Afghanistan



Jim Henderson
October 2010, Afghanistan
(click to enlarge)

Jim Henderson is serving us now in Afghanistan.

Some of you know him by name. This is the same “James” Henderson that’s won US championships in Bullseye and who always gives Brian and the other top High Masters a run for their money.

And some of you have met him at various competitions including 2008 and 2009 competitions in Phoenix Arizona where he whipped us all. (Way to go, Jim!)

And I’m sure some of you are particularly lucky because you know him as a good friend.

If you look over in the “Labels” column on this right side of this blog, you’ll find a link with his name that’ll bring up blogs here where Jim has been mentioned or photographed.

Jim’s active duty currently has him in Afghanistan where he is helping teach the good guys how to hit what they’re aiming at and, as we all know, that’s not as easy as it looks.

If you know Jim, you can “friend” him on Facebook. He’s not hard to find.

And I’ll mention to him that I’ve invited each of you to send him your good wishes by adding a comment here. Just click for the comments area (below) and add your well-wishes. I’m sure he’ll read every one of them.

 

Jim,

We are sincerely grateful for your service and we thank you on behalf of ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.

Bullseye shooters know the difference between talking about doing something and actually doing it.

You’re doing it, Jim.

Thank you.

And come back here so you can give us another whipping “on the line!”

Camp Perry 2009: Preliminary Match




“Evil” Jim Henderson
(Feb. 2009)

The scores from the NRA Practice Match are posted (see http://www.nrahq.org/compete/champ3.asp and click #111) and Jim Henderson is the winner with an astonishing 891-56x.

This match consists of three National Match Courses, one with the 22, one in Center Fire, and the final in 45 caliber.

Jim’s 891 score is only nine (9) points short of a perfect 900.

And his 56X count means that 62% of his shots were in the X ring itself.

This is truly an amazing feat!

John Zurek was second at 885-45X and while John’s score is incredible, Jim’s finish is all the more amazing when you consider that #2, #3 and #4 were all within one point while Jim leaped out by a full six (6) points to cinch the #1 finish.

Brian Zins tagged in at #6 with 881-46X.

And remember, this was only the practice match.

Tomorrow, the main event starts with the 22 caliber 2700.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring?” (Forrest Gump)

Day 4 of 4, 45 Caliber and Leg Match

Before

Little things:

  • John occasionally brings sweets — donuts, cupcakes, etc. — but won’t touch them himself until the match is over;
  • Younger shooters (that’s younger than 50 or so) are more passionate in their frustration and can become borderline reckless if their handguns jam more than once — keep an eye on them;
  • Renold usually has a tune going in his head as do I and, passing close to each other on the way out to the targets or back, we hum aloud to compare notes, but adopting his tune doesn’t help me shoot as well as he does;
  • Most of the High Masters have a lot of upper-body strength, often from childhood, but there are significant exceptions so it’s not a requirement for that level of performance, just a help;
  • Couldn’t see a double on someone’s otherwise excellent target one day, scored it as a miss, didn’t change my story when the shooter pointed out a slightly elongated hole, he challenged it (for a buck), the jury agreed with him, then I re-scored it but possibly gave him too much thereby apparently compounding my faults — like a shot in the five ring, “it happens,” and all you can do is move on;
  • The conscious mind can only think one thought at a time but Bullseye requires a skilled coordination of observations and actions — it can be a long road for those who insist on “figuring it out” because that path forces no more than one step at a time;
  • I feel an odd tension around Bill — we’re too much alike, perhaps, even though we appear to be quite different;
  • Bob will move up and out of Sharpshooter land after today — good, because he’s shooting Master-level scores which sure knocked me out of the run for one of those new pistols, the prizes for this competition;
  • I’ll need 90+alibi rounds of wad for the 45 competition today, plus 30+alibi of ball for Service Pistol team and another 30+alibi of ball for the Leg Match;
  • I lightly cleaned the wad gun last night so it’s ready; and
  • Yes, my shoulder and grip are both tired but no more so than yesterday or the day before — I’m ready.

Let today’s matches begin!

After

I won’t have the complete scores for a day or two but, at this point, I know how I did, and it was “extremely well” on this last day.

