Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Going on the Wish List

AFHF - College Station, TX

2,000 Round Challenge Begins Tomorrow

I have come to the point where I am reasonably confident in the Beretta's ability to function properly if clean and lubricated. So now it is time to step it up a notch. Tomorrow I will official start a 2,000 round challenge. It will probably take me at least a couple months to get 2,000 rounds downrange. December will be a very slow shooting month with Christmas and other family related activities. If all goes as planned though, hopefully by the end of January or mid-February I will be at 2,000 rounds without a single drop of oil. (fingers crossed)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trausch Grips-Initial Impressions

Thanks to a very generous member of I got a set of Trausch grips in the mail last week for my Beretta 96D. Initially I was a bit skeptical, I was plenty happy with the stock Beretta grips and didn't really see a need for a change. Then I actually put the new grips on my gun and to say they completely change the "feel" of the gun is almost an understatement. The side of the grip is much flatter, and the grip circumference is significantly reduced. The closest and most readily available comparison would probably be to take the stock grips off and have no panels at all. That is about how thin these grips feel. According to the Trausch website it is a 0.25" reduction in width. I don't have a set of calipers to measure, but I would guess that is pretty close.

My only complaint initially are that they are not a perfect fit. I imagine it is due to the thinness of the grip, and Jon8357 over at noted the same issues. I don't think it will cause any function issues, but is something to be aware of just in case.

I did not have the same issues with the length of the grip screws and magazine interference as Jon8357 did. I am not sure if there is maybe some minor difference in frame thickness or what exactly since his gun was a 92D and mine is a 96D.

My only other issue that is more a personal preference than a legitimate complaint is the large smooth space on the upper portion of the left grip panel.

The way I grip the handgun, this is a prime gripping location for me and I prefer a very aggressive grip texture in this area. So to fix the problem, I did what I did to my Glock and added some grip tape.

I may be putting the cart before the horse a little since I have not run any rounds through the gun with the new grips yet, but somehow I doubt it.

I should be on the range later this week and get some live fire through the gun with the new set of grips. I have a lot of catching up to do on the Drill of the Week. Unless the grips start causing some type of unforeseen problem, I see no reason to switch back to the stock grips. I even think that I might see a measurable performance gain with these grips in terms of split times, it is just a matter of how much. There is definitely an improvement of "feel", although I know that can be misleading and the true test of "better" is measured performance. We will see how they stack up on the range later this week.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Strong Side OWB vs. AIWB

I was working my dry-fire draws yesterday and since I have been playing around with the idea of AIWB carry I videoed some of the repetitions to compare the two draw strokes. I was running repetitions at about 50%-60% speed, I then slowed it down even more in the video. (I automatically get mega style points for the retro furniture)

I have more than just these two reps on video, but these two are pretty representative of all the rest of their respective type. It would seem to me that with the strong side draw stroke I am bringing the gun up under the face and then out, where as with the AIWB draw the gun comes up directly in front of the face (which I think is better) and then out. I may have to start making a concious effort to get the gun up more with the strong side draw. I wonder if actually bringing my support hand off my chest a little would also help this.

I have been experimenting with AIWB for the past few weeks and am really starting to appreciate the advantages it seems to offer over more traditional carry positions. The 96D seems to melt into my frame pretty good at that carry location, unlike the fullsize Glocks I have tried it with previously, and it definitely feels like a more natural draw stroke.

To show how a pro does it, here is a video of ToddG running a SIRT pistol from AIWB in a class demo.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Training Update: 11-19-11

This is what happened with those 275 rounds mentioned in the Beretta update. I warmed up with a 3"x5" at 7 yards shooting 5 rounds freestyle, 5 rounds SHO and 5 rounds WHO. I pulled one of the WHO shots low, and another one just barely touched the bottom edge of the card. My WHO shooting has dropped off as compared to what I was doing with a Glock before transitioning to the Beretta. I imagine because of the longer trigger pull than anything else. A member over at is sending me a set of Trausch grips to try out. He says they really help WHO shooting because they are so much thinner than the stock grips. I haven't actually spent much time working WHO shooting, so it is going on the list to try and get that back up to par.

