Monday, October 31, 2011

The First Classifier

My first attempt at the classifier on August 20 was after the usual monthly match at the local gun club. It was hot, easily high 90's, and everyone felt it. On the plus side, I was pretty well warmed up after shooting a match with some real kicker stages including one with a 32 yard shot through an 8" steel donut. The breakdown of the classifier is as follows.

Stage One-32.47 (7)
If I am remembering correctly, I wasn't really trying to push my speed here, just make my shots, which I did ok at. I need to shave about 7 seconds for it to be what it needs to be though. I think where I can make the most time are on strings 4 and 5. The two rounds to each head on 4, and WHO shooting on 5. The target size on 4 slows me down, and I admittedly am not the best WHO shooter. I have to slow way down to get my hits without dropping too many points on both of those strings. I imagine I could speed up my draw too. I have dedicated some practice time to the draw recently, and I am right around 1.65 seconds to draw and fire two rounds on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper (my favorite target) at 7 yards. I haven't added a head shot to that, but I am guessing at least another 0.75 seconds if not a full second. I would like to drop my draw time with 2 rounds down to around 1.40. That would give me plenty of breathing room for the head shot.

Stage Two-27.71(5)
This one I think I actually did okay on. I could work on the movement portions of the stage for sure, but outside of that I feel like I am pretty solid. Unfortunately I don't have any extra data other than the total time for each stage to really break it down. I was pushing the speed a little more on this one as I started to get more comfortable with the process of shooting the classifier. I am also pretty familiar with the type of shooting involved with this stage from other shooting related training.

Stage Three-58.87(25)
The points down really hurt me on this one. That is 12.5 seconds of penalty time on this stage alone. I really struggled here. I think the time pressure really got me and I pushed my speed way too much. I should have backed off the the speed and focused more on making solid hits. I am capable of keeping my shots inside an 8" circle at well over 20 yards, so this should be a piece of cake if I can just settle down and hit my natural pace. The tactical reloads cost me some time too. I really need to smooth those up and come up with a better game plan for next time. I can pull a tactical reload off okay when the pressure isn't on, but add just a little and it falls to pieces.

Final Thoughts
I think next time I will be able to make some significant improvements on the classifier, even if my base performance level doesn't increase much. Now having one round under my belt, it won't be quite as stressful the second time around. I will also have a better idea of what is coming, and know where to focus my efforts to put up a better time. The only kicker might be using a different gun. This classifier was shot using a Glock 22, a handgun I am very familiar with. The next classifier will be shot using a Beretta 96D, a gun I am not quite as familiar with yet.

A Small Distraction

Flashlights. If you don't have a good one, get one. I run a Streamlight PT-1L, have been for about a year. The best flashlight purchase I have ever made. Runs around $50 from retailers, has decent battery life, good output, and small enough to toss in a pocket and forget about. There are lots of good ones out there, but if I were to recommend one, I would suggest taking a hard look at the PT series from Streamlight. They come in four different flavors, single or double CR123 batteries, or the same with AA batteries if you don't want to have fork the cash over for CR123 batteries. You sacrifice some run time and output with the AA, but the cost of feeding it batteries is much lower.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Video From Past Matches

Here is some video from my past matches. Unfortunately I don't have all the stages, or all of the matches. I just started recording the last couple of matches to do some post match self analysis. There are some pretty bad mistakes to be seen :) I guess there is a learning curve. I really need to plan my stages better and be more aggressive with my movement between shooting positions...among other things.

96D In Action

This is the only video I have of me actually shooting the 96D. I haven't run it in any matches yet, so I don't have any match video with it. It is a 55yd shot on an 8" popper. It was taken with a cell phone, so you have to watch really close to see the popper fall. This was the first shot of the day, about 7:30am.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My First Match & The First Gun

I shot my first match March of 2011. Sadly, that was before I ever thought about video taping any of the stages. However, I do have pictures.

For a first match it wasn't bad, and certainly not a bad experience. I really did not know what to expect. Myself and a shooting buddy showed up to a private club that neither of us are members of for their monthly match that is open to any and all. (Shout out to Central Arkansas Shooters Association, they are good guys).

