Friday, February 03, 2006

freedom vs blasphemy

The recent brouhaha about the political cartoons posted in a Norwegian newspaper opened up an international can of worms. Reason has a good write-up about it in a "hit and run" blog here, and gleefully add follow-up comments here and here and there.

They also mention the US Joint Chiefs of Staff's objection to a Toles cartoon here.

There are also links to the "offending images" in the cited articles, although if you haven't yet seen the Muhammed 'cartoons' you can find them reprinted in the Brussels Journal here, or here.

I have decided to neither host the cartoons, nor to display them here, out of deference to the only Muslim friend I have; a Lebenon-born immigrant named Issam with whom it has been my pleasure to work for the past ten years. I haven't discussed this issue with Issam because I'm inclined to judge him as an individual, and I don't think he's the type to threaten to kill people because they have offended him. I assume he's typical of most muslims, and I consider him my friend although he is certainly not an admirer of President Bush. (Most of the people with whom I work on a university campus are not admirers of President Bush, and I decline to discuss politics at the office; instead, I discuss politics here. It's a lot less stressful than declaring jihad on Liberals or others who don't agree with my political philosophy.)

I've looked at all of the cartoons, and frankly I don't understand the point of half of them. Most of them aren't obviously depicting the Prophet Mohammed (spelling varies, I'll use this because it's more familiar to me), but it's fair to assume that at least some of them do. Many of them obviously link muslims to violence, and considering the upsurge in violence caused by muslims, that seems fair to me, too.

However, I will provide a link to the Toles cartoon, in case you have never seen it, and a direct link to it here.

The images which muslims find offensive were originally commissioned and published by a Danish newspaper last September. I'm still unable to completely understand why the Danes did this, but I assume that they were trying to build circulation by publishing something controversial (Human Events suggests, in the above link, they did it to send the message that "we cannot be intimidated." That didn't work very well, I think.) Nobody paid much attention to them at the time, and it was not until the Norskis (who don't like that name) republished them in January ... presumably for the same reason ... that they appeared on the Event Horizon.

If I do understand at least part of this correctly, Muslims don't believe that the image of the Prophet Muhammed (Mohammad?) should ever be printed, as it is disrespectful. And when the image is presented in a deliberately disrespectful manner, it is considered blasphemous. Even when the cartoons are reproduced by a muslim editor to counsel moderation. In one case, the Jordanian goverment called for sanctions against a newspaper there which reprinted the images.)

And Norwegian Muslims want their government to establish "anti-blasphemy laws" against this sort of thing.

Anti-blasphemy laws? In a secular country? What IS the world coming to?

I don't know if they're right, but in the particular circumstances it appears that these 'cartoons' are deliberately disrespectful and incinderary. Muslims the world over are outraged, and I don't really blame them. Well, perhaps except for the anti-blasphemy thing.

One man's "blasphemy" is another man's "freedom of speech", and I've probably been too long an American citizen to believe that "blasphemy" is a justification for "hardline muslims" to occupy embassies in muslim countries; or for threats against the life of Danish or Norwegian nationals. As for burning the national flag of home countries of newspapers which published the images . . . well, people burn national flags all the time and frankly I believe it has become a legitimate expression of disdain. If you're an American, the sight of another flag-burning doesn't quite have the same shock value it once had, so go ahead and burn them. We'll make more. (Well, actually China will make more, and we'll buy them from the Chinese because they're so CHEAP! But don't get me started.)

"Blasphemy" is just one more step on the slippery slope which leads to assassination of movie-makers. I admit, I'm no fan of Michael Moore or Bareback Brokeback Mountain, but that's just because I'm not interested in the story of two lonely cowboys so lame that they can't get a date with a good-looking heifer on a Saturday night. I'm voting with my pocketbook, folks; I'm not threatening to assasinate movie producers

Let's compare the muslim reaction to images of their prophet, to the American reaction to the Toles cartoon.

Toles showed a person in a hospital bed, with no arms and no legs. The chart at the foot of the bed was labelled "U.S. ARMY", and the graph displayed was down-hill (a negative prognosis?) A figure labelled "Dr. Rumsfield". He says: "I'm listing your condition as 'battle-hardened'." The obvious implication is that the U.S. Army has suffered grevious wounds, and the Secretary of Defense refuses to acknowledge that it is no longer capable of continuing to function.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States of America pooled all of their power and . . . wrote a letter protesting the cartoon.

