Ugh!

I skipped coffee in the interest of stability. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.

I ate a high-protein breakfast 90 minutes before first shot so my brain would have the needed molecules for concentration. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.

I disassembled, wiped down and otherwise lightly cleaned the wadder the night before. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.

My finger didn’t feel right on my model 41’s trigger. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.

And I really wanted to shoot scores a level above my current NRA Outdoor Sharpshooter rating. Maybe that’s what I did wrong.



Patching a five [barely]

Or maybe it was just just gonna be an all-around “bad day”.

It sure seemed determined to go that way.

In a word, my shooting was terrible. Nothing seemed to go right. I thought of packing it in early but decided that “quitters never win” and I’d try to see it through. But things just went downhill because after a dismal 22, CF was worse, and then the 45 competition started no better.

Then, adding insult to injury, after the Slow Fire of the National Match Course for the 45, I noticed that the dot on the wadder seemed loose. I grasped it and gave it a wiggle. Yup, sure enough, it was not secure. A vision of the scope coming loose in recoil and bonking me in the forehead as had happened to Leslie flashed through my mind.

Even if it doesn’t come loose, I reasoned, I’ll be thinking about it coming loose instead of concentrating on my shot.

I’ve got to fix this or change guns.

A quick inspection revealed that the bolt holding the front ring to the slide rail had loosened. I started to re-tighten the bolt but, as it began to snug down, something didn’t feel right. When it should have become tight, it felt mushy.

Oh no, I thought. The threads are stripping out.

I stopped turning and hoped it would stay sufficiently snug for the remaining targets but, after the NMC Timed Fire, I could wiggle the front bolt by hand. It wasn’t gonna hold and the whole thing might come away on any shot.

“I’ve got a gun failure here. One of the scope rings is coming loose. Can someone official witness this so I can switch to my backup, to my ball gun?”

From down the line Don yelled, “Wait, what kind of a mount is it?”

He came down, looked and said, “I’ve got a new one of those in the truck. I’ll get it and we can put in a fresh bolt.”

Two minutes later, it was in place.

“That should hold you for the match,” Don said.

But after the first target of the Timed Fire match, it was loose again. Apparently the receiving threads inside the scope mount were also gone.

Turning to the shooter on my right who’d been tallying a good number of Xs and 10s all day, I asked, “Will you verify this?” I wiggled the now loose red dot again. “I’m gonna have to change guns mid-match because this one is disabled.” He agreed. I put the wadder away and took out the ball gun which, luckily, shoots my wad loads just as well as ball ammo.

So, I finished the 2700 on that gun and, incidentally, posted some slightly better scores than I had with the loose-dotted wad gun.

But regardless, with bad 22, center fire and several poor to mediocre 45 scores, my aggregate for the day, 2281-25, was awful, really awful. Indeed, that score was below the SharpShooter baseline (85% of 2700 is 2295) so I didn’t even shoot my qualification this day.

Mmmph.

“Ball match, anyone?”

Well, I thought, what the heck. It can’t get much worse. And my arm actually feels reasonably Okay and, after all, I do like shooting that ammo and the iron sights.

“I’ll shoot,” I volunteered, “but I need a couple of minutes to clean the barrel after running the wad ammo through it.”

While I cleaned the ball gun’s barrel, most everyone else packed up. Oh well, I thought, that just means fewer folks to lose to.

Three of us shot ball, one comparative newbie a couple of positions down to my left, myself and the guy to my right who’d been scoring my bad targets all day but who shot his own very well. I thoroughly expected to get trounced by a bunch of points by him.

But maybe I can beat the newbie, I thought.

I went to Don and bought a box of factory ball Aguila. It’s cheap, kicks like a mule, flies better than I can shoot and, after resizing, the brass would be reloadable.

And I shot a very good Slow Fire target, very good for me at least, an 85-1.

All right! I *do* like shooting these iron sights.

Timed Fire wasn’t quite as good but, at 80-0, still “in there” for my ball scores.

But even with that score, I noticed that my trigger control was better than it had been with the wad gun and its red dot. Not seeing the target clearly is a good thing.