I had only one handgun at the time, a Glock 27, so it is what I brought. I was running a Safariland ALS holster (awesome holster by the way) because it came highly recommended from an instructor and I was giving it a test run.
 I didn't finish so great, definitely middle of the pack, but I beat my buddy who came with me:) Sorry dude. I learned a lot of things at this match. Lesson #1, have a double mag pouch and not a single. Easily cost me 10 seconds on a stage when I forgot I had my second spare in a pocket and the SO had to ask me if I had another reload after I had burnt through my other one. I think he was being nice because he knew it was my first match. If I were smart, I would have just said no and taken the penalty since I only needed one more round. Lesson #2, don't use a gun that runs really short 9 round magazines in SSP, because even though all my reloads where with G22 magazines, they could only be loaded with 9 rounds each. #3, don't run a gun with a short grip if you have big hands. My hands are big enough to have a significant amount on contact with the base of a short magazine, or the side of a standard G22 magazine. To get the magazines to drop free on the reload without using my support hand to rip the magazine out of the gun I had to really break open my strong hand grip and come off the gun.
That is what started the obsession. I have always enjoyed shooting, and already made a habit of pushing myself for maximum performance, but this pushes me even harder. It focuses me in different areas of shooting, like speed balanced with accuracy, speed out of the holster, speed on the reload, movement. All things that are very important in IDPA shooting, and also important outside of IDPA.

If you don't shoot matches, you should. It is a great place to test your skill and see how you stack up against other shooters. If you are competitive by nature, it will also push you to be better. Just remember, it isn't training or a test of tactics, it is a test of fundamental skill.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Training Update: 10/26/11

I worked in about a 30 minute dry fire session today, focusing on reloads and draw. I put up an 8" circle at 7 yards (across my living room) and set the timer to a PAR of 2.0 seconds and had to draw and get as many trigger pulls in before the buzzer as I could. I was trying to work at a fast first shot, and also work on getting the high speed trigger manipulation a little faster. I know that under recoil it is going to slow down, but this way I can at least get in some reps and watch the sights to see how much I might be pulling the gun off target at speed.

On reloads I left the PAR time at 2.0 since that is my base number and had to complete the reload and have the gun pressed back out on target in the time frame. I only made the time on about 50% of the repetitions. The magazine insertion is what is giving me fits. After struggling through running it at full speed I thought it might be a good idea to slow everything down and just make sure I was doing it correctly, so I followed up with a few slow reps.

I also worked my tactical reload and reload with retention since those hardly get any practice. Not much to report other than I think the reload with retention might actually be the faster option. It only requires my support hand to traverse the distance from the gun to the belt line once, as opposed to twice with a standard tactical reload. I picked up on this actually watching video of Caleb Giddings of Gun Nuts Media shoot the classifier and a light bulb went off. I will have to actually put it on the clock to see how it works out for me since I am more comfortable with a tradition tactical reload.

I finished everything up with some slow trigger presses two handed, SHO and WHO focusing on getting as near a perfect press as I could pull off. I am going to really have to devote some time to SHO and WHO trigger manipulations because I really need to speed those up.

New recoil springs came in today. Definitely a difference in how difficult it is to retract the slide between the stock spring currently in the gun and the 20lb spring. I did not really pick up on the 2lb difference with the 15lb spring. We will see how they shoot. Hopefully they won't cause the gun to malfunction. If they do, I will just have to stick with the stock spring weight. More on that later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

So Why a Beretta 96D?

Up until late spring of this year I had a very narrow focus on handgun platforms. Everything I had spent any reasonable amount of time on was a Glock with the exception of a S&W Model 637 that I had for about a year and a half before trading it off for another Glock. I had shot most other major platforms to include a few 1911's, XD's, M&P's, Sigs, Beretta's and various revolvers, but never more than a few magazines full at a time, and rarely over 100 rounds all together. So, I decided it was time to expand my shooting horizons outside of the Glock platform and give every major brand a try so that I could formulate a more complete opinion of each.

