Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What the Dot Torture has Taught Me

People are probably sick of me going on and on about the Dot Torture. It dawned on me, after talking to my mom, that while I've talked about the Dot Torture for years, I've not explained what it is recently or why I'm so in love/hate with it. This is a drill, shot at close range, that tests a shooter's fundamentals: sight picture, trigger control, transitioning between targets, one-handed, and weak-handed shooting. The instructions are available online (see link above), or you can find a target pre-printed with the instructions.

I shot it first back in 2012, but haven't been shooting it regularly until this year. It has always been a humbling experience, and often quite frustrating.

First time ever shooting Dot Torture 10/26/12 (GSG 1911-22)

10/26/12 (Para LTC 1911 .45 ACP)

When I came up with my shooting goals for the year, shooting more frequently was one of the goals. I plan on shooting at least 200 rounds a month, and it's easy to do if you know what you're going to be doing each time you go to the range. I knew if I shot the Dot Torture twice with my right hand and twice with my left each month I'd hit my goal easily.

The Dot Torture has frustrated me for a long time. I've never been a precise shooter - I'm what some would call "combat accurate", but I very rarely have been able to shoot nice tight groups on purpose. My groups fall in the 1.5 - 2" range, not bad, but hardly worth bragging about.

While I was expecting to improve my Dot Torture scores, I was not expecting to see the drastic improvement in my group sizes.

1/31/17 GSG 1911-22

2/7/17 G42

2/10/17 G42

2/14/17 G42
I'm still not shooting one-hole groups, but they are much better and I know the moment the trigger breaks whether or not I've thrown a shot. The shrinking group sizes has helped build my confidence, which has been sorely lacking. I know it's weird to say my confidence is improving when I've only shot the drill clean once, but it has. I'm beginning to feel like the shooter I used to be, and that feels really good.

Further, I've seen vast improvements in my left-handed shooting as well. I've always been fairly proficient with my left-handed shooting because I work at it, whereas most people don't. I make a point to shoot as close to 50% of the time with my left hand. I dare say that my current left-handed shooting ability is far better than my first right-handed go at the drill. (I thought I had more pictures of my left-handed targets, but I must not have uploaded them.)

2/7/17 G42, left-handed
With my confidence renewed, I'm looking forward to shooting my first match of the year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Happy Dance!

One of my shooting goals for this year was to shoot 200 rounds per month and I was running out of time to meet my goal. Mez and I went to the range on Sunday, where I'd hoped to finish out my 200. I took my GSG 1911-22. I have a fair bit of .22LR right now, and can afford to shoot that up, so for the next bit that's what I'll be practicing with.

I've some *this close* to shooting the Dot Torture clean for well over a year. My last attempt was with the G42 and G43 last month. Close, but no cigar. For our Sunday Gunday, I planned on shooting the drill with both my right and left hands. I might have been a bit cocky, knowing that shooting a full-sized 1911 chambered in .22 should have been a breeze compared to shooting the drill with pocket pistols. The last time I shot the Dot Torture with the GSG was in October of 2012. It's been a while and I didn't realize until I reviewed the post just how badly I'd sucked that go 'round.

Sunday's trip to the range wasn't as great as I had hoped, but it was a damn sight better than the time I shot it in 2012!

Right handed 40/50

Left handed 39/50

I am a Weaver shooter. It's the way I was taught, and it's what I'm comfortable with. However, we teach isosceles in our pistol classes, so I thought I'd shoot the way I'd been teaching. Isosceles is not at all comfortable for me. It's not so much the fighting the muscle memory that's difficult, but the girls get squished and in the way; it's physically uncomfortable for me to shoot isosceles. However, discomfort or not, I was determined to shoot both drills (right- and left-handed) in this manner. I can't say I hate the stance if I don't give it a fair shake, right?

Sunday Gunday was still a pretty good day, despite the fact that I should have shot much better than I did. I got range time, got to hang with Mez, and slung 100 rounds down range. There are much worse days than that.

Even with Sunday's shooting trip, I was short of my goal by about 40 rounds. I didn't have to be into work until noon today, so I took my happy ass to the range for another round of Dot Torture with the GSG. This time was much better!

