If a bad day at the range is better than a good day at the office…

then what is a good day at the range better than? Because I just had one.

It was a bit warmer than I liked, and the wasps and bees were a bit more active than I like (okay, a lot! But that’s because I’d prefer they didn’t exist at all outside of honeybees in out of the way places.) but I had some quality time putting about 200 or so rounds downrange (various amounts of .45, .380, .308Win, and lots of .22). I decided that my rifle is fully sighted in to 100 yards, within the limits of the inexpensive factory ammunition I was using, at least. I think that getting it any better would require match grade ammo and a bench rest. Three of the 38 rounds of .380 I used were duds (not light strikes – I checked and retried them with no luck), but that’s what I get for buying cheap, off brand stuff. I’ll avoid that brand in the future.

I’m starting to wonder if the wide grouping with my .45 really is me, or if the gun itself just isn’t that good. I can consistently hit minute of bad guy, but at 25 feet I’m all over the target. The P3AT gives me a tighter grouping at the same range, and the sights on that are almost nonexistent. Maybe I’ll look at improvising a pistol rest of some kind, to try and take myself out of the equation as much as possible. On the other hand, I’ve got my grip down and had decent ammunition (Blazer steel cased), so there were ZERO malfunctions with it out of a 50 round box plus 20 rounds of carry ammo. I can at least be confident that it will go bang if I ever need it, and that I’ll be able to hit whoever caused me to need to use it.

As I was leaving, a man was setting up with his two sons for what was obviously their first range trip. From conversation I overheard, he had prepared them right the night before, and was doing a good job with them for the short time I was there. There was one admonishment – in my opinion very well handled – on muzzle control while they were uncasing the guns, but that was it. Here’s hoping for many more good range trips for that family!

All in all, a good time was had. Shooting is fun!

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Range Report – 2011-05-20

Since I’m on staycation for my birthday, I managed to make it out to the range on Friday. The nice thing about going during the day on a weekday is that the range is not so busy – I actually had it all to myself for a half hour or so, which was a great help in getting my rifle sighted in. It’s a lot easier to do when you can simply walk out to the target every couple of shots to see where you’re hitting rather than having to wait for the range to go cold (I don’t have a good spotting scope, and my rifle scope doesn’t give quite enough magnification to tell from 100 yds). I may want to do a little fine-tuning in the future, but I was hitting consistently within two inches of my point of aim when I quit. I wasn’t entirely sure if the variance was the scope still being slightly off, or just me, so I decided to let it rest and move on to pistols. Considering that when I started I was hitting about 8″ low and 4″ left of point-of-aim, I was satisfied. And unlike last time, I managed to do it using only 8 rounds (which is good, since I only had 10 rounds to start with). Now I need to buy some more .308 Win.

I also seem to have gotten the sights on my Taurus PT-145 figured out. In fact, my first magazine of the day through that had a grouping of about 2.5″, not counting two flyers that were at least still on the paper (I had printed targets on regular 8.5″ x 11″ copier paper). This was shot standing, two-handed, at about 7 yards. Subsequent groups were significantly larger, but still with all shots on the paper, except for a couple of magazines where I experimented with my point of aim a little bit trying to figure out the proper point of aim for the gun (I was hitting about 2-3″ above the bullseye otherwise). My essential tremors started acting up a little towards the end, and while I was still hitting on the paper I had a couple of failures to feed that I think were due to grip issues from trying to minimize the shakes.

I considered doing some live practice drawing and shooting from concealment, but someone else showed up at that point so I decided against it. Since I carry the .45 at about 5 o’clock I worry about accidentally muzzling the line while drawing, so I don’t want to do that with anyone else around.

The P3AT was, as always, a tiny little handful. I managed to keep everything on the target, and I think I did pretty well considering the almost non-existent sights and minimal sight radius. I did have several failures to eject that caused some pretty significant jams. That could be because the gun was getting dirty (but I don’t think so), or due to cheap ammo – I could see the marks on the rim of the cases where the ejector had slipped loose, so either the rim was thicker than it should have been and the claw wasn’t getting a solid grip, or the brass was softer than it should have been and couldn’t take the shearing force being exerted, or the chamber was too dirty and held the case too well. I gave it a good cleaning when I got home, so we’ll see if that helps next time (and I still have a full 50 round box of .380ACP for next time). It wasn’t really that dirty though, so I’m suspecting that brand or batch of ammo may have been the issue.