That's it.

Muslims threaten to kill people, Americans write a letter.

It's an amazing coincincence, if you believe in coincidence, that TWO cartoon-related incidents occurred within a couple of days of each other. Also, to compound the coincidence, consider that the Tole cartoont provided a perfect opportunity for the American government to demonstrate a civilized response, in direct contrast to the response of muslims the world over.

I don't really believe that Toles drew the cartoon at the behest of our government, but neither would I be surprised if he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for performing a great and valuable service. It set up a beautiful reposte, at no cost to America except for a measured response of righteous indignation.

When the Muslim world begins to understand that threats of violence, or violence itself, is not an acceptable response to insult (even an insult to your religion), then they will be ready to join the rest of civilization in building a world which allows different viewpoints to exist. Until we, and they, reach this point we won't have a reasonable chance of survival.

A couple of days ago, I read an article about a Muslim website for children, in which Hesbollah essentially demands the return of Seville to Muslim hegemony. I was surprised to learn that Muslims ruled Seville for a thousand years, and was even more surprised that this terrorist group has now decided that they could begin pressing their claim to a land and a people which they had controlled through right of conquest.

THIS is the most disquieting event in recent weeks, to my mind. A people so blind to the right of others to practice their own religion and culture in peace, is a people who are capable of any injustice in furtherance of their own agenda.

It may not be enough for us to provide examples of 'measured reaction', but ultimately it's encouraging that someone had the good sense to take that step, anyway.

Of course, the madmen who are orchestrating this violence-fueled drive to rule the world on their terms won't even notice what's going on. I hope that there are a few muslims left who CAN see it, though.

It won't solve anything by itself, but at least it's a small step in the right direction.

Oh, yes; one more thing:
If you're a newspaper editor, and you have decided to demonstrate that you "cannot be intimidated", you might consider that the attention you generate by deliberately provoking a group of extremist may have repercussions more extreme than you expect, and that they targetted group might just land some innocent people in deep doo-doo. I'm talking about Danish companies whose products are currently being boycotted by muslims, and the burning of embassies.

Muslims the world over are joyfully indulging in the opportunity to spank western butt.

Hey, Danish Editors ... maybe you CAN be intimidated.

"You know, nasty little fellows such as yourself always get their comeuppance."

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

XL650: .38 Super

AsI mentioned in the first half of this 2-part series about the Dillon XL650 reloading press, after 9 years of usage I had accumulated set-ups for several calibers ... specifically, 9x19, .45acp and 10mm pistol calibers.

A2K and STI:f
In 2000, SWMBO and I flew to Watervleit, NY, for the A2k Aware Match (Aware, 2000). My online (Unofficial IPSC List) friend Patricia LeGere was the MD, and her husband Warren was the Range Master for what turned out to be one of the best organized match I have ever attended, USPSA Nationals not withstanding.

We had volunteered to work the match, as Range Officers. SWMBO was a RO, and I had been a Certified Range Officer (CRO) since 1997. Still, this was the first Major Match we had worked, and we were pretty excited about both the match and the trip. We had never flown cross-country with guns, gone to a match farther from the Pacific Ocean than Nevada, or in fact been to New York at all. And, in point of fact, we had never met Pat or Warren, although I had been corresponding via the Internet with Pat and a group of like-minded IPSC competitors such as Arnie Christianson, Troy McManus, and Pete Goloski (Julie's father).

We got on a plane in Portland, Oregon on a Wednesday morning and spent the entire day flying. This is not one of SWMBO's favorite ways to spend the day, so by the time we landed in Albany, NY, via Atlanta (don't ask) she wasn't feeling well at all.

SWMBO spent the next day in bed, and in the can. I walked across the street from the motel (reservations and payment courtesy of AWARE) and had breakfast, then walked back in the rain where Pat was waiting to take me to the range.

We spent two days helping set up the stages, and Warren LeGere taught me everything I now know about stage design and construction. The man is a literal genious, and I'm disappointed that the LeGere's have burned out and are no longer running AWARE matches.

