Thursday, October 30, 2014

Training and Tacos

Mmm... Tacos.
As in HSGI Tacos.

I'm thinking I definitely want a set of pistol Tacos to go along with my Rifle Tacos and I want them set up on a Raven Moduloader frame with belt clips. I do think that would be the perfect range / practice / real world rig for everyday grab-and-go use. I've got several types of handguns, and several types of rifle magazines. While they're not very discrete, Tacos work with all of them and they work amazingly well. And... as a plus... if the fit hits the shan and I need to arm up and leave in a hurry, it doesn't matter if I grab an STI or an M&P, PMAG or old USGI - I'll be good to go.

That thought led me to ponder for a moment specialization vs. generalization as an average everyday gun guy. Outside of the competition berms, I am a HUGE advocate of being a firearms generalist. As a gun guy, I want to be as good as I'm able to be with as many firearms as I can. As a gun safety teacher, I have to be able to walk the walk, so to speak. That extends to my support gear, too. Hence wishing for Santa, to deliver a fresh, tasty set of Tacos and a good belt.

Extending that thought to defensive training, we can make a pretty strong case for building as broad a toolbox as is practical. If your plan only involves one gun, one mindset, or one particular dogmatic approach to shooting the bad guy in the face, chances are your game might have a hole or two in it. If your defensive plan includes learning new strategies, refining your mindset, and mastering all of the tools you're likely to use in defense of you and your loved ones, you should be on or ahead of the curve.

To add to my toolbox, sharpen existing skills, and to spend great time with other shooters, I compete in action pistol matches as well as studying and discussing defensive techniques. There are obvious overlaps and well as conflicts between the disciplines, but I find one constantly informing the other. There are few better places to practice the principles of moving, shooting, and problem solving under healthy stress than organized competition. Yes, my competition gear is fairly custom and specialized, but the fundamentals of fast, accurate and dynamic shooting are common to and goals of both realms.

The way I see it, my job when I'm shooting - as one well-known trainer puts it - is to be my gun's master, and not its bitch. And God, I love that job.

Becoming good at that "job" eventually led me to a new one, teaching others about gun safety and thinking defensively. I'm equally passionate about that, both at home and in front of a class. I don't have super secret ninja tactical tier-one DeltaSEALsquirrel skills, and I can't kill you with my thumb. I'm just a good shooter who loves to teach.

While working to develop defensive training ideas, I've been cautioned about thinking "like a competition shooter." Likewise, I was told I was shooting like a "tactical" guy when I started competing in USPSA matches. Weird, huh? I always thought so, too. Especially since all of my training was in "defensive" skills.

It was a little offensive at first. I can outshoot a fair number of "shoot him in the face" instructors, and I'm more versed in use of deadly force laws than most pure competition shooters. After some humble reflection, though, I saw everyone was right, in their own rite. Obviously, standing in one place and shooting faster than you should or blasting through a door without knowing what's on the other side can be catastrophic on the street. You don't get to "preview" the real world. Likewise, pie-ing corners and performing administrative reloads with retention, or shooting every stage cold in a USPSA match won't win any trophies and blows past the point of engaging in a pure shooting sport.

However, each discipline, each world, informs the other. The defensive "tactical" world is a great place to learn and hone fundamentals, learn about situational awareness, and build a practical shooting skill-set you can take into everyday life. Competitive shooting is the ideal venue in which to develop those skills and apply them in an environment which provides healthy stress, offers creative problem solving opportunities, and generally only penalizes tactical or practical mistakes on the scoreboard (assuming all safety rules are followed). And don't be fooled into thinking "competition kills." NASCAR drivers are as capable of going safely to the market on a Tuesday as they are coming around turn 3 at Daytona on Sunday. A conscientious competition shooter should be able to tell the difference between real-world situational awareness and response to threat and what to do when the buzzer goes off.

If used as a training tool as well as being one of the best times you can have with a belt on, taking a new "gunfighter" and tossing him or her into a "walk your walk" environment can be an eye opener. It's also a place where you can have a bad (but safe) day and still go home to fix what went haywire.

Likewise, teaching advanced gun gamers the nuances of self-defense and use of force laws, situational awareness basics, and realities faced in the real world builds a better shooting community and can work to reinforce fundamentals easily cast aside in the competitive arena.

At the end of the day, it boils down to about four simple principles, and they all play together. I love guns and the gun culture... plain and simple. I love teaching, and I get to share healthy, normal life with firearms with the public. If I'm ever in a gunfight, and I don't ever want to be in a gunfight, I want to be the faster, smarter, better, and luckier guy. And finally, on the weekends, I sure feel better about every aspect of my shooting life when my name is closer to the top of the leaderboard than the bottom.

It's been said that competitive shooting isn't gun fighting, but every gunfight is a shooting match. Why not do what you can to build strong skills, and prepare for the former while having fun with the latter?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bro, Do You Even CZ?

I cut my pistol shooting teeth on 1911s and Glocks. I learned some quick lessons about finicky, sexy, and ultimately temperamental Kimbers and the truth behind those reliable ugly hunks of Combat Tupperware I found myself shooting more often than anything else.

