18. October 2012 · Comments Off on Three-Gun for the Masses · Categories: Competition, Staffing

Wow, am I behind. I did this event in September. I feel compelled to write about it though.

I got to see the other side of the fence, helping run a huge event for our range (the one we use for rifles). It had over 150 participants and a whole lot of volunteers. I didn’t get to set up the stages because of schedules and other difficulties, but I got to help run one of the stages. I am grateful for this experience. I got to see what it’s like to be on the other side, trying to enforce safety, and keep people moving at the same time. It’s definitely a different experience when you are the worrying about who’s pointing their barrel the wrong way. And on top of that, there were a whole lot of low-experience people that needed a lot of reminders. I caught one guy resting the end of his barrel on his foot. Yeah.

This was a lot of fun. There eight stages that used a rifle, a shotgun, a pistol, or a combination. There was also one air rifle stage (and it was set up as a shot house!). A great variety of sets and scenarios. I wish I could have shown up earlier to help build, and to help ahem, test, the stages! Next time!

24. August 2012 · Comments Off on Carbines Again · Categories: Carbine · Tags: ,

Yet another carbine event. It was not nearly as hot out, so that helped! The course also didn’t require as much time spent in the sun.

First we ran forth and shot at 200 yard targets. Unfortunately, on the first go, the line was stopped a little short of the berm and some of us were aiming low because we were coming at it from an angle. Gravity was working differently from the perspective of our scopes. So we tried that again. And I hit something! Yay! Then we had movers. They were balloons. Didn’t get that one. Then we had two different stages of movers to shoot at from two positions.

We then went over to the shorter ranges and a course was set up that required moving from the 100 yard range to the 50 yard range with a wide range of targets and scenarios to do. First at 100 yards, we had targets out at 50 and 100. Some people went prone (me!) and others used the post markers as supports. Then on to the other side where there was a lot of moving back and forth from one target to another.  We had to shoot at some targets while moving towards them. Eventually we’d clear our rifles and put it down, draw our pistols, and go after some more targets. Including walking backwards!

Hey! I just did that yesterday (well not really, I just shot and then walked backwards. C’mon.). Damn, that’s hard.

Overall, it was a pretty fun event. My PS90 performed great with the exception of a gunky magazine that needs some lube. We also tested out and then zeroed in my new AR-15 which is good to go in my next carbine game. A very satisfying weekend.

24. August 2012 · Comments Off on Indoor Action · Categories: Pistols · Tags: ,

We thought we were showing up for PPC but turns out we got the dates wrong, and it was Indoor Action! Which is even more fun! We also finally got our membership. I can get to the range and practice without attending a competition.

This was the first time I’d taken my new PPQ out to an event. Meanwhile, my husband took over my P22 for a change.

There were fewer people at this event because it was sort of cancelled at such a last minute that only half of us got the message. It’s amazing how little time it takes to set up a quick and dirty stage when you’re in a hurry.

I finally get up there, and on the first stage, the first thing I’m supposed to do is shoot over a metal barricade, but below the metal railing that is above it, thus shooting through a rectangle.

As I mentioned before, the PPQ had way more kick than I expected. So when I came to this event, the first shot goes off and the gun flips up, smacking into the railing. I was pretty surprised and it stuck with me through the event. The guy keeping time was very helpful and gave me advice after each of the four scenarios we went through.

In the sidelines there were a couple comments suggesting I had ‘too much gun’ and I should downsize.

Whatever. I can handle it, I just need to learn how to get that good grip.

For the most part, these guys are friendly, helpful, and encouraging. But some of them are a little socially awkward.

Two different people had to ask why the girl had the .40 and the guy had the .22 and while a little teasing might be ok, a pattern is not so much. The first time I attended this event, the guy doing introductions reassured me that there usually are other girls around. Well, this is why they’re not as around as all that.

I’m even more determined to stick with the gun I picked. I’m not out to win anything. I’m not out to prove something to anyone else.

Now I just got to find the right sights for Bruce.

23. August 2012 · Comments Off on Another Appleseed · Categories: Rifles · Tags:

We attended another Appleseed event. The husband ended up walking out of there with an orange hat, as an instructor-in-training. We brought along a bunch of our friends and had a great time overall.

