Saturday, October 31, 2009
Rimfire Ammunition For Reliability
Getting a rimfire semi-auto pistol to function for several hundred rounds in a row without a single stovepipe, mis-feed, failure to fire, or other malfunction is truly a challenge under any conditions. You can be sure, though, that if it’s going to malfunction, it’s most likely to happen in a match where time lost clearing the problem will cost you dearly. Rimfire pistols, just like computers, KNOW the worst possible time to act up, and they seem to take fiendish pleasure in your misfortune!
For maximum rimfire reliability, you just can’t beat a revolver since the revolvers are a much simpler mechanism. A lot of the problems with a semi-auto, like feeding and extracting for example, aren’t even part of the process with revolvers.. Rimfire cartridges were never designed to be loaded into a magazine and automatically fed into the chamber for each shot. Rimfire .22 cartridges in a semi-automatic pistol are something of a round peg in a square hole, but even so, rimfire semi-autos can be made to run reliably all day long, it just takes a lot of attention to a whole bunch of little details.
Ammunition is first on the list of details. If every single round doesn’t fire when it gets a good hit from the striker or firing pin, all of the gun tuning in the world won’t help.
When you get a failure to fire, (FTF) take a good look at the impression caused by the firing pin. Is it a really good dent, or is it a light strike? If it’s a good solid dent and it didn’t fire, try putting the round back into the chamber, rotated so the firing pin will hit it in a different spot, and see if it fires with a second hit. Some pistols hit the rim a lot harder than others, so if you are getting a fair number of FTF’s, try some of the cartridges on a different pistol, or even better, in a bolt action .22 rifle. If the particular brand of ammunition works in one gun and doesn’t fire reliably in another, the suspect gun may need some attention.
From my experience, most rimfire ammunition properly struck, will fire just about every time. I use approximately 20,00 rounds of one brand of bulk pack .22 ammunition every year in practice. In a rapid-fire rimfire pistol environment I average three or four FTF’s per 550 round brick. That’s not too bad, and in practice an occasional FTF is not a bad thing as it makes you practice clearing the problem quickly. I have tried another well-known brand of bulk packaged rimfire ammunition and have found it would average perhaps ten FTF’s per brick, sometimes even more. It was annoying enough that I only buy that brand if nothing else is available.
For match use, I use more expensive ammunition that comes in individual plastic boxes of one hundred rounds. This particular brand and type of ammo produced almost an entire season of match shooting with only one or two FTF’s, if I remember correctly, and even those may not have been the fault of the ammunition. Although I do shoot a small amount of the match ammunition in non-match conditions for testing, most of it gets used in competition, and I went through well over six thousand rounds of match ammunition this year. That gives you some sort of idea of the kind of reliability you can get from a properly tuned and maintained rimfire semi-auto pistol.
What ammo do I recommend, you ask? Since what I am writing here may be read some time in the future, and since manufacturer’s specifications, tolerances, and quality control, or lack thereof, may change, I hesitate to either recommend or condemn any particular brand. Ammo that really sucks right now may be the best out there in a couple of years. I will go so far as to say that one state famous for their spuds also produces some very fine rimfire ammunition! If you see me at a match I’ll be glad to tell you what I’m using, but for now, I can only suggest trying different brands and see what works for you.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Low Blood Pressure Cure
Monday, October 26, 2009
Prescott, AZ Steel Challenge Report
As I mentioned in a previous post, it was going to take a lot of traveling and connections to be able to shoot the Yavapai Recreation League's Steel Challenge Money shoot in Prescott, Arizona last Saturday.
I had planned to fly from Seattle to Phoenix, rent a car, and drive to Prescott on Friday, shoot the match on Saturday, and drive back to Phoenix on Saturday night and Sunday morning ,then catch a red-eye flight back to Seattle, and a shuttle bus back to Whidbey Island. Somewhere in there was also some sleep, and some food, too! I had everything planned out and reserved in advance, and it all went together just as planned. Amazing!
In Phoenix I rented a Nissan Rogue SUV. Not a bad little car, but visibility to either rear quarter or directly behind is almost non-existent. It was fairly peppy and reasonably comfortable, but hard cornering (don't ask how I know) on winding twisty roads left a bit to be desired.
Prescott, Arizona is only a few hours drive North of Phoenix, but the change is spectacular. Where Phoenix seems big, hot, flat, and sprawling, Prescott has a nice home town feel, nestled in a valley at an altitude of 5,300 feet and on the edge of Prescott National Forest. The altitude and location also make for much cooler days, compared to much hotter areas to the South.
