Mind map of Shooting Sports

The labels and groupings we use for the shooting sports would benefit from some thoughtful organization. Here’s my current approach at diagramming how the terms, like IDPA, IPSC, and Silhouette, are related.

As a follow up to my post from earlier today, I’ve been trying to work through how to organize the various shooting sports.

If you want to help by modifying this mind map, let me know. I’m sure it isn’t quite right, and this effort could use your perspective.

Why do this? Because the whole field could benefit from some standardized language on our shooting sports. Maybe this will help get us there. (I know I could benefit from this on rangelistings.com.)

Conventional Pistol renamed to Precision Pistol

While the term “bullseye pistol” will hold on as the most used, yet colloquial, form, the National Rifle Association has retired the term “Conventional Pistol” and replaced it with “Precision Pistol.” Good call, NRA.

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.

Thinking: Taxonomy of shooting ranges

I’ve been overwhelmed by feedback from a side project of mine, rangelistings.com, and am working on upgrading it so that site visitors can make some updates on their own without having to go through me.

It’s great how even seemingly little projects like this raise information architecture questions so promptly.

Wait…what the heck does “access” mean?

When I started this project a while ago, I didn’t question much of the data I was harvesting. I just wanted some data to test a theory about the utility of a geographic perspective on shooting ranges. It was just an experiment, done as a bit of a hobby over the course of some weekends. One piece of data for each shooting range was labeled “access” and the data was primarily either “public” or “private.”

Well, upon actually using this information, I find the public access or private access to be too ambiguous. Does “public” mean state-run, paid for by tax dollars? If a range is in a gun store, which is itself a private enterprise, is the range private or is it public because anyone can use it? And besides, what do we mean by “access” in the first place?

The useful data can be more clearly represented by asking “What sort of requirement is there for access to the shooting facilities?” When I state it that way to represent what I mean instead of simply “access,” then I realize more clearly how “private” and “public” are inadequate words.

Looking over the data and thinking about my own experiences at various types of ranges, this is what I’ve come up with.

  • Membership required (like at many Sportsmen’s or Conservation Clubs)
  • Pay a fee for range time (like at some gun stores or commercial shooting facilities)
  • Free (like at some state-run shooting ranges)
  • Unknown (because right now I only have private/public values)

The exact wording can be tweaked, but the notion is in there and is far more useful than the current private vs public value.

Gah! What a mess of a labeling system.

Meaning and words overlap. Case in point: when I list shooting facilities, many of them resemble shooting sports (like “trap” which can describe a range as well as a shotgun sport).

Which should I list? How do I tell the difference between a sport and facility? How do I prompt the user community to stay with the right taxonomy? (And what do I mean by “right taxonomy?”)

Which words describe the possible shooting/firing ranges themselves at any sportsmen’s club, gun store, or other shooting facility? Those are the words I need.

Why not list the shooting sports themselves as a primary organizational scheme? Here’s why. Because very often people just want to grab their gear and head to a range to shoot. That isn’t organized into a predefined shooting sport, like trap shooting or action pistol. No, that’s just heading to the range to shoot. That’s pretty normal.

However, many shooters also want to know if they can do a specific kind of sport, and a description of the range itself can help answer that question. For instance, I’m a bullseye pistol competitor, so if I see “Outdoor pistol, 15 feet” as a description for a shooting range, I know that won’t do for my sport. If I wanted to practice some defensive pistol shooting, it would be okay. However, if I see “Outdoor pistol, 50 yards,” than I’m going to be pretty confident that I can practice my sport at that range.

The point is, some decent descriptions of the physical ranges themselves should provide an appropriate amount of information to be useful for a wide variety of shooters’ interests.

So, it should be easy to come up with that list of terms, right?

As an initial audit, as of today, Oct 28, 2012, this is what I have in the rangelistings.com website.

  • Airgun
  • Archery
  • Indoor Pistol
  • Indoor Rifle
  • Muzzleloading
  • Outdoor Pistol
  • Outdoor Rifle
  • Pistol Silhouette
  • Rifle Silhouette
  • Skeet
  • Sporting Clays
  • Trap

And any specific range listed can add a note. The most common note indicates the distance and the second most common type of note indicates the number of firing positions. For instance, “Outdoor Rifle (500 yards, 10 firing points).” For someone looking for a place to shoot, that bit of information is quite informative.

But I’m not really settled on that, despite the fact that I have data on close to four thousand ranges already using that taxonomy.

My primary concern with that set of terms is that it may not be complete. For instance, I don’t see Cowboy Action as an option. Nor do I see Five Stand for shotgun. Both of those are, to my knowledge, specialized range designs.

But is that getting too specific?

I’m also concerned that some people may want to check off a bunch of those options with the thought of “Well we have an outdoor rifle range, and a person could set up some silhouette targets on it, so I guess I should check Rifle Silhouette too.” But that isn’t how I’d prefer people to think of it. My thought is that the range should already be set up for silhouette shooting, with metallic silhouettes already set up and/or available, and possibly with a target reset cord.

Perhaps there should be a general purpose outdoor pistol and a general purpose outdoor rifle. Then if a range has more specialized facilities, a person could choose to list those.