It started with a 1988 manufacture Sig P226. Awesome handgun, rock solid. I was able to get a fairly decent handle on the DA/SA trigger which I thought might be a hang up, and had basically no issues with it. In fact I nearly turned in a 50/50 Dot Torture at 7 yards with it!! I carried it as an EDC gun after getting comfortable with it in a Bianchi Pro 100 IWB holster for about three months. I contemplated keeping it since three months is hardly enough to time to really get to know a gun, but when the opportunity came up to trade it for a Beretta, another gun on my list, I jumped at it.

Hence, the Beretta. Now I haven't always had the best perception of Beretta. In fact, I probably never had. I have always viewed them as kind of fragile, and my limited experience with a Beretta 92fs early in my shooting career didn't help either. I am not at all a fan of slide mounted safeties, and since these guns also have to serve as my EDC gun during this process a model without a safety was a must. The DA/SA trigger that I remember from those early days of shooting was not near as smooth or precise as what I had adapted to so quickly on my Sig P226. Who knows if it was or wasn't, I just remember not being impressed. In my infancy as a "serious" shooter, all I cared about was Glock anyway. My bread would not be buttered with anything else in those days.

So when a 96D fell into my lap, I begrudgingly traded off my proven and liked Sig in furtherance of the cause. Too my surprise I like the Beretta better than the Sig P226!!! Now, admittedly the 96D is not exactly representative of the handgun Beretta is most known for, the M9 (or 92fs), but it is close enough for my purposes and still a Beretta. I do have concerns over durability, so this gun will be run for longer, and likely harder than the Sig just to see if I can break it. Maybe not completely fair, but how many mega high round count Berettas do you hear about compared to Sigs? Not many, in fact I never have so I had no reservations about the durability of my well worn P226 as compared to a Beretta.

All that aside, the 96D specimen in my possession has been a good shooter thus far. It also seems to conceal slightly better than my P226. They have both concealed better than comparable full-size Glocks. It is a police trade in gun, but doesn't seem to have seen much trigger time, or really holster time for that matter. There are a few wear marks here and there, but they are very minor. I would suspect this gun was shot for qualifications only, maybe a little extra here and there, and that was it. My guestimated round count through the gun by previous owners would be under 1K. The service life of the gun should extend well beyond 10K if I keep up with the maintenance and everything (and can afford to feed it that much .40 S&W ammo).

I have not changed any of the springs yet, but I am embarking on an experiment. I have ordered two Wolff recoil springs to try in the gun, a 15lb spring and a 20lb spring. .40 S&W has a pretty good punch, and best I can tell Beretta uses the same weight recoil spring in both 9mm and .40 S&W 90 series handguns (13lb). So, I should be able to at least run a 15lb spring with no trouble and maybe absorb a little extra recoil in the process. Might even be able to run a 20lb spring since I do not reload for .40 S&W and shoot straight up factory ammo. The down side this is certainly going to change slide velocity, etc. and could impact reliable functionality of the handgun. I will try to get some video to show results or lack there of and post the results and my opinion on the pros vs. cons of a spring weight change after I have run each spring for a while.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Training Update: 10/20/11

Since this is my first training update, I will also include some of my history with this gun as well as notes on my most recent training session. In total, I have 377 rounds through the Beretta since September 8th, 2011 with four different range sessions. On September 8th I put 114 rounds through the Beretta function testing everything, doing walk back drills on 3"x5" index cards and running a few modified Bill Drills. The range that I was at doesn't allow drawing from the holster, so I was going from a high ready position. My average split on the Bill Drills was 0.31, but I did drop a few rounds on a couple of those drills.

The next range session was September 20 and I only put 10 rounds through the gun. My actual focus for this session was with my Glock 22, I only pulled out the Beretta to take a few runs at an 8" popper set at 50 yards. Hit it with surprising regularity. I do have to hold on the right edge of the target to get the hits though. A trigger control issue I believe.

