Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A New Beginning for Camp Perry: Electronic Targets

I’m back from Camp Perry and exhausted.

If you’re looking for breaking news, this isn’t the place. But I’ll try and apprise those of you who didn’t attend of some interesting happenings.

As you might be able to tell I’m biased about the nationals and as well its venue. A lot of shooting history has occurred over the past century at Camp Perry. Some of those events were life changing for many participants, and as well, the general bullseye shooting community.
If you haven’t heard yet (which I’m certain many of you have either on the Bullseye-L or Facebook), the NRA’s Competitions Division has for the past two years toyed with the idea of introducing electronic targets at the national matches.  Last Friday at Camp Perry, the Pistol Department informed us during the shooters’ meeting, that shooters should expect to compete on these devices in 2015.
Well, this bombshell created an almost mob like reaction.  I can’t recall anyone being happy about it.

Although, there were some people in attendance who recognized the glaring reality and necessity for change.

Let me take a step back. While I was at Perry, it dawned on me that I was shooting on almost identical conditions as would Harry Reeves, Bill Blankenship and Don Hamilton—oh so long ago. The range, its setup, and of course the outdoor elements haven’t really changed much for close to 60 years. It’s pretty much in the same condition as before I was born.
The turning target system is close to 45 years old. Who even knows if any of its original parts survive to this day?
    
Although, there have been some changes over the years with scoring and award tabulations due to modern software; thereby saving enormous amounts of time and money. But basically field operations haven’t changed much over the decades. There are tower talkers, RSOs, block officers and referees. Not to mention there’s their support such as target pasters, delivery crews, finance workers and statistical staff. It takes a small army of people to run this match. But then again, it’s the nationals.     

And let’s not forget the CMP and NRA don’t get a free ride when it comes to the facilities. They lease portions of Camp Perry from the Ohio National Guard.   
Basically, the NRA is financially up against it. The matches are functioning as though it’s the mid-20th century. For the sake of survivability they’re compelled to make changes. I’ve been told many times the nationals are a huge loss-leader whereby the Association expenses several dollars for every one taken in.

So, during last Friday’s shooters meeting we were told what to expect next year. The NRA’s rollout and delivery was both ham-handed and amateurish.
Electronic targets are a double edged sword. A lot of existing problems can be solved with them. And I want to be clear I’m not opposed to change.

Apparently the entire match can be run on a total of 150 modern electronic stations. And as well all the matches including team events could be accomplished in two and a half days; leaving time available for the newly created Metallic and Production events.
I had an opportunity to fire on these new targets. MEGAlink, the presumed provider, brought out their pistol targets to the practice range. And they invited everyone attending the nationals to give it a try.

Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. 
I was given a brief tour of the system by a MEGAlink representative before firing. The display monitor located at the bench looked handy and appeared to have adequate resolution. Shots fired are displayed in real time, so there’s no longer a need for a spotting scope. Scoring and reporting is done real time as well, thus avoiding incorrect scores.

What I was faced with was a large metal frame with an appropriate sized hole (bullseye) in it. My mission was to fire into this hole closest to its center as possible. I didn’t do well with this setup. I’ve been trained to look at the target and concentrate on the X, which along with scoring rings don’t exist. It feels like shooting into a black bucket.
The target frame has a set of lights, one green and the other red. They were to be my cue when to fire and cease fire. Unfortunately when you come up on the target with an optical sight you can’t see the lights, they’re outside the viewing area of the tube.  

I was informed that in the future fire commands will start with a loud audible tone and another for crease firing.
Obviously these targets don’t turn. And we can talk about all kinds of rules problems with just this one issue. After using the targets I then chatted with other competitors; they’re expecting all kinds of unknown rule changes before anyone uses these things in a registered match.

But the thing that irked me the most was having to shoot on a 25 meter International rapid fire target at 25 yards. Neither the NRA nor the reps from MEGAlink even bothered to craft a bullseye monitor target for their rollout at the nationals.

WTF!
The staff at competitive shooting in VA didn’t think this one through or do their homework. Apparently they didn’t attempt any real due diligence or beta testing—and it showed.

It appears as though they had a plan, crafted about 15% of it, and then forgot to work out the other 85%.  I get it. They want to save money through financial capitalization, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

I’ve written about electronic targets almost two years ago. Briefly the NRA had a small roadshow that went to a few clubs across the country.  I’m currently under the impression they didn’t forget to ask questions during the demonstrations, but simply avoided or forgot any useful ones.
What we’re faced with in the near future is a two-tiered system for the sport. Electronic targets at the nationals and traditional paper target matches at almost all local events. And keep in mind, the rules will be different at the nationals with possibly using traditional rules at local matches.

So, the situation begs the question: How do you train for the nationals?
It can only be one of two answers. The first, you don’t. The second, purchase a MEGAlink system.

I’m fairly certain most shooters will not invest in an electronic system so that they may participate in one or possibly two matches a year.
As to the latter option, I’m certain there’ll be a handful of people out there who will buy one of these things, aside from the AMU.

