Friday, February 11, 2005


News Releases from the "Coalition To Stop Gun Violence" (also known as the "Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence")

-- New State Report on Ballistic Identification is "Politically-Motivated Junk Science" --

(Washington, DC) - The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence today characterized a new report by the Maryland State Police recommending the repeal of the state's comprehensive ballistic identification system as "politically-motivated junk science."

The report's recommendation should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the issue in Maryland. In 2003, Governor Ehrlich, who has long supported the gun lobby, actively lobbied against efforts to expand the ballistic identification system despite the system's endorsement by David Mitchell, the former head of the Maryland State Police.

"The new report questioning the effectiveness of Maryland's ballistic identification system is nothing more than a blatant attempt to cover up the fact that the Governor and the Maryland State Police have failed to properly implement this important crime solving technology," said Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

"The report acknowledges that the system is severely underutilized, that technicians were never properly trained, that software and other equipment was never updated, and that the state police failed to institute appropriate quality controls to prevent improper data from entering the system. These are not failures of ballistic identification, but rather reflect a complete abdication of responsibility by the state police and a total lack of leadership from Governor Ehrlich to ensure effective implementation of the technology," said Horwitz. "Instead of calling for its repeal, the state police ought to use the technology to its full crime-solving potential."

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence's report, "Cracking the Case: The Crime-Solving Promise of Ballistic Identification," details how ballistic technology can help law enforcement solve gun crimes. Key features of the report, which can be found at, include:

  • Detailed summaries and images of firearms and ammunition, and an in-depth look at how forensic experts currently use ballistic evidence to solve crimes.

  • An overview of the future of ballistic identification technology, including exciting new advances in microstamping.

  • Responses to criticisms leveled against ballistic identification technology by the gun lobby and others.

  • Seven policy recommendations to help law enforcement access and utilize crime-solving tools.

  • A comprehensive glossary of firearm and ballistic identification-related terminology.

BTW ... we looked REALLY HARD for a Main Stream Media (MSM) report about this ... uh ... er ... report. We couldn't find one. Our conclusion is that this is either a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC) invented report, or that the MSM isn't aggressively reporting on this striking divergence from Conventional Wisdom (CW).

We report, you decide.

In conclusion, let me say this about that:


Thursday, February 10, 2005


Sometimes you meet people on the Internet that you would never get to know otherwise. Once in a great while, you can learn things from these New Friends.

My IP (as you may have noticed from my email address) is AOL.
This is both A Good Thing and A Bad Thing.

It's a Bad Thing because the browser sucks, when you're using it (as I do) as your IP and connecting via modem, the local phone lines is all-too-frequently overburdened, and it has some screwy features that I don't always like very much.

The Good Thing is that a LOT of people use AOL, and it's very easy to 'connect' with one another. The Instant Message (IM) thingie particularly is often abused by spammers who try to connect with you for the sole purpose of channelling your internet access to their money-making website. Frankly, I'm not terribly interested in seeing Hot Nekkid Teenage Girls and Their Farm Animals Lovers. If that's your bag, please don't waste your time and mine.

On the other hand, sometimes AOL denizens who know my SN (Screen Name) notice that I'm on-line, and take advantage of the opportunity to IM me. Usually, these are members of The Unofficial IPSC list. Usually, they're "Lurkers" -- people who don't typically post letters to The List. But often they have something to say, and even if they don't they are reaching out to share experiences, or just to say "howdy!"

For the past couple of weeks I have, from time to time, been IM'd by someone who I will refer to as Carl. He hasn't had a lot to say, just wanted to talk about IPSC, and seemed an agreeable sort of person.

Last night he IM'd me and announced that he was going to change his division. He had plans to get some new equipment to support the switch (I'm being deliberately vague here, as I will continue to do ... I don't want to embarass Carl) and I offered some light-hearted comments about the downfalls of his new chosen division.

He immediately changed his mind about switching divisions.

I asked him if he had discarded his grandious plans because of something I said. He admitted that was so.

"Carl, you can't live your life based on what the last person you talked to said! Why don't you decide what you want to do, and then just do THAT?"

