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.

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.

3-25-15 Wake County Action Pistol Match: Mikes and Fun

Yesterday morning, a well dressed man in business attire stopped me in the 5th floor lobby of the building I work in. He had a slightly apprehensive look, then just asked, “Didn’t I see you at the Wake County Range last Monday?” I laughed and answered, “Yes you did! I’ll be back there tonight.” It’s a small world. Our companies have suites on the same floor. He was at the match last night and thankfully he reintroduced himself because he looks quite different in a ball cap. We shot on different squads but I’m sure there will be future conversations. He did make me aware his co-workers aren’t really aware of his hobby, so I’ll have to tone down my enthusiasm for gun conversations in the building where we work. But, it really started my day on a high.

~~~~~

I shot the Wake County Action Pistol Match last night. From a performance perspective, it was probably hands down my worse match ever. A “mike” is a miss – as in “no holes in the target”. I had several. But I left with a smile and a feeling of contentment.

I started shooting because it was fun. I noticed along the way that at many matches, the competitors were friendly and chatty before the match. Conversations included:

  • what new gear they’d bought, what gun they were shooting,
  • how their day had been, how the family was,
  • what they had been practicing, what their specific goals were for the match, etc.

But at the end of the match there were many disappointed, disgruntled, and humbled competitors. Not performing as they had hoped just took all the fun out of the experience. Then it was mutters and grumbles about about missed targets, dropped points, fumbled magazines, and malfunctions. Not a state of mind I want to get sucked into.

I always come in at the bottom of the pack, so that’s nothing new. But up till last night I’d always hit the stationary targets. Well, last night I even missed some of those! It was so bad I had to just shake my head and laugh. “Wow. No shit? I totally and completely missed the entire target! And it wasn’t even moving!” To top that off, I had two tightly grouped shots in the dead center … of a non-threat. That non-threat was covering the lower part of a threat target. Things had gone by in such a blur that I didn’t honestly remember if I’d aimed at the top part of the target (and slapped the trigger to drop the shot) or if I’d just aimed at the center of mass.

I could list a string of excuses but as I pondered what the heck had happened it came down to this: I wasn’t totally focused on the fundamentals. So I thought about what had distracted me:

  • I’ve shot 3 matches in the last 10 days, including my first low light/no light match
  • I have had less than the usual amount of sleep. I managed to fit a trip to Minnesota into those 10 days.
  • I bought a Flip camera to record the matches. And I offered to film for a friend I made recently when looking for someone to carpool with to Oxford. The camera went dead after Stage 2. He & I shot back to back and I was more focused on passing the camera than thinking about the stage. Then it was :”Why did the @#$& camera stop working???”
  • I shot a different gun combo in each match: 1911 in 9mm once, then the 1911 with a flashlight, followed by the XDS.
  • I clearly was doing something different because my strong side forearm was seriously sore today. That hasn’t happened before.

I decided to just take all that into account and give myself a break. Bad guys do show up when you are tired. I carry the XDS so I need to shoot it. I want to learn skills for shooting in the dark. I really do want to capture some of this on video:it’s easier to explain to friends, family and co-workers what a match really is like. And I’m finally making friends so I do want to nurture those friendships.

OK, let me say that again: I’m finally making friends. That is huge. When you know you are going to spend 4+ hours around strangers and know you are not good at the one thing they care about, you arrive with a mix of apprehension and uncertainty. It is a very different experience knowing you will recognize faces, knowing it’s ok to ask “Can you film this for me?” and getting a smile and a hug when you arrive. Maybe that’s a girl thing, but it’s the reason I shot 3 matches in 10 days: I felt welcomed.

I shot poorly but I know I have work to do. That will never change. I was smiling because I had added a few more conversations to the foundation of a few friendships that I look forward to growing in the future. That made it an excellent evening!

~~~~~

Here are the two stages I got on video. My mom watches them… LOL. And blog posts are always better with pictures. This isn’t excellent shooting, but it’s safe shooting and you get to see what these matches are like:

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.

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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.

XDS trigger job – Part1

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My gun smith, Kapp Ogburn,  ordered the Powder River trigger kit for me after I decided I was willing to invest more into my XDS (9mm). At the time he ordered, the only parts available were the springs. They had no sears in stock.

He installed the spring kit back on February 7th. I brought him the gun, watched the entire procedure, then took the gun over to PDHSC later in the day just to verify everything was working. It shot fine.  We watched the “how to” video and referred to photos he had taken when he’d done this in the past. The video is  just over 15 minutes. It took my gunsmith longer to swap out all the springs because he was patient enough to let me ask questions throughout the process.  There is no way I’d have done this. I did remember to ask that he test the trigger pull both before and after.

  • Trigger weight before the spring kit: 8 lbs
  • Trigger weight after the spring kit: 6.5 lbs
  • Trigger weigh of my S&W 1911: 3.25 lbs

They now have the sear available, although oddly, they only sell it with the spring kit. I wrote Powder River and mentioned I’d already bought the spring kit. I asked if it was possible to just buy the sear. The response: “We do not offer the sear as a stand-alone product at this time, but the price you pay is the cost of the sear, and our cost for the springs.”

My gunsmith thinks replacing the sear will take off another pound, possibly getting it down to 5 lbs. I asked him to order the sear, so as soon as I get that and get it installed, I’ll post another update (part 2).

IMG_20150224_194855-cropI did shoot the XDS in the Wake County Action Pistol Match on February 25th. I bought a red holster and mag pouches for matches and this was the first time I used them.

