Thursday, March 29, 2012

Why a Shotgun?

A $190 find at the local gunshop
I have no illusions about the suitability, or lack thereof, of a shotgun. It seems to have been surpassed by the AR-15 in law enforcement circles and for good reason. Most days of the week, a good AR-15 will bring more useful capability to the table than a decent tactical shotgun. From an AR-15 you can get a much higher level of precision/range capability, AR-15s are lighter, by far easier to shoot and there is plenty of wounding capability in that tiny bullet. But there is a catch, a good AR-15 will cost a fair bit of money, especially when you add in an optic, spare magazines and whatever other tactical goodies you want to throw on it. A used but still serviceable and reliable tactical sort of shotgun cost about $250-$300, maybe less if you find a really good deal.

In terms of "shootability" a shotgun falls between a handgun and AR-15, meaning a handgun is the most difficult to shoot well, AR-15 the easiest, and the shotgun falls somewhere in the middle. It is significantly easier to shoot than a handgun, but harder than an AR-15 because of the recoil and required manipulation. I know a lot of former and current military guys who can out shoot me all day long with an AR-15 but struggle with shotguns even though they have training on the platform. I know some SWAT veterans who love the shotgun because they are the old school kind of guys, but they still shoot an AR-15 better. I know some novice shooters who have picked up an AR-15 for the first time and been straight up good, and not quite so good with a shotgun.

On the other side of the coin, I know some average pistol shooters with near zero training on the shotgun who have picked one up and made shots they could never make with a pistol. I am at heart a pistol shooter, but in all honesty most people I know who own handguns are not. They are for whatever reason not willing to put the time and money into learning how to run a handgun to its potential. Nor would they be willing be put the time and money into learning how to run any firearm to its potential, but given the same amout of training most people will end up being more capable with a shotgun than they could be with a pistol. A shotgun is just easier to shoot than a pistol, and significantly cheaper to buy and run than an AR-15. That is why.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mesa Tactical Sureshell shell carrier

The vast majority of my shotgun trigger time has been from behind a Remington 870. About a month ago in keeping with my desire to vet major firearms platforms through personal experience I picked up a Mossberg 500. It came with an ATI adjustable stock that I promptly replaced with a Hogue 12.5" LOP stock. It also had a Tac Star 4 round side saddle that I replaced. I have used Tac Star products in the past and they worked just fine, but I wanted to get an 8-round side saddle and the only one I could find was the Mesa Tactical Sureshell Shotshell Carrier.

I have to say, I have been impressed with it thus far. It hasn't been on my shotgun that long and has only seen a few hours of live fire training and a few more hours of dry fire training, but sometimes you just get good vibes about a piece of gear. The side saddle is made from aluminium and uses a length of rubber hose similar to surgical tubing sandwiched between the back plate and the shell carrier itself to retain the shells. The side saddle comes with a black rubber hose installed and an additional white hose that can be substituted in for a higher level of retention. I am currently running the white hose. It is really easy to change, just a matter of removing and replacing a few screws. The only downside I see to this system is that just like surgical tubing the "elastomer" as Mesa calls it will probably dry out after a while and have to be replaced.

Since it is such a long side saddle, I do have to orient the two shells nearest the stock with brass up or they will interfere will my activating the action lock lever at the back of the trigger guard. I am running Remington #1 buck which is a high brass shell, so maybe with a lower brass shell it wouldn't as big of a deal. Also, if I am shooting off my support shoulder I have trouble getting my left hand thumb up and around the side saddle to work the safety. Neither of these issues are a deal breaker, just things I am having to accommodate. Personally I think the 2 extra rounds on the gun are worth it.

I plan to run this shotgun pretty hard over the next 6 months to really get a feel for it. We will see how Mesa's Sureshell carrier holds up.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mental Discipline

I think mental discipline is a big part of shooting. Every time the trigger is pulled there is a decision process that precedes the physical action. Am I seeing what I need to see? Can I execute the necessary trigger control? How fast can I execute the necessary trigger control? The consequence of these decisions is whether or not the bullet hits the target.

I have been thinking about my last couple matches and some of the pistol drills that I put a lot of emphasis on being good at and I have come to the conclusion that I have very poor mental discipline. What I mean is, I do not see what I need to see to make the shot that I need to make. I get in a hurry because I want to go fast and I get too rough of a sight picture, or not one at all and miss which is no better if not worse than being slow.

I have been trying to come up with a way to fix the problem and force a greater level of discipline. The only thing I have been able to come up with is accepting no less than 100% accuracy on all my pistol drills, and in all the IDPA matches I shoot. So for the next couple months I am not going to allow any misses on the drills I shoot, and if I do miss there will be a penalty, like 5 burpies per miss or something. When I go to my next IDPA match in April my goal is to have zero points down and at the end of the match for each point down I have to run 1 mile. I dropped something like 37 points at my last match. I better not do that again.

I imagine this will slow me way down on some drills and most definitely at the IDPA match, but that is the whole point. I like shooting fast, I try to shoot fast, so making myself slow down in an environment where every bone in my body wants to go as fast as possible I hope will help strengthen my mental discipline and in the long run I will be a better shooter for it. I think in the short term it is going to be pretty painful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Video as a Training Tool

I am a big proponent of getting training from a qualified and good instructor as often as possible. One of the things that a good instructor brings to the table is a set of eyes that can see what we are doing wrong and the experience and knowledge base to know how to fix it. As the shooter, we just can't see everything that is going on with our bodies, and we shouldn't. Our focus should be on shooting the gun.The truth though is that we cannot afford to have an instructor with us every time we are at the range practicing. 