To put it mildly, the rollout of this new target system was a disaster. And it was clearly a disaster the first second they powered it up.
To be fair, one has to grasp the problems facing the NRA. There are excessive costs operating this match.  Running a mid-20th century retro match has its fair share of logistical nightmares and burdens. Heck, by implementing this new target system the reduction in staffing to operate this event could possibly be significant.

And some ongoing problems with scoring, tabulating and dare I say cheating, could be completely eliminated.
The overt resistance the NRA received last Friday is indicative of a few things. One of which is the Association didn’t really have a plan to take us to electronic targets and scoring.  There was no real vision, no steps to inform us, no extensive trials so feedback could be elicited. To the best of my knowledge no one sought out any real broad-based input, except from a handful of insiders. 

My greatest fear is the national matches becoming a shadow of its former self. Due to competitors not being able to train for it.

The bottom-line is there’s no real leadership at the Competitions Shooting Division. We’re left adrift to our own devises, where the captain of the vessel didn’t even bother pick up a map before leaving port.   
Do I think the NRA can overcome these problems?

Yes.
Can the national matches become both better and more efficient by the introduction of modern technology?

Sure!
But the NRA will need the assistance of those same people they autocratically addressed last Friday.   

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Two Week Hiatus


Friends, I’ll be on break for the next two weeks. Please don’t expect to see a post or at least one with any real substance. Basically I’ll be attending the nationals.
For those of you who are not attending, I’ll attempt to provide some degree of news about events that had occurred there upon my return.

None the less, I believe the pilgrimage to Camp Perry is not only an enlightening experience but one that must be experienced firsthand.
On a final note, for the past four years I’ve intentionally avoided reporting from Camp Perry; it’s just too much of a commitment.  I attend for the same reasons everyone else does, and with limited time, the process of trying to craft posts that are both informative and entertaining is simply beyond me. There’s too much to do there. In an ideal world we’d all be there and share the experience together.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Camp Perry 2014

Every year I try to encourage all bullseye shooters to attend the nationals at Camp Perry.

Why?

Well, for several reasons.
All matches that you want to survive require support. The national is no different than the match down the street sponsored by your local club.

By attending you are indirectly supporting the broader state of the sport. Let’s face it, bullseye has had declining participation for the past 25 years. And even the NRA needs an occasional wakeup call to remind them we are still relevant.
But the most important item is its uniqueness. In the past I’ve used worn out clichés such as, “it’s a shooter’s theme park, a tailgate party for gunnies 800 strong, and Perry’s Big Top Revival Meeting.” Regardless how feeble or marginally accurate these descriptions are, it’s still an enlightening pilgrimage that one must experience firsthand to truly appreciate.

The firing line
When I sit down at the keyboard and attempt to write about this annual event I become tongue tied.  I don’t believe I’m sufficiently skilled to properly express what most of our other friends, happily and without question, encounter there.

In the past as I watched things play out I’m reminded it’s the shared experience itself that humbles me. And it’s incredibly difficult to accurately depict the collective reverence and solemn adherence to tradition that so many fine people have attached to these matches.
Possibly a better way for me to express what happens there can be summed up as it’s a ‘cult form of camaraderie.’  Thank heaven it’s a benevolent cult.

Within those two or three weeks before the start of the matches, I feel like a middle-schooler who’s been anticipating summer recess for the past two months.
Even the drive out from my home in South Central Pennsylvania captivates me. Because I know what’s awaiting me upon my arrival in Port Clinton.

I’ll get up early on Monday—and hit the road. I’ve assumed the six and a half hour drive will actually morph into an eight hour experience. And it doesn’t help that I really like to take the scenic route.
I’ll transverse parts of the Susquehanna Valley and marvel at the stubble of freshly cut spring wheat, which glistens like a sparkling gold blanket across open rolling farmland. And along the way I’ll notice early summer thistle speckled in clumps of periwinkle and milkweed plants, swaying in the gentle morning breeze, enticing the local monarch population.

After an hour of driving through bottomland I eventually make my way up the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. The view changes dramatically at the steep escarpment known as the Allegheny Front. Visible are shafts of light poking through the high forest canopy where the sunshine rains sporadically on the leaves of mountain laurel, their sunny highlights flickering in a sea of dark olive green.
All the while I’m surprised by local radio programing. As the mileage increases, stations along the way reflect the desires and cultures of their communities: Traditional pop and hard rock in the valleys, bluegrass and country in the higher elevations.

When I near State College, PA, I’m reminded that I’ll need to drive for another two and a half hours across the Allegheny Plateau. The mountain scenery shifts quickly with rare visual hints of small rural towns tucked away on the occasional river bottom or natural massive outcrop. When viewing a few from higher elevations, it reminds me of a time when things were smaller, simpler and where the concept of community is casually expected of everyone.
After a stop or two with a lunch break thrown in for good measure, I’ll eventually start the quick descent into the Ohio Valley.  It’s where the East ends and the Midwest begins, both geographically and culturally.

Myself, Jim Henderson and Dan Pauley on the award stage

There are times when I’ve traveled west into Ohio and my mind played a few tricks on me.  After cresting the last foothill of the western edge of the range, I’m visually slammed into thinking about what’s before me: A vast open ocean of farmland, as far as the eye can see, with my mind barely being able to interpret this massive imagery.
When you arrive several things will happen.