The match was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, but Friday was the RO match. We had brought only one gun ... the 10mm STI Edge ... with four magazines, one belt (which didn't fit SWMBO all that well), and a ton of 10mm ammunition.

I shot the RO match on Friday Morning, all 12 stages, and it was a blast. I was squadded with Michael Chludenski and "Tillman" (a vendor, darned if I can remember his first name offhand), and a third guy who I can't remember at all. Embarassing, but it was a while ago and I'm old so I can be forgiven these lapses of memory as easily as I can be forgiven for this diversion from the main theme.

I had no problems with the match, other than it was so challenging that I was often not able to shoot up to my class.

SWMBO shot the match in the afternoon, and had a couple of problems. In stage 4, she dropped her fully loaded 140mm magazine during the Load and Make Ready, and the RO there courteously picked it up and handed it to her, so she stuck it in the gun and assumed the ready position.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usDid I mention that the surface at the Watervliet Gun Club is sand? No? Well, it's a funny thing what sand does when it gets inside a hi-tech pistol. It stops it, right now. SWMBO got off 3 shots in a twenty-something stage with a lot of tiny Steel Plates,Free Image Hosting at and had to fight the gun for the rest of the stage, before she finally realized that her time was going to be so long that it didn't matter how many targets she hit, or even shot at. She quit about half-way through the stage, and if she didn't zero the stage it was close enough.

We had been cleaning the gun every other stage, because the hard-cast bullets and cheezy Unique powder combined to foul it pretty fast. The gun had been cleaned (and oiled) before this stage, but we cleaned it again as well as the magazine, and wiped down any ammo that had been in a magazine that was in the gun. Sand was everwhere. That's when I realized that, with a tight slide-to-frame fit, you can't afford to compete with anything but the best powder and bullets available.

The point of this trip down memory lane is that Dave Skinner, President and CEO of STI International, was running a table in the vendor tent, and while Sandie was drooling over a hard-chromed STI Tru-Bore with pink grips, I was finally meeting personally another denizen of the Unofficial IPSC List. I found Dave to be personally charming, technically competent. For example, he told me that "a gun is a machine. It needs oil to work right. Oil on a gun is good; more oil is better.")

He's also a brilliant reconteur, and our evenings around the campfire in the court of the match hotel will remain among my favorite memories. (This impression may be, in part, because one of the benefits of voluteering to work the match for per diem, match fees and lodging, and in recompense for our having paid over $1000 for our travel expenses, Pat had offered to provide all the Crown Royale I could drink around the campfire.)

When I got back to Oregon, I contacted the vendor which Dave had recommended and bought the first of many cases of Montana Gold (200 grain jacketted) bullets for the 10mm. I also ordered a four-pound keg of Vihta Vourhi N320, which works just FINE in the Edge without fouling the frame rails ... and it is a fine-grain powder, so it measures a lot more accurately than did the egrigious Hercules Unique. The only problem is, it's not available 'locally', so you have to look around for a reliable supply. The bullets can be ordered directly from Montana Gold, and I've found that they are an excellent company to do business with.

The next year, 2001, SWMBO and I attended the Area 1 tournament in Washington. We realized that we couldn't reasonably share a gun here because we would be competing in the same squad. Consequently, SWMBO opted to shoot The Beloved Kimber (rather than the S&W 659, which made holes too small for her to see) and I shot the Edge.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usTo our delight, we were squadded with a lot of people that we had known either well or peripherably, including Jim "Bumstead" Boemler, Dave Skinner, Steve "Zippy" Zopfi, Randy "Randomly Hitten'" Witten, Mark "Hobo Brasser" O'Shea, George "Earthworm" Jones and his son Bryan "Inchworm" Jones. (George and Jim had come to Oregon in previous years to compete in both the CCS Sectional and the Dundee Croc Match. Mark and Randy are locals, and Steve lives in Washington and was not only a friend of Jim's but also an IPSC List subscriber.)

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usDuring the match, Dave watched SWMBO fight the recoil of The Beloved Kimber ... the only pistol I own which works better with cast lead bullets and chunky powder than with more sophisticated ammunition components ... and commented that it was a shame that I made such a nice girl fight the old clunker. The first evening of the match, we took over Bumstead's house for an impromptu BBQ, and somebody (I think it was Witten) brought along a couple of bottles of spirits. One thing lead to another, and by the end of the evening Dave had made us an offer we couldn't refuse on a slightly used hard-chrome STI Tru-Bore race gun.

