Getting to work

After being less than satisfied with my performance at the Rangemaster Advanced Instructor course a couple weeks ago, I’ve been examining my performance. There’s a couple things in play: 1. hardware, 2. software.


Guns and ammo I think played a small part. Small.


I was using my “backup” M&P9. I noticed this gun, despite supposing to have an Apex Tactical DCAEK trigger, while it had a very nice travel and reset also had a very hard break. My primary M&P9 had been in the shop for some long overdue TLC, and I got it back just prior to class – didn’t have a chance to shoot it and verify it before class, so I didn’t use it in class. The trigger on that, certainly Apex DCAEK, is a hair longer on the reset but the press and break is a little smoother and “rolling”.

I finally got to put a pull-weight gauge to them. My primary? 5.25 lbs. The backup? 7.25 lbs. Whoa. That’s not good – worse than factory! I’m going to investigate this at another time, but suffice it to say that while the weight isn’t a problem, the break is a problem. Difficult to convey here, but for sure that HARD break contributed to difficulties when you needed a more precision trigger press (e.g. fast mashing at 3 yards and you don’t notice it, but trying to be precise at 25 yards and for sure it gets in the way).

As well, there’s the whole auto-forward “undocumented feature” I keep lamenting about. This just keeps getting in my way. If I don’t think about it, then it has the inconsistent and problematic behavior. If then I do think about it, it causes me to pause and stutter (more on this below). Either way, somehow it gets in the way. I’m tired of it.

In discussing with a friend of mine, I wondered if weak magazine springs could be involved. So right after class I ordered brand new mag springs for all my practice magazines. I used them, and still auto-forwards sporadically, tho IIRC I had no failures to strip (but give it time…). The old springs were only about 1 – 1.5 coils compressed, so not bad but for sure the new springs are noticeably better.

But then, I got to dry fire a SIG 320. That’s the factory trigger? Oh lawdy lawdy.


During the Rangemaster class, I shot Freedom Munitions 9mm 124 grain round-nose remanufactured. Have shot thousands upon thousands of rounds of FM ammo, it’s generally fine. However, I noticed sometimes at longer distances there’d be one weird flier, but I shrugged it off as me sucking. Interesting data point was Karl (i.e. USPSA GM and far more experienced and capable than I am) happened to be shooting the same ammo. Karl remarked to me observing weird ammo behaviors. So… hrm.

So the other morning while out at KR Training, I brought out a solid benchrest and a bunch of ammo:

  • Freedom Munitions 9mm 124gr RN reman
  • Blazer Brass 9mm 124gr FMJ
  • PMC 115gr FMJ
  • American Eagle 124gr FMJ
  • Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P GDHP
  • Speer Gold Dot 147gr GDHP

I had also ordered some Freedom Munitions 147gr RN and HP, but it still hasn’t shipped.

See, I did some reading on the FM ammo as it pertains to accuracy. Seems some questions exist, because of the use of plated bullets and then issues of (too much) velocity, crimp, etc. and how that could be a factor. It might be one thing to use plated when you handload, but when its an automated machine cranking them out, consistency may waver. It’s one reason I ordered the 147’s from FM to see how a lower velocity might come into play. Karl ordered some of their match ammo to see how it fares. To be continued…

I used my primary M&P, shooting multiple strings from 25 yards benchrest. I also did some runs of the Rangemaster Bullseye Course.

Summary? While I’d still love to collect more data, it does start to look like the FM may not be as accurate out to distances, compared to all the other ammo I shot. But it’s only a leaning – I’d really want to continue collecting data.

I’ll still happily shoot it, because cost and volume and it’s still generally just fine. But it’s the sort of thing where if I know I’m going to be doing something at longer distances where precision matters (e.g.  having to pass a qualification that will have 25 yard shooting with a tight target, e.g. B-8), I may use another ammo.

Only slightly…only slightly

Do I think guns and ammo played a part in my performance? Yes. But only a small part, like maybe < 5%.

