New Features of the Sig Sauer P320

New and improved controls
New and improved controls

It is refreshing to see a manufacturer being so responsive to the requests of it’s customer base. That’s a huge reason I dumped all of my Canon gear and switched to the Fuji X System. There seemed to be some common annoyances with the P320 platform that most shooters took issue with. The take down lever was very big and although I prefer it that way, most don’t. The slide release was hideous. It stuck out too far and was too far back which prevented the slide from locking back on an empty magazine when using the grip that most competitive shooter use. There was also an issue with the trigger itself where the tip of the blade would auger its way into the side of your trigger finger.

Well is seems Sig has listened to its customers and responded in short order by redesigning those parts and getting them to market rather quickly. I noticed the new and improved parts on the most recent P320 I bought. Notice the flat take down lever and the glorious slim (and forward) slide catch release lever. Boom!

Well played Sig Sauer, well played. Now if you don’t mind, create a magazine release for us small guys that isn’t longer, but has a larger surface that extends a bit to the rear of the gun. Sig, feel free to ping me for details.

First Match with the Sig Sauer P320F

sig_logo_blackI have zero patience as anyone who happens to know me can sure attest, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I found the closes match around and shot it. Nothing surprising about that at all, but I did so with a few “adjustments” that had yet to be tested. If you happened to catch my last post, which was a range report on my new P320, you probably recall me mentioning that the sights were severely off base, shooting about a foot high. Trying to fix that without having access to better sights, I did a bit of shade tree gunsmithing to try to get the sights to become useful. To bring the POI to the POA, I ground down quite a bit of material off of the rear sighs. Enough metal was removed that it took out the top section of the dots. I like a solid black rear sight, so I filled the dots with epoxy, filled flush, then painted black. The front sight needed quite a bit more work and I used a cutting wheel to cut a channel down the center of the sight as well as opening the sides up significantly. I then placed a piece of red fiber optic into the grove, melted the ends to keep it from moving, and filled the channel with epoxy which was filed flat. Yep, pretty hillbilly, but I didn’t want to wait until my new sights arrived before I could shoot, so there you go.

Worst...sights...ever...Worst...sights...ever...Worst...sights...ever...So I sauntered over to a Speed Steel match and registered in Limited, joined a squad, and hoped for the best. As you probably already guessed, it was a bit of a train wreck, initially that is. I totally butchered the first stage but once I figured out where I was hitting and applied a little “Kentucky windage,” I started connecting with the plates. After a little refinement of my grip I found that I merely needed to have the dot on the target (with my 5 o’clock hold for sight misalignment) to get a hit. The gun seems to have an innate desire to hit targets, so I let it do it’s thing.

After a few stages I was able to get an almost acceptable draw from surrender and my times began to drop into the reasonable. As luck would have it, my times wound up being lower than all of the centerfire shooters’ times in all of the divisions. There is no touching those rimfire guys though. Man, I freakin’ love this gun.

I simply cannot believe the effect that it’s ergonomics have had on my shooting. You cannot beat having a great grip while having your trigger finger in the correct position to pull strait back. I’m sold. In fact, I just ordered another P320 to have as a backup gun, and I don’t have to give up this one while the second one gets sent to gunsmith.

Stay tuned, as I will be outlining my strategy for building the Ultimate USPSA Production Sig Sauer P320, much like what I did with the two Glock G34’s, here and here.

 

 

Range Report – Sig Sauer P320F

sig-sauer-p320As promised from the last post, Switching to the Sig P320, this is a range report about my thoughts and experience on the P320, as a competitive platform, specifically for competing in USPSA Production Division. Like I mentioned in the last article, I found the ergonomics of the P320 far superior with the small grip module than my Gen4 G34’s. I do have some difficulty hitting the magazine release consistently and wish it extended back a little bit further to the rear, but hopefully with some dry fire I can make it a non-issue. At this point, the only thing that has been done to the pistol so far is a bit of polishing on the FCU, and the addition of a small grip frame module sporting some grip tape. It still sports the stock sights which are of the 3 dot variety. I’m not sure what Sig uses to sight in or select sight sizes, but it was printing about a foot high at 25 yards. Not too big of a deal since they’ll be getting replaced soon enough.

The first thing I did was shoot a quick set of groups at 7 yards, to verify functionality and get an idea of how the gun feels when I shoot it. 10 rounds in pretty much the same hole. Next I started backing up and shooting groups, to the 10 yard line, to the 15 yard line, then the 25 yard line. All groups seeking the same hole which was very impressive. I don’t generally think of a stock plastic gun as being super capable of shooting tight little groups and being anywhere near the accuracy of my high end 2011, but wow! It is shooting lights out with whatever ammo I’m feeding it.

