Fun trip to the mountains!

Added a few 9mm holes to the gate sign!

Added a few 9mm holes to the gate sign!

I took a trip to the Virginia mountains with friends and the cabin where we stayed had a shooting range. I brought my 1911 and helped my host out by adding a few 9mm holes to the sign he bought to post on the gate at the road. I wasn’t sure if I’d get any splatter or flying metal, so I shot it at about 10 yards. I have no idea if anyone would take it seriously but it was a fun project!

My host has a collection of restraints so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try shooting in restraints while I was there. I included photos of two of the options I tried shooting with.

Restraint Photo

The challenge was the preparation steps: draw the pistol, load the magazine and then rack the slide. I was able to do that in 4 different types of restraints but not without difficulty. In the case of the bracelet restraints, I could only rack the slide if the metal was lined up with my wrist joint. If they slipped down on my arm at all, I could not rack the slide.

I remember hearing that you can rack the slide one handed by hooking it over the heel of your boot, but I decided that trying that for the first time in restraints with a loaded gun wasn’t a good idea. I’ll have to try that later with an unloaded gun. You never know when you may be wounded and down to a single hand in a defensive situation.

I don’t honestly think I’d ever end up with cuffs and still have my gun handy, but in that far fetched scenario, I know I can shoot and accurately.

I also tried filming video from the front for the first time. I bought a gorilla tripod for my flip camera. We set it up down range and just let it run. I used VideoPad to clip out the segments that looked like they might be worth sharing. I edited out the “load and make ready” segments because they took way too long. I’m thinking practice would make a difference but I’ll reserve my practice time for more realistic scenarios. So just to make it 100% clear: no one was downrange filming to get these video clips.

Trigger Control

I shot a match last Monday night (July 20th, 2015). I had put about 120 rounds through the 1911 since I got it back from S&W and it had worked flawlessly, so I decided to shoot it again in a match. I switched from a USP Compact (a DA/SA gun) to a 1911 (a SAO gun). In more specific terms:

  • DA/SA is a double action trigger pull followed by single action trigger pull. The first trigger pull has to both cock and release the hammer. When the gun fires, the action of the slide cocks the hammer for subsequent shots. So the first pull is long and heavy. Subsequent pulls are light and short in comparison.
  • SAO shoots in single action only. My 1911 has a factory trigger but it’s light at about 3.25 pounds.

To increase my speed with the USP Compact I worked to prep the trigger as I was extending the gun for the first shot. When I shot the first stage of the match I had an AD (accidental discharge). I pulled the trigger after the gun was out of the holster and pointed down range but well before I intended to pull the trigger. The habits built with the H&K were not transferable to the 1911. Here are stills of the first accidental shot and the first intended shot:

AD & 1st Shot-vertical

The RSO noted that at matches with more structured rules I would have been disqualified. I would not have argued with that. Since the shot went into the backstop they did let me continue to shoot. The rest of my match went well.

This was a huge wake up call to focus even more on my draw and where my trigger finger is at all times. To pull the still of the AD, I found a way to step through the video in slow motion. I then saw all the extraneous movement in my draw and alignment for the first shot. That was another eye opener. When I watch it at full speed I don’t really see all the small movements, but in slow motion it becomes very clear.

I’ve included the video of the match. I’ll be shooting these stages again next Wednesday night. The Wake County Range will be closed for most of August for cleaning and renovation. The next Monday match will be in September.

April was the month of gun churn

H&K USP Compact vs. XDS (both in 9mm)

H&K USP Compact vs. XDS (both in 9mm)

In April 2015, I shot 4 different pistols. All were 9mm but for the most part were very different guns.

  • I started the month shooting the 1911 at an IDPA Match in Oxford.
  • I was so frustrated with the 1911, I decided to give CCP(concealed carry pistol division of IDPA) a try and switched to the Springfield XDS. I shot a match and an IDPA Classifier hosted at the Wake County Range the 3rd Saturday with this gun. I like the way it shoots, but I find it difficult to get the magazine to drop and I pinched my palm when reloading to the point of bruises. The grip is the “perfect” height to make that an issue.
  • I volunteered for a WOT event and had the opportunity to shoot a S&W M&P in 9mm. Not much shooting here, but enough to knock down 8 steel targets.
  • Finally,I switched to an H&K USP Compact after I shipped the 1911 to S&W. I didn’t know how long the 1911 would be gone or how well it would work when it came back. I have plans to shoot the Carolina Cup, so I needed to pick a pistol, stick with it and continue to practice. I bought the H&K about 3 years ago because it was a deal I just couldn’t turn down, however I really haven’t shot it much. It’s supposed to be reliable and after my experience with the 1911, that was appealing.