I'd seen all kinds of weird other pistols, drank plenty of Kool Aid, and all the while felt a very weird and unexplainable need to poo-poo one specific Czech gun maker as needlessly old-school and barely relevant.

My initial impressions of CZ were mixed. People either tended to love them or talk endless crap about them. The 75 series guns seemed like Hi-Power throwbacks but needlessly complicated and heavy solutions for carting around a dozen and a half 9mm rounds compared to my Glock 17. They were comfy, but hopelessly anachronistic to a guy who had just paid a steep toll to be disappointed by the most "iconic" American pistol in the classic American caliber.

I'd watch people buy them and chuckle quietly to myself, not unlike I did when people came in demanding I acknowledge the technical superiority of Taurus or the bargain offered by Bersa

When I went to work at a gun club, it just got worse. I got to shoot everything in the case, and carried my faithful, reliable, simple Glock every day at "the office." I had chosen wisely. Or, so I thought.

It got worse after I made the jump to the M&P platform. I now had a COMFORTABLE hunk of Combat Tupperware in my holster, and found myself shooting it even better than I did the Glocks I had previously owned. I had found the NEW "Perfection." Why on earth would I ever want anything else??

But there they sat... The one or two CZs we always seemed to have on the bottom shelf. Interesting relics of a bygone age, to channel my inner Obi-Wan.

Then, they released the P-07. A polymer CZ for less than $500. A Euromiracle, they said. Affordable quality, they said. Uh huh. "I'll be the judge of that" I said to myself. I got my hands on the first one that crossed into our gun counter and was immediately underwhelmed. The trigger was long, heavy, gritty, and didn't inspire even a wink of lust. My interest in the company that built the "European 1911" ended the first time I put rounds downrange. It was a reliable hunk of crap. Save another hundred. Buy the M&P or a Glock.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself at a local USPSA match Classifier, reshooting the stage with a Production Master. Shooting a... waitaminute... is that a CZ???

As I progressed in my own USPSA journey, I came back to the 1911. I came back to high-end hammer fired pistols. I realized I'd been wrong to put down the Euro guns. Heavy, comfortable, stable, and accurate... Exactly the things we look for in "race" pistols. Hmm...

Now that I've met my Production goals (make B classification) I've turned my attention to my somewhat-tuned STI Limited Division equipment. But that darn CZ got stuck in my head and if I ever return to Production I'm wondering if a platform change would also be in order.

I'm also running across good review after good review of CZ's P-09 - the supposedly-improved big brother to the P-07 I hated half a decade or so ago. It strikes me as something of a sexy, purposeful gun. A cross between a Glock and a tri-topped full-railed full-dustcover 1911. And it's just over $500??? Well, well, well.

Do I dare? Do I finally give in to curiosity? I've known the joys of shooting custom 1911s and the pain of nasty, dirty, cheap plastic guns. Is it good enough to make me rethink CZ as a viable companion to my custom 1911s and my workhorse collection of plastic fantastic?

As the low-price and highly-regarded P-09 rates high on my "oooooh, should I?" list, they also do another pistol that quietly peeks out from behind the dark recesses of my mind that drive my proclivity to buy oddball items... the CZ 75 SP01 Tactical. What it lacks by carrying the traditional 75 design forward (that sexy slide and a more conventional aesthetic), it makes up with a very businesslike and purposeful look and feel.

When it comes down to making a questionable impulse purchase (providing I can sneak funding approval from Mrs. Normal), I'm torn on whether to start with the new hotness or pick up an old reliable. Neither would be a bad choice, per se, but what's a guy to do?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Gun Store Asshattery

On a random road trip, the Normal clan went to a new Cabela's we had not yet visited.

The taxidermy displays were impressive; their fish tank nicer than the store closer to our house,
And their gun counter people still as clueless as ever.

One older fella (I'm convinced they actually RECRUIT the Fudd ranks for their firearm counter) has a Beretta handgun unceremoniously tucked in his hand as he's navigating toward the holster racks and the customer waiting there. He flags half the store, and then me and my little family on the way.

Slide forward, muzzle horizontal, and gun waving every whichaway. Yes, I know it's most likely unloaded. No, I'm not willing to bet my safety and that of my wife and baby son on it.

As I was in the holster area as well, I looked at the old reckless asshat employee and told him not to point his gun at me, refraining from informing him mine is NOT empty. His reply was to indignantly declare "I'll open it" and forcefully lock the slide open. I almost hoped a round would have dropped from the chamber just to prove my point.

As a former gun shop / club "pro" I have seen and stopped people for the same, only to have a "clear" gun wind up not being remotely safe. Also, if you want to test fit a gun to a holster, you bring the damn holster to the gun counter, not the other way around. No exceptions.

I'm done with big box gun counters - even for random looking around on a lazy Saturday. I seriously considered asking for the area manager, but didn't. I have NO problem lighting up gun counter employees who recklessly flag customers, fail to heed the basic safety rules, and have done so on multiple occasions.

