Wednesday, August 26, 2009

End of Summer

While sitting on my back deck, the sounds of cicadas pierce the heavy silence of late summer. The evenings are becoming cooler, dryer and a sense of stillness permeates the evening darkness. This reminds me the calm and moderate new weather is a sign of Nature’s active management of moving itself slowly into a new cycle of restraint.

Well, what the heck does all that mean to us Bullseye shooters? … It’s time to start practicing on B-2 and B-3 targets!

Making the transition to indoor shooting, especially for those of us who shoot gallery type matches, the transition can be fraught with despair.

Recently I’ve been following a thread on the Bullseye-L about reduced targets. Like any thread there, a degree of conceptual morphing tends to happen. But what generally came to the surface is the belief that none of our different slow fire targets (be it 50 yards, 25 yards or even 50 feet) are proportional.

About three years ago Ian Malpas decided to pencil a few things out with all our familiar bullseye targets, and he came to a conclusion: They are all similar looking, but from the perspective of proportionality they’re not. His blog post is a very important and worthwhile read.

If you lack a few years experience, you’ll soon come to the conclusion that on different target types, you’re gonna have different average scores. Me, I have a tendency to score better outdoors using traditional non-reduced targets—or at least I did until July.

I have this sneaking suspicion, that back in the day, someone at the NRA originally crafted these targets with .45 rounds in mind. If you’re shooting much smaller projectiles like a .22, this problem becomes somewhat amplified.

So, don’t take your outdoor scores and current performance for granted. If in the near future you’re planning on shooting B-16s or B-2s and B-3s in an indoor league or matches, now’s the time to become reacquainted with your old friends not when scored shots actually count.

Make your upcoming practice and training sessions centered on the targets that you’ll encounter in the upcoming season. Don’t expect one to translate to the other.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dutchman Recap

This past weekend The Dutchman 2700 appears to have been a great success. Aside from Regionals, I’ll make the claim that it’s currently the most successful 2700 in central or eastern Pennsylvania.

In some respects, for those of you who routinely attend outdoor matches, this year has been a little troubling. I certainly don’t know what’s occurring in your part of the country but lately here in the East, attendances have been unusually low.

A few friends have suggested that the current state of the economy has placed a damper or drag on many bullseye shooters.

The Dutchman was fortunate enough to have shooters from all parts of the state, some driving as much as four and a half hours to attend. And for those who trekked in from an adjacent state: Thank you.

Pat Kelly with a clean 14 shot .45 alibi target

To those shooters who are looking for a fun match, please make a notation in your calendars for the fourth weekend in August. We’ll all be here waiting for ya.

The final results were as follows:

Patrick Kelly, 2617-109x, First Place Aggregate
Ron Steinbrecher, 2603-114x, Second Place Aggregate
Brian Keyser, 2579-102x, Third Place Aggregate

Tom Mix, First Master, 2558-92x
Bob DiPasqua, First Expert, 2556-68x
Kirk Anderson, First Sharpshooter (soon to be Expert), 2459-51x
Bruce Smith, First Marksman, 2473-59x
David Schneck, First Unclassified, 2427-49x

Anthony Brong, CMP Leg Match Winner, 271-6x
Kirk Anderson, Non-Distinguished Winner, 271-4x

[Complete Match Results Link]

[CMP Match Results Link]

[Match Photo Gallery Link]

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Luckily, someone during last week’s league match made it a point to document, to the local club’s board of directors, what happens when one poorly manages surface water runoff.

You know what it’s like, when you get heavy rains and a modest tidal surge at the same time … then a stray mako shows up.

And you all thought that shooter next to you who didn’t use an ECI was a real hazard.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mastic Barrel Blues

Sooner or later guns break. Like any tool or instrument they either wear out or become unintentionally broken—unless you give them to my kids, who somehow magically break just about anything. Much the same recently happened to me with my .32 cal. Pardini HP New.

I was shooting in the PA State Outdoor Pistol Championship and during the center fire phase, for whatever reason, my HP refused to feed in the middle of it all. Back in the day, something like this would have really rattled me. In prior matches the ol’ gray-matter would have caromed wildly like a pinball caught between four double-bonus bumpers; simultaneously, the adrenaline rush would have incited my inner-monologue to produce a guttural roar like a Shelby Cobra guzzling high-test by the gallon.

