Friday, May 06, 2011

Perishable Skill.

So Roomie and I drove out to MCF&G to try out our spiffy new range memberships yesterday. The mercury was in the low 60s, the sun was shining, and other than the ground still being waterlogged, it was a perfect day for shooting.

I have a confession to make.

What with Eagle Creek, our local public range, not having opened yet this year, yesterday was the first time I did any live fire since Christmas.

Now, I'm a thoroughly mediocre shot under the best of circumstances. My best run on the FAST drill in Todd G's class last October was 10 seconds clean. When Caleb ran me through the IDPA Classifier with my 9mm Para, I scored "Marksman" which is the next step above "Helen Keller".

Yesterday, however, I was sucking pond water. After years of shooting pretty much every week, the effects of just a four month hiatus (and one that included a reasonable amount of dry-fire, at that) were depressing.

Due to muddy conditions in the pistol bay, we set up our firing line about ten yards back from the targets. I was using one of my "reduced scale" zombie targets, so the cumulative effect was like shooting at a normal silhouette at 20-25 yards.

Warming up with the Ruger 22/45, everything seemed okay. I have six magazines, and I'll generally shoot two each with both hands, strong hand, and weak hand. I ran through that twice and scoped the target. Hmm... A little looser than I like, and there were actually two rounds that missed the zombie...

After two more cycles with the Ruger, I started loading 9mm mags for the Para LTC9 as well. By this time I noticed that my front sight was starting to wobble all over the place: Holding a couple pound weight out at arms' length and squeezing the bejeezus out of it is actually an exercise that one doesn't normally get in the course of routine daily activities, and whatever muscle groups I have that were responsible for doing that had gone slack, slack, slack.

After just 75 rounds or so with the 9mm, I was useless. I was literally having a hard time hitting the zombie's noggin. I'd concentrate on pressing the trigger straight back and my grip would grow slack; I'd concentrate on squeezing the gun 20% tighter, and I'd find myself looking over the sights (which were wobbling worse than ever.) I was done. Rather than continue to reinforce bad habits, I ran another set of mags through the Ruger .22 and called it a day.

On a side note, while I was there I finally got to test-fire my M&P 15-22. I only put two mags through it, but it ran without a hitch. I need to get it down there and sight in the FACOG properly off the bench.

After that humiliating performance, Bobbi and I picked up the bay, leaving it cleaner than when we started (and shame on the slob who left that bowling pin there!) and headed home.

Good thing I got that range membership, 'cause it looks like I need to use it.

(UPDATE: Roomie has pictures from the trip.)


Anonymous said...

one of the lessons mr white at 101abn sniper school drilled into us was that shooting is a perishable skill.what with high ammo prices and unemployment i have shot a whole lot less in the last year.I dry fire daily and find I can still hit slow fire with the pistols and rifles but fast shooting the pistols and shooting clays with shotguns i am not as good.there is no substitute for recoil and the smell of burnt gunpowder.hang in there i shot in the lane beside you once at bituminous crick arms room and you aint as bad a shot as you let on.


Unknown said...

I find that my shooting quality goes downhill fast if I don't eat for awhile, like my blood-sugar levels aren't where they're supposed to be or something. My hands go from steady to a whole lot of shaky shake in about five minutes, and at that point it's time to stop and go home. It gets bad.

Perhaps a Snickers bar and a Thermos full of sugery coffee might bring your sights back? It takes about six bags of M&Ms and two pots of coffee to steady my hands, but I don't suggest that unless you're used to it. Someone might think you're seizing and call the rescue squad.

Anonymous said...

We had a range day yesterday with a friends dueling tree at 15 yards.

I had to think about sight picture, press instead of just doing it. That was a sad state of affairs.

Still it was fun and I needed the practice with my carry gun.


Bubblehead Les. said...

Yeah, I have to put on my Hair Shirt, flagellate myself for a day, then head on down to the Range and sacrifice a goat to the Shooting Gods and beg forgiveness and pray they don't sent me to Massachusetts or NYC because I didn't get in enough Trigger time over the Winter. Damn that thing called "Life" that gets in the way!

Anonymous said...

"After just 75 rounds or so with the 9mm, I was useless."
If you're alone, shooting in real life, and have to fire more than 75 rounds, it's useless anyway, except in the sense of getting a better group rate on Charon's ferry.

DaveFla said...

@jaq: That's a consolation, sure. But the yardstick she's using isn't at all the same scale...

Jim said...

When I was regular smoker, my nicotine intake about doubled over the winter. When spring shooting came, my front-sight wobble would subtend a Volkswagen at 20 yards. Cutting back on the smokes -- and more practice of course -- got me back to my normal mediocrity in a couple of months.

(I try to retard muscle atrophy by dry firing a 7/1/2-inch Black Hawk, the heaviest handgun in the safe.)

Mike Fagan said...

At a certain military academy here in southern Taiwan, the "students" are allowed to get the shooters out for practice just twice... a year.

They'd be counting the hairs on their chinny chin chins if the PRC ever got around to invading.

Anonymous said...

