Enough is Enough…

From time to time, I shoot with Todd Green, of Pistol-Training.com fame.  So I’ve had the occasion to shoot the F.A.S.T. drill a time or two.  I normally turn in a pretty fair score on this drill, in fact I still hold the student record for the year 2009.

What I have never been able to do is shoot two consecutive sub-5-second F.A.S.T. drills.  The highly coveted F.A.S.T. Challenge Coin has so far eluded me.  Now to be fair, I have never really trained on the FAST drill skills.  It appears that if I’m going to get that coin, I’ll need to make a systematic effort at it.

To start, I broke down the FAST Drill by each shot:

Shot description Time Allotted Total Time
Draw, fire shot 1 1.50s 1.50s
Fire shot 2 0.50s 2.00s
Reload, fire shot 3 2.00s 4.00s
Fire shot 4 0.25s 4.25s
Fire shot 5 0.25s 4.50s
Fire shot 6 0.25s 4.75s

The first element of the FAST Drill is also the easiest to practice. Starting with a concealed, holstered pistol, draw and fire two rounds into a 3×5″ index card at 7 yards. This drill, or something like it, is already a staple of my practice routine (and the routines of many others, I’m sure.) I just need to work the time down and the accuracy up. My current time for two rounds on a 3×5″ card is about 2.4 seconds. I need to get it down to 2.0, with at least 90% accuracy.

Element I – Draw, 2 shots on 3×5″ card @ 7yds. Current time: 2.4s Goal time: 2.0s

The second important part of the FAST Drill is the reload, and this is the thing that has been eating my lunch lately. I like to practice the reload starting from high ready, press out to fire one shot on an 8″ circle, reload, then fire two more shots. I need to get my reload down to two seconds, which equates to a 1-R-2 of about 3.25 seconds. I’ll run this a few times with the shot timer and adjust it as necessary.

Element II – 1-R-2 from high ready. Current time: 4.0s Goal time: 3.25s

Last, of course, is recoil control on a fairly large target. This can be simulated with the Bill Drill, six shots from the holster at 7 yards. In order to win the coin, I need to get my splits down to about 0.25 seconds, which equates to about a 2.5 second Bill Drill. I can already do that most days, but I’ll spend some time on it anyway. I’d like to get my time down to 2 seconds flat.

Element III – Bill Drill @ 7yds. Current time: 2.5s Goal time: 2.0s

That’s about the whole thing. If I get those three elements down on demand, I should be able to hit a FAST Drill between 4.5 and 4.75 seconds, allowing for slippage.

I’ll be running the FAST drill as my cold drill for the next month at least, and practicing the three elements two or three times a week. By the end of Feburary, when the competition season has started up again, I’ll either have my coin or a good idea of why not.


Running the Numbers on AIWB Carry.

So, I’ve lately been having some second thoughts about appendix carry.  Like most of my second thoughts, these were occasioned by a really crappy practice session.  Without going into too many details*, I had occasion to wonder whether this whole AIWB thing was really for me.

So, I decided to run some numbers.  This afternoon, I ran three drills using the same gun, once from the CCC Looper AIWB holster, then again from the CCC Quick Cover strong-side IWB holster.  The results were interesting.

The first drill was simple.  2 shots on a 6″ circle at 7 yards, from the holster, freestyle, repeat 10x.  Average first shot time from the strong-side holster was 1.71 seconds, with one miss.  With the AIWB, average first shot ran to 1.63 seconds with 2 misses.  Oddly, I managed to let my cover garment screw up my draw twice from the strong side, which didn’t help the time at all.

The second drill was intended to test reloading speed.  Draw, fire 1 shot, reload from slide lock, then fire 2 more shots.  Same target, same distance.  I ran this drill 5 times with each holster.  From the strong-side holster, I averaged a 2.03sec. reload.  From the AIWB, I was averaging 2.40sec., about half a second slower.  This is consistent with reports from other people who run AIWB with a closed-front cover garment.

The last drill was just to draw and fire two shots, strong hand only.  Again, I used the same 6″ target at 7 yards.  And again, the AIWB holster was a little slower, averaging 2.51 seconds for the first shot, vs. 2.06 seconds from the strong-side IWB.  Again, this tracks pretty well with what other AIWB shooters have reported.

More after the break.

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And Another Piece of the Puzzle Falls Into Place…

I was doing a little dry practice this evening.  Lately I’ve been working quite a bit on my drawstroke, and I’ve been seeing some measurable improvement, but tonight I ended up making two interesting discoveries related to the reload.

One important element of a fast reload is to point the magwell at your magazine pouch.  I found that I had picked up a tendency to point the magwell more towards my body, and that it was causing me to hang the magazine up on the rear of the magwell.  Handy if you like fumbled reloads, but less than ideal if you prefer speed and awesomeness.

On the other hand, if I pointed the magwell a little to the outside of my mag pouch, my reloads were smooth as silk.  Every time.  Just making that one little change shaved a full 0.1sec off my reload time, and made the reloads much more consistent.

I must have been inspired, because I decided to play with emergency (that is, empty-gun-slide-locked-back) reloads for a while.  I wanted to try the technique of ‘pre-loading’ the slide release, which goes something like this:  After dropping the empty magazine, your strong-hand thumb goes to the slide release and rests there, just applying a tiny bit of pressure.  Your support hand retrieves your magazine and seats it in the magwell, at which point the slide release automatically releases and the slide goes into battery.  It’s the fastest possible way to perform an empty reload.

(Note – interesting thread on the reload here.)