On Friday evening I met up with Dean Dudden, the match director, and we went for Mexican dinner at a place called Garcia's in Prescott Valley. The food and conversation were both excellent! After dinner I headed to the motel for some sleep. Saturday was going to be a busy day.
Saturday morning I met up with Dean and followed him out to the range. Less than a half hour’s drive outside of Prescott, well isolated in the National Forest area is the twenty acre range of the Yavapai Recreation League range.
The topography lends itself well to a pistol and rifle range, with no close neighbors and lots of gullies and ravines, perfect for turning into shooting bays. The layout of the bays was good, but it was a bit of a climb up the hill from the lowest bay, bay eight, up to the first bay at the top of the hill. The thin air didn’t help a bit, either! Scattered around the range area are a few cactus, along with other smaller shrubs and bushes. Trees are fairly few and far between, but a number of pines dot the range, along with the man-made shelters, providing welcome shelter from the sun, particularly for those of us from parts of the country where that “Bright Thing in the Sky” isn’t seen quite so often!
Before the match got underway I was examining one of the cactus, and I half expected a weathered old cowboy to wander up and remark “You ain’t from around here, are you……”.
The Yavapai Recreation League SCSA Cash Bash, a level one Steel Challenge sanctioned match, was set up as a full eight stage match, so shooters would be able to get in a full day’s shooting. The weather on match day was absolutely beautiful, blue skies, no clouds, and a forecast for temperatures in the low to mid seventies, and the climate gods delivered exactly as promised.
Dean Dudden, the match director, called the shooter’s meeting to order at 9am, explained the match and reviewed the safety rules.
Bob Reister was all set up in the toy hauler trailer with his computer, printer, and everything else he needed to take care of the scoring tasks. It was clear that the YRL club had a good and enthusiastic group of core members who all pitched in to help Dean put on a first rate match.
After the shooter’s meeting the score sheets were handed out, and the squads gathered and headed off to their first stage to start launching some lead down range. Although the turnout was a bit lower than expected, there were some world class shooters entered, including Nick Saiti and Angus Hobdell, and it was clear that this was a match that was going to take some really good shooting to prevail. I was fortunate to be on the same squad with Nick and Angus, and it was fun watching the two of them pushing each other for their maximum speed.
It seemed like the match was over way too soon, so everyone gathered back at the trailer to find out the results. It wasn’t a very long wait until the results were posted. In Open, Nick Saiti had turned in a world class time of 88.50 seconds, with Angus Hobdell trailing by over eight seconds at 96.76. Vic Pickett rounded out the top three in Open with a very respectable 109.40. Limited was dominated by Angus Hobdell, with 102.39, followed by Chad Reilly and Ron Younger. Rimfire Optic only had one entry, but I managed to turned in the third fastest time of the day overall at 99.22 seconds. Rimfire Iron Sight was another story with plenty of shooters and with Mike McDannell, Stewart Wilson, and Arlan Averyt taking first, second, and third.
Although the total number of entries was fewer than hoped for, Dean and the rest of the guys from the Yavapai Pistol League put on a first rate match. I’m sure word of this match will spread through the ranks of the Steel Challenge shooters around the country, and next year this is going to be a match you won’t want to miss.
If it is scheduled the same next year as it was this year, Sunday, the day after the Steel Challenge, they shoot an ICORE Revolver match, so you can get in two matches on the same weekend, too. I’m hoping to be there next year, and this time I think I’ll even set aside an extra day or so to spend a little time wandering around Prescott. It seems like a place worth exploring!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Aiming or Point Shooting?
There has been some discussion over the last month about point shooting or using the sights when shooting a handgun. The discussion has been mostly along the lines of should you use one, or the other, or one method sometimes, and something different at other times. I should mention up front that I am not a highly trained and paid firearms instructor, and I have never been mistaken for Todd Jarrett, Max Michel, or Dave Sevigny at a match, nor is that likely ever to happen. I do shoot a lot though, and I've spent a lot of time over the last few years watching the pros shoot, trying to figure out what they do and how they manage to do it so quickly.
One of the first things I noticed is that most of the top shooters have excellent eye sight. There's not too much you can do about that if your eye sight sucks though, except correct things as best you can.
Another thing I've noticed is that the pros don't miss very often in matches, and when they do, their pickup shot is almost instantaneous. That tells me they are using their sights, since they can tell their misses, "Call their shots", at the time they pull the trigger, rather than waiting to hear or see the result of their shot. It's just about impossible to do that without some sort of a sight picture to go by.
