Sunday, July 25, 2010

What the heck?

Your Correspondent came to shooting consciousness watching movies with green-clad US soldiers holding Garands and most especially, M1911A1 Colts.
There wasn't much question but that on the birthday of majority, a trip to the gunshop for a Colt 1911 was going to be the business of the day, and not the alcoholic rite of passage one might have expected.
All these decades later, that very same Colt, now battered-looking, missing blue, a crack in the metal here and there, still does nightstand and other critical duty nearly every single night.
It still emits Speer Gold Dots with monotonous regularity and alacrity but is rarely called into range duty anymore in deference to the teeny crack in the slide near the scallop that developed a few years back. It was welded and then subjected to some 3000+ rounds of full power service ammunition to see if the crack would reappear. Unfortunately, it finally did and until Kim the Master Welder gets his chance at it, restricted service is the order.
Perhaps the crack started long ago as the youthful owner simply filled and emptied the gun innumerable times, bullets cast from roofer's lead and plumber's alloy scrounged off jobsites being reshaped and launched with immoderate amounts of Unique smokeless. What that owner did not know, though, was that that recoil spring in there was supposed to have been changed every few thousand rounds.
That didn't happen; instead, perhaps 30,000 rounds, perhaps far more, were discharged before the coil in question was replaced with fresh metal.
There are a number of other pony-marked 1911s in the safe these days, of course, all of them no doubt better looking and even more capable in one way or another. None will ever gain the level of attachment of the beat-up kid's gun that preceded them.
So, given all that prologue, Your Correspondent finds himself taken aback again and again while minding his own business at match after match and being accosted with the statement, "You're a revolver guy..."
Well, there is the passing fact that the only "B" classification on any of my membership cards is in USPSA Revolver Division, a haughty and mysterious anomaly that came at the handle end of, of all things, a 1926 Enfield-built Webley Mk VI .45. No, no one else can explain it either.
And there is also the incontrovertible fact that nearly every time my motorcycle turns a tire onto a range's driveway that's featuring an IDPA match, it's pretty likely there's a .357 caliber service revolver in the range bag with a pile of Safariland speedloaders.
Yes, it is also true that Your Correspondent's reputation for range eccentricity was augmented a bit by the occasion of shooting a two-inch Colt Detective Special in a full-blown USPSA match at the oft-mentioned Bend of the River club in Niles, Michigan. A couple of videos of this dubious event still bring giggles on YouTube for persons asking on shooting forums about the viability of Comp III speedloaders, with which the DS is almost competitive in a perverse sort of way.
It might also be included that as noted elsewhere in this blog, yours truly has taken on the establishment of an International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts (ICORE) program at Home Club II.
But this is still a 1911 brain and 1911 hands and a .45 caliber outlook on the world.
Yeah, well, the ICORE Central States Regional match, the Wheelgunner's Revenge passed this past weekend, and as usual, Your Correspondent was there, screwing together wall panels, stapling targets, running around with a timer yelling at innocent passersby, and taking a long time to call out to the scorekeeper the awful word "Mike!"
A nicer, smoother match would be hard to find. Just shy of 100 competitors enjoyed the eight-stage match this year, down but a few from last year. With an early hammer-down time of 8:00am, the last shot was fired at about 1pm or so, followed by the superb barbeque pork lunch that's become as much a feature of this event as the six-shot neutrality of the stages.
Heat was also in evidence. One gasping staffer staggered into the clubhouse for lunch after working a looong-range stage of his own device and the wag next to me offered, "Hey, Mike, there's a little dry spot on your shirt, there."
An unassuming gent from Memphis, Tennessee named Sam provided YC with a number of laughs prior to launching a lightning-quick run so smooth I almost asked for a replay just to enjoy it an extra time. Shooting Limited Division, Sam also captured first overall, leaving even the dot-shooters in his dust.
Another sidebar event for this staffer was the presence of oft-mentioned rangebuddy SS, taking up our 686 for the second time (ever) and forging into the fray with a beltfull of Comp IIIs and the usual fierce competitive spirit making up for the paucity of experience. While I was chained to my stage as a CRO, I understood later that the first few stages weren't as fun as they could have been, but some sort of epiphany came and the remainder went well enough.
Witness during the awards time, SS joined us staffers at our none-too-fragrant table and was discussing the long steel stage referenced already. There were twelve poppers ranging up the sandbox bay from 20 to a measured 42 yards.
SS was discussing strategy with Big Dan and allowed as how she'd strategized her reloads and then shot the second, steel array shot-for-shot, and then...
The sound of jaws hitting the Formica went on for a while as the listeners chewed on the thought that a second-time-ever sixgunner had, under match duress, slain all twelve of the metal devils with but twelve shots from a revolver that remains so far from her all-out competition 1911s as to be other-worldly.
So was cleaning the steel in the middle array. I wasn't able to find out how many did that, but my understanding was that it was perhaps four or five, out of a hundred.
Sadly, yours truly failed to become one with the Brit top-break for most of the stages and slunk home a chastened mid-field, something like 44th overall.
Since I'm a 1911 guy, of course, there's some cover available, but how do you explain a guy who's not really a revolver guy being asked to match-direct this hallowed event next year?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Revolver Match, V.1