I followed that with a run at the 3x5 Speed Push drill that was this past weeks DotW over on I wasn't able to run the drill from a holster because of range restrictions, but had a fastest time of 2.04 seconds on the first string. My average time on the 2nd string was 2.01 and I dropped 5 rounds. I had a couple runs that I just completely screwed up and went way slow (2.72 and 2.25) that killed my average time and cost me some hits. This drill is incredibly user adaptable to improve speed on any target size at any distance regardless of shooter skill level. For example, if I wanted to work on getting -0 hits on an IDPA target faster I could just as easily do this drill using an 8" circle instead of a 3"x5" index card. I am adding it to my regular rotation because my speed while maintaining good hits is certainly something I need work on.

After shooting a speed drill I always like to follow with something a little slower to reel myself back in a little bit, so I shot Dot Torture at the standard 3 yards. I shot a 49/50, unfortunately. At first I had thought I turned in a 50/50 (would have been the first time to turn in two 50/50 scores in a row), but later on after I left the range I saw the miss on dot #8. Sad day. I think next time I am going to push it back to 5 yards anyway and see how I do. With enough focus, I think I can pull it off.

Next up were Bill Drills and 26662.  Nothing real spectacular to report with the Bill Drills, I am still where I was before pretty much. This was the first time I had really run 26662 in earnest though, and it was an eye opener. I have a lot of work to do in going from a low probability target to a higher probability target. My speed isn't picking up like it should. I am not sure if it is a target transition issue and I am not following the sights properly or if the speed transition is just blowing my mind. I could slow back down no problem, but not the other way around. I spent a fair amount of time on this drill since I was having issues with it. I am going to have to revisit it on my next range trip.

Finished everything up by turning in my worst 1" dot drill score ever, a 10/24. I guess I had reached my fatigue threshold or something, it just wasn't coming together for me.

I will probably work the dry-fire pretty hard getting ready for my first steel challenge match on December 10th and might be able to squeeze in one more range trip before the match. I guess we will see just how bad my target transitions are at the match. Anyone know a good dry-fire drill for working target transitions? Need to pick up a couple more magazines before then too.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

1,196 Round Update

So I lied, instead of waiting until Monday to hit the range, I stopped in on my way to work on Saturday afternoon. I put a total of 275 rounds through the 96D, bringing my total round count to 1,196 since the beginning of September. There have not been any malfunctions other than those that can be attributed to old magazine springs and me switching around the recoil springs. It is worth noting though that with the old magazine springs and stock recoil spring it ran fine. That makes me think that I may have to replace magazines or at least magazine springs more frequently than normal. Time will tell.

There have been no parts breakages despite my best attempts through a relatively heavy amount of dryfire and a heavy live fire pace compared to my previous shooting pace. I usually don't shoot this much just because of econmic limitations, but my push for master class has caused me to step it up. I have been advised to upgrade the trigger spring to the INS unit available from Wolff to get more life from that particular part. Apparantly the stock spring gives up at around 5,000 trigger manipulations, I should be getting close. That is on the list of parts to order, as well as some more magazines and a locking block to have on hand as a spare. If my information is correct, the gun should be good for approximately 10,000 rounds but then there may be some frame cracking issues at or near the 10k mark. Considering this was a police trade it gun, I would guesstimate the total round count around 2,000-3,000 rounds. It is a 1997 production gun, but doesn't seem to have been shot much before I got my hands on it.

The below pictures were taken a couple hours after leaving the range. It has been about 500 rounds since I last cleaned or lubricated the gun. Unless something breaks before then, I will post another update at the 2,000 round mark.

In Search of a Holster

I have been using a Bianchi leather IWB holster as a stop gap measure until I was decided on just how long I wanted to stick with Beretta. Since I have been pleased with the 96D from a shootability standpoint I might as well stay with Beretta after it breaks (if it breaks), so it is time to invest in a better holster. The problem is, I can't find any! Maybe I am not looking in the right places. If anyone has any recommendations I am all ears.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Range USA Rental Toys

While I was at Range USA for the FoF class I couldn't help but take the opportunity to try out some of the guns I would otherwise never be able to shoot, like a full-auto DPMS AR-15. This was my first run with a full-auto anything, as you can probably tell. I wouldn't ever own one, but as a fun gun at the range, what more can you ask for.  

Even though they lose points for putting on a not so great FoF class, as a place to go and shoot Range USA is one of the best I have been to.

They best rental gun selection I have seen so far. I am not sure why they are not a 5 or at least 4 star NSSF range, in my head they meet all the criteria well enough.