But if they are using their sights, how do they manage to shoot so quickly? I don't know for sure, and I suspect some of them may not know for sure either, but here's what I think they are doing. It's actually fairly simple to describe, but actually doing it is another story entirely. To make it work, it takes tens of thousands of rounds of practice every season. First, they are ignoring the sights completely leading up to the shot, as they can get on, or very close to on target by point shooting, or more accurately, "Point Aiming".
Here's the part that separates the pros from the rest of us. Just before taking the shot, they verify their aim with an instantaneous sight picture to ascertain that they are where they think they are, and if they are not, adjust until the sight picture is proper, then fire the shot. Since tempo is a significant part of speed shooting, holding the shot for that fraction of a second is really hard. Your body says "Shoot Now!" and your instantaneous sight picture says "Don't Shoot Yet!". For most of us the "Shoot Now" usually wins, and we miss the shot! That's where practice comes in, and learning to look for that instantaneous "Sight Picture Verification", and more importantly, learning not to ignore it and shoot anyway.
One of the things I like about true Steel Challenge competition is that each stage, or target layout, has something in it that challenges one specific aspect of fast and accurate shooting. Smoke & Hope, specifically challenges you to not forget to use your sights for that sight picture verification. There are four large plates close in, two on the left and two on the right. The stop plate is much smaller, and much farther away. A good point shooter can hit the first four quickly, but will often miss the stop plate since he will fail to switch back to using the sights for the last shot. Shooting that way also requires two sighting techniques, and changing from one to the other after the fourth plate.
On the other hand, using the point aim/quick verify/shoot method allows you to use the same technique for all five shots. With practice, LOTS of practice, the instantaneous verification can be as fast as straight point shooting on a stage like Smoke & Hope, as all you are looking for is to see that there's some "White" on the other side of your sights!
As I've said in previous posts, though, 95% or more of successful handgun shooting boils down to trigger control. A While back I was watching a shooter shooting with a Crimson Trace laser sight. I could see the laser dot on the plate just before the shot was fired, but his shots would often miss the plate. In pulling the trigger he was pulling the gun off the target. Without good trigger control it doesn't matter what other techniques you use. The top shooters all have incredible trigger control, and winning or losing boils down to the remaining elements.
The next time you see one of the pros running Smoke & Hope in sub two seconds and making it look easy, remember you are watching someone who has practiced that specific stage thousands and thousands of times. Not just shot it thousands of times, but "Practiced" it thousands of times. There IS a difference between just shooting and practicing, and that's a good topic for some other time!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Upcoming Prescott Match Details
I've finally got all the connections lined up for the Prescott Steel Challenge match this coming Saturday. I'll catch the Whidbey-SeaTac shuttle at 7am on Friday morning to get to the airport. My flight leaves for Phoenix around 10am. and arrives around 1pm. I'll pick up a rental car in Phoenix, then drive to Prescott, a bit over a two hour drive. I'll spend the night at a motel, then shoot the match on Saturday.
After the match I'll get some dinner and get a little sleep before leaving at 1 am. to drive back to the Phoenix airport, drop off the car, and catch a 6 am. flight back to Seattle. From the Seattle airport I grab the shuttle for the hour and a half ride back to Whidbey Island. Should be back home Sunday evening. WHEW........
I talked to the Match Director yesterday and he said that they need more shooters to fill out the match. Apparently rumor got around that the maximum capacity of 80 shooters had been met, so a lot of folks didn't sign up. There is definitely room for more shooters, so if you are anywhere in the general area, try to be there and join in for the fun!
.....and I don't want to hear any whining about it being too far to drive, either!
Labels: Steel Challenge
Monday, October 19, 2009
Got in a little shooting
Since I got back from the Gun Blogger Rendezvous in Reno I've been pretty much swamped with one thing and another sucking up most of my time. Combining that with the arrival of rainy season, I haven't been out shooting, or even practicing for that matter, as much as I'd like. I know I can shoot better than I am shooting now, but it's just a matter of putting in the work to get there.
That being said, I did manage to drive down to Puyallup and the Paul Bunyan Club's fun steel match yesterday (Sunday). Considering how little I've practiced in the last month or so, I didn't do as badly as I expected. There were a couple of stages that gave me some trouble, however, as they involved one handed shooting with speed, not a strong point for a heavy pistol with a 12" barrel! I muddled through, though, and a good time was had by all. Some of the regulars weren't there, though, as it was opening weekend of deer season. We even managed to shoot the whole match without getting rained on!