In the interest of updating past posts, Dear Reader(s) may wish to hear of the outcome of the below-mentioned ICORE match at Home Club The Second a couple of weeks past.
First of all, we're thinking of it as a genuine success. The actual competitor count was 28, a not-shabby number for a club-level match on a 90+ degree day.
The weather got the festivities off as the story of the moment. Setup Saturday was getting nearly unpleasant even by 10am. At this club, they start setup officially at 8am, and we were barely half-done when the humidity set in for sure and folks began moving perceptibly slower.
The happy side, though, was that setup turnout was actually rather high. That went to the very nature of the event.
My regular USPSA cohorts arrived in force, a touching display of solidarity with the new guy on the range racing about finding things at a club he'd never done a match at before.
The club's PPC contingent brought about five or so as well. These folks are also mostly cowboy shooters and while I may never understand thumbcocked five-shooters with six holes in the can, much less conchos, I know they're a good bunch of people who don't mind putting out effort to have some fun.
For a 119-round, five-stage match, that's decent number of hands on deck and we were pretty nearly done by noon.
Thanks to some advance work, I knew that my Limited Division and SSP fellows were going to bite the bullet and actually dig out or borrow revolving guns to shoot the match. We were of course bombarded by plaintive e-mails seeking equipment waivers, but I stumbled onto a solution- the aforementioned rangebuddy SS taking the whole revolver scene (briefly) seriously and thereby taking a stand as well: if she could manage to stroke a sixgun, so could her other 1911 trigger-presser friends.
Hardly any grumbling a-tall.
I'd like to take a moment and go soft with Dear Reader's permission here and remark upon the confluence of these disciples of disparate disciplines coming together just to work on Yours Truly's little ol' revo match. I wouldn't want anyone to think I'd gone all kumbayah here, but the mix was really gratifying.
And the help was excellent, and I thank every one of you for taking up a steaming Saturday morning to pitch in. Maybe it's just payback/karma/balancing-out stuff, and past efforts on our parts were just being repaid in the manner of good people everywhere, but I still enjoyed it. Thank you, folks.
One issue was that the D-1 targets themselves didn't actually physically arrive on the range until 7:30am on Sunday, match day. As experienced match directors may expect, some kinks emerged once cardboard started going up. The second field course in particular needed some real rearranging as time dwindled.
Fortunately, registration was in my partner's capable hands and all I had to do was staple, run, pound fault lines, run, bark orders that sounded like polite requests to the couple of hands available, run, adjust, and finally arrive in a sweaty and none-too-appealing heap at the shooter's meeting site.
I had assigned myself to the smallest squad, coincidentally containing program director-partner Phil and, oddly, SS, with whom I never, ever squad for some reason.
Screeching to a dramatic halt as they were getting near done with the stage, a modest 27-round field course compressed into a narrow, hard-sided bay, I unbagged the beloved Webley and proceeded to completely ignore a target during my disjointed run. Nice. On a stage I freaking designed.
With a basket of penalty seconds to wallow in right from the get-go, there was no need to get too competitive. It wouldn't be until our fourth stage that I actually got enough brain cells diverted from match-directing to firing a revolver at targets in order to produce a decent run.
But before that, I had to endure the big Embarrassing Moment. Just as everyone was finishing up their first stage, I turned to see what looked like a proverbial Chinese fire drill in the driveway running up and down the range behind the bays.
"Where do we go?!" was the common plaint, and I stood dumbly wondering how my match had turned into a slapstick comedy in less than an hour.
As it happens, Club O apparently doesn't have an established squad rotation direction. Now, who ever heard of such a thing? It had never crossed my mind, short a trip as that may be, to even mention rotation. I'm accustomed to the USPSA program's northbound hops and it just isn't that way for everyone else.
New match directors, beware! Find out the new club's direction or suffer!
The heat was not our friend that Sunday. The mercury hauled itself upwards of 86 almost immediately and if I had wanted to spend my Sunday in the company of a soaked-T-shirt contest, I could hardly have done better. Sadly, it wasn't as attractive as it sounds.
But no one really complained, not about that. In fact, things went on really pretty smoothly. The one drop-turner target operated flawlessly, and the door to be shoved open in large field course Stage Five worked every single time without coming adrift or sticking. That last was a bit of a surprise for this stage builder, as the contraption that constituted that section of that stage was shaky at best. One of our folder wall panels (as detailed here) was hastily screwed to the door frame and adjoining panel in order to provide rack resistance and it worked.
The scoring was comprehended well, another common issue when non-ICORE people are holding the clipboards for the first time. It's not hard, it's different, and everyone got the hang of it quickly.
Back on the one-world, can't-we-all-get-along front, I'm proud to say a few of my other home club "N" lads arrived to play and it wouldn't be giving the story away to point out they finished second and third overall behind Program Director Phil, who took the day as a personal playground and "warmed up" for July's Central States Regional ICORE match by finishing first with a yawning chasm of some thirty seconds of lead.
Indeed, SS completed the day in ninth overall, seventh Retro, despite finding the Comp III speedloaders uncooperative.
I perhaps ought to preserve a bit of decorum and decline to mention my 18th-overall placement, but I did manage a pretty decent classifier run on our last stage of the day. Phil said, just before triggering off the timer, "This one's the one that counts..." and it had the needed effect. Fortunately.
In retrospect, while I am used to seeing rather more than 28 for a turnout, that's probably a good number under the conditions. We were satisfied enough to schedule another, for the remaining available Sunday at this club, of August 29th.
I'll say this- if we get even three-quarters the help, hard work, and cooperation we did for Match #1, I will be pleased indeed.
A week later, hanging out at the club after a little AR match, I was approached by a couple of members who'd seen the match and decided it looked fun enough to do the next one. One even proclaimed he'd ordered a brand new competition holster just for the occasion! Not only that, SS is rumored to be considering putting aside the 1911 one more time in favor of a 625 (no damned speedloaders, you know).
Hard not to be happy about that.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Multigun is More

