I’ve Got A Thing For The Ping!

“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that [ping]…”

Oh, I got the ping, and now I’ve got a thing for Steel Challenge shooting!  Coming in at #1 among only two women who used a centerfire pistol with iron sights (9mm, no scope), I might not have swept the field with my shooting prowess, but I definitely had fun and found out I really like shooting this event.

I set out recently on a quest to try all of the different styles of handgun sports, and am now placing Steel Challenge at the top, probably because, unlike Bullseye shooting, I can score relatively well with an off-the-shelf gun and no modifications.  Of course, trigger modifications may come into play as I progress with my Steel Challenge skills, but you can shoot well and enjoy the sport with a standard, factory firearm.

My firearm of choice for this match was a Glock 34, which my awesome husband bought specifically for me to use at these events.  It has a long barrel, which makes for less kick and more accuracy, and the trigger can be easily modified to get those rounds off much faster.  Right now, I’m focused more on accuracy, so I’m not worried about speed as much; but then, without the speed, you won’t do well in the rankings, so the two go hand in hand.

Steel Challenge is an event where the shooter stands in one place, in a square drawn on the ground, in fact, and shoots at targets set up at various distances.  The targets are generally ten-inch steel plates (although some plates are even larger).  When said steel plates are struck by the beautiful brass of a bullet, they make a lovely “ping,” sounding a bit like wind chimes, and letting you know you hit your mark.

At first glance, the course looks really easy, since the target stands are set at pretty reasonable distances, some even only a few yards away.  “Oh, that’s going to be easy,” I thought.  And while it’s not hard, there are several factors that come into play to make this sport, as its name implies, a challenge.

Anyone with test anxiety may have a difficult time with Steel Challenge just in the fact that everyone else is watching you shoot.  Unlike a shooting event where everyone is shooting at the same time, in Steel Challenge, only one shooter is shooting each stage, so all the other shooters in that squad are waiting patiently for their turn to shoot – and are watching everything you do.  That can be a bit un-nerving for those of us who are new and maybe a bit self-conscious.  And I was nervous.  I didn’t properly seat my magazine twice and it fell out on the ground, which has never happened to me before; but I gathered myself together and pressed on, trying to put all of those observers out of my mind.

Another challenge for me was that since I was using a 9mm, I had to draw from a holster, which I wasn’t used to at that time.  Only centerfire guns are drawn from a holster; rimfire shooters start from the ready position and do not use one.  Most of my shooting time has been straight target shooting, where my gun can be laid on the table in front of me when it is not in use.  And even at the Bullseye Match, the guns are laid on the table, so drawing and shooting from a holster – heck, even wearing one – was new to me.  I felt like I was at the OK Corral, my hand hovering in mid-air near my holster, twitching, waiting for the buzzer to allow me to try to find the gun and draw it quickly and smoothly – which sometimes actually happened :0)

Also, it’s not the distance of the targets that makes it difficult to shoot the stages, it’s more the transitioning between them – trying to hit every target as quickly as possible, moving on to the next target, and remembering to shoot the stop plate last.  Each stage has one target that is the “stop plate,” which must be hit only at the end.  If it is hit before any of the others, there is a three-second penalty added to every unhit target – and seconds really matter in this game; in fact, tenths and even hundredths of seconds matter.  Most stages can be shot in three seconds, or less, by those more experienced.  Others of us, though, only dream about those times.

The Steel Challenge course I participated in consisted of five stages, each with four or five targets set up in various configurations and at various distances.  Each shooter enters the shooting area (think batter’s box) and when the buzzer goes off, shoots through the course as quickly and accurately as possible.  Then they show clear and/or reholster their gun.  The same shooter shoots each course five times in a row, the highest score is thrown out, and the remaining scores are totaled.  Lowest score wins.

Steel Challenge has many categories for shooters, which makes it easy to find your niche.  The first division is Rimfire: any pistol firing .22 Long Rifle ammo, with either iron sights or optics.  The next division is Centerfire:  any pistol firing 9mm/.38 special ammo, or larger.  Under the Centerfire division are several different categories, such as:  Open (all legal firearms are allowed, scope or iron sights); Iron Sight (any pistol without optics); Production (any double action or safe action pistol on the USPSA Production gun list); Optic Revolver, Iron Sight Revolver; Cowboy Single Action; Steel Master (competitors with the lowest score in a combination of three categories); and Long Guns.