So, I did about a hundred reps of this exercise, starting with the pistol pointed in on the target, slide locked back.  I managed to work my time down to 1.4-1.5sec, buzzer to click.  Not bad.

If there’s a moral to this story, it is this:  Practice every day, without fail, even if you don’t really feel up to it.  You never know when another piece of the puzzle will fall into place.


Smith and Wesson M&P Magazine Issues

So it’s no particular secret that I’m a ravening Smith and Wesson M&P fanboi.  I have four M&Ps right now, a fifth on the way, and am presently shooting my M&P9 Pro 5″ in both USPSA Production and 3-Gun competition.  I like my M&Ps.

So, when I read about Caleb’s magazine problems, it does not exactly fill me with excitement.  Particularly when I’ve just ordered a dozen new M&P magazines to replace some old worn-out ones…

I haven’t seen any of the new magazines in the wild yet, but looking at those pictures is worrisome.  Moving the locking pin hole that close to the read of the magazine baseplate seems like asking for trouble, and changing the locking pin hole from round to square?  Huh?  How could this seem like a good idea?  These are magazines, people.  They are going to be dropped on the ground, handled roughly, and occasionally kicked and stepped on.  The magazines need to be built to take some abuse.

What really gets me, though, is that I cannot for the life of me figure out what benefit the engineering department at S&W was trying to obtain.  Cheaper to manufacture?  Maybe.  Better feed reliability in the magazine stack?  Doubtful.  They sure as hell weren’t trying to make them stronger.

Anyway, as soon as the new magazines are in my mitts, I’ll put them through the wringer.  In the meantime, I’m going to go shop for some old-style Compact baseplates.  Not to go all sour grapes, but I really do like the Compact baseplates better.


External Ballistics for Practical Rifle

The most important element of practical rifle shooting can be summed up in one sentence: You have to know where your rifle shoots.

This truism was illustrated for me a few weeks ago at the Tidewater 3-gun match.  Somehow, between the Topton team match and Tidewater, the zero on my rifle shifted about 3MOA low and left.  Normally I can blow through 200-yard Flash Targets with barely a care, but Sunday I was missing them left and right.  Well, mostly left…

Anyhow, this is a problem I see quite a bit.  A lot of shooters never have the chance to shoot a carbine out past 50 yards, and these are the shooters who struggle mighty with 200-plus-yard steel.  They don’t know where their rifle shoots.

So, whenever I get a new rifle or a new load, I like to run a dope table for it.  It’s easy to do, and it will save you a lot of heartache and dropped point on those long range stages.

You’ll need your rifle, ammo, a place to shoot (at least 100 yards, and 300+ is even better), and a stack of targets.  You don’t need to go all crazy elaborate with the targets – I use 3×5″ index cards stapled to sheets of scrap cardboard.

First things first, throw a target up at your preferred zero distance.  I zero my 3gun rifle at 100 yards, and my defensive rifle at 50.  Shoot at least a 3-round group, adjust your sights as appropriate, and repeat.  I prefer to do all my zeroing from supported prone, but there’s probably nothing wrong with establishing your zero from the bench.  Just don’t make a habit of it, and be sure to wash your hands afterwards.  ;)

Okay, now you have a zeroed rifle.  Now it’s time to figure out your holdover at some different distances, from different positions.  I do this by shooting 10-round groups at different distances.  The distances that you shoot at are up to you and your type of shooting, but some suggestions are in the table below:

  • Prone – 50, 100, 150, 200, 300, and 400 yards.
  • Standing – 15, 25, 50, 75, and 100 yards.  I’d stretch it out to 150-200, except that I just can’t hold an offhand group that far out…
  • Supported offhand: 50, 75, 100, 150, and 200 yards.  I use a VTAC barricade or something similar as a rest.
  • Rollover prone/reverse rollover prone: 25, 50, and 100 yards.

For a given position, I set up a target at each distance and shoot the groups in a single string.  Then I measure the holdover/hold-off and note it in my shooting journal.  I frequently shoot different positions on different practice days, as a warm-up – prone one day, offhand the next, etc.

That’s the end goal of the zeroing process – to collect enough data that you’ll know exactly where to hold to hit a given target, no matter the circumstances or conditions.  Once you have that, you’re one step closer to mastery.

- Chris

Hmmmm…Kind of Want?

So, recently over at The High Road, this dicussion popped up, talking about the development of a product that will automatically eject the magazine from an AR15 upon being emptied.

Now, generally speaking, when running a COF, it’s rare to actually run a gun dry. Going to slide/bolt lock wastes time, because it adds extra required movements to your reloading process. If you don’t run a rifle dry, all you do is hit the mag release, slap in a new magazine and continue shooting.

In the event that you do run a rifle dry, you have to dump the empty magazine, slap in a fresh one, and hit the bolt release. So there’s at least one extra movement to the whole process, and that adds time.

That said, the idea of automatically ejecting empty magazines seems like a decent idea on the face of it, but I’d be curious to know if there would be any drawbacks to something like this.

Yup, I’m still here. Mostly.

No, I’m not dead, in prison, or lying in a gutter in south Baltimore, guzzling strawberry Cisco.  I just took a little break from shooting after the RM3G, and a somewhat longer break from blogging.  Yeah, I know.

And then yesterday morning I got an email saying that someone had subscribed to the blog. So thanks, dude from Pooler, Georgia, for shaking me out of my laziness…

Actual content will be forthcoming shortly. In the meantime, I dragged my Dad down to the Blackwater 3-Gun match last month. We had a great time, and actually remembered to take some pictures. Enjoy!