Saturday, January 22, 2005

Winter Sux ... Part Duh!

A couple of weeks ago I was complaining that I hadn't shot an IPSC match since the day after Thanksgiving. Partly, this was because many of the clubs in the Columbia Cascade Section of Oregon just don't schedule matches which might be poorly attended due to 'family' activities during the holiday season. And it has happened that bad weather, or planned bad weather, has caused some scheduled matches to be postponed or even cancelled.

(NB: this is because the match sponsors are concerned that people will actually try to drive an hour or two over icy and/or snow-bound roads ... or that they WON'T make the drive, and not enough people will show up to make the match worth the effort to put it on. Geez! We're turning into a Nation of Wussies here! Never mind that I wouldn't have gone to the match scheduled last weekend, because we had freezing rain for two days from Corvallis to Portland. Everybody already knows I'm a wuss.)

However, I'm happy to report that the weather today was mild and balmy, no rain, some sun. Therefore, the January Match at Dundee (Chehalem Valley Sportsman's Club) was well attended with approximately 50 competitors showing up to embarass themselves before friends and family.

I'm not being facetious about this "embarrassing event" allusion. It was terrible, almost everything that COULD go wrong DID go wrong. At first, those of us in the "Usual Suspects" squad (someday I'll have to write about this collection of misfits and malcontents, of which I am a charter member) who screwed up by the numbers were shocked that we were so inept. As the day progressed ... and I don't mean to suggest that any 'progression' involved an improvement of either accuracy or gun-handling skills ... we started laughing at ourselves, then at each other, until it became almost a sport in itself to decide who had best typified mediocirty on any given stage.

It's probably a blessing that so MANY "Kodak Moments" occurred today, I can't remember all of them. You don't want to read that many paens of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and I don't want to write that much. What follows is, perhaps, merely the high-lights of the day.

The first stage, I managed to get a jam and instead of dropping the magazine to clear the gun I kept the 170mm magazine (very cumbersome) in my left hand while I tried to clear the jam. Then I put the old magazine back in, forgot to reload when I had planned, and shot the gun dry. After a very S-L-O-W reload ( including the obligatory "WTF? Moment" while I tried to figure out why the gun wasn't going "BANG!"), it turned in a 39 second run on a 19-second stage.

My advice to the guy who followed me was "Don't do what I did!", so of course he did the same thing in almost the same way.

(I have an alibi for the jam, by the way: I cleaned my gun before the match. I think the gun was in a state of shock and didn't know how to function without all that powder residue slowing down the action. I didn't bother to ask the other guy for his alibi, but I'm sure it would have been equally as creative. We usually announce our alibis before the match starts. It just saves time . This is my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Second stage was the classifier. Simple little thing it was, so we had to be pretty creative to screw it up. Shoot one round each on 6 IPSC targets, reload, shoot another round strong-hand only.

Did I mention that there were 3 no-shoot targets interlaced among the shoot-targets?

My first shot was into the white no-shoot, so I ended up with one miss, one no-shoot penalty in 10.5* seconds.

Another guy, Norm The Ungrateful, did a great job getting all of hits in 9.90 seconds. Only thing is, after the reload he shot the second half of the stage free-style, too. Six 10-point penalties zeroed the stage for him. We had to convince him that he had forgotten to shoot the second half wrong, because he could have SWORN that he shot it strong-hand.

Another guy managed to put one shot into each of the 3 penalty targets. At least he didn't zero the stage.

Ryan, the 10-year-old son of Nick, was shooting Open with a Glock. Ryan is a pretty good shooter, but spends most of his time shooting Steel Challenge. He had some problems with the Strong-Hand portion of the stage. The gun wasn't cycling, so he had to rack the slide between each shot. After the stage was completed, Nick was unable to comment that Ryan was 'weak-wristing' the gun. Ryan responded something to the effect that "I KNOW, but ...". Exit, stage left, shutting ears against familial bickering. I'm repeating warnings, now, to the effect that it is NOT a good idea to coach your own SWMBO, or anyone in your family. Parent and Spouse cannot offer criticism within (arbitrarily selecting a time period) TEN YEARS after your loved one has embarassed himself/herself in front of others.

