Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Black Target Problem

The “No More Black Targets” Campaign is, apparently, a movement to eliminate the use of black targets at gun ranges. Or, I think it is. Honestly, I am not sure if this is a serious movement or an exceptionally well-played internet troll. From the website...
An academic study published by University of Illinois researchers drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.

"What we found is that it does," Mekawi told NPR's Arun Rath, who covered the story.

"In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And ... people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets."

The claims of liberal snowflakes often border on the absurd, but this is the first time I've ever heard of race being applied to cardboard. If race is applicable to non-living objects, then we must take into account that most guns are black as well. It then follows that what we actually have is a black-on-black crime issue, rather than an issue of racism.

On the other hand...

I looked through the alternative target gallery on the site. If #NoMoreBlackTargets catches on, the hippie community may soon feel targeted as well.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Challenging IDPA Match at Rivanna

On Saturday it was time once again to head over to Charlottesville for the monthly IDPA match held by the Rivanna Action Pistol club. Checking the weather the evening before, I saw there was a predicted 35° temperature swing during the time of the match. The morning started at 34° and the car thermometer read 72° at the end of the match — in February!

The Match Director set up four extremely challenging stages. The first stage had us seated at a table, with the loaded gun in a box, and spare magazines on the table. There were two rows of targets placed behind a row of non-threats. Copious leaning in the chair was required to see all targets. Head shots were not required, but for all intents and purposes, heads shots were the safest option to avoid the non-threat targets.

Stage 2 was an interesting stage with two moving targets. From the start position we faced three targets; an open target on the left, in the center an up-down target that popped up from behind a barrel and activated by a stomp plate, and on the left a paper target with a falling popper behind it. The popper activated a double swinger with a non-threat that we would shoot from the next position.

The up-down target come up and dropped back down very quickly, so you had to be ready to shoot it when you stepped on the activator. There were differing opinions on when to activate the double swinger. The targets were slow to separate, but as they slowed the targets would get back in sync. Continuing through the course we faced a target between two non-threats. At the final position, three more targets, two of which were also partially obscured by non-threats. Though not required, shooting head shots seemed the safest course of action.

Stage 3 started us facing up range, standing in front of a target stand, which we knocked over at the start before turning to engage three targets while on the move. Moving to cover, we found two more targets, with a non-threat placed to make head shots the way to go yet again. All the targets on this course of fire required a minimum of three hits each.

The fourth match stage, which was the first one our squad shot, consisted of just three, open targets. Magazines were downloaded to 6 rounds. We put two hits on each target, did a slide lock reload, then put two more hits on each. Simple? Not quite, the targets were set at 35 yards! It was quite the stage on which to warm up. We were warned that future matches would feature even longer shots.

The match was a lot of fun, and a bit frustrating at the same time. I hit three non-threats and dropped several head shots. Accuracy was extra important at this month's match. Between long distance shots, fast movers, head shots, and lots of non-threats, it was quite the challenge. In total, the 68 shooters racked up 3,786 points down, 136 hits on non threats and 40 procedurals — in just four stages requiring about only 60 shots!

The Rivanna club is hosting the Commonwealth Cup in September, so I expect the monthly matches leading up to the sanctioned match this fall to be more demanding than usual. It'll be good preparation, as well as a fun way to, hopefully, get better!

Now, back to the practice range, and more dry fire...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Catholic Terminology

An explanation of Catholic terminology for your Sunday reading.

AMEN – The only part of a prayer that everyone knows.

BULLETIN – Your receipt for attending Mass.

CHOIR – A group of people whose singing allows the rest of the Parish to lip-sync.

HOLY WATER – A liquid whose chemical formula is H2OLY.

HYMN – A song of praise usually sung in a key three octaves higher than that of the congregation’s range.

RECESSIONAL HYMN – The last song at Mass often sung a little more quietly, since most of the people have already left.

INCENSE – Holy Smoke!

JESUITS – An order of priests known for their ability to found colleges with good basketball teams.

JONAH – The original “Jaws” story.

