Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Tool in the Box

The value of and the proper use of a chronograph is not something that should be devalued. They’re a handy tool that can document performance of any given round. And its basic function is to determine the speed of the bullet as it exits the muzzle of the barrel. Setting up one’s chronograph properly is critical. But what the different results mean that it might display is less known to the average pistol shooter.

At times, I’m somewhat surprised that most pistol shooters don’t use or even own a chronograph. Life is better with one than without. Unfortunately most pistol shooters rely on published load data and word-of-mouth pet loads, and then never look back.
There are lots of chronographs offered and their price range can be fairly broad. Although, Shooting Chrony, Competitive Edge Dynamics, Oehler and Caldwell all make sufficient products well within the budgets of most pistol shooters.
Most of the chronographs on the market, regardless of the manufacturer, have the same basic design. A set of triangular screens, set up with sensors at the bottom of an inverted triangle. You simply fire the pistol round through the two screens. The distance between the screens is fixed and known. The two sensors measure and read the passage of the bullet between the screens and compares the time when each sensor detected the projectile and then produces a velocity reading.
Graphic by PRB 
Generally the price differential between different units is directly related to the quality of the sensors, the clock speed and other elements of the electronics. All will come with a set of screens and their purpose is to block sun light and hopefully provide a consistent lighting condition for the sensors. Even modest changes in the lighting can lead to inaccurate velocity readings.
Alignment of the screens is very important. If the screens are not level, or the bullet passes through them at an angle, it can affect the accuracy of the readings.  Like most things we do, preparation is far more important than just getting a reading. If the chronograph isn’t level and the bullet’s path isn’t level relative to the sensors, you will get bad readings. So, plan on buying a moderately priced tripod, and bring along a tape measure and carpenter’s level.
At the very least you’ll need to measure the height of the pistol’s barrel in its resting position and adjust the height of the chronograph’s triangular shooting area.
When you read about people using chronographs we typically hear terms like Standard Deviation (SD), Muzzle Velocity (MV), Extreme Spread (ES). So, what do these terms mean?
The most important and often discussed result is the SD. You want a consistent and low standard deviation. Standard Deviation is a term that describes how far off from the average of a string of fire each shot is. If one were to fire a string of ten rounds with an SD of 10fps that means each round is expected to be 10fps off the average velocity from that same string of fire.
Extreme spread describes the maximum difference in speed between the fastest and slowest rounds measured in the same string of shots. This is also important because a high ES will result in large velocity differences which will change points of impact at a distance. You have to have a tight SD/ES if you want consistent hits at long line. For pistol rounds a low double digit SD is very desirable for precision rounds. You should try to develop a hand loaded round that when fired over a chronograph has a standard deviation of 50fps or less. If you manage to get a load shooting that tight, the ES should be reasonably low as well. I've heard under 75fps is good—obviously the lower the better.
Chronographs are principally designed to tell you what the average speed is, and that’s important because that is what you will be using as your muzzle velocity. It’s important to realize if using a conventional chronograph with screens that you have to tell the ballistics software how far the screens are set up from the muzzle. If you measure the velocity at 15ft from the muzzle, that isn't your muzzle velocity. There is speed degradation between the muzzle and the point where the chronograph measures the speed. Why do you have to set them up away from the muzzle? The muzzle blast, or better said its flash, will often distort the readings if the screens are too close.
However there should be a lot of care and effort that goes into properly setting up a regular screen type chronograph So if you have one,  make certain the screens are level and the bullet is passing perpendicular to the sensor windows. Also be mindful of your ambient lighting conditions.
During the winter months if there’s snow on the ground, I’ll place my chronograph inside a cardboard box with a hole on either side to replicate the triangular screen shooting area. Overpowering light from snow reflected from the ground, and I’ve seen this happen as well in the summer over pea gravel, can easily overwhelm sensors.    
Since we’re competitive shooters we have little choice but to reload. Watch the numbers the chronograph gives you and strive to obtain a very low standard deviation as a benchmark.
As well, a chronograph can tell you about potential failures in your reloading process. A chronograph won’t tell you where to fix problems but it might force you to reevaluate separate elements of how you reload.  Such as, does my powder drop work consistently, is my crimp pressure varying due to different case lengths, are my cast bullets consistently sized and has the energy of my current powder lot changed from the previous one? And let's not forget the big one: I've got The Load for my gun and I don't want to lose it.