Why I Compete

"When you step up to the plate rack, or a dueling tree, or any timed/measured drill it’s not practice anymore. It’s time to get dialed in and deliver… or fail."  -ToddG

Friday, November 18, 2011

Meteoric Rise

Many thanks to ToddG at for linking my blog on his page. There has been a 200% increase in page views in a 36 hour period!! I hope I can keep it interesting enough to keep people around.

I will be back on the range Monday and will break the 1k round mark on the 96D. Assuming the gun already has 1,000 rounds on it (which I think might be a conservative guesstimate), that leaves me 8,000 before it is suppose to break. Standby for a fairly detailed 1k+ rounds update.

December 10th will be my first Steel Challenge match at the local club. That should be interesting. I hope to get some good video of the 96D being run in a match, but my regular videographer (read: wife) probably won't be able to go with me, so I will have to try and talk a buddy into going.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AAR: RangeUSA Force on Force

UTM "bullets". This is what you
actually get shot with. Feels like
getting shot with a steel BB.
This past weekend I was back in Memphis at Range USA for their Force on Force class. I had high expectations for this course, but sadly it didn't live up to them. In previous classes at Range USA I had heard some other students who had been around Range USA more than I had really talk up the Force on Force class, so maybe that is why I was expecting more than I got.

The class is only four hours, and cost $125. It starts with a solid safety briefing, and the safety protocols were really quite good. Better than some I have experience. There were no live firearms, ammunition, or any type of weapon allowed in the training environment. Students and instructors were carefully checked.

The class size was 9, which leads me to the first issue with this course. Due to the expense of running sim guns, they only had two. One was a Sig, the other a Glock. If you weren't familiar with one of those two platforms, you had to adjust on the fly. I think everyone in this particular course with the exception of one shot either a Sig or Glock. The one odd ball shot a 1911. Oh, and I guess technically I shoot a Beretta but I am very familiar with Glocks and relatively familiar with Sigs, so it didn't make a difference. With only having two guns, they made us get in pairs and that is how we ran our drills. Problem is, there was WAY TOO MUCH DOWN TIME between drills. There were 5 sets of pairs, so after running your drills you had to wait for the other four pairs to run their drills before you were able to go again. I think this could be remedied by capping class size at 5 or 6, but I am not sure if the economics would allow it.

On to issue #2. In total, I shot 19 simunitions. Now, there is only so much you can learn in 19 shots. I understand that sims are pretty pricey, but for $125 I expect a little more liberty than that with my trigger finger. As a consequence of them holding the per student round count way down they had to structure their drills in such a way that I think you really miss out on some of the beauty of training with sims. The ability to practice shooting in a truly dynamic environment at a truly dynamic target (another person) can be had nowhere else except in an actual event. If all you are allowed to shoot is one or maybe two rounds per repetition there isn't much being done in terms learning lessons and actually improving skill.

The first half of the class is spent running what I would call drills. They were focused primarily on pushing the importance of movement. Something about Range USA is that since it is an indoor range you don't get much movement incorporated into basic drills in the Self Defense Handgun course because of space restrictions, so this is where they stick it in. Without changing the training location, I don't think it would be practical to incorporate movement in live fire classes, even though it needs to be. That is probably the one good thing about the class, movement was really stressed.

The second half of the class is spent running what I would called decision making scenarios, or use of force scenarios. They were more about making the right decisions dependent upon circumstances. Admittedly, it is very hard to teach use of force without some type of guiding policy like what a police department might have in place, but I think this is really where the FoF course fell on its face. For starters, the scenarios were run one at a time, so now instead of waiting on four other pairs you were waiting on eight other people. In a two hour period, each student ran three scenarios each. Hardly enough to be worth the price of admission.

The video below is the last scenario of the day. It has been edited so as not to give any hints on what the "appropriate" actions are in case they reuse the scenarios for each class.

