Get on the brakes

Posted: January 18, 2012 in Front Range Gun Club, IDPA

Last year before the Colorado state IDPA match, I had a course with Master-level shooter Matt Sims. He said that IDPA is like Nascar, you have to know when to get on the brakes, and when to get on the gas. It sounds simple and rings of truth, but putting this into practice feels counterintuitive, we have a natural desire to go faster.

Tonight, I figured I’d take a crack at getting on the brakes a little more. I shot the weekly pistol combat league with an emphasis on taking a little more time on my headshots and trying to be more accurate. The result was an improved score, and one of the highest I have had shooting in this format.

I have concluded that the league shoots place a premium on accuracy more than speed. Partially this is a result of the scoring of the target, which is more of an NRA target than an IPSC/IDPA style. Of course, the timing of the course of fire is the same for everyone, but it does take good speed to be able to get off all of the shots including the mandatory reloads.

What I have found lately is that I still end up finishing in many cases with two or three target exposures to spare. So tonight, I tried to slow down and take my time with the headshots in particular. In this case, the difference between a miss and a hit can be either 10(head) or 20(ocular cavity) points. In the past I have shot this faster than I could make good solid hits and I’ve had some misses. Tonight I just managed to get off all of my shots on the head, but they were much better, and my score rose as a result.

I still went a bit faster than necessary on the body shots, but here the difference between an X and a 7 is not as much of a factor. I did have two flyers that were misses to the body, but it was overall okay.

For this week’s “Top Shot” competition, we finally got to shoot guns of all things. Seriously, I was glad to not see another slingshot or bow. This week we fired a Ruger SP101 revolver, an adult air rifle, and a Hi-Point 9mm carbine. I will say that I liked the front sight post of the Hi Point which reminded me a little of an HK sight, and it had negligible recoil, but otherwise it was a huge pile of crap. One of the two magazines would not take a 10th round, and I got a double feed that I think may also have been the result of the magazine (couldn’t be operator error of course). The ejection port is ridiculously small, and the method for locking the bolt back is just stupid. I suggested we name our blue team: “*bleep* Hi-Point”

Now, I know they are American made and a lot of people like them, but I think it’s crap. The good news is this thing is very cheap. Of course, for a gun this ugly, it has to be.

Check out our club’s second “episode” of “Top Shot”

Back in the saddle

Posted: January 15, 2012 in Front Range Gun Club

After a few months of very little shooting, I come into the New Year with big plans for getting more rounds downrange and improving my shooting abilities. Of course, I’ve previously made similar statements and droned on about how even small breaks in shooting make a huge difference in just how well we shoot – so no more of that.

Last week I went back in and shot a fun-gun match at the Front Range Gun Club.  I came in at 6th out of 34 shooters. Overall, I shot much better than I was expecting going into it. My shooting speed is much the same, but I am not tracking my sights as well and the groups are larger as a result. The two main things I need to work on are reloads and accuracy. The good news is that reloads are easy to improve. I can dry fire and work on those at home and they should come together very quickly. I’ve found that dry firing over my bed makes it very easy to pick up the dropped mags and keep going. Accuracy of course is another story.

This week marks that start of the pistol combat league as well as the first ever “Top Shot” shoot at the Front Range Gun Club. This is simply a fun way for club members to try some unusual challenges similar to what you may have seen on the History Channel’s Top Shot. Of course, they have things like a budget. Fortunately, our game is not a popularity contest so it’s all going to be about skill – or so I thought… The first night of our Top Shot competition was just like the TV show, ridiculous challenges that ensured our firearms proficiency had little to do with our scores. Just watch below and see the train wreck that was my attempt:

The combat league shoot went substantially better by comparison. Not great, but much better. I look forward to shooting many more of these as they are great practice for some of my other shooting.

As I had mentioned in my first shotgun upgrade post, the most important upgrade for a tube-fed shotgun is to increase the amount of ammunition in and on the gun. To be fair, there are not many options for side mount shell carriers on the Super Nova, but conveniently, the Mesa Tactical SureShell Shotshell carrier is one of the nicest units around.

I had previously read an excellent review of this carrier on this website, but the review is a few years old now, and there’s mention of a newer version of the carrier designed a little differently around the front so to prevent cutting and abrasion when pumping the action.  I wanted to be sure to get a current unit so I ordered online from CMC Government services and, despite some back-order issues, I received the carrier two months later.

In the box are the carrier itself, four mounting screws that go through the picatinny rail section and into the top of the Super Nova receiver. To install, you have to remove the barrel and loosen the stock (if you have the pistol grip stock). Then it’s just a matter of punching out four screws, and screwing the new unit in. The whole process only took 10 minutes.

Fit and finish are superb and the carrier looks of the same quality as if it was made by Benelli themselves. You can see in the pictures how they have removed some of the material in front of the shell carriers so there is a nice rounded curve where the shells and rail meet.  Additionally, there are holes drilled into the carrier to reduce weight. This is particularly important as this relatively small shotgun has become increasingly heavy with each ‘upgrade’.