Although intended for long range rifle shooting, the following link provides an in depth look at the process of using chronographs. It’s published by Applied Ballistics LLC.



Monday, August 10, 2015

Insights by Keith Sanderson

About a week ago my friend John Boul Jr., had a post which redirected his readers to an article in USA Shooting. In it Keith Sanderson talks about how to prepare for high performance, the Olympics and a few other items dealing with the mental side of pistol shooting.
I'm well aware many of you might subscribe to USA Shooting and this might be old news. But then again, many bullseye shooters seem to forget there is another sanctioning body for precision shooting. None the less it’s a good read.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Brass Life and Accuracy

Not long ago my son had an accuracy problem with his wadgaun. At first he thought his two year old beloved pistol loosened up enough to start spraying rounds at 50 yards. The spread was about 6 inches and was mostly vertical.

With the barrel and lockup in exceptional condition he theorized the brass was worn out and way too short. The thought was rounds weren't headspacing on the case mouth but being supported by the extractor claw.
Potentially, that’s bad mojo. Those cases would effectively be flopping all over the place inside the chamber.
Come to find out the powder he was using (VV N310) was manufactured quite some time ago. Long story short, he bought new powder but it didn’t seem to have the same oomph as the older version. By trickling in an additional .3 grains—viola—problem solved.

He went down the traditional course of ferreting this problem out: Was it the gun, load or ammo processing?
For some time I pondered over the issue of brass being too short. I’ve been down this road before. And I know a lot of accuracy can be lost by inattentiveness or being just too darn cheap to manage one's brass inventory properly.
About eight years ago the now defunct National Revolver Association sponsored a poll and questioned their members, in an attempt to find out who did what with their match ammo. They wanted to know how many people used newly manufactured ammo, remanufactured ammo, virgin brass, mixed head stamps and several other variables. It was a somewhat illuminating poll. It revealed that about 73% of those polled used mixed headstamps during matches.   
Case length, thickness and crimp are all variables we can control. In doing so, much more accurate ammo can be produced.
Think of it this way, a substantial lack of consistency from one round to next will eventually print differently on a target; that’s not news, you already knew that. I recently read a post by the AMU about how they manage their pistol ammo, and after four firings, it goes to the short line or practice lot. As a routine procedure, new brass is constantly being inserted into their inventory and dedicated solely for the long line.  

There are a few basic techniques that can improve accuracy. The first step is to use consistent brass both in wall thickness and length. This means of course using the same brand and lot of brass, instead of range pickups or mixed headstamps.
Keep in mind when a round is being loaded, the reloading press’ ram will always travel the same length without fail (unless you short stroke it). So, brass with different length will always have different crimps because longer cases will be over crimped and cases way too short will have a weak crimp. Cases need to be pretty close to the same length. There’s an old rifle shooters saying, “Crimp is case length sensitive.”
While it’s theoretically possible to turn handgun brass much like benchrest shooters—let’s face it—for the volume we go through it ain’t gonna happen. It’s far easier to either buy consistent brass in the first place or sort cases by length.
Case thickness is a concern too. With mixed headstamps there can be dramatic differences with thickness.  As an example, I recently compared some new Starline .45 ACP brass with new .45 ACPs from Magtech. The Starline cases all had less than 0.001 inch difference in wall thickness at the mouth, while 23 percent of the Magtech cases varied more than 0.001inch, and on occasion up to 0.003 inch. While you can cull cases of varying wall thickness, many reloaders find buying uniform brass in the first place to be a big time saver.
Remember the press’ ram will always travel the same distance as mentioned above. And by having different case wall thickness will do the same thing by delivering different crimp pressures.  
How much difference does all this make? It all depends on where you started with your current brass inventory.
Am I suggesting you manage your brass like the AMU? Maybe.
Think of it this way, it’s not as expensive as many might think to use fresh high-quality brass. Assuming most bullseye shooters have a few thousand used .45 ACP cases lying around, they’ll be all good for the short line and practice.
Supposing one shoots 9 registered matches in a year and it requires 60 long line rounds (centerfire and .45) for each match. To accomplish the AMU’s method of quality control, a shooter would only need 540 cases for the year that would be labeled truly once fired. That equates to 2,160 long line match shots from those same cases over a period of four years. Then they would be transferred to the short line or practice bin. And assuming we’ll lose a few along the way, the typical bullseye shooter every 4 years would only need to purchase 600 new cases. At the current cost of about $22 per 100 for virgin .45 ACP brass, that’s not much of a financial commitment over 4 years.

