Monday, January 03, 2005

Winter Sux ... IPSC Technical Comments

Why does Winter Suck?

Because travel, plus range vulnerabilities to bad weather, plus holidays when people (who have "A Life" and therefore prefer to spend their weekends with their families) combine to schedule NO matches in December. (Sometimes, not even in November or January.)

Father Amidon Forgive Me, for it has been six weeks since I have been to an IPSC match.

Man, that really sucks a big green one.

The good news is, ARPC scheduled a Classifier Match for January 8. Four classifier stages in the glorious New Classifier Book (CC03) plus two big ol' run&gun stages, just for fun.

SWMBO and I decided that this was a good opportunity for us to Do Good on young classifiers... where the bar hadn't been raised so high by GMs shooting the sameold classifiers (CM99) to death so even if you did really good you still didn't score high by comparison. Over the New Year weekend we scrounged around in various closets and at least one cluttered garageto find guns, ammunition, range bags and various accoutrements . We were going to the range to PRACTICE!

We didn't go Friday, or Saturday ... it was rainy and miserable. Sunday, however, dawned with sunshine and very few clouds (those we saw were high and white, presaging no precipitation.)

No hurry, the day can only get warmer, so we didn't leave until well after 1pm. Got to the range around 2pm, and found that the range had been very much improved by more concrete pads in the covered bays (all 7 of them).

Also, ARPC had bought some new steel target stands. Don't have to scrounge for wooden target stands and sticks to stick in 'em. Just slide the targets into the metal rebar holders and shoot the shit out of 'em. (The targets, not the stands. I regret that I didn't photograph the metal stands, but I'll do that and include pictures in a later post.)

Because we hadn't even pulled pistols out of the cases to do dry-fire practice since the last match, we decided arbitrarily to start out with a few El Presidente runs. I managed to keep my times under 7 seconds with few non-A-zone hits, but couldn't get under 6 seconds without serious miss and D-hit penalties.

One of the classifiers scheduled for the forthcoming match featured both strong-hand-only and weak-hand-only strings. We decided to spend some time working on those techniques.

One word: pitiful.

The weak-hand was awful, the strong-hand only embarrasing. We worked on it using 3-target arrays for about an hour, and at the end we ended up dropping about 5 points on 6-round strings, and our times rarely got below 7 seconds for strong-hand, 8 seconds for weak hand. Usually, we got at least one D-hit on the weak hand no matter how we fought it.("Fought it" ... may be a clue in there somewhere.)

We decided to agree that we would have to practice our weak-handdraw-and-gun-transfer skills at home for the rest of the week. SWMBO had fewer problems than I did getting the gun on the target with weak-hand strings, probably because of the inherent advantages of her close-to-the-barrel OK sight as opposed to my C-more sight. I shot most of the 2004 season peering between the C-more and the barrel, never bothering to spend the time searching for the dot. I had resolved to make every effort to use the dot sight in every target picture for the 2004 season, but privately admitted that this is subject to experiential learning. (Note: there are also disadvantages in using the OK vs the C-More sight, which I will explore at a later date.)

(See below)

Somewhere in the middle of this session, we decided we needed to regain our confidence in basic shooting skills, so we spent some time shooting at the upper A-zone, freestyle, with no time pressure. We discovered that we were both shooting about 1-1/2" below point of aim. Time to sight the guns in again.

After a while, and some judicious adjustments, I was able to beat the crap out of a 3/4"x1/2" tape marker off a rest at 12 yards. SWMBO, who has never felt comfortable shooting off a rest, had a hard time keeping the hits within four inches.

Do you remember the scene in "Butch Cassiday and the Sundance Kid" where Sundance is required to prove his shooting ability to a mine owner who was hiring them to protect his ore shipments? Sundace (Redford's character) couldn't hit squat when he took his time to aim. But if he just did a draw and instinct-shot the target, he broke that stinkin' rock to smithereens. That's sort of the way it is with SWMBO. Force her into a slow, careful, aimed fire off a rest and she has trouble keeping all shots in the A-zone. But if you let her just stand up and shoot, like God intended ... well, you don't want to post your lucky coin downrange as an aiming marker, 'cause sure as hell she'll center punch that sucker.

Fact is, if she could just lose that disturbing tendency to plunk the occasional flyer, she would make it to A-class long before I ever would. I guess we both need to practice more often.

Anyway, we stuck around the range for a couple of hours and practiced the techniques & skills we specifically thought we would be called upon to use during the Classifier Match next weekend. We went home tired, slightly chilled (although it's interesting how little we felt the cold when we shed our coats to shoot, even though we weren't shooting stages which required any running from place to place.)

Today (Monday, January 3) I had the day off work. It's a gratuitous holiday granted to some special State Employees. "Special", as in "Special Education". So I lazed around reading a bunch of Christmas books during the morning, and at about 2pm I packed my gear and headed back to the range.