On October 12th I put another 62 rounds through the gun working mostly the draw and taking a run at the 4567 Drill for the first time (I officially suck at). My average draw to first shot on an 8.5"x11" target at 7 yards was 1.32 seconds, average split 0.37 seconds. Draw time is pretty close to on par with what I do with my Glock 22, split is off about a tenth. My faster splits on the Glock bring the total time down a few tenths when I get into running multiple round drills. I did get in one complete and proper Bill Drill shooting a 2.82 on an 8.5"x11" target at 7 yards. Slow compared to better shooters, but not bad for me. I don't get to run that many proper Bill Drills, hopefully I get more of those into my shooting regimen in the future. I think it is a drill with a lot of application.

October 20th is the most recent training session. I started off working speed with "failure" drills, or 2 to the body one to the head drills. I am not really a fan of shooting a prescribed number of rounds "center mass" and then transitioning, but what I was really try to do was work the speed with a target transition to a smaller target zone to see if I could slow down to make the hits. I did okay. Unfortunately I could not put it on the timer because of other shooters on the line. I pulled one head shot off target, but I was pleased with the placement of all the other rounds and I was running near max speed on the head. I could not see the sights any faster than I was and manipulate the trigger any faster while maintaining the needed accuracy. Next time I will have to put it on the timer if circumstances permit and get some hard numbers.

I then slowed everything way down and ran through Dot Torture at 3 yards. This is probably the best fundamentals check drill I know of, it works pretty much everything. It was my first time running it with the Beretta and I have only cleaned the drill twice before at 3 yards with my G22 and only on days that I was really switch on, so it isn't something I can do with any consistency. I usually shoot a 49/50 with my Glock 22, pulling one round, maybe 2 on an off day. First run with the Beretta, I shot a 50/50. I was rather surprised. I actually think I could replicate it pretty much on demand too. The thinner front sight really makes it easier to get a higher level of precision because it makes it easier to get a more precise sight picture and really place the shot where I want to. I am really looking forward to running Dot Torture again and see if I can duplicate the results. If I can, I will push it back a couple yards and try again.

I followed up Dot Torture by shooting a 10 round group on a 3x5 index card at 7 yards. This is kind of my standard accuracy test. It isn't hard to get my hits, but it lets me check to see if maybe I am exhibiting any bad habits that aren't going to show up shooting Dot Torture at 3 yards. Would you know it, I printed a little left and low. Not by much, but enough to think it was not a fluke deal. This would mesh with what I experienced with shooting the 8" popper at 50 yards. I doubt it is the sights, they appear pretty dead center if not slightly off to the right of the slide (which would cause the gun to shoot right). Guess it is still a trigger control issue. Really have to work that out.

After the fundamental shooting, I started on reloads. I ran 1R2 drills for the rest of the training session. My average reload was 2.18 seconds. I really need to drop that down below 2 seconds and I know I am capable of it because my fastest reload was 1.71 seconds. I routinely fumble the magazine insertion just enough to throw me off or cause me to have to make a slight adjustment at the last instant. If I can get that worked out, I think I can drop the reload consistently below 2 seconds. My slowest reload was a 2.54.

When I crunched the numbers after the range trip my average split for all the timed shooting was 0.38 seconds. No real improvement but I did have a fastest split of 0.28, so I at least know I am capable of going faster than 0.30. My slowest split was a glacial 0.62 seconds. That has got to be fixed. Most were around 0.35ish give or take a couple hundredths.

Total Rounds: 377
Average Reload: 2.18 seconds
Average Split: 0.38 seconds
Average Draw: 1.32 seconds

I plan on hitting the dry fire reloads over the next couple weeks and then hitting the range again second week of November. We will see if there is any progress.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Gear & The Gun

This is the gear I plan to run in future IDPA matches and the classifier when the time comes. I am using a 5.11 Instructor belt, a Blackhawk double mag pouch, Safariland Model 5188 holster, Silencio ear pro and 5.11 eye pro. The only equipment that is really new to me is the magazine pouch, holster and handgun. I have been running the ear pro for about 4 years with no problems, the eye pro for about a year (maybe a little more) and the belt for about 2 years.

So far I have been very pleased with all of it. I do believe the Blackhawk double magazine pouch is the best I have used so far in that price range ($20-$30). I have used an Uncle Mikes and Blade-Tech and prefer this one to either of those. It carries tighter to the body, fits a wider range of magazines, and quality seems on par. My only complaint is that it is a tight fit on the belt, but on the other hand that keeps it from sliding around any. I assume it will be just as durable as the others, but time will tell.