JUSTICE – When kids have kids of their own.

KYRIE ELEISON The only Greek words that most Catholics can recognize besides gyros and baklava.

MAGI – The most famous trio to attend a baby shower.

MANGER – Where Mary gave birth to Jesus because Joseph wasn’t covered by an HMO. Holiday travel has always been rough.

PEW – A medieval torture device still found in Catholic churches.

PROCESSION – The ceremonial formation at the beginning of Mass consisting of altar servers, the celebrant, and late parishioners looking for seats.

RECESSIONAL – The ceremonial procession at the conclusion of Mass led by parishioners trying to beat the crowd to the parking lot.

RELICS – People who have been going to Mass for so long, they actually know when to sit, kneel, and stand.

USHERS – The only people in the parish who don’t know the seating capacity of a pew.

Tip o' the hat to Gun Free Zone.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Date Day Part 2 - Strangeways and Legend Breweries

After we finished up a fun-filled hour at the range, Colleen and I headed over to our next planned stop, Strangeways Brewing. We don't get down to Richmond often, and this place has been on my "need to do" list for sometime. Strangeways has 36 beers on tap, so deciding where to start was an issue. The friendly bartender suggested we start with the "Nucleus Flight" consisting of six of the brewery's core beers.

The beers on the flight are Albino Monkey White Ale, Woodbooger Belgian Style Brown Ale, GWAR Blood Red Ale, Phantasmic Belgian IPA, Hop Howler, and Überlin Berliner Weisse. We enjoyed the entire flight. Interestingly, Colleen and I were in agreement in picking Albino Monkey, Woodbooger, and Phantasmic as our favorites, but it was quite difficult to actually rank the six beers in order of preference.

The 3.5 ounce servings were enough for us to share but not so big that we couldn't try out more beers. So after the flight we grabbed a bag of tortilla chips and some salsa from the cooler, and tried a couple more 5.5 ounce tasters.

Colleen selected the Tirami'zu Brew Rum Barrel Aged Porter. This porter is brewed with coffee, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans and aged for 3 months in rum barrels. How could one go wrong with that? The beer did justice to its namesake with flavors of rum, chocolate and coffee. The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. My next selection was Legalize It Come Togther Hoppy Wheat Ale. The juicy citrus hops were joined by a nice wheat flavor that for a unique flavor profile.

The beers at Strangeways are as unique as their names. As we prepared to leave for our next stop, I still was curious about a few other beers on the list. One that had been tempting me the whole time was Virginia Stingo Red Wine Barrel-Aged English Strong Ale. At 10% ABV, I couldn't add it to my tasting list, but the bartender offered me a small taste. The Old Ale was aged for nine months in oak barrels that previously held red wine. And what a fantastic flavor that created! Boozy, with lots of dark fruit with caramel sweetness. In retrospect, I should have brought a bottle home.

After Strangeways, our original plans were to grab a quick bite to eat and head home. However, we decided to get food, and more beer, at another area mainstay, Legend Brewing Company.

We opted for a couple of starter plates for an early dinner; the Munich platter with Bratwurst, Kielbasa or and Andouille, (we upgraded to all three) a soft pretzel, sauerkraut, havarti cheese and spicy mustard, and the Smoked Salmon platter with honey smoked salmon, avocado, roasted red pepper, Fuji apple, dill cream cheese and grilled pita. The two plates contained more than enough tasty food for us to share.

As for the beer, I had a Golden IPA and Colleen enjoyed the seasonal Winter White. Both beers were fine accompaniments to the food, over which we lingered for quite a while. We also enjoyed a sample of the just released Ütebier. This struck me as a cross between an American Pale Ale and a very crisp Pilsener. It was an interesting flavor, and one I might seek out in a bottle locally.

Believe it or not, after all the food and beer enjoyed in the long day, we debated a bit about the next stop in our adventure. We'd already made it a longer day than planned, but as noted, we don't make it down to Richmond all that often and debated extending the road trip. In the end, we opted to start the long drive home, vowing we'd be back soon.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Welcome Text Message

In the middle of a ho-hum day, it's a joy to get a text from Colleen when she's out shopping.