Next I shot a “Standards” stage where you have a 5 second par time for each of the three strings; using 3 targets, 2 shots per target freestyle at 30 yards, then 2 shots per target strong hand only at 20 yards, and finally, 2 shots per target weak hand only at 10 yards. Then add up your points. With my G34 I typically get around 54 points, but with the (stock gun and sights, mind you) P320, my first attempt yielded 66 points, even while holding low to account for the POI being almost a foot high. Impressive!

Next up, Bill Drills. At 7 yards I planted 6 shots into the target as fast as I could keep the sights in the A zone. Although a bit slower than usual, not bad at all. A closer look at the timer revealed that it wasn’t the trigger that was adding all of the time to my drill, it was the draw, which I guess is to be expected since it’s a new gun with a totally different grip angle than I’m used to. The heavy trigger did have an impact on my splits as well, as most of my split times were in the .20 – .22 areas. Cumulatively, it wasn’t a surprise that my times were almost a second off.

One thing I was little concerned with about the P320 is the high bore axis. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the recoil reduction anywhere near what I can get the the G34, but after firing copious amount of rounds into the berm, I started to refine my grip in a way that not only hold the sights on target, but actually requires less effort than doing the same on my G34. Again, shocking how well the P320 was at smashing my expectations for it. Heck, it still had the factory recoil spring installed! I found that if I get my support hand further out towards the front of the gun and use the big take down lever that everyone complains about as my “gas pedal,” it requires very little effort to thwart recoil. I wind up having the rear of my thumb knuckle on the front corner of the take down lever while locking out my support hand wrist. That leaves me with a very relaxed strong hand grip which in turn provides me with a good trigger pull.

I rounded out the session with a variety of other drills I often perform to get an idea of the Sig’s capabilities vs. the G34. It performed swimmingly in all cases and eagerly ingested any ammo I fed it. Not a single issue at all. Very nice.

Now it is not all rainbows and unicorns, albeit close. The slide catch release lever is awful. It is too far to the rear, much too big, and sticks out much too far which leads to an issue where the slide never locks back on an empty magazine, and massive abrasions to meaty part of my support hand palm. That thing is just insidious in nature and needs to be addressed.

Another annoyance, which in all honesty is not the gun’s fault, is that my 9mm load will need to be adjusted. It is tailored for my G34’s longer barrel and produces 131 power factor. Out of the Sig’s shorter barrel, I lose about 50 fps which puts me right at 125 power factor, much too close for comfort. So be forewarned, you may find yourself shooting for no score if you don’t check your load for it’s power factor from your P320.

And finally, in the annoyance department, I wound up with a bloody blister on the side of my trigger finger from the bottom of the trigger blade. Not sure how that happens, but you might want to take some tape with you if you’re going to start shooting a P320.

All in all, I adore the P320 already despite some of the little annoyances. I have a ton of work to do in dry fire now to get used to it not being a Glock, but I plan to move forward with it in the upcoming USPSA season.

Next up, getting it ready for USPSA battle.

More to come…

 

Switching to the Sig P320

sig-sauer-p320Nope, it’s not April 1st, I am actually switching to a Sig Sauer P320. Seriously. Really, I am.

“But aren’t you a G34 guy?”
Yep, I am (was).

“But aren’t you always spewing off about sticking to a single platform and mastering it?”
Yep, that’s right. That’s what I advocate.

So with that, why the heck am I moving from my beloved Glocks the Sig? Ergonomics.

I’ve butted up agains some limitations with my Glocks that have been vexing me for quite some time now. Due to it’s size, er, my hand size, I simpley can’t reach the trigger without changing my grip from the optimal. I can hold the gun properly to manage recoil to the point where the sights barely lift, OR, run the trigger properly by getting my finger in the perfect position, 90 degree bend to pull strait back at speed without rubbing the frame or disturbing the sights. But I cannot do both simultaneously. The G34 is simple too big for my hands, even without the backstraps, to allow me to run the gun as well as I want.

My training partner has been shooting the P320 for a while now and I thought it was neat and all, but it’s not a Glock, soooo… But I happened to pick it and what do you know, it fits. If fits really darn well actually. For those not familiar with the platform, that is, most people, the P320 is a modular platform that allows caliber changes, uppers, lowers, etc. to be simply changed out at will. The serialized part of the firearm is the Fire Control Unit, or FCU, that sits between all of the other parts you can swap around. Well the lower my shooting partner has on his was the Full Size, Small Grip Module, which is pretty much the entire lower part of the gun. Instead of just having the choice of backstraps to adjust the grip, you have a large variety of lowers to choose from for the task at hand. So the Small Grip Module isn’t just a slightly shorter version of the regular grip, it’s entirely different as if the entire grip was scaled down which suite me quite well. Other than being thought of as Carnie Folk (small hands, smells like cabbage), it’s just fantastic.