Here are my scores across all four days of this annual event:

Service Pistol 681-9 75.7%
22 Caliber 823-15 91.4%
Center Fire 773-12 85.8%
45 Caliber 811-17 90.1%
2700 Aggregate 2407-44 89.1%
3600 Aggregate 3088-53 85.7%
22 Team unk. unk.
CF Team 264-2 88.0%
45 Team 275-8 91.7%
Service Pistol Team 220-1 73.3%
EIC Leg Match 252-4 84.0%
Everything 4099-68 * 85.4% *

* will increase slightly with 22 Team score

After four days of shooting a 900 plus one or two NMCs in each day, my technique has settled down considerably.

Significantly, in both of those final NMCs, I think my performance was just about the same but for the Leg Match, I had changed to some ammunition given to me many, many months ago by John Zurek. This change seems to show the gift ammunition flying substantially better than what I had used just moments before.

About this gift ammo John Zurek had said, “Save this for a Leg Match. It’s really good stuff.”

And I’ve had it sitting in the supply cabinet for, what, maybe a year now? A while back, I tested a scant 10 rounds in the Ransom Rest and they printed within a 1.5″ circle at 50 yards. Oh yeah, that’s good stuff!

So today, I used another 30 of those rounds for the Leg Match.

As I released each shot, I called it and then looked in the scope. The truth of John’s words looked back at me because practically every shot was on call. And while it’s true I still messed up a couple of them, when the Leg Match was done I had a very respectable score.

With that, I also learned that the ball ammunition I had been using in the Service Pistol matches, both individual and team competitions, simply did not get along with my ball gun. At least some of the blame for the dismal Service Pistol scores goes to the ammunition / gun mix. They just don’t get along.

I have ten rounds of the “good stuff” left and I’ll have to figure out what to do with them. Certainly I’ll be measuring them with calipers every possible way I can think of. And ultimately, they’ll probably get fired from the Ransom Rest again but this time with a chrony in front and then a virgin target way out at 50 yards. Whatever I get from all that will be both my starting point and my goal in developing a ball load.

Yes, there’s a lot to be done.

But looking back at the last four days, it’s been absolutely wonderful.

  • I shot some really good targets in a major competition with 60+ shooters.
  • I renewed acquaintances with shooters from California and Colorado, and made new friends with others from as far away as New York state.
  • From the preliminary numbers, it would appear I placed very well within the Sharpshooter ranks — I think I came in second in that (my) classification.
  • I had quite a few very good trigger releases and have a very good idea what that should feel like, and a very good idea of how to make it happen more often than not. In other words, my “shot plan” has received some careful honing and is working substantially better than before.
  • I learned that I need to develop, not buy, a ball load that flies well from my ball gun. (The “White Box” ammunition John Zurek gave me as a gift is over twenty years old and is no longer being made. I have only those ten precious rounds left from which to begin my efforts.)
  • I had a really fantastic time!

Here are today’s pictures. (Click for bigger versions.)




John Zurek Visits Don Plante’s Tailgate Store



Corps Camraderie



Marines



Fresh Target



Jeannie Verifies Her Score



Jams Didn’t Fluster This Marine



On To The Next Target



Meeting of the Minds



Enjoying the Day



Move ‘Em In



Renold Schilke
Scores a Target



Parent Spectators



Spouse Spectators



Ron Scores a Target



Quick Repair



View from the Tower



On Break

Day 3 of 4, Center Fire

Before

Today and tomorrow are the days in which my concentration — and repetition — need to be at their best. I will do the same things as yesterday but with a more challenging gun.

Today we shoot the individual Center Fire matches in the morning, and then the team Center Fire and team 45 matches after lunch.

Many shooters use the same gun for Center Fire and 45 for economic reasons. I’m no exception. My wad gun started life as a Springfield Armory Mil-Spec but has then been “matured” with a carefully fitted Kart competition barrel, trigger job, slide to rail adjustments and a red dot sight. The resulting race horse shoots extremely well when fed and handled correctly and, especially for the latter, that’s today’s challenge.