Being sober enough not to ignore a generous offer, I not only said yes, but "Hell Yes!". And forgot about it, because Dave had put his nose in the neck a couple of times that night, and I didn't think he would remember it the next day.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usImagine my surprise when, next week, I took legal posession of a beautiful STI Tru-Bore race gun with a hard-chrome finish, powder-blue grips, a "Parrot" OK sight,Free Image Hosting at one 10-round magazine, two 140mm magazines, and one 170mm magazine ... all STI manufacture, of course.

Dave is a man of his word, which is demonstrated daily by his business practices. You buy an STI, you've got not only one of the finest competition-quality pistols on the market today, you get a warranty that rivals that of Dillon itself. It breaks, send it back. They fix it, and send it back to you. Dave has become a friend, but he's a friend to every customer of STI. Everybody gets the same deal, although admittedly the Custom Shop has been pretty busy as their customer base has grown and turn-around time may occasionally been as strained as any of the better gunsmiths. Still, it's an all-American gun, and to misquote Jeremiah Johnson in reference to the Hawkens Rifle, "Hell, it were a genuine STI, and you can't get no better."

During this process SWMBO and I became Marketting Representatives, authorized to possess and use extended-capacity magazines for the purpose of demonstrating the product for LEO, Military and other potential customers. We were agents for the manufacturer, and thus authorized the same privileges as the manufacturer in regards to hi-cap magazines under the then-current laws regulating hi-cap mags. [whew!]

I was in a position of put-up-or-shut-up, so I ordered a case of Montana Gold 115 bullets, a thousand Winchester .38 Super cases, and a keg of Vihta Vourhi N350 powder. I was going by the load data of Jeff Maass's reloading page, and my own prejudice of quality components. Nothing but the best for SWMBO. Also, from Dillon I ordered a Safariiland belt combo and three Safariiland magazine carriers.

 border=Talking to local folks who used the .38 Super, I heard that many people preferred the .38 Super Comp brass rather than the ordinary .38 Super. I asked Dave about that (by email), and with typical Skinner candor he replied laconically: "Why you want to make it more complicated? The regular super brass works just fine, don't muck it up by spending more money on that Super Comp stuff." As usual, Dave was right and the gun ran just fine with .38 Super brass ... from any vendor, the gun didn't care as long as it was the rimmed case. (The extractor was tuned to that brass, and does NOT like the rimless .38 Super Comp brass. Didn't then, doesn't now, and we haven't changed the extractor yet.)

Looking at the Dillon catalogue, I realized that I could load .38 Super using the same Lee Dies that I had been using for the 9x19 cartridge. I didn't bother investing in special dies, just changed the seating depth on the second die and the charge on the powder measure, adjusted the crimp die, and started loading .38 super ammunition. I think it took me about 10 minutes to get the right combination. After that, I spent a couple of hours of range time with a chronograph to determine the best powder charge, and the gun ran like the proverbial fine Swiss watch.

The next year, I had some serious problems with the Columbia Cascade Sectional match. On one difficult stage, I had more penalty hits on close-set no-shoot targets than I got on the scoring targets. Well, it was a tough stage and I was under considerable competitive pressure. But a couple of weeks later, I happened to pick up my WWI 1911 and discovered that I couldn't see the sights. Looking again at the Edge, I found I couldn't see more than a blur where the sights should be, either.

I began a correspondance with Dave, asking him what changes he recommended to change the 10mm Edge into an Open gun. I mentioned that I was considering mounting a dot-sight, swapping the 10mm bull-barrel for a compensated barrel (I knew STI could build me one, or a competent gunsmith could thread the existing barrel and install a screw-on compensator.) I also asked about required changes to the slide and even the ejector.

Dave replied that he would hate to see me "muck up" a perfectly good gun, and made me another offer on a gun they had in their shop which had been built as (apparently) a prototype of the Competitor.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThus I ended up with another .38 Super to load for, albeit with a Scheumann Barrel and the necessary blast shield to protect the C-more sight.

