2016-08-04 range log

On the road to USPSA “B” class.

I’m pretty sure I’m solidly there.

In dry work I’ve been focusing on two main things:

  1. draws at 10 yards
  2. reloads

Again, I’m trying to focus on dry fire as the time where I put in the work, and live fire where I evaluate how the work is going and where work need to go next.

So live time today showed that in fact my 10 yard draw work is panning out. I’m still not as fast or consistent as I’d like to be. I smoked one in 1.2 seconds — one — but found myself more in the 1.7-1.8 range on a consistent basis. That’s still a strong improvement, but certainly a ways to go (I’d like to be CONSISTENTLY around 1.5).

Reloads were better as well. Whereas I’d be hitting in the mid-3’s, I was hitting in the low-2’s, and that’d be at 7-10 yard distances. I did some “4 Aces” work at 3 yards and was hitting 1.7-ish reloads there. So all in all my reloads have improved strongly, but still a WAYS to go. I can tell for sure this is about smooth mechanics because I’d be trying to move quickly and be “jittery”, and just not being smooth with it all — a little bump trying to get it into the mag well, a little hesitation getting back on the gun, a little pause to reacquire the sights and ensure a settled in shot, etc.. Smoothing things out and being reliable and consistent here should take me where I want to be.

And while I wasn’t working on it, split times were getting better too at closer distances. For example, on the “4 Aces” runs I’d hit .15 splits. At around 5-7 yards .25-ish. But back at 10+ yards, because I’d be more worried about accuracy, I’d be maybe 0.4-ish. So again, improvement, but a ways to go still.

One cool thing was a drill I ran at 10 yards really became all about “calling your shots”. Having that front sight crystal sharp, tracking it, and based on what I saw THERE knowing what happened (or what I need to do) and knowing from that where to go. It was a bit of a magical moment. As I let myself go and trusted my sight picture more, things really improved. I still suck in the grand scheme, but today was some pretty cool improvement.

As for what to work on next, I think it’s the same: keep working on my 10 yard draws and my reload mechanics. Work on my eyes being properly focused where they need to be, so even in dry work I’m calling my shots more.

That said, I’ve also got some classes coming up soon, so I’m probably going to shift gears a little bit in both dry and live work to prep for class. Get out of the competition mindset and more into the defensive mindset.

Good stuff. Good stuff.

10,000 hours

People often discuss the notion of how long and how much work it takes to master something.

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion of “10,000 hours” of practice being needed to master something. I just read an article written by Jay Jay French, founder and guitarist for the band Twisted Sister. Jay Jay writes about The Power of 10,000 Hours.

Recently AJ Pero, long-time drummer for Twisted Sister, passed away. Of course, this caused much sadness and unknown in the Twisted Sister camp. But as they say, “the show must go on”. Twisted Sister has been around since 1973, and with all the shows, all the rehearsals, they’ve got much more than 10,000 hours of practice under their belts.

Jay Jay reflects:

The truth is, these days, we only play about a dozen shows a year, almost always between May and August. It means that we are off doing other things the other nine months of the year. We usually only run over the songs once at a rehearsal. I am always feeling just a little queasy and unsure. That’s why, before we go into our first rehearsals, sometime in April, I’m gripped with anxiety. But this time, I was also anxious about a new drummer who had only three rehearsals to learn not just the music but also the pacing of the show; the fact that we were doing a live recording for DVD; multiple bands being on the same bill with us (their equipment changes can always cause problems); and special effects, flames, sparklers, and explosions that will possibly light you on fire if you stand in the wrong place. Plus, I’m not just a guitar player–I’m the manager of the band, with a long mental checklist. More important, I was really sad that A.J. wasn’t up there with us.

Here is my confession. There were just too many unknowns this time. Too many potential areas of disruption. Too much emotion. Because it was the first show of the year, I just couldn’t get lost in the performance. My mind was overwhelmed by the confluence of information. And I was still dealing with my own emotions about this first show without A.J.

So what did I do? I consciously let go. I set my brain on autopilot and let the songs flow out. I kept in the back of my mind an idea of what I would need to do if something really went out of control. But I tried not to think about it, and instead, I relied on my ability to do something I’d done for more than 10,000 hours.