We talked for a while more, and it turned out that Carl was in the 9th grade, and had just recently competed in one IPSC match. From the things he said, I gather that he enjoyed it.

We talked for a while, and he told me that his father, an experienced IPSC shooter, was taking him to IPSC matches and would continue to do so. Also, his uncle was an IPSC shooter (although he hadn't gone to a match for over a year). Both of these men had taken Carl to the range to learn the game, and finally his father had taken him to an actual match.

But Carl had a LOT of questions, and rather than discuss them with his father or his uncle, he was asking me -- a total stranger -- for advice.

I asked Carl how long he expected to continue shooting IPSC, and he replied "for as long as I live".

Wow. I can understand this, but I didn't understand why Carl wasn't asking these questions of someone in his family.

As it was revealed, his father seemed (to Carl) to be more interested in his own match performance than his son's, and Carl's uncle wasn't there.

We talked for a while about the concept of "mentoring" a new shooter. Carl understood some of the idea, saying that a Mentor was a knowledgeable person you respected. But he wasn't really sure who he should ask to mentor him. Finally, we decided that his father was the most viable candidate for the job, and that he (Carl) should discuss it with him in terms of being a "coach" rather than a "mentor".

We didn't get to complete our conversation, because it was a school night and Carl had to go to bed. (Well, so did I; I'm old, and need my rest) But something crystalized in my mind, and I would like to discuss it with you.

I've seen a lot of guys bring their sons, daughters, wives and sweethearts to pistol matches with the obvious intent of encouraging them to accept the sport as a "fun activity" which they could share.

It doesn't always work out that way. In fact, I brought my own son out after training him: my son competed in one match, wasn't terribly interested in competition shooting, and decided he would rather play DOOM on his Sony Playstation. Well, that's his choice. On the other hand, I brought my sweetie, SWMBO, to matches for THREE YEARS before she decided this was an 'okay' thing to do, and decided to learn how to shoot so she could share the weekends with me. I've talked about this before.

You never know when someone is going to catch the IPSC bug; the best you can do is to make the opportunity available to them, and if they like it (and if they like the people they meet there) they will come back again and again. If they don't like it, they won't. It's as simple as that.

But after your 'new shooter' decides that he (or she) likes it, you have an obligation to support them in their new activity. There are a lot of wrong ways to do that, and a few right ways. That's what I want to talk about.

Carl's situation was that he had a single introduction to the sport, and he loved it. But he wasn't getting the encouragement and support that he craved.

His experience is a bit different from other father/son pairs I've seen. (I'm using "father/son" as an example, but the comparisons apply to other relationship combinations.)

Usually, the father tries to 'coach' his son during the match. Worse, the father is standing on the sidelines, yelling such disparaging words as "You're Limp-Wristing the gun! Get a Grip!" This is embarassing to the new shooter, who is usually aware that he is having trouble and only wants to get through the stage so he can go hide for a while.

On the other extreme, you have the father who will not say a word to his son during a stage, and only offers condolences, if justified, after the stage has been completed. He will will ALWAYS encorage his son, carefully avoiding any hint of criticism. Most important, if the son wants advice during the match, he will ask his father.

Hmmmm ... on the one hand: disparaging words. On the other hand: encouragement. If you were a new shooter, which would YOU want to hear?

Sure, it's not a bad idea to walk the stage with your son (if you were in this situation) before his turn to shoot it, and perhaps point out some of the potential pitfalls. Understand that he usually won't LISTEN to you, but that's okay. Later, he will recall that you mentioned whatever it was that got him into trouble, and perhaps the next time he will pay closer attention to your 'comments'.

The most important thing is that you make this a fun experience. He may have thought he was going to set the world on fire, and it's not your job to disabuse him of this common conceit. Your job is to buy the gun and equipment, reload the ammunition, teach him the rules, get him to the match, pay the match fees, and then ... just shut the heck UP!

Eventually he will realize that he could use some advise, and when his lack of experience becomes painfully obvious to him, he will ASK you specific questions.

