The .22LR Saga

Shooting the newly restored Winchester 74

Shooting the newly restored Winchester 74

Awhile back my dad offered me 3 rifles he’d had sitting in  gun case for years because I’m the only one in the family that shoots. I sold the 35 Remington and had the Winchester 74 restored. The elevator was lost in the process so the friend who did such a great job on restoring the rifle met me at the range June 8th to install the elevator and site in the gun.

Elevator? He had to explain to me what an elevator was so I’ll share that with you: it is a small metal part that wedges under the sight to raise or lower it. For more details, check out this article.

I hadn’t fired from bench rest position since my “First Steps Pistol” class. We used my range bag as the “rest”. It’s a $15 tool bag from Walmart and worked quite well. My mentor for the day asked me to rest the “forearm” (ie: the wooden part) of the barrel on the rest, not the metal part of the barrel. I tucked the buttstock into my shoulder and brought the gun up to my face. At that point you try to get a good cheek weld by holding it is snuggly. Note that you don’t bring your face down to the stock – bring the gun up to your face.

We had about 18 yards to work with and the gun was shooting a bit high. It’s supposed to be sighted in at 25 yards so this was to be expected. The gun will shoot slightly higher at shorter distances.

Everything was going well until I tried to shoot the gun. At that point it went “tap” instead of “bang”. It appears we were getting an inconsistent firing pin strike.

The problem may be the firing pin but more likely is with the firing pin spring. So it appears this gun will require an additional investment of cash… and I’m kind of bummed about that. My primary focus is on pistols, but I have a large stash of .22lr and this is a beautiful gun. I really need to decide if it’s worth investing in a rifle I really don’t shoot — at least not at this time.




The first step toward winning is to show up

1st Place Novice ESP

1st Place Novice ESP

I won my division at the Carolina Cup. I was a bit embarrassed to pick up the winners plaque though as I was the only one in the division.

I did achieve my two goals:

  • Don’t come in dead last overall
  • Don’t get DQ’d

I’m a slow shooter. My accuracy is improving but the winners could have shot this match 3 times in the time it took me to shoot it once.

Over 16 stages I had 2 procedurals for

  • not reloading behind cover
  • shooting targets out of order (didn’t slice the pie)

I had 1 hit on a non-threat and 3 failures to neutralize. Total points down: 128. That averages to 8 per stage. I did finish my last stage with “zero down”  and that felt good!

I know there was at least one other Novice shooter in another division, but this match was for the more experienced shooters. I’m happy to have the experience and I hope to one day come back and shoot it in a higher division – then if I “place” I’ll know it was earned.


My 1st Carolina Cup: photo with Frank (The Match Director)

My 1st Carolina Cup: photo with Frank (The Match Director)

The 2013 Carolina Cup: Getting your Score

Stats Central

Stats Central: Four laptops, no waiting…

I volunteered for the Cup and was placed on the Stats Team. I worked stats at a prior match so I’d been vetted for the team. I shot the match on Tuesday. Other volunteers shot on Wednesday. We started entering all scores on Thursday morning. The Stats team posted final scores just after 5pm Saturday. Here’s some detail on how that happens.

Every score sheet is entered twice: once in the pink tables, and once in the blue tables. Each entry is done by a different person. In theory, if there is a mistake made, it is very unlikely that two different people would make the exact same mistake. With roughly 350 shooters, 16 stages and a double entry system, the team entered approximately 11,200 score sheets.

For each score sheet we enter the shooter number, stage, and time. Next are any penalties, then we add up and enter the total downs. Then it’s on to the next score sheet. I’ve never really used a “10 Key” pad before, but I learned quickly.

As they come in the door, we consider them “virgin” or “naked”. Once entered in one table they are marked with a highlighter to show they have been entered for that color. Each entry is color coded, so they get “pinked” and “blued”. There is a special way to fan the pages that allows you to color them quickly, but I’m going to treat that as a trade secret for now 🙂

Once both “pinked & blued” they are sorted by shooter number and filed in hanging manilla folders for later reference if needed. We found it faster to pre-sort stacks then have one person call shooter numbers while the other person stuffed score sheets in the correct folder.

An error report is run periodically to look for any stages that were only entered once or have any mismatches. All of those are pulled from the file folders, re-examined and corrected until they no longer appear on the error report. At the end of the match other error reports are run as well to look for missing stages.

Using this approach, the final scores were posted by 5:10 pm Saturday. Shooters have one hour to file any protests. We had one shooter who asked us to re-examine his scores as he didn’t think his total was correct. We pulled a report of all his entered scores, then I pulled his folder, sorted by stage and checked off each entry. It was an exact match and it was clear to him, using that method, that his score was correct.