In addition to this there was a lot of "what if" built into the scenarios. Which it is good to "what if" situations and look back and think about what could happen differently, formulate alternative action plans etc. But here is the thing about a "what if", it can always be "what if'd" right back. The basis for "right" or "wrong" decisions in a use of force type scenario needs to be a fixed line, and that line should be whatever laws govern the use of force in that state, city, etc. and not the "what if's" that the instructor might be able to come up with. The instructor related a story about a past student who refused to carry a gun after taking this course because he felt he could not make the right decisions. Props to the student for being willing to give up self defense, but if your training program is convincing people they are not capable of making the right decisions then maybe your training program has some design issues. Just sayin'

I hate to say it, but I cannot recommend this particular course to anyone. Range USA is good for building shooting skills, but when it comes to teaching use of force, I think they need to take a step back and think about what they are doing. The structure of the course needs to be changed, and the content at least in the second half needs to be carefully considered. Teaching use of force is no joke and requires very careful design and execution. There is a very fine line between teaching about the liabilities of self defense and inappropriately scaring people out of it.

The Everything Update: 11-14-11

I had a chance to run about 120 rounds through my Beretta 96D with the 20lb spring yesterday. It worked flawlessly. I guess the magazine springs were the issue after all. There is a slight difference in felt recoil. I wasn't able to put the gun on the timer to see if my splits changed any, but the sights seemed to fall into place a little quicker. Feelings can be deceptive, but it felt faster. The timer will tell the tale when I get a chance.

I have been talking to some people about running a spring that is 50% stronger than the stock spring and some have expressed concern over negative wear effects. The force of the slide going back into battery could cause abnormal wear issues. I put in an e-mail to Beretta asking them that specifically, and their reply basically said they do not recommend use of non-factory parts, and that a heavier spring could cause function issues, but did not say whether or not it would cause durability issues.

I guess my 96D will be the test bed to see how it works out. As long as the gun remains functional, I don't plan on moving back to a lighter spring. The below video is at 1/8th speed. It is a little too tight, but you get the idea. The brass was ejecting nearly straight up and hitting the ceiling.

There won't be a training update associated with those 120 rounds since really all I did was rather pointless mag dumps down range at varying shooting speeds. I didn't have any of my usual training targets with me to run Dot Torture or anything like that. They only really training related thing I did was finish up with 10 rounds at a 3"x5" card at 10 yards.

To 96 or to 92?

I have been looking into the lifespan of the Beretta 96. It is built on a design and frame intended for use with 9mm (like a lot of other .40 S&W guns out there) and hence the lifespan is known to be shorter than that of its 9mm brethren.

So I have started thinking about switching to a 9mm Beretta platform to get more life out of the gun, preferably a 92D. What say you that read this blog? Yay or Nay? Feel free to comment.

Friday, November 11, 2011

So Just How Bad Do I Suck? :)

Here is a video of one of my shooting idols (ToddG) running a Bill Drill on the same size target at the same distance as I did in the 11-8-11 Training Update. Ridiculous fast.

He is shooting an HK45.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

So How Much Does This Stuff Cost?

Some people might be looking at this blog thinking "If only I had the money to do that." In reality I don't spend an incredible amount of my expendable income on shooting. To shoot a local match cost $10 per match. So for my entire shooting season this year it cost me $40 in match fees. A tank of gas cost me more than that. At each match I maybe shoot 100 rounds of ammo, plus I shot the IDPA Classifier once so that is another 90 rounds so we will just round it up to 500 rounds. Shooting .40 S&W that is about $130 of ammunition. If I were shooting 9mm (which for anyone out there who cares that is actually what I would recommend) that would be $100 or less depending on how well I shopped around. I really need to give some thought to that.

Assuming I already have a suitable handgun (which is any gun chambered in 9mm or above pretty much), I can pick up a good holster for $20-$30 like the Safariland I use for my Beretta 96D, a good magazine pouch for the same, and I am ready to go. So about $50 worth of gear is all I need, and that will last me for a few years at least.

So starting from scratch except for the handgun it cost less than $200 to shoot an entire season of local IDPA matches. In the bigger picture, that really isn't much of an investment in resources. Now if you throw in a handgun shooting course or two and lots of practice ammo plus range fees and the price will go up, but for starting out, you can get to that stuff when you get there. The most important thing is having fun and enjoying the sport, and for $200ish a year I would say that is a pretty cheap hobby.

The Training Log & Range Binder

Two of my most essential pieces of shooting gear are my training log and range binder. My log is what I use to track all the numbers and take notes on my shooting, whether it be in a competition or practice session. I even take notes on dry fire every now and then. The binder is what I use to tote around printable targets like the Dot Torture target and a few others. I also keep at least a couple of my old targets on record in the binder, usually my best ones so I can compare down the road and see actual improvement.

