Going Open – Got the Gun

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The new Open platform: STI TruBor

For better or for worse, I’m moving from the Production Division to the Open Division in USPSA. If this happens to be your first time here you can check out my previous posts on why I’m changing divisions and what I hope to accomplish by doing so, and my decision process on selecting an Open gun to compete with, which lands you back to this point where I discuss acquiring my new Open gun, a STI TruBor and some of the customizations I’ve made to get started.

Once I made my decision on getting the STI TruBor I thought I could simply “buy” one, but actually finding one to buy turned out to be more challenging than expected. Anyone who knows me can attest that patience is not exactly my strong suit and getting my paws on a STI TruBor became more of an obsession than it probably should have been. Luckily my personality flaws pay off from time to time and after spending the afternoon calling STI dealers I was able to find a TruBor in 9mm Major in stock at Brazos Custom Gunworks. As it turns out, call it divine intervention, a happy accident, or what you will, getting it from Brazos was a stroke of good luck since they build some of the best Open guns on the market and provided me with some great advice on getting started with the TruBor. So besides getting the TruBor itself, I wound up getting 2 140mm magazines, 2 170mm magazine, their Big Mouth magwell, and their “drop in” trigger group.

A few days later I have everything in hand and a friend who is a competent 2011 “mechanic” ready to help me get everything I ordered installed and tuned up the next time I see him. Having a new Open gun is bad enough, but having a new Open gun and a bunch of new parts for it was just too much for me to resist tinkering with. So instead of waiting for my friend to help me get my TruBor dialed in, I opt to spend a couple of hours watching YouTube videos learning how to dissemble and reassemble a 1911. Being that this is my first 1911/2011, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I had no idea how to even get the slide off of it, let alone do any major part replacements. But the Siren’s song of the TruBor proved to be too much for my resolve to withstand, so my desire to tinker won out over common sense. Off to the bench to apply my new YouTube PHD (er, probably more like GED) in 1911 smithing on to my hapless STI. All kidding aside, I sincerely enjoy turning my own screws and having a new platform to discover was quite enjoyable as well as prudent since I ultimately do need to know how to maintain the darn thing. A short time later I have the Brazo’s Tuned Trigger Group and Big Mouth Magwell installed and safety checked. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to striker fired pistols or if the 2011 with the Brazos trigger group is the culmination of pixie dust and unicorn tears, but the trigger on this thing in nothing short of amazing. Not too heavy, but not too light. Nice and short with just the right amount of weight with a very precipitous break. In other terms, it’s the bee’s knees. I’m salivating at the thought of shooting this thing. And maybe it’s just because I’m used to shooting Production with a Glock, but I’m not sure how you can possible miss a reload with the huge magazine sucking funnel that is the Big Mouth Magwell. This should be fun. I’m already getting excited.

The new Open setup.
The new Open setup.

Next I spend a little bit trying to get the feel of the pistol in my hand, how it should be held to maximize access to the controls while allowing a good index and natural point of aim. This turns out to be a little ambiguous and I wind up getting a little frustrated with exactly where and how I should be gripping it. If I hold it in a position where I can easily reach the magazine release button my index is off by quite a bit, but when I adjust things for a good index the controls don’t really line up for me. This might be due to my own personal ergonomics or that I’m just so used to my Glock and it’s idiosyncrasies that it has ruined me from using anything else. For example, when I grip a Glock, I’m getting the web of my hand as high as possible to the bore axis as I can to aid in recoil control, and I squeeze the living snot out of the thing to ensure a good and consistent lockup to bolster my recoil management as well as facilitating both accuracy and the fastest possible splits I can produce (which I’ve a gotten down to .15 on occasion). When I apply this philosophy to the 2011 it has the unintended consequence of not disengaging the grip safety on about half of my draws. Experimenting with my grip, the tension, and the position, seem to all have other consequences as well resulting in either issues with using the controls reliably or a terrible index. Before I get to frustrated with the “bad” ergonomics I remind myself that this is the first time holding a 2011 and practice fixes all. After all, I have done about a billion draws with my Glock, and it too felt foreign to me at one point as well with it’s aggressive grip angle and unique beavertail and controls. I finally decide to go with the grip the allows the fastest index and will adapt the controls to accommodate my unique needs. I’m certainly going to need an extended magazine release to allow me to drop my mags. I’m glad I can do pretty much whatever I dang well please to my gun in the Open division!

Getting used to a red dot optic, in this case it’s the C-More that came with it from the factory, did take more effort than I imagined it would. I’m just so used to pulling my focus back to the front sight that I habitually do it whenever I draw a pistol. It’s almost like it’s just part of the draw and takes considerable effort, or at least conscience thought, to always keep my eyes target focused. I also noticed that I don’t really need to have the pistol in a strait line that extends from the target to the front sight, through the center of the rear sight, all the way back to my right eye. I know that it sounds strange to mention this, but it took some time to adjust to the fact that I can have the pistol, or more accurately, the optic’s dot “centered” in my “cone of vision.” At first the dot was being slightly obfuscated to my left eye by the frame of the C-More’s lens. With a little dry fire it was remedied in short order, but I did find it interesting that moving to a dot optic on a pistol could present so much more change than I realized, and how much I do to accommodate iron sights.

Front view of the C-More
Front view of the C-More

Next thing on the agenda was to actually shoot the thing and see if it even functions, and functions reliably. Again, the TruBor is setup for Major power factor, so its recoil spring weight and compensator are designed based on the immense amount of energy it assumes it will be receiving from very high pressure ammunition. It is no wonder that my 9mm Minor loads, which for Production are well above the minimum power factor requirements, failed to cycle the TruBor. Even if they could manage to cycle a Major power factor pistol, the likelihood of it happening on a brand new pistol that hasn’t been broken in yet is even less likely. Being optimistic, I tried using factory 9mm ammunition with similar results and it wasn’t until I tried my +P+ personal defense rounds was I able to get it to cycle without an error. Man, this thing is tight! With the understanding that until I handload some Major power factor ammunition it wasn’t going to cycle, I worked on sighting in my C-More while hand cycling each round. There would be no record setting split times today, but I was still able to verify the functionality of my new trigger group and shoot a few groups with it which I’m happy to report, were absolutely stellar. The gun can shoot. In fact, I really had no issues coring out the center of my targets, and even small steel targets at 50 yards seem to just bow to my new STI. It is very impressive and exciting to have a pistol that I can fire this accurately this easily. Very big grins erupted on my face at this point.