No matter how uncharacteristically it was of me, calmly, I accepted my fate.

I guess acceptance is the sign of maturity (or possibly impending old age). After holding the line hostage for about four minutes, I eventually gave a nod to the range officer that my remaining time on the line for the CF match had ended.

Upon initial inspection, what appears to have happened was the barrel shifted rearwards towards the bolt while under fire. From some information gathered by a friend, apparently the current model offered by Pardini, barrels are actually glued in place.

Yes, glue. Even I found that one a little hard to believe but it’s true.

One thing led to another and a local smith decided to stake the barrel in place. Unfortunately this was only a temporary fix, by my guess about twenty rounds worth.

Apparently I became a little too sloppy during the reloading process where the cases were slightly bulged near the mouth, probably due to excessive belling. I was trying my darnedest not to overwork the overall diameter of the projectile (due to its soft swaged construction) and in the process allowed the case dimensions to fall way out of spec; possibly causing much higher chamber pressures than the manufacturer had ever intended.

Yeah, I screwed this one up real good.

So I’m left with a decision: Do I send it back to the factory repair facility, or, do I send it out to have the barrel upgraded? My guess is the latter will only cost me about $100 more than a simple repair.

For the time being I’m left without a center fire gun and I’ll have to shoot matches the old fashion way, with only a .22 and .45. My only consolation is there’ll be less stuff to lug to the line.

Who knows, maybe my Euro-Fifi gun is holding me back?

It’s not uncommon for some dude on the line to eventually make a joke or two to me about using a “girly gun.” Although, this is about the time when I attempt to craft some kind of self-deprecating reply, like, “Didn’t you know, in the side panel of every Pardini case there’s a dedicated compartment for a sassy hot-pink tutu? …It comes as standard equipment from the factory.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Spring Tester

After some passage of time, the springs in all of our guns will need replacement. But when?

Obviously an inexpensive spring tester is the route to go. Generally, “inexpensive” can be truly hard to come by and maintain any real sense of accuracy. Joseph D’Alessandro, from Real Guns, invented this pretty handy spring tester that most of us on our own could knockout in a few hours.

After reviewing his post, it was fairly obvious that just about anyone could make a simpler one based on the same design and still come away with accurate results. Although, keep in mind the contraption he crafted is only intended for recoil springs.

The springs in the 1911 were determined by John Browning and a team of engineers at Colt nearly a century ago. Whenever we start playing around with these carefully considered rates, we very often bring on problems with the gun, all of which may not be immediately apparent. So, keeping them in good working order is extremely important.

Friday, August 14, 2009

WD40: Urban Legend

Every once in a blue moon the topic of primer deactivation seems to sneak its way onto our reloading benches.

Loose or unrestrained primers can be a serious hazard. Like many of you, sooner or later I’ll eventually find one from a sleeve that isn’t quite round and won’t detect it until it abruptly refuses to fit into a round. I’m always gentle when this fairly obvious but chilling interruption occurs.

Hey, how many of us actually use eye protection during reloading?

We’ve all heard stories—stories that’ll scare the snot out of ya. One friend told me about a forgotten primer on the floor of his shop, where he unknowingly rolled his Craftsman upright tool chest over one and immediately detonated it. The end result was a 1 & ½” chunk out of one of the hard rubber wheels.

And there are the typical stories about a primer igniting an entire feed tube or magazine. …That’s got to be a major wakeup call, long before you’ve even noticed your shorts are soiled.

Eventually, we all somehow have to get rid of one here and there. Members of The Box of Truth tried to investigate the value and effectiveness of using the classic standard, penetrating oils, to deactivate primers. Their investigation is extremely insightful, I highly suggest you peruse their article on this topic. It’s something of an eye-opener.

If you’ve ever been stumped as to what to do, my friend Ed Skinner wrote a post about this a few years ago, it’s enlightening from a practical perspective.

And if you get a chance, take a look at an old thread at the CMP’s Discussion Forum.

Primers can be dangerous and must be treated with respect. But the truth is they can never be permanently deactivated, unless they go “Bang.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Hall of the Muses

Over this past weekend I shot in a match, and like many of us, had a few techniques that needed to be refined. Luckily for me I’m an avid reader who enjoys collecting and adding to my modest library. So, off I went in search for a solution through my limited reference works on pistol shooting.

