On Saturday I made it down to the National Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, OH to visit my dad (Ron Granroth), old shooting buddy Bob Gardner, and the Springfield Armory/Ottowa Sportsmen’s Club Junior Pistol team.
It was great to visit with my dad and Bob, and I ran into some old friends.
I haven’t competed at the nationals since the 1990s, and being down there on Saturday brought back a lot of memories. I stood at the assembly line for a while during the team .45 match, watching the teams compete. It was a hot sunny day with a strong breeze, and it was easy to imagine being on the firing line negotiating the wind and the shots. I’d like to make it there again.
I have a coffee cup at work. It resembles a jumbo marshmallow with a handle and “Pause.” printed on the side. There’s a small story behind the cup itself, but today I write for another reason. It was abducted, and I received a series of sinister photos.
Due to a back problem, I had to leave work for a few days. It was during this absence that two of my co-workers showed their true colors. Dark, dark evil.
Read their confessions and view the evidence for yourself.
Today I shot an 824-19X out of 900 at the match at the Flushing Rifle & Pistol Club. I definitely shot better than my last match, a 785 shot at Grand Rapids.
I’m still getting these crazy fliers that really sink the scores. Most of my fliers were high and right, although a few were off to the left.
Here are the targets.
The scores were 89 and 88 for slow fires. 86, 91, 94 for NMC. 96 and 91 for timed fire. 97 and 92 for rapid fire.
The slow fires were good scores for me, but the rest was too erratic. It’s those fliers. I’m shooting too fast. Some of the timed and rapid fires I probably shot in 6 or 7 seconds. I forced myself to hold the gun up for the whole rapid fire string, even though I finished shooting. I could’ve fired another 2 or 3 shots.
For the next match, I intend to hold the slow fires about where they are, but shoot nothing lower than a 95 for the rest. I’ll do that by slowing down so I can take each shot when it’s ready, so as to do away with those fliers.
Throughout the 1990s I competed regularly, but in about the last ten years I’ve competed in only one sanctioned bullseye pistol tournament. That was about three years ago. Sure, I’ve shot in some pistol leagues here and there, but it’s not quite the same.
At 785 of 900 possible, my own shooting was a bit of a, well, a debacle. 🙂 That’s an 87.2 average, for a middle-of-the-road Sharpshooter score.
I still had a good time. I really like being on the firing line, and I’ve been more driven since that match. Next time, I’ll be a bit more competitive.
I’ve been dry-firing, and in a league shoot this past Tuesday, I broke out of a 4-week rut of scattered groups and fired a 284 in a 300-point National Gallery Course. That’s a 94.67 average, which is an excellent match for me. I’d like to see that level of shooting become normal.
Pen-less. It’s 9:30 in the evening, and I need to write out some thoughts (about a split-complementary color set).
At work last Friday, the pen that I’ve had with me for some months now finally gave up its last ink. It was a Pilot Precise V5, black.
My habit has been to have that pen in my left front pants pocket, reliably at hand. I guarded it, making sure to have it back if I let a colleague or a daughter use it for a moment. I gave other pens like it away, but kept that one.
Of course I have other pens. Bic ball-point pens: the kind you get in bulk in the plastic bags during back-to-school sales. I hate those pens. They fail so often, and you have to drag the ink out of them, scraping across paper. Scribble in circles first just to get them warmed up. Lazy bastards. Then you have to draw across your strokes again, filling in ink on the empty indentations of your first pass at writing.
I’m irritated at myself for getting into this pen-less position. Luckily, I have Plan B: pencils and a sharpener.
As mentioned last post, I tried a duck for Thanksgiving. Lila summed it up with “It’s okay Dad, but it’s not appealing.”
I could not fit the bird into the crock pot, so my Plan A was foiled. Instead I roasted it in the oven. I applied poultry seasoning and tucked onion and apple chunks inside before putting it into the oven.