And … nothing bad happened. The show went on about as smoothly as I could have hoped.

This is what separates the big boys from the also-rans. The confidence–in our case, forged in the fires of the live club circuit — that we could always deliver, no matter what was thrown at us, is burned into our DNA. As long as we want to do it, it will be done at the highest levels.

The same is true for companies and entrepreneurs. For you or your company to be great, nothing can ever present an obstacle to excellence. You need to practice until you’ve got muscle memory. You can’t stop Twisted Sister. And you can’t stop a great company when you have a great foundation.

So, get to practicing.

You won’t get better overnight. It’s going to take a lot of time, dedication, and discipline. But if you really want to master something, it’s what it takes, and it’s worth every bit.


Champion Sport Shooter and local Texan BJ Norris has a website called MyGunTips.com.

It’s a growing collection of informational videos about shooting sports, self-defense, and other firearms-related topics.

As an example, here’s BJ explaining strategies for shooting the Steel Challenge stage “Roundabout”

And you thought it was just making 5 plates go “ping” as fast as possible. 😉


Shooting practice

When I went out to KR Training this past Saturday for teaching, I made sure to go out extra early. Had to get things set up and prepped for classes, and I knew if I timed it right I’d give myself a fair chunk of time to do some of my own shooting practice.

After my last live-fire practice, my big decision was: slow down. My general guide is to be accurate first, fast second. This I know, have known, and is always the case, but the pressure of the line always winds up being on going faster and not being the last guy to shoot. It’s just how you get swept up in things. I’m making the conscious effort to not do that. And so when I shoot, slow down.

So to that end, I thought a good cold diagnostic would be shoot “the Farnam Drill”, at least, as I understood it to be. I’ve read so many variations on it, so here’s what I did:

  • IDPA target, only shots in the ‘-0’ zone count. (I’ve read some that say 8.5″x11″ piece of paper)
  • 7-8 yards. I just paced it off and that’s about where I was. (I’ve read 7 yards, 10 yards, 8 meters)
  • 1 round in the chamber (most agree on this)
  • load magazine with 5 live and 1 dummy round (randomly). (I’ve read some with 4 live rounds; I’ve read some that get specific about where the dummy should be, i.e. not on top, not on bottom; I say let it be wherever because you never know where a failure might be, and if you look at the magazine before you seat it well… you’re just cheating yourself.)
  • spare mag with at least 3 live rounds in it
  • shot timer

then on the buzzer:

  • drawing from concealment (I’ve seen some that don’t specify concealment/retention)
  • shoot until you hit the dummy round
  • clear the malfunction (tap, rack, bang)
  • keep shooting until the magazine is empty (slide lock)
  • reload (generally a slide lock “speed” reload, i.e. no retention of the mag)
  • shoot 3 more (I’ve seen some say to only shoot 2 more, so then the 3rd becomes the setup for running the drill again)

I also make sure to move at every non-shooting portion. Draw? move. Clear malfunction? move. Reload? move. It’s just a large side-step, but it’s still moving while doing “not-shooting” actions. Most write-ups I’ve seen of the drill do not discuss movement one way or the other.

Performance? Well, I’ve seen various numbers as well for what performance should be. I’ve seen students should be able to shoot it in 18.25 seconds. I’ve seen that students should be able to do it in 15 seconds. I’ve seen it said that instructors should be able to do it in 12 seconds. But then, how much of a standard can this be with so much variation in procedure? I mean, if you load the mag with 4 live rounds and shoot 2 after the reload vs. 5 live and 3 after, those additional 2 rounds will consume more time. So…. well…. that’s why it’s just hard to compare this across the board. Regardless of minutia, it’s a great drill that incorporates a great many parts of defensive pistol shooting. It provides a good measure of ability and performance. While I cannot compare so much to others, I can at least compare to myself.

My first run, “cold from the car”, all I knew was I told myself to go slow. I had to clean it, timer be damned. Go too slow, be certain of every shot, and just ensure a clean run. That I did, and ran it in 12.63 seconds. It felt glacially slow to me.

I opted to run it again, speeding up a bit. 11.10 seconds.