And maybe some luck was with me because, glancing over at my “good shooter” neighbor’s score card, I saw he wasn’t doing very well with the ball gun. Indeed, my Slow Fire was better than his and our Timed Fire had been about the same. I was actually a couple of points ahead. The beginner farther down the line, well, he was doing like beginners do. I know, I’ve been there many times.

But I was doing pretty good and the pretty good shooter to my right wasn’t.

A very dangerous thought crossed my mind:

I could win this admittedly small and not very tough competition. Yes, by golly, I could win this match.

Instantly the other half of my mind jumped in:

No! Stop! Shut up! Don’t think that! Be quiet!
Just focus on the next shot. Remember: front sight, alignment, aiming area, front sight, trigger straight back, front sight, front sight, front sight.
Now be quiet and just shoot.

We shot the first string of Rapid Fire. Some good, some bad.

I resisted the urge to scope the target.

Second string and again, some good, some not so good.

I put the gun away.

Naked eye from the firing line, I could see some holes in the black near the center but I knew I’d jerked a couple also. I folded up the scope without looking through it.

What’s done is done.

I scored the beginner’s target: Yup, he’s out of the running. A good try but really losing it on the Rapid Fire.

Now for my target.

Hmmm. It had a couple of Xs and a couple of 10s. Those looked very nice. But my target also a 5 — lower left, of course. My score was 78-2.

I had gone downhill over the three targets in the ball match. There were some good shots, yes, but there were also some bad ones.

My final score for the ball match was 243-3.

So, I wondered, what had Bob shot on his last target?

It looked like he’d done better than me, but how much?



Winner!

“Hi Bob, how’d you do? What’s your total?” I asked.

“243.”

Trying not to let my voice waver, I asked, “Uhm, how many Xs?”

“It was a bad match, for me. No Xs.”

He shot 243-0, I shot 243-3 … I won? I won. I won the ball match!

Hooray!

I don’t care there was hardly anyone shooting.

I don’t care if none of us were very good.

I won! I won the ball match! Yahoo!!

What a great day!

No More Dots!

It’s gonna be the hard way, now: Iron sights and nothing but.

For weeks now I’ve had the growing suspicion that I’m snatching my shots when using a red dot. I will raise the gun, settle into position, think I’m starting the trigger and focus on the dot.

If that was really happening, I wouldn’t complain, but it’s not.

Instead, I’m convinced that I’m putting a little pressure on the trigger, initially focusing on the dot, but then I’m monitoring where the dot is sitting on the target and I’ve somehow trained myself to know when that dot is headed for a good position on the target and to then pull-off the shot at the right moment.

Sometimes, this works. In Timed Fire, for example, I have enough time for each shot that the recovery from the previous shot gets me back into right area and I can see when the dot will cross the X ring.

Bang!

But in Slow and especially in Rapid Fire, the results are dismal. A large proportion of those shots are jerked, down and left. Yeah, there are some good ones too, my “jerk” is sometimes timed well and close enough to straight back that I hit the center of the target, but there are other targets where everything just plain goes to hell in a handbasket. Every shot will land low and left. Boy, is that embarassing!

I want to say, “Please, don’t anyone look at that target! And please, don’t score it. Just give me a zero. Here, let me cover it up. Please!”

It’s hard to say what exactly is trained to this, the conscious or the subconscious mind but, regardless, something in me knows, sends the order, and the trigger finger yanks way, way, way too fast.

On the other hand with iron sights, I simply cannot see the target as anything other than a foggy blob. I can show you about where my hold is in the sub-six area — about one ring below the bottom of the black — but when I’m holding, I really don’t know when I’m there or a bit high, left, right or low.

With the dot, I know. But with iron sights, I don’t.

With the dot, I yank the trigger. But with iron sights, the only choice is to either yank it at random [duh, why now?], or to simply build pressure and keep the sights in alignment until it goes bang.

I got my proof of the problem last Sunday. It came as I shot the 45 portion of the Desert Midwinter competition partly with a red dot and partly without. (See http://www.desertmidwinter.com/.) [I had been travelling on business the week before and that was the only portion of the competition that fit my “Gee, honey, I’m going to be out of town on Valentine’s Day” in-the-doghouse schedule.]