The Sig P320 is also very nice out of the box. For a factory trigger it is divine albeit heavy, weighing in at over 8 lbs. on my trigger scale. With a partial disassembly and a bit of polishing using non-abrasive Flitz paste, it dropped to about 7.25 lbs. But don’t let the weight scare you, the quality overrides the quantity and if “feels” much lighter. On a side note, the quality of the parts were impressive. All of the little fiddley FCU parts really didn’t need much attention and I’m sure if I had just gone out and shot it It would have done the same thing as the polishing.

So overall, I’m very impressed with the innards and the ergonomics of the P320 so far. As you would expect from me, I will be posting quite a bit of detail around the P320 since there really doesn’t seem to be much about it yet. I’ll get it out to the range and get my initial thoughts up here soon, so stay tuned.

Training With Purpose

abe-axe-quote“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

I love that quote. And I’m not sure if there is a better way to describe the mindset that typifies the serious USPSA shooter than that phrase. Sure you can just blast quickly and often and find yourself in C class, but getting beyond that and into the upper levels of the sport takes takes work, and more specifically, work with purpose. Now that I’ve stated the obvious, let me expand on something that recently occurred to me when thinking about my abilities as a shooter and how I typically approach my training. Spoiler alert, I do a pretty poor job at it.

In the past I’d take a class and see some improvement, or spend countless hours dryfiring, yielding only marginal gains in performance, all the while I’d have some new shooter race by me in skills and classification levels. I’d chalk it up to natural ability, or having more time for training, etc, but in reality I think they don’t shoot better, they train better. I’m not seeing their process, only their results. Now again I’m stating the obvious when I say you have to set goals and train to achieve it, but I believe doing this incorrectly has been a fundamental flaw in my approach and my downstream results. In short, I’m not sharpening my axe, I’m wasting my effort polishing the metal or rubbing oil into the handle, which does little to effectively cut down the tree.

So what do I mean by all of this pontification around training, goal setting, and approach? Let me give you an example of a poor goal;

“I want to make Master this year.”

What does that even mean? I have a desire to get better? What is actionable? How does that help me achieve making it to M Class? The fact is it doesn’t. I’m just whacking away at a hapless tree with a dull axe with that kind of goal.

So then, what is a good goal? Well it’s an actionable plan that enables me to make Master Class that goes beyond stating my desire to merely make M this year and sets up a strategy to get me there with actionable steps towards a quantifiable goal. Whew! That’s quite the statement, but I want you to go back and read that a couple of times. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Staying with the “I want to make Master Class this year” example, let me put it in terms that might actually enable me to make Master Class.

Let’s first start off by defining “Master Class.” What makes up a Master Class shooter? How fast does a Master Class shooter draw, reload, split times, transition times, doubles at 25 yards, typical match points and penalties, etc. Now that “Master Class” has been quantified, you know what your times and abilities need to be, thus you now know what you must train yourself to do and must identify the drills that you can use to elevate your skills to the Master Class level.

So now that you’ve stated where you want to go, isolated the skills associated with that goal, quantified each component of said skills, and identified drills to improve each skill, there is one last thing you’ll need to do, and that is to get your baseline and measure your progress. You need to get a log book, spreadsheet, cocktail napkin, whatever, but you need to track your progress across each Master Class skill you’ve identified which begins with hitting the range, running through each drill and logging your current times/abilities so you can set your training priorities. I’m sure you’ve seen shooters who go out and practice the same things over and over, addressing only the skill/drills that they enjoy shooting while neglecting the ones they don’t enjoy doing. Personally I would stack rank each skill and “weight” it in importance among the other skills you’ve listed. For example, shooting weak hand only to a specific standard vs. getting .25 second transitions on 10 yard targets. Although both are important, which one are you going to run into more often in a match or classifier? What is your baseline for each? Knowing the weight or importance of each skill as well as the delta between your ability and the goal time should also be considered when building your personalized training plan which further points you towards the skills you need to bolster vs. the skills that you can already perform.

Up until recently I have really been “practicing” in the dark, randomly picking a drill and blindly blasting away at it without knowing what I need to get out of it or even recording my times. Running hard without knowing where you’re going isn’t likely to get me much further than I am now, at least not quickly. It is now time for me to sit down with the diamond file and carefully sharpen my axe, transforming it from a hammer into a razor.

Closing the Door on Open?

XE2-7930
Simply simple…

Last year I decided to dip my toe in the Open Division waters for a season to see what I could add to my overall shooting repertoire and get me over the hump in Production (you can check out my Going Open Series for details). I seemed to have plateaued just under A Class in Production and wasn’t getting past 73%. It seemed to me at the time that I needed to focus on vision and basically, moving faster, so Open Division seemed like the logical place to enter so I could learn to get my butt moving. In other disciplines I’ve competed in the past, moving from iron sights to a dot optic was dramatic, as I seem to work very well with being target focused, so it was an easy sell for me to skip Limited altogether and again, jump into Open.  With that rationale in mind, I mothballed my G34 and picked up a STI TruBor.