The log is what tells me what and how to train. I can use it to see improvement, see which drills are working, aren't working, or which areas I need to switch  focus to. There is a great article about performance tracking over on It helps to have some goals to work towards, like my goal to reach master class on the IDPA classifier by middle of next year.

Since I also take match notes in my training log, I can also use it to improve match performance. See what things I need to work on and watch our for at my next match.

Every shooter who claims to "train" should have a log, otherwise you are just blowing rounds down range and really don't know if you are really getting better or just having fun shooting. The two don't always go together.

The range binder is more just for my convenience, and a little cost savings. I can print targets for free, so when I go a range I buy one of their targets, and I may or may not actually shoot at it, or just use it as a backer and put my target over the top of it. I very rarely buy more than one target per range trip. Even though they are just a $1 each, if I buy two or three targets for each range trip that adds up over the course of a year. There are also some targets you just can buy, like the 1" dot target from Range USA Self Defense Handgun that is the bane of my existence.  

Upcoming Training

I will be back at Range USA on November 13th for a Force on Force course. I will post a review when I can. May take the opportunity to test out some of their sweet rental toys like the Kriss Super V or Glock 18 too :)

New PC Background :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Training Update: 11-8-11

So the good news is that with the new Wolff magazine springs in my training magazines the gun is running like a champ with the 15lb recoil spring. I did not bother switching over to try the 20lb spring again, I figure I will do that on my next range trip.

I put 194 rounds through the gun, working mostly on the draw, Bill Drills and a new drill called the typewriter. So running the draw, on a TQ-21 at 3yd and keeping everything inside the inner scoring ring I was getting two shots off from the holster in a fastest time of 1.16 seconds. My slowest was a 1.35 seconds. My 1st shot times were all right around 1 second. Compared to my draw time earlier this year, on a very similar type of target, at the same distance, that is a .40 second improvement. Not bad. Not as fast as I thought I might be able to do it though, especially after running the draw from AIWB last range trip and going quite a bit faster. I have always heard AIWB is fast, but I wouldn't think I would see that much of a difference.

I backed it up to 7 yards and repeated the drill with a fastest of 1.39 and slowest of 1.69. A little disappointed in the 1.69.

For the Bill Drills I was shooting on an 8" circle at 7 yards. I had an average draw time of 1.5 seconds on the nose, and an average total drill time of 3.39 seconds. Not great. I would like to get that under 3 seconds consistently. My fastest time for the total drill was 2.87 seconds with dropping a round. My average split for the drill was 0.37. Although I would like to think I could go faster, I just really cannot keep the gun on target to manipulate the trigger any faster than that. Although I know that if I were good enough it wouldn't really make a difference, I still wonder how fast I could go with a Beretta 92D and less recoil? (light bulb, I have a plan:) )

Now for the new drill. I ran the Typewriter Drill twice and it is really pretty awesome drill. I put the target up, looked at it, and thought I am going miss every shot trying to shoot at 2" dots at speed from 5yds. Well I wasn't exactly fast, but on my first run of 17.64 (w/reload) I was clean. Didn't drop a single round. I was actually surprised at how the sights fell into the next dot and pretty much stayed there for me to execute the shot. The 2nd run wasn't quite so good. I shot it faster at 15.44 (thinking I could go faster) but dropped 4 of 12 shots. My score for the drill after dividing number of hits (20) by the total time (33.08) was 0.60. Compared to Todd Greens score of 1.51, it sucked pretty bad. But of course, I am no Todd Green, and not many other people are either :)

I finished up the day by slowing everything down and running Dot Torture. I actually shot this drill kind of fast for me. At least faster then normal. Other than breaks for reloading magazines, probably the fastest I have ever shot it, and I scored a 50/50!! We will see if I can repeat next range trip. If I can, I will move it back a yard or two.

So all in all not a bad day on the range. The only bad news is that I have been looking into the expected service life of a Beretta 96. Word is from a former Beretta employee that they used to tell customers about 10k rounds. If that is the case, I only have 9,250 to go if I only count the rounds I have put through it. Who knows what the previous owners could have put through the gun. I will keep a close watch for frame cracks, but there may be a future switch to a 92D.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

XD(M) 5.25

After reading Caleb Giddings thoughts on the newish XD(M) 5.25 I can't help but think maybe I need one :) The XD series is on my list of pistols I have to try because I generally don't like them, but honestly that dislike is based on very little personal interaction with the platform. I have heard some unsavory things from people who are supposed to know better than me that the XD series of handguns are not quite as good for one reason or another as their other main stream counter parts (e.g. Glock, et al.).