You can answer his questions, but don't assume that this gives you permission to dump every random thought that crosses your mind. Think 'laconic'. Tell him what he wants to know. If he wants more information, he'll ask another question.

The time for coaching is during practice. Oh yes, you will take him to the range between matches. You even get to suggest the outing. If he decides not to go, you go anyway.

It helps if you take another experienced shooter with you once in a while. New shooters will often listen to unsolicited advice from a third party which they will consider intrusive coming from their significant other (father, husband, boyfriend, whatever). That person should be someone who your son respects for his demonstrated skills. It's not that he respects your friend more than he respects you; it's just that he respects your friend in a different way. And your friend isn't as much an authority figure as you are; there's a reduced incitement to rebel against authority.

If your friend is willing to spend some time specifically devoted to coaching ... find someplace you have to be. Go to the bathroom, discover something wrong with your pistol that you want to check on over at the safety area. Any reasonable excuse you can conceive to move away, so you can't see or hear what's going on in that shooting bay, is perfectly acceptable. They don't want you hanging around. Deal with it.

The bottom line is that the father/spouse/boyfriend/whatever is the last person who should be coaching a new shooter. Give up some of your privileges for the sake of your son. Just get out of the way, whenever you can.

Eventually, your son will discover that you have a few good ideas as well, and you're not nearly as dumb as he thought you were.

You'll be the mentor, you'll gain respect for your mature ability to recognise your son's natural reluctance to look like a 'dork' in front of you, and you may even discover that you and your son are able to be natural friends.

It's not good when your son has to askInternet strangers for advice. You can do it all, and your son won't feel he has to go to outside the family for help, if you just take an interest ... but not TOO much.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

Jeff Cooper's Commentaries

I have, I believe, demonstrated remarkable restraint in not discussing Colonel Jeff Cooper's Commentaries before now.

Those halcyon days (if you prefer restraint to enthusiasm) are over.

I've just read Volume Thirteen, #1 (January, 2005) of Col. Cooper's commentaries, and once again I am reminded that it is impossible to read anything he has written without finding applicable value if you are a Gun Nut such as I.

Here's what The Colonel has to say about Fear:
Fear is an interesting study, and various authoritative people have studied it. Not everyone reads their work, of course, and the effect of fear on the marksman is not as well understood as it should be. An expert marksman is exclusively aware of his marksmanship at the moment of truth. This does not make him fearless, but it does make him unaffected during the few seconds necessary for him to bring off the shot. Thus a truly masterful shot displays a coolness under crisis which may be misinterpreted as fearlessness. When you shoot for blood you concentrate totally upon two things - your sight picture and the surprise break. No matter what is threatening you or at what distance, you are not thinking about it. In that moment you simply cannot be bothered! This may be why certain people have demonstrated astonishing coolness in the face of death but who do not do very well in formal marksmanship competition. The degree of concentration necessary for a perfect shot is the same on a charging lion as in a formalized shooting match, but the hunter need only bring this off once, whereas the target master must keep on doing it time and again up to 60 shots without fail. In a successful pistol engagement the same conditions apply. If you are forced to shoot an armed goblin, you should be so concerned with two things that you simply cannot muff the shot. Those two things are front-sight and surprise. They should be automatic, and if they are, you win. That is where the color code comes in. In Condition Red, which is the condition which you shoot from, you cannot be afraid - you are too busy with the important matters required for successful marksmanship.
Well. Nobody's going to say it any better than that. Certainly it's beyond my poor talents to embellish.

So let's talk about something I DO know about: Fear.

Fear can make you weak. Your muscles to quake, your bowels to betray you, and your mind to go South for the winter. Fear is those awful nightmares when you are being chased by the unknown and unknowable monster Chludthru, but you can't run because your legs are encased in mud, or cement, or (my own particular repeating childhood nightmare) the dreaded Tangled Slinkey.

Colonel Cooper has written elsewhere, and often, that one way to beat Fear is to develop Anger. Anger that this dispicable Goblin has confronted you, assaulted you, intends to Do Bad Things to you.