I have to say, holding a well oiled machine of precision and speed, there is just something alluring about running an 2011 Open race gun. No slop, tight tolerances, triggers that run with simply a gesture towards them; what’s not to love. Well, reliability, tons of maintenance, drifting optics, and losing the dang dot, just to name a few. Answering the siren’s call to go to Open isn’t all unicorns and lollipops, at least not for me. Spending more time troubleshooting than target shooting was really getting old and an unreliable optic was getting me close to throwing the whole thing in the nearest river. Any part that goes on a 2011 comes about 17 feet oversized and must be milled down and fitted into place in order to replace that part, a far cry from the easy to maintain Glock. I swear, I’d probably need a file to put a sticker on my STI. Half the rounds through my TruBor was probably trying to get it sighted in again. You’re probably picking up the subtle tones of frustration in my voice by now, right?

During a recent match I had a malfunction where the gun stopped running, I pulled the slide back to see a round still in the chamber and another round trying to go into battery, classic double feed, right? Trying to get it back online I first tried to tip the gun upside down to shake out the extra round and then as required, you must eject the magazine to allow the slide to move forward without stripping off another round so you can try to free the round stuck in battery. I pressed the magazine release at the same instance I pulled the 170mm magazine out from the bottom, and as I ripped it out, the slide went forward and a slam fire ensued from the cartridge that was still in the chamber. I am ever diligent about muzzle control/awareness so the gun discharged harmlessly into the berm next to a target. No harm, no foul, right? Well, sort of. An AD is an AD and I was DQ’d, not that I was going to keep running an unsafe gun. I holstered, quickly tried to find the ejected rounds/cases (unsuccessfully) as to not hold up the match, and headed strait to the safety area after finding the match director. I had to know what the heck just happened. Unfortunately there was no smoking gun (no pun intended) and I couldn’t induce it to do it again. After watching the video it’s obvious that my finger is up and away from the trigger guard and it wasn’t pilot error. The trigger doesn’t seem to follow the slide so I figure I had a stuck firing pin, or the primer on the stuck round was high or deformed enough to detonate under the force of the slide itself. I’ll probably never know, but it was shipped back to STI for diagnoses. No word yet from them, but I’m sure it’ll be a while before I hear anything back from them. Stay tuned.

At this point, shooting is just not fun anymore, a bad place to be for my favorite sport. The next match at the time was a classifier match that I considered skipping since I didn’t have a backup Open gun, but I wanted to spend the afternoon with my buddies, so I relented and pulled out the Glock, took it to the match. I figured I’d blow the classifiers to the point they wouldn’t count against me since I hadn’t shot an USPSA match in Production in over a year, so why not? Shockingly enough, it was like riding a bike in a lot of ways. I’ve always said that I am a Production shooter at heart, and would return to my trusty G34, which just feels like an extension of my body. The angle just works for me and wherever I look, the sights are just there. Although I had changed my grip somewhat, I did seem to drag a lot of what I’d learned from Open back into Production, most of it good. I managed to blow out a few of the classifiers and miracle of all miracles, accidentally and surprisingly, bumped myself into A Class in Production! And even more importantly, I had fun. Maintenance free, always goes bang (and only when it’s supposed to), easy going fun. Ahhhh….back to Production.

At this point, I’m going to stick with Production for a while, which should be easy since I have no idea when I’ll have my pistol back from STI, but even then, I want to keep things simple and fun for a while. Besides, I still have lots of work to do in Production. Even though I now have an A card, my competition hasn’t stayed still. The Production B class shooters are much better than I am at the moment so have my work cut out for me. These guys are animals.

Movin’ On Up – A Class!

What card do you have? Aaaaayyy!
What card do you have?
Aaaaayyy!

In a strange turn of events I found myself at a USPSA classifier match shooting Production with my G34. It was about a year since I shot it, but my Open gun was offline so I didn’t have a choice but to shoot my Glock. I was worried that I’d tank my percentage so I registered as Limited and thought I’d just shoot for fun since there was no chance of me not pooching the stages, after all, I’d been shooting a race gun with a dot for a year. But as I was stepping up to the line I realized that all of my stage planning, at least for the field courses, I’d planned for 10 round magazine changes and didn’t have time to re-plan my runs, so I thought what the heck, I’ll just shoot Production and asked the Nook wielding RO to quickly switch me to Production. I pretty much tanked the field course getting used to iron sights and sight focus again, but like riding a bicycle, you fall right back into line with a Glock and I shot the rest of the match pretty well (for me).