I still have a few last minute details left to sort out before I leave for Prescott, AZ for a big Steel Match. I leave for Prescott on Friday, shoot the match on Saturday, and fly home on the "Oh-Dark-Thirty" red-eye Sunday morning. I'm looking forward to the match, but not the traveling.....
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Some Days it Seems Like This.........
Some days it seems like you spend the whole day trying to herd mice through a busy intersection. On some of THOSE days, the mice turn on you........
Pic stolen from Dave Smock
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Still Here, Sorta........
I haven't really dropped off the face of the earth, really! Since I got back from the Gun Blogger Rendezvous I have been pretty much swamped with work and stuff that needed to be done. Trying to get back caught up on all of that has left me mostly worn out by the end of the day, and in that state I don't have much to say, or the energy to say it. I've still got a lot of pictures from the Rendezvous to post, and other blog stuff in the works that I haven't gotten to yet.
Mixed in with all of that, I've been trying to get in some shooting and a few matches. My practice sessions have been, sadly, far too few and far between. Next Sunday I'm heading to Puyallup for one of their most excellent steel matches. The following Friday I'm flying to Prescott, Arizona for their big annual steel match. Shortly after I return from there, if all goes according to plans, I will be flying to Boulder, Colorado to be on Michael Bane's Shooting Gallery for a program he's putting together on rimfire shooting. Plans are to film the program indoors, so maybe it will be a bit like the European Steel Challenge Championships. That would be a lot of fun if it was. I hope it works out, as Michael is quite a character and a lot of fun to visit with!
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
The September e-Postal match is now over, and the results are posted over at True Blue Sam's place. If you missed out on the chance to shoot the squirrels in the September match, no problem, as the October match will give you the chance to shoot some, well, I'm not quite sure what it is exactly, but it sure is ugly, and it looks kinda like a second grade teacher I had. The October match is hosted by US Citizen at Traction Control. For the full match rules and to download the targets, go to the October e-Postal match site. This is the next to the last e-Postal match of the year, so go have fun!
Labels: e-Postal Matches
Thursday, October 01, 2009
e-Postal Match Deadline Extended
We need more entries for this month's e-Postal match, so we've extended the match to allow you to still get your entries shot and submitted. Click Here to get all the information on the match and to get the targets.
The new deadline is Sunday night, October 4th. Get out there and shoot the match. If you don't and we get over-run with rabid squirrels, you are who we're all going to blame......
Labels: e-Postal Matches
Elder/Palin For President
I was cruisin' through Random Nuclear Strikes this morning and came across this post. Apparently Larry Elder, the popular and conservative California talk show host was considering running for the Senate against Barbara Boxer. The Republicans told him not to, and that they would not support him. You should go read the whole story.
On March 4th, 2007 I ran a post picking Larry Elder as my preferred choice for President. Nothing in the intervening years has changed my mind as to my choice. For vice president, I'd go with Sarah Palin, although Sarah as President and Larry as VP would work for me too. Either way you've got conservative Libertarian/Republicans in charge, and that would be a great step in the right (pun intended) direction.
Here's the post from 2007. Go re-read Larry's "Ten Points Plan" linked in the post, if you're not sure of where Larry stands.
Larry Elder -- My Pick for President
Looking over the front runners for the Republican and Democratic nomination for president, there doesn't seem to be ANYONE who's solidly pro second amendment. Heck, there doesn't even seem to be a conservative in the lot!
As I looked for someone who is a good communicator, well educated, street-smart, and not afraid to stand up and state his position without a lot of "weasel-words" (no offence intended towards Cowboy Blob's ferrets), one person comes to mind, the talk radio host Larry Elder. Now before you laugh this off, go to Larry's website and have a look around. Spend a few minutes seeing what he has to say. In particular, have a look at his Ten Point Plan. Then write down the ten main points expressed by any of the other candidates. (Can you find ten? Didn't think so! )
Now go down the lists one item at a time and see how many match up with your personal politics. I'm not exactly "eye-to-eye" with him on everything, but he's way closer than anyone else.
To have any chance at all, he would have to run as a Republican, but we have "Conservative" Republicans, "Moderate" Republicans, and even "RINO's", so I have no problem at all with a Libertarian Republican. Actually, I kinda like the sound of it!
In today's politics, Thomas Jefferson would be a Libertarian Republican, and that's what we need.......
Note: The picture above is Larry with his mother, otherwise known as The Chief Justice!"
Labels: Prez campaign
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