Sunday, March 07, 2010

Glock Talk ... HERE?

Last Saturday, friend Walt wandered down to ARPC to act as "Demonstrator" at the monthly Introduction to USPSA class which I teach for the club.

Walt regularly assists "Iron Fred" at the Tri-County Gun Club "certification course". The purpose of that course of instruction is the same as the ARPC course: to introduce new would-be competitors to the rules, regulations and SAFETY PRIORITIES involved in USPSA competition.

He had asked me last month how I could teach the course in three hours, when at TCGC it requires an eight-hour day to perform the same function. So I invited him to come down and watch the March class so he could witness first-hand how the the class was conducted.

Sometimes Demonstrators volunteer; sometimes they are drafted!

Incidentally, the Demonstrator's function is part of the three-step Theory of Training:
  1. Describe to the students the exercise which they will perform;
  2. Show them what to do;
  3. Let the students perform the exercise.
Walt was doing the 2nd step. And he threw in a lot of unexpected frills, such as multiple failure-to-feed situations which allowed him to demonstrate the "Slap/Rack/Bang" drill.

I still don't know how he managed to get his 1911-style single-stack pistol in .38 Super to jam so consistently! Nice job, Walt.

But I digress.

At the end of the day, Walt and I took a few minutes so he could brief me on his conclusions.

He said that the difference was not so much the course syllabus, format, or style. It was in the experience level of the students who attended the classes.

As soon as he said that, I immediately understood exactly what he was saying. I had the same problem when I first began to instruct the course.

For those first few months, I found that the class was repeatedly and consistently slowed down because so many of the students demonstrated only primitive, if any, understanding of safe gun-handling. Some showed up with brand new pistols which they may not even have fired. (I've already told the story about the student who didn't realize that his brand new 1911 had a safety!)

Others were not aware of the basic Rules of Firearm Safety.

Still others were suffering from 'beginning shooter' issues: They didn't know how to hold their pistol, they tended to be easily distracted from the serious business of firing a deadly weapon, or they were afraid of recoil of even of the firearm itself.

I had discussed this issue with Club Competition Director Mike McCarter, and we came to the agreement that he would 'filter' the class list. He would insure that they were already trained in Basic Firearms Safety -- either by virtue of having taken the class which is offered at ARPC, or by their own level of personal experience -- before they were allowed to take this "advanced" class.

Apparently TCGC does not perform this function, so the lead instructor (Iron Fred) and his assistants (Walt, and others) never knew what level of expertise they could expect from their students.

A second difference between the two courses is that the TCGC spends the morning (3 to 4 hours) going over the USPSA rule book, and after lunch they adjourn to the shooting bays for another 3 to 4 hours in the Live Fire Exercise.

At ARPC, students are directed to download a manual (written by Mike McCarter) explaining the basics of USPSA competition, covering briefly the safety rules, the practices and the principals of Practical Pistol competition. They complete a simple 20-question test and are required to bring the completed test to the class. That test is the basis for the hour of 'classroom' instruction. The entire class works their way through the test as I re-ask the 20 questions and require some class member to answer the question verbally. Then we take one to 5 minutes to discuss why the question is on the test, define the terms, and branch out to related subjects ... which allows us to both structure the class, and answer questions which may or may not have occurred to the individual student. This process takes only a single hour, most days, although it may extend to an extra half-hour if there are many questions. (This has the unfortunate effect of cutting into the two-hour time allocated for the Live Fire Exercise; I generally offer to stay for an extra half-hour if any students seem to be struggling, or are interested in expanding on the exercises we have taken.)

I'm satisfied that the 3 hour course is both feasible and adequate, if the students are sufficiently familiar and competent with their firearms and the principles and practice of safe gun-handling.