I could shoot the H&K in SSP (Stock Service Pistol) if I decock it and ensure the first shot is always a double action pull. Or I can shoot it in ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol) if I put on the safety and include taking the safety off each time I draw from the holster.

Since I can’t consistently reach the safety, I opted to start shooting SSP and learn how to deal with the double action trigger pull. I’ve found that to be challenging.

I made the switch May 6th when I took a half day off work to work on the IDPA Classifier. I worked on that again May 9th and shot another classifier, in Oxford this time, with the H&K in SSP on May 10th (Mother’s Day). I missed qualifying as Marksman by 3 seconds. My first trigger pull is painfully slow to avoid slapping the trigger and dropping the shot. So once again, something new to work on. I also am a bit too quick with the second shot due to the contrast in the trigger weight. I haven’t measured, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the H&K single action pull is as light as my 1911.

A final comment: When I got the 1911 back I shot it then shot the H&K. I didn’t think the H&K had much recoil until I shot them back to back… the 1911 makes it feel as if the H&K kicks. But I’m sticking with it for now.


1911 is back!

On 5/14/15, three weeks and 1 day after I sent my 1911 to S&W with a request to repair a “failure to extract” issue, FedEx rang my door bell and I signed for my gun. I happened to be home with an appliance repair contractor and that saved me a drive to the FedEx facility. FedEx will not leave the package unless they get a signature. It has a gun inside so that makes perfect sense, even if it is incredibly inconvenient in most cases.

There were 3 pages of paperwork included. The net:

  • Replaced extractor
  • Replaced extractor Spring

No mention of any funds due. I asked my gunsmith how this works and he said they would call if they were going to charge me to repair – to get authorization for the charges. No call was good news. Getting the gun back was better news.

I had plans to shoot with a friend at the Wake County Range that night so of course I took the 1911 with me. I only put 20 rounds through it as I needed to get in practice time with my H&K, but there were no malfunctions. Excellent.


Mystery solved! Not limp wristing. Extractor issue.

The level of frustration with my 1911 finally got to the point I reached out to a local instructor and asked him if he could “fix me and the gun”. I’m guessing this isn’t the first time he’s gotten a request like this.

I’ve taken the gun to a gun smith and it showed improvement for about 6 months, but then I had an ongoing set of evolving issues and I needed to know if my shooting was contributing to the malfunctions or if it was an issue with the gun. I’ve been told I was limp wristing more than once lately by shooters in my squad. I thought I might be riding the slide. In any case, I felt that selecting an instructor that could work with me and diagnose the gun at the same time would be the best way to get past these constant malfunction drills I’m doing mid-match. And then move on to improving my shooting.

I had my first session last night. The gun will be in a box and headed to S&W shortly with a request to fix a “failure to eject” issue. Several issues with the extractor were pointed out to me and I was told I’m not limp wristing. I’m pretty excited by that. The potential of a well functioning firearm is thrilling!

As for my shooting, I learned a few things that made perfect sense now that I’ve been shooting a few years and I’m ready to hear them. I have some work to do but I see the possibility of improvement.

I haven’t asked the instructor’s permission to post my experience online so I haven’t mentioned a name on purpose. But my gun and I will be back for more coaching as soon as S&W ships it back.


First Night Match

The guys who host the Wake County Action Pistol Matches hosted a no light / low light match last night. It was my first night match. I wasn’t the only night match “virgin”. Only after I arrived did I stop to think about how to reload a gun with a flashlight one hand. Turns out you do it pretty much they same way you do it without the light – but probably slower.

I entered the handheld light division. I’d picked up an Olight T20 at the local gun show last year for every day carry. It seemed to me it would be bright enough and it worked fine for the match. I have small hands and I picked this due to it’s very small size. It puts out 270 lumens. This was plenty bright to shoot the match.

IMG_20150311_180722We didn’t need to draw from a holster, but I picked up a $9 belt holster at Lowe’s last week just to have a place to stash the light when I wasn’t shooting. You get what you pay for: it was so tight that I could barely squeeze in the (very thin) light. I shoved a larger light in and let it sit for a week – that loosened up the elastic enough to make it functional for the match. I see the value of a holster designed for the light.I just don’t know where to get one for this light.

I did hunt down a few youtube videos to check out technique. I’d taken a class a few years back where we tried this but I honestly didn’t remember much. These were helpful:

The RSOs were great. Everyone was encouraged to take their time and above all be safe. We shot 4 stages and had some special treats: one stage incorporated a flashing blue light, one had a swinger, and one had a target with a flashlight pointed at the shooter.