I immediately put in an order for "replacement" 140mm and 170mm magazine tubes, springs and followers. NOT a manufactured magazine (illegal under then-current laws, and the vendor didn't have my documentation which stated that I was an "agent" for the manufacturer). I bought the magazine base-pads from another vendor, and was able to assemble completely legal hi-cap magazines for the pistol. I admit, the gun was so fun to shoot, I went a little crazy for a while there.

The Scheumann (I'm probably not spelling that correctly) barrel had an entirely different reaction to the load which I had been using for SWMBO's ammunition. I experimented with the loads, and found that the 7.9 gr VV N350 load with 115gr MG bullets was just a little light for that barrel. I increased the powder charge up to, eventually, 10 grains of VV N350 powder, and the Scheumann barrel handled it just fine!

Unfortunately, in SWMBO's gun it was just a little too hot, because the end-of-the barrel compensator didn't release the excess gas as quickly as the holes-in-the-barrel Scheumann barrel did. We saw not only flattening of the primers on rounds fired through that pistol, but in some cases the primer metal actually flowed around the firing-pin hole and over the boundary of the primer cup until it overlayed the base of the cartridge! Decidedly too hot for that gun. Finally, I settled on an 8.0 grain charge of powder, which seemed to be a usable compromise between the two guns.

In 2004, one year almost to the day from when I started using this load, I cracked the slide. STI was very nice about replacing both the barrel AND the slide, and I was able to get rid of the Scheumann Barrel. I was glad of that, because the blowback from the compensating ports was so powerful that I had already spent a few uncomfortable sessions in the Dentist's chair. I had cracked a tooth, which had to be ground down and capped. I wasn't happy about this, but I felt it was worth it to be shooting an Open gun and besides, it was an old tooth and I didn't actually LOSE it, I only had it replaced with the cap.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI note parenthetically that the people in my Section who had been working local matches as Range Officers were glad to hear that I had replaced the Scheumann barrel with a 'regular' barrel. They were being buffetted by the muzzle blast, whether I was shooting the "Loaner" gun or SWMBO was, even more than we were.

Now it is two years since my last change to the load data for the .38 super ammunition, which we shoot between 20,000 and 30,000 rounds per year.

The load has remained consistently at 8.0 grains of VV N350 behind a 115 grain MG Jacketted Bullet. (I won't supply the Over-All Length of the load, because I don't want to tempt anyone to assume that this load will work as well, or as safely, in their gun as it does in ours.) Our load chronograph consistently at about 171PF at major matches, and I don't expect to change it in the near future.

I should note, however, that the Dillon XL650 is getting old and has shown some wear.

Last Summer I replaced the Link Arms - a forged-steel connection between the body of the press and the cyliner. One of them broke, and I replaced both of them while I was doing my mechanical duties. Other parts which have broken include the platform assembly, and the entire Primer Feed Assembly. (Early models of the Primer Feed Assembly failed to protect the operator and the machine, and they were capable of mis-feeding the primers. I once crunched a primer while reloading 9mm ammo, and the primer blew up ... along with several other primers in the primer feed tube. Dillon replaced the entire assembly without change, as they have replaced all other parts of the reloading press, and I have experienced no other problems with this portion of the press.)

The Dillon XL650 is prone to cycling problems with small primers, and I can load ammunition using large primers much faster. The primer disk doesn't seem to align as perfectly and as consistently with the primer punch with small primers as it does with large primers.Free Image Hosting at To illustrate, if I have a constant source of components (including loaded primer feed tubes) and I'm feeling energetic, I can load 1000 rounds of .45acp or 10mm in about one hour, on a good day. Conversely, I load about 400 - 500 rounds of .38 Super in an hour. This is entirely due to the occasional problems conversant with using smaller components, both the primers and the cases (which sometimes don't 'drop' as perfectly as they should when reloading .38 super brass, but which almost always align perfectly using the large .45acp brass.)

My machine is about 15 years old now, and many parts have been replaced. I'm not a good mechanic, so my maintenance is not as good as it should be. I need to send it back to the factory so it can be reconditioned. I've been putting it off for three years now, because I just don't want to miss any club matches because I haven't loaded enough ammunition ahead of time to carry me through the period when the press is not set up and ready to reload.

But I can send it back to Dillon any time I want, and as long as it isn't during the winter (when most people send their loading press back for refurbushing), I can be confident that it will come back to me as good as new, and with a minimum of time lost.

