Back to Caswell Ranch for IDPA

At one point in time Caswell Ranch took a hiatus from IDPA. I took an even longer hiatus from shooting. But I’m back and Caswell Ranch is back to offering IDPA matches the 4th Sunday of the month. This month they will be offering a 5th Sunday match – even though it’s not on the calendar. Contact info is here if you want to verify the match.

I shot the match on May 24th and stuck around for a classifier after the match.

Car Window-crop

We shot 6 stages on a beautiful spring day. We started with a car scenario. We shot these 4 targets through the passenger window, then exited the car and shot one target while backing away from the driver’s door, moved to the rear of the car and shot a few more.

When we shot in the shoot houses, there was no way to really get good video. The other 3 are included below. I’m very new to video editing so this was the result of playing around with new video editing software.

A few comments:

  • I am painfully slow at shooting one handed. But I am fairly accurate. The first shot is double action and a longer pull, but even so, that’s WAY too long. These were all headshots and some only part of a head, but even so…. Since it’s not on the video, I included a photo of the targets.

    Headshots Only... are you kidding me?

    Headshots Only. One hand only. Are you kidding me?

  • I need to learn to transition the gun from hand to hand better. When I moved from strong hand to both hands, I hand a lot of extra thumb action.
  • I don’t have my supporting hand positioned correctly – the thumb is way too high in most cases.
  • I need to stop pulling the magazines out of the gun. They will drop. That’s bad habit I picked up from my XDS.
  • On the second stage I needed the front magazine (loaded to 3 rounds) but grabbed the back magazine, realized the mistake, and fixed it. I’ve never grabbed the back magazine before. So, something new to focus on during dry fire practice.
  • On the positive side, I started the last stage looking at the first target.

Thanks to Rusty for running video for me!


Introduction to IDPA

I’ve been asked to do a short presentation on IDPA for the Ladies Handgun League down at the Wake County Range. I put together an outline and decided to post it here for future reference.


Intro to IDPA

IDPA: International Defensive Pistol Association


• the use of practical equipment
• to solve simulated “real world” self-defense scenarios

Who Competes in IDPA?

In a word, everybody. New comers are welcome and encouraged.

You should be comfortable:
• drawing from a holster and reholstering
• reloading / exchanging magazines in your pistol

IDPA Safety Rules / Reviewed at every match!
• All guns are always loaded.
• Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
• Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
• Identify your target, and what is behind it.

(Versus  NRA Gun Safety Rules)
• Always point the gun in a safe direction.
• Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
• Keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Skills you are exposed to:

• Emphasis on range safety
• Drawing from concealment
• Strong hand and weak hand shooting
• Shooting while moving, kneeling or prone
• Shooting moving targets
• Using cover properly
• Reloads
• Tactical priority (near to far)
• Tactical sequence (one shot each before additional shots)
• Threats vs. non-threats,
• Shooting for both speed and accuracy
• Adding the adrenaline rush you may experience in real life

How does a Match work?

• Typically 6-8 stages over 4-6 hours
• Break into squads – squad leader will work with you. People are friendly and typically helpful to a new shooter.
• Your squad arrives at each stage as a group.
• Your squad leader will brief the squad on the scenario and any requirements.
• You may all load and make ready as a squad or each shooter may load and make ready as it is there turn to shoot.
• Every one helps to paste targets
• You can ask to see how you did

Examples of Stages

• “You are in the shower…” and you start by opening a shower curtain and picking up your gun from a side table
• At a major match: shoot out a window through a rain storm (actually a hose…)
• “You are on the couch, watching the Super Bowl and your gun is on the coffee table. Sit up and shoot your first target before standing.”
• At a major match: Shoot from the driver’s seat of a car, at night, through a burning engine at your targets (this was a rare night match).

What to Bring

• Ear & eye protection (MANDATORY)
• Handgun, caliber 9mm or larger
• •  Sights must be stock. No lasers, scopes, or lights mounted on pistol are allowed.
• OWB holster that covers the trigger guard (ladies can use a dropped, offset holster).
• Should have at least 3 magazines for your pistol (you can shoot with 2)
• Magazine holster that goes on your belt for each extra magazine
• Belt to support your gun and magazine holsters
• A concealment garment- ie vest or long shirt
• About 150 rounds of ammo
• Some form of range bag to keep your items in.
• Baseball cap recommended – especially for outdoor matches.
• Water & Snacks!