Lessons I learned:

  • I shoot well with one hand. So the FBI Technique worked well for me. However, when I keep the light close to me, I also tended to hold the gun in close. I need to remember to extend my shooting arm.
  • I limp wrist when I use the Harries Hold. I lost count of the malfunctions I had on Stage 4. The entire stage was shot from a sitting position and I tried using this hold. I really want to give that another try and focus on holding the gun rather than creating opposing tension against each hand. But this is why I shot the match: to learn where I need to work next.

Below is the video that Ben posted after the match you give you an idea what the shooter saw. I really look forward to the next opportunity to try this again.

Wake County Action Pistol Match 3/16/15

January Match

January Match

I was WARM last night at the Wake County Range! The January match started just above freezing and dipped below freezing by the end of the match. I grabbed a screen shot from my phone before I headed home that night.

I wore fleece long johns and jeans. On the upper body: a wicking layer, a stretch fleece pull over, a cotton zip front hoodie sweat shirt and a down vest over it all. I stripped out of the vest and sweatshirt when it was my turn to shoot. I put chemical hand warmers in the pockets of the sweatshirt to keep my fingers warm. My socks were “Smart Wool” and my feet never got cold. Worked great!

I February it was slightly warmer and I stuffed the vest in my range bag. I drove home that night in sleet & snow. All this is to say I’ve just come to associate shooting with cold weather. But no more for this season!

I was in a t-shirt last night and the new challenge is juggling 5 magazine and pasters in my jean pockets. Helps if your t-shirt also has a pocket.


Don’t hit the good guy!

The “new thing” I experienced last night was a stage where you opened a door then shot targets behind a swinger that was a “no shoot”. Put another way, don’t shoot the moving target that is in the way of the stationary targets. The swinger was white versus the targets that are a neutral cardboard color. I grabbed a photo of another shooter after she opened the door. You can see the swinger leaning to the right.

First, you had to let go of the gun with one hand to open the door. Then focus on the stationary targets. It’s amazing how much that swinger could distract.

I only connected with one shot out of four on these targets… and the first thing I though was, “I want to try that again!”. So I will. The match on Wednesday, March 25th will use the same stages. I think I’ll switch from my 1911 to my XDS and see how I do.

Accuracy: 1911 vs. XDS in 9mm

I took a trip to the range to practice shooting pairs: two shots at the same target with the focus on managing the recoil such that I could get the second shot off quickly. I focused on grip and trigger control. I shot about 50 rounds with my 1911 then decided to get in some practice with my XDS. I shot 26 rounds and called it quits. Here are the results:

Target Comparison


The shots from the 1911 are, for the most part, in the 6 inch circles. The shots from the XDS are significantly closer to the orange centers.

It doesn’t make much sense because:

  • the 1911 has a longer site radius (5 inch barrel vs a 3.3 inch barrel)
  • the 1911 has a lighter trigger

The trigger on the XDS is much heavier. It was fighting it a bit and honestly stopped at 26 rounds because my trigger finger was so fatigued I didn’t feel that additional shooting would do more than burn ammo.

Clearly I’m accurate with the XDS. As a friend said when I showed him the targets, “That gun just fits you.” So I’ve opted to get a trigger job. Yes! My very first trigger job. I’m pretty excited.

I dropped it off with my gunsmith and I’m scheduled to pick it up Friday. Stay tuned for details. I have plans to shoot this gun in a bug match in the near future.



IDPA at The Range in Oxford: 11/9/2014

Stage 6: Shooting Seated at The Range in Oxford

David shooting Stage 6 at The Range in Oxford. Note the wooden blocks restricting movement on the bench.

My friend David and I drove up to Oxford, NC to shoot in last Sunday’s IDPA match at The Range.. The equipment constraints and procedure rules are more restrictive than the Wake County Action Pistol Matches, but shooting an outdoor match brings different opportunities for learning — especially a match in Oxford.

The overall summary was:

  • 6 stages
  • under 90 rounds
  • match briefing at 12:45pm
  • finished our last stage around 3:45pm
  • no malfunctions with my 1911!

All IDPA matches involve shooting and moving. At The Range in Oxford they can also involve shooting from a vehicle: in this case a very abused Toyota 4Runner.

The 4Runner Stage. Driver side targets highlighted in red,

The 4Runner Stage. Driver side targets highlighted in red,

Stage 5 featured the 4Runner. The scenario was basically: Start with your gun in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Shoot 6 targets near to far. Each target gets 2 shots. To achieve that, you needed to shoot two targets out the passenger window, two out the driver window, a 3rd target out the passenger window and back to the driver’s window for the final target.

As I sat in the 4Runner I realized a big person used to drive this vehicle in it’s better days because I sunk way down into that seat. From that position, the first target I needed to shoot was out of site on the passenger side toward the rear of the vehicle.