It's just . . . hard for me to face the prospect of not having my XL650 already mounted on my loading bench, and ready to use.

I've grown accustomed to relying on it, and any time I want to spend a half-hour at the bench, I know I can load up enough ammunition to carry me through another club match.

That kind of reliability is hard to find, but I've found it from Dillon and STI.

Life is good.

Monday, January 30, 2006

2006 CCS Major Match Schedule

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usColumbia Cascade Section

Billing itself (rightly!) as "The Hottest Section in the USPSA", Columbia Cascade Section (CCS) in Oregon announced today the latest committment to host a major match:

The Multi-gun National National Championships

Here's the entire list, taken directly from the Section website:

Six (Yes 6!) major matches this year.

June: Area 1 Championships at the Newly Improved Tri-County Club, Sherwood, OR

July: The Tenth Annual Oregon Single Stack Championships at ARPC, Albany, OR

July: USPSA Multi-Gun National Championships at ARPC, Albany, OR

Aug: Columbia-Cascade Section Championships at ARPC, Albany, OR

Sept: Crocodile Dundee Banzai Ballistic Challenge Match (Crazy Croc) Dundee, OR

Sept: The Second Annual Oregon Glock Championships at ARPC, Albany, OR

(Please inquire of Mike McCarter at for details.)

I've written about the CCS Sectional, the Single Stack Championship, and the Croc Match during the past year. I haven't attended a 3-gun or multi-gun match, or a Glock match for that matter; and it has been a couple of years since I attended an Area 1 championship.

Like most people in the section, I'm very excited about the huge list of major matches which are being presented locally this year. This is the most ambitious year yet for this energetic section, and full credit should be given to Section Coordinator Mike "Mac" McCarter.

This boisterous line-up of IPSC and IPSC-type competition wouldn't have been possible without the extensive and expensive range improvements which have taken place at the ARPC and Tri-County ranges. I've mentioned them here before, in greater detail, but I can summarize them briefly: twelve bays at ARPC, THIRTEEN bays at Tri-County. Both ranges include four or five bays measuring about 100 feet on a side, and all bays are (or will be, by this summer) deeply graveled to make them all-weather usable.

The huge bays are supplemented by a number of smaller bays, which allows them to present a variety of stage designs using the available range area most efficiently.

Incidently, Tri County Gun Club is presenting it's Second Annual All-Shotgun ("Shotty") match this weekend, February 4, 2006. I attended the first annual Shotty last August, and came away with a killer shoulder bruise that took weeks to recover from. I'll probably be unavailable for this year's match, as I have to take my car into the Les Schwab tire store to fix the flat I found when I started out for the Dundee IPSC match last Saturday. Too bad, because I would like to attend the match just to take some photographs for the Geek Shooting Gallery! But I don't think I can make it up there in time for the 9am starting time, and I don't have a 'practical' shotgun.

Here's the blurb from TCGC club rep Rich Whitten:

The next IPSC 3-Gun match is this Saturday, and will be an all shotgun match. You will need at least 61 games loads and 10 buckshot - no slugs required. Setup starts at 7:30 AM, and the match will begin at 9AM.

If you're interested, you can email Rich at

Back to the Major Match Schedule.

I'll be competing in at least the Croc Match, the Sectional Match, the Single Stack Match and the Area 1 match. However, I may be working the Area 1 match as an RO, if I can talk SWMBO into doing the same and we get to work a stage together. And of course, I'll be there with my trusty Geek-Cam for as many matches as I can manage


Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usIt's going to be a great competitive year in Oregon. If you can find the time, and if you're at all interested in competing in some of the most innovative matches in America, come on up and join us.

By all means, if you see us at the match, stop and say hello to SWMBO and me!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

January '06 at Dundee

Winter matches are the time to try out new stage designs. In the Columbia Cascade Section, stages are often "Steel Heavy" because the rains make it necessary to put protective plastic bags over cardboard target, to keep the rain from soaking them so badly that we can't score the targets. One of the major problems is that when cardboard gets wet, the tape we put over the bullet holes often doesn't stick very well. There are few more frustrating experiences in IPSC competition as having to reshoot stages because the Range Officer (RO) just can't tell which bullet hole is yours, and which belonged to a previous competitor.