From now on, though, I'm just gonna stay clear. I know the shops I trust, the people to work with, and know that unless I start a consulting firm and travel shop-to-shop teaching safety and professionalism I'm just better off looking at the mounts and the fish tanks.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Random Musings - Open vs. Concealed Carry

I figured I'd share a couple random thoughts on open carry vs. concealed carry after a few "sightings" out in the world lately.

First, I am an advocate for the right to carry a firearm wherever and however it is safe, appropriate, and lawful for a good person to do so. Now, with that out of the way...

I've been reflecting on the guy we parked next to in Rocky Mountain National Park a couple weeks ago who was openly carrying a full-size Glock and loading his family into their SUV.

I made mention of it to my wife, just saying "Huh, look, that guy's open carrying." in an indoor voice. With our windows down I'm guessing his kid either heard me or he just noticed me looking at him and his pistol. Once he saw that I saw, he went what I'd call "hard yellow" and didn't take his eyes off me or turn his back. His demeanor changed to "I know you know I have a gun on." I wasn't staring or making anything of it, but we had now had an interaction at the gun level and I wasn't going to tip my hat nor my hand.

While I so desperately wanted to say "Dude, same team, relax." I just went on about my day. On one hand, the only difference between him and me was a thin cotton camp shirt - I was carrying, too, but he didn't know that - but on the other his reaction is something I've been thinking long and hard on lately.

I would HATE to live my everyday life the way he looked at me. Suspicious, wary, and hackled-up for a verbal confrontation. Being in the National Park and in among a TON of visitors from all over the country as well as the world, I'm not going to "normalize" anyone to guns. These folks are on vacation, and they don't want my politics thrown in their face at 10,000 feet on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Too much damn stress on everyone, not even thinking of the potential contacts with Federal employees which will certainly smudge a relaxing day.

My solution, keep it concealed and look like anyone else in the Park, because that is EXACTLY what I am... just another guy out for a day in the mountains with my family. No better, no worse, just prepared to defend me and mine from two or four-legged trouble.

Our best bet, to borrow from our hip-hop brethren, "don't start none, won't be none."

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Small Victories


Finally!! I got the phone call I'd been both waiting for and dreading, "hey... we got a 42 in with your name on it." Dreading it only because if have to plunk down more cash for another gun I just HAD to have.

On paper, it isn't anything you'd expect me to go all gaga about. Low capacity, .380 ACP, and Glock. However, the caliber, capacity, and company are the three reasons I couldn't wait to add one to the collection of personal defense pistols.

My summertime pocket gun for the past couple years has been a Ruger LCR, which has been nothing but a perfect companion. I have been in a few places, though, where I'd wished for a slightly smaller handgun or deferred to my Shield.

What I wanted on those days was a true pocket pistol that wasn't a cheap double-action blaster with a crap trigger and nonexistent sights. Until last January, very few pistols could fill that gap (and yes, I have shot just about all of them).

The 42 - beside being the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything - came out of the gate a literal checklist of everything I was looking for:
• Pocket-sized - check (barely)
• Real sights - check
• Duty-pistol construction - check
• Real trigger - BIG check
• Capacity of 6 rounds or better - check
• Affordable - definitely

Filling out the Form 4473 really was a bit of a no-brainer.

Now, knowing these new wee baby Glocks like to run wet through break-in, I tossed a few drops of oil in the slide rails, grabbed a box of Federal ball ammo, and went out on deck.

I haven't owned a Glock in years, don't spend much time with .380, and don't shoot wee blasters very often. To add insult to inexperience, raising a baby means I haven't had time to hit the range but maybe once every month and half or so. This would be an ideal test...

...and everything went exactly as I had both hoped and expected.

The Glock 42 is small - really small - for a "real" pistol. It's also big for a "pocket" pistol. It's weird. It's exactly what I had wished my 26 would have been. It's Glock-solid, surprisingly ergonomic, and comfy in-hand.

And - this is what you were looking for - the 42 shot like a Glock. A smooth, light, reliable, low-recoiling Glock. Now, I only fed it 50 rounds of Federal 95gr FMJ but I experienced zero issues in those 50 rounds.

I shot freestyle, strong-hand, and support hand strings. I wasn't shooting for groups, but every round I fired between 10 and 25 feet went predictably into the target where I wanted.

Running Glock's clicky trigger felt like hopping back on a bike I'd ridden a LOT in years past. Exactly as expected, and light years better than the craptacular long-DA-pull bang switches on the competition.

The sights will get replaced when 10-8 or Dawson come up with a set. Replacing Glock sights... it's just something you do. But, for now, they work.

And that's exactly the point. The 42 isn't a range toy or a safe queen. It's a Glock, it just works, and it's small enough to close the gap in my carry gun collection between "can't" and "carrying."

I can't wait to get a few hundred more rounds of FMJ through it and evaluate carry ammunition for it. After that it will be going with me everywhere my full-cap carry pistols don't.