While identifying and acquiring my new Open equipment, I was simultaneously scouring the internet for powder that would not only facilitate great performance from my gun and compensator in a 9mm Major handload, but was also available for purchase. As luck would have it I was able to find enough Accurate Arms #7 to allow me to develop a load and practice a little bit so I could get comfortable with this new paradigm before I attempted competing with it. The plan was to finally make A class, which I’m right on the cusp of getting, or at least finish up this season with my Production system and train over the winter with the STI. But a little peer pressure goes a long way, and my personality flaws being what they are, I found myself pressing out the very first 9mm Major handloads for my TruBor…the night before the next match. Ya, I know. Not exactly the smartest decision I’ve ever made on a variety of levels. Normally, my underlining match philosophy is, “Never change anything before a match, except perhaps your underwear.” But what the heck, it’s a club match and regardless of how I’d place I know that it was going to be a great time. Throwing caution to the wind, I did show up to the match the next morning with my new gun, new load, new magazines, new holster and pouches, etc. As you probably guessed, it was technically an epic disaster that would have normally left me grumbling afterwards, stewing on why things went off of the rails. But since I had the already accepted my fate before I shot the first (new!) round, I left the match, grinning ear to ear with no regrets.

There were few noteworthy items about the match, which will live in infamy as the “Blaster Disaster,” worth mentioning. First off, shockingly enough, the gun ran great, that is when it had the opportunity to fire a round, it dutifully did so. I didn’t help matters and was personally responsible for my own demise. On the very first stage I loaded one of the massive, ammunition spewing magazines that are legal in Open division, into the gun, but didn’t actually chamber a round, thus producing the loudest sound a gun at a match can emanate, the click of an empty chamber. D’OH! There is just so much going on with a non-Glock. I was so concerned with remembering to turn the optic on and engaging the thumb safety that I forgot to do the most basic of things, rack the slide. I knew as I fired the first shot of the match, er, didn’t fire the first round of the match, that it was going to be very entertaining for my squad members.

My friend graciously brought a magazine release extension for me and we hit the safety table to install it after my brilliant performance on the first stage. That should help speed up my magazine releases…more so than I realized. He also gave me a monster, tuned magazine to try out as well which would be perfect for the next stage since it allowed me to cram over 30 rounds into it. Ya, that’s right you Production guys, over 30 rounds!

Wait for it… wait for it… Ya, you see it coming, too.

I started up range and had to run to a barrel where my shiny new TruBor lay, ready for action. I fed it the new magazine, swelling with high pressure rounds, ready to attack the poppers down range from me, viewable only through a small port just above the barrel. It was at this point a couple of items became painfully obvious to me. First off, it would have been prudent to have sighted in my dot for the new ammo which was not printing anywhere near the place my Glock ammo was printing. And secondly, the gun, under the influence of recoil was moving in a way that perfectly alined my thumb with the new extending magazine release button.

Queue the Benny Hill music.

The gun would fire, miss the target, recoil up and back until my thumb would involuntary hit the magazine release, and violently vomit out my magazine. That’s a lot to take in, so to get full entertainment value out of that last line you should go back and read it again, and then visualize the scene as it unfolded during the match. Now that’s comedy. Luckily I was shooting right over the top of that barrel where I picked up the pistol so it was easy enough to pick back up for another cycle of embarrassment. I assumed at first it was the new magazine that I borrowed, untested, and it was incompatible with my gun. So I fed it a new magazine with similar results. I did manage to finally graze the targets and picked up the pile of magazines that now lay under my pistol, and headed down the path of the rest of the field stage, dropping magazines all along the way like some sort of demented Hansel and Gretel story. I did figure out what was happening and corrected it to complete the stage, but not before leaving a trail of mostly full magazines in my wake, leading all the way back to me and my epic fail. Having been fortunate enough to been filmed during my performance of a lifetime, I surely have watched that stage dozens of time, erupting in laughter every single time. Greatness. So ya, I went back to the safety table and removed the new fail button in short order.

I did wind up installing a much heavier magazine release spring that allowed me to use the extended magazine release button without it puking my magazine out unexpectedly. Between the heavier spring and positioning the button’s angle a little differently, I thankfully haven’t had any more premature ejectalations.

C-More mounted at 45 degrees
C-More mounted at 45 degrees

Another thing that happened a couple of times, which was not by any means the fault of the STI, was what is lovingly referred to as the C-More Shuffle.  This phenomena is where you extend the gun, ready to lay waste to a target, fully expecting to see the dot sitting out there leading your eye to the A zone. But when you don’t extend your pistol quite right, or try to pick up the dot from an awkward position, the dot evades detection leaving you standing there, clock ticking away while you wiggle the gun around in bigger and bigger circles in the desperate hopes of luring the dot back out of hiding so you can begin shooting. Again, it’s very obvious and entertaining for your squad mates when this occurs to you. I guess they know it’s a lack of experience issue that I’m sure they’ve all experienced when they began shooting with a dot optic. Regardless, it’s pretty funny to see video of yourself when that happens, at least when you’re just getting started in Open.