It's about a 20 minute drive from Corvallis to the ARPC range.

This time I spent all of my time working on strong-hand and weak-hand drills. I wanted to ecide whether it was better to work from right-to-left o rleft-to-right, depending on which shooting hand I was using. (I discovered it was marginally better to go in the direction which allowed me to start on the gun-hand side, and work toward the other end of the target array. This shows the unengaged targets in my view before I move the pistol over to engage the next one, which is IPSC Conventional Wisdom.)

WhatI found out here was that I tended to take a LOT of time trying to shoot Alpha's; but when I didn't take the time I shot C-hits (if I was lucky) or D-hits (if I was not.) And when I wasn't focused on trying to hit the A-zone, it was far too easy to miss the whole darn target ...although I regularly got an A-hit or sometimes a C with my first shot, the second shot hit low and left ("South East") of my first shot. I attribute that to the tendency for the gun I'm using to recover from the recoil low and left ... no, I don't understand this either) and unless I make a conscious effort to wait for the sight picture I will invariably touch the 2nd shot off before I have recovered from the recoil and before it moves back fully onto the A-zone. I have to work on that. Surprisingly (to me) , the consequences of rushing mysecond shot puts the hit in the same place no matter which hand I am shooting with. When I tried to compensate by waiting until the gunsight was fully back into control, and attempted to hold a little to the right for my second shot ... I hit to the right of the A-zone on the target.

Clearly, this is a Crisis of Confidence. There's no use in my trying to compensate for a 'tendency' which doesn't exist. I can only acquire the sight picture needed to get my hit, without attempting to apply any 'Kentucky Windage". (There is no wind, there is no windage, there is only seeing what I need to see and timing my shot when the sights ARE where I intend the shot to hit. No fudging is necessary or acceptable. Note to self: shoot at the aiming point, not at where you expect the aiming point to be when you pull the trigger!!!!!)

For my final working exercise, I attempted to get a hit on the B-zone, weak-hand-only, on the timer, from the draw at a 12-yard target.

The standard was about a 3.05 second time, getting a one-shot hit.

I found there were three ... not five ... elements which determined how quickly I could get my hits in this exercise.

(1) a quick, 'snappy' draw. I had to concentrate on getting the gun out oft he holster to drop this down one or two tenths of a second.
(2) finding the sight. This could happen quickly, or I could lose .3 to .4 seconds looking for the dot.
(3) moving the dot onto the target. I found my natural point-of-aim was somewhere to the South East of where I intended it, shooting Weak-hand.This could also, if done well, drop another tenth or two of a second off my time.

I had expected a fourth element ... the amount of time needed to do the actual gun transfer from the drawing hand to the weak hand. Surprisingly, this wasn't a big problem after a couple of practice draws. In fact, I almost frightened myself by how quickly and confidently I slapped the pistol into the weak hand. But there was never a false move, no problems in gun-handling or safely. I guess it's possible that 20 years of practice have taught me a few skills that I don't lose in two months.

The other element which didn't turn out to be a problem was trigger control. After I got the gun up, transferred, found the dot and got it on target ... I rarely failed to keep the shot on the aiming point. In fact, I got 11 out of 12 shots on the B-zone, and a few of them were actually in the A-zone despite my conscious realization that I was rushing every shot. (The one miss was a C-zone hit, one inch out of the B-zone. Okay, so I may have jerked the trigger down but I suspect that I just allowed the gun to wobble off-target.)

My best time for a one-shot hit on the B-zone was about 2.05 seconds (give or take a few hundredths) That's for a B-zone hit, quick draw, found the dot immediately, and the original point of aim wasn't farther than 10 inches from my intended point of aim.

Clearly, this needs work!

To wrap up the session, I played for about a dozen rounds. I looked for the fastest time I could get 2 freestyle shots into the target, insuring both were in the A-zone. I was getting two A-hits in a 12-yard "Metric" target in about 1.8 seconds with 0.15 - 0.17 second splits. Trying to speed this up (not waiting for a good A-zone hold), I got it down to 1.5 seconds ... but I got no better than a C-zone and a D-zone hit in that timeframe.

I left the range after an hour, sadder but wiser, knowing that I need to do a LOT of work before I am back to the level of competitive competence that I took for granted only 8 weeks ago. Isn't it pitiful how quickly we lose our edge?

Want to hear the worst of it?

I just heard from the guy who is organizing the Classifier Match next weekend. The weatherman has predicted heavy snow for next weekend.Because this may prevent safe travel from the bulk of the people who might reasonably be expected to attend, the match has been rescheduled back another 4 weeks, until the last Saturday in January.

On the other hand, snow and incipient dampness may just be darned inconvenient.

On the other hand, this might be an opportunity for me to practice and regain my skills, if I will only take advantage of it.

Stay tuned. This could be amusing.

No comments: