First Range Trip of the New Year: New Strategies and Some Lessons

I don’t plan to write a report of each of my visits to the range this year, but I thought, in keeping with my thoughts here, that I would put some range updates out there about my successes, failures, drills, lessons learned, etc.  The rationale behind this is to put extra pressure on myself to perform better (since I’ll be sharing with our readers), to demonstrate to our readers that I am NOT—nor do I think of myself as–Mr. Super Duper marksman, and to show that this whole self-defense training and improvement thing is a PROCESS.

Gear

I brought my Glock 19 Generation 3, the one that I have used in most of the classes I’ve taken.  I also brought along a second pistol in case something catastrophically failed on my primary.  This is standard practice for me, just as it is when I take classes.  There’s nothing more annoying than having everything organized (gear, child care arranged, if necessary/taking time from work, dinner plans already arranged, etc.), and then getting to the range and having your firearm fail.  Better to have a Plan B.

I brought along some homemade cardboard stencils that would enable me to easily make 12, 9, and 5 inch diameter circles (the 12 inch circle has a 5 inch hollow center, allowing me to draw two different sizes with one stencil).  Both stencils were then cut in half and duct-taped so they could easily be folded to fit in my range bag:

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12 inch outer ring with 5 inch inner ring

 

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9 inch circle

In my range bag I also had my prescription eye protection (see here), my Dark Angel Medical D.A.R.K. medical kit (see here), ear protection, some sharpies, lube, masking tape, spare magazines, and 150 rounds of 9mm ammunition.  I was not planning to shoot that much ammunition, but it’s always better to bring more than you need.  NOTE:  most ranges around here do NOT let you show up with loaded magazines.  You have to do that on the line.  Also, I foolishly forgot my baseball cap, so naturally ended up with one hot piece of brass between my eye-pro and eyebrow during one drill!

When I arrived at the range I bought 3 B-27 targets.  For those who may not know what they are, they are the standard silhouette target with a central X zone, and then concentric ovals around it marking off the 9, 8, and 7 zones.  The ones at this range were orange, which I’d never seen before (usually I’ve seen blue or black).

Ammunition Mistake

As I got everything I would need unpacked at the bench, I made a horrible realization.  I had purchased—for a bargain a few years ago—a bag of some reloads from a local seller.  I had tried them once and gotten a bunch of light strikes, and so I just threw the rest away.  Or so I thought.  Apparently, at some point I had put some of the reloads from the original bag into two empty boxes of Remington UMC.  Two of the three boxes I brought to the range were those boxes of “UMC”.  The other box was factory-fresh Blazer Brass.  The drills I was planning to shoot would require 82 rounds, so I knew right away I would be shooting at least 32 rounds of this junk.  Lesson learned:  always double-check your ammo before you leave the house!

The Drills

In keeping with my goals for the year, and in keeping with John’s article of having a plan at the range, I decided to shoot a series of drills outlined on Claude Werner’s blog, the Tactical Professor.  See the drills here in his post from October 23, 2015.  The drills aren’t necessarily meant to be super-duper challenging; I think the point is to establish a baseline of some basic skills in order to identify areas of need.

The range was busy that day, with a lot of B-27s set up at 7 yards being peppered along their lower quarter.  Ugh.  This particular range visit of mine included my first ever self-use of a shot timer.  Based on John’s review here, I bought the same Shotmaxx timer.  I have had some issues setting up the firmware on my computer, but the timer worked fine for me during this session at a crowded indoor range.  I just wrote down my times old-school rather than rely on uploading data from the timer to a computer.  I will note here that I shot all of these drills starting from a compressed high-ready position.

I sent my target out to 7 yards, lined up evenly with all the other targets at the range (this range goes out to 25 yards….obviously, no one was working on their distance-shooting that day).  The first drill was an untimed one, 10 shots on the B-27 and all 10 needed to be in the scoring zone.  No issues here; I was barely trying and only lost one into the 8 zone.  All the rest were 9s or 10s, with at least 2 Xs.  I was using the “suspect” ammunition and had at least 2 failures to fire in this drill.