Here’s a link to a Triangle Tactical article that talks about IDPA “on the cheap” for equipment sources.

Gun Handling

• All events are cold ranges.
• Come with your gun unloaded.
• You will be told when/where to load and unload your gun.
• Unless you have been told to load & make ready, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR GUN.
• If you are not sure of when/where you can handle your firearm simply leave it holstered and ask.

Range Commands (not exhaustive…)

• Load and Make Ready
• Unload and Show Clear
• Finger: You will hear this if your finger is in the trigger guard while moving or reloading.
• Muzzle: If you hear this, immediately check yourself as your muzzle is getting near a muzzle
safe point.
• Stop: If a shooter is being grossly unsafe, or if a safety issue has arisen on the range
• Cover: If a shooter is not using cover adequately

Local information (may change over time, verify before driving to a match)

Classes: IDPA Intro class locally at Shoot to Live
Personal Defense Handgun Safety Center – One Thursday a month
The Range in Oxford – 1st & 2nd Sunday of the month

Awesome local blog that encourages completing: Triangle Tactical and their Comprehensive calendar of all regional events.

More detail for first time competitors:
Getting Started in Competitive Shooting over at Triangle Tactical
New Shooter Briefing (Video)
New Shooter Packet (Document) 

One eye, two eye

When I first learned to shoot, at the NRA First Steps Pistol class, they explained “eye dominance“. I closed one eye to aim and was most accurate that way, so I continued shooting that way.

When I took defensive shooting classes, I heard over and over: keep both eyes open. You lose peripheral vision and that might include a bad guy who’s trying to shoot you. I have periodically tried to practice with both eyes open and see double, get frustrated, and go back to closing one eye.

Dean coaching Sadie. Dean provides lots of personal coaching in his classes.

I took a class up at Caswell Ranch from Dean Brevit on April 6th, 2013. The most valuable thing I took away from Dean’s class was a new way to look at the target.

For defensive shooting, look at the target. Bring the gun up and when it gets in the way of the target, pull the trigger.

That is a huge over simplification, but it was the first explanation that really made sense to me.

The hitch: breaking the habit I’ve already established of closing one eye and lining up the sites.

Why does it matter? In a situation where another person is pointing a gun at you and is moving, it’s most likely that you will focus on the target. It is instinctive to focus on the threat. It’s also faster to shoot that way. The challenge is to maintain accuracy. And when the target is 6″ in diameter, for IDPA or to hit a bad guy’s chest, it is possible to be accurate enough. Dean made a believer out of me.

Making the change is a slow process. I keep getting cross-eyed when I try to change my focus to the target. All my practice time has been devoted to this one skill the last few weeks.

However I have much more work to do. At the IDPA match I shot last Saturday night, I immediately went back to closing one eye. I knew I was doing it, was very accurate for me, and didn’t want to shoot even slower… possibly a bad trade off, but one I made.

Finally, in a “deja vu” moment this past week, another blog I follow posted an article about focusing on the target, so I’ll share that as well: Can target focus be good? from Ron Larimer at When the Balloon Goes Up!


First Caswell Ranch Match: 2/24/13

My GPS found Caswell Ranch with no issues. The website says “Look for big red dutch barn” and that was easy to spot from the road.

I was early enough to snap a few pictures, get good parking, register and find the bathrooms.

Beverly signed me in, made me feel welcome, and let me know about future training classes. Dean Brevit wasn’t there. I think he was at the 2013 IDPA Indoor National Championships. However, many of the men I met at the match mentioned Dean and all had very good things to say about training with him. I plan to attend the FUNDAMENTAL COMPETITION PART 1 & 2 classes once they are posted on the calendar.

And, one of the guys recognized me from this blog! That still seems odd. Most of the guys shooting know so much more than I do.

