On Thanksgiving Day I am thankful for family, friends, employment and a home. But I am also very thankful to have passion back in my life. Shooting has brought back a hunger to learn, the joy of mastering something significant, the frustration that I can’t just master it all now!, and the satisfaction as I gain knowledge and experience.

It’s been roughly 10 years since I was so driven to seek, to practice, to engage, to learn. I know what it feels like because I’ve been passionate about other activities in the past. The passion grows, then peaks in about 8 years, and settles. It is so very good to be back on the upside of that curve.

I kept telling myself, “Keep looking, it’s out there waiting for you.” And it was worth the wait.



One step forward, two steps back

I shot my XD9 last week at the range. I was really focused on my grip and not adjusting my hands between shots. I’ve not been able to do that but I know it’s critical to placement and speed. So instead of reserving the action range, I just grabbed a lane and sent the target out about 10 yards.

I placed both hands on the pistol with serious focus on position and grip. I slowly pulled the trigger and… the entire gun flew out of my weak hand. Huh?? I didn’t just have to adjust the grip, I needed to replace the hand on the gun. That had not happened before.

I experimented, tweaked, focused, and things really didn’t improve. I ran through almost 100 rounds, packed up my range bag and headed home. Big sigh. Most trips to the range I leave with a smile and a giggle, but this time I left disappointed.

Maybe I was tired? Maybe I have spaced and forgotten something critical? I’m just not sure. But I know I’ve done better in the past and so I just have to trust that if I stick with it, I’ll  do better in the future.






Tagged for Sale using a recycled target for the tag. This is not the gun I sold, because I didn’t think to grab a picture until it was already gone.

Yet another of my gun mentors offered to walk the Dixie Gun and Knife Show with me this past weekend (November 17, 18 2012). He explained that to sell a gun you basically tagged it with a “For Sale” sign and walked the show. He said people would just walk up to you and make offers.You could also ask dealers for bids. I had a Marlin 336 in 35 Remington that I’d decided to sell. I was in no rush but this might be my opportunity to make that happen. If not it would help me to understand what it was worth.

The last time I walked a gun show alone I was pretty overwhelmed. This friend was ex-military and had been around guns most of his life. This was an environment and culture he knew well. I made a list of things I was interested in looking at and I looked up prices online so I would know a good price when I was shopping. What I neglected to do was look up a price for the gun I wanted to sell.

We headed over Saturday around 9am when the show was supposed to open. We drove through the fairgrounds and aborted the trip. The line to get into the gun show was at least a 1/4 mile long and 3 abreast. My best guess was a 1-2 hour wait to get in the door and neither of us needed anything that bad.

Plan B was to try Sunday morning around 10:30am. That worked out much better! The line to buy tickets was about a 20 person wait. There was no line to get the rifle declared unloaded and zip tied shut for entry into the show. I didn’t even get in the building before I got my first offer: $175. I told the fellow that I had no clue what it was worth and I was going to check in with a few dealers before deciding to sell. I’m really glad I did.

Having a rifle propped up on your shoulder with a “For Sale” tag dangling from it meant stopping a lot to talk to people. My escort is very personable and engaged prospective buyers. Most conversations went like this, “My Dad gave me the gun but I had no idea what it’s worth and I’m going to find a dealer with a book to check the value. How much would you offer?” Bids seemed to rise as we got closer to the dealer tables: $200, $225, $275… This is not a good approach for the introverted, as we got plenty of interaction with strangers.

My friend guided me to a dealer table run by an business acquaintance and asked if they could check the “book”. He pointed out the entry, let me read it, and gave me a bit of feedback on the condition. Now I knew what was reasonable. I didn’t need to get top dollar but I also didn’t want to give it away.

I went back to the dealer who’d offered $300 and asked if he’d also make me an offer on the partial box of ammo I had. He did. I took a walk back to the car to retrieve the ammo while the dealer filled out a receipt. I unloaded the rifle and picked up $315.

I was very happy with how simple this was but learned to do my homework before  starting this process. Although I know it’s a good strategy to have the buyer open with a price that does me no good if I don’t have a feel for the value of the item.