Walt has told me that he will be writing up a report, or a review, of his observations and experience last week, and he will send me a copy to read and comment on before he submits it to TCGC. I do not expect that I will ask him to change the report; I know Walt and I can't imagine him turning in a report which is not factual, accurate, complete and fair. But I'm still anxious to read the report if only to see what his evaluation is going to look like after he has had some time to consider his impression.


You ask: "Hey, is that it? We expected you to talk about Glocks here, and you haven't mentioned them in the entire article! What gives?"


After the class was finished, Walt trotted out his new pistol and invited/encouraged me to try it out.

Walt has just bought a .50 caliber Glock! Not just any Glock, but one of those with a short barrel and a silver-colored slide. (Silver Plastic? Or paint?)

Walt knows full well that I am no fan of the Glock; it has been a running joke for over a decade how little love I have for the Glock Pistol. Given sufficient encouragement, I will grudgingly admit to some of the positive aspects of the Glock.

These usually are in the general vein of "That is one UGLY gun!" Or, "how many rounds can you get between "Ka-BOOM! events?"

But in the spirit of good will, and in full appreciation for Walt's contribution to the class, I agreed to shoot a magazine full .... which turned out to be six rounds. (Walt wasn't saying how many rounds the magazine would hold, I assume 9 rounds. See the specifications at the bottom of this article.)

The first thing I noticed was that the trigger was really quite good. I didn't like the 'creep' of the trigger, but it was quite crisp and I assume that with practice one would become quite comfortable with such a long trigger pull.

The second thing was the excellence of the sights. Very crisp, easy to see (they had the little light-green dots on front and rear sights, which helped a LOT; I assume they are night sights). Every shot went right in the center of the A-zone, with no "flyers" at all.

The third thing was that the grip angle was not as 'foreign' feeling to my 1911-spoiled hands. I don't know that it was because it has changed from earlier models I have fired, or I'm mellowing with age.

The fourth thing was that the construction was really rugged! This is a whole hunk of oughta-be metal, even though I know it's mostly polymer, and the grip filled my large hands we enough that I was confident I control the recoil.

The fifth was that the recoil was not as bad as I expected. A little explanation of terms: the actual "felt recoil" ... the gun pushing back against my grip ... was entirely comfortable. I had wondered if the .50 caliber bullet would see excessively punishing, but it was very soft. On the other hand, what I would normally call "muzzle flip" was similar to that which I have experienced when shooting my .41 magnum Ruger Blackhawk Revolver. The Blackhawk , of course, has a single-action configuration which expects that you will soften perceived recoil by allowing the momentum to translate to vertical movement as the slick stocks allow the rotational energy to be ignored. That requires that the shooter re-acquire his grip on the pistol for each succeeding shot, of course.

The Glock didn't slip in my hands, but I had no sensation of the pistol trying to 'twist'. It was very comfortable .... but there was no way I was going to get good split times and still keep the sights on the A-zone. Comparing it to a full-power 10mm load in my STI Edge ... the two are actually quite similar. That Glock ROCKS! ... literally.

Not suitable for USPSA or IDPA or Speed Steel competition? No, not really. But it wasn't as bad as one might have expected from the "Fifty Caliber" designation. Still, it isn't a bruiser, and as long as one avoids anticipation of recoil it's not a bad shooter.

The sixth, and final thing I noticed about Walt's 50 Glock was ... that ever-to-be-cursed trigger safety!

Every shot ... I repeat, every shot ... I took with this pistol hurt. How? That sucker bites; hard.

Somehow, on the recoil (not before the shot) that trigger safety managed to pinch just enough of the skin on my trigger finger between the trigger and the safety. Yes, the recoil is not bad. But I can see how repeated shooting (such as the 150 - 200 rounds fired in a typical USPSA match) would constitute a form of aversion training. That is, one would learn through experience to expect the uncomfortable sensation of being pinch with every shot, and eventually the anticipation of that "punishment" would cause the shooter to react as badly (eg: the "flinch" phenomenon) as fear of recoil.