And while all shooters compete for overall placement in a match, according to the Steel Challenge Shooting Association website, participants may also choose to compete for category-specific awards.  Those categories are:  Lady, Law Enforcement, Military, Pre-Teen (under 13), Junior (13-17), Senior (55-64), and Super Senior (65 and older).  Basically, if you can’t find your niche in Steel Challenge shooting, you’re just not looking hard enough.

So now I’m searching the websites and calendars for my next opportunity to shoot this fun sport.  Next time, I will not allow myself to become as flustered with the audience and the time factor, will slow it down just a notch, improve my accuracy, enter both the Iron Sight and the Lady categories, and listen for that lovely ping when my brass finds its mark.  Come join me!

Advertisements

Ladies, You Are In Good Company!

Everybody is talking about the huge influx of women to the shooting arena these days, to the tune of between 15 and 20 MILLION female gun owners in the U.S. – and that’s not counting the number of women who shoot, but do not have a gun registered in their name.  Maybe they shoot a gun purchased by their husband, or they shoot someone else’s rifle when they hunt, but regardless, that’s a lot of women; so I decided to try to get a better picture of just how many that is.

You can’t begin to come close the number of women gun owners in the U.S. until you add together the numbers of active military personnel in the following countries:  United States, India, Syria, Thailand, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Italy, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, North Korea, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Russia, Myanmar, Morocco, Malaysia, Jordan, Israel, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Cambodia.  Active military personnel from those countries COMBINED are approximately 15,095,300, which means the number of female gun owners is greater than the military force of 30 countries.

And compared with national population numbers, female gun owners would equal the number of citizens in either the Netherlands, Chili, or Romania – or more than the populations of Jamaica, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, and Ireland COMBINED (15,548,522).  Feeling empowered yet?

How about more than twice the number of motorcycles in the US (7,752,926), more than all the redheads in Scotland and Ireland combined (10,700,000), or about 15-20 times the number of lawyers in America?

The bottom line is that 15 to 20 million of anything is a lot, and for that many women to actually purchase a firearm, there must be a good reason – many good reasons, to be exact.

Of course, many of the active military personnel in the world today are women who own firearms; and if you add the number of female law enforcement officers, you have a large number of women who are armed to protect and defend.  Many other women who own guns are prompted to do so by a desire to defend themselves and others on a personal and individual basis, and with the current numbers of violent crimes committed against women on an annual basis, that’s probably a good idea.

Hunting for food or sport is another reason many women own and use guns.  The number of new female hunters is now outpacing the number of new male hunters, according to the NRA; and according to the National Sporting Goods Association, there were 163,000 new female hunters in 2009.

But women across the nation are also finding out there are shooting sports that have nothing to do with hunting or self-defense.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation tells us that more than 19 million Americans participate in target shooting each year, many of whom are women.  But standing on the line and shooting at a stationary target is not enough for some women; these ladies want a little action in their shooting, hence the rise in attendance at practical shooting events throughout the U.S.

“Imagine combining the athleticism of competitive sports with the choreography of modern dance, then toss in the adrenaline rush of skiing down a double black diamond sky slope,” is how the USPSA Ladies’ Zone website describes the sport of practical shooting.  The United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) and the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) sponsor many events across the nation where women, and men, navigate various “stages” while shooting at stationary and moving targets.  These events are becoming extremely popular with women, many of whom attend camps such as those sponsored by Babes With Bullets in an effort to master this exciting sport.

If you add the fun of cowboy (cowgirl) shooting (who could resist dressing up in vintage clothing and participating in a shootout at the OK corral?), you have even more opportunities for female handgun shooters to have fun and compete alongside the men – check out SASS for more info.  But cowboy shooters do not only use handguns, and there are just as many women picking up rifles and shotguns these days, as pistols and revolvers.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association is one group encouraging women to improve their rifle skills through Project Appleseed (Ladyseed) events.  The Appleseed program teaches three-position rifle shooting:  standing, sitting, and prone, as well as how to transition between positions, and throws in the history of the beginning of the American Revolutionary War just for fun.  Participants learn how important the rifleman was to the freedoms we now enjoy in our country, and with events just for women – click here – at only $10/weekend, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of these opportunities.   You might even earn your Rifleman’s patch in the process!

If rifles and handguns are not your cup of tea, how about shotgun shooting?  You don’t have to hunt birds to enjoy shooting a shotgun at your local skeet and trap range.  In fact, skeet shooting was named by a woman, Gertrude Hurlbutt, who suggested the Scandinavian word for “shooting” to replace the term of “clock shooting” in 1926.   And if Kim Rhode could compete against adults and win her first world title with a shotgun at the age of 13, going on to earn an Olympic gold medal at the age of 17, it might be something you could try, as well.  Now only in her early 30’s, Kim continues to compete (she will be a member of Team USA at the London Games), as well as encourage women and young people across the nation to become more involved in the shotgun sports.