Stage 2: black parts of target are considered cover

Stage 2

My squad started on Stage 2. The scenario: see the 6 targets above. The black areas are considered cover and any shots into the black will not be scored. Best I remember, here’s what we shot:

  • Shoot 1 in each target from 10 yards, administrative reload
  • Shoot 1 in each target, from 7 years, strong hand only, administrative reload
  • Shoot 1 in each target, from 5 yards, week hand only starting from low ready (safety already off).
  • The time to reload and move forward was not part of the scoring.

I was up early and managed to jam my gun after the first shot. I cleared one round, tried again, cleared another, and the Range Safety Officer (RSO) pointed out the magazine was loose. I never got upset but I was puzzled. He stopped the clock and told me we were going to start over. That’s not normal match protocol, but clearly this wasn’t going to give me an unfair advantage as I wasn’t going to win anything… but it did allow me to clear my head and focus on the stage. It was kind and appreciated. These matches aren’t sanctioned or this wouldn’t have been an option. Once I started over I ended the stage with no downs: all the shots were in the down zero area. I’m slow. But clearly my accuracy is improving. I ended the stage with a smile.


I do need to understand why my gun is jamming and dropping the magazine at matches. It doesn’t happen to me at the range when I practice, just at matches. In the last class I took, I learn to check these things after loading: tug the magazine, press check (verify a round is loaded by easing the slide back just enough to see it) and verify visually and by touch the gun is in battery (the slide is fully forward).

I have been skipping the “tug”. Adding a safety to the gun made the press check more complicated and all my attention has gone to that step. Turns out, at a competition when you are using a barney mag (with a single round to top off) there really is no need for the press check. The RSO at my last match in Oxford told me that but I didn’t understand why. The RSO at this match put it in simple terms: if there was one round in the magazine and you remove the magazine, where else could that round possibly be? Without the press check I can put the safety back on as soon as I load and leave it there.

So going forward, at a match, I need to focus on the magazine and battery checks. Hopefully that will address the issue I’ve been having. If not, there is more to learn. One of the RSOs thought I might be limp-wristing the gun but I don’t see how that could cause the magazine to come loose.

The Rest of the Stages

I look like a dork, but I have all my safety gear on and here’s the proof that it was t-shirt weather in February!

I didn’t take pictures of all the stages and I had no further malfunctions. For February, it was a beautiful sunny day. After getting very cold at the last Oxford match I brought several layers. I ended up wearing a t-shirt and a concealment vest. The sunshine was a real bonus.

My accuracy is definitely getting better. Here’s the number of downs for each stage:

Stage 1: 0 down, 2nd to last
Stage 2: 0 down, 2nd to last
Stage 3: 0 down, 2nd to last
Stage 4: 1 down, 4th to last
Stage 5: 10 down, 2nd to last (missed a shot)
Stage 6:  1 down, 5th to last
Over All: Dead last.

The guys on my squad were encouraging. “Work on your accuracy first, the speed will come”. The RSO reminded me to aim for the berm, not the ground, when pulling the trigger after unloading (thank you). We had stages with movement and one of the shooters took two of us aside to demonstrate the best way to move smoothly: walk heel-to-toe (which I knew) and at a slight crouch (which I wasn’t doing). Again, thank you. I used to compete in dancing and I know how to walk heel-to-toe (can you say waltz?) either forward or backwards, but the crouch makes all the difference.

Stages included these props and skills: We started one stage with our hand on the battery of a truck with the hood propped up. We shot bad guys using the truck as cover. One stage was set up like a bowling alley and we started by dropping a ball. Some stages required head shots. At least one stage required slicing the pie, another shooting in tactical sequence. One required kneeling behind cover. One required shooting all targets while seated at a picnic table. One required moving from a doorway, to a window, to another window.

Unlike Oxford, there is no place to put your gear except on the ground in the bays where stages are set up. I need to bring a ground barrier for wet days.

I had a few non-shooting conversations. Oddly enough, one was about climbing Mount McKinley. One guy in our squad was wearing a t-shirt from Alaska and that started up a conversation about the state and a comment from another shooter about wanting to climb the mountain. I’d made an attempt when I was younger so I actually had something to contribute. It was nice to be able to talk about something other than what I was doing wrong.

At the end of the day, just like all the matches I shoot, I was a happy camper. I’m starting to recognize faces, even if I’m lousy with names and I hope to shoot matches at Caswell Ranch on a regular basis.