Tag Archives: competitive shooting

SKILLS: Advantages To Competing With Your Carry Gun

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Competition creates competence, and Team Springfield’s Ivan Gelo reveals 4 big reasons why. KEEP READING

ivan gelo

SOURCE: Team Springfield, Ivan Gelo

When I began my life of daily carry almost 30 years ago, I carried what was approved and available. My respect of the .45 ACP round goes this far back, as that is when I chose to purchase a single stack .45 ACP as the handgun which would reside in my holster. I actually opted out of the .357 revolver that was department issued at the time.

Not long after, I began seeking out some of the best firearms shooting and training that was available. Living in a shooting mecca, I quickly caught the match shooting “bug.” It was in those early years that I met fellow Springfield Armory SMEs Steve Horsman, Kyle Schmidt, and some guy who was often seen riding wheelies around the range on his mountain bike. You guessed it — this multi-tasking dude was Rob Leatham. Being able to compete with shooters of all levels, from beginners to Master Class World Champions was both inspiring and awakening.

I decided then and there that for the majority of my match shooting, I would compete with some form of my duty or daily carry firearm.

CARRY OPTIONS
Fast-forward many years to the introduction of the Springfield Armory XD line of firearms. Since then, the XD(M) in 9mm has been one of my two primary carry / duty companions. In addition, it is the handgun I shoot in USPSA Production, IDPA Stock Service Pistol, and multi-gun matches. My second carry / duty handgun is a Springfield Lightweight Operator in 45 ACP. #EqualAdmiration

STOCK OPTIONS
Other than adding grip tape and experimenting with various iron sight combinations, my XD(M) pistol is in its factory stock condition. The only trigger enhancement that I have done is by way of hard use and repetition. The trigger components have refined one another simply by the thousands of rounds of 9mm ammunition that’s been fired through the gun.

ADVANTAGE, ME
I teach a lot of classes — from the novice shooter and the new police academy recruit, to the veteran SWAT officer and experienced competition shooter. Not only do I compete with the gun I carry, I teach with the same. Why, you may ask? Well, it’s simple, because there are so many advantages to competing with your carry gun.

1. TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT
I have thoroughly enjoyed attending Pat McNamara’s TAPS classes; his energy, shooting skill, experience and sarcastic sense of humor (at times) make him a great instructor. “Mac” brought to the forefront the reflection of the “overused axiom” of “train like you fight”. Understanding the history and actual concept behind this mantra still holds a lot of merit and is certainly applicable in the arena of competing with your carry gun.

The consistent use of your daily carry handgun in competition will pay dividends if you ever have to use your handgun in “real life”.

Anyone who competes regularly has done thousands of under-pressure first shot draws. This repetition, which is done on every stage of a match, assists the daily carrier’s tendons, bones and muscles in learning the precise angle the wrists need to be aligned for consistent, repeatable, proper sight alignment during a draw or presentation of the gun.

ANGULAR APPROACH
It’s a known fact that different handguns have different grip angles. This angle needs to be “learned” to the point where the draw is a reflective action. Much like shooting baskets in basketball, the mind integrated with the body, learns how much input, angle of release and arch needs to be applied to make the ball go into the bucket. This can only happen through repetition.

The draw is no different, and that grip angle is one of the reasons I like the XD(M)so much. The different-sized replaceable grip inserts allow a custom fit to the shooter’s hand. The XD(M) grip angle is also very similar to my other favorite carry gun, my Springfield 1911.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Each model of the wide variety of available handguns has a different, even if ever so slight, recoil impulse or timing. This feel and response also varies with different ammunition, even in the same caliber.

Shooting my XD(M) carry gun in competition helps me better understand the timing of my handgun. Acquiring the recoil / timing knowledge and experience of my defensive handgun enables me to shoot faster and more accurately. #BecomeOneWithTheGun

Shooting often in a competition setting — training — with the gun you may have to use in a lethal force encounter — defending lives — can only benefit you and those you protect and care about the most.

2. EXPENSIVE CUSTOMIZATION NOT REQUIRED
Most competition shooters eventually modify their firearms and/or end up purchasing brand new highly-customized guns for the sport. #ChaChing

Not me.