Then I changed course. See, I was going to just run that drill twice to get a feel on things then move to other stuff. But I decided to keep running the drill over and over and from it take what I could regarding my speed vs. my accuracy. How fast could I push myself before things fell apart? So I kept running the drill over and over, pushing myself faster every time. A couple times I pushed myself to a level that I felt was certainly “too fast” and I really didn’t care if I did miss because the goal was to find the point of “too fast”. I shot it in 8.56, but with 4 holes just outside the ‘-0’ ring, that was obviously too fast. Interestingly, I did shoot it in 8.84 clean. When I thought about the two runs, what was different? What I saw… or rather, didn’t see. On the 8.84 run I may not have seen perfect “target shooting” sight pictures, but I saw enough and was clearly seeing enough, brain was processing “yeah, that’s good (enough)”. On the 8.56, my brain wasn’t as “there” as the other run; I recall my eyes were just taking in noise, and it was akin to just “blazing away” at the target. Was the speed of shooting really any different? I’m not sure; I wish I had looked at the shot-to-shot times because that would be more telling, because maybe I was blazing away, or maybe I had greater time differences during the reloads or some such? I didn’t look. *sigh*  But I did note that even on the 8.84 run I had fumbled a bit, but still got a decent time. I recall Tom Givens shooting this drill (or whatever his flavor of it was) in about 8.5 seconds, so hey… I can live with this.

Averaging out the strings, I generally shot it in about 10-ish seconds. I’ll analyze in a bit.

After doing this drill a bunch, I decided to do a basic thing from the IDPA Classifier: Mozambique. I stood at 7 yards and fired. All 3 rounds must be acceptable hits. Shot from concealment, par time of 3 seconds. This was not only to nod towards my desire that the first string of the IDPA Classifier is something I should be able to clean on demand, but it was also some time to work on my concealment draw.

Finally, I ran the 3 Seconds or Less drill. That’s another drill that I should be able to do, cold, on demand, and clean every time. Only ran it once, but did clean it.


I must remember to forget the timer and focus on accuracy. Even if that means I’m last in the match, if I can show “no points down” I’ll be happy about that. If that means in classes I’m the last guy, fine, because I’ll have no tape on my target. Accuracy is my focus, even if I’m slower.

But on that token, I must keep pushing myself on speed because I have to know where my limit is, and if I’ve improved.

One thing certainly is what I see. Those two 8-second runs were quite different in terms of the visual information gathered and processed, and I have to remember what I saw, and didn’t see. And I’m probably due for a refresh from the Enos book.

The other is “other stuff”. My concealment draws were consistently around 1.7 seconds. Not bad, but certainly room for improvement. But that said, I’m not sure that’s the best place to focus my time. I don’t think it’s so much speed getting the gun out of the holster as it is on my presentation. It’ll go back to the visuals. I need to get on the trigger sooner, allowing the shot to break when I have a “good enough” sight picture. I know I’m waiting a little too long, for more visual feedback than I actually need. Just gotta get on it sooner and allow the shot to break when I have the good enough picture, not after I have it.

It’s even visuals with split times. I actually didn’t look at my splits, but I know I’m going slower than my eyes and brains need.

Plus, reloads. I got caught in my concealment garment too much or had other little fumbles.

But I think the biggest help is my mindset: accuracy is final.

Still, while keeping the mindset is appropriate, if there’s anything to specifically work on it’s “see what I need to see, and ONLY what I NEED to see”.

Maybe next month

Alas, didn’t make it out to my first IDPA match this past weekend. Older 2 kiddos were sick, so I had to be Dad. Not a problem of course, family first. So it just meant more dry fire practice instead. Oh well… these things happen.

Just as well tho. I registered for an IDPA membership but haven’t heard anything back. I’ve tried contacting IDPA but received no response. It’s possible they have responded, but nothing by US Mail and maybe spam-filters caught email and I cleaned out the filters too quickly and missed it. I figure maybe start of the year, SHOT Show, they just were swamped. I’ll ping them next week and see.

Starting IDPA

I made it a goal of 2012 to participate in at least one competition match.

I failed to meet that goal. Main reason? Limited time on weekends, and I chose teaching over playing games.