I also picked up two boxes of .223 Remington at the show. I have plans for more long rifle range time in the near future and the fellow I’ll be shooting with this time is bringing an AR-15. I want to arrive with my own ammunition if he’s generous enough to let me shoot it.

Other observations:
This gun show was the first after Obama’s election for his second term in office. I thought the long line the day before was folks looking to buy magazines they feel will soon become illegal. We asked several vendors if sales were up. The response: “Most people are just looking, sales are not really up. The thing that is different about this show is that fewer people are selling.”


35 what?

When I’d been shooting for 6 months or so my father told me he had 3 rifles in a gun cabinet that hadn’t been touched in 20+ years. Since I was the only one in the family that was shooting, they were mine. So I found myself with a Browning .22, a Winchester .22 and a Marlin 336 in 35 Remington. I read that again… 35 ??? Never heard of that.

I made plans to meet a friend who would walk me though loading and firing each rifle at the county range on a very hot day last August (2012). I hauled them in one at a time. The range has a rule against “naked” guns, so one was in a very old case that I found in the bottom of the gun cabinet. I think it was “pleather” or PVC. The next was in a case that was too short for the rifle but the trigger was covered, so it looked odd but was considered safe. The 3rd I hauled in wrapped in an old Army blanket after checking to be sure they were ok with that. Covered is covered, and thought not elegant, it was acceptable.

I wanted someone to take a look and tell me if they were safe to shoot, try them out, them decide whether to keep them or sell them. The range is indoors but has no heat or A/C so at noon in August, it was over 90 degrees and it was pretty deserted. That was good for me as the Range Safety Officers (RSOs) were not very busy. One of the gentlemen used a metal rod down each gun to check for any blockage and declared each safe to shoot. Then I had them look at the 35 Remington ammo and decide if that was safe to shoot. I had one box with 19 shells. That was given the thumbs up too. Worst case, it just wouldn’t fire.

My friend met me there and brought his Marlin chambered in .38 Special. I brought my 3 gifts and we skipped shooting pistols that afternoon. The Marlin in .38 Special was a joy to shoot. Virtually no kick compared to my snub nosed pistol chambered in the same caliber. I liked the lever action and (of course) it was much more accurate than my pistol.

I got a few tips on shooting rifles: “bring the gun up to your eye, don’t bring your eye down to the gun.” And we shot about a 100 rounds through each of the .22 rifles. One looked too scary to shoot, but once loaded, performed just fine. I’ll define scary: a dented stock that had turned mostly black and had a bit of mildew with a barrel that was rusted and pitted.

From the Marlin website: Marlin 336 in 35 Remington

The beast of the group was the 35 Remington. One of the regular shooters told me it was for elephant hunting (it’s not…) and would knock me flat. I, of course, responded, “Load her up.”

The fellow that tossed out the challenge, Bill, actually volunteered to take the first shot. I was willing to let him if his wife consented. She’s a deadly shot, she’s at the range every day it’s open, and she lent me several .22s when I was picking my first pistol to purchase. I really did not want her mad at me if something went wrong. And nothing did.

We only put 3 shots through her. Bill took one, I took one, and my friend with the Marlin .38 took one. Oddly I was closest to the center of the target we used. That made me smile.

Soon after I checked out the price of ammunition and found it ran about $1.25 a round. In contrast I can find 9mm Luger for 25 cents a round. The place I usually buy ammo didn’t  carry 35 Remington but you could order it online. I asked my Dad what he used the gun for and he said “bear hunting”. I really don’t remember my dad doing much hunting when I was little so my best guess is that this gun saw the woods once or twice. More digging turned up [this video] and other digging said this gun was good for hunting anything in the lower 48 states. I has a lot of knock down power.

But: I don’t hunt, at least not yet. And it’s in an odd caliber that is hard to find and is expensive. So, I decided to sell it and use the cash toward my pistol purchases. That was about 3 months ago.

Next post: Sold!





IDPA Triple Crown Stages

In the previous post I shared my experience as a volunteer.  But one post is just not enough.

