Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: The Dry Fire Primer

There is copious material available both in print and online on the subject of dry fire practice. Books by Ben Stoeger, Mike Seeklander, and Steve Anderson have long been on my reading list. A new publication, The Dry Fire Primer by Annette Evans, is the latest edition to my shooting library. The book comes at a good time for me as this is the time of year I typically step up my dry fire time.

One might wonder if there is anything left to say on the subject. However, the Dry Fire Primer takes a slightly different, but highly useful, approach to the topic. The book is not a compilation of specific drills. Instead, the author discusses in detail the reasoning and techniques behind dry fire practice. Annette Evens expands on the topics that others might only touch on in an introduction.


Available in Kindle format, the 66 page could be easily read in one sitting. Despite the brevity, the pages are filled with useful information. It's not all new or ground breaking, but it is helpful to both new and experienced shooters. Many times I found myself thinking, "Exactly!" as I read something that matched my experience. Or even, "I never thought of it that way.

A major focus is on safety. The author frequently reminds us that dry fire is silent, there should be no "bang." Throughout the book, tips are included that help emphasize that point. Consistency of technique between live and dry fire is also a well-covered point. Since there is no "bang" it's easy to get sloppy with things like grip pressure or safety. The book includes tips and reminders to avoid such issues.

Honesty in practice is another important topic throughout. Did you really beat that par time beep? Did you really have a good sight picture? Evans provides advice on overcoming those slips, and making the practice time truly beneficial.

The author is a proponent of using a shot timer in dry fire. I always use a timer for the starting beep to begin a drill. Evans' focus is on the par time to add further benefit to the practice. Besides a good measure of improvement, the pressure of beating the clock adds stress and can one help discover weaknesses in technique. To be honest, in the past I made use the par time feature of my shot timer frequently, but eventually got away from it. I will be taking Evans' advice going forward.

Besides all the useful hints and advice on how to, where to, and when to dry fire, the book is also motivational. While few would deny the benefits of regular dry fire practice, no matter how brief the sessions, it's often difficult to find the time in a busy day. The Dry Fire Primer offers the motivation to actually work it in to your regular routine. The emphasis is on quality practice, not the quantity of time spent.

The Kindle book is packed with useful tips and suggestions. It's a short read. But you'd rather be doing the practice than spending a lot of time reading about it. Right?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alewerks Hop Marrow - For Both Of Us

Long time readers of these Musings will know that Colleen and I have different tastes in our "go to" beer preferences. She will most often gravitate to the dark, roasted, and chocolate flavors. The hoppy beers feature prominently on my lists. Colleen will also enjoy the strongly hopped beer on occasion, but when we're out for a meal it's the Stout section of the menu that gets her attention.

On occasion, after stealing a sip of her order, I will switch to the same beer for my next round. But the power of suggestion rarely moves in the opposite direction. While out for dinner recently, it did just that.

It so happened that on this occasion we had both gone the Stout route. Colleen was enjoying the excellent Hardywood Gingerbread Stout while I sipped a Chili Chocolate Stout from Old Bust Head Brewing. Finishing my beer I went with Hop Marrow IPA from Alewerks Brewing.


I was quite impressed with the Hop Marrow. The aroma was very strong pine. In fact I remarked, "It smells like Christmas tree." The citrus and piney hops in the flavor were delightful. After taking the requisite shared sip, Colleen noted that while she rarely has a second beer with dinner, she just might have a Hop Marrow.

Sure enough, a second glass of Hop Marrow soon was set at her place. That's high praise for the beer indeed.

Monday, December 11, 2017

It's Dry Fire Season

I suppose it's always dry fire season. I am a proponent of regular dry fire practice, I just don't do it as often as I should. In the warmer months I am able to shoot a match most weekends, and hit the range for practice weekly. Now, as I look at the calendar and I see that the match schedule is sparse for the coming months, I begin to preemtively miss the shooting.

It's this time that I find it easier to get motivated the put on the gear and go into my dry fire dojo. I actually do enjoy dry fire practice, I just don't enjoy getting ready to it. Once I start I almost always end up doing a few more reps than I had planned.

This time of year I put on a fleece jacket when I dry fire. Not because it's cold in the basement, but because I'll typically be wearing it when I compete in the coming months. An added challenge currently is the obstacle course that has developed in our basement. We've been doing some renovations and clearing of the house recently so the basement is filled with furniture, boxes of books, and other items in temporary storage. Temporarily gone is the open area I used to use. Instead, I place targets around "all that stuff" and make use of the copious cover opportunities.

It's all fun, but the range still beckons...

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Christmas Shopping

This is the store I need.