Although, you’ll have to keep track and manage these cases separately from your other brass.

Food for thought:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Trying Not to Lose

Over the years it’s been obvious to me as a competitive shooter that I’m inconsistent as hell. There’s something going on and it appears to be mostly in my head. As an erratic shooter it’s forced me into some insights, mostly for the apparent need to rework my mental shooting plan.

Golf legend Tommy Armor, once stated, “The most difficult course to play is the one located five inches between your ears".  
There’s always work to be done from a technical and training standpoint. My lingering suspicion for the past year or so is that I’m trying very hard not to lose. I probably spend way too much time practicing but not training at the range, fooling around with equipment trying to manage a mechanical fix, hold far too long on the shot hoping for that perfect shot commitment feedback, and not being ready when I visually come down on the target. It’s all in my head. And I’m trying to micromanage match performance with my conscious mind but it’s not working very well.

For those in this or any other sport, the desire for perfectionism becomes an invisible brick wall. It instills massive limitations where the shooter will worry about not wanting to be bad or worse yet, wanting to be great. Regardless if it’s the former or the latter, it sets up an environment where the shooter retards their actual skills during a performance.
Let’s digress into some moderate psycho-babble.

Lack of Self-Awareness: Let’s face it, we all see ourselves differently than others perceive us. Not to mention, humans have this great ability more so than any other creature to craft a state of denial. Can you or I actually see what our strengths and weakness really are?
The other dilemma here is being convinced that our poor shooting symptoms are actually the core problems.
As an example, ever see a shooter score 97, 96 or 95 on a timed fire target, and then notice they threw one or possibly two shots into the 7 ring? Obviously this shooter knows how to shoot 10s, they simply got mentally lost along the way, and then something bad happened.
Possibly the only way to get over performance problems like this is to have someone else who’s competent, diagnose the situation. Practicing or training alone has big pitfalls and being a lone wolf allows that shooter to stay right where they are for a very long time.
Lack of Consistency: Not to belabor the point, obviously I’ve got this problem in spades. During my first year in the sport my friend Craig once labeled me as a “one year wonder.” Upon reflection there may have been something to this. I’ve progressed rather nicely but not anywhere near the level I anticipated or desired.
Who knows, maybe I’m a natural with all this stuff—and not much more. Possibly I need to be more patient with the journey. Athletes, who truly perform regardless of their natural ability, just work a lot harder than the rest of us. Also having big expectations can be distracters too; it derails you from the chore at hand and promotes fear of not performing like the quintessential shooter your ego wants you to be. This leads us to the next item.

OK, it’s a little redundant but at a match sometimes I lose track of what I’m there to accomplish; which is simply a well-executed shot performance, not the massive score that’ll take me to High Master. Most of the times while on the line I refuse to concede my errors that I’ve delivered down range. Those little screw ups drive me nuts. And yes, I’m guilty of trying to make things perfect.
I intellectually understand the concepts of positive and negative perfectionism but I can’t decide which one I’m guilty of. We all need to allow ourselves a few mistakes along the way, and not disturb the remaining portion of an event by being overshadowed with what has yet to happen.
If you’re fretting about it, your subconscious will try to squirm its way out of it.

How many of us have leveled the gun during slow fire and waited, and waited, until the desired minimum arc of movement was achieved? And then repeatedly aborted the shot in discuss because it wasn't happening? So, let’s not even mention the classic concept of accepting your normal wobble area, because that shooter wanted the most pristine and unrealistic minimum movement.