The weatherman was not our friend when we showed up at the Chehalem Valley Shooter's Club (Dundee, Oregon) for our regularly scheduled Saturday match on January 28, 2006. He had predicted up to an inch of rain, and high winds.

Rain is awkward; wind is unendurable. It blows over the cardboard IPSC targets, which catch the wind as handily as sails on a schooner. In extreme situations, it can blow over Steel Pepper Popper targets unless the stage setup crew has set them so 'heavy' that it's difficult for Minor Power rounds to knock them over when hit fairly.

During Oregon Winter matches, you can gauge the wind without ever being out in it. The lowest level is "D", for "Damn, there goes another target". A more severe wind is labelled "S", as in "Oh Shit, targets down ... hold up while we go reset them and add a few more sandbags to hold the target stands in place." The most sever winds, of course, are typified by the expression: "Damn! What the shit? There's another Friggin' Pepper Popper down!"

You can tell how strong the wind is without ever being outside, if you can hear the the jabber.

We got lucky this time.

The rain was intermittent, never very strong, and the wind did not attend. Thank You, Jesus!

We can handle a little rain. We've been learning how to deal with it for twenty years.

In fact, the weather was so clement that not only did we get through the match with no rain delays, I even got my GeekCam out and took a LOT of pictures ... most of them movies.

You can see the movies at Jerrydgeek's Shooting Gallery. In fact, I even have raw film uploaded here.

You can see the scores here.

I didn't film the entire match. We (our 12-man squad, including SWMBO) started out on Stage 5 in the Rifle Bay, followed by Stage 6. I had left my camera in the car because I expected heavy rain. But the weather was so nice, I picked up the camera when we went back up the hill to the Croc Bay and filmed as many shooters as I could for the rest of the day. I was unable to reconcile shooting pictures with meeting my obligations as a squad member, so I didn't get all of the very interesting pictures (such as when Pelican Bill skidded through a turn on Stage 2), but I got enough to make it worth bringing to your attention.

As difficult as it may be for some dedicated CCS readers to comprehend, others may not be entirely captivated by the following play-by-play narrative. However, after you view the videos, please feel free to come back here and read not only the description of the stages but also the evaluation of the relative merits of each stage.

Briefly, here's a description of the stages which I DID photograph:

The Croc Bay would be called Bay 1 at most ranges, as it is physically situated at the 'top of the hill'. Dundee gives credit to the unique L-shaped configuration of the bay by giving it a special name.

Today, the stage presented in that bay ("Steel From The Boxes") didn't take particular advantage of the shape of the bay. Instead, it was designed so it could be presented in any bay that was at least fifty feet on a side. Here, you engaged four Pepper Poppers from about 50 feet, plus two IPSC targets (bagged, of course). Then you moved to the right to a corner, represented by a "snow-fence" vision barrier, and after rounding a corner you were presented with four IPSC targets. Finally, you move downrange about 20 feet and engage the five small plates on a Texas Star at 30+ feet. The trick is to be able to engage long-range Pepper Poppers, the paper 'on the move', and have enough breath control to get the tiny Texas Star plates without succombing to the adrenaline rush generated by the time constraints.

Believe me, the Star is tough under any circumstances. And long-range Pepper Poppers are challenging to iron-sighted guns. When you put them together with a run in between, broken by hoser-mania inducing IPSC arrays, it's HARD to get back into the accuracy mode.

Here we see people who clean the initial Pepper Poppers, but who make otherwise unaccountable misses on the Star plates. Also, we see people who can't hit the long-range Pepper Poppers without a reload, but by the time they get down to shooting the Star . . . they knock 'em down by the numbers. I don't claim to understand it, but it's worth the time to look at the videos.

Bay 1:
Stage 1 (Bay 1 - Rainy Day Shuffle) is a technical stage. A 'memory course', you have to realize that you can't see every target from the same place, yet remember which IPSC targets you've already engaged from an earlier position.

The stage requires the competitor to start in the embarassing position of "holding a target over your head to protect you from the rain", a nod to the inclement weather conditions. It also forces the competitor to start from an awkward position, and ensure that the prop be tossed far enough away that it doesn't become a slipping hazard later in the stage.

