Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Top Shot - Jay's Back...

...but it looks like he's about to get called out next week. Should be interesting, too, since it looks like they're going to move into archery (adios, weekly ratings!) and that's supposed to be his strongest area.

God knows he could use a two-day pistol course - his natural aim is pretty good but he would certainly see marked improvements in his gun handling & safety awareness (trigger discipline, homey), follow-up accuracy, and efficiency while moving and working with cover / concealment.

Hats off to Jermaine - he nearly pulled out a massive redemption after what has to be the single-biggest mental mushroom cloud we've seen on the show yet. I think he got a little screwed by the "rules" of the shoot. I thought the "tiebreaker" rule would have been in effect had they hit the same number of "foe" plates without subtracting the "friends" first.

It's always sad for me to see the good, solid shooters go in favor of the people creating drama... but Jay did walk back into the house so I suppose a congrats is in order for him, too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Carry? Why Not?

I've heard some real doozies coming from the anti-gun camp of this month... these are all paraphrased but come from local news, national news, online, and in conversation:

* Concealed carry is horrible, you're more likely to hit an innocent bystander

* People who carry guns are ignorant, paranoid, bloodthirsty, and can't wait to draw

* States should be required to release lists of CCW permit holders so we know who to avoid

* The likelihood of encountering violent crime is so small that there's no point in carrying

It's 2011, can't these loons come up with better arguments?

Top Shot Season 2 - Thoughts & Ruminations

I was thrilled to hear Top Shot was picked up for at least two more seasons... the first season was a little hokey but it was fun to see "my sport" featured on regular cable TV and gave Mrs. Normal and I a shooting-focused show to look forward to each week. I had my gripes with the show but, given it was the first attempt at a large-network all-shooting reality competition show we gave it a wide berth.

We really enjoyed the mix of professional, military / LEO, and recreational shooters featured. It was interesting to watch the more specialized shooters who may have been favored due to pedigree or hype fall by the wayside and the folks with a broad base of experience with multiple platforms shine through.

We were disappointed with the prevalence of cheap oddball guns and the constant use of the Beretta M9/92... it was as if the guns in the first season were selected based on looks alone and what the one PA who owns a couple guns had laying under the bed. Why the hell would you take a cheap South African Sig knockoff when I'm sure the real deal would have been easy enough to use? Hell... the Mythbusters feature "funner" guns than the Top Shot crew did during Season 1.

This season, we're definitely holding it to a higher standard and it looks like the production staff is, too. Looks like they're definitely focusing on American Made - the .45-70 Sharps, Colt New Police, Thompson Submachine Gun, both old and new 1911s and now the M1 Garand have all been or will soon be front and center. Either someone ordered an extra-heapin' helpin' of some Freedom Fries during the brainstorming sessions or they are trying to make up for the TZ99 (South African Sig knockoff), Mosin-Nagant ($100 relic from Asia), and the SVT-40 (privet, comrades!).

The contestants themselves look to be a an interesting group. Pretty much a broad cross-section of the "shooting public" again including the nationally-ranked competition shooters and "average Joe" types (which seem to be holding up much better in the early episodes). The laid-back suthun' boys and hyper Type A micromanagers are back, as are the dude-tactular military guys and the random Joes.

Oh... and this time there are TWO ladies!! Count 'em, TWO!! Or... um... at least there WERE two before the end of the second episode. I was secretly rooting for Maggie over Athena and it looks like I was right. "20 years of USPSA experience" wasn't enough to keep the diminutive Lee from controlling the ubiquitous Tommy Gun better than the Navy rescue swimmer. At least Athena didn't cry after being sent home and the one lady left looks like she can actually shoot.

This week, I can't wait to watch Jay Lim break down on the M1 (probably another gun he knows nothing about) and we'll see if George "The Failboat" Reinas - can step up this week after a poor showing on the handguns through the first couple episodes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Civilian Triple Nickel Challenge

Every month at the club, we hold an action pistol match and finish it off with a challenge we call the "10-5-1"

10 rounds into five targets
5 seconds
1 reload

Basically, this is a civilian version of the Triple Nickel challenge and several of us are fighting hard to be the first to get his name on the board. Here's the skinny:

From the 5 yard line, engage five separate targets from concealment. You must cleanly hit each target (no "liners" or partial hits) twice in five seconds and perform a reload during this time. Do this three times in observance of the RO at a match, and you get your name on the board. After three matches, the board remains empty...