Losing Focus: Man, that’s very easy for me to do! In my early twenties I was diagnosed as being dyslexic and having moderate ADD. The sport has actually paid a few dividends by my increased ability to be more focused. But not to fool myself, I’m possibly a little more handicapped than most of my peers. I need to remember, "To be in the present and live for the moment."
If you want to advance in this sport, have a mental plan. Know what you’re going to embrace and what needs to be cast off. While you’re at it, don’t go it alone because real-time feedback is incredibly useful.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Brief Recap of the 2015 National Pistol Matches

Typically, before the middle of June, I’ll write a piece that attempts to entice shooters to attend the nationals at Camp Perry. I like the thought of promoting this event because those who participate love it—just love it.  As well, I let new shooters know this event is an open that requires no qualification to get thru the front gate. All are welcome.

It’s easy for me to express the nostalgia, respect and reverence that are genuinely stated by those who attend. Unfortunately, this year I never got around to inviting the entire pistol shooting universe to this renowned marquee event.
Shame on me.

Photo by Randy Tomac
This year’s shooting conditions at Camp Perry were similar to that of 2013 but not as bad. During the prior week Mother Nature dumped untold amounts of water on Port Clinton, and the ranges at Perry have a reputation for poor drainage. Actually, parts of downtown Port Clinton were flooded during the prior week.  By the time everyone showed up, little lakes had formed throughout the shooting areas only later being turned into mud pits by repeated trampling.   
It could have been worse. The Ohio National Guard did substantial maintenance on their drainage system and deftly avoided the massive problems experienced in 2013. It was muddy but at least we weren’t swimming or wading to our firing positions.

On Thursday, .22 day, the skies opened up and unleashed hard rain from the north for most of the day. When you get a chance, look at some of the top scores. How truly skilled competitors shot scores in the 880s, in these challenging conditions, is beyond my level of comprehension. 
Throughout the day I struggled simply to see my target. Having wind driven rain slammed into your face simply washed everything—shooting glasses, optical sights and spotting scopes—with a blanket of water over every surface.  It was next to impossible to see anything. My target’s bullseye wasn’t this black round datum to shoot at; it appeared to be this gray looking undefined blob with distorted lumps and bumps over its surface and perimeter.  Throw in some gusty wind and it’s amazing anyone had something resembling a competitive score. Although, as I previously mentioned, somehow a select few managed to pull that off.

During my stint on .22 day I thought it was one of the most fun shooting experiences that I’ve had in years! Like most I dressed for the rain and mud, but eventually a certain amount of resignation set in with many of the shooters on the line. One thing led to another and just about everyone started to contribute to some form of spontaneous comic relief.  As the match advanced, people became giddier. The line got slap-happy silly.
It was one of those days where everyone had a uniquely shared experience, and as well, felt closer because of it.
Luckily, good weather smiled on the competitors for the centerfire and .45 matches. Actually the weather for Friday and Saturday was exceptionally nice and conducive to good scores.
On Sunday during the service pistol matches, rain became the great equalizer again as it did during the previous Thursday. Even under these extreme conditions I watched firsthand as Patrick Franks shot a 298 during the CMP’s service team matches.

SFC Franks was squadded immediately to my left. His first target was a clean slow fire, 100-4X. And take my word for it there wasn’t a need to call for a plug.
Although, throughout the matches, there was what I would call the Perry Funk; the general temperament just didn’t feel right, typical or normal. It seemed to me that a pervasive malaise hung over many of the competitors from beginning to end.
Part of that could have been due to unnecessary political drama, caused by a premature announcement about the Cardinal Center possibly hosting future national matches at their facilities in Marengo, OH.  Then on Thursday the CMP and NRA made a joint announcement quashing this notion and reiterated that for the foreseeable future the nationals will be held at Camp Perry.
Another contributing factor might have been the long shadow cast from last year’s turf war over electronic targets. Many competitors appeared to be genuinely concerned the game as it’s practiced now will be forever changed, and not for the better. My opinion about electronic targets is mixed; I’m torn between advancing the sport and then losing its nostalgic history in the process.
Management at the Association might be reminded that change is stressful, even if it’s good change. And people desire to know the vision and direction to any goal well in advance. People don’t want to be handed surprises but will gladly accept and work towards a proposed future.
During the first full week of July 2015, shooting history was created. Next year, come by and experience history being made firsthand with the rest of us.   

Thursday, July 02, 2015

They’re Gonna Move the Nationals?