On the drive home I started crunching the numbers and was truly shocked to realized that I has stumbled into A Class! Oh irony. I busted my buns trying to get out of B Class and punted myself into Open, only to flub my way into A Class because my Open gun was at the shop. Whatever, I’ll take it! A card now in hand!

Back to the Basics

basicOne topic that I’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about, at least initially, was my grip. I seem to have a hard time finding the way the gun is supposed to fit into my hands and is probably the biggest reason for moving from the M&P platform to the Glock. The M&P felt good in my hands regardless of it’s position, which is actually a bad thing in my opinion. I want the gun to only feel right when I have my hands in the exact correct position, and feel terrible any other way. That way, I know that I have the correct grip the instant I begin to draw and can correct it, or at a minimum, know that it’s going to enter my vision with the sights out of perfect alignment so I’m expecting it to appear that way. Makes sense, right? Well, it sort of is, but not always optimal. Let me explain.

When I switched to the Glock I knew that I needed to make it an extension of my body, and that is done through lots and lots of perfect practice. The best way to achieve this in the shortest amount of time is by doing enough dryfire that it is burned into the subconscious and you never need to think about it again. The problem with this is that if you burn it in to your mind in a less than optimum configuration, you just roll with it and never question it again. The sights are always where I’m looking, my grip is good to go. In my case, this “error” was the insidious cause of some other serious limiting factors that I just couldn’t seem to master. I know this is a little long winded, but hang in there, like talking to my mother-in-law, the story is going somewhere.

So again, let’s go back to the point when I got my first Glock, suited up, and began to dryfire it with the primary goal of having the sights appear precisely where I was looking. Take note, this was the beginning of my years of limiting errors! When I would draw on a close target, the sights would be all out of whack, usually off to the left and low. Having a long range precision rifle background, the concept of Natural Point of Aim, or NPA, is paramount to building your position on the rifle. If you force it, it’ll never be consistent and that is amplified when you’re shooting 1000+ yards so it becomes an obvious error. To find my NPA with my Glock, I would close my eyes, draw to the target and see where the sites were when I opened my eyes. I changed my grip and tried it again and again until I had the sights in perfect alignment every time I opened my eyes. At the time it seemed logical and my draw was dang quick since the sights were dead on as soon as I pulled it. The issue with this is subtle, but had huge implications downstream to my overall performance. The reason why is that to achieve that draw to perfect sight picture, I was gripping the gun incorrectly. If you can imagine looking down to the top of the pistol, my right hand was rotated counter-clockwise around the grip pretty significantly. Again, this doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but let me explain why it’s one of those foundational errors that is amplified down the line.

I know it’s an obvious statement to say the grip is important since it is our interface with the gun, but we’re not just holding it, we’re operating it, and to operate it well we need to pull the trigger without disturbing the sights and manage the recoil. The better we do those two things, the more accurate our shots, and the faster the gun returns to a neutral position with the sights aligned, ready to repeat the cycle. With my poorly positioned strong hand grip I could certainly get the gun on target quickly with the sights aligned, but the rest of the requirements were missing. First off, my support hand was pretty much just along for the ride and my strong hand was doing most of the work resulting in a poor trigger pull when shooting quickly. Once the shot broke the recoil management was also being executed poorly which caused much more muzzle flip than was necessary causing a big delay in having the sight picture I needed to take the next shot. Furthermore, tracking the sights was much more difficult since the thing was bucking uncontrollably. The poor grip really introduced a series of cascading errors that all added up to a very poor, or at least very limiting, performance.
Anyone who has read my post on why I started shooting Open to improve my Production performance knows that I just couldn’t seem to get the downrange results I knew I was capable of getting, and this revelation is really a direct result of that division change. How did I figure this out? Well, it was more a series of events that came together for me and being observant to what was happening allowed for things to become evident.

The first thing I noticed was the position on the pistol. I was shooting with Keith Tyler and asked him some question I don’t even recall about my about my grip. He suggested that I get the gun strait back in the web of my hand, and imagine squeezing just the contact points on the front and back of the grip with my strong hand, and just the sides of the grip with my weak hand (I’m paraphrasing). I built that grip with the gun already out shooting groups (not from a draw), and HOLY COW! The gun wasn’t jumping around like crazy anymore! I could EASILY track the dot and see it move up, jiggle about for a moment, then return right where it began. It was amazing! Now that’s what I’ve been hearing about! It really was great, and simply amazing to see how my grip on the gun made such a drastic difference. Since my hand wasn’t rotated around the front of the grip so much, I could easily hit the magazine release, too. But the trouble in paradise was that I just couldn’t seem to get that grip while drawing from the holster. I felt like I would have to choose speed or accuracy since I just couldn’t seem to nail that grip from the draw, and spent a ton of time trying to find my dang dot. I tried shooting match in that mode and would spend seconds a stage hunting for my dot. Back to the drawing board.