A few of us chose to reshoot the stage "For Classification Only", just to prove that we really COULD do better. I managed to do the same thing ... hit a no-shoot with one shot ... but I made up the shot (strong-hand) so I still got two penalties but at least I got another 5 points on my score. The thing is, it took me 11.17 seconds, which pretty much wiped out any improvement on my hit-factor for the stage.

Later, on a stage that required a quick lateral movement from one side of the bay to the other, Big-Dog John managed to get a foot tangled in the deep gravel surface and almost tripped. He was falling forward as he ran, windmilling with both hands, and in the process he waved one arm in front of the muzzle of the gun ... twice. He didn't fall down, didn't endanger anyone else, but was DQ'd (Match Disqualification) for "Sweeping" himself. Tough call. He showed his character and integrity, though, by sticking around for the rest of the match and helping us by assuming the scoring chores so we wouldn't wear ourselves out.

And fatigue was an issue. I got a pulled a thigh muscle on one stage (I was the last shooter in the squad, put too much time into RO'ing the squad on a big stage which required a lot of movement, so I was fairly over-exercised) and it took me a half-hour to work the kinks out. Boy, am I out of shape after taking NO exercise for two months!

We had a stage with a lot of steel on it. Harold the Conqueror stopped himself because a Pepper Popper didn't go down when he shot it. A calibration test with a 9mm knocked the popper down ... leaving Harold with about half of the stage un-engaged. Major penalties there.

On a similar stage (lots of steel), Norm shot a US Popper twice, missing it once and catching an edge with his second shot. He heard the hit, dropped the magazine and reloaded as he started to move to the next shooting position, and then noticed out of the corner of his eye that the steel did not fall. Shouting "I hit it, I know I did!" he reversed direction to pick-up the miss. Just as he got back into position, and raised the pistol to shoot at it ... the popper fell down! I think he spent another second or two just looking at it with his mouth open. At least, he managed not to curse. I admire his restraint. I would have been washing my mouth out with soap even now if it had been me.

On the same stage, Brent (who was shooting a single-stack .45acp) went to slide-lock and RAMMED a Chip McCormick 10-round magazine into the pistol. Immediate result: the Jam From Heck. It took him forever less ten seconds to get the gun back into working order, and then he started running to the next shooting position ... only to realize that he hadn't taken the 2nd shot at the target he had been engaging when he had to make his reload. He ran back, took one shot (strong-hand!) and then ran to finish the stage. Result: it took him 119 seconds to complete a 25-second stage. Lesson is, if you're gonna put a big-stick in a single-stack ... don't jam it in there!

On the penultimate stage, Gary T. completely forgot that one array was to be engaged 'behind the fault line' and charged 3 targets. Six procedural penalties ... advantage gained. He had completely forgotten that the fault line was there.

Getting close to the end, now. Bear with me. Remember, this is only the high-lights.

The last stage. A plate rack with six ten-inch plates, plus some cardboard targets on the right and left side. No big deal.

It took me 11 shots to knock down the six plates, at a distance of less than 50 feet!

I was counting shots for everyone else, and nobody seemed to have as much trouble as I did.

Until the last shooter.

Eleven-year-old Zac, son of Norm, tried the same thing I did (engaging the targets from too far away, essentially) and required 17 shots to knock down the six steel plates.

But Zac has been shooting IPSC more frequently, and longer, than Ryan. He knew he had just goofed up and instead added a note of levity to the otherwise-embarassing situation. On the last four-target array, instead of hosing them as the rest of us did, he calmly engaged the upper A-zone. Managed to get almost half of the A-hits, too.

I choose to believe that Zac was merely aware of my own embarassment, and deliberately missed his steel-plate shots only so that this lame old man didn't feel bad about having turned in the worse performance of the day.

Norm, I know that you had NINE jams during the match. But you're raising your son right. It's refreshing to see a young man grow up with an innate sense of respect for his elders.

Even if his elders don't really deserve it.

Here's the bottem line:
The match didn't mean a thing. It was just a chance to go shooting with your friends. We shot poorly, but everyone had a great time. It wasn't cold, it wasn't rainy, the wind wasn't blowing, everyone did his share of the work, and nobody got through the day without performing far below his own expectations.

What a great day at the range.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More Links, Base, Taranot, Penn, etc.