I reverted to my Weaver stance, the girls breathed a sigh of relief, and we got started. I threw my first round because I forgot that the sights are wonky. I stopped, put the gun down, gave myself a good reminder that I know that sights are off and re-started. Instead of getting a whole new target, I started over and continued with this one.

I was so thrilled with my first two groups I stopped the drill to take a picture. Usually when I start off strong, I get ahead of myself and that's when my shooting goes to crap. I wanted proof that I could shoot well before I went and blew it.

I was pretty happy with this start.
I warned myself not to get cocky and to take each shot one at a time. Take as much time as I needed and make the freaking shot.

Right handed 50/50

Left handed 46/50 (I scored it incorrectly initially)
The GSG is having some serious issues, but I worked through each and every one without getting frustrated and it showed. I had easily a 40% failure to fire rate. I took that opportunity to practice my trigger press without flinching and practice clearing the gun.

I had intended to leave the gun with the gunsmith, but since he wasn't in, I decided that I'm going to try to fix it myself. I think the issue is that the gun is dirty. I cleaned it really well the other day, but I know I haven't done a complete tear-down and cleaning (like to the frame tear-down) since I've owned it. If that doesn't fix the problem, then he'll have to go to the gunsmith.

By the end, my hands and arms were tired, but I was thrilled! I might have to do this shooting before work business more often!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Let's Talk Holsters

It was right around this time last year that I posted a piece about sexy holsters. In it, I listed things that are important to look for in holsters.

The concealed carrier ranks are growing by leaps and bounds, which is mostly a good thing. However, I'm seeing a large increase in the number of carriers who suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect. I'm not saying that to be mean, they just don't know what they don't know.

Most recently, I've seen this play into holster choice. Recently, someone asked for recommendations on guns and carry methods, so I gave an answer. When she said that she loves "the clip" (Technaclip) on her gun, I mentioned that it wasn't a good carry method because it didn't cover the trigger and could lead to a negligent discharge. She took that as I was saying she was negligent. I was not. However, her comment made me think that maybe a refresher on what constitutes a good holster was due for circulation again.

The other "holster" (and I use that term very, very loosely) that seems to be popping up again and again is the VersaCarry. Gah!

A good holster will:
  1. hold the gun securely in place (no flapping, or migrating)
  2. cover the trigger (without being able to inadvertently activate the trigger)
  3. allow the carrier fast and consistent access to their gun
  4. not require constant adjusting and re-adjusting 
I know how hard it is to find good holsters, I do! There is no one magic holster, no one-size-fits-all solution for your gun.

I know they are expensive, but shouldn't we put as much consideration into buying our holsters as we do our guns? I have three different holsters for my carry gun, just so I have options depending on what I'm wearing. I've put nearly $300 into holsters for my $500 gun, and I had to accumulate them slowly. I carefully considered the pros and cons for each holster, but the one thing I never compromised on was the safety of the holster. Each holster meets the four criteria listed above.

If you are holster shopping, or know someone who is, please make sure you scrutinize the holsters and make sure they are safe.

Things like the Technaclip and VersaCarry fail spectacularly when scrutinized for safety.

Monday, January 2, 2017

... And Starting 2017 with a Bang!

After Saturday's happy day at the range, I was hoping to get out again, but the weather didn't look like it was going to cooperate on Sunday. I did some horse chores, then decided it was warm enough to take the dueling tree for a run. I texted my brother to grab his wife and their guns to join me.

(Okay, I had to invite them, because the dueling tree doesn't fit in my car, but don't tell them that.)

If you don't follow us on Facebook, you might be a bit behind on the dueling tree saga. I've had this tree for a while - years - but back when I was in the running to audition for Top Shot I accidentally shot a hole in one of the plates with a 45-70. I say accidentally, because though I was aiming at the plate, I didn't actually think I'd hit it. I was shooting from the Bosu and the tree was out there a ways. In fact, I think I have video of it somewhere - I'll have to look for it.

Anyway, I went to the lowest bidder to fix the plates and the fixes were bad, Bad, BAD, so the tree has been sitting out of commission for about five years. In talking to one of the shooters at my local match, I found that he is a welder and he offered to make new plates for me. I jumped at the chance!