I’m a member of the Saginaw Field & Stream Club in Michigan, and we have a pretty cool Cowboy Action range, which is used only for that sport. We also have a standard 50 yard pistol range and a defensive pistol range. Given the current taxonomy, we could list it like “Outdoor Pistol (50 and 25 yard covered firing points, Cowboy Action course, and 15 foot defensive pistol range).” That’s informative and flexible. Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, if I go with that notion, doesn’t the same thinking apply to the shotgun sports? If so, then it seems like I might not have separate items for Skeet, Sporting Clays, and Trap like I do now. Instead, I would just say something like “Shotgun (trap, 5-stand, and sporting clays).”

The conundrum here is that there very well may be value in having itemized those types of ranges. The point is that I’d prefer to have a consistent granularity in terms, and it seems to me that right now I have a mixture.

Which level of specificity is the most useful in light of the purpose of this data set?

And now I put my thinking on pause, the taxonomy questions unresolved.

My new .22 target pistol, Marvel and Springfield Range Officer

Over the past couple months I’ve worked out the kinks on a new .22 target pistol, and I figured I’d share the details.

The new gun: Marvel Unit 1 conversion on a Springfield Armory Range Officer frame

.22 target pistol: Marvel Precision Unit 1, Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 frame, and an UltraDot red dot scope.
My new .22 target pistol: Marvel Precision Unit 1, Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 frame, and an UltraDot red dot scope.

After much consideration, I decided to go with a Marvel Precision Unit 1. That is a conversion unit that you use to turn a 1911 into a .22 pistol by replacing the slide and using different magazines.

The Marvel has a good reputation, it is known to function reliably, and is getting to be famous for its accuracy. Mine came with a 5-shot test target fired at 50 yards. The test group measured 0.81 inches. That really is excellent, considering that to my eye the X-ring on the 50 yard slow fire target looks to be 1 & 11/16 inches. Bottom line: it’ll hold a group tighter than I need it to hold.

I ordered the Marvel unit with an extra magazine, the iron sights, and a scope mount rib. Altogether, including shipping, I paid about $600.

Speaking of shipping, it took a long time for them to get me the unit. I placed the order online on April 5, 2012 and it shipped to me on June 12, 2012. I was definitely not thrilled with waiting that long, but I understand they’re busy.

So, between then and now, here is what I ended up doing.

I shot the gun first with the iron sights. They are good target sights, and I shot fine. However, I’ve been curious about shooting a red dot, so I picked up an UltraDot and put that on top. My 25 yard Timed and Rapid Fire scores didn’t change, but my 50 yard Slow Fire scores seem to have improved. I’ll stick with the dot a little longer and see how it goes (although I’ll continue to shoot iron sights on my .45).

For the lower I’m using a Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911 .45 ACP that I purchased very late in June. Since then I’ve put in a short match trigger from Cylinder and Slide (required some hand-fitting), a reduced-power hammer spring (24 pound ILS spring from Wolff), and tuned the sear spring. The hammer and sear already looked really good.

The stock trigger on the Range Officer was not great. It started at around 5.5 lbs, and had a little bit of creep in it. The break was crisp, which I like. After fitting a new trigger that has a better length for my hand and carefully filing the trigger and a little bit of the trigger channel, the trigger movement is now quite smooth, and down to a nice 2 lbs. I also set the over-travel stop so the trigger won’t move any more than it must.

At Camp Perry during the second week of July I asked at the Marvel table for any tips on reliability and the response was that it should all work fine, but a lighter hammer spring may help if there are issues with loading new cartridges. I did in fact have a few of those issues, and so I put in a lower-powered ILS hammer spring. I fired 80 rounds this afternoon after replacing the spring, and had not a single problem.

So, what’s left? Well, I have a pair of Nill grips on my Clark Heavy Slide 1911, and I like the feel. I may get a pair for this gun too.

Also, I need to pick up another 1911 sear spring so I can tune it to 3.5 lbs for when I put the Range Officer slide back on the gun for shooting .45 ACP. Two pounds is too light for a gun with that kind of recoil, in my opinion.

All-in-all, I’m quite pleased with this set up, and I’m looking forward to competing with it.

Props to my old gun, a Ruger Mk II .22 pistol

I’ve been competing in Bullseye Pistol matches since 1990, and have used the same Ruger Mk II pistol for that entire time. Over half a dozen national pistol matches and many local, state, and regional competitions, not to mention countless hours of practice, I estimate that I’ve put a quarter of a million rounds through the gun.

The Ruger still functions, but after 22 years of heavy use, it’s pretty worn out. I’ve had to replace numerous parts over the years, including two firing pins, a firing pin stop pin, and the recoil spring. The gun is loose, and it feels loose. Could it be tightened? Maybe. Regardless, it’s time for a new gun, and I’ll keep this Ruger as a back up.

The gun has been re-blued, and it is high time for another re-blueing. It is down to bare metal where my fingers and the heel of my hand grip the gun.

Props to the old Ruger though, it will still shoot clean targets (clean means 100 out of 100 points). I’m impressed that it still maintains that precision.

Visit to Camp Perry 2010

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.

Congratulations to the junior team on winning the .22 caliber Junior championship! (These junior shooters went through the Ottowa Sportsmen’s Club Junior Shooting Camp.)

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.

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.