If you are shopping for me, you need this store too.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Strangeways Brewing Expands Local Distribution

This is great news for craft beer fans in the area. I look forward to seeing more Strangeways Brewing beer in my fridge and in my glass.
(Fredericksburg, VA) – Virginia Eagle Distributing Company (VED) — is pleased to announce that a formal distribution agreement has been signed with Strangeways Brewing (Strangeways). The distribution area will include all markets that VED covers.

“A very important decision for a craft brewer in the state of Virginia is aligning with the right distribution partner,” says Neil Burton, Founder Strangeways Brewing. “Brown Distributing, in our home market of Richmond, has worked with us from day one and we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Partnering with VED was the next logical step to our expansion plans. They simply build brands in Virginia and we want to be part of that story.”

Known for producing “Virginia Craft beer for the intrepid palate,” Strangeways has developed a cult following. Albino Monkey (a 5% ABV Belgian White) leads their flagship brands, while Woodbooger (a 6% Belgian Brown) and Überlin (a 4.75% Berliner Weisse) round out the year round choices. Their Richmond and Fredericksburg taprooms always feature 36+ unique beers and they have been recognized by RateBeer as Virginia’s Best Brewery Taproom for three straight years, listed as one of ten U.S. breweries to watch from D.C. to California by bon appétit, as well as one of the South’s Best Breweries by Southern Living.

“For about two years, VED has not opened distribution from new suppliers,” states Scott Heinz, COO of Virginia Eagle Distributing. “We (VED) simply could not find a partner that aligned with our company’s goals and vision…until now. Neil and his team at Strangeways have done a great job growing their base business in Richmond and we believe that they are ready to advance their footprint. This is the right partner for us.”

Immediate distribution areas will include Fredericksburg city, as well as Prince William, King George and Spotsylvania counties. Expansion into the Northern Virginia and Charlottesville markets will follow.

“Most successful brands have used a targeted approach to growth.” states Scott Heinz, COO of Virginia Eagle Distributing. “We (VED and Strangeways) believe that local consumers in the Fredericksburg/Northern Virginia markets are looking for a quality craft beer option. We want to satisfy those consumers before considering expanding to other markets within the state.”

About Virginia Eagle Distributing
Virginia Eagle Distributing is the largest Anheuser-Busch beverage distributor in the state. We service over four million Virginia residents, 22,000 square miles and more than 60 counties, independent cities and towns. Our estimated 7,500 on and off-premise accounts, including local grocery and convenience stores, restaurants, clubs and bars, are offered a wide selection of products consisting of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers & imports, the best in local craft beers, ciders and select non-alcoholic offerings.

VED has built a reputation of excellence through their expert team of salesman, warehouseman, drivers and a professional marketing department. Each of these invaluable employees is asked to uphold the company’s mission to be the most professional and customer focused company within our industry.

Hat tip to BeerPulse.com.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Range Trip: Talon Grips First Impressions

I was reading an article recently where the author mentioned Talon Grips. It so happened that I had just shot my son's new SIG Legion with its highly textured gips, and had noted how much I liked the extreme texture. In fact, one of the things that attracted me originally to the SIG P226 E2 design, was the deeply textured grips on that model. Over the years I think the texture on that gun has lessened (or filled with skin.) My current weapons-of-choice, the P320 models have textured grips that are not quite as extreme.

I started doing more research on Talon Grips, including how they might affect my division choices in both USPSA and IDPA. I prefer to compete with stock guns, in the applicable divisions. Fortunately, the addition of the grip tape does not affect the gun's division standing. Being just .4 mm thick, the grips also do not significantly alter the grip size, nor is it a permanent alteration of the gun.

Talon Grips come in two versions, either with a rubber texture or a granulate texture. The granulated style is reminiscent of skateboard tape, or 100 grit sandpaper. The rubber version is slightly less extreme and is recommended for carry guns, as it it less likely to stick to clothing. I ended up ordering the rubber grips for two SIG P320's and the S&W Shield. 


I decided to apply the grip tape first to the Compact 320. The application process was quite simple. After cleaning the gun with the enclosed alcohol pad, I removed the backing and applied the grip tape to the gun. The Talon Grips are custom cut for each gun model, and the fit is very precise. I spent some time making adjustments until I was pleased with the result. Frankly, the fit is so close to the contour of the gun that it's easy to get obsessive with having it "just right." The installation is finished by heating the tape with a hair dryer and pushing it tight to the grip frame. I repeated the heat process multiple times, pressing and squeezing until the grip was form fit to the gun and the edges seemed well sealed.

