Superstition Mystery Mountain 2011

So the shooting’s done, the scores have been tallied, and I managed to take 82nd place in the Tactical Scope division out of 188 competitors. This is better than I placed last year, but only by a handful of positions. The thing that really sucks about this is that I managed to incur four penalties on the first stage, and only a grand total of six penalties for the entire match. Those first stage penalties amounted to a whopping 50 seconds worth of pain. At it’s heart, 3 Gun is a sport about efficiency; finding the quickest and most effective way to complete a course of fire. Those who do the best are those who can navigate each and every course of fire with a minimum of fuss, while hitting all of their targets and not incurring penalties for hitting no-shoot targets. As you might imagine, 50 seconds worth of penalties is not conducive to a clean run. Nor is taking an inordinate amount of time to complete a a stage.

You can see video of all of my stage runs courtesy of DocMedic here:

The two worst meltdowns were on stages two and five, where I evidently decided that missing what should have been a fairly reasonable rifle shot, was a good idea, and ended up with a time of 105 seconds. (Stage, blown.)

On the upside of things, my movement has gotten better, along with my general abilities to hit targets (suck it, flying clays!) and my pistol game is much improved, though still in need of work.

Highlights of the match definitely include the following (in no particular order): getting to meet Maggie Reese from Top Shot, meeting [url=http://exurbanleague.com/]Exurban Kevin[/url] who was ROing on one of the shotgun stages, getting to shoot a round of sporting clays after the match was over, and grabbing dinner at The Blue Adobe Grille.

Overall, the match was a lot of fun, even if my performance was well below what I believe I’m actually capable of.

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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.

July Tidewater 3-Gun AAR

Yesterday I wandered down to the furthest reaches of Southern VA to visit the folks, and shoot the monthly Tidewater 3-Gun match.

The Tidewater 3-Gun is held on the sprawling U.S. Training Center facility (formerly known as Blackwater, formerly known as Xe, or whatever…), so the Tidewater folks have all the resources they need to put on a smokin’ match.  As usual, they didn’t disappoint.

My own shooting, not so much.  Although my shotgun and pistol game were dead on, my rifle had inexplicably shifted it’s zero about 3MOA towards 8:00.  To add insult to injury, I had planned on going out to the range Saturday to shoot the rifle, but passed on it due to rain.  Sigh.  Lessons learned.

We had four good stages, 2 pistol/rifle (including a very cool mid-range stage on the USTC 1000-yard range) and 2 multigun.  As usual, the kind folks at USTC provided lots of props for our entertainment.  Hitting a flash target at 175 yards doesn’t sound too hard, until you have to hit it offhand through the window of a junked car…

Anyhow, I managed to scrape out like 5th or 6th place.  The always-dangerous Robb J. picked up the top spot, no surprise there.  Congrats, Robb!

Next match will be August 8th or therebouts.  Be there!

Zed’s Dead, Baby. Zed’s Dead.

Ok. If you should know anything about me before reading this post, you should know this: I’ve been running a CZ-85 in various IPSC, IDPA, 3Gun and Steel Challenge matches for the better part of half a decade.

I like the CZ design. The guns handle and point well, the triggers can be tuned to be the best thing this side of a custom 1911, and they’re aesthetically pleasing, too.

Now, with that out of the way, let me direct you to the blog post over at Pistol Trainer entitled Zed Is Not Your Friend.

Read it.

You might notice that Todd doesn’t sugar coat what he thinks about the CZ design.

Here’s the thing: he’s absolutely right.

Todd specifically lays out a laundry list of issues the CZ pistols in his class suffered from:

But from failures to feed to failures to extract to failures to eject to failures to lock back to premature lock back, we saw the whole spectrum of handgun malfunctions from those guns.

Now, my pistol hasn’t suffered from all of those problems, but it’s suffered from at least a few of them, most annoyingly for the first year or so that I had the gun, it would lock back prematurely. I suspect this is why the previous owner wanted to sell it.

Premature slide lock is the most infuriating form of malfunction I’ve ever encountered. When a gun locks open, your expectation is that it has done so because it is now empty and needs to be charged with a new magazine. Having this happen in the middle of a course of fire, when you’ve only fired four rounds out of the gun really tends to throw a wrench into things. There’s nothing that sucks quite so bad as getting to the end of a stage only to realize you can’t finish off the last couple of targets because you’ve left mostly-full magazines laying on the ground throughout most of the rest of the stage.

I was able to mostly solve this problem due to one or more changes, including Dremmling the slide stop to within an inch of its life, changing out the magazine followers and springs, and switching from shooting Winchester Whitebox to reloading my own ammunition.

This solved the problem, for the most part, and the premature slide locks went from happening about once every 40ish rounds to once every 600-1000 rounds.

I’ve not had the problems with failures to eject that Todd mentions, but this is due to being fairly diligent about cleaning out under the extractor every so often.

I’ve not experienced the problems with failure to feed that Todd mentions, at least not to the point where it rises to inhibiting my ability to shoot effectively.

However, I have run into a couple of problems he doesn’t mention.

First off, the adjustable sights that CZ installed on the pistol aren’t very robust. About midway through a match a couple of months ago, I noticed that the rear sight was loose. Evidently somewhere along the line the adjustable rear sight self-destructed, and I ended up having to glue it back in place in order to finish the match. I’ve since had a fixed rear sight installed.