The other day at the range, I noticed a new XD(M) 5.25 in the rental case and decided to give it a run, just to see what it was like and refresh my memory. I had shot a couple XD's a loooonnnnggggggg time ago when my wife was shopping for her first gun, but haven't touched one since. I only ran 50 rounds through the gun, hardly enough to get a true feel for the gun, but I was fairly impressed. It didn't seem to be much different than a Glock or M&P from a shootability standpoint, but neither of those guns are on my must try list right now.

So, if anyone wants to donate $700 before the end of the month so I can take advantage of the Springfield magazine promo going right now, I would be very appreciative:)

Spring Update

Well, I ordered new magazine springs the other day, thinking the malfunctions I had with the heavier recoil springs could actually be magazine related. To support this theory, I ran about 100 rounds through the Beretta yesterday on my newer magazines and it ran fine with the 15lb recoil spring. My new magazine springs finally arrived in the mail, and I compared them to the old springs in the who knows how old 10 round magazines I have been using as training magazines.

Old spring on top, new spring on bottom.
As you can tell from the picture, hhuuuuugggggeeeeeeee difference. The new spring isn't quite twice as long, but pretty close. It took some crafty engineering to get all that spring crammed into a 10 round magazine!! I will run the magazines with new springs early next week and report, but I suspect no function issues will be present.

Training Update: 11-3-11

I hit the range yesterday for about a half hour after getting my truck stuck in the mud on the way out to the range. I was going mostly to check my draw speed like I promised in my post about Range USA's Self Defense Handgun, and check function of my new 15lb recoil spring with better magazines than I was using last time. It should be noted that I was drawing from AIWB (Appendix Inside the Waist Band). This is a new carry position for me, I have only been using it for about a week and these were my first live draws from this position.

I started the range trip with a swing at a new drill I just found out about called Sweet Sixteen. I made it back to 20 yards from 10 yards on my first attempt. The wind was blowing so hard it kept blowing the target stand down and me around. It was very hard to get a good hold on target long enough to execute a smooth trigger pull. As a consequence I pulled several shots low trying to hurry the pull, but still made it to 20 yards before I missed three in a row.

For the draw and fire two drill like the Range USA course I used a B-27 target, which is pretty close in size to the targets used at Range USA, but not quite. Close enough for our comparison though. First draw of the day, first live draw from a new carry position from under two layers of concealment (fleece pull over and light jacket), I shot a 1.27 first shot with 1.49 second shot. Already faster than my Self Defense Handgun time of 1.56 out of an OWB holster with no concealment! My fastest time after I dropped the light jacket ended up being a 0.79 first shot and 0.99 second shot. My average though was around 1.15 first shot and 1.30 second shot. I think with a little time working from this draw position I could really clean up those runs and drop into the 1.15 range. I had trouble getting a good grip on the gun before coming out of the holster.For comparison, my most recent time recorded from 7 yards (4 yards further back) with my G22, from a Blackhawk Serpa (not a big fan) was 1.09 first shot and 1.28 total.  Next range trip I will be sure to bring my OWB holster to get a more accurate comparison, but I think it is telling that from a brand new carry position, under two layers of cover garment, I was able to beat my Self Defense Handgun time by nearly a tenth.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Range USA Zombie Night 3

My wife and I made the drive to Memphis last Saturday to see what Range USA's Zombie Night held every year around Halloween is like. It is pretty much the roller coaster ride of the shooting sports:) Wait in line for a bit, then a 30 second adrenaline rush as you are guided through the range blasting zombie targets with handguns, shotguns and AR-15's. The lights are off, the strobes are going, and there is a lot of yelling and screaming to amp up the atmosphere. Great fun. Plus we got free range passes, can't beat that.

Training Before Practicing

Practice is important guys, I think we all understand that. It is pretty much common sense. But in order to practice well, we have to be instructed well on the front end. We can spend hours and thousands of rounds of ammunition practicing to do things the wrong way and end up worse off than when we started if we are not careful. Believe me, I have been there. When I first started shooting handguns about 4 years ago I went to the range before getting any real instruction. I had a buddy show me how to work the gun (Glock 23), and that was about it. I went to the range and started off okay, by the end of the day I could barely hit a B-27 target at 3 yards!! All because honestly, I didn't know the first think about what was required to shoot well.

