Sunday, December 03, 2006

Pistol-Caliber Carbine Match : MechTech Works!

I am delighted to report that the Mech Tech (MT) Carbine Conversion Unit (CCU) worked just fine in the "Pistol-Caliber Carbine Match" hosted on Saturday, December 2, 2006, at the Tri-County Gun Club (TCGC) in Sherwood, Oregon.

(UPDATE- December 4: Match scores are now available here. Good news for The Geek, I didn't actually zero any stages, although I got only 8 out of 120 points on one stage, and 3 out of 115 points on another! The low scores were not the fault of the gun, but rather a combination of an unfamiliar gun, crappy 'Polarized Filter' on the PDP1 scope which wouldn't keep its setting, and a shooter who wasn't as good as the equipment. Also, there are some videos available ... I will be adding more as time permits ... on Jerry the Geek's Video Shooting Gallery.)

UPDATE - December 8:
All videos have been edited and added to the Video Album.

No, I did not win the match. I didn't win a single stage. In fact, I finished the first stage (Bay 4) down six misses and one 'failure to engage' penalty.

This was after squad-member Chris showed us all how to do it with his AR-15 type carbine, with no misses and about half the time it took ME to finish the stage.

No alibies from me about using a ten-round magazine; Chris didn't spend a lot of time trying to find the targets, trying to find a comfortable shooting position (on that first stage "Bay 4: Sniper Qualified"), the available shooting positions included kneeling, and hunkered down in a semi-crouch. I managed to expand the position choices to "flat on my butt with my heels in the air" when I tried to stand up ... sort of, after kneeling for 45 seconds ... from the first shooting box.

Maybe I'm getting old, but I find it increasingly difficult to extract myself from the kneeling position. Or any other position besides standing, come to think of it. And this match was so challenging that I found myself in either physical or competitive difficulties in every single stage.

Except the last stage. By that time I was beginning to get the hang of shooting the MT-CCU and changed my mindset from "I think I can, I think I can" to "Wow! What a rush!".

Experience counts. Also, being allowed to shoot on the move at targets which aren't 'impossibly far away' add to the shooting enjoyment when you're not ... well, when you're not me.

Let's go to the "Way-Back Machine" to November of 2004.

That month two years ago, the Albany Rifle & Pistol Club (ARPC) under the direction of Mike McCarter hosted a "Mech Tech Match". This was a "pistol caliber carbine" match intended specifically to provide a venue for competitive use of the Mech Tech Carbine Conversion Unit.

I didn't happen to own a MechTech, but I was fortunate in that The Hobo Brasser not only owned one but it was chambered in .45 acp. His own 1911 frame (I believe it was purchased some years earlier through the mail-order company Montgomery-Ward) was not entirely compatible with the CCU. However, some experimentation before the match established the fact that the Kimber Custom frame I had been using for competition worked perfectly. We were able to not only use my range-brass .45 ammunition, but his expensive .460 Rowland ammunition with equal reliability. In fact, we could mix the two ammunition types in the same magazine without any failure to function.

About 15 competitors showed up on an icy November morning, and the result (enhanced by a fortuitous warm air front which didn't appear until after the match started) was a gleeful appreciation of the advantages of using short-barrelled, pistol-caliber long arms in an IPSC-type competitive venue.

The smaller bays of a pistol range were completely appropriate to the caliber. Relatively long shots (about 20 yards) were not a problem with the barrel multiple times longer than the typical pistol, and the course designs even provided the opportunity for competitors to attemp, and succeed in, shoot-on-the-move techniques.

Unfortunately, follow-up matches were never scheduled, so this firearm genre received no further encouragement for the next two years.


In the summer of 2006, The Hobo Brasser (perhaps because of his acquisition of a Beretta CX4 "Storm" 9mm semi-automatic Carbine) determined that his MechTech was 'superfluous to his immediate needs'. He offered the CCU for sale at a price significantly under current list for a new CCU, and I bought it from him.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThis was a "firearm" (so-called, because it was not legally a firearms due to its lack of an action) for which I had no definable use.

I had no sights for it either; the unit came with a sight rail suitable for Weaver mounts, but no iron sight mechanism was included.