Michael Bane
I've added Michael Bane's new weblog to my link-list.

Michael is the author of several books, a motivational speaker, a marketting advisor and/or representative (most recently for NSSF) and is currently the host of the hit OUTDOOR CHANNEL show SHOOTING GALLERY.

I met him on The Unofficial IPSC list around 1997, and finally met him in person at the 1999 USPSA Area 1 Championship Tournament in Reno, Nevada. At the time, Michael was running for the USPSA presidency. (He lost, but not by very many votes.) We were squadded together with a number of other 'big names' in competitive shooting such as Cal Eldridge , Matt Burkett, Carl Carbon and Tod Jarrett. (Incidently, Carbon was shooting OPEN with a single-stack .45acp) I never knew how I had been scheduled to shoot with such an impressive group of people. But while Michael spent a lot of time talking with these people whom he had known for many years, he spent a lot of talking to me, too. We went out to dinner a couple of evenings, where he treated SWMBO and me to many stories of, for example, interviewing Dolly Parton or Shania Twain for "Rolling Stone" articles. I found him to be a gifted raconteur, and reading his weblog I see that he hasn't lost the gift.

He could also sell snow to Eskimos. Give him a read. You'll be glad you did.

WSJ's Opinion Journal

I've also added the OPINION JOURNAL to my link-list.
While the Wall Street Journal may frequently espouse liberal viewpoints, the Opinion Journal is decidedly conservative. Best of all, most of the Opinion Journal ... their 'commentary' section .. is available to non-subscribers. (You must subscribe to view much of the Opinion Journal, but the subscription is free.)

Regular features include Peggy Noonan's columns, and Best Of The Web Today, by James Taranto, an (Free Subscription Required.)

I got a kick out of Taranto's BOTWT for January 20. It included the following:

Terrible Unswift Shields
Here's a brilliant little post by blogger Second Lt. Lance Frizzell, a Tennessee National Guardsman serving in Iraq:

Back in January '03, you may remember a group of Western liberals who volunteered to go to Iraq as human shields in case the US enforced UN resolutions that Saddam violated. Key graf:

". . . they are willing to put themselves in the firing line should US and British forces bomb Iraq. They plan to identify potential bombing targets such as power stations and bridges and act as human shields to protect them."

Well, I think I have just the job for these globe-travelers: Iraq Election Poll Worker. They are familiar with the terrain and people, they have a self-professed desire to help and they seem very articulate. However, their biggest asset is bravery. If they are willing to hunker down between Coalition Forces and a bridge, standing between a foreign terrorist and a polling precinct should be no big deal. Any takers?

Keep us posted, Lt. Frizzell.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Get your SWMBO involved in shooting sports

* SWMBO ... She Who Must Be Obeyed: An acronym for your Significant Other, be she wife, girlfriend, or other Most Important Person In Your Life.

cf: H. Ryder Haggard: "SHE"
cf: John Mortimer, "Rumpole of the Old Bailey"

Recently I've been corresponding from a fellow from PNG (Papui/New Guinea?) He says he has found his True Love who is willing to accept his involvement in Shooting Sports, but she personally isn't at all interested.

That's not at all unusual, but it does mean that they miss out on a lot of time which they might be sharing.

I found myself in a similar situation a few years ago, and found my own way of dealing with. The following is a highly edited summary of my experience, as I offered it to him.

As long as she's not against your shooting, that's the main thing. Several of the guys I shoot with find themselves in the same situation .... their wives never cared for shooting either, so she found other things to do while he was on the range. Come to think it, most of the people I shoot with found this to be so.

I don't believe this situation is beyond redemption. Here is my own experience:

[W]hen I first met SWMBO* she didn't like guns. While she was growing up, there were never guns in her parents' house. Her family's philosophy was that there is no rational reason to Have A Gun. But she was willing to endure being around guns; she wasn't completely averse to the idea that someone else might have a legitimate reason to own firearms. She just never considered that SHE might have a reason to have one.

When she moved into an apartment in a not-so-good part of town, I told her that I wanted her to have better protection than she currently had (she kept a baseball bat for "home protection"), if only for my own piece of mind. I gave her my Taurus Model 65 (.357 in 4" length) and took her to a local range to learn how to shoot it. She actually thought it was kind of fun, so now and then we would go the range and practice to keep her skills current.