I think the problem arises when we look at the price of a tier one firearms course ($200/day) plus the cost of ammo (generally 1,500 rounds for a 2 day course) and we go "Smokes, that is nearly $1,000!!" Or maybe even more depending on what caliber you shoot. Plus if it isn't local, there are travel and lodging expenses to boot. So instead of seeking out quality instruction so that we can practice well on our own time, we just go hit the nail harder with the same old hammer and end up bending the nail.

I have had a lot of firearms instruction in the 4 years I have been shooting, 296 actual contact hours with an instructor in some form or fashion related to the use of a firearm (mostly handgun). It is that quality instruction that brings the value to my personal practice sessions. Knowing how things are supposed to work and concepts behind them, knowing what I am supposed to do and how to execute it properly is what enables me to practice doing it properly and becoming better at it. If I didn't know how to do something properly, how could I possibly practice it correctly.

To get good instruction though, doesn't mean you have to pay the $200/day price to attend a course by a big name instructor. There are plenty of good instructors out there who can get you set on the right road, so that 4-5 years from now you can take that class from the big name instructor. In my local area, I can name two instructors who are pretty decent. They aren't the greatest, but they know what they are doing and can get you a little ways down the road for about $100 for an 8 hour course.

Self Defense Handgun I
Shooting While Moving
Expand my search area a little and Range USA is just down the road in Memphis, TN. Awesome place to go shoot, and they run some incredible specials on their classes from time to time. I paid to attend a basic Intermediate Handgun class with my wife there and it cost me $50 for the two of us, for a 4 hour class. Now it wasn't some super awesome shooting class, it is just a fundamentals class, but hey you have to start somewhere. A few months later we went back for the Advanced Handgun course, and then the Self Defense Handgun I course earlier this year. For me it was easy stuff, but even at my level of shooting it is good to have the oversight of an instructor because you can't always see your mistakes on your own. Probably one of the biggest areas of improvement for me over the past year has been my draw because of a technique change that started with the Self Defense Handgun I course at Range USA. The real testament of the quality of these Range USA courses is my wife's shooting ability because the only formal instruction she has received has been from Range USA and she can hold her own against guys who have a similar training background to my own.

When you are ready for that next level, you can't go wrong with Mike Seeklander and a Shooting Performance course. You can also take courses from him at US Shooting Academy in Tulsa, OK. Mike is by far the best instructor I have taken a course from, and this year he took the production division title at the World Speed Shooting Championship (aka Steel Challenge) in Piru, CA. Not only does Mike teach you how to shoot, he teaches you how to train after the course to continue the growth that he will jump start over the 2.5 day course. For $395, that is a bargain. Plus, he will travel to your range.

Do not miss that key ingredient to getting better, solid instruction. Hit up the firearms related websites and forums and find a good instructor in your area that fits your skill level. If you are starting out, find someone to teach you fundamentals, if you are an experienced competitor, find someone like Mike Seeklander who can not only get you to the next level but show you how to get to the next one after that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another 50yd Shot

This time with a Sig P238. My first round through the gun, it belongs to my wife.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Training Update: 10/28/11

As mentioned in the recoil spring update, I did shoot a Dot Torture drill on Friday. I shot a 49/50, or a 51/52 depending on how you want to count. I got lazy on the last round of the drill and just dropped it off the #10 dot. Refusing to finish a drill with a miss, I loaded the magazines back up to set up the reload between dot #9 and #10 and ran the last string again, getting both hits. I know I can accomplish this drill without a miss, I just have to keep my discipline up long enough to pull off 50 mistake free shots in a row.

Recoil Springs-The Saga

I received my two new recoil springs in the mail a few days ago. I ordered a 15lb and 20lb spring from Wolff, thinking almost certainly the .40 S&W has enough punch behind it to properly cycle the handgun with the 20lb spring. I was able to hit the range on Friday, and no such luck. I had multiple malfunctions with the 20lb spring. Three in 30 rounds fired, which to me is unacceptable. All the malfunctions were the same, the front of the bullet nose dived into the feed ramp causing a failure to feed.
After giving up on the 20lb spring I switched it out for the 15lb spring. Same problem, just not as pronounced. Over about 100 rounds fired I had two malfunctions of the same type. I switched again to the stock spring to shoot a Dot Torture drill and had two more!!! This really surprised me, as I was almost certain the problem was the recoil spring. Now however, I am thinking it might have been the magazines. I have three older 10 round magazines that are my "training" magazines and all I had with me. I will have to retest at a later date and see if maybe it is a magazines issue and not a spring issue. I did have one malfunction like this before, but only one in over 300 rounds fired. On this range trip I had a total of 9 in just under 200 rounds.

