

We grabbed our range bags and walked back to Stage 1. That presented a new challenge. Stage instructions: 5 shots at a single target weak hand only, reload off the clock, 5 shots strong hand only while retreating at the same target. Now the approach of shooting single action might not be viable? So I asked our RO Frank. He really didn’t care how I cocked the hammer (use your hands, your toes…) as long as nothing was touching the gun but the designated hand when the trigger was pulled.

One of my shooting buddies said it was possible to cock the hammer with the same hand holding the gun but it was clear to me that trying that for the first time with a loaded gun was a very bad idea. So I cocked the gun with the non-shooting hand and shot single handed with the designated hand.

Here’s what I learned:

  • I’m more accurate with my “weak” hand than my strong hand. But I use that hand for writing so that may be an advantage for me.
  • That gun really kicks. I was really glad to be done after 5 shots single handed and was convinced I’d find bruises in the web between my thumb and index finger later.
  • I can shoot faster (when trying to be accurate) taking the time to cock the hammer and pull the single action trigger.
  • The single action trigger has a lighter break than my 1911. Well, maybe not, but it is much lighter than I expected. My first round did hit the target but the trigger break surprised me. I learned very quickly not to put my finger anywhere on the single action trigger until I had the sites on the target and was ready to shoot.
  • If there is a “no shoot” positioned mid-body of the target, don’t shoot the body. Make the head shot. I hit the no-shoot. Sigh.

Stage 2 was the first stage we shot that brought the primary gun into play. There were two stages total where we basically did a New York Reload.  You load the BUG and place it on a flat surface as directed by the Safety Officer. Ditto for the primary gun. When the buzzer sounds, you pick up the primary gun and shoot the designated course of fire. You keep shooting till you complete the course of fire for the primary gun. You move to the position of the BUG, put the primary gun down, pick up the BUG and shoot the rest of targets. Essentially the BUG is your reload as this all happens on the clock. It’s not a skill you get to use in any other match.

The “aha!” moment came on this stage as soon as the beep went off to start shooting. When I picked up the 9mm M&P Pro, I fumbled the grip after shooting the tiny revolver in all the previous stages.  I wasn’t used to switching back and forth.

On the stage, the course of fire for the primary gun included two poppers and two movers. I missed the first popper and had to take a 2nd shot at it, but got holes in both movers so I was happy with that portion of the stage. I emptied the primary swapped it for the BUG and shot 5 additional targets. All the targets shot with the BUG were down zero, so I was very happy about that. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to aim as well due to the difference in trigger, sights and grip.

Stage 3 was also a New York Reload style stage. We shot large steel targets just like those used for Steel Challenge. This was my first time shooting these type targets. You keep shooting till you hit each piece of steel once or you are out of rounds. It took me all 11 rounds in my primary gun to hit the 6 targets. That was pretty humbling but did inspire me to shoot my first Steel Challenge match in March. After the steel, I again switched from primary to BUG and shot 5 paper targets. This time I had zero points down and missed the non-threat. That was encouraging.

Stage 4 was in the shoot house and required movement down a hallway and shooting targets around walls (we never break the 180 degree line to avoid putting shooters behind us in danger). We shot two BUG strings, so: 5 targets, one shot each, reload off the clock, and again 5 targets, one shot each. The single action trigger on the revolver was super light and I was glad this stage was last so I’d had time to learn to work with that. I didn’t want an accidental discharge into a wall. I think some of these required head shots and this was the only stage where the targets were obscured by walls initially.

We had good weather for January. I finally put the gun to use in a match that got me into shooting a few years back, and as always, learned a few new things.

Mother’s Day

Mom & I at The Range

I went to visit my mom for Mother’s Day last weekend. For various reasons I didn’t take her shooting this year but in past years that’s exactly what I’ve done for Mother’s Day.

It’s unlikely she will  take her gun to the range unless I go with her. I remember when I first started down the path of becoming proficient with guns, I was often unsure of myself at times. It’s something I’m very confident about now and something I’m happy to help her with. She’s done so much for me over the years. Please note, there is no doubt Mom will use her gun to protect herself and her home! The range trips we make to practice help ensure she can do that with confidence.

This photo of Mom and I is from the day after Thanksgiving in 2012. My sisters and my nephew joined us. In all my years of growing up never did I imagine I would take my family shooting. We were the only ones at the outdoor range that day so I was the default Range Safety Officer. Everything went flawlessly.

Love you Mom!