So you can see that any woman who has a desire to shoot, also has many avenues and opportunities to do so, and with all of the many female shooting blogs (see Blog Roll to the right for just a few), Facebook pages, and support sites available today, I think we will continue to see women filling the lines at many more events in the future.

The Bullseye Outside My Comfort Zone

This weekend I entered a bullseye pistol match, completely unaware of what I was getting myself into, but willing to try anything at least once.  I intended to just watch the match, but when we got to the range I decided maybe I would try it – and soon wondered what medication I must have been on to even think I could do it.

A bullseye match is shot at 50 and 25 yards…not feet, yards…okay, that’s 150 and 75 feet.  Let me try again…picture looking at the end zone of a football field from the 50 yard line.  Have I given you some idea of how far away the target seems at those distances?  I hope so, because although the targets are large, they look really small and far away when you are standing on the line.

Not only are the targets much further than I had shot before, the course of fire is timed. And just to make it more difficult, you have to shoot the complete course one-handed.  Now fortunately, for those who shoot bullseye on a regular basis, this shooting sport does allow modifications to the guns and gear – and bullseye shooters use many.  They use red dot scopes, specially made grips, weights to prevent muzzle flip, nets to catch the brass, blinders, special glasses with a flap to cover one eye without having to squint, and more.

What did I have in this competition?  Just my off-the-shelf Glock 19 and Beretta .22, my sunglasses, my ear protection, and…yeah, that’s about it.  And if you include the fact that I was the only woman in the match, that I had no clue how the course of fire was to be shot, and that I started off shooting my neighbor’s target instead of my own (don’t judge; the targets are close together and I was nervous), you will have some idea of just how intimidating this event was for me.

BUT I did it, and that’s the point.  I was nervous, under-equipped, and under-educated, but I got out there and did it – and I didn’t make a complete fool out of myself.  In fact, my neighbor that was supposed to be scoring my targets (you score for your neighbor) actually quit scoring for me when I made a 64 out of 100 in one round and he made a score in the 70’s.  Of course, I was thrilled to get over 50% considering my handicaps, and I knew that based on his other scores, this one was unusually low for him, but he seemed to take it personally and gave me a little snub during the remainder of the shoot.  That’s okay, though.  I wasn’t there to try to win or to act like I knew what I was doing; I was there to get my feet wet, find out what these bullseye matches were all about, and get some experience.  At that, I was successful.

There were about 10 or 12 shooters in this match, all men, and some of them were extremely helpful – even letting me know that I could slow down on the first string, since I had 10 minutes to shoot 10 rounds.  That was not easy, though, because I couldn’t hold my gun up too long without beginning to wobble, and if you are not aiming, what is the point of waiting?   Later strings, however, were shot at the timed fire and rapid fire rate, so those were much faster – oh, and the targets turn when the time is up, so you either get all your rounds off in the appointed time, or you’re just out of luck.

Overall, I was pleased with the match and my performance, in that, as I stated earlier, this was more of a fact-finding mission than anything else, and I felt quite courageous for even having tried it.  There were several reasons, though, that I could have used as excuses not to even enter this event and give it a try.  As I said, I did not have the correct guns; I certainly did not have a scope; I had never previously observed a match and didn’t know the course of fire; I had never shot at those distances, especially one-handed; and I was the only newbie on the line.  I also had some physical reasons that I might have used to keep me in the observation chairs, rather than standing on the line; so the primary point I want to make is to just get out there and try.  You really do not know what you can do if you don’t try.  I didn’t worry about what the men would think of me, and I didn’t let the other deficiencies stop me either.  I tried something new in the shooting world, I didn’t suck too badly at it (considering), and I had fun.  How can you go wrong with that?

Sometimes I think women let obstacles to the various shooting sports become overwhelming and keep them from trying new things.  Don’t do that!  Come on ladies, put your big-girl panties on, get out there, ask for help, and try it!  You never know, your new favorite sport might be only 50 yards away!

Bullseye shooters on the line

Me and my gear 😦

A Girl, a Glock, and the NRA Pistol Quals – Part 1

NRA Women's Pistol Patch

After months of shooting at random targets, I decided to try to become certified in something – not certifiable, mind you, but certified.  My search for a way to begin climbing the ladder of credibility led me to the NRA Pistol Qualifications, which I figured was a good place to start.

