Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

And that's why we practice.

I've thought of myself as a shotist for awhile. Yes, there are many better than me. But I generally come in at the halfway spot among those who have self-selected to compete in pistol matches, which is a better-than-average group of shooters.

But some days, you just have to accept the lessons taught you by experience. To do so, you have to put your pride away, and look plainly at yourself.


Yesterday was the local multi-department shooting match, and Dad and I shot in it. I shot it first with pistol, and found that I was doing reasonably well, shooting stages clean in okay times. Not blinding speed, but careful, miss-free shooting. Until the last "tie breaker" stage. Pistol empty with slide locked open on a barrel in front of you with a magazine with a single round in it next to it. At the buzzer, pick them up, load the pistol, and shoot the 7" plate that was probably all of 8 yards away. Misses cost 10 seconds on top of your time to shoot.

Well, you can guess.

Man, that will hurt your ego.

But redemption comes cheap, or just for the cost of another entry fee. I loaded up the AR-15, and shot the carbine course.

Murphy lives.

Turned on the Eotech.

Noticed that it was too dim for the bright afternoon, and tapped the up-arrow a few times while nodding to the rangemaster that yes, I was ready to shoot. On the beep, I threw it to my shoulder and... I was looking through a clear sight with no reticle, at the target, with only a front sight.

When this happens, do NOT attempt to turn on the sight. (I think I began to do that.)

Flip up the backup iron sights (BUIS), and just use those for the remainder.

In this case, the sights were flipped to smallest aperture. (seriously suboptimal on a small black target against a dark background, while I was in this sun.). I shot the target twice as required, and ran forward, flipping up the large aperture, leaned through a doorway, double-tapped two plates, turned to the stop plate, and.... Out of ammo.

We had been instructed to down-load magazines to given amounts. This stage required 9 rounds in the magazine, the next stage required 6. I had put the magazine holding 6 rounds into the rifle, in a stage requiring at least 7 to shoot it clean. After fumbling with my pockets for a second (no spare magazines-- 9 rounds maximum for this stage, darn it.), I just shot it with my pistol. Very slight cool factor for the method of solution-- the stop plate was about 15 yards or so off, and the pistol shot was pretty fast. But not that cool.

Before the next stage, I yanked the spare batteries out of hollow of the pistol grip (planning occasionally helps), and put them into the Eotech sight.

Nothing. Well, crap.

The rest of the carbine match went about like that. You know, things like not having properly sling-shot the bolt so that it would seat the round, but rather riding it slowly down, then failing to hit the forward assist. This of course results in a "click" when you want a "bang." Look, I'm letting it all hang out, here. It's shameful. I not only know better, I've known better for decades!

Can I claim complacency? I hardly could see how; complacency usually comes when you're moving along pretty well. Lack of practice? I don't put in a thousand rounds a month, but I do average about 50 to 100 rounds a month out of the AR, and try to make the matches. Fatigue? Naw, I was okay. Sickness? Distraction? Bad ammo? Broken rifle? Nope, not really (cell phone did ring and vibrate in my pocket during two stages, but that's life-- adapt and overcome or die); nope; nope (the rifle ran fine).

Some days, you just suck.

After, I checked the Eotech. Seems that the lithium batteries were, in a way, the problem. The labels on the batteries are a thin layer of plastic, whis is applied with adhesive to hold it to the metal of the outside of the battery. In intense heat, that adhesive will melt, causing it to run. Heat like... oh, say, the trunk of a patrol car that sits in Texas sun all summer long. That adhesive pooled on the battery face against the contact, and then dried on the Eotech battery contact point, making a nice little insulating dab of adhesive that prevented battery function as soon as rattling the Eotech around managed to cause the adhesive to work itself between the contact point and the battery terminal. A judicious scraping with a knife point finally cleared it (harder than I would have thought, as in the 90 degree air the adhesive was pretty gummy), and the 'lectric sight worked again.

This is why I sometimes shoot matches with the BUIS, only.

This is also why I try to shoot matches with the Eotech, only.

This whole exercise is why I practice.

Better to get the crap out of my system at the range, where I'm only red in the face, than on the street, where the costs are so much higher.

But damn, I am not looking forward to other folks seeing my scores when the rangemaster publishes them tomorrow. [/head slung]

I'll admit it. Pride's a motivator.

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At Saturday, September 29, 2007 8:37:00 AM, Blogger JPG said...

Matt, I think you've done a ;public service by being so brutally honest about that little match. So many writers, especially in the print media, never mention their participation unless they can crow about their wins, or at least relatively high standings in the results. There's definitely a lesson to be learned when a normally good shooter has a bad day.

How many individuals who carry a "car gun" ever take it out and run it on the range? Some are not "firearms enthusiasts" but keep such firearms because they want to be prepared. Others because the weapons are agency issue and they are expected --or required-- to take them along. And even the enthusiasts have other guns they want to shoot more than the tool that rides in the car or truck month after month.