I wanted to comment on the stages for the first and second match of the Triple Crown. I’m guessing I’d want to comment on the 3rd match too if I’d been there the 2nd day. I was dumbfounded at the creativity involved and wondered if this was typical of IDPA matches. Evidently not… One of the shooters shot the match and in his write up about the match he said:

Shooting from the Scissors Lift
[Triple Crown, Day 1]

“Nearly every major match has 1 stage, feature, target,shooting position or something that is the signature of the match and shooters discuss whenever that match comes up. This match was a little different in that almost every stage would have been that signature at another match.”

“Toni Dandreamatteo and Frank Glover created a 2 day event that, without hyperbole, may never be done again, because this match was mentally and physically draining for every shooter, volunteer and the staff that put it on.” Posted by: 

Having never attended an outside match of any kind, I’ll take his word for it. The day stage that really intrigued me was the one that used the sissors lift. I love heights and had never thought about shooting down. I had the opportunity to go up on the lift once the shooting had stopped and see the angle into and behind the parked car below.

Target below the Scissors Lift
[Triple Crown, Day 1]

 I also helped Toni clean up the lift before the rental company arrived to pick it up. It was 2 inches deep in brass at one spot. Toni extended the platform to get all the brass that had worked it’s way under the middle and was quick with the broom. Can you imagine the thoughts of the next rental customer if it had been just passed along? And I wonder how many shooters realize that the match director has many jobs, including one like this.

I helped set up several stages for the night match. I’d stand and hold targets while Toni directed, “back”, “left”, “not that far left”, etc. Each target was held in place by a metal spike to ensure that each squad through the stage shot the targets in the exact same placement. Targets were arranged to create challenging configurations when navigating a stage. He explained that advanced shooters would opt for the tougher shots and newer shooters could spend more time to move into a position to make the shot more clear. He reviewed options for holding a flashlight with me. Most important, he made me feel welcome and encouraged me to continue to grow my skills. But I digress…

Welcome to the Strip Club! Shooters start seated with one hand on the dollar bill in her garter

Then there was the strip club. I think this was a “family” oriented strip club as the dress on that dancer was fairly modest.

However, the actions of the patrons in the private booths was a bit more risque. The “staff” was tagged as non-threats and I have to think the bad guys were a bit preoccupied. See photo below…



A patron in a private booth the IDPA Triple Crown “Strip Club” getting personal attention from a non-threat.


Toni told me the night match would include fire, water, and several flavors of light. I didn’t really understand what me meant till I attended the briefing.

Here’s the brief list of the night stages and what unique situation or challenge was included. I didn’t take the videos listed below, I found them with a quick search of YouTube. 

1) The Water Stage included shooting out a window through a rain storm. The never ending storm was created via a fountain that was rigged just above the outside of the window. I heard one story when I was entering scores about a shooter who extended his gun into the “storm” and couldn’t figure out why it was steaming. The things you just don’t think about, eh? This stage also required a flashlight.

2) The “Police” Stage included a car with flashing orange and blue lights (think strobe).

3) The Strip Club used regular lighting and, in the process, worked against eyes that had become adjusted to the dark.

4) The “HeadLights” stage was triggered by a motion sensor and included shooting 3 steel plates across the bumper of a deliver truck (to stop the truck) and shooting a light bulb through a small hole in a steel plate that emulated a motorcycle headlight. [Video here].

5) The Deck stage was originally designed to be shot with an oil lantern as the only light. Guess what? The muzzle flash kept blowing out the lantern. This required a change in the stage requirements to switch to flashlights and the first group re-shot the stage after the change. I thought: better to figure this out in a match rather than in your own back yard with someone shooting back at you.

6) The Camp Fire stage was shot with light from the (electric) campfire only. Targets were very low to the ground to simulate a dog pack zeroing in on your campsite.

7) The Glock Convenience Store stage was shot using a large Mag Light provided at the stage. The entrance to the store was obscured by dangling firehose and would have been a challenge to shoot in daylight.

Frank briefing the “Car on Fire” stage
[Triple Crown Night Match]

8) The Car on Fire stage was the one that boggled my mind. Imagine sitting in the driver’s seat of a wrecked car with the engine on fire and having to defend yourself against a half a dozen freaks with guns. This stage simulated that experience. A flashlight was needed to pinpoint the furthest targets. [Video here].