For many, this is going to be old news. Assuming you don’t have a presence on Facebook, a few days ago our friend Brian Zins announced that the NRA and Cardinal Center are in preliminary talks to move portions of the National Matches from Port Clinton in 2017.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Cardinal Center, it’s one of the largest trap shooting facilities in the United States.  It’s located in Marengo, OH about 94 miles due south of Port Clinton along Interstate 71. Geographically it’s almost smack dab in the center of the state.
For the past 8 months or so, representatives of the Cardinal Center have been communicating with the NRA about their desire to host the pistol and small bore phases of the Nation Matches at their facility. Actually, I was made aware of these discussions about 6 months ago. Although, insiders tell me they’ve yet come to terms on the deal.

Regardless how intriguing the prospects may be, I’m emotionally torn about it.
This past weekend I sponsored a Regional Championship at my home club in Harrisburg, PA. Even having large amounts of rain (3 - 4 inches) with occasional gale force winds, shooters who had suffered through this six hour ordeal still felt compelled to let me know what their thoughts were about such a move.
Camp Perry, for me, is respectfully steeped in tradition. It’s the place where Bill Blankenship, Bonnie Harman and Harry Reeves competed beneath unobstructed skies—and in many cases—under unique and extreme conditions.  Our community has been competing in Port Clinton since 1907 with very little change to the facilities. It’s a lot like traveling by time machine and somehow we all spontaneously arrive in the mid-1950’s cold war era.
It’s a venue and event that’s timeless.  It’s an affair that can’t be compared to other events; the distinctiveness and reverence so many of us have for it pales in comparison to anything that might resemble it. Whenever I enter the front gate special feelings envelope me where I’m comfortable, have a sense of history, but at the same time feel the warm embrace of comradery.
It comes down to history. And it was made at Camp Perry.
Then again on the other hand, I can remember almost being taken to the emergency room in 2007 for heat stroke. During most of that week there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and temperatures were slightly above 100 degrees during the midafternoons. Having no cover only exacerbated the problem.
As well, I’m a veteran of the flood and mud baths that were prevalent in 2013. I can clearly recall wading through 3 to 6 inch muck pits, where NRA range personnel would rooster-tail mud from their golf carts in their ongoing attempts to avoid this black gooey mess. ...And let's not even talk about the odor.
Does Camp Perry have some drawback? Of course it does.
Would covered shooting positions be useful? How about an elevated and level deck to stand on while shooting? And since most of the people who attend are seniors, how nice would it be to move the firing line 100 yards closer to the parking lot?
For those of you attending the National Matches this year, and who have an interest its current or future venue, consider attending the Shooters Meeting at Building #5 on July 10th. A representative of the Cardinal Center will be there to answer questions from the floor. 

Some helpful links:


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hold Still...

Here’s something that’s incredibly boring and I highly doubt many of my peers actually do anything resembling it: Holding drills.

Holding drills have been around as long as there’s been competitive shooting. Biathlon, Small-bore, High Power, International and in just about any other form of competitive shooting, Masters highly suggest holding drills be a part of everyone’s training routine regardless of the gun being used or event pursued.

It comes down to two potential benefits: stamina and precision. And by happenstance the benefit of reducing your minimum arc of movement is enhanced as well.

Regardless of the type of shooting one may do, be it gallery, outdoor 2700s or service matches you’ll need to finish the course off the same way you started it. That means the shooter needs a hold (lack of wobble, MAM) pretty much the same at the end of the day just like when he or she starts. Without some degree of physical stamina scores can take a nosedive as the day progresses.

For obvious reasons, the precision benefits simply seem to follow those who actually train for this. This type of training, in of itself, may possibly be a related form of dry firing but with an emphasis applied on building up the shooter’s physical foundation or platform for the pistol.

After a typical dry firing session try holding the gun on a blank wall, and after settling in, try to obtain a motionless dot or sights for twelve seconds. Take up the weight of the trigger to help settle the sight but don’t drop the hammer. For those who have never tried this, it ain’t easy. Take a break—then repeat the process a total of three times. Your goal is to get an almost motionless sight picture for twelve seconds, during three different attempts, within a fifteen minute window.

For those of you who have never done any holding drills, my guess is the typical shooter who dry fires every other day and adds this to his routine might expect to see positive results after about two to three weeks. Some shooter’s might actually get better benefits by alternating their dry fire drills on one day, then use holding drills on a subsequent day.