Arguably, this particular Glock may be an exception. I've fired (often reluctantly) several Glocks and, while I don't care for the ergonomics, I've never been pinched by the trigger safety. I don't know if the trigger assembly has been fitted incorrectly, or it is a design flaw. Also, in full disclosure, I have been suffering from eczema on my fingers for the past two years, and it may be that my skin is just a little thinner than it should be (although the eczema never directly affected the tips of my fingers). Which is to say, I just may be too sensitive; this may not happen to other shooters.

Overall rating, this is just about the nicest shooting, and easiest to shoot, of the half-dozen or so Glocks I have fired, including the 10mm Glock shooting full-power loads, the 9mm, and the .40 S&W. Taking in consideration, of course, that the power factor is significantly higher. Other than the safety, I liked the safety, I liked the sights, and I even almost liked the way it handles.

I just wish I had the foresight to take a picture of the pistol. Maybe Walt will be able to furnish me with one. Depends on how long he keeps it, I guess.

I assume this was the .50 caliber conversion from American Tactical Imports.


Here is a video of Michael Ban talking with Alec Zimmerman of TCI.

Friday, March 05, 2010

End of an Era: "Tsk Tsk"?

Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we have something like a half-dozen clubs and shooting ranges where you can go on almost any weekend of the month to shoot a Practical Pistol match.

One of the most innovative has been Douglas Ridge Rifle Club.

At DRRC, a small group of experienced IPSC/USPSA competitors decided to try something new: instead of joining in the list of clubs who provide monthly matches for other 'experienced competitors', why not establish a venue for "new shooters" to try the IPSC/USPSA competitive format?

If the shooters didn't like it, at least they knew WHY they didn't like it.

And if they discovered that they liked IPSC/USPSA competition, then they already had sufficient experience (and training) to segue neatly into the regular match schedules provided by other clubs?

It was a bold concept, but unfortunately -- like many other innovative concepts -- it was dependent upon the energy and efforts of a single "key man".

And almost inevitably, when the Key Man found that the effort required to continue the program could not be turned over to a successor, the concept foundered, withered, and eventually died.

Here is the letter announcing the death knell of A Good Idea, from that Key Man .... Paul:
6 years ago I started with an idea that we should provide new shooters with an opportunity to try our shooting game in a setting more relaxed and with less pressure than a regular sanctioned match. New shooters could bring minimal gear and test the game and their gear and see if they wanted to follow on with our fun style of shooting. At the match they would receive shooting training and help following all the safety rules that we live by. In the last 6 years we have started and trained a lot of new shooters. Many have moved onto the sanctioned matches and are doing very well, others decided that the game wasn't for them but they had the opportunity to test the waters and not be out a lot and not be intimidated by large crowds of 70 or more shooters.

Phase 1 of my dream has worked and worked well. Phase 2 was a little more difficult as our section is always needing match directors. Phase 2 was to bring in a few shooters who wanted to step up to the match director level and help our section out. They could train on matches at DRRC, I would help them with what little I knew and they could gain confidence and skill in a small relaxed setting. When the candidate was ready they could step up and be a MD at Dundee and be watched and helped by Bill Marrs and myself along with Mike McCarter and given a chance to learn the MD duties and still be helped along the way. This would be a great learning experience, as opposed to being thrown into the fire style, and would help the section tremendously as we are always looking for help.

This is where my idea stopped. I asked for interested people to train for the MD position and nothing happened. Not finding help there I started asking for help in running these matches as I was hoping this was a growing project and I wanted to be able to get out and do a few outings with my family and friends.

After over a year of no response I decided that it was time for me to part and if nobody wanted to take over the project would have to die out. Sat will be our last match at DRRC until someone decides to resurrect it. It's been a good run, we have trained more new shooters than any club around and the new shooters have experienced beginning stages and have shot some stages that are way over their heads in difficulty. We have also designed stages that we have been able to shoot in the down pours of winter rains by pulling them in and shooting them from under a tent top cover. I can remember a few of those matches would have had everyone walk off at other clubs but we shot them dry.