The day is looking up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Date Day Part 1 - Blue Ridge Arsenal

I took on Monday off so Colleen and I could have "date day" doing fun stuff. We started our date by enjoying some shooting at Blue Ridge Arsenal - Winding Brook. Blue Ridge Arsenal is a new range in Ashland. It's less than an hour from our home and an easy drive down I-95. We'd never been and were looking forward to checking it out.

Upon arrival it took just a few minutes to do the one-time review of the range rules at an electronic kiosk. After that we paid our fee at the counter and got to our lanes with no delay. The Range Officer gave us a quick tutorial on operating the target carriers and a few other directions. He watched us for a few minutes and then left us alone to shoot. The Range Officers we saw were attentive but not hovering.

Shooting out to 25 yards is available at Blue Ridge. I started out shooting at 7 yards, then moved the target out to 10 yards. I also made use of the turning target feature to add some challenge. Shooting from low ready, I set the target to be exposed for 2.5 seconds and varied the shots from 1 - 3 each cycle. At first I was slow acquiring the sights when bringing the gun up. Eventually I was getting the third shot in consistently — and getting accurate hits. In the future, I'll vary the distance and timing to see what I can do. Drawing from the holster is permitted at Blue Ridge Arsenal after approval by one of the Chief Range Officers. There was no one on duty to do that while we were there but I'll definitely seek that approval on a future visit.

For my last few mags I set the target at 15 yards. Even though I can't see the target clearly at the distance, I was happy with the results. I jerked a couple shots, as often happens when I try to slow down too much and let my finger "think."

It was fun shooting with Colleen. We each had our own lane, but the glass dividers allowed us to see each other. We frequently stopped to compare targets and share what we had been doing. It's always a thrill for me to see how well she shoots too.

I recently learned that Blue Ridge Arsenal holds a monthly weeknight IDPA match. Now that I've visited the range, I'll try to fit that into my schedule on occasion too. And I'm pretty sure Colleen and I will be back again for more range time soon. Our local indoor range is much more conveniently located, but shooting at the turning targets in a climate controlled range was much more enjoyable than shooting static targets in the cold.

After shooting, we continued our date by visiting a couple local breweries. That will be a subject of another post.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chesapeake Cup IDPA Match

On Saturday, my friend Stuart and I ventured across the Potomac River into the People's Republic of Maryland to shoot the Chesapeake Cup Tier 2 IDPA match at Sanner's Lake Sportsman's Club. The match was a BUG and CCP specialty match, so I shot my SIG P239 in the CCP (Compact Carry Pistol) division. The match was a lot of fun, with interesting and challenging stages.

As I went through my photos from the match, thinking about which stages to highlight, I realized that each of the stages had some unique or interesting element about it. I'll mention those points briefly, and hopefully not make this post overly long. Photos of all the stages from the match are posted on Flickr.

All the original squads were divided up even further the morning of the match, so we shot with just six folks in a squad and the match moved quickly. Thank you to all the volunteers who showed up to run us through the stages efficiently.

Our squad started on Stage 4, which saw us "handcuffed" to a table. Two target groups were placed on either side. The rope cuffs restricted our movement such that most folks had to shoot the targets one handed. I had my one and only hit an non-threat of the match on this stage.

The scenario for the next stage started us holding a couple of water bottles before engaging some distant targets in a "car." Next we moved to a window where more targets were found. The final target on this stage required a significant lean out from the fault line to hit, and the hard cover at the edge of the port took quite a beating.

Stage 6 started with the loaded gun in a box. There were three targets to be engaged while seated. After leaving our seat there where three more targets to be shot from two other positions.