While we’re talking about optics, the TruBor comes equipped with a C-More red dot optic that sits atop a very nice mount that is attached via the frame of the gun. The issue I have with this arrangement is that the distance between the center of the barrel and the dot is actually quite vast, producing about a 2 inch offset between the two at close distances. This is nothing new to me since I’ve had years of experience with an EOTech equipped AR, but it has little effect outside of 25 yards. But since most of the shooting in USPSA is within 25 yards, the dot’s offset is in play most of the time. One of things you can do to limit the amount of offset is to get the dot as close as physically possible to the bore, so there are different C-More mounts available to facilitate that, each with it’s own advantages and drawbacks. If you mount the C-More at 90 degrees from normal, you do get the dot back down to a more manageable distance from the bore, but the base of the mount and the body of the C-More add about 1/4 inch of visual obstruction to the left side of the gun. Another option that is available is the 45 degree mount which does get the dot down low like the 90 degree mount, but since it sets at a 45 degree angle it’s much less of a visual distraction. One downside of the 45 degree mount is that the C-More’s dot adjustments are located on the right side of the base which is impossible to get to without removing the slide. I decided to go with the Barry’s 45 degree mount and once I finally got it zero’d (which was a huge pain in the rear), I have to admit, it’s pretty awesome.

The last thing I wound up changing was swapping out the Brazos Big Mouth magwell for a Dawson Precision Ice magwell. Since it’s a little taller on the top, it helps push my hand up into position a little better.

So that’s pretty much it for now, but I do have a couple of things that I’d like to do to it at some point. First off, I’d really like to have a slide racker installed, it’s a trip to the smith for that since a dovetail has to be milled into the slide to provide a spot for the racker to be mounted. The other thing I’d like to get is a shorter trigger paddle so I can get more of a 90 degree bend to my index finger. Both somewhat minor, but will certainly happen at some point.

All that’s left now is for me to start some serious dryfiring to get the index ingrained into my subconscious and make the 2011 an extension of my body to the extent that my Glock is now.

Stay tuned as I update my progress with the new gear and division. I’m sure it’ll be more fun…for my squad members.

Deal Alert! Brian Enos’ Practical Shooting Audiobook For $1.99!

enos-book

I just happened to do a search for “Enos” while browsing for new audiobooks on Audible.com and was not only shocked to find Brian Enos’ de facto book on competitive shooting, Practical Shooting : Beyond Fundamentals available, but available for $1.99!

This book is required reading at least once a year for me as well as just about every other competitive shooter I know of. So if you haven’t read it yet, this is a great opportunity to get it, in audiobook format, for 2 clams.

Here’s the link to Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals on Audible.com.

Going Open – Getting the Gear

truborIf you happened to catch my previous post on going Open For New Skills, you already know about my recent experiment on moving to the Open division in the hopes of learning to see more visual information as well as bolstering my speed of movement throughout the stages. Time will tell if this turns out to be a good decision or not, or if those (hopefully) newly acquired skills can be backported and applied in Production division.

So, I’m going to shoot Open, but first I need to retool and that means it’s time to pick an Open division gun to compete with, which has not been an easy decision by any means. As I see it, there are really only three paths to consider when buying an Open gun, so let’s cover the pros and cons with each option since this is what I did to finally choose my new competition pistol.

The easiest way to dip your toe in the Open division waters, besides borrowing an Open gun from a buddy that is, is to use what you already have, right? Many a Glock shooter have equipped their G34 to compete in Open by adding a KKM barrel with a compensator, some big ole magwell, and a red dot optic like the C-More RTS or the Leupold Deltapoint. And to be honest, it’s not really a bad way to go, at least to get started quickly and on the cheap. Besides being the least expensive option it’s also the easiest option when it comes to time on your gunsmith’s bench and overall maintenance. As you may have seen from my earlier articles on building the Ultimate Production Pistol, and the building the New Ultimate Production Pistol, I already have the perfect foundation for such a project. Heck I would still have a Production pistol to compete with even if I did convert one of them over to Open, after all, I do have two of them. I have all of the spare parts, the magazines and mag pouches that are the same. I am already intimately familiar with the entire system and know how to work on everything myself. Switching between the two divisions would be monumentally easier since it’s the same dang gun! Even now as I type this it still sounds like a brilliant option, a no brainer, right? After outfitting the gun and the magazines to hold more ammunition the cost can still be held under $1000 and I would have a very nice and competitive Open gun. So what’s the problem then? Let me start my explanation by saying that the following opinions are based on my observations and research, and of course I’m speaking in general terms as well, so don’t please don’t get too wrapped around the axle and start flaming me. Again, I’m just explaining my thought process on how I arrived at my decision.

As inexpensive and easy as it would be to convert one of my G34’s over to Open division, (and as much fun it would be for me personally since I love to tinker with them) I passed on this option because I don’t think it would be as competitive as a “out of the box” Open gun. I love my Glock, and if I could only ever have only one gun I would select a Glock without hesitation, but when it comes to Open, and my reasoning to move to Open in the first place, I think there are better options than a converted Production gun when it comes down to raw performance.

My Glocks are the picture of reliability and even though I never seem to have the time to clean or maintain them, they always go bang. They never let me down. But since I already have everything to load 9mm cartridges I opted to stick with 9mm for my Open division gun’s caliber knowing that I’ll have to change everything about the load to move my power factor from Minor to Major. Trying to get an Open Glock to Major power factor in 9mm has to be the biggest problem I’ve noticed that people that have selected this option to experience. Again, just my own observations here, but when we desire to earn the extra points Major provides us as well as getting the most from the compensated aftermarket barrels we’ve outfitted our Glock with, the reliability we’re all used to starts to deteriorate rather precipitously.

The last reason I didn’t switch my beloved platform over to Open is that I wondered what all I could learn from moving to the 2011 platform. After handling a buddy’s STI Open guns I realized a few things that solidified my decision to move to the 2011. First off, it’s an entirely different animal. I know that seems obvious, but you have to realize that I’ve never owned a 1911/2011 before so I’ve never even used a thumb safety on a pistol. The thing is just foreign to me. The grip angle the weight, the manual of arms, and ultimately, the philosophy of the platform is completely different than what I’m used to, which is not a bad thing. What can I learn by going to such a radically different system? Time will tell.