Multigun is more.

My work partner of thirty-some years is as much a tool enthusiast as anyone who's been in the trades as long as he has. He's not blind, though- he recognizes that there is such a thing as overdoing it.
For all these years, he'll conclude a discussion about such an excess, whether it be tools proper, equipment, accessories, materials, or whatever else has gotten to where there's not enough space or time to contain it, with these final words:
"Too much stuff."

That's often an excellent description of multigun competition.

In the last five years or so, multigun competition, most especially in the form of USPSA 3-gun, has seen very considerable growth. There was a time when an interested shooter would wonder at how he or she might have stumbled upon this amazing and complex contraption, become enthralled of the sheer muchness of it, and then puzzled at how there were so few opportunities to actually shoot a multigun match.
There's a good reason there aren't so many: it's too much.
Unless one has actually assembled a real-life stage, it's often hard to see what the difficulty is. I wouldn't want to take a high-and-mighty, you peons don't get it position on this, but if you haven't ever actually built a stage, well, even a simple stage is more complex and interconnected than it seems when you're actually shooting it.
Shoot-throughs leap out of what looked like a good design like snarling gremlins at Halloween, trashing the best of arrays and demanding all sorts of wall-repositioning.
Steel targets creep closer and closer to the potential shooters' position as if to create distortions of space by jamming in close and displacing fault lines like toys floating in a stormy lake.
Angles of fire that were so intriguing back on the desk suddenly turn into vanilla pudding with little redeeming value.
Then... go multigun and your problems multiply, just like that.