I have been very pleased with the holster as well, but I only have a couple hundred draws from it at this point. It is certainly fast, secures well to the belt and holds the handgun plenty tight to keep it in the holster. Originally when it first came in the mail it had the paddle attached and although I generally like the Safariland paddle design it made the holster ride very high on the belt. I switched it out for the standard belt attachment and all has been well since. The holster location in relation to the belt line is about perfect for me. I do have some concern about the felt lining coming loose after some hard use, and many, many draw strokes, but hopefully my fears are unfounded.

The handgun, my recently acquired Beretta 96D is going to take some getting used to. It has been rock solid in the 200 or so rounds I have put through it, but it is definitely a different beast than I am used to. I put in on the clock yesterday and my splits are hovering around 0.30 seconds with the long DAO trigger on a 8.5"x11" target at 7 yards. My fastest recorded split so far has been 0.27 seconds. I hope to get it down to 0.20 seconds as I get more trigger time in. My reloads are right around 2.00 seconds, with a fasted reload of 1.71 seconds so far. My average reload on my Glock 22 was 1.90 seconds, so I have some time to burn off the reload. I am not sure if maybe the tenth or so I am missing is in a slower first shot after the reload.

I like the sight set up, factory night sights. The front blade is thin enough and the rear notch wide enough to allow for a decent level of precision. That is probably a good thing as I have no way of changing the front sight. I may at some point either black out the rear dots, or change to a different rear sight, but for now this is good enough for me. I am shooting a little low and left with it, but it is marginal and I think over time as I adjust to the trigger will go away. The sights appear to be centered, so I doubt it is a sight issue.

I was able to get some range time in yesterday. Stand by for a training update in the coming days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Intro To Me

I started shooting IDPA matches spring of this year (2011). My first match was March 19, and I placed 13th in my division (SSP) and 25th overall. Not the best showing, but it was my first match. My next match was July 16th. I placed 6th in my division and 12th overall. A definite improvement from match one to match two. The third match was August 20, and I placed 2nd in my division this time, 5th overall. I was also able to shoot the classifier for the first time on the same day. I made expert in SSP, but just barely with a time of 119.05 with 37 points down (ouch!). I dropped mega points on the 3rd stage of the classifier. More on that later. I shot my last match on September 17th and finished first in my division, 6th overall. I pretty much get beat by the same group of 5 or 6 guys each match. I may squeeze in one more match this year, but that is still up in the air.

Four matches down and one horrible attempt at the classifier. My goal is to shoot master by the next classifier, which will probably be held sometime the middle of next year. Not only do I want to shoot master in SSP, but I want to shoot it at ESP level an SSP division handgun, which means faster than 89 seconds. I have my work cut out for me!!

These are the rules I have set for myself. I cannot practice for the classifier by shooting the classifier. It is officially off limits. All of my practice has to be on other drills. I am limiting myself to only a few hundred rounds each month for practice, if that. I cannot go to the range once a week for the next six months and expend thousands of rounds of ammunition so I can get master class by next summer. Anyone can do that. This isn't an exercise in expending massive amounts of resources to attain a goal, this is about being as efficient as possible to attain the highest level of performance possible. I will track the number of rounds and the drills I use to get to master class (assuming I get there) and post periodic reports here.

The gun I will be using is a Beretta 96D. I like a challenge, and this is a good one. This isn't exactly the gun you think of when you think of competition shooting. The long DAO trigger will slow my splits, the .40 S&W cartridge also has a fair amount of snap compared to 9mm which seems to be what most people use for IDPA. Up until now a Gen4 Glock 22 has been my primary IDPA gun, out of a Safariland ALS holster. I have only had the 96D for a couple months and put around 300 rounds through it so far (the exact number escapes me at the moment). I am comfortable enough with it at this point to start shooting matches with it, but my performance is not what it is with my Glock 22. There will definitely be an adjustment period. I hope to get that out of the way rather quickly over the winter and be on my game by the first matches early next year. 

So this is the beginning of the journey. Stand by for updates. Hope I make it.