My last good run and the closest I've come so far - 5.34 seconds with 9 hits. The closest shooter yet scored 10 hits in 5.01 seconds and I'm determined to get it.

In Reflection...

After taking a few days to think about the MAJOR range safety violation I felt compelled to directly intervene in, I've come to the following conclusions:

1) I did not overreact to the situation, and yet I still feel like the ***hole for calling a fellow shooter out for a massive breach of range etiquette

2) Gun ownership does not equate to shooting experience

3) We absolutely cannot allow ourselves or those we know to become complacent at the range

Mrs. Normal and I joined a private indoor club to get away from the heathen masses with little to no education or experience in safe firearms use. Every session, we strictly follow the cardinal rules for firearms handling as well as clearly-defined range safety rules because we know we can't afford to slip - even once.

When I worked full-time as a range safety officer and instructor, I strove to always act in a professional manner, project confidence and authority, and demonstrate expert range safety skills at all times when on deck. I took that job seriously.

It amazes me to this day how many people bring their sloppy "goin' to the mountains to do a little shootin'" mentality indoors and how upset they get when they're called on lifelong bad habits or freshly-minted poor behavior when handing guns.

These are just a few examples of errant stupidity both when an RO is watching and when ignorant shooters don't think we are:

** One of the benches at our club bears the evidence of sloppy trigger discipline, a clean little 9mm hole punched straight through the board. Thankfully, that particular round went downrange after skipping off the floor about 5 feet ahead of the firing line.

** After exiting the range, a member removed a suppressed Walther P22 from its case at our counter with the intent of explaining a problem he was having with his "can," swept the muzzle across my midsection, and THEN told me "oh, by the way, it's loaded" when handling it.

** During one of my shifts, a member came out to tell me someone was walking around downrange. DOWNRANGE. AT AN INDOOR GUN CLUB. He was visiting the club, shooting an old M1 Garand, and felt it was acceptible for him to crawl under the bench and wander around on his hands and knees picking up brass that had flown forward of the firing line. Seriously.

** Countless times when "expert" shooters who don't need any new training and disdain the Guy in the Red Shirt watching them like a hawk walk off the line with a gun in their hand. Waist level. Muzzle forward. Sometimes they were loaded, sometimes they weren't.

** Countless times when "expert" shooters are showing off - I mean "demonstrating" - their gun knowledge on the line in front of a friend or a significant other and rotate a loaded gun back toward the stall, cover their hand with a muzzle, or perform GOD KNOWS what kind of manipulations with the finger on the trigger.

And that's just off the top of my head... even when everything goes right, weird things can happen. I've seen a Glock 26 completely lock up with a live round in the chamber and have even had to play amateur CSI to figure out what happened when a shooter's reloaded cartridge "spontaneously" detonated in its box on the bench.

begin rant
Given my time spent as a professional range safety officer, instructor, lifelong shooter, and frequent competitor, I'm ready to back myself up if I feel compelled to address a safety issue bad enough for me to have to physically go "hands-on." I'm not a poseur, I'm not tacti-cool, and I'm not an Internet Gun Expert. Coming home from work with the same number of organs, orifices, and appendages was my everyday life and I know what I'm talking about.

Hey... wanna try it?

One of my favorite things about going to the range... seeing cool guns, talking about cool guns, and occasionally getting invited to shoot cool guns. Saturday's unexpected treat:

Ruger Blackhawk in .45 Colt
300 grain bullet pushed out at 1150 fps
In a word - OUCH

I'm no slouch behind the trigger, have handled the .454 Casull, .460 S&W, and the artillery-grade .500 S&W, and that damn Ruger hurt like a sonofagun! That said, I may be getting a little wiser in my old age. Instead of running all five cartridges the owner handed to me with an evil grin, I shot four as I've never been a big fan of having the trigger guard slam into my middle finger. This particular pistol had new handmade walnut grips installed... after literally shattering the oversized wood the owner installed to manage the recoil of his "hot" reloads.

