Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Range Time Break

There are telltale signs that let me know the summer is over and the dreaded cold weather isn't that far off. One such clue is when the backpack blower gets strapped to my back and I start blowing leaves, which occurred this weekend. Another is when I need to put on a jacket when shooting at the indoor range, which also happened this week. (I didn't actually need the jacket outside.)

I missed hitting the range last week, but recouped this week for a quick run. Arriving at the range there was just one other group shooting and I was assigned a lane far from them. This trip I was shooting the full size SIG P320, using the B-34 "fun" targets. I started out with some slow fire at seven yards. Remembering my desire for more strong and week hand shooting, I aimed for the "small man" and score record boxes respectively. In both 10 round runs, I kept all shots to each within the outlines. Given my struggles with WHO and SHO shooting at recent matches, that did make me smile.

Moving the target out to 10, 15 and then 20 yards I went through the next 100 rounds. Mostly shooting slow, I was generally pleased. The sharp black target silhouette probably contributing to my ability to sight in on decent groups at distance. I did observe a tendency to let the front sight drop at the end of a run of a few magazines at a fairly rapid pace. That's something to keep in mind at the end of a long match as well I think.

All good things must come to an end, and much too soon I looked down at only empty ammo trays.

A bittersweet picture.

It was a most fun session, with satisfying results. I've been shooting the Compact P320 of late, so it felt good to use the full size gun for a change.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Enjoying the Outdoors at Strangeways Brewing

After our beer exploration at Highmark Brewery, we headed over to Strangeways Brewing to continue our Saturday flavor journey. Since the Strangeways location was (sort of) on our way home it seemed silly not to. As with our previous visit, this was also a "release day" at the brewery so there was another new beer to try.

The weather was quite pleasant this afternoon so we took seats at one of the outdoor tables. Strangeways' patio is dog-friendly and we enjoyed watching the antics of visitors' furry companions. There were also quite a few families taking advantage of the weather and beer. Having made many brewery visits with our son in tow as he was growing up, we always appreciate breweries that accommodate kids, and the parents who bring them.

This day's release was the Gourd of Thunder Imperial Pumpkin Porter. I'm not a huge fan of the ubiquitous "pumpkin beer" so many breweries release this time of year. However, when I do enjoy them, it's typically one of the "imperial" versions, so I was most anxious to try this one.

Gourd of Thunder pours a deep red-brown color, with a moderate off-white head. Aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove overlay the rich malt hitting the nose. Sipping the beer, the spices hit the palate first, but are actually muted and well-balanced. A malt base and hint of pumpkin flesh carry through in the finish. There's a touch of sweet caramel and vanilla also to be found. At 9.2% ABV, this is a pleasing sipper. I enjoyed the seasonal release very much, and regret not thinking to get a bottle, or two, to bring home. A return trip might be in order.

For her selection, Colleen opted for Gingerbread Boodwooger India Brown Ale. I got a little tongue-tied trying to order this one; the name is a variation of the brewery's popular Woodbooger Belgian Brown Ale. The spicy gingerbread spice flavoring of the beer was the prevalent, capped with a mild hop bitterness, along with hints of pepper and vanilla.

Since this was our second food truck-less stop of the day, we grabbed a bag of tortilla chips and a container of smoky salsa from the cooler. The corn chips and the hot and smoky dip went quite well with both of the beers. It made for a flavorful, if decadent, meal.

Monday, October 16, 2017

It's Monday on Blogger

Looks like the elves at Google managed to fubar the works again. About half the images on the Musings are missing this morning. I'm seeing this on other Blogger-based sites as well, and the other users are reporting the issue on the Blogger support forums. Of course, there's no acknowledgement of the issue by Google/Blogger.

Hopefully they will want to fix this quickly and we'll return to regular posting. Interestingly, the mobile version of the site appears to be working still.

It's true, you get what you pay for.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Highmark Brewery

Highmark Brewery opened early this year, just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, in Stafford County. Somehow I hadn't even heard about the brewery until this summer, and we finally made a visit this weekend. The brewery is located at the end of an unassuming commercial building, and I've actually driven by it on several occasions without noticing.

Entering the spacious tasting room, the large chalkboard listing the beer menu jumps out. With seventeen selections listed, I turned to Colleen and noted, "We have a few decisions to make." Upon closer examination, some of the beers were marked as being out. Highmark has a large selection of fruit enhanced beers; peach, blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, grapefruit, pineapple all were seen on the board. After a few minutes we had a selection of eight beers to try in our flight.

The beers we decided upon were Ginger Farm Saison, Blue Stone Kölsch, Yellow Belly Pale Ale, Déjà Vu White Peach Pale Ale, Highmark IPA, Sticky Fingers ESB with Strawberry, Amber IPA, and Raspberry Smoke Stout.