Shooting started at 6:30pm and the last set of scores came in around midnight. It was bitter cold and a big contrast to the 70 degree afternoon. These two matches made for a very long, very interesting day.

Attending as a volunteer still raised my awareness about shooting a match like one of these and prompted some questions:

  • How do you layer to stay warm enough at night but not have your clothing get in the way of your holster and concealment garment?
  • What’s the minimum amount of gear you need in your range bag as you have to haul it from stage to stage?
  • How to you insure you don’t lose gear in the dark?
If this sounds like something you want the opportunity to shoot, there is another Day / Night / Day match next month: December 8 – 9 2012. Details are on the home page for The Range.
Thanks to everyone who made me feel welcome. I have much to learn but this experience has made me eager to put the time in to improve my skills. Attend one match at The Range and you will never be a stranger again.












The Triple Crown: My Volunteer Experience

I read about the IDPA Triple Crown in several blog posts. This one says it best. I wanted to shoot but I’m making trade-offs financially after purchasing my first 1911 and all the accessories to set it up for competition. I’d been to The Range only once before to shoot my IDPA Classifier but I had briefly discussed working matches with Frank when I was there.

Even though I wasn’t willing to spend the money to complete, I wanted to see how outdoor stages differed from what I’d been shooting on an indoor range and I wanted to widen my network of shooting friends. So I called and volunteered to work the day and night match on Saturday. Frank said he’d put me to work and to come on up.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but when I pulled into the parking area at 9:30am Saturday morning I saw groups of people chatting and I thought, “What was I thinking? I don’t know a single soul here but Frank and he’s going to be very, very busy”. I took a deep breath and parked the car. I checked in at the only functioning building and told a stranger that I was here to help out. Again, I had second thoughts about this impulsive idea.

Focusing on the job: entering scores with the “Den Mother” who made me feel welcome.

Then I found something I could do that really needed to be done: I networked the two laptops used for the match scoring program. I do tech support for a living and am happy to leave the job behind when I head to the range, but in this case it won me a new friend and the “Den Mother Stamp of Approval”. I was immediately recruited to enter scores and that nagging feeling that this was not my brightest idea disappeared as soon as her words were out.

We had some time to wait before the first scores would come in, so Frank offered to let me ride along while he took care of last minute setup issues. He showed me how to drive the Gator (think: topless golf cart) and he told me a bit about several of the stages as we fine tuned them. Then he got a call:  “Honey Bunny’s pants are falling off.” Say what???

Turns out  the match director’s nickname is “Honey Bunny” and they set up a special stage in honor of (or was it to bust on…) him. Turns out it’s his nickname but also what he calls everyone he meets. Of course I didn’t know this yet… Here’s the setup for the stage: You are in a convenience store after an IDPA Sanctioned Match when you hear “Hey Honey Bunny!!!”. You turn around and Honey Bunny gives you a hug. Just at that moment, bad guys enter the store shooting. Start Position: You with Honey Bunny hugging you with his revolver holstered on his belt. You draw the revolver to shoot the bad guys. In this case, the stage Honey Bunny is a 6 foot stuffed rabbit. And his pants kept falling off due to the weight of the gun.

Sadie and Honey Bunny, post-bondage

I think someone mentioned suspenders. I asked Frank if he had some rope and told him I could fix this for him. And I did! Frank and I pulled up to the stage and got out of the Gator. There were 8-10 shooters looking at us and Frank looks at me and says to go ahead and fix the rabbit. No pressure here, eh? Remember I don’t know any of these people, yet, and I’d like to make some new friends.

I used a bowline on a front belt loop, took the rope behind the rabbit’s head and tied off to the front belt loop on the other side of his zipper. One of the guys suggested I tie to the back belt loops too. I was already on it. We had plenty of rope so I secured the 2nd front belt loop, went over the shoulder and diagonal across the rabbit’s back to ensure the rope wouldn’t slip off his shoulder. I passed the rope in front of the rabbit’s neck to get opposing tension for the last belt loop in the back and muttered under my breath, “You’d never do this with a person” and one of the shooters asked me if I taught bondage classes. That got a good laugh! One shooter gave me a fist pump and that really meant a lot to me. And now Frank has a new story to tell about the bondage bunny.