There is fellowship with likeminded people. Friendships are made and old acquaintances are reestablished. People become bonded by a common and shared experience. And there’s a reverence of tradition that’s almost 100 years old that becomes collectively reborn every year.     
Then ya get to shoot…

For those of you who have never attended, plan on joining us next year. For seven years I’ve tried to encourage just about anyone breathing to attend the nationals. It’s special. It’s unique. And it’s reserved solely for us.







You don't want to miss this. http://www.odcmp.org/0614/default.asp?page=FIRSTSHOTCEREMONY



 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Update on the Ammo Shortage

The end of 2013 was hard for competitive shooters.  .22 ammo and for that matter reloading components, were extremely difficult to find.

Much of the shortage was fueled by fear (which translated into hoarding), political manipulation, and by the prodding of handwringing social engineers. The byproduct of this fiasco was a train wreck the likes most of us have never seen. And it clearly had an impact on match participation and reduced training.
If you could find ammo, sales were limited to internet gougers, generous friend down the street or the occasional trickle that somehow meandered onto a local retailer’s store shelf.  If you could find a brick of .22 ammo, it was valued as if it were laced with depleted uranium.     
Over the past year many of us cautiously dipped into our reserves.

Recently I made a brief stop at a local retailer, and was stunned to find out that they had product on the shelf. A lot of product. Almost all of it, we wouldn’t even look at. They had 9mm, .40, .357—all the typical defensive calibers.
So my first impression was a stunned form of disbelief. Let’s face it, most of us buy online or by some other type of long distance purchase.
Fortunately, signs the ammo drought is ending are starting to show. And I can’t think of anyone who wants to return to “out of stock” labels as far as the eye can see—and its related price tag.
So there’s light at the end of the tunnel?

Well, not so fast.
Today brass, primers and other reloading components are a little more available—but .22 ammo really isn’t. 
I called around last week to two manufactures: Winchester and Federal. They we kind enough to give me their “corporate line,” canned as it may be. It shed some light on our future purchasing habits.
If we’re looking for a return to normalcy, it’s not going to be for some time.

The rep at Winchester told me if demand returned to 2011 levels, it would take them about two to three years to catch up on back orders. But at the current demand rate, it may take up to five or six years to return to the same availability that we enjoyed in pre-panic times.
Federal gave me about the same time frame for their supply estimates.
The biggest problem is manufactures are under the impression the current state of the market is a bubble. And as such they aren’t inclined to spend giant piles of money for grater capacity. In a broad sense I don’t blame them. Who in their right mind would want huge amounts of capital sitting idle two or three years from now?
The rep at Federal mentioned they’re considering substantial price increases, as an economic tool to reduce demand (i.e. elasticity). That’s right, they’re going to crank up the pricing (and you thought it was high now). It’ll all be a straight supply and demand play. And it may be quite a few years before market pricing resembles anything that equates to what you or I might label a fair price.
It might be idyllic to think we'll never see another ammo shortage. At least not in the near future. But it would be profoundly foolish to think like that. All it takes are some headline grabbing sound-bites from the mainstream media about a weird or morbid public event; an event or circumstance that can never be anticipated or controlled. Then we’ll be back where we started.
Over the past few years, the general shooting public might have walked into a gun store and simply purchased a few boxes, not bricks, of .22 ammo. You know, just enough to get them through a shooting session or two.
Due to the extreme nature of the current shortage, even they have been coached by friends to purchase by the case; something that would have never happened in the past. In earlier times they considered local retailers to be their convenient inventory or warehouse.

When the market fell apart, the deck was shuffled. It comes down to self-reliance. In good times or bad, my advice is to always have a multi-year inventory.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Camp Perry 2014: Only the Most Basic

Having the nationals only a few weeks away, typically I write something about what newbies might need or need to know before they arrive.

I try to encourage everyone to make a pilgrimage to the shores of Lake Erie—even if it’s only once. It’s a great opportunity to shoot, have comradery with like-minded people where we do what we do best. Actually it’s incredibly difficult to describe. It’s an event that must be experienced to be properly appreciated.  

There’s been a lot written in the past describing what’s necessary. And below I’ll list a few links a new shooter might be interested in. You know—the things we all think are incredibly necessary to get the job done without too many hiccups.
The last thing any new attendee wants to do is to pony up the entry fee, and then feel as though they jettison that money out the window. Let’s face it, we go there to have fun.

How to Get There:
Click to enlarge

Regardless what method of transportation you use to arrive at Port Clinton, sooner or later you’ll have to drive down Route 2 to enter Camp Perry. Assuming you’re heading west from Port Clinton, Route 2 is a pleasurable modern four lane highway. But it eventually degrades into an old style byway with unlimited access, and it slightly narrows about a quarter of a mile from the front gate.[Map link]

When you see the twin stone towers that look like little lighthouses, you’re there.
As you approach the entrance be apprised that there’s a train crossing, and cross traffic from Rt 358. The reason I point this out, it’s one of the more dangerous stretches of roadway in Ohio. Take great caution during the last several hundred feet before turning into the base.