I had owned a Tasco PDP1 for several years ... again, it had never been used ... and had sold it to a friend for use on his MechTech. I checked with him and discovered that he had replaced it with another sight, and was willing to sell it to me for the same price he had paid for it. For fifty dollars, I had a fine dot-sight and upon installation it was ready to run. It took a couple of trips to the range before I had it properly mounted and sighted in, but there were no doubts in my mind that it would shoot to point of aim at 30 yards.

The December, 2006 Match:
When the "Pistol Caliber Carbine" match was announced a week prior to the match, I was ready to sign up for it immediately.

Having determined where the match was to be held (there was some confusion in my mind at first, a situation which I find increasingly common lately), I showed up at the host range at about 9am.

I didn't really know much about "practical rifle matches", but I did know that (a) this was to be run under IPSC-type rules, and (b) firearms must be either bagged when off the firing line, or shown to be unloaded by implementation of a Chamber Flag.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Chamber Flag (also known as a "Chamber Checker" is a brightly colored device inserted into the chamber of a rifle and extending beyond the ejection port, designed to exhibit to the casual observer that the rifle has no ammunition in the chamber. I didn't happen to own a Chamber Flag, but upon talking to Match Director Gary T. I determined that all rifles must either be fitted with a Chamber Flag or transported between stages and to the firing line in a rifle case or bag.

I didn't own either of these. Fortunately, checking with other shooters on the range, I found that Shaun H. had an extra Chamber Flag and was willing to loan it to me for the duration of the match. (Note to Shaun: I still have your Chamber Flag, I'll give it back to you at the next IPSC match.)

After signing up for the match, this was the final hurdle in my qualification for entry into the match.

It happens that the majority of the competitors at this match were IPSC-certified, so they were aware of the proper range commands and the standard safety rules for competition. ALL participants had competed in 'action' shooting sports. However, some competitors were S.A.S.S. competitors only, and others were 'practical rifle' or 'tactical rifle' certified only. Since the rules of competition, range commands and safety standards to which they were accustomed were often significantly different from IPSC, we decided (at least in the squad to which I was assigned) to limit Range Officer (RO) duties to those members who were IPSC-certified as Range Officers. This provided a standard criteria for safety.

In fact, although my RO experience was limited to IPSC and two "Practical Shotgun" matches, I was able to serve as RO for part of the time during the match. The rules for this match were significantly different only in the actual considerations for unloading and showing clear, and safe stowage of firearms:

"If you are finished; bolt forward, hammer down. Bolt back, insert chamber flag or bag a safe weapon." (Or words to that effect.)

The Walk-Through:

As the match director walked us through the stages in the match, a couple of circumstances attracted our immediate attention.

First, the stages didn't always fit into the bays for which they were originally intended. The reason is that the stages were much LONGER than the bays would accomodate, so the stage numbers didn't always exactly fit the sequence of the numbering system. That is, the targets were very far from the place where we were allowed to shoot at them!

Second, the stages were not as 'user friendly' as I had expected.

Specifically, there was a positive dearth of up-close-and-personal hoser stages. ALL of the stages featured many very small reactive targets at very long (20 to 40 yards) distances, and at least half of the cardboard IPSC-type targets were either moving targets, largely masked by hard-cover or no-shoot penalty targets, or required "Mozambique" engagements: Three hits on the target, at least one of which must be in the upper A/B zone of the target. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology, this "A/B Zone" is a four-inch square flap at the top of the cardboard target. The highest-scoring A-zone here is a 3" x 1.5" rectangle in the center of the flap.)

On one stage (I believe it was in Bay 8 - "Delta Team Standards"), there were six steel targets, six IPSC targets (at 20, 30 and 40 yards distance) mostly overlayed by no-shoots so that the only practical scorable surface was the A/B-zone, and two "Mozambique" targets at 40 yards. This was presented as a "Virginia Count" (VC) stage, meaning that extra shots (to make up misses) would be penalized!

Some "whiney old guys" (The Hobo Brasser and some Geekish fellow) raised an immediate outcry, complaining that this was an egregious misuse of stage designer authority, without quite mentioning that such a stage would be illegal under strict IPSC rules which prohibit the use of steel targets in Virginia Count stages.