This was an unusual variation on the theme of Appleseed. I ended up renting a gun because of how this place was set up. They didn’t have one with a scope available for me unfortunately, but there was the red dot. The instructor was kind enough to adjust for me and gave me larger targets. My goal was to work on tightening up my groups so that next time I had something better to work with when I had more appropriate equipment.

Working with the rifle is reassuring. There are a lot of limitations for me but, with the right optic, it levels the playing field. I just need to get the right zoom to get even with other peoples’ eyes. Red dots are amazing! And I am loving my scope. I am confident that with enough practice, I can learn to read the wind as good as anyone, and factor it in.

We went on another scouting trip to Cabela’s. I focused on looking through their scopes to find what adjustment features, ladders, etc. I could use. I found a ladder that would work but it’s an order of magnitude more expensive than I can afford right now. Well one of these days when I get a high-powered rifle of my own, I know what to put on it!

16. August 2012 · Comments Off on Carbine Camp · Categories: Carbine, Competition · Tags: ,

I’m getting a little behind on my write-ups!

I attended another carbine event that had a lot of fun activities squeezed into a long day. The first thing we did was shoot at movers. Unlike the first time, I had my scope with me so I was able to play this round. I made a couple hits! I was pretty thrilled to get my first hit on a moving target (I haven’t been back to a shotgun event yet).

Next we went down to the short distance range and got in some serious close-quarters action. We started at 50 and advanced towards our targets doing different drills. Unfortunately I was already past the 20 yard mark when someone pointed out my shots were all low and reminded me that as you get closer, the zero isn’t going to work so great anymore. Uh, yeah. I took a sideways look at my rifle, I recalled the enormous gap between the red dot location and the barrel, and I switched my tactics to line that barrel right up with the center of the target. I did better then.

I’ve got to say that the red dot makes target acquisition ridiculously quick. It also looks like I have pretty good familiarity with my trigger now, at least in these nearly point-blank applications. Quick target acquisition followed by two smooth squeezes while taking advantage of the trigger reset led to consistently good timing.

There was one point where we had to work offhand, because we had to shoot from both sides of a barrier. Someone else on the line reassured me that everyone has this problem, where they are squishing their face around so that they can get their dominant eye on the sight, because, most people don’t train with off-hand work. I did the face-squish and pulled it off. It may be one of those cases where the raised rail gap worked to my advantage.

The last portion didn’t work out for me. We were really hot and during a water break I noticed my hands shaking. Calling that out resulted in a whole lot of well-intended scrutiny.

Anyway, things got a little confusing when it came down to the pistol drawing stage. I of course had to be there with my P22 with its weird mag release and external hammer and 50 safety features (I’ve at least taken care of some of these oddities now that my PPQ’s holster arrived). I decided not to take that round.

I find that in a stressful situation, having a half dozen people trying to give you uninformed directions is pretty stressful. I would recommend that the guy in charge be the one to deliver instructions and call it a day. I expect that people will feel safer all around.

Having the magazine release be part of the trigger guard really freaks people out. I will have to remember that when I am in these events in the future and clearly articulate when I’m going to drop my magazine.

Well that last part was embarrassing but overall it was a great day. This is the most fun event I’ve been in to date.

02. August 2012 · Comments Off on New Toys · Categories: Pistols, Rifles · Tags: ,

I brought home a couple new toys recently.

First, I bought a lever-action Henry. These are supposed to be great for training. It is supposed to be a great training gun because the ejection of the bullet is separate; you can do it at your leisure, you have less recoil because the firing is not used to eject the casing. That also means less of a trigger pull because less work has to be done with each click.

I found this to be a very easy weapon to use, but my arms grew tired even on this little one and I will have to work on my stamina (seriously, can’t even finish the tube?).

I also bought the PPQ. I needed a full-sized, full-capacity centerfire. I didn’t really like the options that most people had. I didn’t want to get into the 1911 platform, I don’t like glocks, I was ambivalent to the M&P (but anything glock-like, I’m not a fan of), and the CZ I saw looked promising but they don’t come out of the box like that.

In the PPQ I expected good ergonomics, good balance, and from the videos, a ridiculously short trigger reset. I got all of those, but it turned out to be not exactly what I expected either.

I have a PPS which I enjoy a lot, but being a compact gun, it’s not really conducive to any of the games. It’s in .40cal because I actually like having a bit of recoil and the 9mm just didn’t do it for me. I got the PPQ in .40cal too. I expected that, since it’s a bigger gun, there will be less felt recoil. With people going on and on about how little guns have lots of kick, that seemed well, obvious, right?