So by now you know that I have decided to move to the 2011, for better or for worse, as my Open division platform. Now comes the tough part, stock or custom? If money wasn’t a factor we’d be done and I would be holding a new Gans or Brazos STI and that would be the end of it. But since I have yet to put Warren Buffet out of business I have to make a decision based almost solely on the financial aspects of my budget and try to get the most, dare I say, bang for my buck.

After flat out molesting my friends’ custom Open rigs and thus summarily sending my lust into orbit, I know right away that I want a custom Open STI with all of the trimmings. But my budget is unfortunately closer to the Open Glock conversion than it is to the awesome custom blaster. But the gears in my mind start turning, trying to figure out how to acquire a gun of this caliber (no pun intended) with the money that I can redirect from my kids’ college fund (sorry guys, we can’t all be astronauts). I know that a new custom system would be almost double of what I can spend so that’s out of the question, but perhaps I can get a gently used custom system with the budget I have earmarked for this foray into Open. So I start looking in the Enos forums and immediately realize that I have no idea where to even start looking to buy an Open gun. I see lots of stuff for sale with questionable logic around how things are setup, round counts, hack jobs and Frankenguns by gunsmiths I’ve never even heard of. Being a new realm for me I come to the realization that I don’t know what I don’t know and if I attempt this purchase own my own I’m boned. I also soon realize that Open guns, much more than anything other division’s gun, are highly customized per the owner’s personal tastes. Ask 10 different Open shooters how an Open gun should be setup and you’ll get 10 (or more) answers. The used custom gun options is starting to look less desirable to me at this point because I’m just too unfamiliar with this brave new world. Heck, I don’t even really know which gunsmith I’d take it to, which ones would even take it on, or would even bother with me since they all seem to be overloaded as it is.

Time to step back and reevaluate my options.

I know that I would rather not convert my Glock to Open, I want a 2011, I can’t afford to sell the farm and get a shiny new custom gun, I would rather give birth to a flaming porcupine than roll the dice on a used Open gun, so my options are getting pretty limited at this point. All of the aforementioned options being taken off of the table really only leaves one viable option for me. Getting a stock 2011.

Again, speaking in generalities here, most of the custom 2011 pistols that I dream of are built from, at least in part, stock 2011’s. So I start to research what stock 2011 pistol options are available to me. Just about every custom 2011 pistol I have gun-lust for are built on the STI 2011 as their basic foundations. I figure that if I start with a stock STI I can eventually have it turned into the custom pistol of my dreams if need be, and/or I win the lottery. Now I need to decide on what STI model that best suites my needs…which again, is a bit of a leap of faith since I have no idea what I prefer. I boil it down to short and fast, or heavy and more controllable, or in less abstract terms, the STI Match Master or the STI Trubore.

Initially I lean towards the lighter, faster Match Master since I would love to speed on my side for transitions, but at the cost of better recoil control. Since the Trubore is heavier due to it’s longer barrel I can conceivably expect to have it handle recoil better, thus produce better split times. My split times are one of my least optimal skills and if the Trubore can help in this area, it is very appealing. One other likely benefit is because of the Trubore’s longer barrel I can expect a higher muzzle velocity than the Match Master’s shorter barrel given the same load. Being that I plan to shoot 9mm Major and the types of powder even available that will fit into a 9mm case and still make make Major power factor, I’m going to need all of the help I can get. So with that criteria established, the Trubore tips the scales in it’s favor and I, for better or for worse, pull the trigger (ya, the puns are getting worse, I know) and order a shiny, well sort of since it’s blued, new STI Trubore in 9mm Major. To say that I’m as nervous as I am excited about this option is an understatement, but I really do think that given my goals, my research, and my constraints, it is the best option as my Open gun. Time will certainly tell whether or not this was the best choice or not since some of my options here and the rationale behind them are hotly debated as well as highly variable depending on each person’s experience. After all, from what I can tell, it’s very hit or miss weather a stock STI will run reliably or not based on a myriad of factors from the caliber selection, to the powder that’s currently available, to the individual gun itself. For every person in the forums that say their stock STI had tons of issues out of the box there is a person who has no issues whatsoever and runs it that way to this day. We’ll see, eh?

All of that being said, my intent here was not only to provide an explanation of I arrived at my Open gun selection, but to also serve as a resource to anyone who is considering the move as well and could use another voice on the matter (or further muddy the waters?). So stay tuned as I post the progression into this new arena, and how I adapt my training and my equipment to accommodate.

Next up, getting the gun, setting it up for my shooting style, developing a load that will optimize the performance of the compensator while making Major power factor and reliably cycling the gun, plus magazine selection, pouches, holsters and more! So if you’re at all interested in switching to Open, now might be a good time to Like Recoil Sports on Facebook so you’ll see when I post the next article in my “Going Open” series.

Open For New Skills

I am speed... (image from uspsa.org)
I am speed…
(image from uspsa.org)

As anyone knows who has been following this blog or shooting with me for any amount of time, I’m a Production shooter. I think if you’re competing in Production, it’s really all about the shooting. Not much more than some decent sights on an old Glock and you’re running the same gear as some of the leaders in the sport. In recent history that is starting to decay a little with the availability of some of the Production legal pistols that are available such as the CZ’s and Tangfolio’s made popular by national champion Ben Stoeger, but it still is for the most part, a stock pistol. I learned to shoot USPSA in Production (and SSP in IDPA) and have really felt that in large part, I have built excellent gun handling skills like fast draws from standard Kydex holsters, blazingly fast reloads while on the move, shot calling, etc, which in total, has given me a very solid base of gun handling and competition skills. However, I have found that my biggest deficits in my USPSA competitive skills are mostly centered around some of the visual aspects and my movement. Watching video of myself from a year ago compared to today I do see a vast improvement in my match performance and my classifier scores certainly reflect that as well as I moved from C class and I’m currently biting on the heels of A class. I am very smooth as I move through the stages of a match and have found that picking very efficient stage plans and executing them well does compensate overall for some of my other weaker points. Without trying to sound boastful, my accuracy I would say is above average, too, if I had to highlight some of my stronger points. But if I had to pick two weak links in my skill set I’d have to say my biggest areas needing improvement would be the lack of visual tracking of my front sight in recoil and although smooth, I need to be moving much faster between shooting positions.