We spent some time working through the beers. We both especially enjoyed the Ginger Farm Saison and the Amber IPA. The Saison had a refreshing, moderately yeasty flavor with a hint of spice. Highmark's take on Red Ale featured a pleasing toasted malt base with a touch of bitter hops. This was my favorite of the bunch. 

The Blue Stone Kölsch was the only disappointment of the beers. We felt it was lacking in the expected crispness, and clarity. The flavor was to me "soft," and seemed stale. Leaving that one behind we enjoyed all the others. Overall, the beers were decent, though on the safe side. Granted many of the beers that might be expected to have bolder flavors, the IPA's and Stouts, were unavailable during our visit.

Highmark's website features a long list of food trucks that visit the brewery regularly, unfortunately there were none on site during our Saturday afternoon visit. As we sipped our beers, we detected the aroma of something cooking coming from the back. Soon, bags of fresh popcorn were delivered to the bar, and we promptly grabbed a couple (well, three eventually.) The popcorn was popped in coconut oil giving it a wonderful flavor. That was a nice treat to go along with the beer.

There were other local beers we wanted to try during our afternoon outing, so after finishing our flight, we headed out to another brewery and more beer.

To be continued...

Friday, October 13, 2017

It's All About Responsibility

I've written on the subject of beer and firearms together previously, and it's not an uncommon topic of discussion among friends and acquaintances. In my opinion, nothing beats a good beer after a fun day at the range. Quite often I have to make a decision between the two activities. The enjoyment of firearms, like the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages, requires a high level of responsibility and respect on the part of the participants.

I've often stated that if a person can't be trusted to walk in public with a gun, that person probably shouldn't be out on the streets unsupervised. If someone fails a background check because they were deemed too dangerous to own a gun, why should we allow them to walk around free to find other ways to do harm?

Recently I saw an online comment posted in response to article touting the typical anti-gun screed which raised the same discussion. (I won't dignify that article with a link.) The commenter pontificated thusly:
But, all that said? I truly am on board with the rest of it. I recently decided against buying a handgun for one of her reasons. I drink fairly often. Should I have a gun on me, or even in the house, when I've had three beers? No. So I have finally decided that a gun is simply not for me.

That statement elicited a migraine salute from me. Sadly this is not uncommon "logic" as exhibited by people who have little experience with firearms. What I read in the statement is an admission, that after three beers, this person feels they may become a danger to himself or others. Seriously, if you can't be trusted to have a locked up gun in your house after three beers, perhaps you really ought to skip those three beers.

In other words, if you know that doing something could cause you to act irresponsibly, don't do that thing.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dangerous Anti-Gun Legislation Introduced

By "republicans." Though that's not really surprising.

Read the bill here:

Unfortunately these weasels are more interested in doing something than they are in doing something. This cannot be allowed to stand.

BTW, the NRA opposes the proposed legislation.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Potomac Grail IDPA Match

On Saturday, I made the 2 1/2 hour drive to Thurmont, MD to shoot the Potomac Grail IDPA Match. I opted to shoot in the afternoon session, and so enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning before I headed out. The drive was pleasant and on mostly rural roads, although I did have to fight with the Google Maps app to avoid the Interstates. The weather for the match was a little warmer than I had hoped for, but it was not unbearable.

The twelve stage match (match book here) was held at the Thurmont Conservation & Sportsman's Club. This a nice facility with plenty of parking close to the bays. With one exception, the stages were set up two per bay, and the same SO crew ran each squad through both. Small squads and spacing between squads generally kept things moving, excepting when one squad got out of order, causing a cascading backup. It was a long but fun day of shooting and we completed the twelve stage match just before sunset. I enjoyed seeing friends and making a some new ones as well.

The Tier 2 match was promoted as a BUG/CCP self defense themed match. There was also a specialty division for "Carry Optics," a division that to me seems somewhat contradictory to me. A late addition was made for Stock Service Pistol (SSP) in order to increase an early low registration count. The CO and SSP shooters were limited to loading 8 rounds in their magazines to keep some parity across divisions. I shot the SIG P320 Compact in this match.

When I first looked through the matchbook, I kept thinking, "Well, that's different." There were a lot of interesting props and scenarios which were sure to keep it interesting and challenging. I was not disappointed. I heard shooters throughout the day commenting on the uniqueness of the stages. It's hard to pick my favorites, but I will describe some of the more interesting situations we faced.

In "Caught in the Kitchen" we began sitting or prone underneath the "kitchen table" with our gun on the ground near us. All shooting had to be done with our head under the table. The target placement was such that we had to shift our position between each of the three target arrays. As I crawled out from underneath after doing my walkthrough I was still unsure exactly how I was going to position myself. Interestingly, once I started shooting everything fell into place. This actually turned out to be one of my best stages, which I shot with just one point down.

"Spear Him" required us to simultaneously knock over a target with a two-handed throat punch, while stepping on a stomp plate the activated a drop turner and a swinger. The drop turner was fast and you had to be quick drawing your gun to shoot it before it disappeared. I did manage to get my two hits on it. Four stationary targets completed the stage.

