Weekend Wrap-Up

I was down in North Carolina this weekend, shooting the Tidewater 3-Gun match.  It was a good time as always, especially as the rain stopped just as the first stage started.

I’ve lately been trying out that trendy new shotgun quad load.  I’m not as fast with it as I am loading weakhand, but it’s getting better.  I might need to order some more carriers soon.  On the other hand, my pistol shooting was a little bit sloppy.  I’ve been spending most of my dryfire time working on that shotgun reload, and it’s showing a little bit.  Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I should have some photos up soon.  Stay tuned.

February Blackwater 3-Gun

Last Sunday, as has become a habit, I shot the monthly Blackwater 3-Gun match. This time, though, I brought my new HD camcorder along…

I ended up winning the match by just over half a second.

The Good:
Shotgun – I ran the shotgun better than I ever have. Loading, accuracy, and speed were all excellent. It’s probably fair to say that I won this match on the shotgun.
Movement – Looking at some of my old match video from last year, my movement has been improving a great deal. I still have a lot of work to do on this part of my game, but my progress has been pretty significant.

The Bad:
Rifle – I don’t know if I’ve just been getting faster with the other guns, but my rifle shooting seems really slow, especially offhand and supported offhand. It’s probably well past time to break out the .22LR and do some serious position shooting practice.

Fun match as always. Next month, the season really begins to heat up, so expect to see more posts like this.

-C

BATFE Releases Study on the “Importability of Sporting Shotguns”

Over at his blog, Michael Bane has posted up his initial reaction the BATFE’s study on the importability of certain shotguns.

There were rumors about this flying around at SHOT, though the reps there refused to comment on it at all. Most of the rumors were centered around whether they would allow Saiga shotguns to be imported, or possibly the legality of the Taurus Raging Judge.

Well, it turns out that the rumors were more or less true with regard to semi-auto shotgun, primarily the Saiga, though ATF basically takes a screaming leap from the supposed sporting suitability of box magazine-fed shotguns and straight into tube-fed magazine land.

In a specific bout of stupidity, they make the following statement on page 15:

In regard to sporting purposes, the working group found no appreciable difference between integral tube magazines and removable box magazines. Each type allowed for rapid loading, reloading, and firing of ammunition. For example, “speed loaders” are available for shotguns with tube-type magazines. These speed loaders are designed to be preloaded with shotgun shells and can reload a shotgun with a tube-type magazine in less time than it takes to change a detachable magazine.

So, basically, all shotguns with magazine tubes are the same thing as a Saiga with a 25-round drum because open-division shooters use tech loaders to execute fast reloads. Never mind that use of these reloading systems takes a lot of practice, just the right technique, and if you screw it up in the least, you end up squirting shells everywhere but into the gun itself. Also, such setups are so rare outside of the world of Open Division 3-Gun, that I have yet to see them used anywhere else at all.

To quote a friend of mine:

That’s like classifying a mini van as a sports car because The Stig can flog it around the track faster than Grandma can make it in a 911.

Then, near the conclusion of the study is this particular gem:

The USPSA currently reports approximately 19,000 members that participate in shooting events throughout the United States.32 While USPSA’s reported membership is within the range of members for some other shotgun shooting organizations,33 organizations involved in shotgun hunting of particular game such as ducks, pheasants and quail indicate significantly more members than any of the target shooting organizations.34 Because a determination on the sporting purpose of practical shooting events should be made only after an in-depth study of those events, the working group determined that it was not appropriate to use this shotgun study to make a definitive conclusion as to whether practical shooting events are “sporting” for purposes of section 925(d)(3). Any such study must include rifles, shotguns and handguns
because practical shooting events use all of these firearms, and a change in position by ATF on practical shooting or “police/combat-type” competitions may have an impact on the sporting suitability of rifles and handguns. Further, while it is clear that shotguns are used at certain practical shooting events, it is unclear whether shotgun use is so prevalent that it is “generally recognized” as a sporting purpose. If shotgun use is not sufficiently popular at such events, practical shooting would have no effect on any sporting suitability determination of shotguns.

Therefore, it would be impractical to make a determination based upon one component or aspect of the practical shooting competitions.

Despite the obvious presence of winners, losers, time limits, spectators, trophies, brightly-colored jerseys emblazoned with sponsorship logos, thousands of competitors, and national TV coverage, BATFE isn’t actually sure if 3-Gun is a sport. That’s the sort of insipid mouth-breathing bureaucratic stupidity you could only find this side of ten DMVs.