Eventually, she tired of standing in the door waving bye-bye to me as I headed out to a match on early Saturday morning ... almost every weekend. Every time I left, I said "well, I'm off. You know you're invited, don't you?" We're not married, and we live 40 miles apart, which meant that we typically only saw each other on weekends, and I was at an IPSC match on either Saturday or Sunday. One day, she decided to go along with me because it was the only way we were going to spend much time with each other during the limited amount of time each week we were together.

She went to IPSC matches with me for THREE YEARS, without participating. The learned the routine of competitive shooting, and discovered that the people at matches weren't a bunch of over-competitiive, hairy-eared ruffians who braged about wanting an excuse to go shoot somebody as they sat on the tailgates drinking beer. Oh, I won't say that a few of those folks don't show from time to time (sans the beer, which is not allowed on the range), but they rarely stay long. In fact, she found that she actually LIKED most of the people. She discovered that, while we were a fairly competitive group, we weren't so anal-retentitive about it that we would let it ruin our whole day if we didn't do well at a match. And everybody liked her, and were willing to show it. It didn't hurt that she would chip in on the range chores, helping to pick up brass. She quickly learned to identify the different calibers, the guns they went with, and the people who shot which gun.

Finally she said "Enough of this. Get me a gun, I'm tired of picking up everyone else's brass. I want to go shoot. Those guys owe me four years of brass-picking, and I intend to collect!" (Or words to that effect.)

She has won several trophies in D-class ... in Limited, Limited-10 and Open. Now that she's in C-Open she wins fewer trophies but it doesn't really matter much to her. She's having fun.

Further comments:

It seems to me that the problem with getting your own SWMBO* out to the range may have several parts:
  • She thinks you're a bunch of yahoos, and chooses not to associate with this type.
  • It's boring
  • She will probably be the only woman there
  • Men will be impatient with her if she participates and is slow
  • Men will laugh at her because she 'isn't very good' at shooting
  • It's a "New Thing", and she generally feels uncomfortable trying "New Things"
  • She doesn't have the equipment, and isn't equipment-oriented anyway
  • "We" can't afford the extra expense of her attempt to participate, which probably won't work out anyway
  • She isn't a 'competitive person'
  • The guns are too powerful, she doesn't like recoil
  • She doesn't know what to wear, how to act, what the rules are ....
  • It's "a guy thing", and she's not a guy
  • She doesn't want to impose herself on the guys
  • "You're having fun as it is; don't embarass yourself by looking like a wuss when you show up with me"
  • She doesn't really LIKE guns, feels uncomfortable around them, and can see no reason why she should do this gun thingie
  • It's cold/wet/hot/dry/DIRTY out there!
  • "You guys stand up for THREE HOURS STRAIGHT. I should do this ... why?"
  • Nobody will like me. Uh, no ... your friends will resent me!

Fifty percent of these objections will be negated if she only goes to the range and gets to know the people she meets there.
Twenty percent of these objections will be negated if she has some private range time to play with the equipment, learn the rules, and become comfortable with them.
Another twenty percent will become a 'non-issue' if here are other women competing at the matches, and you make sure that you are squadded with them at matches.
The final ten percent of these objections will be overcome if you get yourself out of the 'learning experiance' equation and let someone else handle the training.

I really think that this last 10% is under-rated. The best thing you can do is to find someone she trusts and likes to work with her at the range, and just get the heck out of the way. This other person can tell her things she needs to know (safety, techniques, etc.) that she just won't listen to when it comes from you, but if it comes from someone with whom she doesn't have "a relationship" (and whom she respects) she WILL listen to them and will learn from them. The best thing you can do for her, in a training situation, is to find the right person and then arrange for yourself to not even be where you can see her while she goes though the exercises. Do NOT coach your SWMBO! Later ... maybe.

As part of this, it helps very much if you can find a female competitor who is willing to take the time needed to coach a new female shooter, and you can squad with couples during matches.

