Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Snowy Day Activity

Putting together/updating Get Home bags, and hiking day packs has been on our to-do list for quite a while, so it seemed appropriate for us to do it while a big storm was raging outside. Nothing like inclement weather to provide incentive to get other "preps" done. 



We've spent the last couple of weeks making a list and assembling everything we wanted in our Get Home bags and hiking day packs. Not surprisingly, a lot of the items overlapped.

I had a little Get Home bag in my car that had a boo-boo kit, an oh shit kit, extra magazines, utility knife, flashlights, extra mags, etc. I found I've been stealing that bag out of my car when I was overseeing students at the range, because it was easier to carry around than my range bag.

I also had a Go Bag with stuff in it for my Posse duties. The contents were much less: my slicker, hazard vest, blanket, some snacks, flashlights, and the like. Both of my bags got an overhaul.

Jay got to build his Get Home bag from scratch, which is always fun. It's tempting to try to think of every scenario you might come across and try to pack for those, but then your bag gets incredibly heavy, so we tried to go bare-bones.

Our Get Home bags have first aid kits and medication (Stop the Bleed kits are on order), supplies for fire making, extra magazines, assorted knives, food, collapsible water containers and life straws, lights, pens/paper, a small solar panel for charging devices, and the most important thing - TP! There are a few other lightweight things in there that I forgot to list, I'm sure. We tried to keep in mind that these are not Bug Out Bags, they're Get Home bags. We might have to walk quite a way to get home, so we had to balance the equipment we wanted against how much weight we could carry for extended distances.

Even keeping that in mind, our bags weigh in at right about 12#. There are a couple of other things we're waiting to have delivered, but I think we'll manage to stay less than 15#. To make sure we can haul them around when we need to, we'll start wearing them on walks around the farm road. That way, we can address any rubbing or weight distribution issues in advance (in addition to building the muscle strength required to carry that weight for extended distances).

Our hiking day packs were a lot easier to pack, but had some very similar supplies: first aid kit and meds, Stop the Bleed kit, blister care, food, toilet paper, plus cheap rain ponchos, and a water bladder.  We don't expect to spend more than a few hours on the trails, so we cut back on the "survival" gear, though we do each have solar blankets in case we have to hunker down. The water is going to be the heaviest part of our hiking packs, so just like with our Get Home bags, we'll wear those around the farm roads to check for rubbing and to make sure we can carry them easily.

The little Get Home bag I mentioned earlier got stripped down and will be my dedicated range emergency kit. I moved a lot of supplies to my "big" bag, and kept just the boo-boo and oh shit kits, along with extra magazines, and a "get back" knife. With its decreased weight, it'll be a lot more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time on the range. It'll still live slung over the passenger seat in my car, within easy reach, but its primary job is now for the range.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Baloo Update

 I decided my new bow needed a name, so Baloo Bear it is. Now let's see if I can manage to not sing "Bear Necessities" every time I take him out for a range trip.


Just being generous and sharing the ear worm. Enjoy :)

Anyway ... let's get back on track.

Before the storm arrived over the weekend, Jay and I went to the archery range. I wanted to get Baloo sighted in, and Jay wanted to dress his bow up. While his bow was getting his accoutrements, I did my best to get my bow sighted in.


It's opposite of sighting in a rifle, so I had to think a bit each time. I was told to "chase the arrow", so after my first three shots were down and to the right, I had to move my sight to the right. Still seems backward to me. 

It didn't take too long to get the windage correct, by just moving the sight a bit at a time. As long as I paid attention to my form and release, I did okay, but there were times when I screwed something up and had a flyer.

Bottom left arrow? Flyer.
Holes in the black and blue? Flyers.

I'd like to say that the ones in the yellow were intentional, but I think that was dumb luck, as I was just beginning to adjust elevation. I didn't do a ton of shooting, only about 20 at this point, but shoulder fatigue was starting to set in.

I wanted to dial in elevation just a touch more, so let fly another few sets of three. One set was freaking awesome! Unfortunately, it highlighted that I might be consistent, but not accurate (yet). 




I couldn't duplicate this if I tried! Love me some beginner's luck. About that time, Jay's bow was ready and my arms were shaking, so I thought it'd be a good time to wind up. I'm not sure if my elevation is correct or not. There are some decent shots in the yellow, and I felt like I was pretty steady on those three, but could have been dropping them due to muscle fatigue.

One more trip to the range with fresh shoulders should get us dialed in. 

I'm excited to join Jay at some of the nearby outdoor ranges this summer!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

I Adopted A Bear

Sort of. 

It's a Bear Cruiser G2 compound bow, but still.

A few years ago I bought GunDude Jay a bow for his birthday and kind of played around with the idea of eventually getting one of my own. Yesterday was "eventually" and we went to an amazing place, Rocky Mountain Archery in Fort Collins. The staff was incredible, not only with me, a complete novice, but with the kids who were in and out. There were so many families and children in the store and the range. Every single employee who interacted with a young 'un treated them with respect, looked them in the eyes, explained whatever they didn't understand, and never once seemed impatient. They treated the kids the same way they treated the adults, they did not talk down to them, or talk around them. The kids were their customers and were treated as such. Even if I hadn't planned on buying anything yesterday, I would have, just to support such a great company.

Speaking of treating people with respect and showing patience, the gentleman (I think his name was Colin?) who helped me spent a lot of time helping me to not only find the bow that fit my needs, but he took the time to *literally* fit the bow to me. I am a rank novice with archery. The last time I played bows and arrows I was in Girl Scouts some 40 years, and I used a recurve bow.

He didn't just help me find a bow and send me on my way, he took me to the range and gave me a quick lesson on how to stand, how to draw, etc. My only criteria was that my new bow couldn't be pink. Yet, one of two that we thought would work for me was pink, so I sucked it up and tried it out.


It did match my lavender shirt, though.

Unfortunately, the not-pink bow wasn't going to work. He couldn't adjust the pull weight low enough (safely) for my wimpy arms to draw it. I started to try to talk myself into the pink bow, but before I'd convinced myself to just suck it up and buy it, a co-worker reminded him of a different bow that might work.

That's when he broke out the Bear. Not only not-pink, but adjustable enough to fit me. As I get stronger and more comfortable with my bow, we can increase the pull weight if necessary, but we didn't have to decrease it so much that it became unstable like we would have with the other not-pink bow.



Once we decided the Bear was going to work for me, he then spent time helping adjust the peep sight and explaining how it worked. He explained everything thoroughly, from how to adjust my sights, to caring for my bow strings, to arrows (sticks) and tips. 

Sadly, I've never had such great customer service in a gun shop. And, sadly, while I thought I gave good customer service when I worked at the shop, I was nowhere near this good. We're talking Chick-Fil-A level customer service.

I still have to figure out how to actually sight in my bow, but I know if I go back and use their range to do so that they'll help me out and not make me feel stupid for not knowing.

I'm excited to step out of my comfort zone and learn a new skill. And I'm not gonna lie, something about my new Bear makes me feel like a total badass.

(Oh! I almost forgot! I can mount my Mantis to my bow and it can help analyze what I'm doing right or wrong - I think it'll be helpful to have a coach in my phone.)

Monday, February 8, 2021

KORE Essentials belt

 A little problem back in December had me looking for a new belt. The problem? I'd lost enough weight that when I put my usual belt on, the tongue overlapped too much and I couldn't tuck it in under my magazine carrier. Normally, I don't wear an external magazine carrier, so hadn't noticed my belt had gotten too big. Luckily, that day, my velcro under-belt for my duty belt stepped in and saved the day.


I knew I'd have to buy a new gun belt, but had no idea what I wanted. I have a couple from GunGoddess and I love them, but they're Western-styled and I'm not always about wearing my Wranglers and boots. I wanted to find a quality gun belt that I could wear with regular jeans and tennis shoes. As I was whining to Jay about it, he told me he'd just ordered a belt from KORE.

Now, as you know, I'm hardly a girly-girl, so the fact that it's KORE Essentials For Men didn't bother me one bit. All I needed was an EDC belt that didn't look like my old 5.11 training belt. While I like my 5.11 belt, it is not for every day wear. At least not for me. I looked through the options and found a belt that looked like it would work. I don't think it's overly "manly", and it doesn't really scream "gun belt" to me.

I had Dave Spaulding's Kinetic Pistol class looming and knew I needed a good quality belt for class and that my current belts weren't going to work, so I placed my order.



Weirdly (for me, at least), you don't order the belt by size. You choose the belt and the buckle you want and they send it to you, and it's up to the customer to cut it to size. They include instructions for determining the correct length to cut it down to, dependent on whether you are planning to OWB or IWB. 

This might be fairly straightforward for men, but it was a little trickier for me. Women's pants are stupid. Some ride just below the waist, some ride just above the hips. And I'm not talking just jeans, even my 5.11 pants ride differently. One pair is at my waist; one pair just above my hips. Depending on a woman's build, the difference between the waist and hips can be inches. Because of that, finding the right length to cut the belt down was difficult. It took me a couple of tries to find a length that worked with all of my pants, OWB and IWB.

I managed to get it cut down to the right size a week or so before I left for Phoenix, for Dave's class. I knew using the belt in a two-day class would make or break it for me - by the end of class I was either going to love the belt, or hate it.

One of the cool things about it is that there aren't any holes for a belt buckle, so you can adjust it in 1/4" increments instead of the traditional 1" increments. It makes finding "just the right" tightness easier. I'd worn the belt for a few days before class and knew it was comfortable and that I liked it, but was looking forward to putting it to the test in class.

For two days, the belt remained comfortable and distributed the weight of the gun and extra magazine very well. I did find that if I wanted to wear my mag carrier as close to centerline as possible, that I had to clip it onto my pants first, and then run the belt through it, but that was an easy solution. It probably had more to do with the tight clasp of my mag carrier than the belt.

Before I got my KORE belt, when I wanted to IWB appendix, I had to almost wear my gun in a cross-draw position. The larger belt buckle of my go-to gun belts meant that I couldn't easily carry my gun on the right side (about 12:15) and ended up having to carry it on the left (about 11:45). That wasn't super comfortable, so I was extremely excited to be able to move my gun back to where it was most comfortable. 

Prior to taking Dave's course, I'd worn the KORE belt with an OWB holster in class to teach with, and was pleasantly surprised that when I had to use the bathroom, the holster didn't slip. With all of my other gun belts, as soon as I buckled to unzip, the weight of the gun would pull on the belt, threatening to flap over. With this belt, the holster and gun didn't even think of moving. It was like magic. 

As far as EDC belts go, this one was worth the money. It's sturdy enough that if I had to rack my gun off of it I could do it without a problem. It's comfortable enough to wear all day. And it's adjustable in 1/4" increments, so if it becomes necessary to loosen it, it's easy to do. And I've mentioned that with OWB, I don't have to worry about my gun/holster flapping around.

If you're looking for a good EDC belt, and you're not worried about finding a belt for women, this was a great investment.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Mantis Blackbeard

I feel like I should just remind everyone that with very, very rare exception, everything that we review on this page is something we've purchased ourselves. This allows us to be very honest in our opinions. I think the last free item I received for review was several years ago, and - oh boy, did I upset some people. When I review something and I love it (or hate it), I really do love it (or hate it). We make no money running this blog and our views are not "bought".

Now that that's out of the way - the Mantis Blackbeard ...



Jay really opened Pandora's box when he got me the X10 Elite for my birthday last year. He knew I was a training junkie, but neither of us realized I was also a data junkie. 

At the end of December, we had an "Instructor Development" day with our ARs and after only three hours I was gassed. I can shoot a pistol all day long, but shouldering that rifle took more work than I'm used to. I vowed to do more dry fire with it at home so I could build up the core muscles needed.

I did follow through on my vow to practice dry fire. For one session. I mounted the Mantis to the rail and got to work. Turns out that having to cycle the bolt after every shot was as tiring as mounting the rifle. Probably really good for building muscles, but frustrating and time-consuming. 

About that time, I started seeing ads pop up about the Mantis Blackbeard. I didn't really know what it was about, so last week I decided to go to the website and dig into it. I watched a couple of videos and became more intrigued.

An system that auto-sets the trigger? A system that doesn't require me to cycle the bolt and have to re-shoulder the rifle after each round? Oh, hells yes!