Anger makes you strong, decisive, and chases fear away. It's not as useful as Discipline, because Anger can also make you rash and impulsive. (This isn't always a bad thing, especially if the Monster is gaining on you and you can't hide and you can't run because ... well, you know.)

The thing about Anger is that, while it may not help you to act wisely, it may at least allow you to act. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing; it is better to act rashly, or wrongly, when action is necessary ... than to act too late, or not at all.

When Fear or Anger rule you, it may be that you don't have the capacity for rational thought. This is when you need to have Skills to rely on. You may not be conscious of drawing your pistol, finding the correct grip, releasing the safety and acquiring a sight picture. You may not be aware that you take up the trigger slack while you align the sights with your target. But if you have practiced the drills necessary to make these actions an automatic reaction to the need to engage a target, your chances of surviving an assault are much improved.

Thus it is that these skills are equally ... and much more often ... reinforced by competition.

(You were wondering, weren't you, if I was going to make this IPSC relevant or stay in the nightmare.)

The pressure of competition is not as intense or vital as the pressure of defense, but the skills are pretty much the same. Get the gun. Find the target. Gun goes BOOM! Repeat as necessary.

The Gun Rags (magazines such as Guns & Ammo, American Handgunner, etc.) have used the "IPSC CAN KILL YOU!" type of article as fodder for years, this same palid theme to be dragged out on rainy days when the professional gun-writers can't think of anything to say, but the rent is due and ...

... and so they parrot each other, repeating endlessly their cant that the skills leaned in IPSC are not only applicable to a defensive situation, but in fact they may teach you habits which are counter-survival. These 'bad habits' include failure to take cover, and ... uh ... well, I don't know. This is the only one for which I could find even the most facile justification.

The fact is, when the need to use a pistol Right Now! arises, any gunhandling skills you have may be the ONLY thing that saves your precious patootie. If you have to think about the separate functions of engaging a target, you're probably not going to do real well on your final exam. This isn't the kind of situation which is usually resolved by the application of your vast intellectual resources.

Colonel Cooper says: "An expert marksman is exclusively aware of his marksmanship at the moment of truth." Unfortunately, most of us are not expert marksmen. Markspersons? Whatever. We are the average Joe who finds himself in a situation where all preparations are found to have been woefully inadequate in the real 'moment of truth', which is much murkier, more violent and immediate than any 'moment of truth' we may have envisioned. We're no Stone Killers; most of us have never even pointed a firearm at another person, we can't fall back on experience in defence. Our only resource is a skills-set which has been repeated so often in less frightening circumstances that we can draw on it at will.

Think of competition as making deposits in the First National Bank of I Wanna Live. When you really really need a gun, that's a major withdrawal. If you haven't made the investment, you can't afford the inevitable bankruptcy procedings.

Is this a "coolness under crisis"? It may seem so to the uninvolved observer, but probably it's just a matter of reflexive functioning.

Every time you step up to the line at an IPSC match, you perform the same actions. If your pistol is at where you have learned to expect it to be, all you have to do is put your hands on it. everything else either happens, or it does not.

Do the math.

Monday, February 07, 2005

"Preventing gun violence" in Indiana

Journal Gazette | 02/04/2005 | Preventing gun violence

This from The Unofficial IPSC List member John H, who voices a certain ... reluctance ... to accept the presumed expertise of LEOs to accurately identify citizens who suffer from "Mental Illness".

Legislation allowing law enforcement officers to temporarily seize guns from individuals when there is a reasonable suspicion of mental illness is not a gun-rights issue. It’s a safety issue.

You can tell right away that the publication has no opinion in this unattributed article which is NOT part of the Editorial or Features sections of the website.

Here's one way you can tell it's not an opinion article: if the item makes some attempt to provide more than one side of the story, OR if it resists the temptation to judge the subject, it may be a News item.

So just how does the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette handle this sensitive subject?

Indiana’s lawmakers need to support this legislation, which would protect people from firearm violence.