This is where video comes in. Since we can't have a skilled instructor by our side every minute of every range trip, the camera serves as our third eye and lets us see things from a different perspective. Not only that, but it might even let us see things that we normally wouldn't see in real life even if we were able to actually watch ourselves by slowing the video down. (A side note, this can probably be a learning tool for instructors too)
Agreat example is the shotgun video I posted the other day. My shoulder transition isn't perfect, but when I did it, I felt pretty good about it. Now I know not only was it not perfect, but I know where I need to improve to make it perfect. Without video I can shoot a drill and not get the result I want and know that I am screwing up somewhere, but that is about it. As an example, my reloads need a lot of work, but all I know from a shooter perspective is that they are not as fast as I want them to be. With video I can pin point what things I am doing wrong and then develop and plan of attack for correcting those mistakes. Basically I cannot fix it without knowing what is wrong with it, and video lets me see all the little nuances that might be wrong.

The same applies to match video. I like to have someone video all of my matches when possible and then I can review the video and see where I need improvement. Things like being aggressive around cover, moving the feet faster, etc. I only shoot club level matches so far and so sometimes I place pretty decently because the depth of competitors isn't that great and if I walk away from a match and look at the score sheet and think "Hey, I did pretty good!" I would never know all the areas that I really need improvement. Video of my shooting in the match lets me see all that, usually in more detail than I really want.

If you are like me and can't have instructor there all the time, get a decent camera with video capability and get to work. That camera will be worth every penny five times over.

Back on the Range

I hit the range yesterday with a buddy of mine who just started shooting handguns. This was the first time I have shot my 96D in a while, or at least it seemed like a while, so I kept it simple. I shot Dot Torture twice in a row at 11ft, and did decently well. I shot a 49/50 and a 50/50.

Dot Torture @ 11ft

Dot Torture @ 11ft
The monster ventilation fans behind the firing line kept my target swinging back and forth enough that the dot would almost swing out from behind my front sight. That was frustrating, and caused a little bit of a trigger control issue because I would try to break the shot with most of the dot behind the front sight instead of rolling through the trigger break.

The buddy I was shooting with had an XD 45 ACP Tactical (5" barrel), so I messed around with it some. I really am not a fan of the external grip safety, but it was an okay shooter. I ran a B8 replacement center out to 55' which is the max distance at the range and did a slow fire 10 round group. It turned out okay, for me anyway.

I finished up the day working my press out. I put a B8 replacement center at 21ft and did single round press outs from a high compressed ready position on the timer. My fastest times were in the mid 0.70's, and my comfort zone was around the mid 0.80's. My goal is to get that down to the mid 0.50's. I have a lot of work to do.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Part-Time Sabbatical

If anyone has noticed, I haven't been reported much about actual shooting as consistently as I have in the past. I have backed off for a little while because I am getting close to that burnout stage where I just get bored with it and lose focus. This is usually where I would sell my current primary handgun and get another one to mix it up and keep it fresh for a little while longer, but I am locked into the 96D until I make master class. I will still be shooting, but not as much and not all pistol. I will probably start mixing in some other platforms to add a little spice to life. The plan is to pick the pace back up in mid to late April.

I did shoot a match over the weekend, but I used my G22 instead of the 96D as a continuation of my 96D vs. G22 experiment. I wanted to see how they compared in match conditions and not just in training. I don't think there is any real difference performance wise. I feel more comfortable behind the Glock, but that is just because Glocks are what I know and the whole point of shooting a Beretta is to try and change that.

As for the match, I didn't do as well as I would have liked (scores). I had a few mental errors and was pushing too hard which cost me in the long run. I had some missed shots that I know I am capable of making and I really struggle with anything that requires tactical sequence. I don't agree with the concept of it, but I should still be able to shoot it. My brain is just not wired that way apparently.

The only other shooting I have really done recently other than the match is a little shotgun practice.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Theis Holster News

I noticed a post on a local firearms forum that Tommy Theis is going into the full time holster business. He made the holster I am currently using for my 96D, and I have been pleased with it so far. Lookout for even greater things to come out of Tommy's shop now that it can get his complete attention.
"This is our last week in the meat business! Rhonda and I have sold our meat market after 23 years at Tommy's Country Meats. We will now be in the full time holster business and be adding our line of high quality Jake's gun belts to our line of holsters in the next couple of weeks.You guys are the first to get this message we have told a few folks but have not put it out publicly yet. Hopefully now I can trim that 4 week wait on holsters down some.

I truly want to thank all you guys that have supported me over the past couple of years. Not only have you bought my products, I have seen many many post on other gun forums where you guys were promoting my holsters and I sincerely appreciate it.God has really blessed through the word of mouth and the power of the internet my business has grown beyond my wildest imagination.

Thanks again for all you help
Best of luck Tommy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

96D vs. G22 Part II

The past week or so I have had the opportunity to be on the range more frequently than normal, but for shorter periods of time. Since I still curious which gun I currently shoot better I ran a series of drills with each platform to compare against each other. In an attempt to try and keep the results from being polluted by switching from one platform to the next I didn't mix my shooting. Whichever gun I was shooting on a given day is the only gun I would shoot that day. Not sure that it really made a difference, but I tried.

So forgetting that it isn't the smartest idea to be switching back and forth between two so completely different guns, these were the results.

On 2-26-12 I shot a 49/50 Dot Torture from 5 yards with the G22.

On 2-27-12 I shot a 41/50 Dot Torture from 7 yards with the 96D and a 210 "300" score.

On 3-1-12 I shot a 36/50 Dot Torture from 7 yards with the G22 (horrible!!) and 199 "300" score. Followed all that with three FAST runs.
1) 7.97 (-1H, -2B)
2) 7.73
3) 6.90

It would seem that I am more accurate with the 96D, but slower. Guess I will have to start focusing on my speed a little more with the 96D. Or rather, my speed while maintaining a sufficient level of accuracy.