The second thing that helped me figure things out was during the class I was taking with Steve Anderson last weekend.  During the Six, Reload, Six drill, which we were only dry firing at this point, I noticed quite a bit of movement of my dot. It was oscillating outside of the A zone and would take me quite a bit of time to settle the dot before I had a good enough sight picture to break the shot. I had returned to my old grip for the speed, but was already hating what I was seeing. Trying to wrangle the gun so the dot would settle down, again, this is dryfire, I got frustrated and just squeezed the hell out of the grip and it settled down the dot, but it was hard to pull the trigger quickly or without disturbing the dot. So I tried it with squeezing like mad with my support hand, and relaxing my strong hand and BOOM! Like magic, I had speed and accuracy! I stopped doing the drill and just stared drawing with that feeling, and then tried it with my strong hand in the position that worked so well for me when I was shooting with Keith Tyler. What I discovered, is that if I got my strong hand where it NEEDED to be, then got my support hand in the right position to really squeeze the sides of the grip, and if my strong hand was relaxed, that the dot what where I was looking and the grip was optimal for controlling recoil, which lead to excellent sight tracking. In a nutshell, it was fast and facilitated a great visual stream.

One thing to note is that getting this grip was contingent on getting it my hands in the perfect placement and event then, only puts the dot where I’m looking if I’m squeezing about 80% with my support hand while keeping the strong hand light and relaxed. To get this consistently I had to find a few index points along the drawing process to ensure success. I know that after a lot of focused dryfire I will burn this into my subconscious, but I have years of bad practice to overwrite. For now, I have to remember to come down with my strong hand like a “U” on to the beavertail while bringing my support hand to my chest. Then I pull the gun up high, “chop” the trigger guard with my support hand, the roll it into position while pushing the gun strait out and picking up the dot. I know that sounds strange, and trying to put the feeling into words leaves a lot out of the descriptions, but I’m sure you get the point.

So at this point, I think I have what I need, at least foundationally, to build upon the rest of the skills that I need to be successful in USPSA. I hope that in a few months I will have burned this in, it’ll be without thought, and the rest of my game improves dramatically since I should have a good foundation to build upon. I’m also excited to see how this affects my progress once I go back to Production since my progress has slowed down and I was just hovering outside of A class. I do find it somewhat ironic that I’m spending all my focus on something as basic as simply holding the gun, but it seems that I have built my house upon sand and need to go back and firm things up before I can really put the pedal down.

Quick Update

iamback
I’m back baby!

First off, I’m sorry for the big gap in posts! It’s been a hard year to shoot for me, but I’m starting to get back at it. That being said, I have been able to shoot a handful of matches, take a Marksmanship class with our local Keith Tyler, and another class with my personal favorite instructor, Steve Anderson. I’ve also changed up some of my gear and want to share that with everyone as well, so don’t worry, I’ll expand upon all of these recent events and give you my take and take aways as well in my next round of posts, so stay tuned!

Shooting Stats For 2014

My, this year has just disappeared on me and I can hardly believe that in a matter of hours it will be 2015. Didn’t we just get to 2014? As usual this is the time of the year where we reflect back over the last 12 months to see how we measured up to the goals we set last year, review which goals we accomplished, pontificate on the goals we didn’t meet, as well as set the goals we’ll strive for over the next 12 months. So let’s kick this thing off by looking back a year ago and seeing what goals I set for the 2014 shooting year and how much progress I made towards meeting them.