It's cool to say "yup, it's a Glock" and mean it as praise again.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Wish List Follow-Up

I just got to put my hands on a Glock 42 tonight. I have only one thing to say...

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Response to Microsoft's Code of Conduct

I'm following the recent news around Microsoft's Windows Code of Conduct and the impact one clause is having on the firearms community.

Prohibited Uses You will not upload, post, transmit, transfer, distribute or facilitate distribution of any content (including text, images, sound, video, data, information or software) or otherwise use the service in a way that: ... • promotes or otherwise facilitates the purchase and sale of ammunition or firearms.

I banished Microsoft Windows from my personal life way back in 2001... I was a Switcher a full year before Switching was a thing.

However, I couldn't kick out the Master Chief as easily. I went through not one but two Xbox 360 machines - the first suffered the famed Red Ring Of Death. The replacement machine's disc drive gave up the ghost shortly afterword.

After a profanity-laden, despondent, and sobering tear-down of the dead console, only one solution seemed appropriate.

Friends begged me not to...
Buddies thought I didn't have the guts to...
But I found the huevos to...
give the rabid ol' pal an Old Yeller sendoff.

It was a silly decision, but I was pissed. I'd never wantonly blown up something I spent so much money on. But... It had to be done.

This machine had simulated countless M4s, 1911s, and Glocks. That day, it met all 3... up close and personal.

The same day, I brought home a PS3 that's run smoothly for over half a decade, evicting Microsoft from my life forever.

I don't doubt other tech companies will try to pull the same "conduct" bullshit, and I seriously doubt Microsoft is going to start yanking licenses from gun ranges, trainers, and retailers...

but you never know.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

The (Updated) Wish List

I've got three guns in various stages of "project" right now - my 1911, my soon-to-be 3-Gun shotgun, and my AR, and a whole host of time and money-gobbling things in the pipeline.

That being said, there are a handful of firearms I'm looking forward to adding to the household at some point...

Remington 870 w/ 18" barrel, Magpul furniture, and a light. Why? Well... Let's just say it's hard to argue with a 12 gauge and the Magpul stock and slide just fit me really, really well. If I had to bail out of the house and had a couple minutes to pack, I'd grab the AR and toss the gauge to the competent adult standing right behind me.

I'd love to get my mitts on a Glock 42. Just because. Years ago I wished for a Glock 26 that wasn't as wide as it was tall. Even though the 42 (which is THE answer to life, the universe, as everything, after all) is only a .380, a pocket rocket with a real Glock trigger tickles my curiosity more than a little. Maybe I'd find someone to laser engrave "Don't Panic" on the muzzle crown.

Next on the list is a carry-over from the last one - a Remington 700 in .308 Win (I think). There's something relaxing about settling in behind a scope and sending rounds a long way out. There's something appealing about a rifle precise enough to ring the bell at 600 yards, put a deer in the freezer, and teach my kid the basics of big-bore rifles on down the road. My criteria? Short action, decent stock w/ studs for sling and bipod, mag-fed receiver (cuz tacticool), decent 12-16x optic. Threaded barrel would be a plus. Basically... the 700 AAC in .308

Finally, I have such a gun-crush on the brand-new HK VP9 right now... I fully expect this Internet Darling to be hard to find for quite a while. I've shot and enjoyed a handful of HK pistols but they were too bulky, too expensive, and overly complicated for what I wanted - but I never pass up the chance to let one rip at the range when I am offered. The P30 gets close to changing my mind, but the VP9 looks poised to change the game, and I want to play.

Unfortunately, following the recent Supreme Court decision, all you can do now is make the Benjies rain until I've got enough to bring these home.

Until then... a kid can dream :-)

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, June 9, 2014

On Hold... Please Standby

Life has stepped in the way of my shooting avocations... all of them.

Please be patient while I try to reboot.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Glamour Shots Coming Soon

It feels like it's been forever and a day since I've snapped some seriously sexy pics of my growing collection of stuff that goes bang.

Having a camera phone always nearby has relegated my better photo gear to the closet and there's just something wrong with that.

I think I need to set up the mini-studio and capture some high-quality images of my race, carry, and fun guns.

For now, enjoy a couple piddly little shots from my iPhone!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Happy Happy

What makes me happier than a Robertson in an locker room filled with straight men??

I got my Limited pistol back, and not only does it fit, but it runs! Added bonus, five of my metal tubes used to feed the beast are the correct dimensions and drop as free as Uncle Si with a swamp to himself.

Most importantly, I've started to build a relationship with a gunsmith I trust and enjoy working with. It cost a bit of money, but this time around it had all been money well-spent.

By my count now, that means I've got a local belt maker and nylon guru, a Kydex holster maker willing to take on any project, and an experienced gunsmith who knows how to make STI pistols sing. I'm friends with the folks who run the nicest indoor shooting range in the region, and am a partner in a company that specializes in training... That's not a gloat, that's just a humble narrator taking stock of a pretty good life. Expect some product reviews and more info on these folks' gear and services soon!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 17, 2014

SHOT Thoughts From Afar

SHOT Show 2014 is nearly over, and it seems to have been a fairly mellow year. Following news and blogs from the gun universe, it seems as if the show was rather business-as-usual (which ain't a bad thing).

