There are many reasons why I recommend that at some point, new gun owners shoot a practical pistol match.
- There is no better way to find out if your choice of gun, holster and gear will work under stressful conditions than at a shooting match.
- You are solving somebody else’s problem with a gun in your hand, which is exactly what will happen if you need to use lethal force: Somebody else started the problem, you need to solve it.
- You will find out how your brain does (or doesn’t work) under stress.
To that last point:
I shot an International Defensive Pistol (IDPA) Match this week with my co-bloggers, and totally and completely messed up the first two stages. IDPA is notorious for it’s rules, which are, in theory, designed to help re-create what might be found if you need (God Forbid) to use your firearm to save your life. Two of those rules are you shoot the targets in the designated order and you don’t discard a partially loaded magazine.
Watch as I break both of those rules on the first stage, but recover and turn in a pretty good run (for me) on the second stage.
The stress that a a practical pistol match puts on you is 1/10th (if that…) of the real thing.
But that’s 1/10th more than most people (thankfully) will have to face in their lives, which is why it’s a good idea for anyone who owns a pistol for self-defense to give it a try at least once.
Who knows, you might like it.
Gallup polled gun owners asking them why they own a gun, and personal protection was the #1 reason given.
Americans who say they personally own a gun were asked this open-ended question in Gallup’s Oct. 3-6 annual Crime poll. These 309 gun owners were allowed to provide up to three reasons they own guns.
After personal safety and hunting, general mentions of recreation or sport are third (13%) among the reasons gun owners chose to own a firearm, with 8% citing target shooting.
Only 5% of American gun owners cite “Second Amendment rights,” despite its frequent use as an argument against gun control. Three percent say they own a gun related to their line of work in the police or military. Collecting guns as a hobby and euthanizing sick animals or pest control had few mentions.
Ummn, having a gun for personal protection IS an argument against gun control and ever since Heller vs. DC, it IS protected by the Second Amendment. Only 5% of gun owners gave that as a reason why they own guns, but the fact is, the Second Amendment is the real reason we all can protect ourselves and our loved ones with a gun,
Robert M. and I (Jaci J.) will be on Kate Krueger Talking Guns this Sunday, October 27th. We’ll be talking about competitive shooting and Second Amendment activism.
Last month, I had the opportunity to shoot the 2013 IDPA Nationals. This was my first national competition of any kind, and while I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready to compete on a national level, I decided to check both my luggage and my ego to find out how my skills compare to shooters from across the country (and the world). Not surprisingly, IDPA Nationals turned out to be an amazing experience, full of extremely challenging stages that forced me to find (and go past) the limits of my shooting abilities. I also met some fantastic people and shared in a healthy dose of good times on and off the range.
Just as important as having a great time, I learned a metric ton of stuff about shooting and traveling to higher level matches by competing in the Nationals. I learned a lot from watching others, and learned some things the hard way by not being as prepared for things as I could have been. Here’s a few things I learned that might be helpful to you if you are planning to take your shooting to the next level and compete in a Regional or National Competition.
Fast is Fine, But Accuracy is Everything
Action pistol shooting is basically an accuracy contest that happens to be timed, and the IDPA Nationals was a true test of accuracy. There were only a handful of targets that weren’t obstructed by a no-shoot or some type of hard cover, which meant there were lots of opportunities for penalties and points down (each point adds a half second to your time, and you want the lowest time possible).
I shoot above my weight when it comes to speed, but below it on accuracy. Shooting several of the stages too fast to make well-placed shots cost me dearly. For example, on the Standards stage, my times look pretty good, but I gained 14.5 seconds because of poorly placed shots. The lesson here is to take as much time as you need to make a good shot. While this is always solid advice, it becomes even more important when you’re shooting with the big boys and girls.
Shooting Weather You Like it Or Not
Unless the weather conditions are too dangerous to shoot in, the show will go on. The squads that shot on Thursday had to take an extended break due to high winds and lightning, but still dealt with rainy conditions. Those of us that shot Friday morning ended up getting lucky with the conditions, the threat of rain loomed all day, but never materialized. The conditions on Friday were still a bit tricky, Thursday’s rain left the grass slick, and contributed to at least one shooter getting DQ’ed for slipping during a stage.