My XD(M) is the standard 4.5 inch 9mm model — again, it’s the handgun I compete with, as well as my basic duty / daily carry firearm. This particular Springfield has performed these multiple functions for me for almost a decade. During this time, I have spent little money to modify the gun. With the simple addition of grip tape and fiber optic sights, my cost to customize has been kept to a minimum.

USPSA Production and IDPA Stock Service Pistol divisions have been a perfect fit for me and my 9mm XD(M). The gun has served me extremely well, at a very cost-effective price point and I have no doubt it will continue to do so for many more years — in both competition and defensive roles.

3. THOROUGH TESTING & COMPLETE CONFIDENCE
Let me ask you a couple of questions:

How many rounds have you fired in the last couple of months with your carry gun?
Under what conditions have you shot your carry gun?
Do you have complete confidence in the reliability of your carry gun?
Do you have complete confidence in your ability to shoot your carry gun?
Within 20 rounds or so, I can tell you exactly how many rounds I have fired through my daily carry XD(M) in the last month.

MATCH REPORT
On the date of writing this article, I shot a 5-stage USPSA club match in northern Arizona. It had hit 105 degrees in the Phoenix area and summer had just started, so getting out of the excessive heat, if only for a day, was welcomed.

As with most USPSA matches, there were some very technical shots:

A “standards” stage with shots out to 50 yards.
Stages with a series of close, mostly open targets, where you can run the gun as fast as possible — with splits in the low teens.
Aiming-oriented stages with several “head” shots.

Everyone who shot the match was tested in a variety of situations, and all of this was done under the time and pressure of the clock. There are few better tests you will encounter with your daily carry firearm that require the variety of skills that matches offer.

RELIABILITY REQUIRED
Don’t discount the reliability of your gun, associated magazines, and ammunition used during a match setting either. Not only is it very important to your score, but the reliability of this same equipment during a lethal force encounter is CRITICAL.

Want to further test your carry firearm? Want to have complete confidence in your personal defense / carry gun? Make the commitment to shoot it consistently at your local matches.

4. TEACHING CRED
Any instructor worth their salt will always demonstrate the drills that they require of their students. And it brings even more credibility when these same demonstrations are done with a firearm that is similar to what the majority of the students are using or carrying.

The students will not only respect that you are shooting with them, but it’s almost more important that you are doing it with the same type of firearm, a firearm that they are also using and/or carrying for everyday personal defense.

To date, I have never regretted my decision to compete with my EDC / Duty pistols. My Springfield 9mm XD(M)® is still one of my favorite multi-use tools with great features.

XDM

So compete with what you carry, and rest assured that you will have the advantage at your next match AND every day as you get dressed and walk out your door.

RELOADERS CORNER: The Value of Accuracy

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Can you take a focus on accuracy too far, or never far enough? Here are some thoughts on why better accuracy (really) matters…

Glen Zediker

dial indicator

Anyone who has ever read one of my books knows the extent of tickiness that can be involved in handloading. Competitive shooters also tend to get pretty wrapped up and sometimes entrenched hopelessly in technical rifle details. All these things we do are done in the hope of better accuracy: smaller shot groups.

Why bother with tickiness? Well, the answer (always) depends on the level of tickiness afoot and on the level of reward we get from it. No other answer makes any sense.

Accuracy always matters. If you do something different or new in the handloading process and see better shot groups, that no doubt was worth it. Ultimately, it was worth it. It might have been upgrading tools, experimenting with components, one or more case prep steps you hadn’t tried before. It’s still always a payback over the expense, time, and effort. But. It’s another level, attaining another level. It’s stepped up. I’ve compared all this to other endeavors where attaining that new level forever eclipses the old. But then there’s also the time and the effort. When I load ammunition, I consider its purpose. I do not turn case necks for ammo that’s going through my old SP1 on a Sunday afternoon of tin can hunting with my sons. For that, I’m interested in volume and function: the best way to load a lot of .223 Rem. with bulk-packed bullets and ball gunpowder, and with the fewest number of steps. We need a lot of ammo because we have eradicated entire species of discarded objects.

