Fun trip to the mountains!

Added a few 9mm holes to the gate sign!

Added a few 9mm holes to the gate sign!

I took a trip to the Virginia mountains with friends and the cabin where we stayed had a shooting range. I brought my 1911 and helped my host out by adding a few 9mm holes to the sign he bought to post on the gate at the road. I wasn’t sure if I’d get any splatter or flying metal, so I shot it at about 10 yards. I have no idea if anyone would take it seriously but it was a fun project!

My host has a collection of restraints so I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try shooting in restraints while I was there. I included photos of two of the options I tried shooting with.

Restraint Photo

The challenge was the preparation steps: draw the pistol, load the magazine and then rack the slide. I was able to do that in 4 different types of restraints but not without difficulty. In the case of the bracelet restraints, I could only rack the slide if the metal was lined up with my wrist joint. If they slipped down on my arm at all, I could not rack the slide.

I remember hearing that you can rack the slide one handed by hooking it over the heel of your boot, but I decided that trying that for the first time in restraints with a loaded gun wasn’t a good idea. I’ll have to try that later with an unloaded gun. You never know when you may be wounded and down to a single hand in a defensive situation.

I don’t honestly think I’d ever end up with cuffs and still have my gun handy, but in that far fetched scenario, I know I can shoot and accurately.

I also tried filming video from the front for the first time. I bought a gorilla tripod for my flip camera. We set it up down range and just let it run. I used VideoPad to clip out the segments that looked like they might be worth sharing. I edited out the “load and make ready” segments because they took way too long. I’m thinking practice would make a difference but I’ll reserve my practice time for more realistic scenarios. So just to make it 100% clear: no one was downrange filming to get these video clips.

April was the month of gun churn

H&K USP Compact vs. XDS (both in 9mm)

H&K USP Compact vs. XDS (both in 9mm)

In April 2015, I shot 4 different pistols. All were 9mm but for the most part were very different guns.

  • I started the month shooting the 1911 at an IDPA Match in Oxford.
  • I was so frustrated with the 1911, I decided to give CCP(concealed carry pistol division of IDPA) a try and switched to the Springfield XDS. I shot a match and an IDPA Classifier hosted at the Wake County Range the 3rd Saturday with this gun. I like the way it shoots, but I find it difficult to get the magazine to drop and I pinched my palm when reloading to the point of bruises. The grip is the “perfect” height to make that an issue.
  • I volunteered for a WOT event and had the opportunity to shoot a S&W M&P in 9mm. Not much shooting here, but enough to knock down 8 steel targets.
  • Finally,I switched to an H&K USP Compact after I shipped the 1911 to S&W. I didn’t know how long the 1911 would be gone or how well it would work when it came back. I have plans to shoot the Carolina Cup, so I needed to pick a pistol, stick with it and continue to practice. I bought the H&K about 3 years ago because it was a deal I just couldn’t turn down, however I really haven’t shot it much. It’s supposed to be reliable and after my experience with the 1911, that was appealing.

I could shoot the H&K in SSP (Stock Service Pistol) if I decock it and ensure the first shot is always a double action pull. Or I can shoot it in ESP (Enhanced Service Pistol) if I put on the safety and include taking the safety off each time I draw from the holster.

Since I can’t consistently reach the safety, I opted to start shooting SSP and learn how to deal with the double action trigger pull. I’ve found that to be challenging.

I made the switch May 6th when I took a half day off work to work on the IDPA Classifier. I worked on that again May 9th and shot another classifier, in Oxford this time, with the H&K in SSP on May 10th (Mother’s Day). I missed qualifying as Marksman by 3 seconds. My first trigger pull is painfully slow to avoid slapping the trigger and dropping the shot. So once again, something new to work on. I also am a bit too quick with the second shot due to the contrast in the trigger weight. I haven’t measured, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the H&K single action pull is as light as my 1911.

A final comment: When I got the 1911 back I shot it then shot the H&K. I didn’t think the H&K had much recoil until I shot them back to back… the 1911 makes it feel as if the H&K kicks. But I’m sticking with it for now.


No 1911 Malfunctions & 5/25 IDPA Match Review

The 1911 and Log Book

The 1911 and Log Book

I shot an unsanctioned IPDA match last at PDHSC. These matches are hosted by Shoot2Live. Last night for the first time since I bought the S&W 1911, I had zero malfunctions during a match. It has malfunctioned in all 5 of the previous matches. I like the weight, the trigger, and the smoothness I feel when running the gun, but I would never trust it as a carry gun for self defense.

Possibly I’m hitting the end of a break in period. I keep a log book with each gun and note when I shoot, how many rounds, a few words about what I did with the gun (practice, match, class) and when/how I clean the gun. From the book I see I’ve put about 2700 rounds through the gun and the last time I field stripped it was 300 rounds ago.

I’m curious to see if this was a one time thing or if it becomes the exception rather than a regular occurrence in the future.

Notes about the match:

  • I arrived at 4:30pm to sign in. The match went till 9:30pm. There are 3 squads and two bays so there is always down time between stages.
  • There was one stage that required shooting with strong hand then weak hand and one stage that required shooting 5 targets on the move. These are things I can practice.
  • One stage involved moving targets: a swinger and a drop turner. These I haven’t figured out how to practice. Since I’m not an RSO it’s not OK to go downrange to set these up when I rent practice time at the range. Possibly I need to book time with an instructor to get more exposure to these types of targets.
  • I’m usually head to bed about 9:30pm,  so I think I’ll opt to shoot more afternoon matches outdoors in the future.



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…




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.



Practice Costs

Well used paper target (March 8, 2013)

I practice during the week at Personal Defense Handgun Safety Center (PDHSC). I bought a Gold Membership after a bit of nudging by a past shooting partner. We don’t shoot together any more but he was the #1 reason I’m shooting competitions today. He encouraged me to take several classes, we shot our first IDPA match together, we practiced together about once a week on the action range at PDHSC and he made me aware of the Gold Membership.

The Gold Membership is currently $275 for one year. That includes unlimited range time in one hour increments. Current range time is at $20 a visit. Without the Gold Memberhship, if I shoot once a week, the cost the for a year would be $1040. If I shoot twice a month, the cost would be $480. For me, the Gold Membership is a great deal.

If you shoot in a lane, the additional cost is $1 per paper target. I like targets with lots of options so I can move around, transitioning from spot to spot. If you shoot in the action range (call in advance, on the same day, to reserve this range) the cardboard targets are $2 each. Since you shoot solo on the action range there is an additional cost of $5.

Cardboard target with one “paster” under the head shot. Note steel plates in the background.

You can “paste” brown sticky squares over holes in the cardboard targets and use them many, many times. At a match, 6 squads of 10 shooters will shoot most targets twice each for over a 100 rounds per use.

The last cost for practice is ammunition. I stocked up after I bought my first 9mm gun. I like shooting, I want to improve and I never wanted the cost or scarcity of ammunition to prevent me from shooting. New shooting friends also predicted that the fall 2012 election results would affect pricing and availability. In the short time I’ve been shooting I’ve seen 9mm Luger rounds go from $12/box to “a deal” at $20 a box (a box is typically 50 rounds) for practice rounds.

Since I typically use 100 rounds at each match and at each practice session I buy in bulk. That’s hit and miss at the moment but I’m hoping the supply and demand will even out in a few months and it will become easier to find. I’m hoping more that the prices don’t continue to rise.



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.