Sadie with the original Honey Bunny: my boss for the afternoon.

I managed to sneak in a few photos of the most intriguing day stage (think: high!) but spent most of the match entering scores. Once the day match was complete, I offered to help do the final setup for the night match and Toni put me to work. That’s when I heard the full disclosure about the Honey Bunny moniker.

Toni was very patient with my numerous questions while I helped set up targets and props for the night stages. He chatted with me about flashlights, the best way to shoot the stages we set up and how these matches were similar to or different from other matches. I helped clean up used targets from previous matches and tried my best to be useful.

Frank fed the staff and range safety officers Brunswick stew made by a local church that was excellent. The night match started around 6:30pm. The night stages vastly exceeded what I thought was possible and I’ll cover that in a future post. The last scores came in around midnight and I headed home by 12:15am. Very tired but very happy.

I didn’t meet many shooters, but I did meet people that helped me to get a better understanding of how competitions work and more important, made me feel welcome. I definitely see more volunteering in my future.

For more on the stages in the match, keep reading.






The Label Project

The last competition match I shot almost cost me a holster. The day after the match I dumped out my range bag and was doing a quick inventory when I noticed: no kydex holster for the XD. That was bad, very bad. The holster set me back $80 and I really, really did not want to buy another one.

I was headed back to the shop for a class that afternoon so I went early. I checked out the room where we hung out between stages and where I’d packed up my gear. The table was pristine and clean. My heart sunk.

A couple was filling out forms, probably their first visit to the range. I was looking through every box and container around them when the gentleman asked, “Are you looking for something?”. I explained and he glanced into a large box on the floor next to him that contained VHS tapes and was labeled, “Free – Please take”. He said, “Is this want you are looking for?” The cynic in me thought he was messing with me, but hallelujah!. He picked up my holster and I gave him a huge grin. I told him he’d made me a very happy girl. I must have knocked it off the table when I was packing up.

Lessons learned:

  • Pay attention
  • Label your gear so that an honest person will know who to return it too
Tonight I did just that:

All gear labeled! Hopefully I won’t misplace anything again but if I do there is hope for it to be returned.

Included: belt, ear muffs, custom ear plugs, 4 holsters, 3 mag pouches, glasses, and 3 sets of magazines.

I also numbered the individual magazines. An instructor advised me to do that. Why? If you start having problems with a magazine you can tell if it’s always the same one or if it’s randoms (ie: an issue with the gun).

And yes, I know using a label maker is kind of nerdy, but I really like the results. It will be interesting to see how the labels wear and if they stay attached to the gear. I have a small concern that the magazine labels will be scraped off when I load then stick in the magazine well, but that easy enough to fix. Each set has the labels in a different location so I can see what works best.

Magazines: More Lessons Learned

Here’s a bit more on the magazines I swaped by accident yesterday:

Single stack 1911 on the left. Double Stack XD9 on the right.

These are very different magazines. This photo shows the width difference well. The other difference is the capacity. The 1911 maxes out at 10 rounds. The XD9 will carry 16. So why did I buy the 1911? A single stack magazine results in a narrower grip. And I have very small hands.

Extractor from my 1911.

Since I had my gun, but no magazines, one of the guys working at the shop joked about, “taking the time to make lots of single shots” and I jumped on that comment. I’d always wondered if you could load a semi-automatic by placing a round in the barrel.  (Note: if the terminology is incorrect please do correct me in the comments!).

Since none of the classes I’ve taken has mentioned this I thought it might be a dangerous practice but if I’m ever in a situation where I have a gun, no magazine and a pocket full of rounds I would want to know the answer. So of course I asked.

The answer: it’s possible but can damage your extractor. Typically the round slides in from behind the extractor and the rim slips into the lip of the extractor. If you hand load the round and then close the slide, the lip of the extractor is forced over the rim of the round from behind the round.

Long story short: you can do this but it may damage the gun over time by breaking the lip off the extractor. I found more discussion here.