But, let’s for the rest of this assume that the sole purpose is the smallest group sizes we can get, day in and day out. That’s easier to talk about and make sense of, because, no doubt, there are factors that influence it, and I do know what they are.

I’ve always judged accuracy by group size. No shock. Most people do it thataway. I’m also way on more concerned with the worst group my combination shows me than I am the best group. Not everyone views that the same. When it gets down to it, though, I want to know what the worst shot I can anticipate might be because that information is very valuable in adjusting for the next shot. Now I’m talking about shooting for score in a tournament.

I picture a circle that outlines the group size I warrant for my rifle/ammo combination. For my own purpose of clarity, I call it “the accuracy cone.” This circle gets bigger the farther I’m shooting. Shots outside that circle need correction, shots inside that probably don’t. Yes, no, I don’t always launch a perfect shot. So honesty matters, objective evaluation of the shot break.

Group ilustration
You are always shooting a group! You might be aiming at one point but you’re shooting a group. The aiming point is really the center of the group. That’s a “zero,” by the way, or that’s how to zero, but this is straying beyond the levee here. This drawing is a representation of the importance of smaller group sizes. One of the biggest helps that great accuracy provides is that it’s clear when there’s need for sight correction, and when there isn’t. The smaller circle the ammo covers on a target face, the more defining sight corrections can be. If that’s not clear: A perfect shot break on a correct sight setting at 600 yards from a 1 MOA combination means that a shot 3 inches left, right, up, or down away from target center is still a “perfect” shot, even though the perforation point was imperfect. With a 1/4 MOA combination, we’re defining “perfect” with more certainty, because “imperfect” is anything outside 1 inch of target center. Follow? This isn’t just theory.

Mathematically-oriented people may tell you (and I understand this) that testing with 3-round groups provides accurate feedback of a round’s performance. It has to do with probabilities and such. However! I believe too much in luck, or as Buddy Dave calls it, “The Bullet Fairy.” Math-folk will further tell you that the more rounds fired the bigger the shot groupings will become. I’ve seen many instances where that wasn’t true, where the first two or three rounds defined the outer edge of what ultimately became a 10-shot group. I can’t argue with math, but I can argue with myself to the point that I want to see more rounds, and more groups, before I cook up a big batch of a component combination and call it good, or call it “match ammo.”

If you are a competitive shooter, better accuracy helps you get all the points you hold for. We can’t, any of us, ask for more than that. If you are a varmint hunter, it means a close miss may become a hit. The smaller the target the more it matters, or the smaller the goal area on a target is. Aim small, miss small. So let’s miss smaller… Examples can continue, and they might involve a trophy elk in New Mexico, or something even more important to stop in its tracks. It’s doesn’t really matter if the target is 10 feet away, or 10 yards, or 1000 yards, a more accurate firearm is a more effective tool. You can’t miss! Or you sure don’t want to.

accuracy cone
This equals that. Accuracy, on-target group size, is a “cone” that gets wider, expands across distance. A 1/2-inch 100 yard gun is not a 5-inch 1000 yard gun. It shoots bigger than that. However! A solid load-test group like this one David Tubb fired at 288 yards held up on down the pike at 1000. Tip: velocity consistency is a key to keeping a group together at extended distances.

LAST WORD
The value of accuracy is undeniable, but the value of time and effort and expense does indeed have a limit. No, I don’t do “everything” possible to my ammo to make it perfect. I have found a few things that really help, things that are reasonably (by my standards) good paybacks. Another tip: Get a good barrel! Honestly: that gets the most from whatever you do, or don’t do, to help the cause.

This article is adapted from Glen’s newest book, Top-Grade Ammo, available at Midsouth HERE. For more information on that and other books by Glen, visit ZedikerPublishing.com

Shooting Your AR15 (better)

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The skill of developing a good trigger pull is the difference between a hit and a miss. Here’s how to get started developing perfect mechanics.

Pulling the trigger is the “last thing that happens” in the shot process. Well, technically, there’s also hammer or striker fall, primer ignition, and so on, but breaking the hammer loose from the sear is the last part we influence. Yes, it’s important.