I also understand that there may be a "break-in" period for the new springs, but I am not very accepting of break-in periods. If I buy a product and I buy it to work, any "break-in" period should be on the manufacturer, not the end user. I as an end user should not have to spend however much money on ammunition to get a product working properly before it is serviceable. Just a pet peeve of mine.
Left to Right: Stock Spring, 15lb Spring & 20lb Spring
Update: 11-1-11, order three new magazine springs to see if that is perhaps a variable in the malfunctions. Reports I have read online indicate 90 series Berettas in both 9mm and .40 run just fine on a 15lb recoil spring.

AAR: Range USA Self Defense Handgun

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take Self Defense Handgun at Range USA. This is their foundational self-defense course where they introduce instruction on the draw, reload, retention shooting, moving while shooting and some cognitive processing. The courses before this one focus solely on fundamentals and running the gun (i.e. clearing malfunctions). There is no drawing, moving, timed shooting or defensive oriented shooting in courses prior to this one. Prerequisites for this course are a concealed carry permit, or some other base level of instruction. This is not intended to be an introduction to handgunning course, participants should have a fair grasp on how to operate their chosen handgun beforehand. Although, a great degree of skill isn't required either.

The course starts with a quick but thorough safety brief in the classroom. The instructor identified the essential task in the case of an emergency and then assigned two people to each one to make sure that it would get done. I felt confident that should something go wrong, it would be handled quickly and appropriately.

Once the safety brief is done, we hit the range and started up with a quick warm up of the fundamentals. After that, everyone was put on the timer and had to draw and fire two rounds at what is essentially a TQ-21 target at 3 yards. One of the primary goals of the course is to get everyone able to get two hits on target from the holster in less than 2 seconds. Not that difficult, but for a shooter new to self-defense type shooting, a good benchmark. Most everything associated with defensive shooting is touched on in this course, but not given an extensive amount of attention. The single most skill set exercised with a lot of repetitions is probably the draw, since every drill is run from the holster. There is a little close quarters retention shooting, there is a little moving while shooting (forward, backward, left and right), reloading, malfunctions drills and some cognitive processing drills. For all the more "advanced" drills like shooting while moving and shooting from retention they are done one student at a time for safety, but it also means you are one on one with the instructor, which is nice. The most killer drill is the 1" dot drill shot at 3 yards. I scored an abysmal 18 of 25 possible. Well, I thought it was abysmal. I have since pulled off a single perfect 25 of 25 score. I usually drop one or two.

There is a lunch break in there somewhere, but honestly I don't remember where:) The on-site is restaurant is the greatest thing ever. Menus are distributed at the beginning of the course and orders are placed well before actual lunch time. So when the lunch break roles around everyone's food is already prepared and ready for eating. Makes the break run a lot smoother and allows more time for actual shooting.

The course wraps up with putting the draw back on the timer, running the same drill as at the beginning of the course to see what the improvement is. I had about a .20 second improvement. However, compared to where I am at now it was a glacial speed. I owe a lot to this course for starting the process of getting my draw back in shape. Even though it was just about a quarter second improvement in the 8hr time span from the beginning of the course to the end of the course, less than a year later I can execute the same drill in just a hair over 1 second. I bet if I really pushed, I could even get it under 1 second pretty consistently. In fact, next time I am at the range I will see just how fast I can do it now, six months after taking the course.

There was supposed to be a "combat" course of fire at the very end, but a conflict with a concealed carry permit course running at the same time prevented us being able to run through it sadly. It would have been a good way to close out the day. I think the course description calls for about 500 rounds, and I ended up actually shooting about 400, but that is close enough. At the end of the course you not only get a certificate of completion but also a report card, which is super awesome. The instruction is solid, facility top rate, and well worth the price of admission.

Hint: Sign up two people at the same time and you get a 20% discount.