The next stage had a moving target of a sort I had not seen previously. At the start, the shooter flipped a light switch which activated a pneumatically operated up and down non-threat blocking the shot on a scoring target. The non-threat popped up immediately at the start, too fast for most folks to draw and shoot. So we first moved left to engage three paper targets and a steel popper on the left, then hit then center target as we moved right for the final targets. The challenge was that the moving non-threat dropped slowly down, then after a few seconds, popped up FAST. You had to be prepared to shoot as soon as it dropped, else you risked having it jump up as you shot. Time it wrong and you waited for the delay before it dropped to expose the target again. This was a very fun stage to shoot.

Stage 8 consisted of nine targets all requiring one shot each. The first six targets were to be shot on the move as we advanced down a row of barrels. There were some non-threats interspersed so timing of the movement was important; too slow and you wasted time, too fast and you passed a target's visible range. For the CCP division, shooting well and not taking any makeup shots meant you saved time by not needing to reload.

Next we moved to a stage with a line of six targets, each requiring three hits, at least one of which must be a head shot. Adding to the challenge was the placement of non-threats lined up behind the targets. You had to shoot the targets from just the right angle to avoid a shoot through to the penalty targets.

Moving on, we got to the "selfie stick" stage. The scenario was that we were millennials who couldn't put down the selfie stick, even if we were being shot at. We had to carry the selfie stick throughout the stage, which meant shooting it all one-handed. I shot this one just one point down but did have a bit of a struggle reloading while holding the stick. I managed to trap the tip of my pinky finger in the mag well when inserting the magazine. It wasn't until a few stages later that it turned purple and started thumping. I'll need to practice inserting the magazine while holding another object in the same hand — before I shoot an upcoming match requiring the use of a flashlight.

The next stage is another I found especially fun. It was also the stage on which I had my best finish — 5th place overall. The loaded gun and our spare magazines were left on a table. Our hand was on a bag, the pulling of which activated a swinging pair of a non-threat and a threat target. The two moved independently, exposing the target for varying bits of time. The swinger also settled quickly so you had to shoot it before the target was hidden again. First there were two targets to be engaged through a low port. So, shoot through the low port, quickly move to the swinger, then run back to the other side to finish, grabbing the reload off the table on the way.

The "standards" stage for the match consisted simply of three targets placed behind two non-threats, and was shot in two strings. The first string was strong hand only, the second was done weak hand. Each string required two body shots on each target first, followed up by a head shot to each. The targets were placed fairly close. Alas, I jerked two of the heads shots, in addition to getting a few -1 hits. Time to practice more one-handed shooting.

The final stage had us shooting a mix of paper and steel while navigating the course of fire that was an L-shaped hallway. Each paper target required three hits each. Some of the targets were exposed through a very narrow opening or a high port.

Overall, I was generally pleased with how I shot. I hit only one non-threat. I missed a number of head shots, especially when I was shooting one-handed. Other than those misses, most of my lost points were -1's. A finish of 15th out of 32 in my division 34th out of 91 shooters.

Included in our match fee was a tasty lunch served by Southern Bobby-Q Catering. We had our choice of Pulled Pork, Italian Sausage, Steak and Cheese or Hot Dogs. My Italian Sausage sub with peppers and onions was delicious and hit the spot before the final stages of the match.

The Chesapeake Cup was a fun event full of stages to which entertained and challenged us. Shooting the compact gun was both fun and frustrating at times. However, the match also confirmed to me that I can be confident shooting and carrying it. Nonetheless I'm looking forward to some range time with a full-size gun next week.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Saint José Sánchez del Río

Today, February 10, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint José Sánchez del Río. On this date in 1928, this 14 year old boy was killed by Mexican troops for refusing to renounce his Catholic faith during the Cristero War. The story of this period of Catholic persecution led by Mexican President Calles was told in the movie "For Greater Glory." The young martyr was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005, and later canonized by Pope Francis on October 16 of last year.

The Saint's story is one with which few American Catholics are familiar. That is a tragedy in its own right. Though they might not know the Saint's story, many Americans are no doubt familiar with his face. The picture, shown below, of the young boy with Cristeros fighters is one that is often seen hanging in Mexican restaurants, among other old photos. Probably not too many diners know that a Saint and fighter for religious freedom is looking down at them while they eat.

