Thursday, April 20, 2017

Flying Solo

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a few other instructors and was surprised to find that they had never been to the range alone.


I'm all about empowering women to learn to shoot, but shouldn't we as female instructors be setting examples outside of the classroom too? How can we in good conscious lecture women to take control of their own protection if we're too chicken to go to the range by ourselves? How is it that female instructors can be big and tough in front of a classroom, but not be comfortable taking their own happy asses to the range without an escort?

I've been going to the range by myself for years. The first match I attended was one where I knew nobody. I packed my range bag and marched myself to the range, I listened to the orientation, I asked questions, and I shot the match. I was terrible, but I did it. And I made friends along the way who have become my tribe.

It just never occurred to me that other women didn't do it. I was truly flabbergasted that it seemed to be the norm to go to the range with someone else; that *I* was the odd one out for having flown solo. If this introvert can do it, anyone can.

Ladies, we have to do more than just preach empowerment and taking control - we have to model it.

I challenge you (even if you're not an instructor) to go to the range by yourself.

You do not need an escort, male or female.

Just go.

It will be worth it, I promise.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Changing it up

I've been focusing on the Dot Torture. I see it in my sleep sometimes, I swear!

I've now cleared it right-handed at 3 yards with three of my pistols: GSG 1911-22; Glock 42 (.380); and my Para-Ordnance 1911 (.45).

I even cleared it last week left-handed at 3 yards with my GSG 1911-22. Still need to shoot it clean with my G42 and Para.

I do love the Dot Torture and it has improved my shooting by leaps and bounds, but I feel like I was eating, sleeping, and breathing Dot Torture, so when a new drill showed up on my Facebook feed I decided to give it a try. I've seen it before, but had forgotten to write it down or save it. This time I remembered. It's the Tactical Professor's "Baseline Evaluation" that I stole from Active Response Training (that he re-blogged from Tactical Professor).

This was a fun, quick drill, five sequences of ten shots. Though untimed, it does require one to focus on the fundamentals. One of my failures is that if I start from a low-ready, I tend to overshoot my target on the first round (for example, my first round ends up as a head shot instead of a body shot). This is a great drill for remembering to slow down and find that front sight. There is also one mag change per sequence, and I found that I'm fairly accurate with my first round after a mag change (thanks to dots 9 and 10 on the Dot Torture).

The instructions say to mark your target after each sequence with a pen or with masking tape. I forgot about those instructions when I shot the first couple of tehm. When I got out to 7 yards and threw my first couple of rounds out of the 10-ring, I thought I could remember which rounds were which, but by the time I got to 10 yards, I had to start marking.

I'm waiting on my IDPA targets to arrive, so I used the silhouette targets that the range had. I scored my target in two ways for each distance: the first score was total rounds in the 10-ring; my second score was total rounds in the 8-ring. I'm sure that once I get the IDPA targets my scores will change somewhat (worse, I think, because I found the 8-ring really generous).

Even with the generous 8-ring, I threw the last two rounds of my last string at 15 yds.
My scores with the Para, shooting right-handed were:
  • 3 yd 10/10 in 10-ring
  • 5 yd 10/10 in 10-ring
  • 7 yd 6/10 in 10-ring;10/10 in 8-ring
  • 10 yd 8/10 in 10-ring; 10/10 in 8-ring
  • 15 yd 3/10 in 10-ring; 8/10 in 8-ring
  • Total 37/50 in 10-ring; 48/50 in 8-ring.
I switched to left-handed with my GSG and remembered to mark the targets after each sequence with masking tape. It makes for an ugly target, but one that is much easier to score.

One day, I'll stop pushing to the right with this gun.

My scores with the GSG, shooting left-handed were:
  • 3 yd 10/10 in 10-ring
  • 5 yd 10/10 in 10-ring
  • 7 yd 6/10 in 10-ring;10/10 in 8-ring
  • 10 yd 3/10 in 10-ring; 10/10 in 8-ring
  • 15 yd 0/10 in 10-ring; 8/10 in 8-ring
  • Total 29/50 in 10-ring; 50/50 in 8-ring.
I still had time and 20 rounds left, so I brought the target in to 3 yards and shot 10 rounds left-handed, and 10 rounds right-handed. My left-handed group was much tighter, but just to the right of center, than my right-handed rounds.

I did have an experience at the range for the first time that I'm not thrilled with - there was a new(er) shooter in the lane next to me who had a hot piece of brass go down her shirt. I get it, it's hot. However, you don't get to jump around in your lane waving your gun around. She got an ugly, pissed-off instructor look from me, and a terse "watch your muzzle!". She was quite apologetic and I hope she learned a lesson about muzzle discipline. I never want to discourage a new shooter, but I also don't want anyone getting hurt.

Please, if you are teaching someone to shoot, or even just taking someone shooting, tell them in advance what to do if they get brass down their shirt. If you shoot often enough, it's going to happen and it shouldn't have tragic consequences. If the new shooter knows what to do in advance, then they will have a plan in place.

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.