"Food Court Terrorism" began by shooting a falling popper that activated an up-and-over target. After shooting that we went prone behind a row of barrels to engage the final three targets. Shooting prone is not all that common, at least in the matches I shoot regularly, and here were two prone stages in the same match. I enjoyed the chance to do so, especially since shooting from a prone position is forbidden at my local range.

"Girlfriend’s Ex Pepper Spray" had us starting out spraying a target in the "face" using an inert pepper spray trainer. We engaged targets while retreating, and again from behind cover. "John Wick Deadly Pen" was another stage with an out-of-the-ordinary start. We began in an elbows-forward blocking position holding a pen in our hand. The run started with us stabbing the pen into the bad guy's "head" — an overripe melon. Then, running to retrieve our tabled gun we hit a stomp plate which activated a swinging non-threat before engaging the rest of the course of fire.

I always find "pick up" gun stages in IDPA to be fun challenges. I've not shot a large variety of hand guns and it's interesting to try something new, and I also enjoy the mystery of what that first, cold shot will be like. As opposed to the truly awful trigger on the pick up Taurus at the Maryland State match this spring, on "John Wick One 7 Round Mag" we picked up a really sweet Remington 1911. (I'm not a 1911 fan, but maybe a full size 1911 might be a fun addition.) We did get to dry fire the gun a few times before shooting it.

Starting with the loaded gun in our strong hand, we had to engage seven targets, one shot to each, with the 1911. We then deposited the gun in a bucket, drew our own weapon, and finished the course. The targets engaged with the 1911 were set in three arrays that were arranged in a line, but placed with just enough separation in distance to require shooting in priority rather than down the line. I bobbled a bit picking out the order while I was shooting. The other threat targets on the stage were marked with black gun silhouettes, and interspersed with black hand non-threat targets, which caused me a few second looks. I finished just 2 points down, but learned a lesson to have my planned target shooting order better in mind.

"Mine Shaft Rescue" was an indoor stage built outdoors. The course of fire was encased in black plastic tarps. A small amount of light leaked in, but the optional flashlight was essentially a requirement. I was actually looking forward to some additional experience shooting with the light, even if it was only one stage. I ended up just two target points down on the stage, but also had one hit on a non-threat.

Another unusual shooting position tested us on "John Wick Shotgun Left." In this we simulated being attacked in the middle of a shotgun reload. We were required to have the shotgun slung around our neck with the stock on our strong side shoulder, holding the barrel in our support hand, loading port up, and holding a dummy round at the port in our strong hand. We had to maintain the positioning of the shot gun while engaging three targets weak hand only. This should have been a clean run for me, but despite a lot of weak hand practice lately, I dropped three points. It was still fun.

In what was likely the most talked about stage, our strong hand shooting was really put to the test in "Hurricane Rioting." For this challenge we held a ballistic shield in our support hand and at the start used it to push through a wall of four barrel "attackers," knocking them over in the process. We then engaged six targets on the move, strong hand only, while looking through the window in the shield. Arriving behind cover, we dropped the shield and reengaged the targets with two more rounds each.

This was quite a unique challenge. At one point during my advance, I got a little off balance and staggered side to side a bit. I recovered but did give the SOs a good laugh. Though finishing seven points down for the stage, I was generally pleased. Again, it showed me that I need a bit more practice with one-handed shooting, although I have no range where I can add movement to any of my practice.

The low point for me in the match was when I had a brain synapses misfire and shot a strong-hand-only string freestyle, earning a 10 second Flagrant Penalty on one of the Standards stages. That, and the hesitations on the 1911 stage, reminded me that I need to be sure to do a final, specific, mental run through right before shooting. In both these cases, I think my mental prep amounted to "shoot them."

I thought this was an exceptionally fun match. The stages were unique in their design, and while not overly difficult, provided challenges to both the shooting and mental games. I look forward to any match opportunities since my practice time is hampered by the limits of the indoor range, and an even more restrictive outdoor range. No matter the results I look appreciate the chance to do some non-static shooting.

In addition to the stage planning issues mentioned above, I found myself shooting a bit too fast and with less concentration toward the end of the day. However, I was generally pleased with my shooting on Saturday. A finish of 14th of 30 in CCP SS was not my best, but it was not my worse either. The Potomac Grail will be my last major match of the year, though there may be a couple local matches I can squeeze in for the balance of 2017. In any event, this would make a fitting and memorable conclusion to the season.

In my book, the inaugural Potomac Grail IDPA match was a success. As originally planned, the event was to include demonstrations by local self defense trainers as well. Unfortunately those did not pan out. I do like the concept behind this match, and I certainly hope it becomes an annual event. I'll be there if it is.

I've also uploaded a few more photos here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Targets Restocked

I noticed a couple weeks ago that the target boxes were feeling light. I quickly got off an order of some of our favorite paper targets. A stack of two hundred arrived this week.

I now have to find time to actually take them to the range.