I brought the target back in, took it down, flipped it over and taped all the hits.  I then used my template to trace a 9 inch circle on the back and sent it back out, this time to 5 yards.  On drill two, I had to shoot 3 strings of 5 and get all 15 hits on the circle.  Again, this one was untimed, and again, I had no real issues making the standard.  I used more of the questionable ammunition in this drill (trying to save as much of the good ammunition as possible for the timed drills), and at times it was like having a mix of snap caps and live ammunition in my magazines, and was an unintentional great way to check for flinching.  I think I experienced around 5 failures shooting these 3 drills.

The third drill was the first of the timed ones.  With a new B-27 target, I used my other stencil to trace a 12 inch circle on the upper chest area of the target.  I sent the target out to 7 yards, set my timer for random starts, loaded 4 magazines with 5 rounds each of the good ammunition, and began.  Goal was to get 5 shots into the 12 inch circle in 15 seconds, and to do this 4 times (20 rounds total).  No issues.  In fact, my hits were pretty tight and my times were 3.36, 5.64, 4.44, and 4.83 seconds each, nowhere near the upper time limit.  Werner admits in his description that this drill is not super-challenging, but that having the time limit does tend to mess with people.  Clearly, in my case, time was not an issue.

As predicted in Werner’s blog post, the 4th drill is probably the toughest.  He calls it the 5^5:  5 circular targets, each 5 inches in diameter, set up at 5 yards, to be shot with 5 rounds each, with 5 seconds allotted to each of the drills.  I brought in the B-27 from the previous drills, taped over the hits, and used the interior 5 inch “donut hole” template to draw 5 circIes on the back of the target.  I set up 5 magazines with 5 rounds each of the Blazer Brass ammunition, got my Shotmaxx timer ready, and got to work.

On the first circle, I rushed my shots.  I came in at 3.53, but put 2 shots just outside the circle.  On circle 2 I did the same:  3.36, but again put 2 shots just outside the circle.  Finally, I settled down and shot the rest clean with times of 4.53, 4.15, and 4.19.

For the final drill I hung up the last clean B-27 target I had and sent the target out to 15 yards.  The drill was to shoot, in 20 seconds or less, 6 rounds, reload, and shoot 6 more.  The target is then simply scored by the numbers, a 120 being the highest score (12 rounds in the 10 zone).  Unfortunately, in Werner’s post, he did not specify a particular “standard” score, so I assume the point is just to score as high as possible, and improve when you try it in the future.

At this point, I was down to 5 rounds of decent ammunition and the rest were the reloads.  So I set up my first magazine with a “suspect” cartridge as the first round and then 5 good rounds under it.  I then loaded up the second magazine with a full 15 rounds of reloads, figuring I would just do malfunction drills all the way through it if I needed to in order to get the final 6 hits on the target.  I loaded my pistol, put the second magazine in the magazine carrier on my belt, got my timer ready, and got to work.

My first magazine had no malfunctions, but I had at least 6 failures to fire in the second magazine.  Even with all of the racking of bad rounds out of the chamber, I got my 12 hits in 21 seconds.  My score was a 108.  I’m calling this a win.  Yes, the par time is supposed to be 20 seconds, but considering I was able to tap-rack my way out of 6 malfunctions, I think 21 seconds was damned good!  It also, no doubt, affected my hits a bit, as it was getting frustrating not knowing if each round would fire.  In the future, I would expect to get a 115 or higher.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was happy with this trip to the range.  I learned at least one major lesson (check your ammunition!) and was able to get a decent read on my skills to this point.  I found the first 3 drills easy enough to achieve that I probably will not revisit them (or will do them in modified form, such as from the draw, one-handed, or with a different pistol).  I do plan to shoot the 5^5 again and will just have to remind myself to slow down just a tad.  If I really want to try to blaze, I can try that from the holster; I can typically get 1st shot A-zone hits on an IPSC target at 7 yards in under 1.5 seconds, so doing the 5^5 from concealment would be a huge challenge, but rewarding if I can do it.  I also plan to shoot the final drill again, with better ammunition, in order to see how high a score I can achieve (a 120 would be nice).

In the coming weeks I plan to challenge myself with at least one more of Werner’s drills and also try out Paul Howe’s CSAT Pistol Standards.  I hope you found this post helpful/informative in some way.  Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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