Assuming you’ve accomplished the drill above and wanted to progress, a shooter would extend their reps to four, and later on to five, and so on. It’s fairly important that you don’t actually extend the holding time but progress with ever increasing reps.

During the process you’ll be developing the deltiod and triceps muscles in your strong shoulder. This is the source of most shooter’s steadiness and fine motor abilities to center a shot. More reps develop these muscles and eventually the process becomes easier.

A slightly different drill is to take the pistol in your strong hand, level the gun and dry fire a shot as soon as the gun becomes steady. Drop the gun to your side and repeat the process. Make a commitment initially to do this ten times. As you become more proficient with this drill extend the number of reps to fifteen or seventeen times. What’s occurring here is two fold: you’re developing those same arm and shoulder muscles to manage the weight of the gun; and you’re also developing a quick release much like one does during an initial sustained fire shot.

The first drill develops your muscles for stamina and weight, while the latter helps with fine motor skills.

While using either drill, what you want to watch out for are typical failures. Avoid developing or ingraining any new physical crutches or bad habits.

Let’s be real, if you’ve never completed any holding drills you’ll be amazed at the number of times your wrist will try to compensate for a poor alignment. Don’t be surprised that you find yourself looking down the sight(s) that may be out of vertical alignment. Or during extended reps you may start to lean backwards in an attempt to overcome a fatigued arm and shoulder. All of these items are clearly bad for any shooter, but, these are the problems that must be overcome during a prolonged match that elicit poor shot performance later in the day.

I’ve had more than one coach caution me about the use of free weights. The gun that you shoot in matches should be the only weight used. Why? Apparently when people start to use much heaver weights it has been observed their fine motor skills start to center on the new much heaver weight. Yes, it might be easier to lift the gun but your fine motor skills could be ruined; your body will be expecting a heavier weight and those finesse abilities will be centered there. That’s why doing more reps (not additional weight or time) is so important.

Monday, June 15, 2015

ITAR 102 (Yeah, there’s more)

My last post dealt with the Obama Administration’s sneaky and underhanded tactics in dealing with print and on-line firearms content.  Are the feds ready to kick my door in? I highly doubt it. Although they certainly seem to be positioned to take a lot of people like me off the feeds of smartphones and computer monitors.  

Over the last several years there’s been a bizarre pattern to what the far-left has been attempting to do on an incremental basis. It affects you and me. Heck, it affects just about anyone who owns firearms.

It’s a slow and methodical process of dividing and then isolating like-minded people.
Photo: CNN
I’ll come back to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) in just a moment. Let’s look at the government’s current pattern of dealing with all of us; sometimes it’s smooth, sometimes overt but it’s almost always done on a backdoor basis.

For years environmental groups have been pressuring the EPA to begin regulating, or to ban outright, lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act. A few years ago they got a lot of traction in CA with concerns over the California condor.
The last lead smelter closed in the United States about a year and a half ago, supposedly due to excessive EPA standards. Now we get all of our processed lead from China and Peru. You would have thought, from the perspective of national defense, the government would want direct access to lead processing for military purposes.
Recently the ATF intended to adopt new regulations that would have banned M855 and SS109 “green tip” rifle ammunition in 5.56 and .223 calibers. This ammo has been exempt from the 1986 Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act since day-one; today they claim this ammo is armor-piercing.  The ATF justified its attempt to remove this exemption by arguing modern AR-platform handguns rendered outdated the sporting purposes exemption.
And let me give you a small insight into the mindset of the ATF: They only consider hunting as their sole definition for “sporting use.” All the other legitimate firearm recreational users (like you and me) are out of luck.
In early January of this year, ATF Rul. 2015-1 reversed over 50 years of a practice allowing the lawful manufacture of firearms by gunsmiths and machine shops on behalf of unlicensed consumers. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is concerned about unmarked and untraceable firearms making their way to third parties. As valid a concern this may be, one cannot escape the fact that this has been going on without government intrusion since before the 1968 Gun Control Act was instituted. It’s another example of government not wanting to seek public input or comments during the rulemaking process.