Often the toughest block to a good flowing stage are the abandonment issues. Yes, we all have abandonment issues, but when you're looking for handy places for adrenaline-saturated hotshots to leave powerful rifles and shotguns on their frantic way towards the rear berm, things can get even more crowded with points- drop points, shooting points, steel clearance points, and so on.
It can get downright claustrophobic lost in all those points.
So, having sorted out and carefully established all those issues, then you move on to providing something for the shooters to actually shoot at.
Arguably the most important point about simply adding long guns to the familiar pistol stages you're accustomed to is that: long guns are long, and that means long ranges. Much longer. Things get longer and longer and... further apart.
Not only do you have to differentiate between the various guns' targets, you have to create spaces within the stage for the full scope of the gun's run. But if you do expand the space to suit the problem you're trying to create, your good-sized bay shrinks into a little shoebox and you start wishing you had an airport instead of a bay to set up in.
That expansion creates a whole new problem, though, in that the stage becomes physically huge, requiring so much walking that it becomes a sort of a low-speed cross-country event, most especially for the weary-footed range officers dragging themselves around the thing again and again.
Stage reset times climb into many minutes. The match slows as squads stall in stages and the competitors' attention spans snap off. Fewer people are helping reset and upcoming shooters forget what they got in the car for earlier in the day.

The simple fact is, you can put on a six-stage, 130-round action pistol match for forty competitors and have a hope of being down to the last shot fired in four hours if you did your part right.
But getting through even four multigun stages will take quite a bit longer, and shooter's ennui will be thrice the problem it might have been for your nice, efficient pistol match.

Home club N just opened up their multigun program and ran headlong into the clock on the wall. Some of the best club-level match putter-onners I have the privilege of knowing threw the kitchen sink at the match, and got bogged down in four bays full of clogged drains.
These heroes (they're my heroes, and guys like them should be yours, too) pushed themselves harder and harder and yet the match still wouldn't end.
The weather was awful, an energy-sapping 90+ degrees and bright sun with nowhere to hide on a range known far and wide for being the best place to shoot in the winter. Unfortunately, the characteristics that make for those kinds of winter-shooting benefits help turn the place into an open-topped microwave oven on a hot summer day.
No cats blew up, but soggy, sagging, dragging officials and shooters put away bottles of water as fast as they could be trucked in and still the place looked like it was a giant wide-screen epic being projected in slow-motion.
They fretted and discussed and worried over getting the total match time down. Efficiency is not often the front-burner topic at shooting matches, but it became so for Our Heroes, as they tried to re-engineer their lavish creation into something they themselves would be interested in attending the following month.
Things will indeed be changed, and more care will go into compression and efficiency, but in the end, they're just going to have to face the basic, fundamental fact of multigun matches:

