For the Ladies

The first class I took when I decided to learn to shoot was an NRA First Steps Pistol class at the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center. I knew one of the instructors, quite by chance. I used to work with her about 15 years ago. She recommended that I attend the Wake County Ladies Handgun League (WCLGHL). They meet the first Saturday of the month at 9am at the Wake County Range. Some months they have a speaker, some months one of the members will present or share information, but every month they shoot.

They are great about sharing guns, encouraging new shooters, and providing opportunities to experience new skills. I first learned to draw from a holster with these ladies. When I was trying to decide what kind of .22lr to buy, two of the RSOs lent me 8 – 10 guns to try between the two of them. When I wanted to try some single stack 9mm guns, I was able to try 5 in one day.

I’ve never found a co-ed group like this and obviously I haven’t attended a men’s only shooting group, but I think this is a special resource in our area and I’d encourage women shooter’s to check it out.





First Squib

NOTE: This is the first guest post to my blog. The following was written by my shooting partner David Young. His enthusiasm is endless and he helps to nudge me when I lost momentum, so when he asked if he could post to my blog, of course I said yes! 

I just takes one…

Today, after about 24 months of regular shooting, I had my first squib round. I was breaking in my new XD9 Service pistol, so thankfully I was shooting slowly. About halfway through a box of recently purchased factory new Independence 115gr FMJ, I pulled the trigger and heard the classic “pop”. I’ve always heard it described that way, but in reality it’s more like shooting a paper-strip cap gun

  • no recoil;
  • sounds the same;
  • and a wisp of smoke rises from the chamber.

The slide did not cycle (obviously), but I dropped the magazine, cycled the slide manually, ejected the spent case and began my inspection.

I field-stripped my gun and ran a bore snake down the barrel. Sure enough, the bullet was lodged about 1/3 of the way down. I was shooting at Personal Defense and Handgun Safety (PDHSC) in Raleigh. Without batting an eye the staff took the barrel into their work room and removed the bullet. Removal took about 15 minutes and I watched as the gentleman (I wish I remember his name) used a brass rod and hammer. No charge and no barrel damage.

Having a squib (safely) is one of the best learning experiences I’ve had since I began shooting. I’ve listened to the description countless times, but actually experiencing a squib is invaluable. I have no idea what the outcome would have been had I been under duress; say, during an IDPA match or intense training. During rapid firing I might very well have put another round through the barrel and destroyed my gun. I can only hope that the experience has imprinted itself and I’ll have the presence of mind next time to cease firing as I did today.

I’ve read on forums that the vast majority of squibs occur in handloads. Not this one, which means factory ammunition is not immune. It might be rare but it can happen.

By the way, I shot the remainder of the Independence with no issues.

Finally, I want to offer kudos to the staff at PDHSC. Of all the local gun stores I’ve been to in the Raleigh area, the folks PDHSC are hands-down the best. Their level of service, expertise and advice is without equal, in my opinion.

David Young

Practice vs. Defense

I don’t read many other gun blogs because I’m trying to get out and shoot, not sit in front of a computer nearly as much as I have. But there are a few I read. And every once in awhile I read an article that leaves me thinking “I would never have thought about that”. Recently there were two defense related articles that made me think about all the things I don’t know about defensive shooting. Maybe reading blogs can be more helpful than I realized.

The simple one that really made me go “duh” was from Kathy Jackson at the Cornered Cat: Squib. The point of the article is that your behavior should be very different on a practice range than it should be in a defensive situation, if you actually notice the issue during the adrenaline dump of a defensive situation.

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

From a recent match at The Range in Oxford: the entire stage was shot from the back seat of this car

The more complicated post that made me realize that I have put much too little thought into defensive scenarios was by Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!. The post is “Developing mental notecards” and lays out a flowchart scenario of options if you were in a bad situation in your car. My background is programming and I like the flowchart approach – but more than that it made me consider situations that never crossed my mind: 

  • Not blocked in? If not, drive away. Always remember that your 1st choice is to leave.
  • Am I alone? My default situation is to be driving alone, but that isn’t always the case and I shouldn’t let that be a “how the heck to I deal with a passenger” situation. “Get down and cover your ears!” gives them a chance to limit damage if I shoot.
  • Think about the seat belt and how that may impede you.
  • How does the location of the threat affect use of the car for cover?