The Ruger Mk III was, as always, far more accurate than I am, and a joy to shoot. I was getting 4″-5″ groups with standing rapid-fire, and 1″-2″ groups with slow fire, which is pretty good for me. I do need to pick up some fiber-optic sights for it, though. It can be hard to see the stock, black front blade against a dark target.

All in all, got some practice in, got my rifle sighted to an acceptable quality, and above all I had some fun. It was a good day.

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Note to self:

Firing 40 rounds of .308 Winchester in one sitting is a recipe for pain.

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Range report

I managed to get out to the range Friday after work, and played with my new (to me) rifle.

I got out there late (about 6:00 or so), and there were two or three other people there. They were all pretty flexible about going cold so everybody could adjust/replace targets as needed, so as soon as I got my target stand assembled I was able to go put it up.

I set up at what I estimate is the 100 yard line (there are no markings – I may “donate” a fix to that one day, if I can get a decent rangefinder) to work with the rifle, and set four targets on the cardboard, one in each corner with about 3-4 inches between each. Dad and I had previously gotten it very roughly sighted in at 50 yards, but I wanted to get it dialed in at 100 yards.

Well, I got an idea of exactly how “rough” that previous sighting in was. I couldn’t tell where I was hitting until about the 8th round or so, but it wasn’t anywhere on the target. Finally, I realized I was going over the target into the berm, but couldn’t really tell by how much. Finally, aiming just under the cardboard, I could tell I was actually hitting the cardboard but not the targets, but at that range I couldn’t see well enough to know where. We went cold about that time for someone to change targets, so I went to take a look and realized I was hitting between the upper and lower targets. (You can see the .308 holes in the image below, between the right hand targets.) Unfortunately, I only had 2 rounds of .308 left with me, so I gave up and dragged the target stand to 7-8 yards away for some pistol work.

Targets

I ran a box of 50 rounds through the .45, and I can say I’m getting a better idea of the sight picture I need with that gun. You can see that, especially on the upper targets (note- what you see here is the second set of targets taped over the first set, so this is not all the shots I fired). I’d still rather get sights that are right for it, though – I don’t want to depend on not defaulting to a normal sight picture if the SHTF. If anyone from Taurus is reading this, please take note! An offer to fix this serious issue would not be turned down!

I then spent the rest of the time with my Ruger Mk III, practicing basic technique. I did a little one handed (left and right) shooting, as well.

What did I learn?

  1. I need to take the .308 out again to finish sighting it in. I should have taken more than the 14 rounds I had left in the first box, in the first place.
  2. I need more practice with the Taurus PT-145, to get used to the sight picture.
  3. The PT-145 likes Blazer ammo. I only had a couple of FTF’s, and those were both my fault (limp-wristing). With American Eagle and Winchester white-box I tend to get FTE’s and jams.
  4. I need to get to the range more often, period. I find that after a long hiatus I tend to develop a flinch that I have to work through, and I end up wasting most of a 10 round magazine when I have to do that. Plus, it’s irritating.
  5. A range finder and a spotting scope would be nice things to have.
  6. Shooting is fun!

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Update: Bob S. in comments links to an image of what Heinie says is the correct alignment for their Straight Eight sights. I have to agree with Bob that it’s total bunk, at least as it applies to the Taurus PT-145. What they say is correct is this (sorry for the picture quality – it’s harder to get a good one than you might think):

"Proper" Straight Eight sight alignment

But what actually gets me on target is lining up the top of the rear sight with the top front edge of the slide, like this:

Effective sight alignment

If I put the front dot on the center of the target at 7 yards using that alignment, I hit the target. If I use a “traditional” sight alignment – like what Heinie recommends and what’s in the first picture above – aiming for the top target, I end up shooting completely underneath the cardboard and hitting the ground only 10-15 yards behind the target stand.

Now, I know someone will start saying things like “you’re flinching” or “you’re anticipating the recoil,” and ordinarily I might agree, as much as it would sting my pride. But every other person who has fired this gun has had the same problem. That tells me it’s the gun, not me, and that it’s probably the sights.