I immediately liked the feel of the new grip in my hand, but the real test comes in shooting. I was able to take the gun to the range this week for a trial run. I spent time with slow aimed fire, and also fast strings of 2, 3, or 4 shots. Simply put, I am very pleased with the Talon Grips modification. Although the textured rubber surface does not seem overly extreme, the gun feels very stable in the hand. The texture is prominent enough that I feel it, but it doesn't grate on the skin. The extra texture and "stickiness" of the rubber is especially evident when shooting one-handed. I was able to get a firm, stable grip even when shooting support hand only.


I will probably find time this weekend to apply the grips to the other two guns. I'm especially looking forward to seeing how they benefit the smaller Shield. It's an easy bet I'll be ordering additional grips for some of the other pistols as well. 

I recall Talon Grips was a stage sponsor at the 2017 Delaware State IDPA match. Their grip material was used on the steps on a bridge prop. It was also a stage where I messed up my stage execution and earned a PE. But I won't hold that against them. 😀

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Feast of St. Nicholas

I am glad I often reread my own blog posts. I almost forget to dig out some Samichlaus for tonight! While I do that, please enjoy the post that reminded me.


Reposted from December 6, 2016.

Today, December 6 is the Feast day of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. St. Nicholas, was a wealthy and generous man. His generosity towards others led to him being the inspiration for the tradition of Santa Claus and gift giving. He is also one of several Patron Saints of brewing. It's not entirely clear why Nicholas was chosen as a Patron Saint of brewing. Tradition states that Nicholas was having a beer at an inn where the inn keeper had murdered three boys and packed their bodies in a barrel of brine. Nicholas was offered some salted meat with his beer. Due to a local shortage of food, Nicholas became suspicious, found the bodies, and brought the boys back to life. He died on December 6, 345 A.D. or 352 A.D.

Inspired by this feast day, is Samichlaus Bier. Samichlaus is a 14% ABV doppelbock that at one time was billed as the world's strongest beer. The name means "Santa Claus" in the Swiss-German dialect of Zürich. Brewed only on December 6 of each year, the beer is aged for almost a year and released in time for the following year's feast day. Samichlaus was originally brewed by Brauerei Hürlimann, and later by Feldschlösschen Brewery. It is currently produced by Schloss Eggenberg of Switzerland.

We have a tradition of opening an aged bottle of Samichlaus Bier on the evening of December 6. Tonight I'll dig through the boxes in the cellar and find something old to enjoy. Even if you can't get your hands on Samichlaus Bier, raise a pint to St. Nicholas today for his generosity and the traditions of giving he inspired.

Another tradition surrounding this Feast involves children leaving their shoes out the evening before, and St. Nicholas would fill them treats such as candies or fruits so the children know he had visited. It is from this tradition that we get the Christmas stocking.

Big kids sometimes get treats too.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Shadow Hawk Inaugural IDPA Match

Shadow Hawk Defense is a new, 150 acre range facility in Hedgesville, West Virginia. In addition to their private training ranges, they have built dedicated shooting bays for hosting competitive shooting matches. A monthly USPSA match started in September and has been well-received. On Saturday, the range hosted its first IDPA match. An unexpected opening in my schedule allowed me to participate.


As I headed out early Saturday morning for the 2 hour, 10 minute drive the dashboard thermometer read 28°. I watched it climb to 34° at one point during my travels, only to drop back to 30° when I arrived at the range. The drive was pleasant and I enjoyed watching daylight arrive in the mountains. Some of the drive was quite rural; at one point I stopped to let a group of chickens cross the road (literally.)


I opted to shoot in the Compact Carry Pistol (CCP) division at this match, using the SIG P320 Compact in an outside the waistband holster. Eight fun stages were set up in large four bays. The first four stages were adapted from stages we shot at the Potomac Grail match in October.

"Caught in the Kitchen" had us shooting from underneath a table. In October I shot the stage from a prone position, and did quite well, with just one point down. This time I opted to kneel, with a less satisfactory outcome; 10 points down and one HNT. I typically shoot well from prone, so I am not sure what compelled the change.


In "Local Gang Robbery" we started on a close target, shooting from retention. Then while retreating, engaged two head shot-only targets. The stage finished shooting from cover with 6 shots on a partially hidden target.

The stage "Girlfriend's Ex Got Coffee" had a fun start where we held a cup of "coffee" which we threw at a plastic covered target. There were two targets to be engaged while backing up to cover. At cover we dropped to a knee and reengaged the targets.

"Retreating Upward Standard" is based on a stage I remember all too well from the Potomac Grail match. Starting with the gun in the support hand we shot three t-shirt covered targets while retreating to a barricade. From that cover position three head shot only targets were engaged freestyle. A second string reversed the order of the target engagement, and started with strong hand only shots. At my previous run on the stage I forgot to shoot strong hand only, earning penalties. No such brain malfunction this time.