One of the biggest triumphs as a competitive shooter was learning how to call my shots, that is, knowing exactly where the sights were when the shot broke. It’s like my mind takes a Polariod of the sight picture at the exact moment of ignition of the round (for you young shooters just entering the sport, a Polaroid was a camera that snapped an image and printed it there on the spot. You can wikipedia it from your smartphone if you like). Expanding upon the ability of calling my shots, I was able to unconsciously score the hit as acceptable or unacceptable and instantly fire a make up shot if needed. I still get giddy when I think about the mind’s ability to do that. It’s amazing how fast that can happen. If you can’t do that yet, learn how to do it. It’s the bee’s knees.

Although I have learned to call my shots, I have yet to see the second half of that equation, tracking the sights. I do see the where the sights are when the shot breaks, but lose them immediately after that so I’m not seeing the front sight lift out of the rear sight’s notch which means I can’t see the sights coming back down so I can time the next shot. So to explain that in a little more detail, if you were to use high speed video of the pistol firing a shot, you’d see the muzzle of the gun rise under the recoil, stop at it’s apex, change directions and start to move back down to where it was when you fired the shot, but it continues to move downward past where it started until it runs out of energy and changes direction again and starts to move back up to it’s original position where if finally comes to rest. I want you to try to imagine a sine wave with two lobes on it. Why does this matter? Because if you can track the sights throughout their entire trip through that cycle, you can break the next shot the FIRST time the sights enter the proper alignment and save yourself the time it takes the sights to bottom out and return back to their resting position. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in a game where winners and losers are very often separated by tenths or even hundredths of a second, it’s an eternity. Tracking the sights under recoil is a skill that has evaded me yet to this day, and my split times illustrate that fact every time I fire doubles on a target. She’s a wily and vexing beast, my own personal Bigfoot.

As far as my other skill deficit goes, moving between shooting positions doesn’t seem like something we (or maybe it’s just me?) even think about, just an innate function that happens as we look for our mark indicating the place we’ll engage the next target array. Watching video of myself shooting a stage juxtaposed with the video of a Grand Master level shooter reveals how they finish seconds faster than I do. It’s not one thing they did to beat me, rather they beat me all the way through the stage. Every little efficiency in toto wins the stage. Leaving as you’re finishing up an array or calling a good shot on steel and beginning your exit rather than waiting for the conformation of sound or worse yes, watching for it to go down, is a place where you can shave a full second or more in a single segment of a stage. Then breaking the shot on a target as you (and your muzzle) come up on the next target instead of moving to the next spot and stopping, bringing the gun up and then engaging. Again, another place where seconds are won and lost if performed correctly. And of course, shooting while moving where it makes sense can yield some significant time savings, especially when tallied up over the course of an entire stage. Mastering all of these little things are what separates A shooters from Masters and Grand Masters, all other factors being equal. In fact, I have found there seems to be little to no shooting skill difference between an A class shooter than a Grand Master. Take that in for just a second…I’ll wait. Speaking in generalities here, we learn to deliver a good shot fairly soon in our shooting repertoire, then comes shot calling and refinement of recoil control and the basics of gun handling. This gets us to B class fairly regularly, but then comes the hard part, applying those skills in the most efficient manner as quickly as we can. So I say all of that to say this, learning and mastering the efficiency skills seems to be the next Everest I need to summit.

So, where am I going with all of this and the need for the long winded back story? I think the two major skills deficits that I need to develop are in the visual arena, explosive speed, and efficiently of movement. Nowhere are these skills honed and pushed to their limits than in Open class. Open class starts to de-emphasize the gun handling skills and puts the speed aspects under a microscope. Not to say that fast and efficient gun handling skills aren’t of paramount importance, but that’s not really where gains are made at this level and Division. It’s all about getting your butt moving and to the end of the stage as quickly as possible. Whoever does that while not dropping significant points is going to take the blue ribbon. Now, finally getting to my point for those who have made it this far (thanks for hanging in there!), I think if I switch gears and take a foray into Open class for a while, I might just learn to master, or at least dramatically improve, the two skills that I need to bolster the most. Having an optic that allows me to remain target focused rather than reciprocating between the front sight plane and the target plane is very appealing to me since it made a monumental improvement for me when I went from iron sights to an EOTech on my AR-15. I’m not only hoping to simplify the visual stream of information, but to learn to see more. I’ve heard it said more than a few times that using a red dot optic like a C-More allows the shooter to learn to see more (no pun intended). I’m hoping that I’ll finally learn to start tracking my sights throughout the entire recoil cycle and then be able to apply that to traditional iron sights.

As far as movement goes, my hope by moving to Open class is that I am able to spend more of my energy on learning to move faster. As I mentioned earlier, the aggregate of all the tiny efficiencies will, in large part, start moving me closer to the GM level. And again, once a skill is gleaned and internalized, it can be applied in any Division that I want to compete in, like my beloved Production Division.

Time will tell if this is a good decision and if I’ll even enjoy Open enough to continue to competing in it. I do consider myself a Production shooter at heart and will most likely return to it at some point when I have garnered the skills I hope to discover in Open. So stay tuned! I have a feeling that things are going to get shaken up a bit around here and that we’ll start seeing posts about the acquisition of Open Division equipment and skills. If you’re at all interested in switching to Open, now might be a good time to Like Recoil Sports on Facebook so you’ll see when I post the next article in my “Going Open” series.

Next up, the gear. Time to find a blaster for Open.