They're just too much stuff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


At home club "O", Your Correspondent was enlisted to some degree for the purpose of helping to set up an ICORE program there.
ICORE stands for the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts. It's not very old, from about 1991 if I recall correctly, and may be taken as an offshoot of USPSA/IPSC gone six-shot-neutral.
The rulebook bears a close resemblance to the USPSA book and that's fine. There's no need to reinvent the best wheel in the business.
Tacky pun, but appropriate.
For Your Correspondent, though, the hardest part isn't stage design or even soliciting volunteer help. It's parts.
As the new guy in town, only having had a key to the joint for six months, the props are the the big question, followed by the bays' limitations. Several of O's bays have non-shootable sidewalls. They're bulletproof and safe, of course, but aren't dirt or some other material able to soak up significant numbers of bullets, so stages have to be carefully laid out to avoid directing fire into them. It's only a big deal if you've been spoiled by high, encompassing dirt berms that allow a wide field of fire... as has Yours Truly.
Then, despite having shot at the USPSA matches at O for several years, it doesn't mean that I have a good grasp of the inventory of available and good-to-go props: walls, brackets, poppers, and all of the other things that go into building a good match.
As a perusal of previous posts here will prove, Your Correspondent naturally set to making wall panels and folders as soon as financial authorization from the club potentates was handed down.
This may be hard to understand for a person who hasn't spent nearly four decades making walls and standing them up as a daily engagement, but there just didn't seem to be enough visual barricades on hand. Like ammunition in the gun, there's really no such thing as enough for the proposed task at hand.
So, the inventory is taking a nice rise, and four field courses were finally laid out that allow the best use of the spaces available, and then the whole match-making process was gotten underway.
The best news of all, for me, is that my program director co-host is happy to handle the registration, signup, and scoring, and in return, I merely have to get there and see to the building of the four field courses and one classifier stage.
Understand, dear reader, that this is feels almost like stealing candy from a baby. Program Director's doing the dirty work and I get to frolic in the fields with screw gun and mallet- an excellent deal from my perspective.
As the point man in the information program, though, I get the questions. Boy, do I get questions. It's an easy guess as to which is the most common to come down the e-mail pipe:
"Can I shoot my auto?"
Normally, I don't have the stomach for turning eager participants away, but there are some rules even the most rogue of MDs must follow, and let's face it... ICORE really, really wants to see revolvers out there.
My solution has been to open my safe to my appellants.
My 686 has been in the hands of SS Hashenburgers as noted in previous posts here. With it went my L-frame Comp III speedloaders and carriers. In return Phil and I got a fairly enthused e-mail from SS proclaiming herself the "Junior Revolver Enthusiast".
Given SS's predilection for and near-master level skill at the 1911 platform (where is that reclassification!), this is a near-seismic shift.
"I haven't taken to it that much!" protested SS last Sunday upon receipt of the rest of the loaner match gear, and you may be assured that her regular sponsors need not fear the 1911 going all rusty anytime soon. Or, ever.
But it will be fun to see the innate talent and piercing focus that SS uses to advance up the charts in Single Stack and CDP being brought to bear in the new and alien field of round-gunning.
Elsewhere, other sixguns from the stash have been proffered to other bottom-feeding friends in hopes of engaging them for even a single match. CDP expert Mr. L. was approached but has a conflict. Fireman Mike is starting to give that dusty old 686 of his a thought or two.
What's more, the PPC boss at Club O, and a number of his cowboy cohorts, have pledged participation as well. Given PPC's insistence upon X-ring accuracy every single shot, the tough ICORE D-1 target's similar demand for alphas-or-bust should be an easy transition. Just pick up the pace on the refills, lads, and you'll shine just fine.
This is all great fun for Yours Truly. There are actually three sources of stimulation here:
One is just plain putting on a match. It may sound crazy to regular shooters, but there's every bit as much satisfaction in putting on a good match as making a perfect run.
A while back, at the end of one of our USPSA matches at Club N, a gen-u-ine master whose name you'd recognize here in the Upper Midwest grabbed my arm and told me with eye-a-gleaming that we were putting on "state-level matches every month". If I'd beaten him by ten points at the Area match I couldn't have been more gratified, and the same applied to my stage-director co-hosts when I shared this with them.
Another friend told me she'd drive anywhere to go a match I was putting on. Once again, I owe an apology for rank immodesty, but hearing that sort of thing is a rush bordering on illegal.
Second, in the case at hand, is being the FNG- the new guy at an established and successful club. These guys in all kinds of disciplines are good, and get serious turnouts. I'm the rube just dusting himself off from the fall from the turnip truck in these precincts. Nervous? You bet. Some pretty experienced eyes are watching.
But, most fun of all with this ICORE thing is that it's something new and unusual, and a number of my friends are going to go outside of their regular match comfort zones just to see what it's like to go all-revolver. Some of them, as mentioned above, are going to have to work at "new" stuff and take some chances at not being a good as they are every other Sunday.
Or, so they wrongly think.
Talent, skill, and work will always tell. We'll see when the results come down.
There won't be any big embarrassment, I promise.
And, if the machinations turn out at all well, I will have gotten a really giant basket of grins to stash in my bike's bags for the smiling ride home.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Newbies are more important than you are