But it’s still 100% on me, because it’s my gun, my ammo, my choices.


This is really where it’s at – me and my skills.

The biggest thing I realized about my class performance was I wasn’t “just shooting”. I was thinking too much, worried too much, concerned about so many things that shouldn’t matter, and not just shooting, not just trusting the (new) level of my ability.

So in my first real range time since class, it was all about shooting the Rangemaster Core Skills. Just shut up and do it cold.

I scored a 108.

That’s the best I’ve shot on it, and I could have broken 110 had I not brain-farted on one string.

I went back in my records. I realize I’ve only shot Core Skills a handful of times. So I put all of my data into a spreadsheet on my iPhone so I could more easily track my times and scores.

First time I shot it? scored an 80, and was dropping points at 15 and 25 yards, plus the 1-handed.

I shot a 97.91 at the Advanced Instructor class, with 197 points and slow times.

This last time was a 191 points and a 35.31 on time.  Note: to get a 125 score, it’s shoot clean (200 points) in 32 seconds.

Seeing all the numbers in a spreadsheet, I could see where things are per string. For sure I’m getting better at longer distances, both in time and accuracy – this makes me VERY happy since it’s where I’ve been putting in a lot of work. I can see where I blow things, e.g. this last run on the “3 chest 2 head” I brain farted and shot 2 then transitioned…DUH…transition back then continue. But the important thing is seeing where I’m improving and where I can continue to improve. Frankly, one cool surprise is watching my WHO improving (going from like 5.31 and dropping shots, to 3.59 clean). Still slow, but better.

But the real big thing? I just shot. I had the pressure of someone else watching me, but I just turned off and performed. A big part? Just trusting – do right, watch the front sight, crush grip the hell out of the gun, press the trigger, move move move, don’t worry about the hits because if you do everything right they will be there. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’m happy to be identifying my problems so I can work on them.

I did end the day with another run of the drill and blew it – had stupid things happen. A draw and got hung up in my clothing. At 15 yards firing 3 shots and thinking “wait… it’s 4 shots right?” Ed chimes in “it’s 4 shots” – damnit, bang. Or getting ahead of myself on the reload and totally flubbing the whole string. I didn’t bother recording this run. Brain had faded.

My goals? Being able to score 125 on this test, then being able to score at least 125 cold, on-demand, consistently. As well, being able to shoot the Rangemaster Bullseye, cold, on-demand, consistently with at least a 285. I can break 285, just not consistent enough.


So the hardware? Whatever. I’ll keep shooting my M&P and my Freedom Munitions, but I cannot deny my SIG 320 interest growing stronger every day.

The software? Continue to work on things: concealment draw, reload, 15-25 yard shooting (esp. now shooting them under time pressures and on smaller targets), SHO & WHO. All the good things.

There’s always a place you can improve.

4 thoughts on “Getting to work

  1. You know you wanna come to the dark side. Just buy the 320 already!

    Great retrospective on your Rangemaster performance. You’ve got a gift for detailed analysis (which I especially appreciate when it comes to your ammo research). Keep it up!

    • I’m waiting… if some things unfold, I’ll stay the course. If not, I shall join the cult of 320. 😉

      And thank you for the kind words. What matters more is making something of the analysis. Bringing it to bear.

  2. Very good analysis! You do have an awesome way of writing about your experiences and classes.

    Does Karl have the gauge to measure the pull weight? I just converted another XDm to a backup and would like to measure the trigger pull weights on each gun.

    I am very interested in hearing what you find out about the FM 147 grain. I shoot FM 147 Reman for practice and FM 147 New for matches.

    • Thank you.

      Yes, he does.

      Still waiting for the FM 147’s to arrive. Not sure when I’ll get a chance to try them, and honestly I’m not expecting a notable difference. But, still a curiousity worth pursuing. Whenever I do get around to it, I will write something up here for sure.

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