I need to find better sights, because I’d be willing to bet significant amounts of money that in a crisis I’ll instinctively go for the traditional sight picture that I’ve spent most of  my life using, rather than the one I showed here that’s unique to this particular gun. That is really not acceptable in a carry gun, but I’m stuck with it for the time being.

Gun Pron and short range report!

Today we have gun pron!!!11!!oneone!!eleven! One new acquisition, and one that I had been keeping at my parents’ house because I didn’t feel comfortable (security-wise) keeping it in my apartment.

First up is a Savage Model 110 in .308 Winchester (7.62×51 NATO).

Savage Model 110 in .308 Winchester

After mentioning to my Dad that I was looking for a rifle, he offered to let me have this rifle, which belonged to his uncle. It has a 3-9x scope (I don’t know the objective lens size) with open mounts so the fully adjustable iron sights are also usable.

Savage 110 - scope mounting

Savage 110 - Maker's stamp and adjustable sights

It’s not a high-quality scope, but it’s usable and it works. I may upgrade it to a higher power one someday.

Next up is my muzzleloader.

Muzzleloader

This is a .50 caliber percussion cap blackpowder rifle, that my parents bought for my birthday one year when I was in high school. Yes that’s a set-trigger, and yes, when you use that set-trigger a stray breeze is enough to fire it. It’s a very accurate gun and very fun to shoot.

I was visiting my parents this weekend, and Dad has a backstop set up in the backyard, so we went out to shoot a bit. We got the Savage sighted in from the 50-yard position. It was just cloudy enough we could use his laser bore-sight to get things lined up, which is good because it was way off – about 2-3 feet above and about 1 foot to the right of point-of-aim at 50 yards.

That took about 6 rounds, and then we decided to move on to pistols since it was threatening to rain. I’m getting better with my Taurus PT-145, but I really need to get my own laser bore-sight so I can figure out where my point-of-aim should be – it has no relation whatsoever to proper sight alignment, and I really don’t like that on a carry gun. I need to learn how to aim that particular gun, or (preferably) get new sights that work for it so I don’t have to learn something different for just one gun.

The Kel-Tec P3AT was, as always, pretty accurate for a gun its size. I had 3 FTE’s in the first two magazines for some reason that required me to completely remove the magazine to clear, but then went through 2 or 3 more with no problems. I’m thinking it was a grip issue on my part. The best answer to that is for me to go shoot more!

The Ruger Mk. III was just a pleasure to shoot, and reminded me that my shortcomings with my other guns are a matter of learning those guns and not lack of ability. Unfortunately, Dad and I only got through one magazine each and then the rain moved in and we had to pack up. Still, shooting is fun!

Range Report – The Ruger Mk III, and Reinforcing the Basics

Today was the first day at the range with the new Ruger Mk III. The verdict?

I love it. Just like I thought I would. The trigger is crisp, clean, and surprising (like it’s supposed to be). This pistol performs better than I will ever be capable of. Having grown up on my dad’s Mk I, I expected the Mk III to be a superb gun, and it actually surpassed my expectations. It was worth every penny – especially when you consider the fact that a brick of 500 rounds of .22LR costs less than a box of 50 rounds of either .45 or .380.

This trip, before I fired the Ruger, I took the opportunity to test the Hornady Critical Defense carry rounds I got for the Kel-Tec. My main concern was that they feed and fire reliably. I don’t have enough for real practice with those, and they’re expensive ($22 for 25 rounds). With only 25 rounds, I had exactly enough to shoot 2 magazines and have enough left to load 2 magazines and have one in the pipe for carry. So that’s all I shot – 12 rounds. I had no problems.

I did, however, notice that I was shooting extrememly low. I had printed targets on regular paper, and while I was aiming at the bullseye, I was only just hitting the bottom of the paper at 10 yards (well, 10 paces really, but close enough). This confused me, because last time I took this pistol out, I was grouping right around my point of aim at 7 yards (it was a big group, but that’s just me, and why I need to practice more – thus, the Mk III purchase).