Last year, the tone of the event was weird, down, and peppered with FUD. We had just started the fight against the ridiculous legislative efforts against the lawful firearms culture in America following the spree shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook months before. The President had vocally come out against our industry, and the country had already launched into a full-blown buying panic over magazines, firearms, and ammunition.

Today, many states successfully passed laws against our lawful ownership, possession, and use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns but largely failed at the national level.

Black rifles are back in inventory, as are pistols, magazines, and accessories. Ammunition is coming back, but at even more exorbitant prices than before.

And gone is the day of the earth-shattering world changing industry-on-its-ear product launch.

The overall broadening of the gun industry has brought forward more options than ever for the recreational, hunting, and self-defense shooter. There is now, literally, something out there for every person and every budget.

Despite a number of big shakeups with companies moving out of states hostile to our culture and our corporate friends, things feel like they're moving forward rather than backward this year.

It feels like the "tactical" (grrr) market is maturing, firearm manufacturers are expanding their lines of carry-friendly pistols and revolvers, and the ├╝ber-hotness now is starting to orbit precision rifle chassis systems and AR-platform rifles in new and different calibers.

I'm happy to see Keymod handguards starting to pop up everywhere. That will be the next improvement to my "house" rifle and I'm rather excited for that.

I can think of four new pistols which aught to be interesting to hold, shoot, and talk about with friends as clients:

• The Glock 42 brings .380 ACP into the US for that manufacturer and will certainly add some pep in the caliber's acceptance over here. Overall reception of the diminutive Glock have been positive.

• The Remington R51 gained a lot of attention for resurrecting a decades-old design and modernizing it for the 21st Century, and doing so at a price most can afford if they choose to go that route. It also helps to validate 9mm as a viable "carry" caliber for civilian personal protection.

• The Springfield XDs-9 4.0 expands that manufacturer's already-popular lineup with a modern alternative to carrying a Commander-length 1911. I expect I'll see a fair number of these in class later this year.

• Smith & Wesson's Bodyguard .380 slots itself somewhere between the LCP and the new Glock, and improvements to the gun largely seem to be focused on adding "M&P" aesthetics (to leverage a popular internal brand) and removing the gimmicky built-in laser that seemed to be more problematic than useful.

The competitive and target shooting worlds seem to be getting more and more attention, as well. Several AR-platform rifle manufacturers are now offering dedicated 3-Gun ready rifles and shotguns at reasonable price points, and the sport has exploded in popularity. This is great for all of us as it will invariably turn more gun owners and Internet ninjas into actual shooters, helping to normalize sporting firearms use and gun ownership in general.

As previously reported, a big part of me wishes I could have been there. There were dozens of newsworthy and interesting developments in the biz revealed at SHOT this year I don't have time to fit into this post, so keep your ears to the ground and don't forget to tune in here for thoughts and opinion on local, national, and industry news!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SHOT Starts Without Us This Year

Part of me wishes I was leaving for Las Vegas today, and another part of me (namely, my feet, legs, and lumbar vertebra) are glad I'm staying home this year.

Baby Normal is one of the two big reasons we're not attending the SHOT Show this year, the other being major business commitments and scheduling for the training business.

Truth be told, blisters and odd chafing aside, I'm gonna miss the show, miss the spectacle of Las Vegas, and everything that comes with piling into a crowded convention hall with some 60,000 of your closest friends.

Like meeting Julie Golob and introducing my wife to her.

...and meeting the creator of the S&W E-series 1911s and their monster 500 - he was a neat guy!

Getting my picture holding a suppressed M240 machine gun.

Seeing and holding just about every major, new, noteworthy, firearm coming on to the market.

And generally getting to go to what effectively amounts to the world's largest gun show while getting our grub on in celebrity restaurants while living on The Strip for a week.

Seeing just about every popular shooting personality and every professional shooter in the US manning booths, talking to attendees, and spotting various celebrities and people of high regard in our world.

I'll miss Vegas this year but I am very happy with where life has take me over the past 12 months.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Just When I Thought All Hope Was Lost

A glimmer of hope... I was shown a couple STI grips last night that can be made to work with little T-Rex thumbs God stuck to the ends of my paws. At the same time we'll figure out how to get my mags to drop free (kinda important in a race blaster!!)

The guy who's cutting down my grip will also look at the timing of the pistol and let me know if we need to do any additional tuning to make my Edge a real race-ready runner that shouldn't run the risk of cracking its slide.

I'm also getting a second opinion on the recent trigger work another locally-known gunsmith did... I may have to just learn to get used to the ultralight trigger break weight and easy my way into it safely but there's going to be an added confidence in knowing it's been looked over by not one but two people who know USPSA race-gun builds VERY well.

Fingers are crossed, and I'm looking forward to starting over with my "tuned" STI.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Love the Smell of New Kydex in the Morning

It smells like... awesome.