Volunteer time: I worked 7am till 5pm Thursday and Friday. I helped out with registration until the stats team started with score entries around 9am. On Saturday, because all shooters were checked in, I started at 9am. I could have left at 6pm but chose to stick around for the awards ceremony and an impromptu picnic afterwards, so I didn’t leave until 9pm. Add an hour commute to/from The Range each way and I invested 35 hours volunteering for the event. One important note: I did that in an air-conditioned building.

I admire and want to say thank you to the RSOs and other volunteers who spend their long days out in the heat.

Carolina Cup 2013: Overview

The signature Bunker Stage

The signature Bunker Stage

Random facts and comments about the match:

  • There were 376 registered shooters. I think roughly 350 participated.
  • There were 3 shooters DQd.
  • There were competitors from 4 foreign countries and one US territory: Italy, Chile, Venezuela, Austria, Finland and Puerto Rico
  • Roughly one third of the registered shooters received a gift when they registered. These were donated by sponsors and randomly distributed.
  • During this match the only job of the competitors is to shoot. Volunteers run scores and paste.
  • The RSOs stay with the stage, so every shooter has the same RSO for each stage.
  • Some of the competitors showed up early to walk the stages. One forgot to bring his ear protection so the Match Admministrator loaned him a set from the lost & found. They were lent out and returned on the honor system.
  • There was an assortment of sun screen and bug spray at the registration station for anyone’s use.
  • Shooters registered for Thursday shot all 16 stages in one day. That was the hottest day of the match and peaked just under 100 degrees. A storm rolled in and unleashed torrents about half an hour after the shooters finished for the day. The storm cooled thing off 20 degrees or so for the Fri/Sat shooters. There was no rain during any of the shooters heats.
  • The host hotel, the Comfort Inn, lost power during the storm and it wasn’t restored until 2:30 the following afternoon. One of the RSOs overheard a hotel employee say, “I’ve never seen so many people prepared with flashlights.” The RSO just laughed at that… clearly they didn’t understand who was staying at the hotel.
  • Due to the power outage, most of the shooters showed up Friday with no shower and no coffee. The tough folks took a cold shower.
  • Friday/Saturday shooters shot the match over two days. They had one morning start at 8am and an afternoon start at 1pm. Friday morning shooters finished Saturday afternoon. Friday afternoon shooters finished Saturday morning.
  • The lunch vendor served a very limited menu: Bologna Burgers & Hot Dogs on Thursday, Hamburgers and Hotdogs Friday, and back to Bologna Burgers & Hot Dogs Saturday.
  • Most stages had sponsor banners and there were several vendors onsite. The result was festive!
  • Friday at 7am was the staff photo. The photographer was in a Utilikilt! So at least one male shooter shot the match in a “skirt”.
  • I met Jim HIcks during one of my lunch breaks and bought a copy of “Fall of the Republic: Seasons of War-Volume One“. It was one of the last 4 copies and I’m looking forward to reading it.
  • Cart drivers ran bottled water to all stages continuously. There was no charge for the water and everyone was strongly encouraged to stay hydrated.
  • There were small dramas. But some turned out well. We had a shooter ask to be moved to a different squad because he “heard” that the international shooter’s on his squad were difficult to deal with. The squads were packed and no one was being moved. The shooter came back at the end of the match and said he had a great time. The team he was concerned about turned out to be very friendly and there might now be an international match in his future!
  • There was a paramedic on duty the entire match. He treated roughly 6 people and mostly he handed out band-aids. There were no serious injuries.
  • There was a complimentary BBQ after the match completed on Saturday. All shooters and guests were invited to eat. The menu included: Shredded Pork BBQ, potatoes, green beans, a roll, dessert, and the expected southern “sweet tea”.
  • Final scores were posted just after 5pm Saturday. IDPA rules state challenges can be made to the posted scores for 1 hours after posted. The awards ceremony started at 6:30pm.
  • The awards ceremony included 8-10 gun giveaways in random drawings.
  • Awards were given to the top shooter in each of these categories: Ladies, Juniors, International, Active Military, Senior (50+) and Distinguished Senior (65+).
  • Awards were given for the top 5 places in each category of each division. Top place in the expert division won a large trophy.
  • The Italian Team hosted an impromptu picnic after the awards ceremony with delicacies from Italy that included salami, cheese and grappa.
  • There were still folks on-site after mid-night celebrating.
Awards Ceremony

Awards Ceremony

Note: any inaccuracies are my responsibility.

The Recoil Spring experiment

Recoils Springs, Bushing "Disk" by Lynx, and an empty flare tube to transport the springs.

Recoils Springs, Bushing “Disk” by Lynx, and an empty flare tube to transport the springs.

The day before I shot the Carolina Cup I was at PDHSC for several reasons, but one was to get a different recoil spring for my 1911. I had a conversation with one of my informal mentors at PDHSC and he’d recommended I go lighter. It might also help with the occasional double feeds I experience.

