What you didn’t learn in your Concealed Carry Class

Published December 3, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, CCW, Competition, Mindset, Practice, Self Defense, Training

Dave Spaulding (who knows more about firearms training than just about anyone else on the planet) talks about grip and stance. 

One of the things that annoys me about 90% of the “Tactical” training out there is that they teach you a “perfect” grip and stance, which you will probably never, ever use if (God forbid) you need to defend your life with your gun. Real life is not a shooting range: There’s a zero percent chance you’ll be wearing hearing protection if/when you’ll need to use a gun defensively, and the stress you’ll be under when you do is nothing like the stress of shooting at a range. 

This is one of the reasons why I encourage new gun owners to shoot at least one practical pistol competition: You’ll get a much better understanding of how your body reacts to stress when you have a gun in your hand, and you’ll see the need to close the gap between your skill level shooting in the relaxed environment of a square range versus  your skill under the pressure of competition. 

“A shooting match isn’t a gunfight, but a gunfight is certainly a shooting match.”Massad Ayoob.

Competition is a mind game

Published October 31, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, IDPA, Mindset, Self Defense

There are many reasons why I recommend that at some point, new gun owners shoot a practical pistol match. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

Radio Alert: TeamGunblogger on Kate Krueger’s Talking Guns This Sunday

Published October 25, 2013 by
Filed under Competition

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.

Tune in from 12-2pm at 1100AM KNFX if you’re in the Phoenix area, or listen online.

Lessons Learned From Shooting The 2013 IDPA Nationals

Published October 24, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, IDPA

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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

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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

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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 

airmarshall

Photo by Paul Erhardt

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

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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

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 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.

Strategy for a USPSA stage

Published October 22, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, Mindset, Training, USPSA

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.

The Stage: 

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14 Targets, 26 Shots. 

Here’s another competitor shooting the stage in Single Stack Major to show you how it’s laid out.

 

stage_2_panoRobert’s Strategy:
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.

Jaci’s Strategy:
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. 

stage_2_startMy strategy:
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. 

A Checklist Of Gear For Beginning Practical Pistol

Published September 24, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, Equipment, IDPA, Training, USPSA

What do you need to start shooting practical pistol

You’ve decided that yes, you want to do this “practical pistol” competition thing because it looks like it’s fun (it is) and it might just help inoculate you against making stupid mistakes when you life is on the line (that too). 

So, what do you need? 

  1. A reliable, serviceable handgun
    Duh. Yes, you CAN shoot practical pistol with a cheap $150 hunk o’junk. No, you don’t want to. If you’ve bought a Glock or XD or CZ or M&P or similar, in either 9mm, .40 or .45, you’re set. 
  2. Enough spare magazines
    What’s “Enough”? Four, at an absolute minimum. Look, magazines are a disposable, replaceable part of your gun: They’re going to wear out eventually, so buy some spare ones now
  3. A decent holster
    What’s “decent”? Opinions vary on this, but in general, don’t use a woven nylon fabric holster for a practical pistol competition. Me, I like Blade-Tech holsters, but Safariland, Bianchi, Galco, Comp-Tac, and DeSantis are all good brands to start with, and if you need help choosing, my friend Tom’s written a great book on buying a holster for your gun.
  4. Some way to keep your spare ammo handy and accessible
    And by this, I mean a magazine pouch on your belt. Again, my preference is Blade-Tech, but there’s a lot of different choices here.
  5. A good belt to hold everything together
    No, not even a solidly-built “work” belt is going to cut it. Something like this reinforced “tactical” belt will help distribute the weight around your waist and make things MUCH easier for you.
  6. Ear Protection and Eye Protection
    No, a pair of drugstore sunglasses and cotton balls in your ears isn’t enough. Get something that’s safety-rated for your eyes and something that’s designed for noise reduction for your ears.
  7. Ammo
    Figure on 150 or so rounds for a match, a bit less if it’s an IDPA match.
  8. Somewhere to compete
    All this cool stuff means SQUAT if it just sits around in a corner of your house. You can use the National Shooting Sports Foundation Range Finder page/app to find a range near you that hosts practical pistol matches, or visit the United States Practical Shooting Association or International Defensive Pistol Association to find a competition near you. 

And be safe. And have fun. 

Try shooting practical pistol. You might like it.

Published September 17, 2013 by
Filed under Competition, IDPA, Practice, USPSA

“Know thy enemy, know thyself, and you will be invincible.” 

– Sun Tzu

When I was a professional photographer, inevitably, once someone found out what I did for a living, I’d be asked “Say, I want to take better pictures, what kind of camera should I get?” 

My answer to this was always “Well, that depends. How many rolls of film do you shoot each week?”, which would usually end that part of the conversation as the would-be photographer grapples with the concept of shooting an entire 36-shot roll of film each week, much less more than one, where it was not uncommon for me to burn through two dozen rolls of HP5+ or TMZ covering just one high school basketball game. 

The point I was trying to make is that it’s not the camera that limits the photographer, it’s his or her ability to put in the time necessary to realize their vision and their desire to push their creativity that limits a photographer.

Looking back on this now, I realize my answer to the wannabe photogs was/is snarky and condescending: People want to take better pictures not to become the next Mark Seliger, they want to capture memories that are more evocative and aesthetic, something all of us share. 

Which brings me to practical shooting. I’m blessed/cursed to call Rio Salado Sportsmans Club my home range. It’s loaded to the gills with USPSA Grandmasters. It’s a blessing in that each match is challenging and exciting, but each match is meant to be challenging and exciting to shooters like Rob Leatham, Vic Pickett and Matt Burkett. 

This can discourage beginning shooters. Imagine cranking off the best golf drive in your life and then have Tiger Woods shoot behind you and out-drive you by 100 yards. 

The upside to this, though, is that in the words of The Chairman Of The Board, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere. And  another great thing about shooting at Rio is the opportunity to participate and shoot in some 1st-class matches like the Desert Classic and Mystery 3 Gun, which bring in shooters from around the country. I get to meet some of the best shooters in the world, and the prize tables for each match can be really good

This explains why I like shooting laid-back, easy-to-shoot steel matches with friends on a regular basis rather than the more difficult but less friendly USPSA matches at Rio. I like Rio: I do all my practicing there and I’ll still shoot a USPSA match there as often as I can, but right now, it’s important that I believe I can shoot well and do so when needed, even in the toughest of competitions. My practice sessions are there for me to prepare me physically, the steel matches are there to prepare me mentally. My standard for success needs to be me and the progress I have made, not the best shooters in the world can do.

If you’ve been thinking “Well, gosh, there’s no way I can shoot a pistol competition”, you need to give a try. Buy a good holster and some mag pouches, find a low-key “Steel” match in the middle of the week, let the people who run it know that this is your first time shooting a match, and you’ll soon find out that practical pistol is a fun way to learn to shoot better and keep your skills sharp. 

Training vs. Competition

Published August 19, 2013 by
Filed under Carry, Competition, IDPA, Mindset

A quick thought about the ongoing idea that competing in a firearms competition will get you killed in “the real world” because you’ll expect things to happen in a real gunfight like they do on in a match. 

I don’t look up at the night sky expecting to see rows of aliens slowing descending towards the ground, I don’t get in my car and hear the theme to Peter Gunn playing in the background and I certainly don’t think that things will happen in the real world like they do in an IDPA match. 

If you can’t figure out the difference between a game and the real world, you need a lot of help. 

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