On the other side of the pistol shooting coin, I'll be picking up a carry holster and mag carrier for the new 1911 I wrote about earlier. Being a huge equipment need, I can't wait to get set up to carry a 1911 again, and I'm not one of these guys who demands his JMB masterpiece ride in a wooly mammoth leather thumb-break pancake holster trimmed in megaladon skin. Kydex is durable, fast, lightweight, and very comfortable, and I'm a Kydex kinda guy.

I've worn and shot from a number of different leather and Kydex holster manufacturers, with very mixed results. I'm happy to say I've found a local guy bending Kydex carry holsters that are every bit as comfortable, strong, well-made, and concealable as the nationally-known brands for a bit less money (until he's discovered) and a much better turnaround (again, until we flood his inbox with orders) than the big boys.

More on the holster maker and the new rig, coming soon... Stay tuned!!

For now, here's a really poorly-lit shot of the holster he built for our M&P Shield. Good stuff!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Let the Healing Begin

Tomorrow afternoon, I will hopefully be starting the process of transforming my customized (for someone else, apparently) STI Limited pistol from a cold, expensive pile of plastic and steel in which I have no trust or confidence into a finely-tuned race pistol that not only fits my hands but fits me as a competition shooter.

Not only are we going to just re-texture the grip but the guy we're seeing tomorrow wants to look at the timing of the pistol and make sure it didn't get set up in a way that puts it at risk for a cracked slide down the road.

It should be an interesting afternoon...

Right now, my STI is completely torn down and sitting in two baggies, three parts bins, and a shelf.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll have "my" pistol back when this is all over.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Modifying for the Sake of Modifying vs. Proper Fit

Most men don't play with dolls, we don't wear eye shadow, and we couldn't give two poops about making sure our wallet and shoes match.

However, when it comes to Gun Culture 2.0 as well as the high-speed gun gamer sets, it seems we are constantly playing with Tactical Barbies. The 1911 platform pistol is more customizable than a Jeep and the AR-15 style of rifle has become the poster child for firearm customization.

And, just like our Jeep-driving compatriots, we're hard wired to think that spending $2000 and up on a handgun is "a good starting point."

I recently learned a hard lesson about "modding" my expensive 2011-frame STI Limited gun the way someone tells me I need to, despite knowing the changes aren't going to work for me.

I dropped hundreds into custom gunsmith work I am now regretting and am finding ways to resolve with minimal further expense. Maybe this will help someone avoid the same...

Fit vs. Function
If you know for a fact a particular part or modification doesn't work for you, don't let anyone talk you into it.

In my case, I have stumpy little T-Rex thumbs and need as much relief as possible to get to the mag release on a 2011 frame. However, I've got meaty paws and bump long mag release extensions in match shooting under pressure and on the move. I HAVE to roll the gun to drop the mag. Period. Yup, sucks to be me... boo freakin' hoo.

I had a local gunsmith talk me into a slight grip reduction and application of grip tape, against what I already know about me and grip tape. I HATE it! While it is a good solution for locking your hand to the grip, it is very hard to disengage your grip and move it around.

At the end of the day, the grip wasn't reduced nearly enough, the grip tape broke apart on my grip, and I couldn't drive my now-$3000 race blaster like the boss I know I can be. It's one thing to mess up a Glock frame or an M&P backstrap but after my last match I immediately ripped my STI apart to get that grip off and prepped for a reduction and re-texture that actually WORKS for ME.

I can spot that gunsmith's work a mile away now and while it's popular for many of my local clubs' top guns, it certainly isn't for me. I drank the Kool-Aid and killed half of my 2013 season fighting my pistol. Not bueno. For the record, that gunsmith does good work, but we didn't do what was best for ME. While that might sound like a platter of whine and cheese, it was an EXPENSIVE plate.

Competition Trigger Weight
We all know there's nothing like a finely-tuned single-action 1911 trigger. They can be made to break crisply under 2# with next to zero creep or over-travel, which can be ridiculously light for someone transitioning from USPSA Production guns to Limited and L10 equipment.

The same gunsmith who did the grip work I'm replacing also worked some serious magic on my fire control system that I could swear has to be at or under two and a half pounds. Combined with my complete lack of confidence from my grip issues, I ran into a couple dangerous situations last year which thankfully didn't injure me or anyone else.

After the changes were made, I was sent into the berms with the warning to "Just be CAREFUL." As condescending as it sounded, he was right. I now had a gun I could not drive with confidence which wore a trigger that broke far lighter and shorter than anything I've shot before. I really should have put a thousand practice/training rounds through it before it ever hit my holster in a match.

If I could offer a bit of advice based on my experience, be completely honest with yourself if you're relatively new to competitive shooting or are changing equipment - particularly if you're moving on to the 1911/2011 platform. These guns require full focus, full attention, and more than an occasional range session to become comfortable with.

Going Forward
I hope to get my grip over to a different guy this week who can re-texture it and help fit it to MY hands. That will help to solve the big problem - confidence.