The section of rail feels very sturdy and doesn’t interfere with the sights, but adding an optic would likely not allow for a co-witness because of how low the ghost rings are compared to where a red dot would end up. Even still, I think I’ll eventually put a red dot sight such as the Insight MRDS mini-red dot or Burris Fast Fire.

The shell carrier securely holds all of the shells that I tried in it including some bird shot, buck shot, managed-recoil slugs, and Hornady Critical Defense shells. Some of the shells were very easy to slide in and out, others required a bit of twisting and a conscious effort to remove.  Overall, I think it’s a pretty good balance across the range of shells that I tried.  Mesa Tactical does offer different elastomer inserts to try out if you aren’t happy with the standard, but I’m going to trust their testing and judgment on this and stay with what came out of the box.

On the topic of capacity, this carrier holds 6 shells.  There are other models by Mesa Tactical in 8 and 4 shell configurations, I felt that 6 was perfect for providing the capability to hold a few shells for buck or bird shot and two slugs as needed for side matches or defensive needs.  The 8 shell carrier holds the shells closer to the front and I was concerned that it may interfere with the pump action of the firearm.

Perishable Skills

Posted: May 1, 2011 in IDPA

Today I shot in a Defensive Pistol Match at the Northern Colorado Rod & Gun Club. It has otherwise been three weeks since I shot an IDPA match, or had a chance to get any rounds down range.  Boy did it suck.  While I managed to come out without too many points down, I had two major malfunctions of the cranial variety.  Firstly, I had one stage that required a mandatory reload halfway through and I just completely forgot which is not only a penalty but also a ‘failure to do right.’ Secondly, I had an all steel stage and I just couldn’t knock them down for the life of me.  There was a dueling tree at about 15 feet out and the first few plates went well, but then I blew away half a magazine trying to knock down the last plate.  Combine that with some other misses and it’s clear that I was just not on top of my game at all.  I’ve been incredibly busy with work lately and it’s kept me off the range, but if I’m going to have a chance at all at the state match later this month then I really need to get in at least once a week and start making dryfire a nightly priority.

Otherwise, I had an awesome time shooting the match and really enjoy the defensive pistol format.  It’s basically like IDPA but with no limits on magazine capacity, and a lot more targets.  It’s kind of a nice mix between IPSC and IDPA type shooting, and absolutely work checking out. Hope to see you there.

Last week I purchased a wearable camera aka helmet-cam to record my mountain biking adventures and shooting matches.  I thought this would be very handy for showing a better view of my grip while shooting and I won’t have to ask folks to record me as much.  I had done some research online previously and had decided to go with the Contour HD vholdr 1080P camera.  I had found that I could use my 20% off dividend coupon at REI on this camera, which seemed like a good deal because these are almost always full price.

So, the first question, how does it perform? Very well. I am very pleased with how easy it is to operate the camera when it’s mounted to the side of your head.  The camera makes little beeps to let you know when it’s going on/off or recording start/stop.  The instructions weren’t great, but it’s pretty quick to figure out. I used the video on a 720p setting with 60fps frame rate, check out an example below from last week’s Front Range IDPA match (note that youtube will show the 360p unless you specify otherwise).

Check out the fish-eye affect on the shotgun shells at the end of the video. I dig it.

To be honest, the camera got uncomfortable after awhile, I had it on the whole time I was at the match which was about half of the day.  I mounted it via Velcro cable ties and two scrunchies to my Peltor Tac-Sport electronic hearing protectors. Perhaps another method would be better, it wasn’t too heavy, but I could feel the mount pressing against my head.  Not a deal breaker though, and I’ll probably mount it the same way again, though I may go back and forth between this and ear plugs if it’s going to be a long day. 

Ever since I got my Benelli Super Nova tactical, I’ve been looking for a good sling solution. I’ve spent a lot of time researching options and am happy to have found a good solution.

The biggest challenge with the Benelli is the pistol-grip stock.  I really like the feel and fit of this stock, but it does present obstacles when it comes to sling mounts.  Most of the after-market sling attachments are designed for the M4,M3, etc and won’t work on the SuperNova.  I decided to take advantage of the built-in attachment point that will fit a 1″ wide sling.

The front mount is a quick-disconnect swivel on a barrel and magazine tube clamp made by CDM Gear. I found out about this mount on the excellent rem870 blog.  It has completely lived up to my expectations with superb fit & finish. I debated for some time over the MOD-C mount with a 1″ diameter light, but ended up with the BMT clamp with a section of rail instead.  It cuts down on my light options, but I figure that many times I’ll be using this gun without a light attached and this keeps things nice and clean.

I added the optional sling-swivel kit to the mount that includes the QD socket and a single 1.25″ QD swivel.

The rail section appears very study and should allow for easy mounting and removal of a weapon light while keeping wieght near the muzzle to a minimum.

The fit appears very solid.  The kit came with some small rubber spacer/shims to help protect the barrel, but I found it fit better without them.