The gunsmith I work with runs a business out of the same building so I asked him what he recommended. I like getting more than one opinion as it helps me to learn and increase my knowledge. The Brownell’s book we checked stated that the standard for a 1911 in 9mm is 14 lbs for the recoil spring. I just found this article that recommends my 5′ barrel in 9mm should have a 10-12 lb spring.

We had no way to measure the spring in the gun so I assumed it was 14lbs. I still have it as a back up.  I bought a 12lb spring and proceeded to reserve a lane at the range and check out the gun with the new spring in it. I also had my new XDS with me and several of the guys I know that work at PDHSC wanted to give that a try so I was talking with several folks. The guy that recommended the light recoil spring shot the XDS then asked if I’d picked up a new spring. I proudly said I had: at 12 lbs.

He really thought I ought to go lighter. It would help noticeably with recoil control however it would be tougher on the gun. He explained that I’d need to lubricate the gun well and it would still have parts that would wear more quickly – but if I wanted the gun for competition it might be worth the trade-off for me. He loaned me a 7lb spring. I was amazed at the difference. I went through several drills and all appeared well.

He asked me to replace the spring later when the gunsmith was back but the price for all the advice was the cost of a pink bushing wrench. Now I’m not a fan of pink. I tend to avoid most “girly” looking gun equipment and this was no exception. But it worked well, it was less than $8 and it had a breast cancer fund raising ribbon on the product — so it wasn’t a hard sell. It is larger than my other bushing wrench and it’s very easy to find in a range bag.

I know this because the first stage I shot at the Carolina Cup the next day showed me that the spring wasn’t strong enough to put the gun back into battery after a slide lock reload. There were two reloads required on the first stage I shot. The first time the RSO had to point it out when the gun didn’t go “bang” and the second time I was ready for it. A thump on the back of the slide fixed the issue – with a loss of time on the stage each time.

I excused myself after the stage, went back to my car, used that handy pink bushing “disk” and put the 12 lb spring back in the gun. I had no further issues.

I think I still might pick up a 10 lb spring. At $8 apiece it’s not a big investment. And I’m starting to understand why most of my shooting friends spend the time to experiment with gun modifications.

Shooting the Carolina Cup

Shirt, Cap & Badge: Carolina Cup 2013

Shirt, Cap & Badge: Carolina Cup 2013

I shot the Carolina Cup yesterday (Tuesday, June 11th) with other volunteers. Most of the volunteers are RSOs but I am not, so when the RSO for our squad said “You are all RSOs so I expect you be safe” I spoke up and made him aware that I was a novice shooter that would be working stats. In spite of that or because of that, everyone on my squad was welcoming and helpful. I was not sure I was “good enough” to shoot a regional match but I’m very glad I made the decision to sign up.

Some details that might be helpful to other shooters:

  • Pack sun screen. Really. We had a beautifully sunny day after several days of major thunderstorms in the area and I was thankful that it was dry. However, you will be in the sun for 8 hours over 1 or 2 days — assuming it doesn’t rain again. 
  • Bring snacks for the time before and/or after lunch.
  • Frank recommends 250 rounds. I brought 400. I had to completely reshoot one stage and I never opened the last box of 100 rounds. Even if you want to be conservative, 300 is plenty.
  • When you arrive you sign in and get a goodie bag along with match info. Your score sheets and scoring labels are in the bag. Since I was running late, I set up my scores sheets and caught up with my squad. I read the info later.
  • I’d never shot a major match so the way they handle score sheets was new to me. You get a stack of duplicate score sheets. Top copy is white, bottom copy is yellow. They have pre-printed labels that you attach to each top copy. Write in the stage numbers (move each score sheet off the stack or the carbon on lower sheets will get that stage number as well). As you shoot, the RSO will give you the yellow copy as soon as you complete the stage. I really liked the instant and clear feedback. They also took the time to explain any penalties I incurred, which I appreciated.
  • I started shooting at 9am, took a break for lunch, and finished my last stage by 4:15pm. You can opt to shoot the match in 1 day or across two 1/2 days. I am commuting an hour each way and didn’t want to drive back Wednesday so I opted for the 1 day experience. We started with a squad of 10 or 12  (of which 5 were women) and ended with a squad of about 6 (3 women finished the day). About half our squad dropped out for the afternoon and will shoot the rest on Wednesday. It was a long day and I’m not used to being on my feet all day, but it was a good decision for me.
  • The Range fed us lunch – it’s part of the volunteer experience. We had a never ending supply of cold water and there were canned drinks at lunch. They will have a food vendor on Thurs, Fri and Saturday and I’ve been told I HAVE to try the “bologna burger”. Stay tuned for the assessment on that!
  • If you haven’t worn ear muffs for 8 hours straight – they can give you a headache. Next time I’ll pack my in-ear protection and swap off during the day.
  • I wore shorts but I was in the minority. I didn’t find that to be a problem and I did find that to be cooler. If you are considering shorts be aware there are a few stages where you must kneel and there is poison ivy in the woods on the “across the road” stages. I know what it looks like and I’m not very allergic, so I would wear shorts again.