The stages "Moving Out of DC" and "Lawless and Kidnapped" made double use of an arrangement of walls and targets set up across the wide bay. For the former, starting with a magazine downloaded to eight rounds, we engaged two open targets on the move before hitting two more distant targets from cover. Moving down range two surprise targets were dealt with while moving to a final shooting position around a wall.


The latter stage of the pair started with the same initial four targets. We then continued across the bay to engage a steel popper from cover. The falling steel activated a drop turner that could be engaged from that same position or while advancing towards it, all before it disappeared. Arriving at cover there were two partial targets to be found. A quick run to the end revealed a final target behind a wall.

Both of these stages were a lot of fun. None of the shots were exceptionally difficult, though a few of the shots were tight or required hard leans. One had to balance speed of movement with accurate hits, and there was enough movement to make speed matter.

The final two stages also made use of a single set up, but still provided unique challenges of their own. The stage was set up across the bay and shooter had options for which direction to engage the targets. In "Truck Stop MS-13" I engaged the first three targets around left side of a wall. There were various targets, open, reduced, and head shot, to be found at three more positions moving left to right across the stage. The far right wall also hid a steel popper. After engaging the popper, a short move back to the left gave a view of the activated swinger.


The shooting scenario of this same course of fire was switched up for "Hold Onto Your Kid." The course designer was inspired by the internet video of the cop in Brazil shooting bad guys while holding his child. The "child" in this case was a large stuffed animal which was carried on our support side, forcing the entire stage to be shot strong hand only. Reloading could be done while holding the child in the support arm, moving it to the strong side, or setting on the ground. After some dry runs holding the large stuffed doll, I opted to maintain the support side hold. It was also stipulated in the stage briefing that the "child" had to be held properly, under the arms — we could not use the classic IDPA upside-down-by-the-leg child carrying hold.

The starting position for this stage was in the center of the course of fire. Since one cannot pass in front of unengaged targets, the targets on either side of the center wall were shot, before opting to move left or right. I moved to the far left and worked my to the right. As with the prior run, a final shift back left for the swinger finished the run.

I was thrilled to shoot the stage just down 2, even shooting one handed, with no make up shots. Alas, at the end of the run, the SO informed me I had swept the "baby" during my first reload. That gave me a 10 second Flagrant Penalty on top of an otherwise excellent run. Those are the breaks of the game.


Eight stages makes for a long match but it all flowed very well. We experienced no backups waiting for squads to finish. The temps eventually rose to the mid-50's, and the sun made an appearance as well, providing for a really pleasant day of shooting.

The ranges at Shadow Hawk are still under construction, but it is already an impressive facility. The pistol bays were wide with high berms. There were (I believe) five bays completed and I was told six more are planned. Each berm had benches for sitting, a large table and trash cans. Porta-johns are conveniently placed as well. It's those little details that add up to a great place to shoot. I suspect this will become a popular location for both monthly and sanctioned events.


I had a great time at the match. I felt good about shooting the compact gun, after a slightly rough start. Eight stages of shooting made the long drive, and early morning alarm setting, worthwhile. Only six shooters of 40 total were entered in the CCP division and I placed 3rd in the division. I also ran into some old friends I hadn't seen in a while, and made some new friends as well. I'm looking forward to returning for more matches in the coming months.

A few more pictures from the match are posted here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Five O'Clock Friday: Time to Relax

There's no better way to wind down after a long week than with a bit of smoke and noise. Especially when that's followed by good beer or two.


I'm looking forward to both this weekend.

Image via Twitter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Range Trip - Two SIGs

We've been living in construction zone for a few weeks as we undertake some renovations at home. Add to that stress from the craziness of catching up after the 4-day holiday weekend at work, and I was more than ready for some range time relaxation. My second P320 was returned from SIG last week after having the upgrade work performed, so I was most anxious to test it out.



I packed both the Full Size and Compact P320 versions for this outing, as I wanted to compare them directly. After spending time jumping back and forth between the two, it's hard to truly feel any difference between them. I did notice that I seemed to shoot the Compact model a bit more accurately then the Full Size. That's not what I would have expected, although I have been shooting the smaller gun more frequently of late. Undoubtably, there's more shooting practice that will need to be done to resolve that difference.

After shooting both guns over several trips to the range, I can say I do like the trigger enhancements performed by SIG as part of the "voluntary upgrade." While I was not worried in the least about the supposed safety issue, I am happy to have taken advantage of the offered "fix."

I shot longer and put more rounds down range than I typically do during a quick lunch outing. I'll have a bit more catching up to do at work, but it's worth it. The break was a most welcome diversion.