Once the pistol fits and works with my shooting style, I will decide if I can quickly come up to speed with the go button or if those expensive internals can be re-tuned to bump the break weight up a pound or so.

Much of the other work I've had done (reworking the safeties, slide stop modification, replacement of the recoil system, etc.) has been good and have helped address other fit and function issues. However, I think I'm ready for a gunsmith who is willing to listen, and not just talk over me.

The photo below shows the grip AFTER I was able to remove the grip tape, adhesive, and sand down the rough areas. I'm hoping an undercut trigger guard, a little more reduction (if possible), relief near the mag release, and texturing the grip itself without adding any material will get me to where I need to be with this pistol.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Few Thoughts On Magpul's Departure

They have to do it...

And not just because they said they would, but because it's the right thing to do for the business. Colorado's new law banning the possession, transfer, purchase, or manufacture of magazines which hold more than 15 rounds forced them out, regardless of a clause which MAY have allowed them to continue business as usual in a place which has grown toxic to their business.

Then the state said they could stay, but they couldn't sell any of those restricted products to customers in the same state they're made. Uh, yeah... No. That move was specifically made to try and isolate the company by playing a game of political chicken.

It didn't work. Magpul didn't blink. Instead, they have announced the corporate HQ will be moving to somewhere in north Texas and production and shipping are being set up across the border in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I recently read a Facebook post declaring Magpul to be cowards and leaving to save their profits while playing political games and I had to shake my head at that ill-informed low-information point of view.

They didn't WANT to leave. They were the ones who got pushed out. They were told they could (should) take their business elsewhere and that's exactly what they did. Sure... they COULD have stayed but keeping them here in Colorado would have meant splitting the business up anyway and the considerable millions in tax revenue would have continued flowing to a state government that actively worked to attack not only their bottom line but the morals and ethics they fight to protect for their customers as well as their employees.

It sucks to see them go, and I hope we can change things enough in 2014 to repeal those idiotic laws (which didn't prevent a high school girl from dying after being shot in the face with a shotgun) and keep other pro-gun companies from crossing the border.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Turns Out Nine is Just Fine

And I've been right this whole time... they're ain't nuthin' wrong about carrying a 9mm pistol for self-defense and personal protection. Nothing, nada, zippo, zilch.

The gun blogs are starting to light back up with stories and rumors of local, state, and Federal agencies making a move back to 9mm pistols which, for many, is the all-important litmus test of what's an OK caliber to strap on for CCW use. We teach our students that there's nothing wrong with MANY "sub-caliber" chambering as long as they use the new modern bonded JHP ammo which does away with issues of over-penetration, premature fragmentation, and energy delivery.

That said, there's something about the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round that makes many carrying it feel all snug and warm and safe. It's the caliber equivalent of a security blanket. "No harm can befall me as long as I'm carrying JMB's trusty sidekick cartridge, right?"

100+ years of history can't be wrong, and LOTS of police, soldiers, and professional shooter types still carry it into the dark wild places. Therefore, we must be under-gunned without it... right? I myself own and carry .45s on occasion and my "house" pistol tosses lead 230 grains at a time. However, I have to work to be "combat proficient" with my .45s and train hard with them.

Many folks think that, right up to the first time they torch off that thumper and realize much work is needed to snug up their big boy / big girl grip. At that point, the shooter either steps up and learns to control the beast, or puts the pistol back in the safe, dreading the day they have to take it out "for real." I lost count of the number of people I saw at the range managing their own personal goat rodeo when it came to shooting their small-ish .45s built for carry. I also lost count of how many people I'd try to convince to look into the 9mm for range and carry use who just poo-poo'ed my advice and went back to their work creating abstract hole art in innocent paper targets.

Back during the dark days of the Clinton-era weapon and equipment bans, following the 10mm FBI debacle (agents not being able to hit the broad side of a barn qualifies as "debacle"), a new round hit the market which promised the ballistic performance of Ol' Faithful while offering 80% of the magazine capacity of the then-problematic 9mm round, and the age of "I carry a .40 because it shoots through windshields" was born.

Thankfully, that's one pitcher of Kool-Aid I managed to avoid until I started to shoot it in USPSA competition. Full-power .40 S&W ammunition has always felt like a "worst of both worlds" solution and we have Glock largely to blame for that silliness (that's a little-known history lesson worth looking up).

.40 S&W delivers a much sharper recoil than the 9mm cartridge and still requires diligence and training to shoot effectively in modern carry weapons. Sure, it offered near-.45 performance and near-9mm capacity, but the shooter experience is fairly brutal for CCW applications and has turned off many new shooters who felt they NEED "at least" a 'fawty' to tote around. Sadly, the gun magazines and shop talk about how it was the new miracle round for defensive use and that anything less would cost you your life.

Fortunately, some 20 years later, a warm sunny light is beginning to shine again on the little 9mm cartridge. Defensive loads are still easily managed by most, modern pistols chambered for it typically do not suffer the breakage and failures seen by many who adopted .40 S&W as a service caliber, and (barring ammo shortages) it's common, plentiful, and affordable.

