Thursday, March 11, 2010

Revolver or autoloader?

Round gun or bottom feeder? Six-shooter or self-loader?
Might as well ask "Blonde or brunette? or "Fun party boy or serious adult man?"
Heck if I know.
One thing that shows up is that interest in the action pistol sanctioning group ICORE- the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts- is growing. So are the sales totals for Smith & Wesson and their ever-expanding line of wheelguns. It seems like they have a new model or two every month and other makers are hot on their heels with stuff goofy and good.
One concrete number I can cite is the participation in ICORE's Central States Regional match, the Wheelgunner's Revenge at the lovely Bend of the River Conservation Club in Niles, Michigan (near South Bend, IN). The 2009 version racked up an astounding total of 103 shooters. This, for a regional match costing more than the ten or fifteen bucks of a plain ol' club match and going a whole weekend.
That's up from about 78 the year before and registration will close sooner than later.
The WGR hits close to home since Your Correspondent works that one as staff, building and officiating.
For folks unfamiliar with ICORE, you can pretty much short-tell it by calling it USPSA with six-shot-neutral stages and accuracy-critical NRA D-1 "Tombstone" targets. In fact, the only problem USPSAers will have with the transistion will be the much higher necessity for hitting the central zones.
You need alphas and can survive with bravos, but ring up some charlies, and you're toast.
The scoring system is greatly simplified and more closely resembles IDPA's, especially in that you can tot up stage scores in your head while refilling moonclips. It's all time-based, and bravos cost a second while charlies cost two. Four charlies on a 24-round stage is eight seconds right there. Pretty drastic.
It so happens that a club yours truly just joined wants to get an ICORE program off the ground. It also so happened that YT is thought to be somewhat capable of staging "cardboard" matches.
As an aside, I call the various discipines that shoot primarily at cardboard silhouette-ish targets as fast as they can as the "cardboard" sports, and these mainly include IPSC, USPSA (not the same thing!), IDPA, and ICORE, and International Multigun and related outlaws. Saves time.
I will have to confess a bit of surprise at the level of response this proposed program has already elicited three months out from the inaugural match. I'm being assured I can expect to see at least 25 if not more shooters when the first buzzer goes off.
Given the hard times abroad in the land and clubs finding themselves looking at slipping attendance numbers in many places, along with thinning volunteer showups as gas and ammunition prices climb past the fun-curve happy line, that's pretty darn good.
Learning to be fast and consistent with speedloaders is a trick and a half, but that's why you're competing in the first place- to be challenged. Okay, dumping a cylinderful of empties without fail and then finding, manipulating, and discarding a speedloader puts a strain on the eye-hand-brain skills. Moonclips are a bit less stressful, but there's still an awful lot of things to do, and you have to do them pretty darn often.
At least you've got something to do if you're bored listening to your muzzle music.
A few short years ago, say, in the mid-Aughts, you could expect some chuckles if you unlimbered a six-shooter at a USPSA match and some strained indulgence doing the same at an IDPA match. Yeah, it's still sort of like that, but at least your tormentors are a little more curious than they were a couple years back. It's a retro thing, at heart, I believe.
Here comes the big metaphor analogy moment...
Autoloaders are like diesel locomotives and revolvers are like steam locomotives.
You see a diesel-powered train go by, it's cool and all, but it's a diesel. All wrapped up so efficiently, the guts and moving parts and naughty bits all behind panels and covers, as if it's embarrassed to be a machine of such complexity.
Put a great, black, roaring, smoke-bellowing Hudson on the point and thousands gather with jaws agape, watching spellbound as all that giant hardware goes flailing around like hell's own nunchuks amid belching and sizzling and panting unlike anything you'd see from a trim, tidy, and good-neighbor EMD.
Revolvers, I respectfully submit, are along the same lines as steam locomotives. The guts are mostly all hanging out there in the open. You can see things whirling and clacking just plain doing stuff, so unlike the tupperware's chilly, contained efficiency.
People like to watch all that mechanical stuff. They like the movement and spitting and labor-intensive manipulation.
(That metaphor works, too- it takes something like four or five times as much labor to get a ton-mile out of a steamer as it does out of a diesel-electric.)
And labor-intensive the sixgun is: at USPSA matches when Your Correspondent is competing with a revolver, I'm wont to go about describing the difference of my smoky old Webley Mk VI from that plastic .40 I was shooting last week in Limited:
On a USPSA course, the revolver is the one that's almost always empty.
So you've got to put in all kinds of labor keeping it hot and steaming, punching out empties and fishing up new ones to throw into the firebox's maw. Er, cylinder's.
A good revolver run is a thing to watch, fine motor skills in the midst of the running and gunning, yet, well, it's a bit of a snooze to sit behind, too.
But at least you get to see the naughty bits working.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's Wrong With IDPA Rules?