Then they go and drop this:

As a result, the working group based the following sporting suitability criteria on the traditional sports of hunting, trap and skeet target shooting.

In other words, a sport isn’t a sport unless it conforms to the notions of what a shotgun game is circa 1843.

I haven’t finished reading the whole thing, but there generally seems to be a lot of unpleasantness for pretty much anyone interested in shotguns that incorporate any sort of technological advancement made in the last 70 years or so.

Admittedly, this post focuses primarily on BATFE’s opinion of what constitutes a sport. However, Michael Bane really cuts to the heart of the matter in his post when he stated this:

The big issue here isn’t whether ATF recognizes practical shooting as “legitimate” sports…the issue is that the “sporting purposes” clause itself is BS from the ground up.

Four paragraphs of ranting on my side, and he cuts the whole thing down to size with one sentence.

On the bright side of things, this is just a study with a policy recommendation at the end, and, as I understand it, doesn’t carry the weight of law or regulation with it.

Yet.

Thoughts on 3 Gun Shotguns

Unlike pistols and rifles, shotguns seem to exist in their own little world. With pistols and rifles, there’s a fair amount of crossover in how they work. Trigger control, sight picture, reloading, internal mechanics (to some extent) and even the ammunition are not tremendously dissimilar.

Shotguns, on the other hand, are so different that in my less charitable moments, I find myself wondering if they should even be considered real guns. There’s no crossover whatsoever. You aim them differently, use the trigger differently, reloading requires a fair amount of dexterity in order to do it quickly*, and the ammunition comes in a bewildering array of configurations, all of it denoted with nomenclature that looks like it was dreamed up by some guy with a monocle and mutton chops. (Drams?! Gauge?! Ought?! SRSLY, WTF dood?!)

Further complicating this are the demands that modern 3 Gun matches place on shotguns. Shotgun-oriented 3 Gun stages can include all sorts of targets, including clays (aerial, rabbits, and static), steel plates for shot, steel gongs for slugs, and paper targets for slugs. On top of this, sadistic match directors can and will intermix all of those targets together, forcing the competitor to come up with a strategy to engage those targets in the most efficient order, and woe unto you if you screw up and drill a steel target that’s only rated for birdshot with a shotgun slug! (At RM3G, doing that is a $25 “donation” to the Junior program, and a 30 second penalty. At other matches, it means you’ve just bought yourself a steel target with a nice concave dent in it.)

Not that I’m griping. After all, the name of the game is 3 Gun, and the expectation is that you will have your skills and abilities tested on all three commonly available firearms platforms. But shotguns have special considerations, especially when it comes to firing different kinds of ammunition through them.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe about shotguns.

With birdshot, my fiber optic front rail is pretty well spot on, so long as I have a consistent hold and cheek weld, it’s perfectly adequate for moving and static targets.

But with slugs…

The fiber optic does fine to about fifty yards. Beyond that, it could best be described as barely adequate. My shotgun has a tendency to throw slugs low and left, which means that I have to compensate for it. For gongs at 80 yards, I’m holding on the upper right edge of the target. This is sub-optimal for a couple of obvious reasons:
– If my cheek weld is not consistent, it will result in a miss.
– Having such a drastically different point of aim means that I have to stop and think about how I’m going to engage the target, rather than just lining up the sights and pressing the trigger.
– If the target is a nonstandard size, I have to take a best guess approach to how I’m going to hold on it, press the trigger and hope for the best.

This is less than ideal, especially since the bigger 3 Gun matches are putting slug gongs out to further distances, with 70-80 yards becoming common, and 100 yards not unheard of. My understanding is that at Blue Ridge this year, they had half-size slug gongs at 100 yards.

So, I’m thinking some sort of flip-up or retractable rear sight is going to get added to my shotgun in the near future. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, though. I’m leaning towards something like the sights you see on a Ruger 10/22 or Marlin. Roughly adjustable for windage/elevation, and can be flipped down out of the way when not needed. So long as I could zero it to be dead on at 100 yards, that would be the ticket.

I guess it’s time to put a call in with the gunsmith.

*Yes, I know about the Saiga, Molot, and XRail. However, I shoot Tactical Scope/Limited Scope, and any of those guns/accessories would put me squarely in Open Class where all the kids with the scoped/compensated pistols, dual-optic rifles, and mag-fed shotguns play.