Here are my scores:

Slow Fire #1: 89-1x
Slow Fire #2: 84-2x
NMC, Slow Fire: 82-2x
NMC, Timed Fire: 97-5x
NMC, Rapid Fire: 92-2x
Timed Fire #1: 85-1x
Timed Fire #2: 77-0x
Rapid Fire #1: 85-1x
Rapid Fire #2: 92-1x
Aggregate: 783-15x

The aggregate score is 87% [783/900] of the maximum and roughly in the middle of the Sharpshooter range of scores, my current outdoor classification.

You can see a very clear decline in scores over the three Slow Fire targets. I started well (89-1x) but then bad habits crept in (84-2x) and got worse (82-2x). Suddenly, the first Timed Fire looks great (97-5x) but the decline comes back in Rapid Fire and the first Timed Fire thereafter.

Then, something happened in the second target of the Timed Fire match. That 77-0x signals the sudden change and, thereafter, things got better, not worse.

Specifically, at the end of the first string on that target, the red dot on my wad gun had separated into front and rear components, both still in the mounting rings. The body of the dot was attached to the front tube but there was a quarter-inch gap between it and the rear tube. One of the rings was apparently a little bit less than tight and the impact of firing had literally pulled the scope apart. (It goes back to Larry’s Guns today for repair.)

When it happened, I signalled a disabled gun and was allowed to switch to my backup, my ball gun with iron sights. But in the stress of broken gun and the line waiting on me, I forgot to put on the lense that lets me focus on the front sight. Without it, my eye will not focus on the front sight. So my sight picture was blurry and in that second string on that target, I dropped 10-20 points in what might have been my best target of the match. (See the TF target just above, and also the TF target higher up in the NMC for comparison. Timed Fire is MY target!)

But from there on with lense in place, I shot as well or better with the ball gun (shooting the wad ammo) than I had with the wad gun.

Pondering that, wondering why I had shot as well with iron sights as with the dot, was when I realized what I was doing different.

With iron sights, I have no choice except to pressure the trigger until the gun fires. My eye simply cannot bring the target into focus through that added lense and there’s no way to know when to shoot or when to wait. Instead, once I’m in position the only thing I can do is keep the sights in alignment, add more and more pressure to the trigger, and wait for the gun to fire.

I confirmed the negative effects of the dot last night shooting the last two NMCs for Inland Empire with my 22. Although my scores were consistent and just about where they usually are with that gun at 275-5x and 275-7x out of 300 (91%), and in-line with my (indoor Expert) classification, I clearly noticed the relationship between when the shot was going and my semi-conscious expectation that the dot was about to move through the center of the bull.

That’s bad, really bad for Bullseye. I can fix all sorts of other things but as long as I keep yanking the trigger, I’m just not gonna go very far in Bullseye.

Trigger control is really tough for me. No amount of self-talk has succeeded in a smooth accumulation of pressure when I can see, when I can predict, when the shot needs to go so it will land in the middle of the target.

I need to re-train my finger while keeping my brain out of the act.

Iron sights and the lense I use to focus on the front sight — which blurs the target into a fuzzy ball — are the perfect combination: If the brain can’t see where the sights are on the target, it can’t know when to fire.

So, for the next several weeks and months (years?), I’m off the dot. It’s gonna be nothing but iron sights for a while.

I’ll shoot matches with iron sights.

I’ll dry fire with iron sights.

So, I took the dot off my 22 this morning revealing the patridge iron sights still usable thereon.

And the wad gun is gonna sit in the safe for a while. I’ll shoot the ball gun with its patridge sights and use the wad ammo in it which seems to be both reliable and accurate “as is”.

Patridge, whoever you are, I’m with you and your sights from here on!

Teach me.

“Level and smooooth,” Coach Pat would croon.

I’m with you, Coach. Forget the friggin’ target. The only thing that matters is what happens up here on the shooting line and no farther away than the end of my arm.

From here on its …

Level and smooooth…

… and to hell with the target!