Many of the guniverse's celebrity trainers are moving back to 9mm and advocating it as a viable self-defense option. In this new era of social media directing Gun Culture 2.0, I expect we'll see a gradual fall-off of .40 and hopefully a slowing of this craze of ultralight .45s making their way into the hands of new shooters being sold a line of bull by a low-information gun counter "expert."

And all of that is a roundabout validation of what I and many others have been telling folks all along... if you can QUICKLY and accurately deliver decisive and overwhelming force using the "big boy" guns, then by all means carry a .40 or a .45! However, if you're like most and want solid performance, minimal recoil, and a caliber you can effectively train with AND carry, ditch the hype and come back to the 9mm campfire. You may be surprised by who you'll see around the circle.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Back to the 1911

My first handgun...
The Genesis pistol...
Numero Uno...

I bet you remember yours. Maybe you still own it, maybe you still love it.

For me, that's an emphatic double "nope."

My first pistol was a Kimber Custom II that never ran. Yep, one of the "bad" ones, and horribly so. Their customer service and even the (in)famous Custom Shop couldn't get it to work well enough that I trusted it 100%.

I KNEW I should have bought a Colt or a Smith & Wesson or a Springfield Armory or even a Rock Island for that matter after reading story after story from people who had experiences like mine.

Hitting hard times a few years ago, I eventually sold the Kimber for close to what I had put into it, minus the regret and the heartache. I stayed with the plastic fantastics I was shooting well and didn't have problem one with. It wasn't that I was a "Glock Guy" as much as I was sick of my part-time 1911. I'd heard they could be made to run, but figured I was more likely to find a package of unicorn jerky than a sub-$1000 1911 that ran. Ultimately, I would find myself wholly converting my carry and gamer guns to the M&P platform with much success.

The 1911 saw a HUGE comeback for its 100-year anniversary. As much as I wanted to fall back in love with the 1911 on its centennial, it wasn't to be. I didn't have the $1000 I would have needed and missed that boat.

Fast-forward to 2013.
My son was born.
I became Dad.
Dad needs a "Dad" pistol.

My father carried a stainless Ruger Super Redhawk in .44 Magnum. A serious man-cannon for a serious Alaskan man... and an object of awe as I grew up.

I've got a fairly deep collection of handguns; nothing outrageous but all serve a purpose, be it for carry or for fun. However, I felt I was missing that one iconic pistol a serious shooter needs... that classic 1911. The pistol my son is going to see, admire, and hold in that same reverence.

Ironically, that's not going to be my $3,000 STI Limited gun, it's too "race." It doesn't carry that emotional weight of an old leather jacket or a well-loved Harley.

My Christmas / birthday gift from my family this year does, however. Springfield. 1911. Cal .45.

Nuff said.

I've already made a few changes and have plans to slowly build it up into the pistol I know will last for generations and get passed down through my family.

...knowing the only way my son will get his hands on my 1911 will be the same way I will one day acquire my father's .44, when it's time and not a second sooner.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Baby Hiatus, Match Shooting, and Choosing a Gunsmith

I can't believe it's been so long since I tapped out a few words here! Since I last wrote in my humble little shooting blog, a lot has happened both inside and outside my shooting world.

Baby Normal is doing very well, thanks for asking :-) He's strong, loud, and very healthy (not to mention a BIG boy). Balancing a day job, a weekend job, shooting, and spending time with family has been interesting, to say the least.

I've been at the range with some frequency, and I'm happy to report I recently earned my B classification in USPSA Production Division shooting. Woo hoo!

Limited and L10 have been a much bumpier ride, primarily due to issues I'm having in trying to bond to my STI "race" gun. More on that in a minute...

I've had the awesome pleasure to shoot some really cool guns lately - two different SBRs (an 8" and a 10.5" carbine) chambered in .300 AAC Blackout, suppressed rifles, a Smith & Wesson .500, and Ruger's new 1911.

Training typically slows down during the holiday months, leaving us a bit of time to work on some really cool stuff I can't talk about yet but should turn our local training world around. That said, we're steadily providing solid real-world training in the skills, mindset, and laws governing responsible citizen-focused concealed carry.

I've come across an excellent new Kydex holster maker just a few miles from the Normal HQ - check out Werkz Holsters for top-quality gear if you're looking for anything from the conventional to the obscure (Do you carry a SCCY? Call Werkz!). The owner built up a semi-custom carry rig for my Shield that also works well with my new Crosstac everyday carry belt (also made up the road in Loveland!)

Finally, a few thoughts on choosing a gunsmith - find one who will work both WITH and FOR you. Don't just pick one based on reputation or how many folks shoot his or her guns at the local matches. Take time to learn what the gunsmith will and won't do and take time to communicate what YOU WANT done to your gun. Just because he build hyper-tuned race guns for the local heavy-hitters, you may not wind up with the fit or function you were looking for and, at the end of the day, you're having custom work done to suit YOU. If you're not getting what you want and you're getting the cold shoulder, find a 'smith who will LISTEN to you, not talk over you.

More to come, Happy 2014!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.