Mez took the tree frame to his place to clean up the rust and re-paint it. I got all mushy on Facebook about how I'd found my "tribe" and how lucky I was to have people in my life who were willing to pitch in and help. I got a picture of my new plates and they were beautiful.

So shiny and pretty.
A few days later, Jay and I were pulling into the driveway and Jay just stopped the car for a moment and turned to tell me, "looks like Mez dropped off your tree". I had my nose buried in my phone for some reason and looked up to see my pink, sparkly tree. Yes, pink. With sparkles.


With sparkles.


So my "new" dueling tree has been sitting outside of my front door for a month, it was time to take it for a spin. My brother was kind enough to pick it up and haul it to my friend's house. She was kind of cute with her bright white plates (well, three of them anyway) and her sparkles.

Besides being plain fun to shoot, I love the instant feedback. I've been struggling with my Big Dot sight on my Para. And by struggling I mean, I hate the damn thing! I've spent the better part of two years trying to learn to shoot with it because I'm too cheap and stubborn to switch back to my factory sights. It took three shots to figure out how to use the stupid Big Dot.

I had been lining up my sights to cover the target, as instructed when I switched to the Big Dot. I never felt comfortable with that, because it's so big that I couldn't really see what I was shooting at. My first couple of shots on the dueling tree were misses and when I asked my brother for feedback, he told me I was shooting over the plates. I adjusted my sight picture so that the target was sitting on top of the Big Dot sight and got my first hit. Just to make sure it wasn't a fluke I did it again and again. Shooting at steel was just what I needed - I needed the immediate feedback on my sight picture. When shooting at paper, it's not always easy to see if you've impacted where you were aiming.

We took turns shooting at the tree and had a blast. Finally, as it was getting colder, my brother and I went head-to-head on it. It was a draw, with each of us winning a round.

The tree lost some of its sparkles (I think each of the three of us managed to hit the frame at least once), and the shiny new white plates are no longer shiny and new.

I made a good dent in my goal of 200 rounds/month, shooting 60 rounds through the Para. Only 140 rounds to go this month and 30 days left to do it.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sending 2016 out with a Bang

I needed some trigger therapy, so I hit Mez up to take me to his indoor range. Most of my shooting has been done outdoors (in fact, that's what I'll be doing today), but I'm getting soft in my old age and shooting in a climate controlled area sounded wonderful.

My goal was to shoot the Dot Torture with both the G42 and the G43. I have been playing around with the idea of buying a 43. I like the 42, I really do, and have been carrying it pretty consistently for a couple of years, but I really like the idea of the 43.

I haven't shot the Dot Torture with the G42 since April; before that, the last time I shot the drill with the G42 was November, 2015. It's been a long time and I haven't been great about practicing. I'm confident enough with it that I carry it daily as a "get outta my face" gun, same as when I was carrying my Beretta Bobcat (.25 cal) and my Beretta Tomcat (.32 cal).

I shot the drill cold with the G42 and am not upset by the way I shot it. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised I did so well. My issue with any of the drills I shoot is that I get too much into my head - I start over-thinking everything. I have the skills to shoot these drills clean, but I need to find the quiet spot in my head. I need my shooting Zen place.

What I love about the Dot Torture is that I can pretty easily identify where I'm screwing up. Even when I "miss" my circle, I'm within a 1/2 inch of it. My confidence in the G42 soared with this go 'round. Feeling pretty good, I switched to the G43.

1st time through. 39/50 is a crappy score.
I was pretty disappointed with this round. Right off the bat, I got hung up on the crappy stock Glock trigger (Glock perfection, my ass), but that really isn't a valid excuse. I should be able to shoot *any* gun with *any* trigger, even if I'm a bit of a trigger princess.

I pulled my big girl panties back up, took a deep breath and had a second go with the G43.

Much better. 44/50.
I definitely need a lot more trigger time. My weak had was so tired, I could barely stay on target to pull the trigger, even with that, I did manage to stack two rounds. For the first time in a long time, I was pleased with the way I shot.