The MD was only slightly apologetic, so when walking through the rest of the stages in the match there were several loud comments asking that some IPSC targets be designated "Mozambique", and other times requesting that the stage use VC scoring. The MD promised to look into it to determine whether it was too late to change the computerized scoring templates to accomodate these requests.

The remark was made that "I hope the match is as much fun as the Walk-Through was".

Immediately after the start of the match, the MD came by our squad to announce that the stage in Bay 8 had been changed to Comstock, because of the unseemly complaints of a bunch of "Whiney Old Guys". Then he changed his story and admitted that there had been a printing error on the official Stage Procedure, and it had been originally intended to be a Comstock scoring stage all along.

In truth, it was because of a bunch of "Whiney Old Men". Just another example of "You Know You're Over 50 when ... you give advice, and somebody actually seems to be listening."

Our squad of 8 men started on Bay 4, which featured steel plates sitting on the ground (and their grey color was virtually indistinguishable from the gravel on which they rested), two five-target arrays at 40 yards consisting of Bowling Pins, and a Dueling Tree whose four steel plates were difficult to see against the brown-dirt background of the berm.

Chris started out with an excellent time and got all of his hits, using an AR-16 variation in, I think, 9mm.

My run was different.

I managed the bowling pins okay, but I only even SAW one of the three plates (it was in shadow and I never engaged it.) I got the Dueling Tree plates okay, but when I tried to stand up from the uncomfortable kneeling-over-a-table position, I lost my balance and fell on my butt. After that, I merely moseyed over to the second shooting box, got the two steel plates and the dueling tree plates 'okay', but couldn't hit a bowling pin to save my life. I emptied a ten round magazine at the pins (35 yards distance) without ever seeing where my rounds were hitting, and declared myself done.

Result: 1.5 embarassing eons spent on the stage, six misses and one failure-to-engage penalty. After the first stage, I had approximately zero points.

Everyone in the squad, including the 'first match' guy, Vic, finished with a higher score. Well, I knew I was shooting for fun before I got out of bed, but I didn't DQ so I figured I was ahead of the game.

As the match progressed, I became increasingly comfortable with the MechTech CCU. The .45 round was death on plates, which was not always the case for competitors shooting 9mm. Mostly, the 9mm killed plates when hit squarely and toward the middle of the plate. Often, the 9mm rounds would not knock down ground-based 10" square plates when hit close to the ground. But with the .45, if I touched it ... it was down. My ammunition was loaded a bit heavier than required in IPSC competition (about a 180 power factor), but the blow-back design of the CCU bolt didn't absorb as much of the power as I had expected. The 200 grain LRN bullet maintained sufficient momentum to spin-down or just flat knock down even the heaviest plate, which is more a recommendation for the CCU than for my personal accuracy.

The only criticism of the MechTech design is that the blow-back bolt is so massive, it moves slow enough to demonstrably slow-down the ability of the competitor to shoot fast splits. I found myself waiting for the bold to move back into battery. This sounds like a major criticism, but in this match the targets were so far away, or so tiny, I could rarely get back on target fast enough that the delay could be said to slow me down.

However, on a close-target 'hoser' stage, thsi would constitute a competitive disadvantage compared to faster actions.

Subsequent stages featured:
Bay 9 - "Search and Destroy"
Seventeen steel targets, including a Texas Star at 30 yards. Most shooters did fine when they hit the eight-inch plates on the star, but many found that they had bitten off a bitter chew when they engaged the lower plates first. This cause the target array to rotate around its axis, imparting ore angular momentum than was convenient to hit at that distance. I was impressed in that, although some competitors didn't know the best way to engage the targets with making it spin like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, they still managed to bang-and-clang fast moving plates at even that great distance.

Bay 10 - "Fire and Maneuver"
In this stage, you had to shoot ALMOST all of the steel targets from the "Hell Hut", then engage ALMOST all of the IPSC targets from outside the "Hell Hut". Then you engaged three Pepper Poppers through a horizontal 'barrel'. Two of these three Poppers activated disappearing targets (DT); you had to engage the Disappearing Targets from OUTSIDE the barrel.