On occasion, I get requests for suggested reading materials on the topic of Bullseye. There’s a doubled edged sword to the sport’s literary inventory; there’re some very well researched and written books on the subject but unfortunately the shear number of what’s available is pretty slim.

In the past I’ve jerked Brian Zins’ chain and even cautiously asked Ed Hall, “When is your book coming out?” Believe me, I’ve pestered them redundantly for the ultimate and sublime manuscript. By their tone I’m certain both are quite aware of the huge commitment such a project entails.

No matter how desirous such a book would be, it’s an awful lot of work with little to no potential for monetary compensation.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of my favorite works that can be easily accessed, to build the core of your shooting library.

Possibly the sport’s only true seminal work is that of A. A. Yur’ Yev’s, Competitive Shooting. Back in the late 1970’s Gary Anderson set about and eventually translated this Soviet era work on International shooting where it was eventually published by the NRA. Yes, it’s a different discipline but Dr. Yur’ Yev brought together all the elements that’s needed to shoot slow and sustained fire at a very high level. As an added bonus, you’ll get an anatomy lesson too.

Actually, for most shooters I’m not completely certain that it’s the end-all to be-all. Used as a supplement in conjunction with good coaching, a shooter could potentially create the results they desire. By itself, it can be a little overwhelming. Since it’s the best researched and illustrated I’ll rank it as #1 for a must read and its utility status for future reference makes it almost invaluable.

The only real drawback here is cost. Since it’s been out of print for such a longtime about the only sources is either or the occasional copy lying around at some obscure gun show table. Copies generally can be had in the $95 to $145 range. Pricey but useful.

The Army Marksmanship Unit’s, Advanced Pistol Guide is considered by many to be the bible of bullseye pistol shooting. Some elements of Yur’ Yev’s book have clearly been incorporated into its text. I tend to think of this book as being a little more practical in its approach but don’t discount its straight forward method. This manuscript started quite a few shooting careers down the path of becoming more than just above average shooters.

The CMP thinks highly of this work. So much so, that it’s given to all who attend the Small Arms Firing School at Camp Perry. And for the modest sum of about $7, it’s an extremely useful roadmap to get anyone started.

Actually, the CMP also stocks a three DVD set titled, Mind over Matter. When I originally viewed these videos, a lot was explained that I thought could easily be lost in literary translation. Shooters tend to shoot; they’re generally not journalists or nonfiction novelists, so watching something hands-on was stimulating.

Members and coaches of the AMU show you the process of learning the basic fundamentals, primary training methods and how to hone various advanced skills. After viewing it, I promise, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

The videos’ production values may look a little ancient by today’s standards, but not its content. For about $35, a lot of information that would normally be lost to a shooter by simply reading, is preserved and well presented in this extremely useful work.

Pretty much from the same vain but from a radically different perspective is the USMC Pistol Team Workbook. There really isn’t a lot of instruction that’s offered here, the main focus is drills. Originally I was told that the basic intent of the workbook was to take an unskilled shooter and turn them into a 2600 shooter—within one year. Lofty goal, huh.

If you’ve ever been stymied by not knowing where to find or what kind of drills you need to do for advancement, look this over and be prepared to be a little overwhelmed. I’ve attempted to follow this workbook’s path for skill advancement, and to say the least (assuming you’re doing this alone), it takes someone with enormous discipline to come even close to following most of what’s required.

Since this work resides in the public domain, use the link to download it. My best suggestion would be to go to Staples or Kinkos and have them print and bind it for a modest fee.

Since we all know 90% of shooting performance resides in the mental realm, there’s Lanny Bassham’s, With Winning In Mind. It’s generally cited as a must read. I’ll be the first to admit, this little booklet has a lot of very good ideas about “mental management.”

Lanny’s career as an Olympic small bore rifle shooter supposedly provided him the catalyst and time to craft a mental management program that’s very intriguing. And I must say he does help to motivate you. For the most part, Lanny doesn’t much care where you want to go or what your discipline is, pistol, shotgun, golf or being a beauty queen participant … it really doesn’t matter.

Although, Lanny does have a tendency to lead you back to his place of business in his ongoing attempts to market more and even better programs.

When I read this book for the first time, I remember how energized it made me feel and at $13 it’s a bargain. It’ll be your responsibility to decide if there’s a need to ‘upgrade’ to other mental management programs or materials.