If there was something I thought should get more attention from match producers it would be new shooters. The title says it all, but not everyone in the action pistol community gets just how important new shooters are.
We've all been on the range on match days and seen clusters of the more experienced competitors pretty much steering clear of the bumbling, inept new shooters. Sometimes there can be derision, even, snarking about how little this new person grasps the vital concepts of competitive shooting.
The practical aspects of this attitude take on serious implications when the old heads deliberately try to squad up avoiding taking on the new shooters, as if they would be some sort of problem for their enjoyment.
We were all there, once, even the hottest of hotshots, goofy-seeming, clueless, not getting it, asking the lame questions. Then, worse, we went out there and mishandled the guns, dropped the ammunition, froze in panic, and in some cases, lost concentration and threatened a bad discharge or sweep.
That's part of the process of getting good, and we shouldn't forget our own beginnings.
I was fortunate, in that at the first real match I happened to go to, there were people willing to go out of their way and help me with the baby steps. A couple, including the match director, were downright solicitous, taking a teaching stance right away.
That's the way it really is across much of our shooting sports, though, and I wouldn't want to characterize the whole thing as being that way.
The one point that I would want to make to my cohorts who do find the newbies off-putting is this: once you get them going, actually shooting and having fun, they'll never vote against us in the polling place.
Nothing gun owners might do is more important to the preservation of the sport and rights aspects of shooting than bringing in new shooters. More important than trophies or nailing the perfect split or cleaning the drop-turners while the steel's still going down.
Look across the shooters meeting at the next match, and I'll wager you'll see a rather mature crowd. Too mature, as far as Your Correspondent is concerned.
Yes, gray-haired guys who've been shooting for forty years (such as yours truly) have a "right" to go out and have fun shooting stuff, but the lack of a good, solid contingent of young adults, most especially younger women is troubling to me.
In the previous post, I remarked upon the novelty of having a woman win an action pistol match overall. That's what that was, too, just a novelty; SS won because she was better that day that the other shooters, and that's good.
But between those two matches put together, there was but one other woman entered, at but one of the matches. And, she was a wife, of a regular match-maven.
Not that that is a negative, and wives of regular shooters would be a most welcome thing to have become more common.
But the sport, and with it, the whole of gun ownership, has not in modern times seen women get up, go to the gun store, and get involved in any serious way in shooting. True, since 9-11-01, there's been a noticeable uptick, and of course, media both mainstream and special-interest have noted rather often anecdotal evidence of gun stores seeing more women buying guns on their own.
But we're still not seeing that at the firing line. Last month's USPSA match at the "home" club N had no female competitors at all. At club O, there was only one out of 55. That's not a lot.
Some clubs go no-match-fee for women (and often, juniors as well) but the effect isn't being felt in the actual numbers.
Yet, in the political realm where gun ownership and rights are in the most danger, it's women who usually represent the larger danger to those rights, as they tend to vote away from gun rights and candidates who support them. No, not always, but the tendency is there.
Get those voters to the range, make them comfortable with the real-world gun culture we here all know is friendly and safe, and get them having low-stress fun, and they'll never vote against us.
Case in point is Your Correspondent's own Significant Other: daughter of a Chicago cop, urban origins, graduate degrees, professional... a demographic we'd all agree might well be anti-gun.
Pretty much the case, too, until a visit to a steel match, where the guys all pitched in to make it comfortable. SO now agrees that of all of the outdoor sports and activities we've engaged in, the shooting sports people are the nicest, friendliest, and most welcoming.
Good job, guys, let's find ways to do that some more.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A girl won my match