Well, that sounds fair and neutral to me, don't you think?
But wait ... there's more:

Legislation in the House would permit law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms from individuals for 45 days when an officer thinks the person is mentally ill and dangerous. It allows prosecutors to petition the court to extend the hold on the weapons and gives the court the authority to issue search warrants for weapons possessed by someone who is dangerously mentally ill. It also allows individuals whose guns were seized to petition the court for a review of the weapon retention order.
Where do we start?
How about qustioning the practice leaving the evaluation of mental illness to the judgement ... or opinion, or bias ... of the arresting officer?

Maybe, to go right to the point, we should wonder when a Psychologist or other person who is qualified to evaluate mental competence becomes involved?
As nearly as we can tell from this article, the answer is ... NEVER!

Don't get me wrong here. I don't like the idea of a NutCase With A Gun any more than the average Joe does. But the whole situation is a set-up for abuse. What's to stop a cop with a grudge from arbitrarily deciding that, for example, his girlfriend's husband (to use an extreme example) should be unilaterally disarmed?

Where's the review process?

Well, I don't know. I don't see it in the article. Maybe it's in the text of the bill, which is conveniently missing.

So what does the NRA have to say about this?
Rep. Larry Buell, R-Indianapolis, who authored the bill, says that he consulted with the National Rifle Association when he drafted the bill and that it supports the legislation. “We think it’s a balance to a person’s right to bear arms and the safety of individuals who might be harmed,” Buell said.
I subscribe to the NRA-ILA newsletter, and they didn't send me an ALERT about this today. Nor is it mentioned on the NRA website. Nor is it featured on the NRA "Reckless Lawsuits" website.

Hmmmm... this is three days AFTER the Indiana Journal Gazette article, and the NRA still hasn't acknowledged their support of the bill. I know it's risky to judge from negative input, but I can't help thinking that if the NRA signed off on this one, they should have said something by now. You don't suppose that Rep. Buell lied, do you? After all, I can't find it in the NRA's Legislative Alerts and Updates, nor in their NRA-ILA Grassroots Alerts feature.

There's more, much more, in the article. Go read it yourself. I have no expectation that the supposed concern for mentally ill people is the primary concern of the sponsors of the bill. Sorry, maybe I'm paranoid, but I'll leave it up to you to decide.

And while you're at it, you can decide for yourself how much you trust the ability of the average Cop On The Corner to determine the difference between a mentally ill person, and somebody who just pisses him off.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Practical Shotgun

Last week I received an invitation from my old fried, Randomly Hittin', to join him at the Tri-County Gun Club monthly 3-gun match ... which (this month) is a "Shotgun Only" match.

He provided the appropriate incentives. "I've got plenty of cheap shot shells, and we can share my (semi-auto!) shotgun. The club will have slugs for sale at $1.80 per box of five, and you only need 13 slug rounds to shoot the match."

The last time (also the first time) I shot a Shotgun Only match was about 3 years ago, at Dundee, where I also borrowed a shotgun. I enjoyed that match, but didn't really know what it was all about. This week I couldn't refuse such a generous offer, so I readily accepted.

The match was scheduled for 9am on Saturday, and I got there about 8:30am. It was a foggy, foggy morning in The Great Northwet, so it took longer than I had expected to drive from Salem to Portland.

SWMBO had looked out the window that morning, calculated "foggy + cold + possibly_rainy + early_Saturday = no way!" She decided that she would spend the morning doing laundry, and in the afternoon she would rebuild her PC (add a 2nd hard-drive, another 256k of memory, and load Win98 over Win95.)

What a GOOD list of incentives for a Geek to be out of town!
I knew I would miss her, but I'm an Applications Programmer: I do software; I don't do hardware.

When I got to the Range, Randomly was busily hauling steel targets out to the various bays and helping to set up stages. He took a few minutes to hand me his shotgun and suggest that I go find a safety table where I could get use to the gun.