My ball gun will go along for the ride today for two reasons. First, it’s my backup in case the wadder becomes disabled in some way. Secondly, the trigger has to be weighed and, if it passes, the gun tagged before the EIC Leg Match tomorrow. The Marine gunsmith who makes that determination is available today (and tomorrow).

Yesterday in the 22 matches I succeeded in finding the precise finger placement that resulted in neither a left nor right “flick” of the barrel when the hammer was released from the sear. Simultaneously, I had many successes in maintaining a solid but unbiasing and unchanging grip so that, again, as the hammer was released from the sear, my grip was still pressing squarely with no rotating pressure that would have “flicked” the barrel left or right, nor up and down for that matter.

In addition, well after I had assumed my 90 degree stance and brought the pistol up and then settled down into the aiming area and took up the slack on the trigger, I then focused my attention on the dot, started the trigger and then patiently “watched” the wobble and, when it lessened as it always does and the dot was deep in the aiming area, the shot broke and I mentally noted the dot’s “o’clock” position on the target but immediately returned the dot to the center of the aiming area and held for several more seconds. I then lowered the gun and verified through the spotting scope the new hole in the target where I had placed the shot. And on the few occasions where it was not where I’d called it, I analyzed what I had done wrong — finger too deep into the trigger pushing the hole left, rushed the shot to “get it over with” rather than simply observing the process as it developed before my eye, etc. — and re-rehearsed my shot plan so I’d return to it on the next shot.

Today and tomorrow, I simply have to do that again, and again, and again.

The shorter barrel of the wad gun (5 inch) as compared to my 22 (S&W Model 41 with the 7 inch barrel) means that those “flicks” will be all the more sensitive to my attentions today.

I will, therefore, need to be most diligent in my concentrations.

Today’s mantra, since my body follows this shot process almost completely without conscious guidance, will simply be

Ohhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… [Bang!]

After

I was wrong.

The number one lesson in Bullseye is pressuring or moving your trigger finger straight to the rear … and not changing your grip pressure while doing so.

I broke that rule big time today and paid the price.

My Slow Fire scores were 80-0 (started good, went downhill), then 64-0 (hideous) and 67-0 with that three point rise due to finally, on the last shot, figuring out how to move only my trigger finger to break the shot.

But, well, the good news is that I did eventually figure it out. Every target from there on, the Timed and Rapid Fire targets in the NMC and their own matches, were all in the 90s including a 97-3 in Rapid Fire.

So, by the time the Center Fire segment was over, I was ready to shoot Slow Fire — Oops, too late!

I finished with 773-12, well shy of the 810 mark that would bump me up into Expert category I’ve been eyeing on the horizon. And it is unlikely I’ll recover enough points tomorrow to bring my average up to that level for the 2700.

And to be honest, with the “oops” that butchered most of this morning’s Slow Fire targets, it seems clear this Sharpshooter still has a lot to learn.

But it wasn’t too late for some measure of redemption because after lunch we shot team Center Fire and team 45 NMCs. With the trigger issue figured out, I was ready and since my scores could make or break those of the team, the pressure was on.

In the Center Fire team, one round of my ammo wasn’t up to snuff; it was the fifth round in the first string and it failed to fire, probably with a high primer — I’ve been getting one of those about every 200 rounds. In the alibi, I only partially regained my concentration and ended up trading my initial three tens and an X for four eights. That brought my score down eight points on that target!

But regardless of that, I was pleased because the Slow Fire targets in both team competitions placed me in good stead with my teammates. I had done my part fine.

Toward the team total in Center Fire, I contributed 264-2.

And for the team in 45, I added a couple to those lost eight and ended with 275-8.

As before, here are some pictures from today. (Click them for larger images.)




Squadding Chart



Another Day



Lots of Stuff



Tony “Stat Man” Silva



John Zurek, Jim Henderson, Adam Sokolowski
(Left to Right)



Art Pimentel Watches an Alibi
(I shot with Art at the Sunnyvale Club)



Chock Full O’ Marines

Day 1 of 4, Service Pistol 900

Before

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.”

After

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!




Too Many Holes!

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!




Jim “The Kid” Henderson and
“The Old Man” (Me)
(Click picture for larger image)

After packing things away, I cornered the gentleman you see to the right 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!