Note that when you finally get your SWMBO shooting, and go to matches, there will come a moment when she runs into problems with a comptitive situation. She may approach you and say "Why didn't YOU tell me not to do that!" Your reply must always be "I'm sorry, it's my fault." Because it is, after all, your fault. There may be no reason to expect that if you had offered advice it would be accepted, but that's not important. What IS important is that you must train yourself even more rigorously to learn when advice may be useful, and NEVER offer advice unless it is vital.

Ummm ... reading back I see that the preceding may seem to single out training techniques for women. Not all of these observations are applicable only to one group. Whomever you are introducing to a new shooting sport will be uncomfortable, regardless of gender or age-group or level of experience. Remember that you want this person to learn that shooting sports are fun. Don't muck it up by being critical.

When I started shooting pistols competitively, I was fortunate in that I didn't have anyone trying to teach me. I learned as I went along, from match to match. The people who offered me advice didn't have a 'relationship' with me, so I didn't resent their suggestions nor did I consider them to be condescending. You cannot indulge in this luxury.if you are trying to encourage a new shooter who feels uncomfortable because of any combination of the aforesaid reasons.

Here's the bottom line:
  1. Let it be fun
  2. Get out of the way, and let it happen
  3. Be an enabler ... don't be a critic
  4. Remember, the only way she's going to join you is if SHE finds reasons which don't involve you
  5. There is nothing you can do to make #4 happen. Don't try; you'll only muck it up
(edited 20-JAN-2005 for typos, formatting errors)

Gonzales Backs U.S. Assault Weapons Ban

"WASHINGTON - Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales told the Senate on Tuesday that he supports extending the expired federal assault weapons ban."
Well, this is a far cry from the last AG's stand on the subject.

Congress let the 10-year-old assault weapons ban expire in September. The measure outlawed 19 types of military-style assault weapons, banned certain features on firearms such as bayonet mounts, and limited ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Gonzales pointed out that his brother Tony is a SWAT officer in Houston.

"I worry about his safety and the types of weapons he will confront on the street," Gonzales said. "The president has made it clear that he stands ready to sign a reauthorization of the federal assault weapons ban if it is sent to him by Congress. I, of course, support the president on this issue."

Antigun groups criticized Bush during the presidential campaign for failing to press for an extension of the ban.
Somebody needs to define the term "assault weapon" to Gonzales. For that matter, perhaps the president needs to understand the term better than he does as well.

I don't blame him (the Attorney General nominee) for worrying about his brother. Houston is a tough town. But it seems to me that Gonzales is thinking emotionally, not logically, and hasn't researched the subject.

In fact, I've been a fan of the Houston Chronicle for a couple of years, and while I'm aware that the folks in Houston have their share of police-killed-on-the-job murders, their problem isn't as much one of weapons types as it is of a general atmosphere of violence among both police and citizens. See here and here for reports of recent incidents.

And of course, the violence in Houston sometimes goes the other way. Also see here.

I'm not saying that Gonzales' brother is part of the problem, just that the problems in Houston may be so extensive that the "Assault Weapons" may also not be "part of the problem."

And there are other problems with which the Houston Police Department (HPD) must deal. See here , here and here . And, for that matter, here.

Most important, in regards to the general subject of 'shooting incidents within the Houston Police Department', see this special report from the Houston Chronicle, concerning shootings BY police in HPD:
Experts recommend better ways of monitoring officers and more independent reviews of the actions of officers who shoot citizens. Possible reforms include: •Improve tracking of potential problem officers.
Several local departments have so-called early warning systems to monitor officers who face multiple internal affairs investigations or other allegations. These may include computer programs that identify officers and recommend action such as counseling or training.
But the scope of these systems is limited. Officers from several agencies have been involved in multiple shootings but show no evidence of being tracked by such a system in the public portion of their personnel files. For example, one Houston Police Department officer has killed or wounded six people but apparently was never monitored.

(Emphasis added)

If Alberto Gonzales is concerned about the safety of his brother, perhaps his energies could be better utilized by getting his brother OUT of Houston ... or else, focusing on the societal problems which contribute to so many LEO/Citizen confrontations, and less on the Assault Weapons Ban.

For myself, if I were a citizen of Houston, I would at least as concerned about being shot by a HPD officer as I would be about being shot by an "evil assault weapon" in the hands of a civilian.

But maybe I just don't understand the problem.