I mounted the gun to my shoulder a few times, and discovered that the stock was too long to shoot while I was wearing my heavy winter coat. No problem, I can take off the coat. I had three layers of shirt under the coat, including a heavy fleece sweatshirt. Found the safety, right where it belonged at the rear of the trigger-guard. The bolt release was on the right side of the receiver, there was an 8-round extended tube which gave me 9 rounds when one round was loaded into the tube. He had used velcro to attach an 8-round shellholder along the receiver, plus another 2-round shellholder just in front of the bolt port "so you can load easily to the chamber in case you shoot to slide lock."

Okay, I'm just a little intimidated.

After he finished his part in setting up the match, Randomly joined me again to explain the finer points of Practical Shotgun.

"It's all about reloads. It's just as if you were shooting a pistol with an 8-round magazine, but you don't have magazines. Every round is loaded individually, from either the shellholders attached to the gun or from the 16-round bandolier that I'll let you borrow if you're a very good boy. That means you load the bandolier and the shellholders before you shoot, and after you shoot so I don't have to do that stuff."

(Well, he actually didn't say that last part, but that's the way I paid him back for the free ammo!)

We started out with 17-round stage shooting at Pepper Poppers from shooting-boxes. Having been warned, I was not surprised to learn that the biggest time-waster was reloading ... which everyone had to do. A feature which was new to me (as an IPSC Handgun competitor) was three Pepper Poppers with Rebar 'wires' attached, two per popper, each holding a bright orange-collered Clay Pigeon. As soon as you hit the Popper, the pigeons were presented at targets. The first array had an 8" plate, a US Popper, and the Pepper Popper with the clay pigeons ... 5 rounds minimum. Then you moved to another box (reloading frantically!) where you could engage three more US Poppers. Then (reloading frantically, because you needed nine shots to finish) you moved to the 3rd box where you shot two poppers with double clay-pigeons attached, plus three 10" plates. If you got to the shooting position with a full (9 rounds) load, and didn't miss anything, you got a good time. If you missed anything, you lost time while you fumbled more rounds into the shotgun.

I lucked out; because I was so conservative, and dubious about my shotgunning abilities, I took my time aiming and actually didn't use any extra shots.

Funny thing: this would have been about a 15 second stage if it was an IPSC handgun match, but I felt fortunate in completing it in under a minute. But of course, it got worse.

The next stage (17-rounds), you started with aslug- shot at a gallon jug of water, which was dangling from a wire approximately two counties away. It was really only 50-yards (!) away, but I needed someone to point it out to me because I hadn't noticed it W-A-A-A-Y down at the far end of one of the two big bays. Then you marched down to the end, shooting square plates and pepper poppers ... one of which started a Texas Star revolving.

In my 9-man squad, ONE shooter hit the water jug. Many of the shooters found a kneeling position with a rest, where they could get the best possible shooting position. They didn't hit it. When it came my turn, I took a snap-shot at the water jug and just moved on ... I know I couldn't hit it because I had no idea where the gun was hitting at that range with a slug.
Randomly swore I missed the supporting wire by THAT much (indicating fingers held 3/4" apart.) I paid him $5 to say that, so I know my reputation is safe. Realistically, I'm pretty sure I hit the twelve-foot berm behind the target, but I wouldn't swear to it.

When I got to the Texas Star, I started off pretty good. But some of my shot hit the supporting arm instead of the plate, so I had to reload a few rounds. A couple of times. I finally knocked all the plates off the Star, but my time was noting to brag about.

We had three other short ranges where I acquited myself somewhat less than admirably, then we got to the "All Slugs, All the Time" stage. The targets were IPSC cardboard. Two of them were long-range (which I consider anything over 10 yards, but I think these were about 20 yards)

The rest were from 7 to 10 yards, and two of them were moving targets. I mention this only to make the stage sound more difficult than it really was, in excuse for my mediocre performance.

Before I got up to shoot this stage, Gary The Toolman said:
"Hey, Jerry! Shoot Fast!"

"Shoot Fast?"

"Yeah, shoot fast. Don't worry about hits, just ... go really, really fast!"
You may not know it, but I LOVE to shoot fast. This was as close to a "hoser" stage as I could find, so I got up there and shot really, really fast. Including 4 rounds reloaded, I finished in 21 seconds! Wow! I was really impressed with myself, and I had no trouble at all ignoring the 3 misses out of the 12 possible hits on the stage.