I sat on it for about a day before I decided to just give them my money. I initially intended to buy the one without the laser, because my plan was just to put my Mantis X10 on my rifle and use them together. However, the system with the laser was only about $20 more and gave me the option of utilizing their Mantis Laser Academy. I have no idea what the Mantis Laser Academy is, but since I'm in love with all things Mantis, I'll probably find out sooner rather than later.

When I placed my order there was a warning that because of a large volume of orders, mine might be delayed up to 30 days. I sighed, but with ammo what it is, I figured I could wait another 30 days. Imagine my surprise when it arrived on my doorstep less than a week after I ordered it!

I immediately pulled the "magazine" out of the case and plugged it in to charge. My plan was to use today to try out the system. It is as easy as they say: remove your charging handle and BCG, replace with the system's polymer one, slap the 'magazine' in and you're ready to rock and roll. In seconds, my rifle went from a fully functioning, live-fire rifle to basically an inert training gun.


Since I didn't plan on using the laser, I left it alone and didn't bother zeroing it in. However, since it is set to fire with every trigger press, I can see that it is pretty well zeroed right out of the box. If you do intend to use the laser with your training, remember height over bore when you're zeroing it.

It took me exactly five rounds to fall in love. I didn't even hook up the Mantis, I just put the system in my gun, aimed at my 3"x3" sticky note on the wall and pressed off five quick rounds. Holy cow! Not having to cycle the bolt after every round is so lovely.

Jay had purchased some Runner Mounts a few months ago and was kind enough to put one up for me. Our rifle storage is a bit ... cluttered ... and hard to get to, so being able to slip my rifle onto one of the mounts when I'm not using it is handy. A word of caution: the Runner Mount is not secure storage and will not protect your rifle from unauthorized users. However, since my rifle is inert and incapable of firing live rounds right now, having it readily accessible for dry fire training is wonderful. Since we don't have young kids around the house, I'm comfortable with this 'storage' solution for us.

With the rifle accessible for training, I slipped the Mantis on the rail and put the Blackbeard magazine in my gun. I only managed about a hundred rounds and can immediately see that I've got work to do.

The work I have to do is not only with my trigger manipulation, but with building my core strength. After only 100 rounds, my right SI joint is sore. Sadly, I see planks in my future, along with really focusing on having a good, solid stance. 

My first impression of the Blackbeard is that it does work as advertised. It does take only seconds to install the system. The automatic trigger reset is awesome (and it makes a cute little noise with every reset that makes me giggle), and I love being able to practice with the same gun I shoot with. After 100 rounds, I'm in love with the system and give it two thumbs up! It is well worth the $219.00 (+ S&H and tax) I spent on it, and it'll pay for itself in about another 100 rounds.

Side note: one thing I noticed was that when I changed my settings in the Mantis app to rifle, it opened up a whole new file of different training options, specific to rifles. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Suicide Prevention

In December, 2020, I had the opportunity to take a class called "At the Intersection of Guns and Mental Health: The Introductory Course".

It was an excellent course which introduced me to Walk The Talk America. WTTA is, in their own words, "bridging the gap between mental health and safe gun ownership". I think it's an important thing to acknowledge that suicide by firearm is a big problem, and also that gun owners tend to avoid seeking help for their mental health due to the fear that they will have their guns taken from them.

One of the coolest things WTTA does is offer a free, anonymous mental health screenings for multiple mental health issues. They're also working with educating mental health professionals on how to talk to gun owners. Though we may not think of gun owners as a "culture", it truly is, and mental health professionals should be well-versed in how to help those of us in this culture.

I can't do WTTA justice here, so do yourselves a favor and click on over to their site to explore. 

Books!

In each class I teach, I take a handful of books that I recommend to students. I firmly believe that learning should not stop with just one class. The fact is, many students never go on to take another class, so I like to give them other resources. I'm a complete book nerd, so I share books with them that I find useful.

During my last class, I had a student who asked if I had my recommended books posted on the blog and I realized I'd overlooked doing do. I've since rectified that. You can find my book recommendations under the "GunDiva's Teaching Library" tab on the home page.

If you're interested in discussing self-defense books, or are looking for recommendations, check out GunDiva's Book Club on Facebook.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Mantis X10 Elite

Back in July, GunDude Jay gave me a Mantis X10 Elite for my birthday. 