What about the fat? The infamous problem with duck is the layer of fat under the skin of the duck. I poked holes in the skin so the fat would drain out during roasting. This certainly helped and the skin was actually very nice, golden and crispy. There were still some unappealing sections of fat, although they were easy to separate from the meat.
I’ve never had duck before, and the taste and texture was unexpected. It wasn’t bad, and the overall dinner was great.
Against the advice of Adam, I am going to attempt to cook a small turkey in my crock pot for Thanksgiving.
It’s just me, Lila, and Eva, so we don’t need a big bird.
If I can’t get it to fit in the crock pot I reserve the right to abort to Plan B, which is to put the bird in the regular old oven. But that isn’t as interesting.
On a side note, I’ll bet the frozen chickens feel like rejects this time of year. Poor little birds.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Update, 10:47 PM
The smallest turkey at the store was 10 pounds! That’s four more pounds than I dare to try to fit into the crock pot. So, while I nearly decided to find the biggest crock pot ever, I decided instead to get a 5 pound duck.
Oh yes, the game’s afoot now. Plus, the bill was less that than of a 10 pound turkey. 😉
Last night after work I drove up to Bay City to Duncan’s Outdoors Shop to compete in a pistol league match. It’s the second one I’ve made it to, and shot some of my best…and worst scores.
National Match Course 1
National Match Course 2
Starting with a 95 was great. It’s been a long time since I’ve fired a 95 on a slow fire target. Maybe 10 years. There were 5 tens and 5 nines, which speaks to the consistency of the group.
As to what I did to bring about that score, all I can think of is that for each shot, I:
took some good deep breaths to counter a little match pressure I was feeling
closed my eyes, tipped my head up, and visualized what I wanted to see in the sight picture
during visualization, also mentally reminded myself on the grip (middle and ring fingers pushing towards me, thumb pushing towards target)
After that great target, I completely fell apart and shot a 91 in a timed fire! Yikes. I probably average a 97 in timed fires, and don’t have a record since I’ve been keeping track in June of shooting a timed fire target that low. Same story on the 92 rapid fire.
So why the low sustained fire scores? Lack of recent match experience. When I’ve been out to the range this past summer, my practices haven’t really included range commands with enforced 10 or 20 second strings.
Basically, I seem to have no confidence in my ability to know how much time I have for timed or rapid fires. I can’t think of a way to remedy this except to practice with enforced times.
So, I ordered a refurbished iPod shuffle and I’ll record range commands onto it (I already have them in iTunes) so I can play those commands to myself when I go out for practice.
A guy in his 50s a few benches to my right was thumbing .40 cal cartridges into a pistol magazine.
He had arrived when I was about to box up my gear and head home. But, I had seven rounds of .22 leftover, so instead of letting them roll around in my gun box, I loaded them into a magazine. I already had 10 shots in my paper target at 25 yards, so instead of causing problems with scoring that target, I decided to find something else to shoot at.
I rotated slightly to my right, raised my right arm, and lined up my iron sights on a 12-inch diameter steel disc about 125 yards away. It was painted yellow. As I steadied my breath, I raised my Ruger Mk II pistol a little to account for the bullet’s drop at this longer distance, and let off the first shot.
I was pleased to hear the distant ding of the hit against the steel plate. I released the remaining six shots and they each dinged off the plate. I was pleased, but, frankly, surprised. That was a fair dose of luck.
I packed up my guns, and let the the older man know that the line was safe for him to go down range.
I could tell he was curious where the dinging noises had come from. He was scanning the range right in front of us, but there was nothing metallic there.
“So, what were you shooting at just now?” he asked.
“See that yellow disc out there?” I pointed to the steel plate hanging at the 100 yard line.
He was incredulous, except that he had witnessed it. I felt fortunate that I was packing up and wouldn’t be pressured to repeat it, but, hey, why let on.