 

IDPA Classified: Expert

idpa-classificationAlmost 6 months after joining IDPA, I finally had the opportunity to shoot the IDPA classifier, and I have to say, that is a no BS test of your shooting ability. I primarily shoot USPSA and their classifying system is quite different and in many regards, doesn’t always represent the current level of the shooter’s ability, it is merely a sliver of what that shooter’s current abilities are. In fact there is often a skew between a USPSA competitor’s classification and their field course shooting ability. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a competitor who is destroying their division but only ranked as a C class shooter (Sandbagging). Or conversely, you’ll have a Master class shooter who can’t hold his own with the A class competitors (Grandbagging). It’s not a perfect system, but it’s what we have. But I digress.

The IDPA classifier isn’t a single shooting skill held off in isolation from everything else, rather it is a series of strings that test a shooter’s overall abilities in the context of IDPA and it’s plethora of rules. The classifier tests everything from shooting on the move at 5 yards, to longer range targets from behind a barricade, and everything in between.

One notable thing worth mentioning about the IDPA culture is that unlike USPSA who offers a classifier stage as part of every match, IDPA classifiers are few and far between. They are usually a special event held primarily for shooters to update their classification, or in my case, to get their initial ranking.

My buddy who is responsible for getting me into IDPA in the first place practices the classifier occasionally, usually to get tuned up before a classifier is scheduled to take place. On a couple of occasions I’ve had the opportunity to run it in practice with him so I wouldn’t say I was unfamiliar with it even though I hadn’t officially shot it. So when it was announce that our club was going to run a classifier match I jumped at the chance to finally shoot it officially and see where I sat with my fellow competitors.

During the classifier match I really just focused on calling every shot and not rushing or trying. As it turns out, that seemed to work out pretty darn well for me and I didn’t rack up any penalties and shot very consistently. The one and only “error” I made the entire day was on the 5 yard while retreating string. Being that it was only five yards I did get ahead of myself and didn’t get quite the placement on the target that I needed, so my first shot was just outside of the down zero section. I knew it the instant I broke the shot and although it didn’t affect my classification outcome, that one small lapse in discipline cost me the overall match win and I was just barely edged out into second place. I just never pays to rush and/or not give any target the respect it deserves. It reminds me of something I heard Steve Anderson say once; “The close targets are worth the same points as the far ones.”

Anyway, was I disappointed with the outcome or beating myself up over the error? Heck no! I was too excited with the time I had completed the classifier, which came in at 106.95. That was just enough to squeak me into Expert class for SSP, and as it turns out, ESP, too.

If you’re interested in the IDPA classifier and how each stage breaks down into various strings and requirements, check out the Stages Link on the IDPA website. Just click the “Classifier Stages” check box to filter out everything else.

New G34 Project Update – First 1000 Rounds

Head to head G34's
Head to head G34’s

For those of you who have been following my “The New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock” Project, I thought I would post a quick update on how the new system was working and my initial thoughts on the differences with the two systems. My original The Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project has been an outstanding competition pistol and I can’t argue that it is just about perfect in all regards, but when building up a backup pistol I thought I’d try some competing parts to see which ones I liked best, and change whatever parts out on whatever pistol I needed to. So, with that said, let’s look at the differences between the two Ultimate USPSA Production Glocks, and see what’s working out for me.

Upon first glance, the two Glock G34s look identical, but aesthetically the only difference you would notice would be the sights. The original Glock was outfitted with Dawson Precision fiber optic adjustable sights that sports a red fiber optic in the front blade and green fiber optics in the rear. I have been using the Dawson’s on every competition pistol I’ve run for the past 4 years and absolutely love them. They are crisp and accurate and it’s hard to argue with that…but I have to say, the Taran Tactical sights on the new Glock have begrudgingly won me over. The two things that I like about them over the Dawson’s is that the rear notch is DEEP, so if I get the gun out at a weird angle, I can still see the front sight blade, whereas the Dawson’s are far less forgiving. I also like that the fiber optic is just about even with the top of the blade so when I’m really moving I don’t get the shots printing in different areas, at least not to the extent of the Dawson’s. And hey, they’re cheaper and who doesn’t like that? One word on the TTI’s worth mentioning though, they are fixed, so if your load doesn’t print with your POA, well, tough.

Taran Tactical Sights 1, Dawson Precision Sights 0

Diving into the internals, the biggest thing that was changed from the original Production G34 pistol and the new Production G34 is the trigger system. The original G34 was home to the Charlie Vanek system with a Jager striker, all fitted by Charlie Vanek himself. The system is awesome. It is honestly the best Glock trigger system you have ever felt, Production or otherwise. In fact, Steve Anderson shot it recently during a class and stopped for a moment, looked at the pistol and said that was a great shooting Glock, like he didn’t believe it was really a Glock. Yep, it’s that good. The trouble in paradise is that the Jager strikers are not available anymore, and the only lightened striker I could find was the ZEV. Rather than try to mate the two together I opted to buy the complete ZEV kit and see how the other half lived. Well, triggers are very subjective to the user, but what I will say is that the ZEV has practically NO take up, where as the Vanek system comes set to the mile long take up any Glock shooter is familiar with. To be fair, the Vanek system can be adjusted to remove it as well, but he purposely doesn’t provide instructions for legal reasons since you can inadvertently disable part of the Glock’s safety system by doing it wrong. So what’s this mean to me (and perhaps you)? Splits. My split times are often 0.16 with the ZEV whereas they are typically about 0.20 with the Vanek. Again, to be fair, if I were to take out the slack it perhaps would be the same, but it’s not worth the risk of doing it incorrectly, so I have to give the nod to the ZEV.

ZEV Trigger Kit 1, Vanek Trigger Kit 0

The one other internal part that is different in the new G34 is the guide rod. The original G34 had a steel Jager with a 13 pound ISMI spring, and in the new G34 I used a polymer guide rod and the same spring. The only reason why I changed is that the plastic guide rod is IDPA legal whereas the steel one is not, and I don’t like swapping parts out before for match just to be compliant with a rule that isn’t well very well thought out (if it weighs the same as the factory, who cares????). So when comparing the two, I’d say the difference is indistinguishable. I do think the steel guide rod will last longer if you’re changing springs out at regular intervals, so if you’re not shooting IDPA, get the steel rod.