But I was totally wrong about that. There’s more barrel so less gas is wasted. The PPQ has substantially more recoil than the PPS. So much so that I was genuinely surprised. I haven’t figured out a good grip yet, especially on this larger gun where there’s more room for my hands to move around, so the minute tilts that I would get in the past because of a limp left hand was wildly exaggerated. At first, I didn’t know what hit me when it’d cant wildly and the casings would fall on my head. I eventually fixed that, but then I started having feed problems and I just don’t know how to reliably make that not happen yet. I really need to take a good look at how I hold the gun and work it out.

10. July 2012 · Comments Off on Sometimes It Gets Blurrier on the Path to Focus · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

Project Appleseed is a volunteer program where trainers teach people about rifle marksmanship and a specialized set of skills. It is taught as a martial art they claim is unique to the United States. Gun ownership and gun skills played a role in the creation of our nation. This is a very well-run organization with good procedures, wonderful volunteers, and a stellar emphasis on safety. You can read more about it as well as the NYT (decent but of course, liberally motivated) write-up.

While this training is geared towards beginners, there was a wide range of experiences represented at the training. Some were there to learn, others were there to hone, and yet others were there to get qualified and become instructors of their own.

The ultimate course of fire for this event is to shoot several targets at around 25 yards (or less if that’s all your range has) standing, sitting, and prone, all unsupported (with slings if you have ‘em) with some target switching thrown in, under a time limit.

I didn’t have very clear expectations when I showed up. It took a long time to understand that all the training they were offering was for this specific activity. Granted, there are a lot of universal marksmanship skills that go into this specific thing, but there is also a LOT of optimization, and de-optimization, that one could perform. And boy, did I make a lot of sub-optimal choices before we even got to my skill deficiencies.

I don’t know if I could have picked out a rifle less suited to this game if I had tried. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to. I came with the only rifle that I had, and there aren’t a lot of off-the-shelf models I can work with. Since it was such a terrible challenge to get the PS90 sighted in, at 50 yards, we decided not to do any of that.

But unfortunately, when prone at 25 yards, things look a whole lot different. I started off trying to apply Kentucky Windage. I had discernible groups at the beginning of the first day and figured out what the difference was. I thought I was doing pretty good at compensating for this, and that was my big mistake. As a scientist and an economist, I want to reduce all the noise in an experiment and analyze the difference that specific actions make. This technique I was using—which I was advised against using, made it more difficult for me to see the impact of the other skills I was trying to employ. I started with noisy groups. I added noisy compensation. I then added additional noisy techniques I was trying to learn. That’s not a controlled experiment; that’s a disaster.

Let’s just march on down my other issues. The PS90 has a very big gap between the mount of the scope and the top of the buttstock. This has caused me difficulty overall because it’s hard for me to figure out where exactly to place my head. Part of the philosophy of the Project Appleseed martial art is to remove as many twitching muscles out of the equation as possible. About fifty of those muscles are in your neck. You can imagine how difficult it can be to hold your head steady in exactly the same spot, looking through a scope, when other people can get one of those “cheek welds” (lamest term ever) onto their buttstock and eliminate those twitches.

Another aspect of the Project Appleseed martial art is consistency. When you’re trying to make a chinweld, you’re going to have a harder time keeping a consistent position relative to your gun. You’re also going to get a bruise on your jawline… Turns out my ridiculously nice scope didn’t have the range of angle needed to adjust for the distance between rail mount and rifle barrel at close ranges. In order to get this gun on target, I’ll need a new scope mount. To compensate for this, an awesome volunteer helped me zero the scope in at the top of the thicker stadia on my scope so I have some point of reference. This worked great before I learned (well yeah this is so obvious) that if you change the zoom on the scope the points of reference all change…. The other problem I had was that it’s really hard for me to tell the difference between the thicker lines and the thinner lines on the scope without a lot of contrast. As I wavered back and forth, I lost track of where the line changed. Intellectually I understand this, but I just couldn’t keep track of where exactly that reference point was.

My gun doesn’t come with conventional sling attachment points. The back goes around the buttstock and through the thumbhole. The front wraps around the back end of the rail. The Project Appleseed techniques use a sling attached farther forward so that the strap supports the wrist and attaches your hand to the gun. I had no place for that, so my alternate attempts didn’t work so well. In theory one could drill a hole in the section that sticks out in front of the trigger guard, but that seems a bit questionable. Instead, we zip-tied the sling around the barrel itself. That’s definitely not a long-term solution.