Plus I’ll tell you a secret. Public perception. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but people expect because you teach that you should be some awesome shooter — and that is not an unreasonable expectation. I know I don’t suck, but I am not at the level I expect of myself. I just haven’t made “becoming a Grandmaster USPSA/IPSC shooter” a top priority. And so I fear, with the “small world” that is the shooting world here in Central Texas, I’d go out to some match, stink up the joint, and how that would reflect on me as a teacher, upon KR Training, and so on. And so it’s kept me away. That’s just unhealthy and wrong, but it’s human of me. I’m getting over it.

I decided that in 2013 I need to shoot more. I need to get my skills up. And with Karl and Tim’s support, I’m backing off teaching and going to shoot local IDPA club matches in 2013. There are a lot of IDPA matches every month if I wanted to drive and be away every weekend, but I’ll start with one match and month and see how it goes. My intention is to shoot one IDPA match a month (with some minor exceptions), and dry practice the needed skills in between matches. If the only live fire I get each month is the match, then so be it — it’s better than I have been doing. I am not planning on shooting more than 1 match a month, but who knows how things might progress.

Interesting thing is the next matches? They’re all running the IDPA Classifier. Heck of a way to start, eh? But why not. In a way, it’d be cool to establish a baseline for myself. Yes, I expect to stink up the joint because I don’t know the rules, I don’t know how to play the game, and I don’t know how to “game” the game either. So I’ll just shoot, be very conservative, and suck. But at least there’s no where to go but up. 🙂

I’m also rusty as hell. *sigh*

That said, today I did go out to the A-Zone range and ran myself through some drills, one of which was the Classifier. At least I won’t be totally cold and unfamiliar with it. Alas, it’s been raining and was raining there this morning, light, but enough that it was muddy and slippery. Still, it doesn’t matter. Shoot, it’s no excuse for performance. The only thing it really prevented me from doing was kneeling — I got “almost down”.

How did I do? I’m solidly a Sharpshooter. That kinda depresses me because it’s not the level of performance I expect from myself — if I had shot Expert, I would have been happier. I had too many points down (especially on stage 3), including some misses that should not have happened. I mean, I expected I might stink up stage 3, but I should have been able to shoot stage 1 clean and I didn’t. *sigh*  I can say this was the first thing I shot, cold from the car, and the last time I did any live fire was a couple of months ago (yes, horrible). In fact, I haven’t done much dry fire either. I am not being a good role model. So really, when I look at it all, my performance is in line with everything. And I’m not happy about that.

I can’t fix it all overnight. Here’s a few things I can do now to start making tangible improvements:

  1. Get the first shot off faster. My time to first shot was in the 1.7 to 1.8 range. I was being slow today, intentionally so, but I can certainly work to improve this down to at least 1.5. A lot of this is just anticipating the buzzer and moving my body quickly to get the gun out of the holster a.s.a.p.. After shooting the Classifier, I spent some time doing one shot draw drills against the timer, trying to push myself. I could push and get to 1.5 without much problem but then #2 would fall apart.
  2. Work on the press-out/presentation. It’s about getting into that eye-target line, so when I do the draw, when I get things out faster. This really dovetails into #1. But while I do want to strive for the ideal sight picture and such, I have to remember the Brian Enos stuff of seeing as much sight picture as is needed, but no more. Allow myself to go faster and have the “good enough” sight picture for 7 yards (which will be different than 20 yards).
  3. Slow down more on the 15+ yard shooting.
  4. Speed up on 1H shooting.

Really, I think if I work on the draw/present, that’ll take me far with everything at this point. The goal then being to be able to shoot stage 1 clean, and I think 30 seconds is reasonable as a starting goal. I found some posts on the brianenos.com forums, for Expert breakdown and Master breakdown. Using those as a guide, I think cleaning stage 1 in 30 seconds is a good starting goal to work towards. Given how I shot today, it’s quite do-able with the above focus of faster draw and speeding up the 1H shooting.

Once I tackle that, I’ll reassess and tackle the next weak point. The larger goal is to classify as Expert (or better). In terms of time frame, I reckon that means “by the next Classifier”, which is probably January 2014. I’ve got a long road ahead of me.