Did you ever go to an action pistol match (of decent size, of course) and it was won by a person of the female persuasion?
I never had, until last October. Even more impactful, it was my own match.
Then, the very next match, it happened again. Twice in a row. Same woman.
Never saw that before.
At the "home" club, I'm fortunate enough to be allowed to put on a handful of IDPA matches every season. I like doing it. I like the design challenge. I like how six-shooter-friendly IDPA matches are (if they're done right, it goes without saying).
Better still, the IDPA program director Marv likes it when I do matches because I don't bug him with lots of whining. He shows his appreciation by not whining back. All he does is run the registration and do the scoring. Happy, happy, everywhere.
The IDPA program there is a pretty successful one. The average attendance is about 45 a month and it always draws a good mix of actual masters and omigod-first-match-ers.
We always get excellent setup help and if I ask to do something the afternoon before, I'm sure to get willing hands pitching in.
The next two matches were November and March due to weather. I caught them both. The November one, I showed my IDPA friends what a USPSA match really looked like by building genuine USPSA stages cut down to 18 rounds and then substituting cover for fault lines and other minor adjustments.
At the start, the serious IDPA guys who were to be the SOs were crabbing (a little) about things like, "Where's cover on this stage? Where's the cover procedural? What order are you supposed to shoot it in?".
Being good shooters, of course, they all got with the program and we all had a nice time. One of the masters actually told me it was one of the most fun matches he'd ever been to. I still can't get him to come to USPSA, though. Lucky for those USPSAers, as he wields that Kimber like a professional paid-to-do-it guy.
When the scores came out, it was a pleasant surprise that my friend SS (for "Single Stack", her usual USPSA division) came out with overall best score, about a half-second ahead of the next two master-level guys also running 5" 1911s. I had to stare at the scoresheet for ten minutes before it sunk in.
It was the very first shooting competition I'd ever been to won by a woman.
But it wasn't the last.
We normally shoot through the winter at "home", at least IDPA does. But last winter, our excellent gravel range floors iced over and wouldn't de-ice, so we didn't run again until March.
I planned the match as sort of the diametric opposite and labeled it a "carry-style" match. Close and fast, what IDPA really should be. All from cover, all close range, all walls and corners. The longest shot of the eight stages was only 21 feet. The average was probably nine or ten. (I don't like to get inside of five feet because the targets don't last the match.) Every round was around a wall corner. Every stage was the IDPA "ideal" round count of 12, wherein every division except BUG is forced to do one reload only on the minimum round count.
We had 34 turn out on a chilly day and I'm glad to say most attendees took the "carry gun" thing to heart and showed up with actual smaller guns.
I, for one, chose to use my long-barrel Detective Special with a real-life IWB holster and a handful of Safariland Comp III speedloaders stoked with hot .38 +Ps.
There were two guys with BUG-division guns that I saw, maybe more. I think only about ten shooters fell outside of my arbitrary "carry division" invention of sub-four-inch barrels and less than two pounds of weight.
And I'll be damned, SS showed up with her Glock 19 and won the stinking match.
That was two, in a row.
Of course, SS immediately let me know I'm an exceptionally good stage designer (no surprise, there).
And I'll allow a moment of unattractive immodesty to point out that Yours Truly finished forth overall with his little Colt, which to me tended to reaffirm SS's assessment of my match directoring.
I'm not doing another IDPA match until October, as far as I know, as the USPSA season eats up my time, but I just might, just barely might have, conned SS into trying my 686 for the ICORE match in May we're doing at the "other" home club. Having only fired twelve rounds from a revolver in her whole life (at a practice match, using my 586), she'll have to rely on innate talent to replace experienced skill to do well. But, sigh, she will.
I sure don't mind her kicking my backside in USPSA Single Stack or even in IDPA, but at my own revolver match, I'd better damn well practice up and not let her get ahead of me on that one.
That would the source of enough humiliation among my peers to last the rest of my lifetime.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to make wall panels