And most significantly, I didn’t have the right attitude. I was playing around and trying to do things my way. I wasn’t devoted to winning the game set before me. I could have done much better, and learned more, if I had played along and tried harder to get it right. That was really a failure on my part that I could have done something about. I didn’t want to play with my scope because of how annoying it was to get it set up and will be to set up again at distance. It was only the second day, when after giving up and trying to adjust the scope and it didn’t work, that I asked for help getting myself sorted out. Not the most effective use of anyone’s time.

So, things weren’t going very well. And I just fell apart. I was frustrated. My scores were declining. I was mad at myself for not taking it seriously before. I wondered, what should I have expected? And overall, I was confused. Intellectually, I understood, that I came out of that event with better skills than when I entered. Even though my shots were further off, and more scattered than ever, my technique is improving. But it’s hard to reconcile this with worsening results.

I know I could have done better. I could have been a better martial artist and a better student. Yes, I had some disadvantages going in, but it would have made a whole lot of difference if I’d handled the things I had control over. And I will do better. I’ve already signed up for another event next month. I might even go on Saturday if I can arrange it. This is a goal I can make. I wavered a bit, because a lot of these techniques are specialized and not useful for anything else I’ll do. But you don’t beat a game because what you learned there is going to beat another game. You do it to enjoy yourself and accomplish something.

I’m going to win this game.

Because I can.

06. July 2012 · Comments Off on Does God Make the Artist Blind, or Do the Blind Gain the Gift of Art? · Categories: Background, Brain · Tags:

I always thought I should have been an artist. I have such vivid visions and a clear idea of what I want to make, but without the fine coordination to make it happen. What I didn’t understand was it takes a lot of practice for even the most gifted artists to learn and hone their skills to the level necessary. Perhaps if I had put the time in, with an open mind, that one would have put in since early childhood, I could come to the point where I could make what I want to happen, happen. That’s a lot of hours. I suspect it’ll take me way longer than it would take for me to become a decent shot.

I imagined that if only I had the eyes, I could do all these things with ease. Perhaps it is so, that when I was 4 or 5, these activities were more rewarding and over the course of my childhood I would have developed my skills to the point where I could make the visions I have come to life.

But there is another twist to this personal mythology.

I was listening to this recent episode of Radiolab about a scientist that became a professional artist. They suspect that she had gained very vivid visuals when some part of her brain broke down.

This story reminded me of my understanding of the brain, and my personal theory that all those synapses are adaptable and that you can form new habits, and re-appropriate portions of your brain for different things. I know that people who are blind use that visual area of the brain for different things. I know that I use mine differently, at least a tad, from the way other people use it.

If I had perfect eyes, there is no way for me to tell how I would have used that portion of my brain. There is no way for me to know how I would have approached art!

This is a crazy thought, but perhaps instead of storing information about hand-eye coordination, I USED that area for something else, like my visual aesthetic, my understanding of juxtaposition and composition, my very understanding of visual communication…

In another life, I could have been an athlete. I love the gym. I have no finesse. Why use a chisel when a hammer will do?

It could be even more dramatic.

In another life, this portion of my brain, and the many hours spent dreaming up visual landscapes, might have been spent on something even more different than the hand-eye coordination I lack, more extreme than martial arts or rock climbing. Maybe I would have been an architect. Maybe I would have been a violinist. MAYBE I would have just thrown that all out the window and devoted my life to science, chemistry, or math. Business?

As I brainstorm here, I am reminded of all the visual cues in normal communication that I miss, that I never learned. That I am trying to learn now. All those subtle gestures that I never picked up and I am deliberately trying to cue in on now, would have taken up space in the brain of a functional person, and I’m missing all of that. Instead of keeping track of such subtle cues learned from birth, I have to learn it all over again, using the left-brained logic hammer (I told you I wasn’t subtle).

So many fine-tuned adjustments were made to take advantage of my mental processing power, so many obstacles to overcome… there’s no way to know how my brain would have been mapped out if things turned out differently.

When I was growing up, I thought that art was what I was always meant to do, and my ideal profession was taken from me. But now I understand that I could never know what I would have done in another life. I could never know if I would have been drawn to art, enjoyed it, or even had the spectacular imagery, visual landscapes, or visual creativity, as I have developed in this real life.