Here’s where shooting matches has helped:

  • Have you ever tried to draw in a car? I have at the local IDPA match. I’m so glad to have had that experience. That is very valuable practice. Below is the set of targets shot from the backseat of the car shown above:

Targets highlighted in red…




Elusive Ammunition…

Last year when I started competing and practicing on a regular basis, I decided to stock up on ammunition so that would never be a barrier to shooting. I came close to crying a few times as I parted with cash or paid my credit cards, but over a few months, I hit my goal.

With what has happened since I’m really happy I did that. Now, as I use up what I bought I am trying to replenish as I get close to the minimum level I’d like to keep on hand. But being rather frugal, I’m also patient.

Before the election and Sandy Hook, a reasonable deal on 9mm Luger was around 25 cents a round.  That is $250 per 1,000 rounds (without taxes). And I’d much rather buy in 1,000 round batches than have to run to the store for 3-5 boxes over and over until I feel stocked up again. My last 1,000 round purchase was from PDHSC in January for $238. They laugh at me now when I ask if they have more bulk ammo in stock.

I have a friend that has recently paid around $600 for a 1,000 rounds and I’m just not willing to pay that. At that price I may have to reconsider the frequency I shoot live rounds and force myself to spend much more time on dry fire practice.

What I’ve found though is that with patience and persistence, ammo is out there and not everyone is price gouging.

UMC 9mm Luger 50 round packs from 9Forward in Oxford, NC. Price: $14.71. Five "box" limit.

UMC 9mm Luger 50 round packs from 9Forward in Oxford, NC. Price: $14.71. Five “box” limit.

For example:

  • I was in a Walmart near my mom’s house in SC a few weekends ago and decided to stop by sporting goods. I’ve been in this store before and I’ve spoken to the very knowledgeable woman who works there several times in the past. She asked what I was looking for and I told her .38 Special (for mom) or 9mm (for me). Amazingly she said she’d found some 9mm in the back and had two boxes left. I asked the price: $19.99 — for 100 round bulk boxes. This was the pre-election price! No price gouging here. I was happy to give her my money.

  • In Oxford last week I found 9mm in 50 round packs for $14.71. They have a 5 box limit per customer. Turns out they also had some Winchester 100 round bulk packs for $26.94. The first is 29 cents a round, the second 27 cents a round. In this current ammo starved environment, both are very reasonable deals.

I’m not sure what the future holds but with some networking, tips from friends, and supporting businesses that are not price gouging, I’m hoping that I can continue to shoot without resorting to paying top dollar.

Of course, the real solution is to start reloading. But one thing at a time…


9Forward – Opening Day!

9Foward storefront on Hillsborough St. in Oxford, NC

9Foward storefront on Hillsborough St. in Oxford, NC

I received a heads up through the Ladies Handgun League mailing list that a new gun store, 9Forward Firearms & Ammunition, was opening in Oxford, NC this past Saturday, May 4th 2013. Here’s the website with key details:

  • From the website: 9 Forward sells firearms, ammunition and firearms accessories.
  • They are 10 minutes from The Range in Oxford, which hosts IDPA matches as well as other shooting events.
  • They are closed on Sunday and Monday. So the doors will not be open again till Tuesday.

The key phrase in the email announcement that got my attention was “healthy ammo inventory”. I called  Rachel, one of the owners, on Friday to check prices and limits on ammunition. The prices were very good and the limit was 5 boxes. I shared the information with my shooting partner and planned an early morning road trip to Oxford on Saturday morning. A friend and I arrived at 8:45am and were on hand for the opening at 9am. My shooting partner was already there, drinking coffee and chatting with Rachel out on the sidewalk.

Eager customers waiting as Rachel turns the sign to "Open" for the very first time.

Eager customers waiting as Rachel turns the sign to “Open” for the very first time.