I felt so good that I challenged Mez to a little competition. We sent a target (8 1/2" by 11" piece of paper) out to 25 yards to see who could get the most of five rounds on paper. He won the first round, I won the second. It's a rare thing for me to beat him in anything, so I'll take it.

I left the range absolutely elated. It's been a very long time since I felt a "shooter's high" - where I just flat-out enjoyed shooting.

My goals for 2017 include way more shooting: 200 rounds per month; one match per month; and dipping my toes into 3-gun competition. I need a lot of work with my shotgun, but I've got people I can call on to help me with that portion. Through it all, I hope to continue to feel the "shooter's high" I felt yesterday. I've missed that feeling so much.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thoughts on Gun Value

I have owned a variety of firearms over the last 20 something years, both antique, family heirloom guns and modern guns I’ve purchased myself. I’m not a brand or caliber fanboy. I’ve had steel and plastic, cheap and expensive, big and small including Taurus revolvers and semi autos, a Rossi .357 Magnum with a 2.5 inch barrel, a Glock 23, Smith & Wesson M&P full size, Smith & Wesson revolvers in .44 Magnum and .45 Auto and a Sig Sauer government sized 1911 just to name a few of the notables across the spectrum. They all have their pluses, minuses, trade-offs and compromises.

Here lately, current circumstances and future plans have me thinking and rethinking my preferences on firearms in general and handguns specifically. The lens through which I have been processing my thoughts is this: if I had to choose only 1 gun (maybe 2) to rely upon, what would give me the most “bang for my buck” and cover the broadest range of potential uses?

Warren Buffet has been quoted as saying “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”

Current thinking by a lot of reputable firearms instructors/trainers is that a mid to full sized polymer double stack in 9mm is the best for the least. The general consensus on the reasons for this choice is that 9mm is cheap and as effective as other calibers in modern loadings allowing for more training, you can carry more 9mm than other calibers, polymer guns are cheap and easier to maintain, etc. But, is that really the best value? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Sheriff Jim Wilson relates a story about Bill Jordan’s opinion on the subject (http://sheriffjimwilson.com/2012/07/25/if-you-can-shoot/). Bill’s take? A Smith & Wesson Model 19. Does that opinion (and Bill’s basis for same) make it the best? Again, perhaps. Perhaps not.

For hunting, you need minute of vitals accuracy and sufficient power to penetrate hide and bone to reach vital organs for a quick and ethical kill. For training new shooters, you need simplicity, safety, low recoil, ease of use…. For home defense, you need accuracy and a delicate balance of power without excessive penetration. For competition, you need accuracy, and…. You get the point. Each potential use has different and potentially conflicting needs.

Being a student of history, I was also intrigued by Old NFO’s offering from this morning (https://oldnfo.org/2016/12/02/interesting-tidbit-2/) copying the Saturday Evening Post interview of Wyatt Earp in 1931. First, can you imagine a publication like the Saturday Evening Post publishing such an interview today? Times have changed, and the mind boggles. Second, it is a truism that history is written by the winners. They won for a reason, and wise people learn from their success.

Please allow me to excerpt a few of the highlights for your consideration (text bolded for emphasis – ed.).

“Those old-timers took their gunplay seriously, which was natural under the conditions in which they lived. Shooting, to them, was considerably more than aiming at a mark and pulling a trigger. Models of weapons, methods of wearing them, means of getting them into action and operating them, all to the one end of combining high speed with absolute accuracy, contributed to the frontiersman’s shooting skill. The sought-after degree of proficiency was that which could turn to most effective account the split-second between life and death. Hours upon hours of practice, and wide experience in actualities supported their arguments over style. The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of a gunplay usually was the man who took his time. The second was that, if I hoped to live long on the frontier, I would shun flashy trick shooting — grandstand play — as I would poison. When I say that I learned to take my time in a gunfight, I do not wish to be misunderstood, for the time to be taken was only that split fraction of a second that means the difference between deadly accuracy with a six-gun and a miss.”

“From personal experience and numerous six-gun battles which I witnessed, I can only support the opinion advanced by the men who gave me my most valuable instruction in fast and accurate shooting, which was that the gun fanner and hip-shooter stood small chance to live against a man who, as old Jack Gallagher always put it, took his time and pulled the trigger once.