Year End Goal Review

  • I moved to Open. Although I had the desire to move to Open, I didn’t actually think it would happen this season, being that it is dang expensive to play at this level, and I was having a ton of fun in Production. I had two tricked out Production Glock G34’s, a great load for them, and lots of spare parts and knowledge on the entire system. So why switch? In a nutshell, it was a bit of an experiment to see if I could glean more visual information and learn to move faster throughout the stages. I did elaborate on the rationale for the move in my post, Open For New Skills in case you want to read about all of the details. And why switch now, in the middle of the season? Well, that’s just my ADD shining through.
  • Perhaps the biggest goal I set for myself, and didn’t quite meet, was earning my A card in USPSA Production. I did however get pretty darn close, 72.73 percent, and if I had continued to pursue it, I’m confident I would have gotten my A card in 2014. The last Production classifier I shot was in September, so realistically (and perhaps optimistically?) I would have had plenty of time to get it. I was shooting pretty strong percentages there at the end before I jumped ship over to Open as mentioned above.
  • I wanted to get more coaching and training this year to help accelerate my ascension towards GM and as far as meeting this goal goes, I knocked it out of the park. Since I was the primary party responsible for setting up some USPSA classes for our local shooters, I had the opportunity to train with some of the best instructors and competitors in the world. I was lucky enough to receive a Dry fire Tune Up and participate in two classes with Steve Anderson as well as a class with Ben Stoeger. The skills I learned from these classes where simply transformative and a total game changer for me. I couldn’t recommend getting some formal training scheduled any higher to supercharge your game.
  • I wanted to participate in some major matches and see how I functioned under the pressure, as well as see what an area match was like. My son’s birth happened to coincide with the Area 1 match, so I wasn’t able to compete in that match, but I did however make our local sectional match which was run very professionally and was probably closer to an Area match than a local match. It was the first time I’ve ever had to shoot a chrono stage and have my gear inspected. I’ve always played by the rules when it comes to the Division regulations and power factors, but it was a little unnerving when you’re under the microscope and you’re hoping that you didn’t miss some little detail or realize that your chronograph isn’t accurate. I’m happy to report that everything was just fine and there were no surprises. On a side note about the pressure of a major match, I really didn’t have any issues with it since for whatever reason I’ve never really been affected by pressure. When the timer starts I just sort of go into match mode where I am laser focused and any conscious thought is absent. Paradoxically, this is one place being ADD serves me well since one of the byproducts of ADD is hyper-focus.
  • Accuracy being a fundamental tenant of shooting is always a good thing to improve upon. I wanted to be able to engage any target that could be conceived, no matter if it was small, distant, enclosed with no-shoot targets, or any combination of things that I might encounter, and do so without any uncertainty. To that end, accuracy practice has been a part of my training regiment and has paid huge dividends in matches. Being able to knock out mini-popper in front of no-shoot targets at speed, even at distance, is one of those things that win or lose stages. In fact, the last match I shot had the USPSA Classifier, CM 03-10 Area 5 Standards, and most of the people zero’d the stage. Not to sound boastful, merely trying to demonstrate the results of so much accuracy practice, I won the stage which was extremely accuracy centric. Now I’m not so crazy to think that I have mastered accuracy by any stretch of the imagination, and this is a skill that I will continue to focus on and hone my capabilities during every practice session.
  • I rarely shoot IDPA, but I do love competitive shooting in just about every form. And while IDPA is not as dear to my heart as USPSA, I really do enjoy it when the opportunity arises to compete in a local IDPA match. One of my goals for last year was to shoot an IDPA classifier and make Expert. I finally had the opportunity arise to shoot the classifier and I handily made Expert.

So looking back at last year’s goal, I’m pretty happy overall with what I was able to accomplish given the amount of time I had to devote to practice and if I were to think of the most significant things I learned or did to improve my shooting, I’d have to say it would be all of the dryfire practice, focus on the mental game, and moving to Open. For almost six months I dryfired for close to an hour a day. The amount of improvement I experience over the last year can be mostly contributed to all of the dryfire. Not that it wasn’t without it’s challenges, since I didn’t get nearly the amount of live fire sprinkled in between dryfire sessions I had a introduced some pretty big training scars. I had to learn how to dryfire properly so I didn’t create more issues while in live fire. But overall, it is the best training you can do and it’s free.

If you’ve taken a class from Steve Anderson or listened to his podcast you no doubt have heard about the mental component of shooting ad nauseam. Learning how to properly visualize a stage and burn in that program so as to be shooting subconsciously is a pretty amazing thing. I just call every shot while shooting the stage while on cruse control, only judging if a shot was acceptable or not acceptable. If the shot was deemed not acceptable, a follow up shot is delivered instantaneously. And the most amazing thing about this process is that it happens at a speed that would not be possible if conscious thought was involved, fractions of a second.

Speaking of speed, the move to the Open division has already yielding speed increases for me. Although I’ve only been able to shoot a few matches with my Open gun, I am definitely seeing the types of speed increases that prompted the division change in the first place. As expected, shooting while moving has been turbo charged since I am always target focused and the red dot of doom is always just lingering in my visual path, at least if I’m doing my part correctly. But the biggest and somewhat unexpected speed increase has been from being able to shoot sooner. Since the dot is just about always available, I am able to start engaging targets as soon as possible, which sounds obvious enough and not like a tactic that is reserved for Open shooters. For me, I am able to begin engaging targets as soon as I cross a fault line, or the instant I pass a vision barrier I can start breaking shots. Reviewing video from my Open matches I see seconds being shaved from stages as I move into a new position from a full sprint and start laying waste to poppers before I have even slowed down to clear out everything from that location. That is one of those skills that dawned on me somewhat recently while watching video of the Super Squad at Nationals. Those guys are amazing to watch and seeing them execute the shooting cycle as soon as their sights pass over a target is pretty inspiring. So for me at least, I’m learning some skills that I hope will now be available to my shooting repertoire regardless of what division I’m shooting. What a kick in the pants! I know that my primary rationale of shooting Open is to improve my overall skill set, but wow, is sure is a ton of fun.