I don't have that problem. Being an American male, I came out of the womb knowing how to shoot every gun perfectly. I don't know why the first night of trap league went so badly for me, must be the ammo, or the gun, or the wind. I'm sure those factors will be to blame when I get out with the pistol this weekend :-) Larry Weeks

sobriant74 said...

My problem has been all the rain in Ohio making the cheap outdoor range a lake. I cant afford ammo AND the highfalutin' indoor ranges, so I'm just stuck dry firing and waiting for things to dry out from this monsoon. I did however recently swap out all the rounds I had been carrying in my CC gun, they don't normally sit in the mag in that gun for more than 30 days, but this winter was rough and I haven't been to the range since January. I assume my shooting skills will have withered from disuse.

Skip said...

Lucky with weather here in Kali.
Range time at least once a week and trap every Sunday morning.
Pistol and rifle I'm not ashamed of but trap staight rounds still elude me.

Außenseiter said...


This gun instructor I know says that even women who want to shoot well should do some lifting and waving around of with 14lb bottles full of waste lead from a range. Twenty minutes a day, several times a week.

But he also says Glocks are made out of recycled PET bottles and cost under a $100 bucks to make and that he wouldn't buy them even if they sold for $50. That he'll take locally made CZs are the only serious guns..

I remember that it increased the time before my hands started shaking..

Tam said...

Golly, thanks for the shooting advice!

Matthew said...

Of course shooting is a perishable skill, like golf.

I mean, look at the other day.

Pres. Obama, who practices all the time, closed out the day with an 80. Osama, who's been in hiding, only took two good shots before ending up in the water.

Yeah, I made that up. =)

wv: nosig Is nosig, is 1911

Tam said...


Dude, that is genius!

Anonymous said...

You probably don't want to try the cold concealment drill Kyle Defoor has up at his place for a while then

Außenseiter said...

You know..,, my father's boss who looks just like Hitler(but was into BS peddling instead of hate peddling) once almost killed me with a golf ball.

Motherfucker. There was this golf course for rich snobs like him.. with a road going through it. Fucker couldn't wait five minutes for tourists to pass.

The ball whizzed near my ear.

I'm fairly sure a golfball can kill .. if it hits you hard enough.

So.. don't underestimate narcisstic assholes with 9 irons and golf balls. They can kill you.


If you were not being.. I mean.. ironic and you think doing a bit of upper body exercise would help you, I can put together a short video of showing the various parts of exercise we were taught. Say over the weekend. If you do it properly, your arms will ache for some days a bit and get a little stronger.I think the girls in our group graduated from 7 lbs bottles to 14lb in a month or two. But that was just from doing the exercises once weekly..

Or you can look these exercises up. I bet that sports shooters in the US do something like that too. I mean.. having good upper body strength is something that's obviously helps with keeping the gun steady.

roland said...

I'm fairly sure a golfball can kill .. if it hits you hard enough.

-sheer genius! Like a hockey goalie on fire, nothing gets by you.

And more's the pity, he missed.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about killing you but I took a golf ball in the right ham that dropped me right to the ground. Left a hell of a bruise too.


Hat Trick said...


It's not a nine iron you have to watch out for it's the Big Bertha drivers that blast the ball 400 yds. A nine iron lofts the ball up in the air on a high parabolic trajectory.

Außenseiter said...


I'm fairly sure I'd be missed. Not just by my parents.

I mean.. do you think people who are fluent in three* languages and could probably get into Mensa(but those people are ... weird) should be you .. know. Killed or sent into exile? That they'll never contribute anything?

Sure.. I like pissing off stupid people as much as my mum. Everyone has vices..

*and if I had been paying more attention in school I'd be fluent in four**. But that was hard work.. so I can just about understand german magazines..

**not uncommon. My sister is fluent in four languages. My cousin speaks French, English, Czech, Slovak and probably decent German. An other cousin has something of a talent for languages and sometimes worked as translator for police in Prague. (tourists from all over)

Außenseiter said...

Hard work and also boring. Unlike programming, maths, physics(grammar school level).. etc.

Tam said...

I know plenty of people who can say dumb shit in a half-dozen languages and damned few who can say anything rational in even one.

I appreciate your solicitous thoughts re: shooting. I'm sure that if Niki Lauda said "Man, I had a crap day on the track out there," you'd be kind enough to offer him some pointers, too.

I was as tired yesterday after 2 hours and 300+ rounds as I usually am at the end of a full 8-hr, 500+ rd. training day. I'd taken a couple months off. It happens.

Doc Merlin said...

"When men complain they tend to want advice.
When women complain they tend to want commiseration."

This post seems to be another data point of evidence in favor of the second half of statement. At-least Tam's response to people giving her advice seems to be.

Tam said...

Doc Merlin,

I'm all about advice, albeit from people qualified to give it, not Slovakian college students who were still shitting yellow when I first took up pistol shooting.

wrm said...

Tam, like most gunnies you are comparing yourself to the best out there. And yes, you suck.

But I bet you suck a whole lot less at shooting than you do at say running a marathon.

I also suck at shooting. I suck a whole lot less than I used to and a whole lot more than I hopefully will some day, but I suck.