Now we come full circle with ITAR.
About 15 years ago the ATF somewhat redefined the definition of firearms manufacturer. When this occurred, many of the traditional duties and services provided by gunsmiths were immediately labeled manufacturing. So the gentleman with a FFL Type 1 (dealer/gunsmith) license had to be very careful not to offer services reserved for FFL Type 7 (manufacturer) licensees.
As such all manufacturers be it firearms or ammunition are required to be registered under the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and its operating regulatory section known as ITAR. And wouldn’t you know it, ITAR regulates the distribution of technical information.
ITAR, in its intended form, makes sense. If you were to look at the regs it lists all kinds of very dangerous things. There are a lot of items noted in there such as nuclear weapon components, missile launch vehicles—and yes—small arms too.
DOS Compliance subcontractors circa 1996
So the kindly ol’ gunsmith that lives down the street who might have built four or five wadguns a year is now required to upgrade his FFL license to a manufacturer’s ticket. And as well, register with the Department of State (DOS) under ITAR and pay the annual $2,400 fee.
Take my word for it, the burden of manufacturing compliance is no easy chore to satisfy either the DOS and ATF. 
I’ve seen firsthand four local smiths who decided it wasn’t worth their while and stopped making target pistols.
The days of a local smith buying a frame and slide from Caspian, and then turning out a pistol is supposed to be over.  Well known standalone pistol smiths such as Chambers, Crawford, Sams and Marvel all have at least a FFL Type 7 license—a manufacturer’s license.
Since ITAR regulates information, potentially the DOS could effectively monitor and regulate someone like myself. Considering how frequent prior manipulations to the laws and regulations mentioned above occur, it’s all done through government autocrats appointed or installed by the reigning political party.  And they have no compunction in silently guiding all of us with an invisible hand towards their vision of Utopia.
The immediate threat is for those who share reloading information, technical elements of high power shooting, and individuals who know how to fit firearms components such as target pistols and rifles. 

It’s a slow, methodical and never ending process of chipping away, one step at a time, at the very soul of our shooting communities.

If you get a chance, read my good friend Ed Skinner's post on ITAR: http://flat5.net/2015/06/itar-abuse/


Monday, June 08, 2015

ITAR 101

In faithful backdoor political fashion, the Obama Administration believes individuals like me are a threat to domestic civil order. The Administration’s proposed tactic has been referred to as a “gag order on firearm related speech.” Whereby the US State Department has visions of closing down people like me under provisions spelled out by The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Basically the State Department is in the process of updating one of the regulatory portions of ITAR, and in doing so, will require individuals publicly posting firearms related information to obtain their permission in advance of publication. If not, the proposed fine is up to $1,000,000 and 20 years in the slammer.
All of which is predicated on their definition of distributing “technical information.” And who knows how they’ll freakishly twist and distort that concept.

Let’s face it, I do little more than provide cheap entertainment for new bullseye shooters.
Does my dinky little blog have an overseas presence?

Well, yes it does but it’s very limited. My stat counter notes a modest exposure in Europe and Southeast Asia. In the past I’ve assumed International shooters simply stumbled in here by way of their random web searches.
Unfortunately, State’s regulatory initiative is much like the proverbially camel’s nose under the tent. When does an individual, let alone a government entity, determine when free speech ends and malicious behavior begins?
From a long term perspective it’s potentially chilling to say the least. The regulatory precedence could bottle up the free flow of shooting information at some point in the future.   

In the near term I don’t believe my blog is in jeopardy. But what makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck is the arrogance of political armchair social engineers, demanding the world operate in a dysfunctional and impractical daily manner. Their vision of a new and improved society is incredibly scary. The concept of the Thought Police knocking on the doors of people like myself, members of shooting or reloading forums and various other webpages, screams as little more than the actions of Orwellian carpetbaggers.  
Should this new regulation be implemented, keep an eye out to see if people like us are targeted. I’m not a “the end is near” type of person. But the proposed ITAR regulation updates could be the seed that spawns a suspicious set of new tentacles forever entangling the free flow of information to competitive shooters in all disciplines.   





Thursday, June 04, 2015

Sight Black?

Considering all the recent enthusiasm that the CMP’s new .22 Rimfire Distinguished Badge is getting, it might be a good time to review some basic elements with open sight shooting.

