First Unofficial Competition

Email posted to Bullseye-L

I look forward to a 2700 like Kevin just reported. My own first experience (last night) was on a smaller scale, but very enjoyable, and VERY educational. (I just stuck a note in my pocket that says “5×7 clipboard and calculator”. Thanks, Kevin.)

I competed last night for the first time. The Phoenix Rod and Gun Club (http://www.phoenixrodandgun.org/) has a weekly “NiteHawks” shoot on Tuesday evenings and, last night, about 14 shooters participated in an “International” competition. I wasn’t completely familiar with that form but, with the small group and relaxed atmosphere, I figured it was a good evening to take the plunge into competition, and I wasn’t wrong.

I pulled into the parking lot about 45 minutes early and, as my good fortune would have it, Coach Pat was there. I had previously spent a couple of hours with Pat learning the basics (grip, sight alignment, trigger pull) and, with him present for my first competition, I felt a bit more inspiration to “do it right.” (Through-out the competition, Pat chimed in from time to time with tips, reminders and some good-natured chiding for my goofs.)

I signed the roster and paid my $6.00 for the evening. (What a deal!)

For the Precision Fire (“Slow Fire”) stage, targets were B-19 “International slow fire” at 25 yards with centerfire pistol. Since I was shooting rimfire .22, my scores wouldn’t apply to the rankings for the evening, but that didn’t matter to me: I was there to learn what it was like to compete and I fully expected to come in dead last where scores were concerned. No problem, I thought, let’s shoot!

My first string of 10 rounds scored 89-1.

That was the single best string I’d ever fired! Obviously, motivation can be a wonderful boost, especially when backed by good instruction (thanks, coach), good information (thanks, Bullseye-L) and lots of practice.

And my second string was almost as pleasing at 88-0.

By the third and final Precision Fire string, however, and even though I didn’t think about it long enough to cause worry, the “inspiration” was beginning to wear off. I scored 83-0.

But I didn’t mind the declining scores because I was learning new things and already knew it would take a while to get them fully integrated. While that happened, scores would suffer. I was willing to pay the cost.

What was I learning? Well, for one, I had switched from my dominant eye (left) to my right only two weeks ago. Yeah, I know that might be a questionable decision but since I shoot right-handed, the body and arm alignment contortions I had been using to aim with my left eye were leading to recoil motions (up, left and rotating) that made it hard to get the sights back on the bull. Originally, I had started shooting right-eye, switched to the left when I learned that my was dominant eye, but hadn’t really noticed a significant difference. So I decided to switch back to the right and immediately noticed a much better recoil (straight up with only a small twist). And the proof was in the pudding because, last night, I shot better than ever before.

Second, both Coach Pat and the shooter next to me gave some great suggestions on foot placement and body alignment. I already knew to check this by raising the gun, closing both eyes and counting three, and then looking to see where the gun was aimed, and using that to shift my rear foot left or right accordingly. But what I didn’t know was how to make the gun go up and down — “move your rear foot forward or backward inline with the bullet’s track,” they said. [Doh!] And it worked great. Even though my scores went down, my arm “felt” much more comfortable with the significantly wider stance I found that raised the aim point up to “sub 6” (just below the 6 o’clock aim point at the bottom of the bull — having that white-space visible really helped seeing the sight alignment).

But my attention to these new elements pulled my concentration away from trigger pull, and the holes in the target confirmed the consequence.

But that’s all right because, with practice, I know I will integrate the new things with the old and, overall, my scores will continue to improve. Two steps backward often follow three steps forward. But thereafter, it’s three steps forward again.

Progress.

With the Precision (Slow) Fire stage complete, I asked “What’s next?”

“Duelling.”

I didn’t have a clue what was involved, so I asked.

“Hold your arm and loaded pistol at 45 degrees. The target will be exposed for three seconds and you fire one round. The target then turns (disappears) for seven seconds. You’ll do that five times, reload, and do it again for another five rounds. We’ll then score the targets. There will be a total of three such targets.”

Got it, I thought.

“I thought” is the operative phrase here.

When the time came, I loaded five rounds into the magazine and sighted on the target during the preparation (“Load five rounds”) phase to adjust my rear foot to get my newly discovered alignment correct. That took a couple of attempts before everything felt properly settled and the sights were in the right place below the bull. I then lowered the gun to the 45 degree Ready position. The preparation phase was done, the target swung out of view and I was ready for the first exposure.

Moments later, the target swung into view, I raised my arm, found the target, (did a poor job of aligning the sights) and pulled the trigger … and nothing happened.

I pulled the action open and looked, but there was nothing in the breech — because there, sitting on the table in front of me, was the loaded magazine, ready to go but not in the gun!

Oops!!

I quickly readied the magazine, chambered a round and assumed the Ready position again and tried to ignore the hot flush I could feel on my face. No doubt Coach Pat was sitting back there trying not to laugh out loud.

My next four rounds went off OK, one in each exposure (it didn’t occur to me to try and get two rounds into one exposure — and I don’t know if that would’ve been legal), and all five in the next string went reasonably well even though I had one stove-pipe that was luckily cleared by just cycling the action, but when it came time to score the target, I knew the numbers wouldn’t be great. Not only had I only fired nine instead of ten rounds, I found that the three second exposure sure goes by quickly. I really felt the pressure to get each round off in time which is, of course, the whole point: pressure!

So I scored a 61-1 with the single “Maggie’s Drawers” (shot not in target).

That single “X” was just pure blind luck and I didn’t have a clue which shot had landed there, or even if it had come from my gun.

Coach Pat stepped up and said, “You’re getting your shot off between seconds #1 and #2 — you can take more time, … and Ed, you need to align your sights.”

I nodded and thought, “Yes, boss.” My shots were among the very first on the line and it was clear I could afford to take more time to get the sights aligned and on the target.

So, I slowed down but, well, all I can say is that it’s just gonna take some practice. My next two strings of five in the second duelling target scored 60-1, numerically lower but the good news was that I “knew” which round was the “X”. I had seen the sights come into alignment at the right spot on the solid black target (different from what was used in Precision Fire), and the gun fired with everything in place. Hooray!

The final duelling target tallied out at 59-0.

My final totals for the evening were 260-1 for Precision Fire, 180-2 for Duelling and a match total of 440-3. (I snuck a look at everyone else’s scores and was pleased to find I was not in last place. Hah!)

Overall, even though my scores declined through the evening, my knowledge and experience went up with each shot, even the one that remained in the magazine sitting on the table. I learned lots of great lessons, have a lot to practice, and I’m signed up for my first NRA Registered competition this coming Sunday when I shoot “on the NRA record books” at 8:30AM.

Boy, am I hooked!

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