I thought I had a plan but when the buzzer when off, I picked up the gun with my strong hand and was able to see the first target. It was going to take some effort to slide forward and twist my entire body to get both hands on the gun, and the target was right there. I thought “reach out and touch it” and just lined up the shot with my strong hand and squeezed the trigger. I shot the 2nd target the same way then began to use both hands. For the first time ever I noticed a low shot and took a make up shot immediately.

I shoot slow. I always place close to last in every match. But I have fun shooting and in the this case had zero down. I was so happy I had a huge grin the rest of the day.

I also want to mention a few other lessons learned / observations:

– Stage 6 (see photo at the top) required the shooter to stay within the wooden blocks on the bench while shooting. In that case being small was an advantage. I had more wiggle room to line up my shots. I was down zero on that stage as well. I am thrilled with small victories like that!

– The last stage we shot, Stage 3, had rectangular steel plates partially blocking some of the targets. I’d never seen that before so I asked if they were non-threats. I was told they were “round eaters”. It was a limited vickers stage so if your shot hit the steel, it wasn’t going to hit the target. The ping of hitting steel also telegraphs your mistake to the entire squad. Oh joy… I managed to avoid all the steel and did a little victory dance in my head. Especially since the first 6 shots were weak hand only and the next 6 were strong hand only. The final 6 shots were head shots with both hands on the gun. I did manage to miss one head. Bummer.

– Finally, I got called for moving while reloading across an opening in cover. The RSO told me he was going to have to assess the penalty and my response was, “I was really moving while reloading? Go me! I had no idea I could do that. I’m happy to take the penalty.” He grinned and said “And it was a tactical reload too.”  This is progress!

I checked the scores. I came in 3rd to last. As I said, I’m slow. Also, I admit that I really don’t practice much. I’ve had to think about why I shoot these matches and for now there are several reasons and none of them have anything to do with winning.

  • Handle my gun safely on a regular basis
  • Challenge myself with scenarios that require planning, moving and shooting
  • Have fun!!! And I certainly achieved that!




October Wake County Action Pistol Match / Ladies Handgun League Action Pistol

Sadie - Bay 2

Sadie – Bay 2

I went back in October to shoot another Wake County Action Pistol Match on 10/29. We got a late start due to conflicting events but still shot 4 stages. Total round count: 55. Special highlights: shooting from under a barrier and one stage shot strong hand only. Two of the stages were “run & gun” set ups requiring movement and two stages were shot from a stationary position. At this point the Monday matches fill up fast but the Wednesday matches fill slower – and may be easier to get into.

A past shooting partner came out for his first Action Pistol Match and I did my best to be a good tour guide and answer all the questions I asked at my first match.

He & I have shot IPDA in the past so mostly it was “yes you have that restriction in IDPA, no you don’t have that restriction at this match”. My biggest “victory” at this match was no malfunctions with my 1911. I was thrilled about that.

When you shoot a match, you get one run through of the stage. The match director was generous enough to set up a stage in Bay 1 this morning at 9am for the Ladies Handgun League. I couldn’t pass up the chance to run through the stage a few more times. I lucked out and got 3 attempts. Each time through I focused on slightly different things:

  • Are you absolutely sure your finger is OFF the trigger when you are moving?
  • In an attempt to work on recoil control, I put 3 shots in most of the targets instead of just the required 2 shots.
  • I never remember to count my shots – I always ended up reloading after I pull the trigger and get no bang – something to focus on in the future.

This is FUN! Every lady that gave it a try was smiling after her attempt. It looks intimidating. I promise that’s only before your first time through. The typical reaction is “I want to do that again!”

Finally, I wanted to mention the good feedback you can get from video. My friend and I swapped off filming each other last Wednesday night and I got to rerun the stages from video and review my shooting. What feels really fast in the moment sure looks slow in review. I’m not a fast shooter and definitely not competitive, but if you want to see what shooting a stage looks like, I’m posting 3 of the stages below.

If you are local, want to shoot the match and have questions, the match directors do a great job of responding. If you want to talk to a participant, I’m also happy to answer questions to the best of my ability.

Here’s the video:

Bay 1: turn right, shoot 3, transition to the right, shoot 2, move forward and right, shoot  2 high and 2 low – 18 rounds

Bay 2: two targets each side of barricade, three paper plates (stand in for steel plates) in the middle – shoot at least one under the barricade. I shot 3 each side and a single under – but I had misses – 11 rounds

Bay 4: Two stages.

Stage 1: (No Video) Five targets, two each side and a swinger in the middle. All strong hand. Start with the gun on the table, pull the cord to trip the swinger then pick up the gun with one hand. 10 rounds.

Stage 2: 4 targets all partially covered. Two rounds in each, reload, two more in each. 16 rounds.