I had recently invested in a couple of DryFireMags to use in classes to teach trigger reset. While it doesn't give an exact trigger reset, it's a great way to teach the concept to newer shooters. When I wasn't using the mags in class, I was using them at home for dry fire practice. They are great for what they are and I don't regret investing in them at all.

However, the Mantis ... Wow. If you follow our Instagram or Facebook page, you've likely seen several posts about the Mantis. To say I love the product would be an understatement. I never much thought of myself as a data girl, but it turns out I'm incredibly competitive with myself and comparing my scores from one shot to another is addictive.

I did find, after owning both the DryFireMags and the Mantis, that you can buy a DryFireMag with an integrated Mantis. However, since I already own each individually, I'm not going to drop the money to buy an integrated one.

Back when I first started shooting, I was diligent about dry fire practice. Sort of. I was really working on my draw stroke, and finishing with one shot. I can't say that I did any focused dry fire practice for more than a shot or two. If I found I was flinching, I might stick a dime up on my slide and do a few trigger presses, but that was about it.

This Mantis has been a game changer. I immediately put it on my M&P 2.0 and tried it out. Five "shots" in and I was in love. Included in the X10 Elite is a course to help familiarize you with the system, and three courses to increase accuracy. I whipped through the introduction course and couldn't wait to get more. The Basic Marksmanship and the Advanced Marksmanship went pretty quickly - just a couple of days for Basic and a week or so for Advanced. The Compressed Surprise Break is my nemesis.

The system quickly found my weaknesses (hello, Compressed Surprise Break). I can be accurate, or I can be fast, but so far, I can't be both. My goal is to work on combining the two. When I get in a hurry, I tend to slap the trigger. When I'm trying for accuracy, I slow down way too much. It can take me seconds to press the trigger.

I did manage to fight my way through my mental block with the Compressed Surprise Break and earn my Advanced Marksmanship patch.


I'm currently working on the Elite Marksmanship badge, and I tell you, if I could stop over-thinking everything, I would have finished it already. But, I'm female and over-thinking is what we do.

The feedback from the system can be brutal, but it's completely objective. I can choose to pay attention to the data, or I can continue to suck. I thought I was doing pretty well with my dry fire, so I decided to take my show on the road and see how I did live fire. Boy, was that a hard pill to swallow.





I definitely had stuff to work on with live fire, and the Mantis showed me in black and white where I was screwing up.

However, there are moments like this (dry fire at home):





To say using the Mantis for dry fire practice is addictive would be an understatement. I've "shot" 3,017 rounds, which is a huge ammo savings. The fact that I can use my Mantis for both dry and live fire, on my pistols, rifles, and shotgun makes me love it even more.

My Glock 43x doesn't have an accessory rail, and to be honest, the stick-on accessory rail that came with the kit was crap, so I bought a Recover Tactical accessory rail that went on to my Glock in seconds. It holds the Mantis nicely, though I had to have a friend mold a holster to accommodate the rail and mounted Mantis.



Since the 43x is my EDC and I only had one OWB holster for it, I eventually used my teaching money to purchase a second 43x for practice purposes. I can now carry my EDC 43x in all of my 'normal' holsters, and practice with the other one. All I can say is thank goodness for the students who are willing to pay to take classes so I can buy 'training aids'.

In talking to someone who also has the Mantis, I found that I could buy baseplates for my magazines that I could attach the Mantis to without having to have special holsters for drawing practice. Since I am 100% drinking the Mantis Tech kool-aid, I bought a baseplate for the 43x and for my M&P 2.0. Now I can practice my draw stroke from any of my holsters with either gun.

I have seen the Blackbeard for the AR system on Active Self Protection's FB page and went looking for that. I desperately need more practice with my AR, but hate cycling the bolt every time. I was pretty excited about the Blackbeard system until I saw the price. I need to teach a few more classes before I can throw out another $199.00 plus shipping and tax. However ... I found the TRT Tap Rack system for a 9mm for only $8.99. Guess what went into my cart?