Wish me luck on this new journey.

Fun Family Day

If you look down on “rednecks”, both the people and the things they do, then you should stop reading now because this post will probably offend you. 🙂

Had a wonderful day with the family today. Originally we were to do this during my Christmas vacation, but since I was down with the flu it didn’t happen. Fortunately the heavens saw fit to give us today, so the opportunity was taken.

The main thing? Going to the gun range and shooting. Some work, some recreation. Thank you, Karl, for letting us use the range.

It started off with me doing some live fire pistol skills work, because of my desire to start shooting IDPA. Details on this elsewhere. Meanwhile, Wife and Kiddos were inside the range house doing schoolwork (the joys of homeschooling).

When I finished my work, I took Wife out for a little work with the shotgun. She wants to improve her proficiency with the shotgun, so we did some work there. Alas, a 12 gauge, even with low-recoil rounds, just isn’t in the cards for her (Karl, if you find her shoulder, please let me know). She’s just fine with the 20 gauge. I just wish … oh wait! It looks like Federal now has a 20 gauge buckshot with FLITECONTROL wad (PD256). Holy crap! This is awesome. Of course, as I look around right now, everyone’s out of stock. But wow, this is great. I’m there and it’s pretty much removed my reserves about the 20 gauge. Sure it’d be nice to standardize on 12 gauge, but oh well. At least now I don’t have to put up with sub-optimal 20 gauge buckshot.

After that, Wife was done for the day. With the wet weather and the temps in the 40’s, it was just too cold for her to keep going. But the Kiddos were ready.

I recently purchased a new shotgun and needed to break it in and ensure function. I ran a bunch of 12 gauge target loads through it, then some full-power buckshot (of course, the Federal FLITECONTROL), and some slugs (Brenneke low-recoil slugs). The slugs didn’t want to go into the mag tube easily for some reason, looks like the brass was hanging up on the retainer clips, but no big deal really. Everything functioned great. I did put a 12″ Hogue Short Shot stock on it (shorter LOP makes for easier shouldering) and while 12″ LOP is a little too short for me, it worked out alright and I didn’t smack my thumb into my face as much as I expected I would. 🙂  I consider the shotgun functional and able to be pressed into service.

Oldest has never shot a 12 gauge before — he’s always been a bit recoil shy. But today he stepped right up to the plate and fired it like a champ. We’ll work on speeding up his shot recovery, but he really did a great job with it.

Youngest has never fired a “big gun” before, just .22’s. But he wanted to try the shotgun. 12 gauge was too much tho, so I pulled out the 20 gauge (a Mossberg 500 Bantam youth model) and let him try it with some light target loads (which are still kinda stout). He handled it well, tho was taken aback a bit because it was a big boom — again, it’s the most gun he’s ever fired. But he did come back for a second shot, but that was enough. 🙂

We put the shotguns away and took out an AR-15. I originally didn’t plan on bringing out an AR, but when packing up this morning, Oldest expressed interest in shooting it and I wasn’t going to say no. Again, he’s been very recoil shy in the past, only wanting to shoot .22’s. So for him to want to step up is great in my book. I mean, I know he can handle it, after having shot that 255# feral hog a couple years ago with a .308 bolt-action. Oldest got to learn what “giggle factor” is. 🙂  He was having WAY too much fun with that rifle — I should have brought more ammo. Daughter shot it for a bit, but she tweaked something in one of her arms the other day and so it was kinda painful to hold up the rifle. Youngest tried the AR as well, and was quite pleased that the recoil was far less than the shotgun — tho it was a heavier gun to hold up.

We put the long-guns away, and pulled out everyone’s favorite: the Buck Mark Camper. All 3 kiddos shot at the steel targets with this, and it’s just fun to plink with such a low-recoil gun — tho Youngest did get bit by the slide. Daughter showed some good improvement on trigger control. She asked how you get to shoot faster, so I explained a bit and I guess something clicked because she was shooting a little faster by the time we wrapped up.

