Thursday, May 01, 2008

Pin Shooting with Mr. C.

Quite a few years ago I went to the Central Whidbey Sportsman's range and entered my first bowling pin shoot. To be more specific, it was actually a rimfire bowling pin top match. The competition was head to head and single elimination. The pistol I was using wasn't very competitive, but neither was I, being both slow and inaccurate. I considered it an outstanding run if I could clear the five pin tops off the table in seven seconds and only have to use one magazine's worth of ammunition in doing so.

In those days the centerfire classes were absolutely dominated by one shooter who won every time, and no one else was even close. The rimfire competition was the same, the same shooter won every time. Sometimes a new shooter would show up, get trounced, and never come back. Of course, any new shooter who expects anything else than getting beat the first times he tries it has a lot to learn. Everyone loses a lot when they start.

Of the shooters who used to show up at the bowling pin matches back then, very few do we see today at the pin matches. I too could have gotten discouraged and given up, but that's not my nature. I took a hard look at what I was doing, and took a good look at what was needed to be competative. I could see that the pistol I was using wasn't up to the task. I started researching all the .22 pistols on the market looking for one that was rugged as a tank, easy to work on, and preferably all steel so it wouldn't get loose after tens of thousands of rounds of practice. It also had to be accurate, and left handed shooter friendly. I finally narrowed it down to either a Smith & Wesson model 41, a Browning Buckmark, or a late model series High Standard. The model 41's were by far more expensive, so I narrowed it to the Browning or the High Standard. The Buckmark's aluminum frame was a consideration, but it seemed to be really well made, so I was willing to give it a try in my effort to become more competitive. I started asking around to see if anyone had either one for sale used. By luck a friend of mine had just sold and traded some guns to a friend of his and had ended up with a High Standard Supermatic Citation in the deal. I went and looked at it and it even had a set of left hand grip panels with it. As soon as I picked it up it just felt right, like an extension of my hand. We negotiated a price, and I went home with my new pistol.

I shot a few pin matches with the new High Standard, and it was a definite improvement. I was still finishing way down the list, but I was starting to make a little progress. I could see that a red dot sight was faster and also much easier to shoot quickly, especially for old eyes like mine. The first year I competed, the iron sight and optic sighted guns shot in the same class. The next year it was split into two classes. Looking through the Brownell's catalog I came across a Lebanon Machine Products 5.5" bull barrel for the High Standard that was drilled and tapped to accept their Weaver type sight rail. Out came the credit card! I also ordered a Simmons 42mm. red dot sight to mount on the new barrel.

Once the BTH (brown truck of happiness) arrived, I quickly put the new barrel on the High Standard and mounted the sight. Off to the range to try it out!

The first time shooting with a red dot was a definite learning experience. I learned the "C-More Shuffle" as it's called. When you raise the gun to firing level, if you don't have it aligned properly you can't see the red dot. You then wiggle the gun back and forth and up and down until you find the dot! You look even more silly if you have forgotten to turn the sight on in the first place, as no matter how much you "shuffle", the dot never appears! First lesson, practice A LOT until the gun comes up with the dot centered every time.

The next thing I learned is to keep both eyes open, and focus on the target, not the sight, as you would do with iron sights. More practice need here, too!

When I first tried the red dot sight I was not only slower than with iron sights, I wasn't any more accurate. I could see I needed to put in a lot of work if I was ever going to get the hang of it.

I also learned that the faster you try to shoot, the better your trigger control needs to be. 95% of the mechanics of pistol shooting is trigger control, and trigger control isn't something that comes easily. Most of the top shooters shoot in excess of 20,000 rounds a year, and to get really good trigger control you need to not only practice a lot, but practice regularly. If I don't practice for a week or so, I really notice the drop in trigger control. Fortunately, it returns fairly quickly!

....... end of Part One - to be continued.

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