And take even greater caution when you depart. Driver visibility is greatly hampered due to signage and Rt 358 ends facing the base’s entrance.
 
InProcessing:

As you make the turn into the base you’ll be on Niagara Road. Just a casual heads-up, the speed limit in all of Perry is 25 MPH. And it’s strictly enforced; if the MPs don’t get you the local sheriff will.
Proceed down Niagara Road almost until it ends, and on your right will be a one story brick building with a covered arcade. That’s the Post Exchange Building. This is the location of the national matches’ InProcessing facility and it’s operated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program.  …Two doors to the right is the PX.

This is the time to enroll for the CMP’s matches or verify the ones you’ve previously paid for.
Far too often I’ve seen newbies wrangle their way directly to the NRA Competitors Office, only to be turned away. You must register with the CMP’s InProcessing, first, as the NRA will ask for your CMP credentials before allowing you to enroll.

Why?
The national matches are jointly operated by the CMP, NRA and Ohio National Guard. Basically they want to know who’s on post and have you sign a liability waiver.

After you’re finished with them, continue down Niagara until you reach the stop sign and make a left onto Lawrence Road for about 150 feet. On your left will be the NRA building to register for their matches. 
 
Cash Money and Credit Cards:

Yes, money.
And I don’t mean to be crass.

But immediately behind the NRA competitors building is a strip of shabby one story block buildings tucked neatly in a parallel row. They’re flanked by a narrow one-way paved road and it’s commonly called Commercial Row.
Just about anybody who is in the business to serve us is there.

Some bullseye shooters rely on being able to snag their year's worth of supplies when they travel to Perry.  You’ll find everything there such as guns, reloading components, 1911 frames, gunsmithing services, ammunition—heck the list is almost endless. For precision shooting, this place is It this side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s probably one of the few places where a bullseye shooter can see all the wares our specialty retailers have to offer. And at times there are deals to be had.
Rule #1 about buying at Perry: If you have a “must have” list, plan on getting your shopping done the first Sunday or Monday. With items such as .22 ammunition and gunpowder being in short supply those items might disappear very quickly.

I remember a few years ago when primers were almost nonexistent and Champion Shooters Supply had a pile of them on the self. I stood in line with about thirty other people waiting to be checked out. The following day, someone informed me they exhausted their supply in only two hours. 
For items you just gotta have, don’t play around.

And since we’re talking about retailers—the CMP has their North Store Facility on Davey Road. They've made it extremely convenient to purchase surplus firearms and ammunition.
Even if you’re not buying, it’s worth the stop simply to check out their inventory.

They’ll retail you an M1, M1 carbine and a whole pile of ball ammo, unless you’re from NJ, NY or CT. Everyone else can leave with their newly acquired arms. Somehow, someway, the CMP must have gotten a partial pass from the 1968 Gun Control Act; since they were originally an instrumentality of the government, they can legally do things an FFL dealer can’t. The CMP can ship arms direct to your home*.

If you’re a first time buyer you’ll need to register with the CMP. You just don’t walk in and buy a gun. The CMP requires everyone purchasing a firearm or any other related items be: a US citizen, involved in competitive or instructional shooting, and be a club member where their club is properly registered and dues paying to the CMP. [Click link] And you have to pass a NICS check.

Here’s what you’ll need. A driver’s license or passport, your club’s membership card, your club’s CMP affiliation number and something that documents you’re a competitive shooter (such as a NRA or USA rating card, or a results bulletin from a registered match).  Then they’ll keep this info on file for up to three years, waiting for your arrival or subsequent purchases.
Generally what happens when a newbie arrives, the paperwork seems overwhelming.  I believe the average person’s thought process is like, “I’ve made up my mind to buy, now let me out the flippin door.” That can be a tough and almost laborious situation when another twenty or thirty people are hanging around the checkout line.

It’s not uncommon for new people to run around, while they’re in the store with an M1 in-hand, and didn’t know or couldn’t remember their club’s CMP afflation number. Let alone dig around for that rating card they haven’t seen in six years.
My suggestion would be to register with them in advance. And they’re happy to do that.

Use this link for their form. Then it can be faxed or emailed to them weeks before your arrival. So when you’re standing in line, they simply lookup your name and ask for your payment. Easy peasy.
 
  

      * IMPORTANT: If your State or locality requires you to first obtain a license, permit, or Firearms Owner ID card in order to possess or receive a rifle, you must enclose a photocopy of your license, permit, or card with the application for purchase. Rifle shipments to NY, NJ and CT must be made to a state licensed dealer. You must provide a copy of the dealer’s license with your order form.





Some useful links for first-timers:


Justin Nystrom’s Insights: http://www.bullseyepistol.com/perryfaq.htm
 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Now Available: The Battle Axe

In a matter of a few weeks, many of us will return to the shores of Lake Erie and the town of Port Clinton.  For some it’s a time to renew old acquaintances, shoot to our best ability and possibly purchase supplies for the following season.

Back in December I introduced the Battle Axe on this blog. It’s actually a unique hammer and sear kit offered by my son Alex and his partner KC Crawford (read as: shameless plug) for 1911s.
Battle Axe Kit
I have to admit they had a vision by recognizing a particular need. Many shooters today have been schooled in the modern technique of using a roll trigger. The only drawback is most local smiths don’t know how to craft one; let alone make them for a reasonably long lifespan. Many but certainly not all smiths—perceive a roll trigger simply as creep—that’s just really smooth.

