I am at the Orlando airport watching steady stream of desiccated, tired looking grandparents staggering by with grumpy kids wearing Mickey Mouse hats.
It’s been hot this weekend, but then Florida gets that way in July. I am not sure who thought it would be a good idea to schedule a shooting match in Florida in July, but the Industry Masters is now a sweltering, sweaty memory.
I shot on the Hodgdon team and other than the shotgun, I can’t say I was particularly happy with my shooting. I could blame that on the heat and it would not be a lie. But the larger truth is that it’s really on me. It’s one thing to preach and all together another to practice.
I fell into the very trap I have warned the readers about here. In the Towsley on Tactical blog, Gun Guys Have the Tactical Advantage, I made the point that training exclusively on one gun or one platform is foolish. A true gun guy should be able to pick up any gun and fight with it. Someday your life or your family’s lives could depend on it. It is tactically smart to learn to operate and shoot as many different firearms as you can. But, as I was reminded at this match, it goes further than even that.
I was a bit shocked when we got to the rifle stage and saw that all the guns had iron sights! Who does that today?
The Ruger 1022 rifle had a flip up rear sight and a very small front bead. My older eyes simply could not see either of them clearly. Not much I can do about that, so I used point shooting techniques, guessing where the sights might be and did reasonably well on the relatively close targets. I missed the first one, made an adjustment and ran the next nine.
The other three rifles, one rimfire and two centerfire, were all AR-15 style with military style sights. With a rear aperture and front blade I could see them reasonably well, but I shot way too slow. First off, I haven’t seriously shot with irons sights in a long time. The two guard-blades on either side of the front sight, designed to protect it from damage, caused a little confusion when making fast target transitions. The five targets were close together so that the guards blocked the next target in my vision, causing me to search when I should have been shooting. I even shot one target out of sequence and incurred a penalty that doubled my stage time. I hit the targets just fine, but I was much slower than I would have been with optics.
It’s a good thing this was a shooting competition, not a fight for my life where I had to use a pick up rifle to fight. That extra second on each target might have made a difference. Bottom line? I can’t do anything about my aging eyes, but I can do a lot about my skill sets.
I have iron sights on several of my rifles and I should be practicing with them at least once in a while so that the sights are familiar, not confusing.
Like most gun guys, I tend to shoot the guns I like; those I compete with or those I am carrying at the moment. I have been busy this summer and have not spent nearly as much time shooting as I should. My “practice” has been mostly the few 3-gun matches I have competed in and my pistol for them is a Sig Sauer P226 X 5 Competition with a wonderful single action trigger. The rest of my shooting has mostly been with a couple of 1911 handguns that I have been working on and of course they both have well-tuned single action triggers.
At the pistol range we started with striker fired pistols, a Glock 34 and a Smith & Wesson M&P, both in 9mm. I own both of these handguns so I have no excuse. I know that when shooting striker fired handguns with my wide hands and short fingers I have a tendency to pull my shots low and right (I am a lefty) unless I concentrate on the trigger. I also always experience a bit of a transition problem when I start shooting a Glock for the first time in a while. The different grip angle screws me up at least initially. As a rule, these are problems I quickly overcome. Say in the first ten shots, which is just exactly what we fired in each string of this match with each gun. By the time I was on my last string, I was dialed in and shooting well. But not well enough to make up for the poor shooting on the first string.
When we got to the rimfire handguns we started with an M&P which was great; I was dialed in and ready to rumble. When that gun was empty we moved to the next bay and transitioned to a Ruger SR22, a gun I have no experience with. I picked up the gun, thinking it was striker fired and discovered when the first shot damn near missed the berm that it was a double action/single action pistol. I detest this style of handgun and very rarely shoot them. I own several, but ignore them. Clearly, I should train on them more often. But my bigger failure was in not knowing the gun in advance.
The bottom line is that I need to get out of my comfort zone and spend a little range time with some striker fired handguns and (God help me) with a few DA/SA pistols. I need to shoot iron sighted rifles more and learn to be fast and sure without optics. We all do. We owe it to ourselves to learn as many gun platforms as possible, not just how to operate them, but how to shoot them well!!
I plan to bring at least one “different” gun to every range session and to ask my buddies to bring anything different that they own. While I’ll still shoot with my “preferred” guns of the moment, I’ll make it a point to devote some range time to the other guns too.
If we want to survive the bad days that may be coming it’s important to know how to operate as many different firearms as possible. But, it is more important to know how to operate them well.