The kicker on this was that three members of our eight-man squad hit one of the activating poppers from through the barrel, but found himself with an empty magazine ... and unable to reload a fresh magazine and engage the moving IPSC target before it disappeared.

The funny/sad part of it was, the competitors went in with 40-round magazines (in once case, with a double-drum magazine holding something like 60 rounds), and were so confident in their 'everlasting ammo supply' that they either forgot to reload when they should have, or fully expected to shoot the entire 32-round stage without reloading.

Mozambique targets at distances from 7 to 40 yards. The most visually impressive display of shooting expertise on Mozambique targets was on the last stage we shot, in Bay 11 - "High Value Targets". We started out with two IPSC targets at 7 yards, starting position with the carbine resting on top of the barrel and the shooter's hands touching the rim of the barrel. Alex, at the buzzer, grabbed his Baretta Stormer in 9mm and shot two to the body, one to the head on both IPSC targets from the waist ... and got all of his hits (2-Alpha to the body, 1-Bravo, on both targets). I was the RO on that performance, and when he had completed the stage I cursed Alex for his stellar performance when I didn't have the camera rolling.

Actually, that was the most fun stage. There were plenty of opportunities to take steel targets on the move, and since it was the last stage our squad shot I was becoming fairly confident in my ability to shoot the gun. I would have loved to shoot the whole match over, which is probably a positive review of the match. In fact, the walk-through made the stages seem like difficult memory courses, but in the actual event it wasn't usually too difficult to know what you had to do to complete the course of fire successfully. Well, that was true if you weren't one of the first shooters; we all went to school on the mistakes of the first competitor on most stages.

After we completed that stage, I regaled some of the squad members with tales of IPSC competitors who had just recently move to Open division (with 25 round magazines) who confidently shot their first match in Open with full expectation of never running out of ammunition. They invariably, I recounted, ran out of ammunition somewhere during their first match; often on the first stage, necessitating a standing reload.

I found the story much more amusing than they did. Perhaps it's because they just experienced the phenomenon for the first time, while it has been a while since I committed the cardinal sin 'bad ammunition management'.

I didn't impress anybody in my first Pistol-Caliber Carbine match, but it wasn't because of equipment limitations. Instead, by the end of the match a couple of squd members complimented my perfomance given my limited magazine capability. (Not that I would have done any better with hi-cap magazines; it's not the gun that ruins your game, it's your inability to hit the targets in a timely manner.) I appreciate their encouragement despite my poor personal showing, and I hope to find more opportunities in the future to use the Carbine Conversion Unit in competition.

Actually, most of the problems I encountered were due to my unfamiliarity with the firarm and the scope (the PDP1 has a paralax filter which rotated because of vibration of the wire-frame stock, so I couldn't clearly see the targets.)

I have posted still photographs of the match at Jerry the Geek's Video Shooting Gallery
( for those whose computers or email hosts are link-challenged). At the moment, there are only a couple of dozen still photographs on this album, and they don't really show much of the stages or the action.

However, I have 26 videos (850MB in the original un-edited versions) which I will add as a sub-album as soon as I ... well ... as I edit them. Which may take a couple of days.

In the meantime, I want to express my appreciation to the Dirty Half-dozen who were willing to squad with me and, although they demonstrated no compunctions about laughing at me, were fun people to go spend a sunny day at the range with. In no particular order, they are:

  • Jeff
  • Vic
  • Chris
  • Alex
  • Dave
  • Gary
  • Mark (The Hobo Brasser)
I made a conscious effort to film videos of each of the squad members, so please check back at Jerry The Geek's Video Shooting Gallery to see them in all their radiant glory. Except for Alex, who saved his best stage for when I couldn't take pictures. Well, all of them did that.

The Rascals.


Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usMatch Director Gary from TCGC hosted the IPSC match this month, and cheerfully suffered through the criticisms of "whiney old guys" during the walk-through.