My sister lives walking distance from the store and agreed to meet us over there to do a bit of ammo shopping with me. We all picked up 9mm rounds and I was very pleased with the prices. The store wasn’t crowded, but there was a steady stream of customers, most looking for ammo.

Rachel hugged the first customer after he paid – the store opening was the culmination of a business plan that started prior to the last election and was in doubt at a few points along the way. Flipping the sign on the front door to “Open” and ringing up that first sale was was clearly exciting, memorable, and significant to her. The enthusiasm she shared was contagious. I wanted to talk with her more but we had what we came for and she had other customers waiting.

I headed over to my sister’s house for a cup of coffee by 9:30 and did some catching up. I was ready to head back to Raleigh by 11:30 and since it was on the way, a stopped back in the store. I wanted to see if they were sold out of ammo yet. I ran into Frank from The Range as I walked back in the door and gave him a hug. My gun friends are starting to feel like family.

I noticed they had plenty of staff on hand and were clearly service oriented. Rachel laughed when I asked her if they were out of ammo and said they were not. I took the time to chat with her since she was taking a break from the register.  When I asked why they are closed on Sunday, Rachel said that was their day to go shooting. Fair enough.When I asked why they chose Oxford, she said the space used to be a gun store. The previous owner closed up shop and they found Granville county to be very gun friendly. When I asked how they were able to stock ammunition when others stores couldn’t seem to get it in stock, she said they had been working on opening the store for quite some time and lining that up was something that had been in the works well before they opened. She and her husband have an interest in defensive shooting and I’ll be back to talk with her about that.

I noticed they carry Flashbang holsters for women and spoke to her about carry holsters, then the biometric safes they had in stock. I found her to be knowledgeable without being pushy or overly opinionated. She’s willing to share what she knows and let the customer decide what’s best for their situation.

I noticed that they still had space for additional inventory and I expect they will start to fill the shelves with much more inventory over time.

It was fun to be part of such a significant event and I’ll be back. I’m particularly interested in checking back for ammo. Since I don’t reload at this point, finding reasonably priced ammo in stock is a huge challenge. This may be part of my solution.

Draw, then Move

A local blog wrote about drawing before you move at competitive matches:
2 BUG Matches, IDPA, and a Girl Goes Bang – TTP – Ep. 20 said: 

Tip of The Week:

Draw, then move. It’s almost never a good idea in a match to move to a position, then draw the pistol. Ben goes into detail about why this is the case.

They also gave a “Plug of the Week” top my blog. Since I’ve been blogging less time than I’ve been shooting, that really made my week. On the podcast they mentioned that I brought up issues encountered by new shooters. So here’s the new shooter version of shooting on the move.

Stage description:
Magazines were loaded 6,6,10.
Stage was a single shot to each of 6 targets:
1) while moving sideways, then stop and slidelock reload
2) while moving forward, then stop and slidelock reload
3) while moving backward
for a total of 3 shots to each target.
(From March 10, 2013 IDPA match at The Range in Oxford, NC – Stage 6)

Listen closely and you will hear the RSO say “Move” after my draw. I’m thinking so hard about getting the gun on target that I put moving as secondary. This is purely by accident but it’s nice to know I’m developing some good habits:

Note: This is my first video! One of the guys in my squad was taking a video of another shooter and I asked him about that. He said he’d take one of me if I had a camera. When we got to this stage he nudged me and told me that this would be a great stage for video because it was so open. I handed him the $50 camera I bought at a Trade It in Raleigh and told him I knew it took video but wasn’t sure how it worked. Not only did he figure out how to work the camera, he took a short video without extra footage — which is great because it’s beyond me to edit video at this point.

Why am I sharing that? Because Ben & Luke are right that the people you shoot with are really nice, really helpful folks.

I’m very slow and usually come in dead last, but I’m learning confidence with safety, what to expect at matches, and making friends. If I stick with it, I am hoping better scores will be in my future.

And here are more thoughts on shooting and moving that I saw this week on another local blog: Is shooting on the move a good idea?