I left the most important for last. All budding shooters should have some type of well crafted loading manual. Speer, Hornady and several other powder or bullet manufacturers have done marvelous jobs in providing excellent reference works. Please don’t make the assumption that your entire load data can be pulled down from various internet sites; since we inherently deal in very light loads, they too can lead to dangerous pressure situations. Having known reference sources can keep you and those around you out of a lot of trouble.

Books such as The Pistol Shooter’s Treasury, Successful Pistol Shooting and many other well known works by various practitioners in the sport were intentionally omitted. They were left out due to their fairly eclectic writing styles and poor attempts at delivering usable information.

Start your collection from the above sources, and then add to your inventory when a solution can’t be found within their pages.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Live Dry Fire

I received an email from an old shooting friend about a week ago. He reads this blog too and had a question. Since I commonly refer to blank target drills in my posts, he asked me, “What am I trying to get out of them?”

I never really thought about it and assumed it was fairly obvious. He deftly pointed out that I’ve relied on them quite a lot, which is true, and mentioned my deficiencies with explaining how to accomplish something, rather than simply benchmarking one’s holding area.

Blank target drills can be placed into two separate but distinct categories: Determining holding skill and live dry fire training.

Let’s review the latter. Live dry firing is possibly the least known and underused of the two sets. A shooter would take a target and reverse it, or better yet, use a clean sheet of paper and attempt to dry fire on it … with live rounds. [A clean sheet of paper is preferable due to the potential ability of any shooter seeing a darkened image from the reverse side of a target.]

When we attempt to do classic dry firing at home on a blank wall, we’re attempting to manage the sight picture and trigger control to our best ability in the hopes of having an undisturbed follow through. This drill is no different. What you’re attempting to do is aim for the center of the paper, and replicate your dry fire technique but doing it with live rounds.

Unfortunately, when a target becomes visually present the subconscious wants to takeover. The picture of a bullseye gives both the conscious and subconscious mind a form of visual feedback and rationale; where we regress into old shooting habits.


No! While doing this drill a shooter is trying to avoid those old feelings and habits. We’re not going for the 10. Leave the adrenaline behind, we’re trying to replicate to the best of our abilities the perfect release on a per shot basis without our heads getting in the way. Just like at home during classic dry firing on a blank wall.

What immediately becomes obvious, especially with an open void for a sight picture, is the need to feel what it’s like for a perfect release. You already know what that’s like, I’m certain you’ve done it many times—when the gun went “click” in your basement. What a shooter should do during a drill like this is to forget about scores and take in what feedback he or she can ascertain from the dot or post and how it’s affected by manipulation of the trigger and related follow through.

I’ve heard more than one shooter make the following statement: “Why is it when I dry fire all my shots are 10s?” Well, most of them probably were. Things become just a little more psychologically difficult when we introduce the target’s image.

When you use this drill be far more concerned about excellent follow thorough and seeing the dot or post leap straight back. And what you’re truly attempting to do is ingrain the FEELING of what it’s like to release properly. You’ll know when it’s good or bad.

Humans have a better ability to learn from successful events than they do from their failures. And if you’re truly dry firing well at home there’s no reason you shouldn’t transfer it to the range.

Try your best to replicate those feelings, both physical and mental, during your attempted perfect release; it’s vastly more important than the sight picture. You’re trying to teach yourself what it consistently feels like to have almost all of your releases feel very good. It’s no small chore, you’re retraining yourself to feel the quality of the shots, and eventually do so in future matches by not overly relying on the sight picture for emotional validation. Let’s say we’re replacing the “go for the 10” feeling with “it’s a perfect release.”

The prior feeling is reactionary, the latter was proactive.

Do this drill a lot, but only occasionally on the reverse of a slow fire target. Then flip the darn thing around and score it. You’re gonna be surprised.

If you want to be an excellent slow fire shooter, this is one of the primary drills that’ll get there. It’ll help promote an excellent grip, good trigger control, proper follow through and consciously knowing when the round will be released. You’ll also be more inclined to abort when it doesn’t feel right. But most of all, you’ll become accustomed to feeling your shots go ‘good’ down range.

This same type of drill can be used during sustained fire as well. The process is the same except you have the time limitation that’s associated with the related string, be it timed or rapid fire.

The ultimate goal is to eventually feel 270 good shots go down range.