Check the weather conditions before you head to any big match, and bring rain gear, cold gear or whatever you might need to make sure you stay comfortable and safe in any condition. It’s better to have it and not need it then not have it and need it.
Life’s Not Fair and neither are some stages
It’s very likely that there will be a stage or two that you will have a problem with for some reason, perhaps you think a stage is set up incorrectly, you have bad knees and have a hard time getting back up, or maybe you’re vertically challenged like me. Bitching or complaining takes mental energy, and you really don’t have any to spare at a major match. Let it go and shoot the best you can.
There were a few targets at the match that I saw very little of due to my shortness. If I had let that get to me, my performance would have suffered (even more than it already did). During the Air Marshall Stage (pictured at left), I could see very little of the last target. When I got to that target, I put two nicely placed shots into the 3 points down area of the target, took my 5 second Failure To Neutralize penalty and moved on.
Shooters are the Best People in the World
Having the opportunity to meet and hang out with hundreds of people that love and understand the sport is worth the price of admission alone. I got to spend time with awesome people that I’ve met at previous events and I made several new friends.
I’ve said it 1,000 times before, and I’ll say it again – the shooting community overflows with people that would do just about anything to help you when you’re having any kind of problem. Before the first stage of the match, I had a Murphy’s Law moment – my electronic ear protection broke. One of my squad mates saw it happen and immediately offered to lend me a pair (thanks Dustin!).
The other lesson to be learned here is BRING TWO OF EVERYTHING WITH YOU TO A BIG MATCH. If you don’t need it, you might be able to help someone else avert disaster.
Eat your Wheaties
IDPA Nationals was 17 stages, shot over 2 days. Make make sure you have enough fuel to get through each day, and try to keep your blood sugar up throughout the day. I forgot to do that on Saturday and ended up crashing and burning hard on the last few stages of the match. Stash some high protein snacks in your bag and munch throughout the day (even if you think you don’t need to).
Even though I wasn’t sure I was ready, I’m really glad that I made the decision to shoot the 2013 IDPA Nationals. It was an amazing experience that I won’t soon forget. I will definitely back next year – this time more prepared and ready to burn it down. With accurate shots.
Or, how to do the same thing three different ways.
Jaci, Robert and myself all shot the USPSA match at Rio Salado Sportsman’s Club last Sunday, and we each approached stage two of the match in a slightly different way. Because Robert and I shot it in Production and Jaci in Single Stack Minor, we each started out with 11 rounds in our gun and 10 in our mags, meaning we each had to shoot the stage in roughly the same manner, but we still managed to find some ways to change things up to match our level of shooting skill.
14 Targets, 26 Shots.
Here’s another competitor shooting the stage in Single Stack Major to show you how it’s laid out.
Robert started shooting from the shooting box itself, then moved to a standing position to engage the next three targets, then moved to the right side of the barrel near the fence and engaged the targets as seen in the video, but with a little more hesitation to make sure all the targets were hit.
She started out walking, engaging the first four targets on the move and the next three while moving and shot the entire stage much like it was the video.
I shot this a little differently, as I wanted to work on moving then shooting then moving again. I started the stage by engaging the first four targets from the box, then running across the fault lines to a spot where I could shoot the next three targets, then ran across the fault lines again to take the shortest distance possible to my next shooting location, then finished up the stage much the same way as my co-bloggers.
So who was fastest?
Jaci, by a couple of seconds. Yep, I got my ass whipped by a girl. Again.
Earlier this month, I wrote a piece on concealed carry guns for women at Shooting Illustrated that’s proven to be quite popular with men and women alike. One of the consistent comments I’ve had about the article is that some of the guns that were a popular choice for concealed carry, like the NAA .22 Revolver and the Kel-Tec PMR30 are in “sub-optimal” calibers for personal defense.
Which begs the question, what is an “optimal caliber” for self-defense, and what happens if you go over or under it?