 “In the days of which I am talking, among men whom I have in mind, when a man went after his guns, he did so with a single, serious purpose. There was no such thing as a bluff; when a gunfighter reached for his forty-five, every faculty he owned was keyed to shooting as speedily and as accurately as possible, to making his first shot the last of the fight. He just had to think of his gun solely as something with which to kill another before he himself could be killed.”

The short answer is that the best value in a “jack of all trades” firearm will vary from person to person based on their individual needs. No internet expert can tell you what will work best for you and your needs, and be aware that gimmicks and trends come and go. But, when it comes to the value of a firearm, Wyatt Earp has one last gem of wisdom: "Fast is fine, but accuracy is final."

Find the gun you can shoot comfortably and accurately, buy ammo, and then practice. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Carbon Fiber Barrels: Worth the money?

In any sport, everyone is looking for better technology to help them be better, faster, more accurate.  One of these technologies is the use of carbon fiber.  It is a lightweight material, as strong and often times stronger than steel.  It has been used for years in the automotive and aerospace industries.  Its major drawback is cost. 

Carbon fiber technology is also available to the shooting sports.  One form is in carbon fiber wrapped barrels.  I was curious about this technology so I purchased a couple of these barrels to find out for myself if carbon fiber wrapped barrels are worth the money. 

The barrels I chose were manufactured by Proof Research, a leader in carbon fiber technology.  (Proof Research)

The first barrel is a 16 inch barrel for an AR15 chambered in 223 Wylde.  It is of medium weight configuration.  The barrel Starts at one inch diameter at the chamber, tapering down to .75 inches at the muzzle.  This barrel was assembled into an AR15 by myself.  

16 inch barrel AR-15

 Close up #1

Close up #2

The second barrel is a 20 inch heavy target barrel chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor.  It is 1.2 inches at the chamber and necks down to .875 inches at the gas block. 
This barrel came assembled into a complete rifle manufactured by NEMO arms.  (NEMO Arms)

NEMO Arms 6.5 Creedmoor Rifle.

Close up

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of carbon fiber barrels.

The big advantage of carbon fiber is saving weight.  Proof Research claims up to a 60% savings in weight.  The amount of weight savings depends on the diameter and length of the barrel.    

The 16 inch barrel I chose is 26 ounces.  As compared to 33 ounces for an equivalent steel barrel.  This is a 22% savings in weight.

The 20 inch 6.5 Creedmoor barrel is 3 pounds.  The equivalent steel would be 2-3 pounds heavier.  Up to a 50% weight savings.  Now you are talking some serious weight savings. 

I found the carbon fiber wrapped barrels to be just as accurate as steel barrels. 
Typical accuracy is 1 inch and better.  With the heavy target barrel giving me a consistent .6 inches.  (No pictures available of heavy target barrel accuracy)

 First 3 shots - cold bore.
(Australian Outback, 69 grain SMK)

 Next 3 shots - New ammunition

Last 10 shots of shooting session.  Approx. 20 shots between first shots and these last shots.
(Yep getting a bit tired and I forgot my rear bag.  So not as stable as I wanted to be)
(Yes, I'm making excuses for my poor shots.)

This is the category carbon fiber barrels lose.  They are 2-3 times the cost of a steel barrel. 
Most run approximately $900 - $1000.  Most steel barrels are $250 - $500.

Are carbon fiber barrels worth the money?  No and Yes.  Your end use and configuration of your rifle will determine if a carbon fiber barrel is worth the money.

In the lighter weight 16 inch barrel, I would say no.  It is not worth the money.  The carbon fiber barrel is three times the cost ($1000 vs. $300) and only saves 7 ounces.  Hit the gym and get stronger is a better solution. 

In a longer, heavy barrel configuration I would say yes.  Carbon fiber barrels are worth the money.  Especially if your end use is a run and gun type competition or hunting the back country and high degree of precision and accuracy are needed minus the weight.

On the 20 inch NEMO AR10 I purchased, I am saving 2-3 pounds of weight.  I have the benefits of a heavy target barrel without the weight penalty.  Yes, worth the money.  Overall I have a 10 pound rifle versus a 12-13 pound rifle.   

By Mez