It’s time for me to stop asking myself what I could have done, and appreciate what I can, and could, do now.

I love art. I am grateful that I can enjoy such a thing, both conceptually, with my imperfect eyes, and through my uncertain hands. It’s time to fully embrace and appreciate what I have.

06. July 2012 · Comments Off on Range Day · Categories: Practice · Tags:

We went out to the long distance range to get initiated into the club. This was the first gun club I ever joined.

Different clubs have different attitudes, and I think that this goes deeper than the type of guns and games. Each one has a different personality. This particular range is about serious business. People show up, they get down to the serious business of the day, then they head out. They are friendly enough, but it was made clear in the initiation meeting that they aren’t here to hold a picnic.

I’m writing this report about 2 weeks later so my memory is a little hazy. This’ll teach me not to dawdle and let memory fade.

First, we spent some time helping around the place while we waited for an event to clear out and free up some space. Then we zeroed in my PS90 at 50 yards.

Then we went out to the longer range to check out how much drop there was at 200 and 300 yards. This is the range where I had a tough time in the carbine competition with my red dot, but today I had my beautiful zeroed in scope with me.

At two hundred yards, I did well enough. It was pretty satisfying. I was surprised at my ability to get those shots on paper even though, as I watch my sight picture fade in and out, it felt and looked like I was going all over the place. From the way it shook around, you’d have thought I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Reducing the zoom a little helped with the mental portion of the activity.

At 200 yards it was going pretty straight with little drop. At 300 it was well… dropping significantly.

My trigger pulls are too fast. I haven’t gotten down to the testudine slowness of a person who knows what they’re doing. The PS90’s trigger is still a little disconcerting because of how it seems to ‘catch’ at two points before it finally clicks. It’s not very smooth! But I seem to be getting used to it a bit—I notice it less now than I used to. I’m going to a rifle training this weekend. I’m prepared to have worn out arm muscles and better discipline.

21. June 2012 · Comments Off on USPSA · Categories: Competition · Tags:

Wow, this was such an awesome experience in so many ways! I went to a indoor USPSA indoor event. As a first-timer to this style of competition, we got a walkthrough of the rules from one of the regulars. He was very friendly and welcoming on first appearances, and continued to be a great help throughout the night. As a side note, he assured me that there are usually women playing this game too, they just happened to not be there that night.

In this game, the creative organizers set up different scenarios right down to the “starting conditions” as in, the situation you are in when you presumably grab your gun and take down the corrugated enemy. People run through the stages one at a time and try to get in shots that count.

We observed for a while, and in a oddly terrifying initiation ritual, we went through the motions to demonstrate we understand the rules, shooting at a couple targets. I took my turn and we went over to have a look. Some of my bullets made irregular holes…. The bystanders had perplexed looks. “I’ve never seen that before.”

I then took around at the first course. The idea was to shoot a couple mean cardboard cutouts through a window, slide over and shoot through a barrel without hitting the “hostage”, then run to another wall and take out the remainder.

That barrel was alarming.

I completed the course and we went over to check out how I did. We discover an unusual number of misses and some tumbled bullets.

With more puzzled looks, we shuffled outside and a number of people tried to figure it out. First, they tried to clean the barrel. After some effort and a lot of grease, elbow and otherwise, they worked a sliver of caked-on lead out of the barrel. Yeah, that’d make a bullet tumble. Whew, we got it together just in time for the next stage. I charged right into it, and then it started jamming… I thought. Well it just simply stopped firing. Back to the drawing boardsafe table.

Apparently we had a couple gunsmiths. They figured it had something to do with the safety, which makes sense I’d been having trouble with that safety for the last stretch. At some point, the firing pin spring fell on the ground, and there was a spring-hunt with several eyes glued to the floor. The whole thing had gotten gunked up. Finally, cleaned, the smiths put it back together. We borrowed some time between stages to try it out and found it firing only every other bullet. Someone thought we could try different ammunition to see if it was some sort of speed thing to troubleshoot it. Another pause between stages and this time it simply stopped firing.

Oh well. That’s one way to find out your gun needs high-level cleaning.

My gun being out of commission isn’t a great outcome, but I had a great time. This is a nice group to hang out with and I intend to jump back in as soon as I can.