Gary also shot the match, and arranged it so that (for an extra $2 each) there was a support crew available who tore down the stages after the match so that the competitors didn't have to do it. We all appreciated it, except for the one guy who missed "the comeraderie" of tearing down the stages. Not me. I would have paid more not to suffer through stage tear-down, and it was a real selling point in my decision to shoot the match.

Most important, though, was that Gary saw the niche for this kind of match, and earned $360 into the club coffers at little expense to the club, plus got the stages torn down for under $50 ... which the participants were happy to pay. There's a lesson here for other clubs, although I can't think what it could be.

NOTE that the original reference to the TASCO PDP1 dot-sight includes a link to an image which is actually the PDP2. This was a deliberate error, because I couldn't find a reference to the PDP1 (which is no longer in production). However, the PDP2 looks very much like the PDP1, which is why I chose this link. The difference betweeb the PDP1 and the PDP2 is that the PDP1 has a 'Polarizing Filter'. This was probably provided to allow the shooter to reduce the effects of glare. Unfortunately, the adjustment ring which sets the polarizing effect tends to move during the course of fire, due to the vibration in the system caused by firing several rounds. The result is that, by the end of the stage, the competitor can't see the target clearly ... it's like shooting in the dark. By the last stage, I had learned to set the polarizing filter to 'wide open' and hold it in place with masking tape. Yes, I realize this sounds very much like an alibi. It's the best I could do on short notice, and when I come up with a better alibi I'll replace this section with the improved version.
Free Image Hosting at

I can't provide a comparison between the two generationally different models, but I note that the PDP1 uses a pair of A640 batteries. (I note it so I have a place to reference when I need to buy new batteries, but I forget which battery the scope needs.)

UPDATE - December 4:
If you've been reading the comments, you caught Jeff's note about who was using what firearms.

Jeff and Chris were using AR-style 9mm carbines.
Dave and Alex seemed to be sharing a Beretta Storm CX4 in 9mm.
Gary and Vic seemed to be sharing a Beretta Storm CX4 in 9mm with a forearm pistol grip.
The Hobo Brasser was using his own Beretta Storm CX4 in 9mm, and loaning hi-cap magazines to other squad-members when they thought they needed it.
And Jerry the Geek was using a MechTech Carbine Conversion Unit in .45 acp, with the frame from The Beloved Kimber and 10-round magazines.
Life is good, when you're me!

Friday, December 01, 2006

IPSC: You know you're over 50 when ....

A few years ago, the Unofficial IPSC List indulged in "IPSC HAIKU". Jeff Maass posted the results to the internet, and the response from IPSC'ers was surprising. (Thanks, Jeff.)

It's about time we tried that again, so I've chosen to publish a list of the things "You know you're over 50 when ..."

I stole the concept from the SASS Forum (my bad) but it looked like fun. So I'll try it here.

Got better ideas? Send 'em in. I'll add to the list, and attribute your suggestion unless you specifically say I shouldn't. Add suggests to the COMMENTS section of this page, or send me an email at the address listed at the very bottom of this page. Not the bottom of the article, the bottom of the PAGE.

You Know You're Over 50 When ...

  1. (Geek) -You go to The Dark Side because you can't see those fuzzy sights on your Limited Gun.
  2. (Geek) - On the firing line, you can see your pistol grips, you can see your magazine basepads, but you can't see your belt. Or your toes.
  3. (Geek) - When you give advice, somebody actually seems to be listening.
  4. (Geek) - You decide to shoot for accuracy, not for speed.
  5. (Geek) - A new shooter calls you 'sir', and he's displaying Male Pattern Baldness.
  6. (Geek) - You go to a match, and they've left your usual parking space for you ... by the privy.
  7. (Geek) - During the match walk-through, you raise a finger and say "Excuse me", and the MD says "Oh geez, not again!"
  8. (Geek) - Your best stage at the match involves no movement after the draw.
  9. (Geek) - You win "Top Old Coot" prize for the match, and you are proud of your accomplishment.
  10. (Geek) - You tell someone how long you've been shooting IPSC, and they're impressed.
  11. (Geek) - You know the significance of "The Toilet Paper" version of the rule book.
  12. (Geek) - You own a golf-shirt that looks like this on the back.
  13. (Hobo Brasser) - You are beyond the point in the curve where ability (falling) and age (rising) cross.
  14. (Mr. Completely) - You have three pairs of glasses, one pair to wear driving to the match, one pair if most of the targets are close in, and the third pair for when most of the targets are farther out. Even so, most of your shots are guesses!
  15. (Your contribution here)

UPDATE (December 3):
I'm seeing a trend here.
So far, all of the contributions are by guys who are over 60.