Ya know, some guys just don’t get it.

Unfortunately it takes a lot more work to make this happen. It’s a real challenge to have the trigger group be repeatable and maintain its desired qualities after many rounds. If a smith isn’t clearly capable of crafting one, over time their triggers can become excessively long and turn gritty.

I’ve got a Battle Axe. Only because I was part of the original beta test group. And my gun has gone through about 8,000 rounds since its installation. It appears to have the same smooth feel and length of trigger pull today, that it did on day-one.
So here’s what they tell me:
We do not call this a drop in kit although it is as close as possible to that meaning. It is recommended that an accredited gunsmith install these parts. However the sear and hammer surfaces are completely prepared to work together as a matching pair. Many people have found satisfactory results installing them as is.
 
The kits are composed of a disconnector, proprietary hammer with strut and pin installed, and a proprietary sear. There’s unique geometry with the hammer hooks and sears; something I was asked not to discuss in any detail.
Battle Axe Prototype
If you have an interest in converting your 1911 to a roll trigger, or have been unhappy with prior attempts, consider contacting Alex or KC by way of email (ctriggerc@gmail.com).

If you plan on attending the nationals at Camp Perry, you’ll be able to find the two of them on Commercial Row inside Larry’s Guns. And if by chance you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, feel free to ask for some assistance from KC.  

At Perry, there will be sample guns with kits installed, for those who want a firsthand opportunity to try things out.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More on Dry Firing by Keith Sanderson

Since I’ve been in the dry fire mode for the past several months, I was recently apprised of this article by my friend and fellow blogger John Buol.

As an Olympian, Keith has the credentials to offer real advice.

Simply click here and a worthwhile PDF will appear.  

Friday, May 09, 2014

Working the Trigger Part 2

This might be an appropriate time to give one of my ginchy disclaimers: If you’re a well skilled Expert or other highly rated shooter, your time might be better spent elsewhere. I wouldn’t even remotely label myself a coach, Master (actually I’m an Expert) or an all round Zen thinking bullseye shaman. If anything I might best be described as a highly motivated practitioner of the sport who simply loves the game. These are my personal observations and it would be wise to seek out advice from multiple sources.


In my previous post, I mentioned there were several things a new shooter could do to help enhance proper finger placement, and positively pull the trigger properly.
Truth be told, all of the above can be accomplished by dry firing. 

Did I just hear a few moans in the back?
I’m going to give many of you a secret that’s rarely discussed by most bullseye shooters. It has to do with the concept of purpose, the actual purpose.
Why do we dry fire?  

To perfect our release, right? Well—not so fast.
Several years ago a friend and I were talking about this very subject. We discussed at length how often a progressing shooter needed to dry fire. What their typical goals should be. Then we briefly chatted about what the benefits were supposed to be.

After we both mentally maneuvered all over the dry firing landscape, in a deadpan voice he said, “Why is it every time I dry fire I shoot a 10? ...Then, when it comes to a match I’m lucky to score a 7?”
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t have the heart to tell him, when he dry fired, he was doing little more than just dropping the hammer. He was getting almost nothing out of the drill. The worst part was he saw dry firing as a single simple drill. He was under the impression “that’s how you develop trigger control.” He thought dry firing all by itself would help elevate him.
But the truth is, there are multiple drills for dry firing. Each one having its own specific and desired results.

So let’s start off with a drill that will help most people with locating their trigger-finger.
First, take an unloaded pistol that’s dry fire capable and verify it’s empty by looking into the chamber. Grasp the pistol in a fashion that represents your typical grip, place you finger on the trigger as you normally would, raise the pistol only 45 degrees, look down and study the reticule (assuming you're using an optical sight), and then pull the trigger in your normal fashion.  Pay extremely close attention to the movement of the reticle; should there be any noticeable movement vertically up or down, or any movement left or right with a slight downward bias, odds are your trigger-finger (and possibly your grip) isn’t properly located.   

Then I would do the same drill again on a blank wall at a traditional 90 degree angle. Examine the reticle during the release again. And if the same errors are detected this might validate you have an error with the location of either your grip or finger.
About the only thing you can do at this point is experiment. You’ll have to make very subtle changes to only one element at a time and then revalidate with further dry firing. 
And no, if this is a problem you have, you’re not going to overcome it in an evening or two.

As a rule of thumb during follow through, if you’re steering the gun right it might be due to having too much finger on the trigger. The presumption is, the slight force applied against the side of the trigger is no longer constrained by the trigger mechanism. As the sear releases the hammer there is no longer a spring loaded counterweight. This shooter applied side weight drifts the gun to one side during the hang-time.  
And the same is true for not having enough finger on the trigger. That’ll have a tendency to slightly drift the gun during the hang-time to the left, assuming you’re right handed.

