So, 19 days after starting my second round of chemotherapy for leukemia, my blood test results pretty much show I have started to bottom out. My ANC was 0.1, which is as low as they show on the test.
So I’m now confined to home, except for clinic visits every other day. Today to pass time, I commenced to checking off a To-do box, and started watching The Pacific.
Meanwhile I cleaned my pistols, and made an embarrassing discovery: the pistol I carry almost every day, Liberty, my G19, had collected an unsightly amount of dust, mostly around the magwell, but also up under the slide, around the firing pin safety and connector. It didn’t take a lot to clean it, but I really don’t know how it might have affected the operation if I had needed to use it.
So now I am going to set a goal to inspect and clean Liberty every Friday or Saturday.
In the meantime, dry fire and study are my assignment. I can’t shoot until I get the IV line removed from my arm, so that’s what I’m left with. But I’ll take it, because like my chemo, it should lead to better things down the road.
Let’s face it, none of us is getting any younger. Without details, let me say that if I were a pro golfer I would be on the Senior circuit. So the time has come for me to decide – am I going to move forward, or continue where I am and accept a gradual decline into the sunset?
I’m moving forward.
Fortunately, I have some experience to draw on in my quest for improvement.
Once upon a time, when Old Tom Morris was a kid, a friend gave me an old golf bag and set of irons. I went and played, and I was hooked.
In the next three years, I went from nothing to a 14 handicap. How? Immersion, practice and dedication.
I got involved. At first I traveled around our area, playing public courses, but soon I joined a club. I took lessons, bought good equipment, and practiced, practiced, practiced. And my scores got better. I learned new techniques. What was difficult before got easier.
Then I learned how to build golf clubs from parts. I also fitted clubs for others, and I still play with wedges and a putter that I built. Now, this is one area where my shooting has already paralleled my golf, because I am a Certified Glock Armorer, and I am well into learning how my other guns work and are put together,
What was the theme that tied all these improvements together?
There are several things I can invest in for my shooting future. First, I have always shot matches as a guest of the club where I was. This also means, when I want to practice, I have to go pay a daily fee at a range. So, I plan to join a club, so I can practice more, and have access to lessons and instruction. I am now looking at my options and hope to report something soon.
Next would be to invest my time in practice. I’ve written about this here before, but I am going to establish a real regimen, and stick to it.
Next would be in equipment. Fortunately, my equipment isn’t an issue right now. Yes, there are better guns out there, but, to borrow an analogy from my golf game, by the time a $1,000 driver would do my game any good, I wouldn’t have to buy them because a sponsor would give them to me. It’s the same here. I’m not limited by my gun, and by the time I shoot better than my gun, Glock or Smith or somebody will offer to give me one, provided I don’t remain anonymous.
Next would be involvement, and I’ve already taken some steps in this direction, by sending in my application and money to take an RO training class here in the Atlanta area this summer. Frankly, I think I am long overdue. In golf, I found that knowing the rules backward and forward helped my game immensely. I know it will here too.
I will invest in some coaching, too. There are a number of good shooters around here who teach.
So, look for future posts on my practice regimen and other plans.
This is the second in my series of posts about practicing for competition. It is intended to lay out what a competitive shooter (me) can do to build muscle memory and improve pistol shooting. I should say by way of disclaimer that this isn’t a primer on practice for self defense – that will come in a later series. But a lot of the skills we will practice here will be useful for self defense, so this is where I start.
In competitive pistol shooting, seconds count. I’ve watched a lot of shooters at all levels, and one thing that separates the top shooters from the others is the time it takes to get the first shot off.
There are two parts to this – drawing the gun, and making the first shot. For some sports that start at a ready position not in the holster, like GSSF or Ruger Rimfire, this is distilled to the latter part.
I’m not going to go through the parts of the draw stroke, because a lot of people better than me have covered this in a lot better detail than I could. I suggest going to Youtube or Google and searching for “draw from holster” or similar.
Remember the mnemonic SPAR – Safety, Purpose, Action, Reflection. In this case, the purpose of the session will be to hone getting the pistol from rest to a first shot in the fastest time possible.
DRAWING FROM THE HOLSTER
To practice this, don your normal holster rig, and, if you’re practicing for IDPA, your normal cover garment. As with before, make sure your gun is unloaded, and all ammunition is removed from the room. This is especially vital if you will be practicing with magazines.
Starting with your hands in the desired initial position (relaxed or surrender) start out by drawing very slowly and intentionally, pressing out, and getting a good sight alignment. Press the trigger, and make sure the sights stay aligned. Concentrate on getting all the parts of the draw perfect. Speed is not the issue at this point.
Slowly increase speed until you are perfectly drawing as fast as you can. Then slow that back to 3/4 speed for most of the session.
Perform this with as many different hand positions as you can think of. Work on these with both hands, and with your strong hand and weak hand alone. Remember, you will see this in a stage, as well as a classifier or qualifier.
STARTING WITH THE GUN SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN THE HOLSTER
Many USPSA stages start with the gun unloaded on a table or somewhere other than in the holster. So it make sense to practice this. I usually practice it several ways:
Standing, gun unloaded on a table. Grab the gun, insert a magazine, rack, press out to aim, and fire. Repeat.
Seated, as above.
Standing, gun unloaded on a table some distance away, magazine on a different table, some distance away. There are two ways to do this, grab the magazine first or grab the gun first. In a perfect world I grab the magazine first, but I practice it both ways, since I never know what sill come up in a stage.
Standing or seated, with the gun in a drawer. This one is used a lot in IDPA stages.
STARTING WITH THE GUN AT READY
I devote the most practice to this, because this move is the most versatile. Think about it – starting with the gun at ready, I press out to the target, aim, and fire. This is what happens at the start of a GSSF stage and a Ruger Rimfire stage, but it’s also what happens every time I move from one shooting position to another in USPSA or IDPA.
This is where I have cut out the most wasted time, and I’ll share with you how. Watch a lot of shooters and you will see this: from ready, they press the gun out, bring it up to eye level, overshoot, bring it back down, overshoot, bring it back up, get the sights in alignment, and shoot.
What you see if the gun going out, then up, then bobbing up and down a few times until it stops. Then, they take aim, and fire.
What I learned to do is to bring the gun up to eye level as I press it forward. When it gets to eye level, I am still pressing out, and I am aligning the sights. Once the arms are extended, the sights are aligned, and I fire. Using a shot timer, I can go from ready to a first shot on target in less than a second. The key is to start aiming as the gun goes forward, and when the sights are on the target, fire.
As before, work on these with both hands, strong hand and weak hand.
PUT IT TOGETHER
Once you are comfortable with all these parts, put together a practice session, based on your upcoming competition. Here’s an example:
From ready, press out, fire. Start slow and work up to full speed. 20 reps.
From ready, strong hand, press out, fire. 10 reps.
From ready, weak hand, press out, fire. 10 reps.
From holster, draw, press out, fire. Start slow and work to full speed over 10 reps.
From holster, draw, press out, fire, strong hand. 10 reps.
From holster, draw, transfer to weak hand, press out, fire. 10 reps.
Again, there are countless permutations, and you can customize them to the matches you are shooting, and to the areas of your game you know need improvement.
Now, as you put away your gun and holster, make note of what went well in your practice session. I like to keep a journal, and keep track of the drills I’ve worked on. When I find I have trouble with one, I can track my improvement, and make sure it gets fixed.