I had Shot Fast!

Sometimes, it doesn't take a lot for me to impress myself.

Others in the squad were not as impressed, but they all agreed that I had, indeed, "Shot Fast."

Style Points, that's the ticket. When you can't shoot for shit, shoot fast.
That's my motto.

The final stage was something of a divergence from the rest of the match. You could call it a "deal breaker" stage.
It was set up in a HUGE bay, probably 50' from side to side and 100' long. There was a lot of steel, although only 18 rounds were required to complete it. There were three 'traps' involved, each of which held one clay pigeon which threw a bird from one side of the bay to the opposite corner. The rule of thumb on fast, low quartering shots on birds is, as I understand, "you can't lead them by too far". I shot the static targets on each of the 3 arrays, then turned to where I could see the birds start. Followed the birds with the gun, waited until I got at least eight feet ahead of the bird, and shot while the muzzle was still moving.

I got one of the three birds.

Wow! I thought. I've got this licked.

The last two shots were from the end of the shooting area (a 10' wide by 30' long roped-off area), stand in a shooting box, and knock down two 10" plates close to the ground.

I managed to knock down the first plate ... and then realized that my front foot was touching the shooting box ... but I wasn't in it.

Taking another step forward, so I was entirely in the box, I knocked down the last plate.

I got points for hitting one of the three birds, but a procedural penalty for not being in the box for one of the static plates at the end.

RJ the RO said "okay, we got one in 3 birds, plus all the static targets, so two misses. Plus one procedural for not being in the box while engaging that plate down at the end."

Tough, tough RO.

My time? I don't know. Not enough to be Somebody, surely not enough to Be A Contender.

At least I didn't embarass myself.

I even got some photos.

Maybe I don't have any pride in myself, maybe I'm not motivated, and maybe I had low expectations at the start of the match.

But I went to the Practical Shotgun match with the intention of having a good time, spending the day in fresh air and occasional sunshine with my friends. All of these expectations were met. I don't care that I didn't win the match. I didn't care that I looked like a Bozo out there, trying to figure out the rules as I went along.

I've been shooting IPSC handgun matches since 1983. I have vague memories about how intimidated I was back then, being the NuGuy and not understanding the rules. I didn't remember the FEEL of being a NuGuy, or how nervous I was at my first IPSC matches.

Perhaps I've got a little of that back now.

I knew most of the people I was shooting against. I have some confidence in my basic gun-handling abilities, my understanding of the rules of gun safety, and the etiquette of shooting a "Practical" match.

Still, I found myself somewhat intimidated by the knowledge that I was, after all, a New Guy.

You should know that when a New Guy shows up at a match, he isn't sure how to act or how he will be accepted. The best thing you can do, as an experienced competitor, is to be friendly. Include him in the cameraderie of People Who Shoot Guns Because It's Fun. Applaud his successeses, no matter how small they may be. Don't focus on his errors, and don't give him 'tips' unless they're essential to being safe. Just let him make his mistakes ... he'll figure out what he can do to 'do better' the next time, or the time after that. If you have a lesson to share, do so in the context of mistakes YOU made ... don't dwell on the mistakes HE made.

The most important thing is not to be critical of the new shooter.

I guarantee it will increase his confidence, his determination to come back and try it again and again.

Let the new guy find a home, and friends, in competitive shooting. He'll come back time and again, to eventually evolve in his own time and at his own pace, into someone who wants to encourage the next New Guy as much as he was encouraged in his first few matches, and into someone who you will be happy to be part of your squad.

He won't ever say anything; but if he did, he'd thank you for it.

PS: I don't know that I'll ever take up "Practical Shotgun" as a regular activity, but I have to say that I was impressed by it and wouldn't mind trying it again, sometime, if the conditions are right. My thanks to Randomly Hitten' for his contribution to my enjoyment of what would otherwise have been a no-shooting-matches weekend, and for introducing me to another aspect of competitive shooting.