There’s an old saw that goes “let the shot be a surprise…” Wrong. That’s a great concept for teaching a brand-new shooter not to be afraid: keep putting pressure back against the trigger until the shot goes. That helps avoid anticipation-induced flinch. However. When we’re really shooting, sights on targets and time is important, you best know when the shot is going. Trick is to break the shot, pull the trigger, without moving the sights off the target. That requires a little technique, and that’s what this article is about.

First, the best point of contact with the trigger face is near the middle of the first pad of the index finger. Not farther in. Ideally, the last joint of the index finger (closest to the fist knuckle) will be parallel to the gun receiver. That helps produce a “straight back” pull.

point of contact with trigger
Here’s the point of contact with the trigger face for best mechanics. It’s not easy to attain on an issue AR15 trigger, but get as close as you can. Of great importance is that no other little bit of the finger touches the rifle. If it does, there will, not can, be rifle movement during the trigger pull.

Make double-sure that no other part of the index finger is contacting anything else! Done right, only the trigger finger moves to press the trigger. The rest of the hand stays calm and steady (no matter how tight the gripping pressure is). This is something to put on the checklist: learning and practicing isolating movement to only the trigger finger. And move it straight back. Any side-loads will also move the gun, which will move the sights.

This ideal architecture may be difficult to duplicate depending on the distance the finger has to reach to access the trigger face. Usually, especially with pistol-grip-equipped rifles, the distance to the trigger is closer than ideal. Be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish (pull straight back, no side pressure), and a little fudging in finger positioning will find a way. For me, and the eons of hours I spent fiddling with this, with an AR15 I decided that getting the last joint parallel to the receiver ultimately was a more influential factor than perfect placement of the trigger face on the first joint of my finger. I’m moved in closer to the first joint than to the fingertip.

When you’re practicing the “move only the trigger finger” tactic, you might notice that it’s difficult to do that without also having the thumb move. They’re a team. As best as I can, I effectively remove my thumb from the equation by holding it upwards (if possible) and keeping it either away from contact with the rifle or deliberately held against the rifle with constant force. The sympathetic “pinching” habit has to be overcome. Sympathetic, in this use, means unavoidably linked. Flexing the thumb in conjunction with moving the index finger will, not can, influence shot impacts.

A great trigger makes all this next a far sight easier, but the mechanics involved in a skillful trigger pull have a lot to do with what happens after the sear breaks. “Follow-through” has different definitions, and that’s because it’s as much of a concept as it is a technique. Follow-through, to me, is “staying with” the trigger break for a spell after the shot has gone. This spell might vary from a couple of seconds to no more than an eye blink, and the reason is the sort of “reverse” effect it has on all that goes before. A focus on this will, not can, improve your shooting! I focus on keeping the trigger held back and also watching the sight. Follow-through promotes smoothness, and reduces undesirable movement. Call it a trick, but it works.

Shooting a semi-auto rifle, like an AR15, keep your finger on the trigger shot to shot. “Ride the trigger.” Some folks treat a trigger like it’s hot: they poke it back with the trigger finger and then jump off it. Staying in contact avoids “slapping” the trigger, which creates all manner of shot impacts strayed from center. You should be able to feel the trigger reset on every shot. The reset is the little “pop” you feel when the disconnector hands off the hammer to the sear. Pull the trigger, hold it back, let it forward and feel the reset: the trigger is prepped and ready for its next release.

AR15 disconnector function
With any semi-automatic, you’ll do better if you keep the trigger finger in contact with the trigger face all the way through each shot, back and forward, for all the shots. Don’t jump on and off it. Ride it. Feel the disconnector work: pull back and hold (top photo), and then release forward and feel the “pop” as the trigger resets for another go.

Learning how this feels, and seeing how much it helps, might add a whole new dimension to your shooting.

In another article I’ll talk about trigger types and traits that can either help or hamper results. The answers might not be predictable.


Glen Zediker is a card-carrying NRA High Master competitive shooter and earned that classification in NRA High Power Rifle using an AR15 Service Rifle. For more information, and more articles, please check out ZedikerPublishing.com