After José was captured by government forces fighting the Cristero, he was forced to witness the torture and execution of fellow Catholic countrymen, yet he never wavered in his faithful resolve. He was himself was tortured and urged to shout "Death to Christ the King" with the promise his suffering would be over. On the day of his torturous execution, the soldiers cut the soles of his feet and he was made to walk barefooted to the grave they had dug for him. He was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets as he made his way to the place of his martyrdom.

Even after he had been shot he continued to cry out "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long live Christ the King!") The commander of the soldiers was so furious that he was able to resist the government barbarism, he finally shot the boy in the head. As he died he is said to have drawn a cross on the ground with his own blood as a final act of defiance.

During the Cristeros War many Catholics were killed by the Mexican government for their faith. This tragic part of recent history is pointedly ignored by the history books in both the United States and Mexico. It is a story that needs to be told and learned by all free people.

Saint José Sánchez del Río is truly a Saint for our times. His faithfulness in the face of torture and death should be a model for all of us. I pray we can be as strong when our own persecution comes.

Blessed José Sánchez del Río, Pray For Us!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

100 Round Lunch

Another lunch break spent at the indoor range.

I originally figured I was going to have a full week of eating lunch over my laptop. However, I did toss my range gear into the car before I left home in the morning, just in case. Fortuitously, a scheduled conference call was cancelled so I managed to get out of the office.

The car thermometer showed 37 degrees outside when I pulled into the range parking lot, and it was close to that inside. There’s something odd about shooting indoors in a coat and hat. Shooting in cold weather doesn’t bother me — when I'm actually outdoors! There were only a couple other shooters so it was a little more relaxing time than last week.

Again I worked with the SIG P239. This trip I mostly shot from 10-15 yards, with some closer one-handed shooting thrown in. After a few weeks of dry fire and a couple range trips, I’m feeling reacquainted with the compact gun. We’ll see soon how well that translates to competition.

With the outdoor range operating under short hours and increasingly restrictive shooting rules, I’m relying on dry fire practice these days more than anything else. Practice drawing from the holster and doing reloading drills is pretty simple with dry fire, and I do try to simulate a bit of movement as well. However, my live fire practice is restricted to standing in the range booth and shooting, at best, from low ready. At least quick follow up shots are within the range rules.

The match season is getting ready to ramp up again, and soon I’ll have the option of shooting most weekends. Those matches may well be about the only shooting on the move I get to do for a while.

First Pro-Freedom Bills Head to McAuliffe

The first three pro-freedom bills of this year's session are headed to the governor's desk. From the VCDL update:
Lobby Day continues to pay off.  All the gun-control bills are now dead for this year.

The following three pro-rights bills have passed both the House and Senate and are headed to the Governor's desk for his signature or veto:

HB1432, Delegate Lee Ware, legalizes switchblades and allows for concealed carry of them in certain cases.

HB 1582, Delegate Jeffrey Campbell, allows active duty or honorably discharged military members who are over 18 and under 21 years old to apply for a CHP.  This would also fix the issue with Georgia not honoring our CHPs.

HB 1849, Delegate Gilbert, allows Circuit Court Clerks to laminate or create plastic CHPs.

There are another 15 pro-rights bills still working through the system in both houses.

We suffered one loss: SB 1441, Senator Glen Sturtevant, would have allowed gun owners to vote absentee if their poling place bans guns.  This bill was put in for VCDL and we thank the Senator for doing so.  We will look at other ways to skin that cat next year.
It's a welcome sign that all the anti-gun bills were killed this year. However, I fully expect our governor, who's more interested helping criminals than law-abiding citizens, will veto the bills without a second glance.

I am most interested in HB 1582 which would likely lead to Georgia honoring Virginia Concealed Handgun Permits. It's interesting that GA doesn't recognize VA due to the Commonwealth of Virginia believing that U.S. military personnel between 18 and 21 cannot be trusted to carry a handgun concealed. Think about that for a moment.

Follow the VCDL Legislation Tracking Tool for the latest on pro-right bills as they move through the legislature.