I’ve also found that the slide stop spring is really a piece of crap. It’s become so loose that I lost the right half of the ambidextrous slide release. The gun still functions fine, as the right half doesn’t appear to be a critical part, but it’s still incredibly annoying nonetheless.

One other issue with the CZs, and one that seems to be fairly universal is that the chambers are not cut to accommodate rounds that are long, but still within SAAMI spec. When experimenting with some 147 gr. loads, the rounds would chamber and fire fine, however the chambers are cut short enough that the round will begin to engage the rifling, making it hard to eject a loaded round.

So, yeah. CZs have issues. Some of the issues are peculiar strictly to that particular design, and if you intend to shoot a lot of rounds through them, realize that it may take some work to get the gun up to snuff.

For shooting Production Division, the CZ was a great choice for a long time, however with the newer striker-fired designs that are out there, most notably the Glock, S&W M&P, and Springfield XD, I think the CZ’s days are limited, partially due to the inherent issues the pistols have, and partially due to subtle but widespread changes in the way people use and shoot pistols.

Multigun: Cowboy Style.

Once a month, a local dude ranch, The M Lazy C holds a multigun match.  It’s a fun place.  The range is usually used for local Cowboy Action matches, and has been built up to be reminiscent of the old west.  The stages are generally pretty short range, so opportunities to work on target transitions and speed shooting abound.  Lots of steel targets make for quick stage set up and a high level of satisfaction.

Frontier-style shooting range.

Frontier-style shooting range.

All of the stages require the use of all three weapons; pistol, rifle, and shotgun and many of the stages have a unique flavor, often at least one of them will require engaging targets, and then moving to another range to continue the stage.

Ok, enough setup.  Here’s my run through Stage 1:

Since the stages are generally fairly short-range, with the long shots being maybe 70ish yards, this is a fantastic match to work on speed shooting as well as rifle skills with non-magnified optics.  The rifle I’m using is a fairly standard Rock River entry carbine with an AimPoint T1 on top.  In the video, it’s hard to see, but one of the steel targets was a flipper that tosses a clay pigeon into the air when it falls.

A competitor gets his game face on for the first stage.  Note SBR.

A competitor gets his game face on for the first stage. Note SBR.

matt_stage2

Another Competitor with an SBR on the second stage.

Due to the short-range nature of this match, more than one competitor broke out their SBR’s.  These rifles handle very well with some of the close quarters of the matches, and the short-range nature of the target setup doesn’t adversly affect these shooters’ ability to hit the targets quickly and accurately.  Note that all NFA rules apply, and that to own these firearms requires jumping through additional legal hoops.

Stage 2 involved a sitting start, drawing a pistol and engaging targets before hot-holstering, moving across the range setup and engaging further steel targets with rifle and shotgun.

One note regarding the practice of “hot holstering” or putting a loaded, just fired handgun back into your holster while on the clock; you must be absolutely meticulous about indexing your trigger finger along the side of the weapon, re-engaging the mechanical safety (if applicable) and putting the weapon back into your holster without covering the RO or yourself with the muzzle of a loaded weapon.  When you’re shooting under time constraints, it can be extremely easy to screw up the order in which you commit an action, so if re-holstering under such circumstances isn’t something you’ve done regularly be sure to exercise extreme caution and step through the process with deliberation.  At worst, it will cost you a couple of extra seconds, which is far, far better than a trip to the emergency room.

Ok, on this stage, I made several mistakes.  The first of which was starting with a pistol that only had four rounds in it.  This forced me to execute an unnecessary reload, which cost time on the clock.  I also have a bad habit of leaning or stepping through doors and ports, which probably added another couple of seconds.  I also missed once with the shotgun, which meant stuffing an extra shell in the gun during the reload.  Despite that, the stage was still a lot of fun.

Stage 3 was a quick blaster of a stage that was pretty easy to clear.  Pistol and shotgun only.

The only tricky portion on this stage was engaging a moving buffalo-shaped steel target with the shotgun.  Fun stuff, but not as fun as what came next.

For the longest time, I’ve harbored a secret fantasy of shooting a match styled after a George Romero zombie movie.  Lots of targets, and only “head shots” counting.  Admittedly, that might be a little bit grim, but chalk it up to a love of B-grade horror flicks, too many late-night conversations revolving around horror movie protagonists who constantly make poor decisions, and a somewhat twisted sense of humor.

EEEK! Ghouls!

EEEK! Ghouls!

Evidently the match director is a mind reader, and the second half of Stage 4 had a bunch of Zeds.  Being a nice guy, he even added some pretty excellent target embellishments.

The overall setup was quite good.  Engage pistol steel, holster, move to the shotgun, engage shotgun targets, ground shotgun and then move to the final portion of the stage with the Zed targets where there was a mandatory rifle reload thrown in.  You can see a bit of indecisiveness on my part when shooting that portion of the stage and that cost me in the end.  The lesson?  Have a plan, visualize it before shooting the stage, and once the buzzer goes off stick to the frickin’ plan.

Well, that’s pretty much it for this match review.  I’ll have another one for a local bolt gun match up soon!

Busy Weekend…

This weekend’s been packed full of all sorts of shooty goodness. Saturday was a close-range hose-fest of a 3 gun match followed by a birthday party where I bid adieu to my 20’s. Sunday was a tactical rifle match with shots between 200-400 yards.  Keep your eyes peeled for pics, vids, and writeups later this week.

In the meantime,  I’m frickin’ dead.

-Justin