Note: This is the second part of this series. Reading the first part before reading this part will make this part make more sense.
When I first started using the red dot sight I wasn't having much luck with it, and I was even slower and less accurate than I was with the iron sights, and that's REALLY slow and inaccurate. The more I used it, though, it started to work better and better. After two or three times at the range I was actually faster and more accurate than with iron sights. Like just about anything, it was obvious that how successful I would become would depend mostly on how much I wanted to practice. In those days the only handgun action shooting at the CWSA club was rimfire hanging plates, bowling pins, and bowling pin tops for the rimfire pistols. My first year or so, even with some practice, I was still lucky to finish in the middle of the pack overall.
One day while ordering some High Standard parts from Brownell's, the sales rep mentioned a new stainless steel and carbon fiber barrel from Volquartsen that Brownell's had just started to stock. I took a look at the pictures and decided that I had to have one! Twelve inches of barrel and a compensator too, how cool! It took me a while to scrape up the money, but finally I ordered one.
I snapped it onto my High Standard and mounted a red dot sight. The first thing I found out, shooting it from a sandbag, was that it was REALLY accurate. The close tolerances and tight fitting match chamber really made it shoot well.
Then I found out that even though it was quite light, it was still difficult to hold and control, especially if you were trying to move quickly from target to target. A little experimenting and I discovered that if I wrapped a couple of fingers around the barrel a bit back from the compensator I could hold it fairly steady and still move it around. Since there were no rules regarding exactly where you placed your weak hand on the gun, I started shooting that way to see if I could actually get fast enough and accurate enough to be competitive.
Over the next couple of years I discovered, addressed, and resolved a number of problems that cropped up. I found that I was having a large number of 'failure to fire' situations, and when that happened, you had to pry the round out of the chamber as the extractor couldn't grab it solidly enough to pull it out. I experimented with extractors and extractor springs, but the problem just wouldn't go away. Finally I figured out what was going on. The match chamber actually allows the bullet to engage the rifling in the barrel. Sometimes that engagement would keep the rim of the cartridge from fully seating against the face of the barrel. When the firing pin would hit the rim the round would move forward the last small amount and the firing pin wouldn't strike the rim solidly enough to fire the round. Changing the chamber to a standard depth chamber and polishing it a bit resolved the problem. I'm sure a little bit of accuracy was sacrificed, but not enough to affect action shooting.
All of this work and practice takes us up to a couple of years ago. The gun was running reliably and as a result of a ton of practice, I was starting to visit the winner's circle in the bowling pin top matches from time to time. Being fairly accurate but not particularly fast worked well in the rimfire hanging plate matches. Then CWSA decided to start running some steel plate matches, a little like steel challenge, and also to start running some rimfire falling plate matches. I shot some of those, but with very limited success. I was set up for pin tops, I practiced for pin tops, and that was where it all seemed to work together, along with the hanging plates.
At the start of last Summer I decided to try to take it to the next level, practice all I could, and then at the end of the Summer go to California and shoot in the Steel Challenge World Championships. The difference between a small local club shooter and a world class shooter is immense, but I decided to do the best I could, and try not to be dead last!
I started shooting on the average five days a week. The last month before I went to the World Championships I was practicing almost every day, and twice a day once or twice a week. I don't know the exact count, but I figure I shot approximately 20,000 rounds of rimfire in practice. Did I improve? Yes, definitely, but still miles away from the top shooters in the game. I was now winning the rimfire pin top matches and rimfire hanging plate matches at CWSA quite often, but still not every one. I had, however, greatly improved both the physical and mental parts of my competitive shooting. I took a lot of seconds in rimfire falling plates and speed steel matches. One shooter won just about all of those, and I couldn't quite catch up. Close, but not close enough! I also started entering every class at the bowling pin matches to gain additional match experience.
I took a break from shooting for a couple of months over last Winter, as I was starting to get burned out from all of the matches and all of the practice range time. In February, though, I was back at it, practicing all of those things I wasn't happy with. The first four matches of the year went well, and I won all four of them, a hanging plate match, a falling plate match, and two bowling pin top matches.
All of the work I had put in was finally paying off. I had learned a way to coax a bit of speed out of a shooting technique usually only used by silhouette shooters. I still wasn't as fast as the fastest shooters, but I would seldom miss. At the last bowling pin top match I broke the range record for pin tops, shooting five pin tops off the table, starting from a low ready, in 2.85 seconds. Sure, a really fast shooter could probably do it in sub two, but this is just a small club match. I was kinda proud of my time, even if it did involve a little luck!
At the World Steel Challenge Championships I ended up 49th out of 73 Optic Sight rimfire shooters. I know I could have, and will, do better, but for a first World Championship I was really pretty happy. I left that match with the will to practice even harder and see if I can do even better!
Then the bomb dropped. The CWSA club member who has absolute power as to the match rules, and who had up until this year won just about every CWSA match week after week, changed the rules. Under his new rules, in all bowling pin, speed steel, and falling plate matches my shooting method was now banned. You were now required to start with both hands on the rear grip. Taco grips and any other form of grip where you had your weak hand anywhere else other than on the rear grip at the start was now illegal.
Sure, I could probably learn a different way to shoot that complies with his rules, but really, why bother learning something new just for shooting at one club when the method I use is perfectly legal at the only other club in the state's Pin Shoots, and it's just fine under the Steel Challenge Association's rules, and it's just fine at the big Man of Steel match held a few weeks ago.
I shoot competition just for the fun of it, and there's no way I'll ever get good enough for a big bucks sponsorship. I enjoy the fellowship, I enjoy the chance to innovate, and I enjoy trying to shoot the best I can. If that gets me a first, or dead last, it really doesn't make much difference. If I had a good time, that's what matters.
As someone once said, a door closing can be a door opening, and perhaps that's the case for me. Perhaps it's time to travel farther to matches and shoot against stiffer competition, and thereby continue to improve.
Any shooter that takes shooting so seriously that they no longer are having any fun, so seriously that losing is a crushing blow to their ego, so seriously that they will change the rules so they can win, that shooter should ask themselves why they are even attending the matches in the first place. Sadly, they have lost something of great value, the ability to have fun and not take themselves, anyone, or anything too seriously.
Labels: Hanging Plates, Matches, Pin Shooting, Steel Challenge