Keep in mind that odds are every time you change your finger’s location, you’ll probably have to modify your grip as well.
Once you find the sweet spot, it’ll be easier for you to replicate your new grip and finger locations for other drills. 
What many new shooters do with dry firing is what a lot of golfers do. And many times both don’t have a clue what they’re doing wrong. Have you ever gone to a driving range and watched someone with a slice? And did they slice one ball after the next? Without a concentrated commitment for change, the same results from the first ball to the last will be almost always have similar trajectories.
When you have proper balance with your grip and pulling the trigger straight back, the other drills available to you start to become much easier and more productive. But this is where everyone must start; it’s the foundation of releasing the shot.
Let’s move on to, timing of the pull.
When we deal with timing as it relates to releasing the round, a shooter shouldn’t fool around too much. Once the take-up has been addressed, and after the shooter is partially settled in, he’ll need to initiate the shot in generally less than ½ a second. And possibly as little as a ¼ second during sustained fire strings.
Why such a short period of time?
Because when you play around with the pull (such as staging the trigger or chicken finger) just about any error you can think of will derail the trigger process. It’s much better to train for an aggressive deliberate pull.
To start, you’ll need to analyze your hold pattern during the settling in phase. It’s important to recognize what this looks like and its reoccurring redundant patterns. You’ll need to recognize how far into the hold cycle is best and steadiest, and how long this period lasts. And sometimes it changes from day to day.
Without this knowledge you’ll never know when to initiate a shot.

Your ideal time is to release the round during the beginning of your steadiest point of hold. Not the middle. Not near the end. In the beginning is when the trigger pull is initiated, so that the round is generally released during the middle and most steady part of your hold.
Remember it takes time to physically release a round. Doing it slightly in advance to the ideal time allows the round to be released during the ideal hold. Yes, for novice shooters this can be something of a leap of faith.
What’s worse is “being behind the trigger.” That’s the process of waiting for and seeing your best hold and then initiating the trigger-pull.  Whereby you'll actually release the round past the ideal point of hold.
Have you ever wondered why you had a 10-ring hold, saw the impulse from the reticule, called it a 10, and then only later found out it was an 8? …Now you know why.
The above is the reason why we try and train for an aggressive but controlled pull on the trigger.
So here’s a two-step dry fire drill for trigger timing and speed.

Stand in front of a blank wall, raise your pistol and dry fire for a controlled release. Then remember how long it to took you to release the sear.
Next, cycle the gun. Make a good grip with proper finger location. Then keep the gun pointed towards the floor by your side and release the sear in the time you think that’s appropriate for a good but aggressive pull. Do this again about ten consecutive times but pause between sets.
Then immediately attempt to dry fire on a blank wall.

What most of you will see during the last blank wall release is: it somehow takes longer to pull the trigger when you see the sight picture!
It’s not that you can’t pull the trigger the same speed (although it might feel that way), but the human mind wants to make everything perfect and forces you into micromanaging the trigger pull.

So the actual purpose of the drill is to learn the trigger's take-up and sear release, without the mind's manipulation due to being cued by the sight picture. And as well, you'll learn how to pull the trigger faster and more aggressively.
Basically the drill is to release ten into the floor by managing the speed without being reckless. And then dry fire one on a blank wall to integrate what you just previously accomplished. Then repeat the process several times.
There are lots of dry fire drills available for different elements of the shot process. But the most important factor in all of them is purpose and outcome. If someone suggests a new drill and can’t explain Why and The End Game, do a little more investigating before making a training commitment.
If you don’t know why you’ll never to be able to read the feedback properly, be it good or bad.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Working the Trigger Part 1


This might be an appropriate time to give one of my ginchy disclaimers: If you’re a well skilled Expert or other highly rated shooter, your time might be better spent elsewhere. I wouldn’t even remotely label myself a coach, Master (actually I’m an Expert) or an all round Zen thinking bullseye shaman. If anything I might best be described as a highly motivated practitioner of the sport who simply loves the game. These are my personal observations and it would be wise to seek out advice from multiple sources.

Sometimes we all need a refresher—especially novice shooters. The post below deals with only two elements of trigger control: Placement of the finger and timing of the pull.
I find it common among bullseye shooters that they forget how easy it actually is to pull the trigger. But for who knows what reason, they try to make the whole process far more difficult than necessary. So let’s take a look at two simple but very important elements in the process. 

1. Where to Put Your Finger on the Trigger:
There’s really only two locations a person can place their finger on the trigger: Either on the pad or on the inside first joint.

Choosing which location to use can become something of a balancing act. Through experimentation a new shooter should determine which method is best for him. And even in this situation one size doesn’t fit all; it’s really a matter of preference. Regardless, this will take time. You’re not going to accomplish this selection in a matter of a few hundred rounds down range.

The wild-card here is if you have a European type .22 or center-fire pistol. More than likely the design engineer intended all shooters to use the pad of their trigger finger. This explains why European guns such as Walther, Pardini, Benelli, or Hammerli have such wide and adjustable trigger shoes.  
SP HP trigger design
 
As well, levering triggers used on International sport pistols, might explain why so many bullseye shooters can’t seem to transition from .22 to .45 pistols. Their trigger systems with multiple hinge pins and springs make them much more forgiving. Since two-thirds of our game is generally done with a .45—with its dumb 19th century straight bow trigger system—it’s easy to appreciate what a skilled shooter can do after mastering the 1911.