I have much more to write about my performance and the stages I shot, but I’ll reserve that for future posts. I’m headed back up at 6am tomorrow to help folks check in who will be shooting Thursday. I’ll be in the “Stats Building” entering scores until the end of the day Saturday. I’ll write more about my shooting experience and my volunteer experience next week.

For other tips and reasons to shoot a reagional match, I recommend this podcast from Triangle Tactical:

If you are shooting the cup, please stop by and say “hello”.

XDS / 9mm Initial Assessment

Saturday morning I booked time at PDHSC and shot the XDS. I was VERY pleased with the gun!

Perfect fit! The XDS and my small hands.

Perfect fit! The XDS and my small hands.

I decided to buy this gun because

  • I was impressed with the reliability of my XD,
  • I needed something with a smaller grip,
  • I wanted a smaller gun to use as a carry gun so it would be easier to conceal, and
  • I’m committed to shooting only 9mm in a defensive weapon for now for budgetary reasons (lower cost of ammunition and I only need to stock up on one caliber).

I was concerned that the smaller gun would result in recoil I wouldn’t handle well. I shot the same gun in .45 a few months ago and had a real problem with limp wristing. If I had that problem with the 9mm version I was determined to overcome the problem – but it didn’t happen.

I alternated between the XD and the XDS and was pleasantly surprised to find I had better control of the XDS because I can get more of my hands around the grip. All my fingers fit on the grip with no need for the extended mag. The single stack design allows me to get a tight clamshell around the grip. The XD is wider. It forces my hands open and makes it much tougher to get a good clamping action.

In fact, the XD “jumps” in my hand just enough that I constantly need to readjust my grip between shots. Like the 1911, the slimmer grip on the XDS gives me more control and no need for readjustment.

I am used to loading via the slide lock release instead of racking the slide and I was concerned this would be much stiffer than my 1911. Once it was loaded and had a full magazine in the gun, it only required a light touch to release the slide.

The magazine release button is tight. I did struggle with that but I think with some use or a break in period it will be easier to work.

The sites are different than any of my other guns. It has the option of red or green optic front sights with white dot back sights. I’ll need to spend some time shooting with these to determine how I like (or dislike them).

Based on how I shot the gun and the ease of recoil control I’m very excited about this gun. I see a BUG match and experiments with carry holsters in the near future.






Buying the Springfield XDS (in 9mm)

Brand new Springfield XDS in 9mm -- still in the "box"

Brand new Springfield XDS in 9mm — still in the “box”

The evolution of buying a gun:

  • I saw this post Tuesday morning,
  • exchanged a few emails with Luke in which he said “a little bird told him they would have another XDS in 9mm on Thursday,
  • called Carolina Gunrunners Tuesday afternoon and asked about availability,
  • drove over after work and paid for the gun with a credit card (note that they do not take credit cards over the phone for liability reasons but they charge the same price for cash or credit)
  • got a call Thursday morning to let me know the gun was in and would be ready for pick up at my convenience, and
  • drove back to Carolina Gunrunners last night after work, filled out the paperwork and brought home my purchase.

Luke at Triangle Tactical has also written a review of his first experience shooting the gun. Read that here.

I’m excited about this purchase and will have much more to say about it. I have plans to shoot it tomorrow. But for now this odd tidbit: it’s the smallest gun I’ve purchased to date and it came in the biggest box. I like that it’s rugged but it’s going to take up lots of space to store it.

In the photo above, you’ll see the gun comes with: a paddle holster, a smaller backstrap, a double mag pouch, a gun lock, the XDS, two 7 round magazines, and replacement red dot and green dot site rods.

The red dot/green dot rods are completely new to me so I asked about them. The fellow at Carolina Gunrunners told me that if the existing red dot site broke, I could slide a replacement rod into the site, cut it then take a cigarette lighter and melt the ends. This gun will clearly jump start me into learning new things.

If you want to purchase the XDS in 9mm, Carolina Gunrunners in north Raleigh will have more being shipped to the store. I found them very easy to work with and would not hesitate to do business with them again in the future.

I also got a call from Rachel at 9Forward on Wednesday. She remembered that I had asked about the XDS when I was in the store for their opening and she called to let me know they had started receiving shipments. So if you are closer to Oxford and Raleigh is a long drive for you, this is another place locally that you can buy this gun now.



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.