Okay, here are some basic points.
Everybody wants to shoot fast, but they want to set up and tear down even faster. Funny how that works.
The keys are lightness, durability, and simplicity of use.
Not everyone comes down to the club to get a nice weightlifting session in, and lots of them couldn't haul around a sixty-pound unit if they wanted to.
The wall panel is the basic barricade in action pistol. Your Correspondent is saddened by the growing predominance of snow fencing being used to make wall panels.
Yes, it's extremely cheap. Yes, it's extremely light. Yes, it does make for an easier time of clearing a stage after reset.
That last is a safety issue, and I'll cut that one a lot of slack. When you're the range officer, it's really, really important to know everything with a pulse is uprange of you except the shooter.
The others, well, okay, fine.
But snow fence can be seen through during the run, too. This allows the shooter to visually get a fix on things like targets before he or she gets there. To me, this is akin to cheating. At least, it reduces the challenge of the course. A sight picture being acquired a second and a half prior to arriving at the actual start of trigger-mashing is too... easy. It reduces the demand for shooting skill.
To say that viewpoint has been warmly challenged would not be an overstatement. Too bad; it's still true.
The safety aspect is beatable in other ways, which we'll get to.
It so happens Your Correspondent has passed the last 3.8 decades making walls and similar objects during the course of business. This means that, like any old tradesman, speed and efficiency are of high importance. So is doing the work exactly once. You don't last a long time in the trades without a good record for not producing callbacks.
(Here's another tip about old tradesmen: the most important thing inside their heads is a clock. Everything is about time. Everything. Time describes and delineates everything. Tick-tock, it all counts, it all adds up. Good quality work is a given; it's a baseline, but time is where it all gets serious.)
Anyway, there are a few important things the eager wall-making novice should know.
Most action-match wall panels are best made with decent-quality 2x2 lumber in their frames. Straight, non-cracky stuff that won't disintegrate over time, or warp out so bad it pulls off of the panel material.
Most of the time, you will do a better job if you simply predrill your holes for those kick-ass deck screws you're using. Splitting the end of the stick is a waste of wood and time.
Here are the primary rules for power-driving screws: Use a brand-new driver tip. Always. Use new screws. Always. And push straight and hard when driving. Hard. Don't let the tip walk up and out or you'll just be starting over.
To repeat: new parts, push harder.
I like to miter the corners of my frames. In this age of everybody's-got-a-chopsaw, it's not really that hard, and it gives a stronger, more long-lasting joint that allows you to install fasteners in two different directions. That's how it's stronger.
Getting metal fasteners on angles is really good for strength, too. Even a few degrees of angle can double the resistance to pullout, plus it sends the fastener in across the wood's grain so it doesn't just follow a ring and crack the wood.
Bracing the corners is where I see the most pain for enthused amateurs. Making little triangles of thin plywood and screwing them on over the 2x2 corner would work if done on a large scale, but not in teeny little 8x8" sections.
Inside brace your corners with right-angles of 2x4 instead, as shown below in the folder wall picture.
It only takes a few minutes and some short scrap material to make them, and they allow many more fasteners at several angles- really good stuff.
Put some exterior glue (Titebond II) or construction adhesive (Liquid Nails) in the joints before you put them together and you'll add a year or two to their life right there.
Plus, with the inside bracing, the panels are flat in section and can accept panel material easily, and stack and handle much more nicely. You'll see.
After all the corners are braced, you're likely to find that intermediate sticks aren't really so necessary, particularly if you use good panel materials in the first place, and not that infernal snow fence.
Snow fence not only likes to part ways with its frame when you don't want it to, it has no structural value. It can't help hold your panel together, or square.
Thin plywood (lauan underlayment) and plastic corrugated sign material (Corboard) in 1/4" nominal thickness can. Use it. It's not that expensive, for heaven's sake, and the wall panel will last three times as long without worrying about frantic-to-leave teardown crews breaking frame joints tossing your artwork around.
Glue that board down to the frames and corner braces and then screw it in place with twice as many screws as you think a sane person would use.
Two years from now, you won't regret the extra effort.
Now, at our club we came up with these 4x4' folders and are totally in love with the things. Done right with lauan skins, they weigh about 20 pounds, well within the strength range of your overpaid range help. Make them 6'2" tall and leave the bottom open like that so you can clear the range by looking underneath. You needed to spend more time on your prayer bones anyway. With this 4' wide layout, it uses exactly one 4x8' sheet per folder assembly. Drill holes in the bottom and top rails before your assemble them for ground spikes. With the panels glued on, they're well-nigh indestructible and so fun to use the setup guys will be giggling with joy.
They set up in seconds without even picking the screw gun up. Two spikes in the bottom rail at the outside corners will hold it in place fine for 30mph gusts. Add two more and you can take another ten knots.
They can be spotted up instantly so you can see your course develop before your eyes without the distraction of screwing panels to brackets.
A couple of inexpensive hinges is all the hardware. You don't need ports, but you can cut them if you can't help yourself.
A handful of these can do wonders for your setup time. Another important thing is that you can set a couple up and then start attaching conventional 8x4' wall panels (in trades-speak, the width is always the first number, followed by the height) to the folders and save on wall brackets big-time.

Now, you're going to need some wall brackets for all of the rest of those panels. We'll get to that later. Get your pilot drill and glue and get going.