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.


DQA shooter I respect told me soon after I started shooting that there are two kinds of shooters:

  • Those that have been DQd
  • Those that will be DQd

I have joined the ranks of the latter category. A bit of translation in case you are not familiar with the term “DQ”: disqualified, no longer allowed to shoot in the match.

Most of the DQs I’m aware of are a result of a safety violation. I this case there is no question. Here’s what occurred:

I shot stage 3 of a match Saturday night that was challenging. It started with the description, “You are sitting on the bank of a river fishing when a bunch of bad guys decide to ruin you day…” The entire stage was shot from a seated position. The bad guys included two poppers that were concealed behind cardboard. I’m usually good with steel poppers. When I can’t see them, it’s a bit more challenging. I lost count but it’s possible I put 6-8 rounds into one popper before I got it to fall. My brain was still spinning on “why wouldn’t it go down?”.

I stood to reholster and the RO gave me clear commands: “SLIDE”, “TRIGGER”. At which point my gun went “BANG!”. That is considered an accidental discharge and is without question a DQ.

What went wrong? I didn’t take the magazine out of the gun. Neither I nor the RO noticed that the magazine was still in the gun. We didn’t visually inspect the chamber to verify it was empty. The RO was as stunned as I was and shared the blame. However, I believe I am always responsible for the safe use of my gun and, in my mind, take 100% of the blame.

What did I learn? When the stage is over, you need to let go of any thoughts about what went right or what went wrong. You need to focus on the task at hand: safety unloading your weapon.

What went right? I’ve heard that there are multiple gun safety rules so that if by some chance you fail to follow one rule, the others will keep you safe. In this case I did follow this rule: “Never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy.” I was holding the gun firmly in my right hand and had the gun pointed downrange. It startled us but caused no danger to anyone in the bay. I am thankful for that.

A good friend was DQd earlier this year for loading his gun before the RO stated , “Load and make ready”. He sat out the rest of the match and I have been hyper alert about waiting for verbal commands since that occurred.

If my mistake can help raise the awareness of other shooters to pay close attention in the “Unload and show clear” steps of a stage, that is worth sharing the experience.

Have fun and stay safe!




Wash your hands

One piece of safety advice I got early on is simple: wash your hands after shooting. Wash your face too before eating. The ladies at the Wake County Ladies Handgun league mention this at every meeting.

If you shoot frequently, the lead exposure over time can add up. This is a simple way to address that issue for most shooters. If you work at a range or shoot daily, you may want to add lead testing to your annual physical. One of the instructors I’ve worked with does that. I may well ask for a lead test at my next physical to get a baseline for the future.

Much more information can be found here, on my favorite Shooting reference site, The Cornered Cat:



Hard Safety vs. Soft Safety

This article published on Triangle Tactical back in March started me thinking about the thumb safeties on my guns: Why is it so hard to get a thumb safety right?

1911 with soft safety (top and H&K USP with hard safety (bottom).

1911 with soft safety (top and H&K USP with hard safety (bottom).

I own two pistols with thumb safeties: a S&W 1911 and an H&K USP Compact. They operate very differently and that difference didn’t really jump out at him until I read Ben’s post.

The “Soft Safety” – The first thing I had to learn when shooting the 1911 was to wrap my thumb over the top of the safety when I draw the gun. If I don’t, and the thumb rises up just a slight bit, the safety nudges up and the gun will no longer shoot. The safety on the gun is fluid. You touch it even slightly, it moves. If it raises the least bit, it engages. At first I thought I had a malfunction but soon realized that I was the one with the malfunction, not the gun. When I began to wrap my thumb over the safety, that problem ceased.

Every one I’ve loaned the gun to has done the same thing until I pointed out you need to grip it differently to ensure the safety stays down. So it may not be common knowledge outside 1911 owners.

The “Hard Safety” – My H&K USP compact has what I call a hard safety. You have to push it down hard and when you do, you hear it click into place. It has two positions: on and off. There is no fluidity and no in-between. It is fairly easy to disengage when drawing from a holster as my thumb has more strength pushing down. It’s difficult for me to re-engage one handed before re-holstering. Until I started shooting the 1911 I assumed all safeties worked this way. I also tended to disengage the safety, shoot at the range, then re-engage the safety when I was done shooting for the day – because it was difficult to switch.

One other difference: Once the hammer is down on the 1911, you can’t put the “soft” safety on. Technically there is no need as the gun can’t be fired until the hammer is cocked, but I found this odd when I first started shooting the 1911. I always wanted to put the safety back on after I was done shooting to establish the habit firmly – no matter whether the hammer was up or down. With the H&K, you can always put the “hard” safety on. Whether the hammer is cocked or de-cocked, you can press the safety switch up. So this design will allow you to consistently apply the safety.

I am not passing judgement at this time on which I like best. I have many more hours with the 1911 and I’m clearly biased toward that design at this time. I just wanted to point out the differences for anyone considering a gun purchase. And I’ll admit that shooting the 1911 has made me much more aware of how safeties work and to disengage / reengage each time I draw / reholster.






Zen and practice at the indoor range

When I first started shooting I was nervous every single time I went to the range to practice when I booked a lane on the public side of the range I joined. I’d check out everyone around me to see what they were shooting, to see if any other women were shooting, and because I was honestly expecting some one to tell me I was doing something wrong.

I realized last week, that I was no longer worried about “passing” but I was focused on what to do to improve my shooting. I’m still very focused on safety, but I realized I never looked to see who was there much less what they were shooting.

Targets for multiple lanes

Targets for multiple lanes

I was focused on drills that included:

  • very slow draw, aim and deliberate trigger pull (to focus on each step of the process)
  • strong hand only
  • weak hand only
  • double taps
  • controlled pairs
  • slide lock reloads
  • tactical reloads

I ration myself to 100 rounds (or whatever is left over from the last match + a box of 50 rounds). I need to put together a more formal set of drills and start to measure my progress somehow, but for now it was a pleasant realization to feel I fit in.



That picture

The original blog banner

The photo at the top of the blog was taken by a friend. It was taken last year when I was very new to shooting and very enthusiastic about my new interest. We ensured all the guns we used were unloaded. Three of us checked. There was no ammunition in the venue. And I wore an outfit to mimic a cosplay character, Revy. I was feeling empowered and sexy. That was the 1st gun I bought! (It’s a S&W 22A).

I look at the photos now and I feel a bit foolish. No eye protection, no ear protection, and no high neck shirt to prevent hot shells from dumping down my chest. Fantasy is a far cry from reality.

I also can see that I have one eye closed: not a good tactic for defensive shooting. And I have my finger on the trigger: a serious no-no based on the gun safety rules of most any organization. From IDPA: The 4th Law of Gun Safety – Keep Your Finger Off The Trigger Until Your Sights Are On The Target!

Finally, that grip: both thumbs are misplaced. They should, ideally, parallel the slide and be as high as possible without touching the slide.

I still like the photo. At the time it captured my enthusiasm. Now it helps me see how far I’ve come. I’m going to keep it there for now because I like that reminder.