It turned out that he was a federal agent from downstate on vacation. I was pleased that a federal cop from downstate would have an appreciation for how a kid from the Upper Peninsula can handle a pistol. Strange vanities.
That was about twelve years ago, and while I don’t shoot as much now as I did then, I still appreciate the look of a good sight picture.
Aiming is one of the fundamentals of good shooting, right? But there is actually a lot of complexity to talking about it. There are many different kinds of sights, and some are electronic like red-dot scopes or laser sights. Those have the benefit of being completely obvious on how to use. Put the dot on the spot you want your shot to land. That’s all there is to it.
But for those without a dot, knowing your iron sights is pretty crucial.
I shot a dot-scope for a few years, but gave that up and went back to open sights on my pistols. I like them, and I like that it takes more practice and discipline to use them.
So, here’s what I know about shooting with iron sights.
The fundamentals are that you have a front sight, probably a block or a post, that makes an “I” shape and a notched rear sight that makes a “U” shape. You put the front sight right in the middle of the notch of the rear sight. The tops of the front and rear sights should line up perfectly, and the front sight should have the same amount of space within the rear sights to the left and right.
When you aim, you focus all your attention on the front sight, observing it’s alignment with the rear sight. The rear sight should be slightly blurred, but the front sight should be crystal clear. Study it. Meditate upon it. Let everything else vanish.
The front sight on my Clark .45 has a slight ding on the top right corner, and when the sun shines at a certain angle, it stands out to me. These are things that you only appreciate if you find yourself studying the geometry of a front sight for long enough. It’s a good thing.
Please note that I have not spoken about the target. If you find yourself looking at the target, you are probably not going to fire a good shot. This is the counter-intuitive part about aiming: in order to hit your target, you must not look at it. It is the front sight and its alignment with the rear sights that should have your attention.
Of course, as you acquire your sight picture, you will probably need to glance at the target in order to line up the sights in the first place, but once you have that, forget it and focus on the front sight.
The illustration and ideas in this blog post have been included, with permission, on page 59 in a recently published book by Andrew Smotzer, Guns for Personal and Home Protection. Thanks Andy, and congratulations on the new book!
Update: October 21, 2016
This 12-minute video from Chris Sajnog is perhaps the best thing you can watch to understand what it means to focus on the front sight.
I went to the Saginaw Field & Stream pistol range this morning and fired a practice 900 bullseye course with my Ruker Mk II .22.
A couple months ago I upgraded the iron sights on the gun. Up till this point I’ve shot with the original Ruger sights, except for a couple years in the 90s when I shot a dot scope. I ordered Bo-Mar style rear sights for the Ruger from a company called Champion. The sights are very high quality and the sight picture is great—a big improvement over the stock sights. I brought the gun to Dick Williams Gun Shop near Saginaw, MI and he installed the rear sight for me.
Unfortunately, when I brought the gun out to the range to zero it in, it turned out that the front sight wasn’t the right height: I maxed out the elevation adjustment and it was still shooting about 5 inches too high at 25 yards.
So, after emailing and calling Ruger’s customer support with no great luck, I called Clark Custom Guns and they suggested I try a different size front sight from Ruger. Clark had an extra in their shop, and I purchased it from them. It did the trick, and the gun is zeroed in beautifully.
This is one of those upgrades that I should have done years ago. The little improvement in the sight picture makes a world of difference.
While my slow fire scores this morning weren’t outstanding, I do feel like I’m on the cusp of really getting the 50 yard line figured out. Slow fire has been the bane of my scorecards for as long as I’ve shot bullseye pistol. Now that I have a really clean sight picture, I’ve been able to trust my minimum arc of movement. Sure, it’s probably all in my head, but it makes a difference. That phrase has almost become my mantra for each slow fire shot: “Trust your minimum arc of movement.”
Here are the scores for this morning’s practice.
National Match Course
RF2 I shot as a 14 shot alibi. I had a stovepipe and was looking for a reason to fire off an odd set of 5 rounds.