While a lot of today was about having fun, it also was with purpose. I want my kids to be self-sufficient and able to take care of themselves. Yes, that means being able to shoot a gun proficiently. You may not understand why that’s the case, and if you don’t understand I’d be happy to discuss it with you; even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you are willing to have an open mind and come to listen and understand. The guns shot, the things we did, all done with purpose, even if I was the only one that knew what the purpose was.

Alas, we had to wrap it up before everyone was tired of it, but that’s ok — always leave them wanting more.

We headed to the Elm Creek Cafe for a delicious lunch (everyone loves that place), then back home.

Oh… and the Buc-ee’s in Bastrop is finally open. Yes, we stopped in. Finally my family came to understand why I adore Buc-ee’s.

We had a great day. Smiles all around. Happy family. I can’t wait to do it again.

Pulling back so I can move forward

I had written this long post that basically wound up being me sorting out my thoughts.

I opted not to post it since it was just endless rambling. But because of what I sorted out, I figure I might as well post about it because 1. it’s less rambly, 2. it actually might be directly relevant to some of you.

I’m not going to be teaching as much in 2013.

I still love teaching. I’ve met so many great people, helped so many people overcome fears and take those initial steps towards greater personal responsibility and safety. I also learn a tremendous amount (how does the saying go? when one teaches, two learn.) I will still be helping out at KR Training as much as I can, but with finite time and resources, especially on weekends, pulling back on my assisting there is what had to be sacrificed.

So what will I be doing to move forward?

I’m making the commitment to participate in competition.

I’ve been treading water. My skills have stagnated, and I’m just fooling myself in trying to find ways to get better without doing the core thing: shooting. If you want to get better at X you must do X. Dry fire only takes you so far. Even using that Airsoft is helpful, but only takes you so far. My friend Tim, who is a master-ranked IDPA shooter, has been very helpful, supportive, and encouraging in this area… listening to me, helping me sort through it all. If I want to progress, I need to get out and shoot more.

I’ve tried to do competition in the past, and I even made it a goal that in 2012 I’d shoot at least one competition match. But I didn’t. It comes down to lack of time, and that I didn’t make time for competition. Simply put, I can only allocate so much time and effort in my life to “gun stuff”, and I preferred to spend it at KR Training helping with classes. Looking back, that was the right decision on a number of levels. Going forward, now is a time I can do this.

Why IDPA? Looking at the types of matches available in my area well… 3-Gun, Carbine, and other long-gun types of matches are out because those aren’t really my thing nor my emphasis (tho maybe later). So that pretty much leaves ISPC/USPSA, IDPA, or Steel Challenge. Some time ago I steered away from IDPA because I didn’t want to get bothered by the folks that shoot it like it’s tactical training and deny that it’s just a game, that it can be gamed, and it can be an equipment race just like any other game. I just didn’t want to be around the element. But I look at what I need to focus on in my own skills, and what I need right now is actually to slow down and get more accurate. I need to focus more on accuracy, and when it gets down it it, IDPA is a game of accuracy first and speed second. Steel? That’s all about speed. Given my needs right now, IDPA actually seems most fitting.

I don’t consider this “training”. It’s a game. But I know it will help me perform better because it’s new situations, pressure, and a break from the stagnation. And if I’m just better at the core task, that will carry over regardless of context. I’ll admit I’m unsure about the level to which I’ll take it. Will I totally game it out? Or will I stick with habits? For example, dropping the slide by grabbing the slide over the top (horseshoe grip), pulling back, and releasing is probably the better general approach to working the slide. But there’s no question it takes time to do and isn’t as fast as hitting the slide lock button. I’m sure I’ll fall back to established habits at first, the question being if I’ll replace those habits with the gaming element. Just have to see how it goes.

I think what’s also helped is all my lifting. Staying dedicated there has really made a difference to me. Writing about it is part of that dedication. And so, it’s part of why I am writing about this change here — an intent to follow through and commit.

This isn’t some “new years resolution”. It just happens to fall around that time because schedules are being determined. But it is a change, and I do need strong resolve to go forward. Thanx for riding along with me.


What to expect at your first action shooting match

Local action pistol shooter, Nathan Taylor, made a 2 part video series for folks interested in getting involved in action pistol shooting but aren’t quite sure what to expect.