I also received an email from friend Bob H. ("Antipoda") from Texas, who contends that the condition of being "over 50" is NOTHING compared to being "over 60". He's hoping to wake up and discover that 7 years and 5 months have been deducted from his age, so he is qualified to whine about being "over 50".

He is probably correct. I can attest to the fact that I didn't start slowing down until after I turned 50. But I still could see iron sights until about the time I turned 60. (Actually, a few months before my birthday.)

Perhaps I should have titled the article: "You know you're over 60 when ... ". I had thought that there would be fewer people interesting in discussing the differences between 40 and 50 than 50 and 60, but perhaps I was wrong.

Could be. I've been wrong before.

I'll let this run as "over 50" for a while, in hopes that someone will be able to pinpoint the trauma of turning fifty. And I'll detail an incident which is specifically pertinent to "whiney old men" (all of them over 60) in my forthcoming review of the "Pistol Caliber Carbine Match), probably later tonight.

Administrative: Comments by Holoscan

Last year I replaced the Blogspot comments function with Haloscan. I did that mainly to provide myself with more options to edit and filter the comments. I had been getting a lot of junk mailfrom people who were using my comments section only to tout their own "blogs", most of which were commercial websites completely unrelated to the subject matter in the article they were commenting on.

It worked just fine. Now, when I get junk mail on my comments, I can easily delete it and also ban the author from further posts. Mostly.

More important, I discovered, when I make a comment and later discover an error in what I wrote, I can correct my comment in place instead of having to write another comment describing the error and offering the correct verbiage.

Blogspot is working to improve their comment function, but when they finally catch up with Haloscan I probably won't change back because, well, by then Haloscan will have made even more improvements.

A couple of days ago, I installed one of those improvements. It's a summary of the most recent comments that appears on the sidebar, between the links and the archive directory. I had to modify the code a little bit to get the comment summary to appear against the dark blue background (comment text is in a dark grey, which keeps it subtle so it's not distracting when you're reading articles .... but it's so far down the extended webpage that you probably won't see it unless you're going more than a couple articles down the page, or you're looking for it.)

I added it mainly for my own convenience. Sometimes people comment on old articles, and I often miss them until I deliberately page through articles LOOKING for new comments. This way, it's easy to find them in the summary and then I can read, edit and even repond to them with a minimum of fuss.

Why do I care? The comments I receive on this blog are the reward I get for writing. True, I usually write because I have something to say, because I feel compelled to write. But your responses reinforce the effort. If I haven't made myself clear, or I've said something that is factually incorrect, it helps me to maintain minimum standards of quality in the text.

Often comments prompt me to either expand on the subject (cf: the MechTech article) or to write a new article on a related subject.

Most important, it's a measure of my audience. I read EVERY comment, even if I don't reply. Sometimes the comments give me a much better idea of what people are interested in reading.

I do have a statistics service which tells me how many people are reading me (summarizes the last 1100 visitors) and which articles are repeatedly read because they are are listed in search results. For example, every week I have at least 40 people who just connect to watch Travis Tomasie's "Perfect Reload", which they only find because they have searched for it.

But if a new article is of interest to people who read the blog regularly, the comments are the only indicator I have that readers are interested enough to reply.

I encourage comments. I very rarely have to delete comments, because the people who write them are courteous (with the possible exception of The Hobo Brasser) and on-subject.

In fact, most of the links on the sidebar are there for my use. These are the places I like to read, or which I frequently use as reference sources. It's easier for me to call up my own blog and then access these other websites by clicking on the link.

If you have an idea for a link which might fit within the general IPSC/USPSA Competition venue, please let me know. If I find it as interesting as you do, I'll add it to the sidebar.

Thanks for reading. And for writing back.