Once I had run a few magazines through the Ruger, I got the Kel-Tec out again, and loaded up with the Winchester white box ammo I picked up last week, and tried to figure out what was going on. The first round surprised me – the recoil was noticably heavier with the Winchester than the Hornady. Then I realized, the FMJ rounds are more massive than the JHP, so recoil would naturally be stronger. Somewhere in the second magazine, I realized something:

I had developed a flinch.

It was a #6, actually. I was dipping the muzzle downward just before the trigger break. I also realized that I had been doing the same thing with the Ruger, but had corrected it without even realizing it at the time.

You should understand something. I have been shooting since my parents decided I was old enough to do so safely – around 6 or 7 years old. So when I realized I had developed a flinch, I saw it as a personal affront. How dare my neuromuscular system do that to me? I was determined to fix the problem, right now!

I spent the rest of the evening – and the rest of the box of .380 – working my way through that. By the time I got towards the end of the box, I was once again clustering my shots around the point of aim. I also learned that 10 yards may be better than 7 for reinforcing the basics – it seems to make me work harder to compensate for my essential tremors, and therefore makes me more successful at doing so. I was actually getting better grouping than at 10 yards than at 7.

On the other hand, the longer I shoot, the worse the tremors get. Towards the end of the box, I had a couple of flyers, one of which was fairly devastating (click to embiggenate):

If you can’t tell from the crappy cell phone pic, one of my shots cut the wooden upright I staple the cardboard to (and yes, that’s an old pizza box – it was convenient, and, most importantly, free). It wasn’t low, though. Here’s a close up of the damage. You can see there were actually 3 shots that hit the upright – one clean hole, one graze, and the killer shot:


I took that as a sign that it was time to go home.

Kel-Tec P3AT – First Range Report

I managed to scrape up a little unexpected free time today, so I decided I needed to get my new acquisition out to the range. (I love it when the boss walks in and says “Go ahead and finish up what you’re doing, we’re going to cut out a little early today.” But I digress…)

I only had one box of 50 .380, so this was more of a “will it go bang when I pull the trigger” range day than real range time, but that was all I was planning on. I won’t carry something in the real world until I’ve had a chance to run some ammunition through it and make sure it will, y’know, work if I actually need it.

First, the good. As I expected, this gun is more accurate than I am. With the exception of about 4 or 5 flyers, all rounds were on the paper. I attribute those flyers to me getting used to the gun, i.e., finding the right grip, the right trigger pull, and so forth. Recoil is brisk, but not as bad as I’d feared. I wouldn’t want to go through a hundred rounds without a break – in fact, 37 rounds was getting to the limit – but it’s tolerable, and it’s really not a range gun anyway.

I did notice that even with a firm grip, I was having to re-adjust my grip every few rounds because the gun would shift a bit in my hand. If you limp-wrist this one, you’ll know it, because it will end up turning in your hand.

Now, the bad. After the third magazine (18 rounds), I started getting failures to eject that jammed the weapon. These were not “tap and rack” jams, either. Recovery required removing the magazine, pulling the slide back, pointing the muzzle to the sky, and shaking it until the jammed casing fell out. On my last 3 magazines, this happened 4 times, and the last time the case jammed in the chamber tightly enough that I was reduced to using the edge of the table to push the slide back so I could use my leatherman to grab and pull the case out (which didn’t work. I finally got it out when the slide slipped and went forward with enough force that the extractor engaged the rim and pulled it out – like it’s supposed to do in the first place). It did run smoothly for those first three magazines, though.

I suspect that this was a result of dirty ammo (American Eagle). The brass I recovered* was pretty filthy, and I assume some of that stayed in the gun. But still, this was rather… irritating. I’ll get a better idea once I clean it.

On the other hand, if I need that many reloads in a social situation, I’m pretty much FUBAR’d no matter what.


*Here’s a tip – If you use a public range and only want to recover your brass – because you’re not sure where all the other brass on the ground has been, or how long it’s been there – take a Sharpie and mark across the base of the round. It’s real easy to just drag the marker across the row of ammo while it’s in the box. Pick whatever color you think will stand out best, and it will let you distinguish your brass from everyone else’s, and can make it easier to pick out without having to bend over to see that it’s not yours. I used a metallic silver Sharpie this time around, but I think something that contrasts better with the brass and silver of the casing (blue, maybe) would be a better choice.

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