Jager Polymer Guide Rod, Jager Steel Guide Rod, Draw

A quick note on reliability. The first trip out to the range with the new G34 was pretty disappointing. It was short stroking about once a magazine which doesn’t instill confidence by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it was breaking in a bit with the handloads I use. I took it home, actually lubed it, hand cycled it a few hundred times, and it hasn’t had a single issue since. After my last practice session I passed the 1000 round mark and I have to say, this new Ultimate USPSA Production Glock has won my heart and is now my primary competition pistol. I’ll be picking up a new set of TTI sights and putting them on the original G34 so they have the same sight picture in case I need to bust out my backup gun during a match.

See more about my Ultimate USPSA Production Glocks

The NEW Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project

The Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project

New Production Glock – First Shots

First Practice Session With The Glock

Three Months In – Glock G34 Update

Competition Glock Update

The New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock

The New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project

The Twins
The Twins

Last September I decided to switch platforms and went from the M&P Pro to the Gen4 Glock 34. I built it as a USPSA competition gun that would still be Production legal and posted about the process in the article, “The Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project,” where I outlined the rationale behind the options I chose and the modification that I made to it. After that I posted range reports and updates which, spoiler alert, were all glowing. I adore the platform and it’s really been working for me. So with that in mind I decided to acquire another G34 and build it up identically to the first one as to have a back up gun in case my primary gun ever had an issue during a match. I also dry fire. A lot. And the grip tape I use, the Dawson Precision pre cuts, don’t fare well with the amount out dry fire I do, not to mention my hands just take a beating from it as well. I figured I’d run grip tape on my primary and none on the backup gun and only dry fire with the backup gun. Well, that at least was the initial plan.

I rounded up all of my old invoices and tried to reorder all of the parts I used on the original G34 but was having a hard time finding some of the parts anywhere, so it was time to make some tough choices about what to do. It’s easy to stick with what you have and never try anything new, after all, it’s been working for me, right? But it does pay to be open minded and try out new things because you never know, you just might like it better than what you’ve been doing. So with that I made a few different choices around the parts I selected this time to see what I like better and who knows, maybe I’ll be faster with it. We’ll see.

I’ve been a big fan of the Dawson Precision fiber optic sights for year and have them on every competition pistol I own. But when I wen to order them for this gun I couldn’t find the ones I’m using in stock anywhere. So after a little research I decided to go with the Taran Tactical Ultimate Fiber Sights since they seem to be well thought out and the price is right. I am anxious to see where their POA/POI is, and I hope it’s agreeable.

The other and probably most noteworthy deviation from the first G34 is that trigger. I’ve been using a Vanek Classic-GM Trigger Kit with a Jager striker since the beginning and can’t say I’ve found a better trigger. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Charlie a couple of times and he really puts a premium on reliability, not just outright performance. And I can attest to the reliability of the system because it has delivered almost 7000 rounds of flawless performance since I put it in and about a zillion “rounds” of dry fire. In fact he was instrumental in the development of the Jager striker which was a perfect accompaniment to his trigger system, but it proved to also be his Achilles heel since sourcing the part from Jager has been impossible due to manufacturing issues. I looked at using the stock striker with his kit and even the ZEV skeletonized striker but wasn’t sure it would provide the compatibility and reliability I was after. After some more research I, pardon the pun, pulled the trigger on the ZEV Standard Trigger Kit with all of the addons which does include their skeletonized striker. I figured all of these parts should work fine together since it’s a kit, and although I do want performance, reliability trumps speed.

The Glock. The parts.
The Glock. The parts.

Here is the complete list of the parts I ordered for this version of my Ultimate USPSA Production Glock:

Well all of my parts arrived yesterday and I tore into it immediately. The first thing I did was inspect the ZEV trigger to see if it looked much different than the OEM version, and boy did it. ZEV has dramatically changed the geometry of the parts, namely the trigger bar which is barely recognizable if you’re familiar with a OEM version. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Not to be a Luddite, but the system was built to run a certain way and these changes do make significant modifications to the mating surfaces and how the parts interact with each other as well as the timing. We’ll see.

The sights are the other big deviation from the last build, but they do look promising. I like that the fiber optic is right at the top of the front sight blade which is the primary reason I went with them. They went on easily and didn’t even require the Glock sight pusher to install, just some light tapping with a nylon tipped gunsmith hammer. I centered them up and put a small amount of thread locker on the set screw, installed a piece of red fiber, and they’re good to go. Just doing a few minutes of driving the gun around the dry fire targets in my garage and I’m already excited to try them out at the range.

The rest of the parts went in unspectacularly as they should, and it was now assembled and ready for some preliminary testing. First thing’s first, try out that new trigger and see how it compares with my Vanek. I’m very pleased with the feel of the ZEV! Very crisp and light with less take up than the Vanek, which is probably due to the adjustment screw in the ejector housing. The Vanek has the same thing, but I’ve never played with it since I hear it’s easy to alter the safety of the pistol if done improperly. The Vanek is smoother, but it’s also been pulled quite a bit so it’s a little hard make a fair comparison at this point. But if the ZEV smooths out (not that it’s bad now) with some use and proves to be reliable it’s going to be a great trigger system!

 

Version 1 vs. version 2
Version 1 vs. version 2

I’m really looking forward to getting this thing to the range and try it out, and was even tempted to try it out at this weekend’s match, but I really thing that would be a mistake since it hasn’t been proven yet. I am champing at the bit to try it out though! Whatever sights seem to work best after some serious testing with both in some head to head scenarios will be my platform of choice and will be on both pistols. I’m big on standardization and I want my dry fire gun to have an identical sight picture to my match gun. I’ll report back how it goes once I get an opportunity to do some testing. Expect some updates and range reports soon!