Most of the time our crowd has been in the 15-20 shooter ranger, just right for new shooters but a few have been in the 30+ range which was a pretty good load for our range. Had we been able to build bays a few years ago as was my dream we would now have been a sanctioned club putting on a great show every month.

That was not to be, times change for some, some of us grow and move on, other groups stall and stagnate. That's life. We were able to put on a match of 6 stages on a flat field with no bays and pull it off. Our stages came close to matching club shoots with shooting bays so I was never embarrassed by our matches, they could stand on their own.

This Sat we'll have a stage or some stages, I'm not sure which or what at this time. My first idea was to put all the targets and props out on the field and everyone would shoot all their ammo together at the same time. Everyone would end with the same time and same score..... All winners on the last match. I had a dream and we got there.

See you Sat and I hope there are enough early birds to do the set up.
It's important to acknowledge that a six year effort is a laudable contribution. Nobody can fault him for losing heart when he has worked so hard. It's not his fault that the anticipated turn-over didn't happen.

And this is nothing new; in fact, it's almost axiomatic that a successful club is defined by the ability (and willingness!) of other club members to take over a successful program and continue it, to the mutual benefit of both the club and future participants who follow in the footsteps of the hundreds of folks who appreciated the unique opportunity afforded them.

It's also important to acknowledge that Paul has put at least as much time into the evolution of a 'standard' USPSA club, when he joined with a cadre of members to continue a successful USPSA/IPSC program at Dundee.

I don't blame him for eventually deciding that his life is too busy to continue bearing the burdens of more than one program. If I had the courage to attempt such an innovative program, I'm sure I would have bailed out the first year.

I am reluctant to label this "IPSC Burnout", but it's almost inevitable. We have see it so many times.

The common scenario is:
A visionary person has an original idea, makes it work, and when he turns around to turn it over to his successor ... nobody steps up to accept the mantle of Leader.

We in the Columbia Cascade Section of USPSA have been exceedingly fortunate that we have so many dedicated and energetic people that we can 'usually' expect to find some other masochistic person to pick up the torch and run with it.

But when there is nobody there, the result is that the Key Man runs out of energy and the program dies, no matter how valuable the program may be.

This is the point at which the author (in this case, me) should offer a simple, yet effective, solution.

I don't have one.

There is a finite pool of energetic entrepreneurial people in any group, and like most people I am not willing to assume the responsibility ... and, yes, the burden ... of running an IPSC/USPSA program.

The Good Lord knows that I'm not personally willing to accept the responsibility to run such a program. It's a game for me, and about all I want to do is play The Game. I'm not the man that Paul is, and few of us are.

We all have a life to live, and we mostly don't have the urge, the energy, or the strong sense of responsibility needed to run such a program.

So ... we are all too much like those voyeurs who slow down when they see an accident of the freeway; we watch something of value turn into twisted shards of no value; we shake our heads and we say:

"Tsk Tsk"

Monday, March 01, 2010


I received my copy of ISniper by Stephen Hunter on Friday, and I finished it on Sunday.

Why the delay in finishing the book?

No good reason, I just stopped to eat and sleep from time to time.

But here's some advice: If you want to understand all of the nuances (especially in the penultimate chapter 55), it is imperative that you listen to Marty Robbins' "Gunfighter Ballads". Especially cut#1 "Big Iron" (lyrics also available here).

I'm just saying, if you are a devotee of "Bob the Nailer", you won't be disappointed. But the Marty Robbins lyrics server to enhance the experience.

Oh, and Single Action Society members receive their just homage, as have reloaders, hunters, ex-military, IPSC and bench-rest shooters in previous Hunter books.

It's a good read. Buy it and read it. Encourage Stephen Hunter to write the next (and possibly last) BTN ... next year.

He has already sold the book. Now he must write it!