The reverse logic could be used with the current setup for Marvel uppers. All these shooters pretty much gave up on their Euro-guns. Figuring the grips angles can now all be the same. But it still requires the skill to master a proper pull for a 1911 trigger.

I can see the logic in this. Euro-guns are almost too easy to shoot and might hold a lot of novice shooters back by retarding their skill levels. Skills that are required for the back 2/3’s of a match. 

For those shooters who made the investment and dedication to use .22 conversions—whether they know it or not—committed themselves to shoot better across the course with a far less sophisticated and unforgiving trigger mechanism.
Good for them. I believe most will profit from such a move. They’re going to force themselves into learning how to shoot a 1911 type pistol.
For the past 8 or 9 years Brian Zins has made a concerted effort to promote using the trigger-finger’s first joint to facilitate a Zins’ grip.  In doing so most shooters might require a short trigger for their 1911, to accommodate the hand being slightly rotated over the front strap. It’s a substantial change from a traditional in-line grip.

A Zins’ grip can feel dramatically different.  But this may explain why you see so many 1911s on the line with short triggers.

I’ve seen novice shooters get casual advice from more advanced shooters about finger placement. Some might suggest the new shooter place their finger on the trigger where they want it located; then grasp the pistol to accommodate that finger’s location.

Well, that might be good advice for some or a potential disaster for others. Only experimentation will tell. This is where a new shooter would be wise to have two different guns (one possibly borrowed). Over a period of time a shooter should give each setup—standard or short trigger—enough live-fire time to make an informed decision.    

2. Pull and Timing:
There’s been a lot written about timing and pulling the trigger. Unfortunately I believe a lot of new shooters seem to confuse pull time with the other elements of the shot process, such as recovery. And if that’s the case, a shooter is working too many things simultaneously.
Good trigger execution and follow through is a completely separate process than settling in or recovery. It's only one part of the shot process.

The consensus of skilled shooters that I've known appear to promote a simple and deliberate pull. Obviously it’s easier said than done. The AMU has some information about this in their publication The Army Marksmanship Pistol Training Guide. Here’s a quote to give you a better idea:
1911 trigger diagram 
“In order to fire a controlled shot the shooter must learn to increase the pressure on the trigger positively, smoothly, gradually, and evenly. This does not mean, however, that the trigger must be pressed slowly. It must be pressed smoothly, without interruption, but the release of the trigger must take no more than 2 to 5 seconds. Numerous accurate rapid fire strings of five shots in ten seconds are fired in a cycle that allows only one second or less to employ the principals of correct trigger control.”

Yeah, pressing slowly equals bad.

Am I suggesting you can go out there and just yank things around? Heck no. But many new shooters don’t know the difference between a controlled pull, staging the trigger and chicken finger. You’ll need to release the round anywhere between ½ to 5 seconds.
Make no bones about it, in this context timing means: from the time one initiates the actual trigger pull (after the take-up) until the time the shot is released.
Many years ago the late Don Nygord used the word “aggressive” to describe what he thought a deliberate trigger pull should feel like. And as well he was a big believer in pulling the trigger the entire way back, holding it into the frame, until after recovery of the sight picture was reacquired.
Once the sight picture was reacquired, the shooter would slightly let off on the trigger to allow for it to reset.
There are several benefits to keeping the trigger in the frame after releasing the round. The first being less movement of the trigger to obtain a release on subsequent shots. And the other is being able to promote a consistent grip throughout a sustained fire string. Don believed this was nothing more than a good habit to be applied to all trigger pulls, slow fire or sustained.
Since I mentioned chicken finger, a process we’re all well acquainted with, good trigger timing helps to eliminate this scourge. A shooter must keep in mind chicken finger is a process where the mind desires to make everything in the shot process flawless; it’s intertwined with anticipation of yet to occur errors. Possibly a better way of expressing this is: a shooter is subconsciously trying to make a shot too perfect, and in the process is fearful they'll just screw things up.

In Part II I’ll review several drills one can use to help promote a good trigger pull. And as well I’ll provide some drills that’ll hopefully help us stay away from some bad habits.
Sadly, I think there are a lot of people dry firing with little purpose. And a lot more not knowing what feedback they should be looking for.
 

 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Op Ed: New Rules and New Shooters?

Over the years, typically annually, I’ve offered my two-cents about the current situation with a declining bullseye membership.

I’m one of those guys who lurks on the Bullseye-L, pours over other websites, and because of that, one thing generally rises to the top. It’s my concern of a dwindling membership of conventional pistol shooters.
I’ve seen this play out locally. I’m fortunate enough to live well within one of the largest bullseye communities in the country: South-central Pennsylvania. Adjacent states such as Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and West Virginia are the Mid-Atlantic’s epicenter for conventional pistol.

Camp Perry 1926

Unfortunately declining participation doesn’t appear to be letting up.
Forty years ago or so, we were just about the only game in town.  If you and your friends wanted to do competitive pistol shooting back-in-the-day, you’d almost be forced into contact with our kind.
 