Also had the chance to shoot another XD45... and shot it well. Still doesn't change my opinion of XDs, though. They're well-made guns and sell well (I'd rather see a friend buy an XD than a Taurus), just not for me. Glocks are the epitome of simple, durable, and as fail-free as any auto I've owned or shot. M&Ps have it hands-down for ergonomics and quality at the price point.

Stay safe and shoot often.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Range Etiquette... It's Not Nice to Point

As I mentioned, I worked for about six months in one of Colorado's nicest indoor shooting facilities and, during that time, met a ton of wonderful people and shot a ton of wonderful guns. The "Oz Curtain" moment came shortly after I started - the first time a shooter walked out of his stall, turned to talk to a buddy, and flagged not only me the entire firing line (protected, thankfully, by an inch of ballistic glass) and thought nothing of his transgression. How do you react to that? Quickly, at first. Then, once you're in a safe direction with your hand on the gun, you can start to explain why you just moved faster-than-light and you've just pointed someone else's gun in a safe direction for them.

Nothing will screw with a civilian shooter's OODA Loop harder than looking down the barrel of a loaded handgun for the first time... and, when it happens, there's little time for "scuse me, sir..." or "pardon me ma'am" until you've got your hand on the slide and are directing a very confused and nearly pissed-off shooter back into the stall and downrange. After six months of full-time RO, instructor, and range operations work, you'd think you'd evolved into something a little more than human... not because it's the cool thing to do, but because breathing and going home to your wife has ALWAYS been the cool thing to do.

Fast forward one year... I'm no longer wearing a red shirt and carrying a 1911 for fun and profit but I still shoot as much as my new job will afford. I've also never lost sight of those lessons learned as a range officer... the first always being "go home with the same number of orifices you came to work with." So... today... when an acquaintance (call her a social friend I know through the neighborhood) walks off the line with her husband's 1911 in Condition 1 my first reaction is to grab the slide - direct it toward the back wall - an emergency safe direction if needed - and proceeded to let her know that guns leaving the line need to be locked open, the magazine must be removed, and the gun carried muzzle up. After an indignant "it's empty" I realized that in a moment that I'd pissed off someone not likely to remain a friend very long, and that she had absolutely no regard for her fellow shooters on the line.

That may sound harsh, but here's the hard reality, folks. We are responsible not only for ourselves, but for everything our muzzles cover. That includes friends, family members, and strangers when you're walking out of the stall with a gun we can't tell is loaded.

When you walk out of the stall with what has every appearance of being a Condition 1 1911 - IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF SOME OF THE MOST BASIC AND CARDINAL RANGE SAFETY RULES - I'm not going to have a ton of concern for your feelings, regardless of whether or not that gun is empty and you're walking back to put it away. I would much rather try to rebuild a friendship over a cup of coffee and a calm conversation than have you explain to my wife why I have a .45 caliber hole in my gut and a shattered pelvis.

Just because YOU know your gun is empty, the rest of the folks on the firing line don't. Slide forward, magazine in, and hammer back looks an awful lot like a cocked-and-locked handgun and when you're leaving the firing line with it, I AM going to have a short conversation with you about it. Emphasis on the SHORT while I make DAMN SURE you don't have the opportunity to point that burner at me.

Be safe, friends. Enjoy your range sessions, and remember that cardinal rule all of us who've worked "downrange" of the gun owning public take to heart...

Go home every night with the exact same number of limbs, organs, and orifices you clocked in with.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Introductions Are In Order...


I'm just a normal, everyday, gun-lovin' guy... who happened to be lucky enough to work full-time at the range I love, earn my instructor and range officer credentials, and in the meantime meet some amazing people, shoot some amazing guns, and pick up some awesome/scary/hilarious stories along the way.

I still compete at the club level every month, where I do very well. I have aspirations of IDPA and USPSA competition later this year, as soon as I can afford to re-purchase my competition pistol, and love just about every facet of gun ownership and believe in our right to bear arms for true sporting and self-defense purposes.

I can't promise I won't get political from time to time (as it's dang near impossible to talk guns without talking gun rights) but, I promise to keep the politics to a minimum and the gun nuttery to a maximum.

-Armed and Normal.