The AR rig Matt uses is really quite nice. It was put together on a fairly high budget. The electronic sight is considered an industry standard - - Not some bargain basement kewel-looking add-on, but a real, live sight to be USED in time of stress. The backup iron sight is compact and rugged. The rig was carefully assembled, tested, and sighted in.

Who would have guessed that the EO-Tech sight would go toes up because of melting adhesive? This is not the sort of thing that can be tested for during installation or routine maintenance. It appears that the problem only materializes after the system has been subjected to high heat over a a span of months. And, probably, bouncing around, cased, in the truck of a cruiser, allowing the softened adhesive to be distributed JUST so.

And then, when the electronic sight stops working, to discover that the BUIS has been stowed in a less-than-optimal condition. The flip aperture has one nice, spacious aperture, like unto a ghost ring. The OTHER hole is suitable for precision shooting at well-illuminated targets at extreme range.

It is nice to go shooting because you enjoy it - - The hardware going BANG at the proper time, the pressure of the match setting, the camradrie with seldom-seen associates. But this is also a proving ground. It is nice when a shooter who is a public guardian - - a Sheep Dog, if you will -- is able to learn and improve his skills as a result.

There's more to matches than point standings or awards. They can, and should, be important learning experiences.

At Saturday, September 29, 2007 8:47:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Great comments.

As to the brutal honesty, I've always tried to use mistakes and problems as opportunities to learn.

Our friend Rich Lucibella is one of the biggest proponents of "Airing Your Dirty Laundry" in personal errors in the field. His stories about his own mistakes in the hunting field are fascinating, instructive, and credible. When he relates a success, I believe the man. Interestingly, I'm more interested in how a failure is caused, and corrected.

At Saturday, September 29, 2007 10:05:00 AM, Blogger Old NFO said...

Matt, I'm laughing with you on this one... Had the same thing happen in a major match with the EO Tech, I now run an ACOG. Re the pistol, try starting with a revolver unloaded and a speed loader sitting next to it and FORGET to load the damn thing... Three clicks and I finally realized I still had the speed loader in my left hand- needless to say, that was a SLOW stage. And you are right, that is why we practice.

At Saturday, September 29, 2007 10:15:00 AM, Anonymous James E. Griffin said...

There are the men who hang around places women frequent, lying about their exploits to a bit of blonde fluff. In THEIR exploits, they are always brilliant, plans survive contact with the enemy, etc.

Then there are those of us so dim that we actually do the damn adventures which interfere with the drinking and wenching. A great many of our stories feature us as Clown Prince.

How do you tell the martial arts wanna-be-s from the real deal? The real guys get dinged up and hurt from time to time. Ask a wanna-be how to rehab an injury. Not A Clue!

Just remember your friend's dicta - A Professional Practices...

At Saturday, September 29, 2007 10:54:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

You're smart enough to know this already...

but we learn far more from our failures than our successes.

And by sharing it on your blog, you afford other people the opportunity to share in the lesson.

That's what a teacher does.

At Sunday, September 30, 2007 6:51:00 AM, Blogger Who is..... Carteach0? said...

I wish I had a nickel for every story I had to start with...

"Look, I am an idiot... get that straight right away"

For most of us, screwing up at a match is bothersome and hurts the pride.

You have all that, plus the concern of real need possible. Your life, and others may/can/will depend on your firearms skills one day.

There is no better way to approach training and practice than with honesty, which you have in abundance. I'm curious to hear how hard you will train to get back in the groove you expect of yourself.

I no doubt in the world you will!

At Tuesday, October 02, 2007 9:53:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

...this is why I try practice using the EOTech's housing, at least at closer ranges, as an ultra-coarse ghost ring in conjunction with the front sight.

And why I'll never have a folding front sight, for that matter.

At Tuesday, October 02, 2007 10:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some time ago I was severely ridiculed - with some justification - for attempting a 3-gun match with a revolver, a standard capacity pump shotgun and a lever rifle. I wound up about 400 points below last place, and my stage times darn near pushed us to midnight, but I walked away with a MUCH greater understanding of what I can, and cannot, do with my trunk rifle, house shotgun and bedside gun.

Everything from thinking through shot capacity to reloading, to how to carry spare ammo got tested. I now do this a couple of times a year, and each time I learn something new.

And, thanks, Tam; I'll try using the EOTech as a ghost ring. Never thought of that.

At Tuesday, October 02, 2007 2:44:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Yeah, I tried that the last time my Eotech failed (I don't recall if that was user error [forgot to turn it on] or battery failure), and I'll tell you that, from carbine ranges (40 yards at a 10 inch plate), it's pretty damned hard to get a hit.

At Thursday, October 04, 2007 6:33:00 PM, Blogger DirtCrashr said...

Sounds like fun! I'm somewhat accustomed to range humiliation, I could try it with my jammamatic M1 Carbine where clearing a stoppage is always part of the fun!


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