In the ‘70s and before, there might have been the very faint beginnings of six-gun fast draw or the practical disciplines. At that time they were pretty much under the radar. Cowboy action or three-gun events weren’t even thought of.  In years past articles about our sport would have dominated the old American Rifleman magazine. Today we’re relegated to a digital magazine with dubious distribution.
The reality is, today we have competition from a vast assortment of shooting sports.  And for whatever reason, we’ve been left adrift without leadership to even modestly promote our own sport.

It’s a sad commentary for a sport that has such a rich history and enormous living talent.
My local club’s outdoor bullseye range is a little over 200 feet wide with 60 covered stations. That’s right, 60 stations! Originally it was built without a roof and fewer stations in the late ‘40s. It routinely saw substantial improvements over the next 30 years, to deal with the utilization demands local bullseye shooters placed upon it.

This range, as it sits today, is a legacy of a golden but bygone era.  Few facilities modern or timeworn generally can’t compete with its vastness or dedicated buildings. It was created from a vision by likeminded people at a much earlier time.
Sadly, there was a time many years ago when two relays a day would utilize the range for a full 2700 match. 100 to 120 bullseye shooters would descend on the club’s property on a typical summer day—after a dozen or so would be turned away due to space limitations. Today, that type of participation is reserved for only two or three other venues in the country, possibly once a year.

At the height of the Cold War, in the 1950s and 60s, the DOD found it worthwhile to promote all types of shootings sports. The federal government didn’t want the Soviet Empire to run away with the Olympics or world championships. And they didn’t want to lose any of the high level international prestige that might be bestowed from such events.
Unfortunately we’re structurally stuck, in some respects, within the same limitations imposed upon us from nearly 60 years ago.


Back then, little more than a third of the world’s population was under communist rule. The era of substantial US government sponsorship with shooting sports is now long behind us much like perestroika, glasnost and détente. Those old geopolitical threats to the West have long been settled. This was the period when Don Hamilton, Bill Blankenship and Jim Clark, Sr. shined with all their well-deserved glory.
In the current post-Regan era, we no longer have any real government support. But those restrictions placed upon us from the Cold War are still in play, especially at locations such as Camp Perry.  

Clearly some of this dilemma is beyond our ability to do anything about. Times change. But one big handicap we appear to have is tunnel-vision.
We’ve managed this sport for the better part of a century and its leadership has grown complacent. If not complacent, they’re stuck in a multi-decade rut.

The basic problems are that we don’t recruit and the leadership at the NRA wants to do things the same old way. There is no real money being spent by our sponsoring organization to promote us, let alone have the world know that we even exist.
I give credit to the NRA. Their recent rule change to allow for new and different classes to participate appears to be a good start. It’s their attempt at recruiting new shooters. But they should have had a marketing program—in the hopper, ready to go—long before they rolled this one out to all of us in the middle of the night.   

I could be wrong but it appears they didn’t have a plan. Their mindset was probably something like: we’ll tinker with the rules and let the locals figure out everything else. In other words, after sampling a dozen or so people, found an appropriate path but didn’t craft the necessary beginning or end. And I have yet to see anything resembling an established benchmark to determine success or failure.  
Let’s throw it on the wall and hope it sticks.

The NRA has vast resources. Good Lord, how many NRA banquets do you or I need to attend? Money they have. And they also have an army of marketing/branding people, copywriters, graphic artists, in-house bloggers, webmasters, videographers and a flippin’ cable show.
It’s begs the question why weren’t any of these people rounded up and brought into the process of a rule change to gather new shooters?   

Let’s face it, part of the problems listed above rest squarely on our shoulders.
How so?

Since we participate in a well-established sport many of us are guilty of expecting things to be the same, day after day. It’s human nature. Some might even refer to it as a “sense of normalcy.”   We all like to participate because it’s fun. And I’m all for the fun part of things.
But we rarely ask or demand anything from the NRA. And we take them for granted, assuming all will be right in the world if we never make direct contact with them.

When I pick up the phone and call the Competitions Division, they act as though they’re the bastard step-child within the Association. I routinely hear about budget cuts, and at the same time, hear about vast sums of money being applied to other national pistol shooting events; events with very low participation compared to ours.
If I hear another statement at the nationals from an NRA staffer saying, “That’s how we do things at the Bianchi Cup,” I think my eyes are gonna explode right from their sockets.

It’s easy to throw rocks and that’s not my intent here. But as a group of people bonded by a similar interest, we don’t need to take a backseat to other lower participating disciplines.
The bottom line is we’re passive.

When the NRA asks for money (which some telemarketer will certainly do) inquire how those funds are going to be spent. Will it go to competitive shooting? When you arrive at the next NRA banquet, use the same tactic there. Everyone does, except you and me.
It’s alright to pick up the phone and let someone know at the NRA you want more capital applied to the sport. A phone call to Dennis Willing or Kayne Robinson isn’t going to hurt anyone. And while you’re at it, remind them they have plenty of in-house resources.

Take the time and go to the shooters meeting at Camp Perry and express your concerns. Or when you need to phone the stat people in VA, politely let them know you’re not happy with their limited attempts at recruiting or lack of marketing.
We haven’t communicated our desires to the leadership, nor have we expected much out of them.