Until then, you can read about the first Glock Gen 4 G34 Production gun I built here:

The Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project

New Production Glock – First Shots

First Practice Session With The Glock

Three Months In – Glock G34 Update

Competition Glock Update

 

Competition Glock Update

XE2-7930
My well used and lightly abused G34

I thought that I would post an update on my season so far using the Gen 4 Glock G34 that I use to shoot Production class in USPSA. As you may recall, I shot various Smith&Wesson M&P pistols for years and pretty recently switched to a Glock G34 and haven’t looked back. In fact I just sold off my last centerfire M&P, so I’m solidly in the Glock camp now and just got a second G34 as a backup/dryfire gun. The ergonomics just work for me and the gun has been super reliable despite the lack of TLC I give it. You have to love that! As of this post I have almost 7000 rounds on it which isn’t supper impressive since many people compete with Glocks that have over 100,000 rounds through them. But what is impressive is that it’s been about 3000 rounds ago since it was cleaned or even lubed and still runs flawlessly and shoot great. It has proven itself to be a great runner and because of my confidence in it I can just focus on shooting my match without having to track down a bottle of oil like I’ve seen with some other shooters.

Now looking at the picture I just took of it you may notice that it looks like it has a lot more miles on it that its actually has. most of the external cosmetic wear has come from that vast amount of dryfire it gets. I think it’s had about a zillion trigger pulls on it as well but nothing has given out yet. I’ve also isolated my dryfire magazines away from my livefire mags, not just for the safety aspect, but since my dryfire magazine look like they’ve been through hell and back since they’ve all be dropped on cement floor more times than any mag should, but they keep on trucking. I haven’t even cracked a base plate yet which really speak volumes for the ruggedness of the platform. You just can’t complain about a gun that doesn’t get maintained, get rain poured on it half of the year, gets a ton of use, and despite all of that, keeps running like a champ.

Now that I’ve been using it for a while and dryfire with it almost daily, it really has become like an extension of my body. I simply look at the point I want to hit and it’s there, ready to deliver a shot. I’ve come a long way since I started using the Glock, and just earned my first match win with it, so I’m sold on it. I had planned to try out a STI at some point but I think I’ll just stick with the G34 for the foreseeable future since it’s just working for me.

So here’s to the next 7000 rounds from it! I wonder where I’ll be at that point?

See more about the Ultimate USPSA Production Glocks

The Ultimate USPSA Production Glock Project

New Production Glock – First Shots

First Practice Session With The Glock

Three Months In – Glock G34 Update

Competition Glock Update

The New Ultimate USPSA Production Glock

Training With Steve Anderson

steve-andersonThis weekend I had the opportunity to take a class with Steve Anderson, the de facto “Dry Fire Guy,” and author of Refinement and Repetition, Dry-fire Drills for Dramatic Improvement. You may remember my earlier post about the Dry Fire Tune Up With Steve Anderson where we went over his program via FaceTime, where he watched me practice and corrected a bunch of issues that I had. In fact, I saw so much improvement that I put together the class just to get him out here for a live fire training session and he did not disappoint.

Steve keeps his classes very small, 6 of us, so we got a lot of individual attention and personal coaching. He honed right in to all of the inefficiencies that each student carried with them and customized the instruction for each student. It was very impressive how he kept a running list of things each student needed to do to progress.

We started out the class with a stage specifically designed to show weaknesses in each shooter’s style and things we needed to work on moving forward. We then moved into the dry fire component which at first glance seems a little ironic being this was a class to learn more about shooting, but the point of the class is that we know how to train by ourselves, and it gave him a great opportunity to see what each student could improve upon. Shortly after that we actually loaded up the magazines and started the live fire component of the class where he teaches how to call your shots, and deliver accurate rounds by NOT AIMING TOO MUCH. Yep, not a typo. You’ll have to take the class to understand what that is all about, but it certainly resonated with everyone there with some pretty dramatic improvements for some of the students. The rest of the day we worked on drills around moving fast and shooting on the move.

Day two, we started with the actual 36 minute dry fire program we covered in day one, then on to the live fire drills. I had some pretty incredible breakthroughs in Day Two of the class with knowing what my sight picture needs to be for what type of target, shooting on the move, and moving between positions. I learned a ton of things that I “knew,” but had not really internalized yet, but for some reason it all just came together for me when Steve was at the helm.

We finished up the class by shooting the stage from Day One again and the change in everyone’s performance was amazing. It was really like an entirely new group was shooting and everyone was all grins because of the gains we had all made.

I’ve had the opportunity to have had trained with some of the other big names in the sport and have learned a lot along the way, but I’ve never learned so much in so little time as I did this weekend. Steve seems to earnestly get more gratification out of the gains his students make than even the students themselves which I think is the hallmark of a great instructor. He’s been teaching for a long time and it shows. I honestly believe he is the best instructor in the industry and as it turns out, a heck of a nice guy.

Another B Classification

bI attended the classifier match at Dundee last month which happened to be a classifier match that had 5 of the new 2013 classifier stages and two field courses. Since I’m working my way up to A class in Production I was excited that I would have a chance to shoot more classifiers but as luck would have it I wasn’t able to get out to practice much before the match. When I got to the signup sheet I got cold feet and selected Limited 10, a division I’ve never shot before nor do I really have any interest in competing in, but I thought it would be good practice without jeopardizing my production ranking.

I worked my way through the match with some good stages and some not so good stages, and even one great stage where I shot a master time. I wasn’t sure where things would shake out, but as it turns out you can shoot your Production gear in Limited 10 and make B class! I do find it somewhat ironic that it took me quite a bit of time and training to climb my way out of C class in Production and I shoot one match in L10 and make B.

On the other hand, it was great validation that all of the hard work is paying off with my shooting ability. It’s really gratifying to see real quantifiable progress from all of the many hours of dry fire.