With the ammo shortage what it is, I cannot recommend the Mantis system enough. You can purchase the MantisX 10 Elite for way less than a case of ammo and it will pay for itself is around 400 'shots'.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

New Year: Time to tune up the gear!

 Greetings Gundivas,  Happy New Year!

Its a new year.  2020 has turned 21 and is probably on its way to start a wild year of blackout binge drinking. (Not like it hasn't already been doing that)

Since that is not my cup of tea, I decided to shake off the cabin fever and take a couple of my target rifles out to tune them up and verify all is well.  You should do this if your firearm hasn't been used in a long while or if you change something (mount a new scope, change triggers, etc)

It was a good day.  Both rifles are doing great by the end of the session.  One was spot on with no adjustments needed, the other was off.  It was 3 inches low and required fine tuning.  This is why you need to verify your gear before you hit the field.

First up was the Remington 700 LTR.

- Stock Remington 700 LTR (medium weight barrel)

- .308 Winchester

- 20 inch barrel

- KRG X-ray Chassis

- Burris XTR II 4-20 Scope

- Thunderbeast Ultra 7 Silencer

- Shooting Federal Gold Metal Match 175 grain

The Remington was still on and required no additional adjustment.  It pulled a little low.  I think this was bad trigger control on my part than the rifle itself.  The Remington is good to go to the next match or class.  All groups were inch and better.




 

Next up is the Tikka T3X.

- Stock Tikka T3X CTR (medium weight barrel)

- 6.5 Creedmoor

- 20 inch barrel

- KRG Bravo Chassis

- Steiner T5Xi 3-15 Scope

- Thunderbeast Ultra 9 Silencer

- Shooting Hornady 143 ELD-X Precision Hunter

As you can see, the Tikka started out 3 inches low at 100 yards and needed a little fine tuning.  I'm not sure what caused the zero to shift.  Maybe switching from the Ultra 7 to Ultra 9 silencer did it.  Or I  did something the last time before I put it into the safe.  I don't know.  All groups were inch and better. (After adjustment)

 

 

This is why you verify your gear before you hit the field.  

Let's make 2021 a great year.  Get out there, verify your gear is good to go and let's go shooting.  (If we can find ammunition)


-Gundude Mez

January 2021

Friday, January 1, 2021

Challenge Yourself


I didn't realize until it was posted on Facebook that my best friend had taken the above photo of me shooting his Stacatto (formerly STI) C2 9mm 2011 at a range of about 55 yards. We were out at his property for the first get together since too long before COVID came along and ruined everyone's year shooting a little bit of everything. He brought along his brace of very nice 2011s (3 Stacattos and a Chambers Custom), and I brought along some .22s and my Glock 30. We had been shooting mostly at 10-20 yards just knocking the rust and cobwebs loose. Somewhere along the way, he decided to walk things back a good bit. I decided "Why not?" I had never, to my recollection, attempted serious target shooting with a handgun at ranges beyond 25 yards. 

Much to my surprise, I was ringing the green, half sized, steel silhouette target without any real trouble at all with both my Glock and his Stacatto. To be honest, getting hits with a commander sized 9mm 2011 can be done more consistently and easier than with a compact .45 ACP Glock, but it CAN BE DONE! Even though I have had access to ranges longer than 25 yards for many years, it had never occurred to me to practice at distances longer than that. I mean, I've read articles about it. It just never dawned on me to give it a try for myself. 

So, why would anyone in their right mind want to try and shoot a handgun at that distance or further? Well....1) 'cause 'Merica dang it, 2) as far as 55 yards sounds, it's still close enough to be "in imminent danger and in fear of your life" in the self defense context should someone point a weapon in your direction with intent to do you harm, 3) handgun hunting is a thing or so I am told, 4) smoke...noise...do the math.

I think shooting on public ranges (indoor or outdoor) tends to ingrain certain limitations on our perceptions about what is/is not possible with a certain firearm. So, this year, I intend to make a concerted effort to step outside my comfort zone and stretch the boundaries of my thinking and abilities when it comes to firearms. I may never have a chance to drop a deer at 600 yards with a ,44 Magnum (as Elmer Keith claimed to have done), but it'd be nice to be able to say that I COULD make that shot if it presented itself. 

What are your goals for the new year (besides finding ammo)?