The first two levels in the qualifications only require that you shoot at a nine-inch paper plate, or nine-inch target, but I went ahead and purchased the NRA AP-1 targets, because I would need them for future levels.  The AP-1 is a fairly large target, so if you use it, as opposed to the AP-2, which is smaller, you move out to 30 feet after the first two levels.  The end result is the same, but I chose to go with the AP-1 so that I could say I shot the targets at 30 feet – it just sounds more impressive :0)

So on a very hot and steamy day, just before the sun began to set, I packed up my Glock and my gear and headed to the range.  Fortunately, my son, Dylan, came along to be my ammo boy.  He kept my magazines loaded so I could get as far as possible before losing too much daylight.

The first level that must be mastered on this journey is Pro-Marksman, where you are required to shoot five rounds at a paper plate (or a target nine inches in diameter) while sitting with arms braced, and get all of the shots within one-half inch of the outside rim – and then do that ten times.  The distance for this step is 15 feet, and if using a nine-inch target, is pretty easy to master.  Shots are made two-handed, with the “strong hand,” or dominant hand, pulling the trigger.

It can be a bit frustrating to shoot ten targets in a row and only put five shots on each target. Normally, I would shoot until I shot the center out and then cover it with a sticker target and shoot some more – I mean, why waste a perfectly good target, right?

So the next level is Marksman. This step requires ten shots in each paper plate (or nine-inch target), all of which must be within one-and-a-half inches of the outside rim.  This time, the shooter is standing, using two hands, strong-side.  This is, again, not too difficult if you have been target shooting for a while, as it is still shot at 15 feet.  You also need a qualifying ten targets to pass this level.

I conquered that level and was ready to move on, but was beginning to lose daylight, was extremely hot and sweaty, my glasses were fogging up, and I was running out of ammo.  Ugh!  I pressed onward to Marksman First Class, though, and was able to complete three qualifying targets before having to leave.  At least I knew I could do it, and that I would be able to complete that level the next time I was at the range.

Marksman First Class is the first time that AP-1 users must move back to 30 feet.  It also gets more difficult in that the shooter must shoot two-handed, but fire five shots with the strong hand and five shots with the weak hand.  Now, this was more difficult for me than it probably should have been.  I had actually been practicing one-handed shooting in anticipation of these quals, but I had not realized that you do not shoot one-handed, but rather with two hands, strong side, then weak side.  It is very different holding the gun with both hands, but having them overlap in a reverse grip, and then transitioning back and forth between targets.

I learned the hard way that I should spend more time making sure my grip was correct before firing.  I didn’t realize that my strong-side thumb was not tucked carefully away and the slide drew blood on the first shot.  I learned you must always be mindful of where your digits are, because losing that thumb would make shooting all the more difficult.  So I got my little thumb tucked safely out of slide range and completed my three M1stC targets for the day.

I have to say that moving through the first few levels was a definite confidence builder, and I can now order my patch, certificates, and rockers (patches that go under the pistol patch that show the highest level one has achieved) for those levels.  After completing Marksman First Class (seven more targets to go), I will move on to Sharpshooter, Expert, and Distinguished Expert, which I really believe I can accomplish with enough time and ammo – time and ammo being the keys :0)  I’ll keep you updated on the journey!

For more information on the NRA Pistol Qualifications, click here.

And if you have completed any or all of the levels, let us know how you did and what you thought about it.

Coming soon….

A Girl, a Glock, and the NRA Pistol Qualifications

On working my way through the pistol quals, step by step – and how long it will take me to reach the top, Distinquished Expert.  Part 1 should be posted within a couple of days (I’ve made it to Marksman 1st Class), then Part II, well, who knows :0)  Stay tuned!

Just a quickie…

I scared it once, then split it the next time :0

What a great time at the range tonight!  Didn’t get to shoot much, but had a great time letting some friends catch up with my NRA pistol qualification run (story to come).

AND I was challenged to split another business card in half…by the awesome retired Marine Captain, Ed McCourt…and I did it!  This one took me about seven shots, but I got it done – and Ed set it up the long way for me this time (the easier way), not the short way as I had done previously :0)

Gotta give it to the Captain, cause he got it on the first shot!  This was my third attempt, though, and third card split, so maybe it’s not an accident anymore 🙂

And why do we do it?  Same reason we do most things in life that are fun – it’s a challenge.  It’s fun to push your limits and see what you can do – makes you realize you can usually do more than you think you can.  Happy shooting!

Numero dos

 

Numero uno