Hee, hee.
Pardon me while I run away and watch from a distance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why shoot a match?

Well, since you asked...
I corresponded with a gentleman over another blog's comment section about the usefulness of shooting action-pistol matches. He disputed my take on their value, suggesting that one wouldn't learn much from IDPA or USPSA or ICORE or steel to take to a gunfight. Here was my response:

You should note that I never mentioned improving combat efficiency, not for newbies and not for masters and pros.
What I pointed to was gunhandling.
I officiate a lot at all kinds of matches, and put on a lot of them, too, and I'd have to say I've never been accused of being a "rulz lawyer" or anything of the sort, so I'd ask a bit of slack, there.
Here's what I know from running many hundreds of shooters through this varied match situations: shooters who haven't been through serious, organized competition that works with a structure descended from the IPSC rulebook are much, much more likely to be deficient as gun handlers. Not always, just much more likely. That's not an Internet thing; that's from actually being on the range with literally hundreds and hundreds of shooters in thousands of runs.
Gun handling starts with the four rules but really comes down to three things: muzzle discipline, finger discipline, and establishing a safe condition and location for ALL of the parts of the shooting situation.
We have police competitions, too, and I've run hundreds of police officers in match stages and can tell you, ISPC-type range officers frequently dread having LEOs on the firing line, even veterans, even specially-trained ones. Without dissing law-enforcement training, since one of my very best friends is both LEO and a high-level, thousand-buck-a-day LEO weapons trainer, the gunhandling we see is disorganized and inconsistent.
"Inconsistent" is the key. Good mechanical practices come from a foundation of consistency, which leads to reliability.
Fitting into the IPSC-plan rulebook builds a consistency of gunhandling skills better than anything else I've seen in 40 years of lead-slinging.
I'll put it the other way around: I used to think I was a damn fine gunner until the first time I attended an IPSC-derived match, a poky little IDPA match in a cornfield. I was humiliated to see that my skills as a tool operator were simply inadequate bordering on awful. And I've seen just as bad out of veteran, highly-trained SWAT guys.
There's more to guns that simply getting bullets into targets. Dealing with guns and even simply, being armed, is a whole lot wider world.
Among people who carry in public, these skills are not window-dressing or a social grace- they're vital.
A half-dozen USPSA or IDPA matches at a good club will do more to establish and solidify those skills than anything else I've seen. A large part of that is simply repetition, running through stage after stage following exactly the same, well-defined regimen.
There's always a lot of discussion about these games and their value as training devices in a tactical sense. They do indeed have a lot of value, but not necessarily as tactics. The motor skills of moving, shooting fast, and reloading are reinforced well by competing, but the biggest value of all is pressure.
Shooting in a match includes pressure and stress, be it self-contained, social, or whatever.
I submit there's no better way for the vast majority of shooters to get pressure while shooting fast and performing other tasks simultaneously. Few of us can afford professional training and the refresher training needed to keep current on skill level.
Ten or fifteen bucks a week and a box of ammunition is a cheap and good substitute for Farnam-like schooling, and may well be the best 95% of shooters could ever hope for.
With the inclusion of the rigid gunhandling skills cited above, the games have great value.
Shooters who take it further for tactical and fighting value and get specific training do better; for millions, an IDPA match is still a vast improvement in discipline and organized thinking over heading out in the back 40.
Adapting to circumstances, even if they are goofy-seeming procedural rules, is part of thinking while shooting, too. Maybe IDPA's reload-with-retention is something you'd never do in real life, but being able to still think, remember, and consider multiple elements while shooting is of enormous benefit.
You can still do an IDPA match and shoot the procedure as you see fit, ignoring the procedural penalties. You're welcome to do it, and just ignore the scoring.
All of the other value is still there. And it's still under the pressure of the timer, which many of us have trouble with enough as it is; as a stepping-stone to handling the vastly-greater pressure of a fight, it's the best most of us can ever get.
Now, one final point about rule structures. We all chafe at rules and restrictions. So do I. When it comes to shooting match procedures, if you don't like the procedure- foot fault, slide lock reload, whatever- it's just a game. You should try to get over it and move on. It won't really harm a shooter to go along with something like that for a couple of hours.
When it comes to safety issues, well, we have no idea who's coming down the driveway and so, out of necessity, usually have to go with lowest common denominator. A 180 rule or no sweeping rule might not fit into real-life fighting, but for a game on a Sunday morning, this is but a minor inconvenience and ought not to be a big mental blockade.
Meanwhile, I stand by my suggestion that for people who go armed in public, developing responsible gunhandling habits is a must, and attending local matches and accepting the regimen therein will do the great majority of shooters a world of good.
I've run a lot of people through- I've received plenty of thank-yous for my gunhandling coaching, and never had a kickback about it.
Folks know, it's important.
Hope this helps.