Actually, it's possible to shoot a few targets from one position (not in the starting box), then move to another position and engage the rest of the targets. It's a 24-round stage, and most Open Shooters with big-stick mags were unwilling or unable to shoot the whole course of fire without a reload -- usually a standing reload. I only saw one person shoot with a single Big Stick, and the was the Amazing SWMBO.

Course description: there are five stacked plastic barrels (vison barriers), and there are US poppers behind four of them at 10 yards from the fault line; they can't all be seen from the same position. There are two Pepper Poppers in mid-range, and they MAY be seen from the same position.

At long-range (15+ yards from the fault line?) there are 5 IPSC targets, which may or may not be seen from the same position; but there are also six small plates on a plate rack which are not only a challenging target array but they tend to distract you from keeping track of how many of which targets you've already engaged.

This stage was, admittedly, not visually interesting. However, it was technically challenging and it certainly bit me badly as I had to admit, at the end of the exercise, that I lost track early-on where I was. It turned out that I was not as confused as I felt, but I did manage to rack up a miss on one of the IPSC targets. Just another reason why I have always asserted that "Steel Is My Friend". (I can tell whether I hit Steel targets ... if I'm standing where I can see them.)

Bay 2:
The stage named "Easy Run" was deceptive because it SEEMED like a 'hoser stage'. Shoot down two 10-yard US Poppers from the starting box, the run up to a four IPSC target array and engage them from perhaps 3 yards. Run around a vision-barrier corner, down an alley, and shoot four more IPSC targets. Turn the corner, shoot 3 more IPSC targets at ranges which vary from 20 feet to point-blank range, depending on how fast you run (or whether you choose to run.)

What's not to like?

First, I managed to miss the second US Popper, so had to back up to re-engage it from the box.

Second, I got a finger-freeze on the last IPSC target in the first array, and had to back up to re-engage it legally from a distance of less than 10 feet.

Because all of the IPSC targets were full-size targets, with no hard-cover or penalty targets, most of us chose to treat it as a hoser stage. The number of D-zone hits was astounding; one A-Open shooter in our squad got SEVEN D-zone hits on the 11 IPSC targets on this stage. Most Open Division competitors in this squad came off the stage swearing that the wanted a reshoot so they could "this time, use the sights!"

And one of the best B-Open shooters managed to spin out on the first turn, going to his knees without, fortunately violating a safety rule. He lost some time there, but still managed to beat all the other competitors in his class.

Incidently, I will note that in this 110-point stage, the highest raw-points score was 107, and none of the targets needed to be engaged at more than 10 feet distance.

Hoser stage indeed!

Bay 3: Paper Poppers

This was the Classifier Stage. CM 03-05 is a 12-round Comstock course. Two IPSC targets in one array, six Pepper Poppers in another ... the Steel targets are bounded by the Cardboard. Engage one array (your choice), reload, engage the other array.

Most of us chose to engage the two cardboard targets first, because we were confident that we could HIT them in a short time. After the reload, we engaged the steel so we could make up misses without having to make another reload. (You sorta had to be there to feel the pressure to go fast!)

This was probably my very best stage of the day, and definately the best Classifier stage I've shot in months. It's a matter of balls-to-the-wall pedal to the metal, and if it doesn't work you're just screwed. One of the ultimate hoser-classifiers, I love to shoot it if only because hope springs eternal within the human breast. On this occasion, I managed to get all A-zone hits on the paper and no misses on the steel, giving me an unprecedented 50 out of a possible 50 points on the stage, in 6.41 seconds including the reload.

Proud as a peacock, I strutted up to the Wailing Wall to learn that I ended up in . . . SIXTH place out of 36 competitors in a club match!

This is a tough stage!

My friend, Norm, had a magazine-drop malfunction which slowed him down to 5.85 seconds. Well, he's an A-Open shooter, and has much higher standards than I do.

He also got some bad hits on the paper, and got only 45 points (raw score).

He bought a 'reshoot', which goes into the classifier database but doesn't show up on the match scores.

He shot it in 5.17 seconds, dropping only one point, which puts him at 85+ percentile. Awesome, and the video is available here. The video starts as he engages the 2nd IPSC target, but shows teh reload and also the last two Pepper Poppers hitting the ground at approximately the same movment.

This could put him up to Master Class, and I hope it does . . . the sandbagging sonovagun!