Snow was predicted and it started as we finished up the match. Attendance was low due to the weather but I was glad I went. It was warmer than the January match. I had no malfunctions with the XDS and I never got cold. It was a good night. A few lessons learned:

  • Grip the gun very high up on the grip to avoid a NASTY pinch (and bruise) on my palm when I reload. The bottom of the magazine seems to hit just about the bottom of my palm and it seriously hurts if I slam in the magazine and pinch flesh.
  • If you have to turn before you shoot., turn in the direction of the gun
  • Don’t walk into a doorway to shoot – because it’s going to take time to back out and move to the next target.
  • I was overdressed. I didn’t need a down vest. We started off at 40 degrees and were still slightly above freezing when the match ended –  even though we had snow dusting the cars when we headed home.

 

 

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.

Wake County Action Pistol Match – No Mikes!

After a long hiatus, I competed in a pistol competition last night. Before you wonder too much about the title of the post, an “M” or a  “mike” is a miss on one of the targets. My goals were:

  • be safe
  • don’t get DQ’d (disqualified for unsafe behavior)
  • focus on accuracy, not time

I considered this a roaring success! I finished near the bottom of the list but I had “no mikes”, did not hit a non-threat (good guy) and I was pleased with my “penalty” scores (lower is better).

The last time I competed was the 2013 Carolina Cup. That was 15 months ago. I stepped back for a list of reasons but I missed competing. As time passed, I felt inadequate about my skills and was hesitant to get restarted. Then the perfect opportunity popped up and I ditched the excuses and jumped onboard: The Wake County Action Pistol Match!

I read about this or heard about it on the TriangleTactical.net blog or podcast  (Thanks Luke & Ben!). That pointed to a facebook page: Wake County Action Pistol Match. I read the rules, asked a question about equipment and asked to join the email list. Then I saw there was on spot left and I grabbed it. This filled  up fast.

[Download: Match FAQ and Match Rules. Note: I created the FAQ from various sources on 9/12/2014. I take responsibility for any errors.] 

I ran into one of the match hosts, Scotty, on Saturday when I was teaching the NRA class. He gave me a high five and said he’d gotten me signed up. His enthusiasm for this match is contagious. It made me feel less anxious about the decision to attend. He is truly an ambassador for this event.

Don't Shoot the good guys!

Don’t Shoot the good guys!

Match Day
I checked through all the gear I used to shoot IDPA, loaded all 5 magazines, checked again to see that my 1911 (in 9mm) was unloaded and drove to the range.

The match briefing was promptly at 6:30pm.

I wasn’t the only female shooter. Our squad had three. One was the RSO running the bay. I’m hoping over time to see even more ladies participate. I met some shooters that were new to me, asked questions, and even answered a few. I found the other shooters to be accepting in all cases and welcoming in others. It was clear that many were very loyal to this match. The focus is on having a enjoyable match event rather than getting bogged down in a long set of rules. They are serious about safety, beyond that it’s about challenges, shooting whatever pistol you bring, and having fun.

We started on Bay 3 and had two short stages to shoot. One we shot seated, the other standing in one place with no movement required. That was a nice warm up for the other two stages. One of the guys pasting pointed out a target I’d shot where he was able to cover both shots with one paster. I don’t shoot like that nearly enough but it sure made me smile.

I had malfunctions on both stages. I got a “click” instead of a bang on my first stage. I glanced down and the mag was hanging partially out of the gun. TAP and click again. I hear, “Rack it”. So I did. Thank you! And back to bang! My second stage I got another click and I went immediately to TAP, RACK, BANG. This is why I shoot matches: I want to encounter these problems in a controlled environment to practice the corrective actions. Why did it go click? My best guess is that I was riding the slide. I had no further malfunctions on the last two stages.

I also realized I didn’t understand the specifics of the scoring. They are using USPSA targets and this provides an overview. We shot the metric targets. For this match, the power factor is ignored. Scores are from time and accuracy only. The match results display both – so it’s possible to work on your accuracy initially and only look at those results.

The third stage we shot required movement. Another reason for shooting matches: It’s fun and you can’t get this kind of experience shooting in a lane. We started close to the first set of targets, then backed up (keeping the gun pointed downrange at all times), moved around a barrier to get to the next set of targets. More movement to the right, shoot, and to the right again for a final set of targets.

The 4th and final stage we shot required starting at the back, shooting two targets to each side of a barricade, then moving forward and shooting 3 targets through a port. The “port” is a tiny open window in a wooden wall. I believe it was just under a foot square. This is where I experienced something entirely new.

I extended the pistol partway through the port and when I pulled the trigger, the recoil caused the top of the pistol to bang into the top of the window. It’s amazing how fast your brain can process something like this: “gun hitting anything, not good — no damage to the gun or the wood — this is actually dampening the recoil — I wonder if I hold the gun higher….” at which point I’d shot all 3 targets twice.

My total round count for the match: 60 rounds. Each stage required a reload for me. I was shooting a 10 round magazine. The standing stage required a mandatory reload after putting a single shot in each target.

Here’s another new thing for me: it’s ok to drop loaded magazines during a reload. In IDPA matches this behavior will incur a penalty. With these matches, do what works for you. So, knowing the stage, you can opt when to reload and not waste time shoving a partially loaded magazine in a pocket.

After we shot our last stage, the squad cleaned up the bay before leaving. I heard that some of the competitors would be heading to a local restaurant after the match, but I opted out. I had a commitment to a 6am yoga class on Tuesday morning. We were done shooting at 8:40. I was in my car headed home at 8:53 pm. That’s quick work!

Will I go back? Absolutely!