A final comment about my visit to the shop yesterday: some of the staff are becoming friends. I show up on a regular basis, I’m willing to listen to many opinions, and I always try to be upbeat and positive when I’m there. It’s a good feeling to see friendly faces when I walk in the door.






Magazines: Lessons Learned

I drove to the range yesterday to send some lead down range after work. After I arrived I realized I’d brought the wrong magazines. I’ve been keeping sets of magazines in ziplock containers.

Can you tell the difference? Clearly I could not. One of these had 4 double stacked XD magazines, the other has 5 single stack 1911 magazines.

I brought a container of 1911 magazines with the Springfield XD9. Bummer. I did not shoot on this visit.

How did I manage to do this? I’ve been drinking from the fire hose in my quest to learn and haven’t slowed down to regroup. In this case I should have dumped out my gun bag after the 1911 Take Down class I took last weekend and inventoried what’s in the bag.


So what’s the good news? I now have enough guns that I’m fortunate enough to have this problem. (I try to stay positive!).

This should work much better!

I treat every visit to this range as an opportunity to talk to knowledgeable folks and learn. Two of the guys that I see the most in the afternoons had walked me through taking my magazines apart a few weeks back on a slow day. I followed up yesterday with a final question about the direction to place the small end of the spring in the follower.

II’d taken them apart and cleaned them up, then took my best guess at putting them back together. I even shot a match with them last weekend and all seemed to go well, but I still wanted to confirm my technique. Since I hadn’t brought the right mags with me this trip, he was kind enough to pop a similar mag out of a rental gun to examine. He let me take it apart and show him the two options. He confirmed my choice was correct.

Alignment on the left is correct: it’s vertical when flush in the follower. Alignment on the right is wrong: it angles to the right of vertical.

The new Silicon cloth for magazine maintenance.

I picked up a silicone cloth to “lubricate” my magazines. In a recent class I attended I was advised that these cloths were the best way way to keep magazines working well. First take them apart and wipe off the dirt and grime with a clean dry cloth. Then run this silicon cloth through the inside of the magazines, around the outside edges of the follower, and up the spiral of the spring. The cost was roughly $5. And one the guys at the shop reminded me: don’t put them in the washer. He said you’d be surprised at how many people do that, then realize: “no more silicon“.

And finally, I stopped in to see the resident gunsmith. We are becoming fast friends. He has already fixed a serious issue for me and never seems to tire of my endless questions.

I’ve been waiting 4 weeks to get the slim grips we ordered for my new 1911. He called this week and was told they are on back order. So I asked if we could order from a different supplier. Turns out he has a dozen or so slim options in stock, but had not mentioned that as he thought I wanted the specific grips I originally selected.

I’m so glad I asked. He has several I’d be happy with, so I’ll be taking the 1911 to him next week and finally get the gun set up to shoot.

All in all a productive trip, even if I didn’t get to shoot.




Meeting mentors in unexpected places

As part of my journey, I have been participating in forums that discuss shooting. One thread I commented on asked whether men should push their female partners to learn to shoot and train. I replied:

I’ve been involved with several men who were very proficient with firearms, had a CCW and carried. I asked every one of them to take me to the range and teach me. None of them did. So this year I decided to stop waiting on someone else to hold my hand and just get started.

I signed up for an NRA First Steps Pistol class. I have made new friends, been encouraged by strangers, and I was a grinning fool after my first class.

If/when there is a partner, I will likely be the one pushing him to train.

One of the responses I got was a private message from a local guy, but a total stranger to me. So I gave him a polite brush off. And he politely accepted it. And proceeded to help me hunt down some information on my revolver. He built some credibility with me, offered some advice and shared his experience related to getting a CCW license.

Eventually I met him (and his mom!) for bagels and coffee. He offered to let me shoot several of his pistols when I was doing my due diligence in selecting a 9mm for myself. He’s still one of the people I consider a cheerleader in my pursuit of shooting skills. He’s knowledgeable without being judgmental. And I met him on the internet. Go figure…

He let me shoot his .357 with both .38 and .357 ammo after explaining to me that it would shoot both (yet another thing I didn’t know…). And he managed to capture my muzzle blast with his cell phone so he could send me home with a memento!

May 9, 2012: .357 muzzle blast