My insights with shooting iron sights are garnered from my own experiences with EIC matches, both pistol and revolver. When I first went after my Distinguished Pistol Badge several things became self-evident. Locally there wasn’t anyone who had attained distinguished status in over 30 years, and as such, the pool of potential mentors was pretty darn slim.
Due to the lack of local human resources I reached out to people by long distance. And since almost all of the advice I received was by phone or email, at times I was left to my own devices by not having any on-site or real-time feedback.
The sad part for must bullseye shooters is very few have experience with open sights. For who knows how many years, the majority of us have blindly embraced optical sights. Truth be told, it’s a different form of shooting. The visual interpretation of the sight picture is radically different.
Whether most shooters know it or not the typical bullseye shooter unknowingly looks at the target, then looks at the dot. And most do this visual gymnastics back and forth, over and over again, throughout the entire process until the round is released.
Keep in mind at the long line the target is 50 yards away. Most manufacturers of optical equipment provide their infinity focus at about 30 yards. So, your eye is focusing back and forth across the sight picture from target to dot, again and again and again.
Think about it. Who knows how many times during a single target a person will refocus on the both items? Then extrapolate those redundant visual tasks to an entire day’s worth of targets. It’s an enormous demand placed on the human iris.
Well, open sight shooting can have the same challenge but it’s more extreme.
After the pistol has been raised, the front post is only about 2 feet away, and obviously a slow fire target is still 50 yards out. For those who don’t use prescription lenses, tradition implies there is really only one thing to look at: the front post.  
If a shooter attempted to use the same method of looking at the sight picture as mentioned above using an optical sight, using open sights in this fashion becomes a physical impossibility. And the shooter will potentially interpret too many things within the image and derail their shot process.

It all comes down to the front post. A shooter must immerse themselves with the image of the front post and not much else. You’ll never obtain real trigger control or good execution of the shot process unless the front post isn’t observed by itself. You must be mentally immersed and committed to the front post.
All of the visual feedback you need will come from the movement of the front post. You’ll know when you’re holding too long, whether or not you’re experiencing chicken finger or for that matter jerking the trigger.

The ideal sight picture for iron sights is seeing a crystal clear front post, a slightly fuzzy rear sight and a very obscured 50 or 25 yard target.
For most people this is a huge leap of faith. Many of us have been taught since childhood (typically with rifle shooting) that all three elements—front sight, rear sight and target—must be aligned with high precision.  It doesn’t work that way with a pistol.

Even the target itself can be somewhat of a distraction. The target’s image can play with the subconscious and divert your attention away from what needs to be accomplished.
For years I’ve found it helpful to use reading glasses. Typically the front post is clearly seen, the rear sight is slightly fuzzy and the target’s bullseye is converted into a hazy gray blob.
Once the front post is focused, the shooter looks for an even volume of illumination between the front post and the left and right sides of the notch. Start to squeeze the trigger and moderately adjust the front post to maintain its position until the round is released.
Two things will be revealed to the shooter. The first is the round will print where you expected it to. The other is you’ll be accepting your minimum arc of movement because you won’t have another choice, because it’s visually masked.
To start training using this method I would suggest blank target drills at 50 yards.  Assuming you’re not heeling or grossly jerking shots, most shooters will be pleasantly surprised to discover they have something close to a 9-ring hold and don’t even know it.
To fine tune the process while doing blank drills, start to determine your aiming area. It doesn’t matter whether you use a traditional 6 o’clock, sub-6 or center mass hold; any will work well provided you maintain the same method during your training.  
Another item that I’ve found useful is to make a very lite or modest mark on the front post. It simply makes it easier to maintain your concentration on something that looks like a minor flaw.
During the NTI at Camp Perry in 2011 I shot my all-time high score for service pistol (282-5). The thing that leaped out at me at the time was the sunlight. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, we were out in the open with no cover, and the light was incredibly brilliant. When I first viewed the front post I could see the lint on it. And I just keep looking, concentrating, at the lint throughout the course of fire.
To this day I believe the image of that lint forced me to mentally concentrate on the area that generates excellent shots. When given an opportunity during iron sight shooting I avoid cover in the hope of getting more light on the front post.

For all of the above to work you need to have faith. Faith in your equipment and your abilities will take you where you need to go.