Well, that’s kinda like asking what is the best car: You’re going to get a lot of answers, and they all depend on the context. Most experts will tell you, though, that something in the range of 9mm-.45ACP range is where you want to be, and in that range, I personally prefer 9mm, but smart people disagree on this issue, so there is no “right choice”.
What happens when you chose a gun that’s in a smaller caliber, like .380 ACP or .22 Magnum? Well, you need to make up for the lighter, slower bullets in those guns by throwing out more of them at your target.
I carry a Kel-Tec P3AT in .380 ACP on a regular basis, and that is considered by some to be “sub-optimal” because it fires a lighter bullet at slower speeds than it’s bigger cousin, the 9mm. I make up for this fact by putting a laser sight on it to make sure my bullets go where I want them to. I don’t feel “undergunned” when I carry the P3AT, because I’ve practiced with that gun enough to know its limitations and can work around them. Is it my first choice in a defensive gun? No, if given the choice, I want to have a rifle with me if I can. Actually, I want a whole bunch of people with rifles with me (Like, say, a company of Marines) if *know* I’ll be getting into trouble on any given day.
But I don’t know that on any given day. All I know is that I can carry small, lightweight guns in small, lightweight calibers almost everywhere I go, which fulfills the first rule of a gunfight, namely, have a gun.
Having “enough gun” is something I’ll leave for another day.
Let’s talk for a moment about a few other options for personal defense that DON’T involve a firearm. If you work in a location that bans “weapons” such as most knives and all guns, there are still a lot of self-defense options available to you. Here’s some suggestions that I’ve found might work in more restrictive locations, but as always, these are suggestions, and use them at your own risk.
First off, use your brain, and don’t do dumb things in dumb places with dumb people.
Secondly, have a good, strong, bright flashlight with you, and use it whenever you go out at night. That mugger in the parking lot might pass you by and find an easier target if you walk out of your building shining a flashlight that could light up a small neighborhood. In addition to this, that flashlight makes a DANDY striking tool if (God forbid) the worst happens and you’re attacked.
Thirdly, just because you can’t have a gun or a knife with you doesn’t mean you’re unarmed. Some options for self-defense besides a flashlight might be:
- Keep a can of wasp spray in your desk. It’s nasty, nasty stuff and foams up very nicely, blocking the bad guy’s vision and impairing his breathing.
- Fire extinguishers. Like wasp spray, they block vision and impair breathing and are 100% innocuous.
- A hammer. No one will bat an eye if you have a hammer in your desk for small repairs or hanging pictures, but they make a heck of a weapon if needed. War hammers were the weapon of choice in Western Europe for hundreds of years, so they should work for you, too.
- Multitool blades. No, they’re not a Spyderco or Benchmade, yes, they are better than harsh language, and no one will freak if you have a pair of pliers, a bottle opener and a nail file near you.
But as I said at the start, the most powerful weapon you have (and the only one you really need) is what’s in-between your ears. Situational awareness, or paying attention to what you’re paying attention to, will help you avoid the trouble in the first place.
And no trouble is just the kind of trouble you want to have.
My friend Kathy Jackson has a great post on how all of us tend to think that bad things will always happen to somebody else, when in reality, we are just somebody else’s “somebody else”.
I confess, I lived like that for a long, long time. I grew up in Canada, and despite having some sky-high murder rates, we never thought of violent crime as something that affected us. We lived in good neighbourhoods, we didn’t do stupid things with stupid people, and besides, there would ALWAYS be a Mountie nearby when we needed one, right?
Then one night, a group of friends and myself went camping, and late at night, after we’d all retired, a group of yokels made camp near us, lit up a huge bonfire and started shooting shotguns off into the air, and I realized that if they meant to do us harm, a cop would NOT be there to protect us and the only thing we had to defend ourselves was a hatchet.
Somebody else’s problem became MY problem, and quickly. That’s when I realized that believing bad things only happened to other people was not going to keep me safe, I was going to have to be my own first responder.
What’s your story? When do you realize it self-defense wasn’t someone else’s problem?