The Desert Midwinter competition for 2009 Conventional Pistol begins today with a 900 for service pistols.

Last night I gave the ball gun a light cleaning but didn’t touch the previously fouled barrel. It should, therefore, be ready to go, and repeatedly so, starting with today’s very first shot.

My shoulder feels mostly better but a distant ache remains from Tuesday evening when I fired that same pistol and ammunition in an International 600 as warm-up (for me) and fouling (for the pistol) for today. Tuesday was a calculated risk because I needed the refresher on iron sights and that lighter gun as compared to the wadder with its red dot that I’ve been shooting. And “refresh” it did because today’s challenge is going to be in consistently moving the trigger straight back in Timed and Rapid Fire. (Tuesday’s Duelling Fire was humbling in this regard.)

The International Center Fire is at 8:30AM this morning but I’m skipping that and focusing my attentions only on the Conventional program.

Service Pistol starts immediately after that, around 10:00 or 10:30. Accordingly, I will leave the house at 9:00AM for the 30-45 minute drive. That means I need to pack the gun box at 8:45AM.

Weather is predicted to be in the low 50s, partly cloudy but no rain, and with a light wind from the south-southwest. The range is shielded from that direction by a mountain so we’ll have some air movement but nothing strong enough to push an outstretched hand. I think I’ll wear my lined pants and a thick cotton shirt with the lighter jacket, but take a sweater to insert if it feels chillier than expected.

I’ll be shooting the Aguila ball ammo I fired on Tuesday night. It chrono’d at an average muzzle velocity of 908.1 ft/sec at almost this same temperature. That’s very close to the stated ideal of 920. In my tests a week ago, I measured a minimum velocity of 890.7 and a maximum of 929.6 over 20 rounds; an admirably tight range that is beyond my current ability to make on my own. And the standard deviation from one round to the next comes out at 10.1, again much better than I can make on my own. I’m confident this ammo will fly in a consistent manner from muzzle to target.

But it kicks hard and, with the “Zins grip” I’ve been using for several months with the heel of the backstrap tucked into the thinnest part of the V notch across the palm of my hand, I’ll feel each shot all the way up into the shoulder. If my calculated gamble fails, I’ll know it by the end of the National Match Course.

But as is true with the ball gun with its Kart barrel and fitting by Dave Salyer, this ammunition also “shoots” better than I do. What the target says will be what I did. If the shoulder holds up, I’ll do well. If it doesn’t, well, it’s up to me now.

Time for breakfast. I’ll have a full serving of Coach’s Oats (whole grain oatmeal) with a pat of butter (and no sugar!), a boiled egg with lots of pepper, and a small can of the Low Sodium V-8 juice. And, yes, for those who ask, I have my one cup of coffee in front of me now. I’ll also take another small can of Low Sodium V-8 for a last minute dose of nutrients a few minutes before we shoot. After that, a bottle of water from the refrigerator in the pistol office will suffice for the match.

Today’s mantra will be, “Front sight, straight back, front sight, straight back,” and then, “be quiet and let your body shoot; it knows how.”


Compared to the wad gun and the 22, both of which have red dots which increase the overall mass, the ball gun is a lightweight. Couple that with the full-strength ball ammunition and the gun becomes a real challenge.

My first two Slow Fire targets were pretty bad with one or two shots completely outside the scoring rings. By the third, I figured out I had my trigger finger in way too deep and was pushing the shots off the target to the left. Although still not very good, at least the final Slow Fire had all ten shots in the scoring rings.

Timed Fire in the National Match Course had some promise. Although not great at 88-1, it was notable for two reasons. First, it had a decent looking “cloud” of 45 caliber holes.

But when I looked through the scope after the second string, there were too many holes. Someone had cross-fired onto my target!

I was shooting 45 caliber ball whereas the cross-fired shots were 9mm and the gentleman scoring my target easily identified four of the five erroneous shots. The fifth, however, was not so easy so he dropped the one worst shot on the target and tallied my score, 88-1.

But looking at the photograph, I now suspect that the 3 o’clock ten might be the fifth 9mm hole which would have reduced my score to 84-1. But at the time, well, neither of us could tell for sure so it was scored as 88-1.

The cross-firing shooter was apologetic but, hey, we’ve all done it myself included. So we moved on to the next target.

My best target of the day was the first Rapid Fire at 91-4 and, as if I didn’t know better, I mentally congratulated myself saying, “You’ve got it licked, dude!” And that, of course, caused me to relax, lose my concentration, and shoot a dismal 65-1 on the last Rapid Fire.

Rule One in this sport: Never congratulate yourself.

Or is it: Focus on the front sight.

But then again, maybe it is: Pressure the trigger straight back.

(Too many Rule Ones!)

I finished the Service Pistol 900 with a 681-6, not very good but, then again, I learned where to put my finger on the trigger, I had a couple of good targets in Timed and Rapid, and even my Slow Fire scores were headed in the right direction.

This is progress!

After packing things away, I cornered Jim Henderson and asked if he’d let me get a picture of the two of us together. I said I wanted something to hang on the wall so I’d know who I had to beat. Steve Reiter was nearby and I asked him to click the shutter. James said, “Don’t jerk it, Steve,” but even with that, Reiter still had a “failure to fire” (the shutter) and we had to try again.

Tomorrow morning is the 22 match. For today’s Service Pistol the line was full (35 shooters) and two had to wait for the second relay. I glanced at the squadding chart for tomorrow to see which relay I’m in and it looks like they’re both very close to full. I shoot early in the first relay with first shot at 8:30AM.

And I’ll have to remember that dainty little 22 has a much lighter trigger than the service pistol I was shooting today.

But it’ll be “straight back” again tomorrow.

10s and Xs!

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