Gear Considerations

While putting together my shooting stats data (see image below) the biggest thing I noticed was that although my shots fired total was similar to previous years, the gear was significantly different than previous years. Most of my shots fired, roughly 74%, were though my Production Glock G34’s and 16% of shots fired were through my new Open STI, leaving only 10% of shots fired going to the occasional rifle or 3 Gun match. This is mainly due to my commitment to USPSA. I only have so many cycles to dedicate towards competition and my time is more limited than ever, so as much as I miss competing in some of the other disciplines, I really had to thing about my priorities and progressing in USPSA is where I want to improve the most, so that’s what I spend my time training, and those are the matches I attend. It does however pain me to see my “new” long range precision rifle collecting dust in the safe which I saved for years to get, and never use. One day…

A couple other noteworthy things about this year’s status is that there was no .22 shooting as in previous years, and the gear has changed significantly. You might thing the lack of .22 shooting is due to the gross lack of rimfire availability, but in reality, when I got a chance to train, I rolled with my actual gear since I happen to have more ammo than time these days. And as far as gear, as much as I really loved my M&P’s, the Glocks simply displaced all of them except the M&P .22 pistol. The rest of them were sold for lead.

If you have been following me for any amount of time you might have seen that I set out to build the Ultimate USPSA Production Glock and shortly after I built the New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock that had some significant changes in the trigger/striker system as well as the move to the Taran Tactical sights. I love the pistol. So much so that it made it even more difficult to move to Open.

Other gear changes were pretty minor. I standardized on CR Speed magazine pouches everywhere they were legal to use. I moved to the AA belt from the CR Speed belts I’ve been using since they are a bit wider and stuff stays put, although I still use the thicker CR Speed internal belt, even with the AA outer belt. I just seem to like that combination the best.

Looking Forward – 2015

Now that the calendar show 2015 at the top, I needed to think back over last year’s goals, think about what I want to complete this year, and align my new goals, gear, and training regimen to meet my needs this season. So what do I want to accomplish this year? What challenges do I have that may interfere with my goals? What gear and consumables will I need to reach my goals? How do I need to train, etc. Normally I’d start out by stating my goals and moving from there, but one significant difference this year is that my challenges need to be stated to so as to set realistic goals that hinge on my capabilities. Sure I’d like to make GM in Open and Production this year, but I simply don’t have the resources to do it.

The biggest challenges I face this year are centered around my physical capabilities and the amount of time I can devote to shooting. We all struggle with the time element, especially us with children, and we just reset the counter 6 months ago with our second child, so it’s even tougher than before to carve out time to train or shoot a match. Even finding time to dryfire has been impossible lately! But the most significant detriment to my shooting this year is that I’m about to undergo a major surgery that will most likely have me sidelined for the next six months. Yep, that’s not a typo, half the damn year I’ll be unable to participate in sports, at least at a competitive level. At least that’s what the surgeon is telling me. So with that in mind, what’s realistic for me to accomplish in 2015?

  • To not lose ground. Not being able to shoot for six months is sure to take it’s toll on my performance so anything I can do to try to slow the decay will not only keep me from moving backwards, but once I’m back in action will allow my training time to go towards learning new skills and making improvements towards new goals.
  • I want an A card in USPSA. I don’t really care if it’s in Production or in Open, but I want to an A or two on my card. Most likely it’ll be in Open, but hard to say right now.
  • Improve accuracy. I know that’s vague and it’s hard to quantify that statement, but it’s something that always has room for improvement.
  • Improve fundamentals. Again, vague, but I have had some challenges around trigger control and recoil control that seems like is a byproduct of lots of dryfire and very little live fire training. This needs to be fixed and a plan to do so integrated into my future training plans.
  • Speaking of training plans, I need to develop one. I haven’t made the most of my training, dry or live, because I haven’t taken the time to assess my current skills and tailored my drills to bolster my weaknesses. Once that’s done, I need to schedule it, dry and live.
  • Shoot an Area match.
  • Take a class. If time and resources allow, I’d like to get Steve Anderson back out for his Advanced class this summer.
  • Get faster. Faster static skills like draws, reloads, etc. Faster moving skills like shooting while moving and shooting the instant I enter a new position. Faster splits and transitions.

So with that, I think I’m all set to get things going for the 2015 shooting season and hopefully will be back to shooting much sooner than expected. I’ll probably be able to shoot Speed Steel much sooner since I don’t have to move and might even be able to do it with crutches. We’ll see.

And without further adieu, here are my actual shots fired stats from 2014. Sorry it took so long to get to it.

 

shooting-stats-2014