The sling is a Viking Tactics / 5.11 padded 2-point sling. I picked this because it was one of the very few options out there in a 1″ diameter.  In retrospect, if I purchased this again I would have gone with the “upgraded model” that has a different pull tab and some elastic to cover the buckles.

I personally prefer a single-point sling attachment so I am using the 1″ IWC 2-to-1 tri-glide that adds a QD swivel into the sling itself.

This sling does have a nice quick-adjustment feature, but it was a challenge to get the adjustment just right for use as both a 2-point and single-point sling. At this point my only complaint is that there is a lot of plastic buckle pieces on each end of the sling and I still don’t have a quick disconnect from the butt-stock attachment point. Noveske just released a QD rear sling mount that should fit this stock; I have one on order and will try that out shortly along with a VCAS sling and see how it compares.

So, how does it all work? Pretty well. To make the sling work in both a single and 2-point method, I’ve had to adjust the sling length so that it extends just enough to cover both cases, it’s a little quirky, but I finally got it just right. In a 2-point configuration, the padding of the sling fits comfortably over the shoulder and the gun has very little movement.  In a single-point, the gun hangs at rest just where you would want it to be, and from either scenario it’s easy to bring the gun up to a firing stance.

Last Saturday I shot a Steel Challenge match for the first time at the Northern Colorado Rod & Gun Club.  It was a lot of fun and very different from any of the steel I’ve shot before in IDPA matches.  Steel Challenge is a bit deceptive, most of the shooting is pretty easy, but the big steel plates can lull you into a false sense of your skill and speed, and it is easy to go faster than you can sustain.  I think this balancing act of speed and precision is fantastic practice for a lot of other shooting sports and is the best example I’ve found yet of the fact that you can’t miss faster than you can make hits.

Here’s a video of each stage, I’ve edited out the really horrible runs 🙂

I look forward to my next Steel Challenge match, I think my goal next time will be to shoot each stage with no more than 1 miss. I would say I’d like to shoot it clean, but if I don’t miss here and there, then I know I’m not pushing it enough.

On Monday, I shot an indoor 2-gun match at the Front Range Gun Club in Loveland, CO.  This was my first time trying out this format and it was more fun than I expected.  I did two things that hurt my score a bit here.  I make a point to put the carbine on safe when moving from one shooting position to another and when I had gotten into a new position, my brain wasn’t working right and I thought I had a malfunction so I did a tap-rack-click and realized my problem, but the course had limited ammunition so I now had to retrieve a live case from the ground to finish all my shots.  My second issue was that there were two targets that had a no-shoot in front of them that I just managed to clip (below the paper-plate Texas-star and between the swingers).  I was pretty impressed by these targets and I appreciate my club’s attempts to make some interesting targets for an indoor shoot like this.

One take-away that I found shooting this indoors is that my front sight posts are slow to acquire on dark targets.  Long term I would like to get an EOTech or Aimpoint sight, but I think I may just replace the front post for now.  I have found some good options for tritium, fiber optic, or tritium/fiber optic so I just need to narrow down my needs and pick the right choice.  I will probably second-guess this for a while longer before I pull the trigger on any new AR parts.

IDPA Match – Shaking off the dust

Posted: March 19, 2011 in IDPA

Had another IDPA match today, I got lucky on this one as I have been so busy lately that I haven’t shot at all since my last match.  I shook a little dust off today and should have a chance this week to get into the range and work on some walk-back accuracy drills.  Many of the courses of fire here were pretty close and so accuracy was not as critical in this match.

Watching the video after the fact, I can see some spots where I could have shaved off some time, my reloads with retention in particular.  They are something that I’ve not practiced much and I am inconsistent with how I stow the loaded magazine depending on what clothes I’m wearing.

I have just over two months before the state IDPA match in Montrose, so training for that match is my primary goal now.

Last night I shot the monthly ‘fun gun’ match at my local shooting range.  This is a chance to get out in front of the shooting booths, engage multiple targets, and shoot on the move. There are limited target options in an indoor setting, but the weather is a lot better than my outdoor matches, and it goes faster too.

This was my first time doing a man-on-man match indoors.  We had two shoot no-shoot targets with a load out of 8,2,8,2 in the magazines and a minimum of 8 rounds on each target.  One target seemed to be presented a little more than the other- so it took some discipline to not put too many rounds into the target that was presented more.

We also shot the 10-50-1 drill, otherwise known as the Triple Nickel. The goal here is to put 10 shots into 5 targets with one reload in under 5 seconds, while drawing from concealment. We use IPSC targets just cut down to just the side of the ‘C’ zone. So far, my best attempt was making 9 out of the 10 shots in 5.61 seconds. Tonight I dropped a few more points and didn’t shoot quite as fast.

In this case, I feel like my main goal here is to work on speed first and accuracy second. Even though I’m dropping some shots, I think that if I could put some dedicated practice into this drill, I could start to nail it. Index shooting this close and fast is not something I have really practiced, and it’s very unnatural to shoot with such a poor sight picture.