Conventional Pistol renamed to Precision Pistol

A pistol target scoring a 99 out of 100.
Precision Pistol is colloquially referred to as “bullseye pistol” because, well, we shoot at a bullseye.

A couple of years ago the National Rifle Association officially renamed Conventional Pistol to Precision Pistol.

This competitive shooting sport has been known informally as bullseye pistol, and to my knowledge that hasn’t changed.

While I’m aware that some competitors are disgruntled by the name change, on the premise that all name changes are bad because they confuse the topic, I personally like the change.

Here’s why: the word “conventional” was too generic. Let’s try “conventional pistol” with some synonyms for “conventional.”

  • Normal Pistol
  • Standard Pistol
  • Regular Pistol
  • Ordinary Pistol
  • Usual Pistol
  • Traditional Pistol
  • Typical Pistol
  • Common Pistol
  • Orthodox Pistol
  • Established Pistol
  • Accepted Pistol
  • Mainstream Pistol
  • Prevailing Pistol
  • Prevalent Pistol
  • Accustomed Pistol
  • Customary Pistol

What does that sense of the word “conventional” give us? It says something about the sport being the most typical and probably with the most ordinary of guns.

And that is not the reality of the sport, at least not today.

Precision Pistol really does have a lot of competitors. I visited the National Pistol Championships at Camp Perry last year, and I’ll estimate that there were about 500 competitors in attendance. (Will anyone who has a more precise number please comment on that?) And for all those who made it to the nationals, there were far more competitors who didn’t attend. The sport of Precision Pistol is very much alive, although when I competed at the nationals in the 1990s, we had closer to 1,000 in attendance.

There are other competitive pistol sports that seem to be more active than Precision Pistol. Action Pistol, Police Pistol Combat, Practical, Defensive, and so on. These are the pistol sports with shooters firing at multiple targets, some that fall over, from different positions, often with the shooter moving through a course of fire. And the targets are much, much closer—but shooters compete for best time to complete a course of fire.

Let’s admit the truth: Precision Pistol looks slow and boring next to these fast-paced pistol competitions, so of course the various action pistol sports will do better at recruiting new shooters.

Also, with so many people picking up concealed pistol licenses these days, some of these programs, like IDPA, do a good job at training shooters in techniques they ought to have acquired if they are to actually carry their pistols.

And are these “ordinary” guns? Well, you can enter the sport with comparatively inexpensive guns, but when I look through the merchandise at a typical gun store, I see a lot of pistols with combat-style fixed iron sights. For bullseye pistol you’ll want adjustable iron sights or a red-dot scope. With targets placed at 50 yards, a good set of sights makes a big difference. So, your typical gun isn’t quite right for this sport.

All that said, I love Precision Pistol. It is my sport, it is extremely challenging, and I’ll bet some great action pistol shooters cross-train in bullseye to their great benefit.

But back to the words. The term Precision Pistol does a better job at contrasting the nature of the sport from NRA Action Pistol, and bullseye pistol is no longer the primary, or typical, pistol sport in town.

Good call, NRA.

Now, can you come up with a set of terms to describe all of the shooting sports around the world, instead of just referring to their organizing groups? For instance, would you consider Olympic-style pistol competitions, which look a whole lot like bullseye pistol, to also be Precision Pistol? I’d like a taxonomy please, but I don’t personally know enough about all these sports to propose one.


Being competitive

shooters on the firing line
Bullseye pistol shooters on the firing line at the 2014 National Pistol Championships, Camp Perry, Ohio.

The key to being competitive is to compete.

Last weekend I shot in the National Pistol Matches, specifically the President’s 100 and the National Trophy Individual match. Wow, was I ever not competitive!

My final scores were very nearly middle of the pack, out of the approximately 475 competitors. While I would have liked to have been in the top 50 in both matches, I didn’t earn it. To deepen the point, I also shot worse than I did in 2013.

That is one of the great things about competitive shooting: you reap what you sow.

I had practiced only a little in preparation, perhaps 400 shots in practice during the month and a half before the matches. More importantly, I think, is that I hadn’t competed at all during the preceding 12 months.

Competing in matches is the best preparation for competing in matches.

While this is obvious, I had talked myself out of competition for a year, one match at a time, choosing instead family time and work. Neither is a bad thing, of course, but if I want to be competitive, then I must compete.

My goal for 2015 National Matches: Make the President’s 100 and shoot in the top 50 for the NTI. How? Compete regularly until then as part of training.


Another pistol tournament, Flushing

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.

Targets shot at a match in Flushing, Feb 14, 2010

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.


Getting back into competitive pistol shooting

Finally, I competed in a real pistol match.

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.

This one was a couple weeks ago at the Grand Rapids Rifle and Pistol Club. The match was called well, the indoor range was in great shape, and it was a neat surprise that 9-time National Champion Brian Zins showed up to compete. That was cool.

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.


Pistol match, Oct 20, 2009: the good and the bad

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 Total
95 91-2X 93-1X 279-3X
National Match Course 2 Total
86 99-3X 92-2X 277-5X

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.


Pistol practice, Aug 15, 2009 and notes on iron sights for Ruger Mk II

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.

Slow Fire National Match Course Timed Fire Rapid Fire Total
87-2X 93-1X 90-1X 100-5X 95-2X 98-4X 99-5X 93-1X 97-2X 852-23X

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.


Pistol practice, Apr 25, 2009

I hit the range again this morning for a practice 900 bullseye match. What a beautiful morning! I started just after 8 AM and was facing East, and the sunshine played a nice highlighting on my iron sights.

Gun: .22 caliber Ruger Mk II
Ammo: Winchester Super-X .22 long rifle standard velocity

Slow fires were at 50 yards, timed and rapid fires at 25 yards.

Slow Fire National Match Course Timed Fire Rapid Fire Total
79-0X 83-1X 91-2X 93-2X 97-1X 93-0X 94-2X 90-3X 90-1X 810-12X

So, other than the Slow Fire of the NMC, it was a rough practice!

The Saginaw Field & Stream Club, where I shot, has a really nice 50 yard bullseye pistol range. I feel very fortunate to be a member there.

I put the remaining 10 rounds through a hybridized High Standard Victor. It had been working poorly, but my father brought it to the High Standard folks at the national championships at Camp Perry last year and they replaced the spring in the slide.

It looks like that was the problem, because those 10 shots all functioned great. Previously, I couldn’t get off 3 rounds without a malfunction.

I plan to shoot the High Standard for my next practice outing.