I seriously questioned whether or not to shut this place down. I decided not to, for two reasons. First. I'm positive Sarge wouldn't have wanted me to. He loved this place and all of you. Second. Your outpouring of love and support reminds me of why I do this in the first place. Because I have grown so fond of each and every one of you who visits and comments and just generally engages me in the bonds of friendship. I'd miss you badly. I will abandon neither my friends nor my responsibilities.
So. It's time to move on and see what comes next. We'll grieve for and miss Sarge all our lives but our lives will go on. Sarge would want it that way. In that spirit, and because Sarge was intensely interested in this competition and how I was going to do, here's my after action on the Hard as Hell 3 Gun competition from last weekend. This will be in three parts; write up, pictures and video (if I can get them to download). As you read this please bear in mind that this was my first ever 3 Gun and only second match of any kind.
My thanks go out to the folks at Southern Utah Practical Shooters range for their tireless work on this match. Especially Ken. It was pretty dang awesome and you should be proud. It was challenging, interesting and cold! But it was never boring or routine. If anyone reading this wants a 3 Gun match unlike anything you've ever shot before, drop me a line and we'll talk. Everyone should shoot this thing at least once. It was combo mud run and 3 Gun torture. Talk about a good time.I urge you to give it a try next year.
I know you all want to know where I placed and whether or not I even finished. Well, thanks to the Match Director (a really good guy) who insisted that I had a good excuse for missing the last stage I was an official finisher. I finished 101st out of 107 (83rd out of 88 in the Tactical Division) due to missing the points from that last stage but I'm absolutely Ok with that. I was where I needed to be and screw the last stage. I'll get the chance to run it later just to say I did but finishing was always the goal and I at least met that. I'm confident I would have done no better than in the mid to late 80s (mid 70s in TD) even if I had aced the last stage anyway. And I wouldn't have.
What went wrong.
I hate to say this but the the single biggest issue was with the shotgun. I ran my ancient Remington 870. The first day I was slow but it at least ran. By day 2 it flat up and quit on me. First was feed issues then it wouldn't fire the shell in the chamber. I must have put a hundred unfired rounds into the snow. I still don't know why but I do have a theory. Cold combined with the age of the gun. I bought this shotgun from the PD more than 20 years ago when they upgraded to new shotties for the patrol cars. And it was old and worn then. Since buying it I haven't replaced a thing on it. Nothing except maintenance and occasionally taking it out for a few rounds. When the temp dropped all those excessively worn parts quit moving the way thy were supposed to. Combine all that with Break Free lube that I suspect was starting to gum up in the sub zero temps and you have what happened to me; a malfunctioning shotgun and an angry shooter. That wasn't the sum total of what went wrong in shotgun though. A good bit of it was poor preparation, or rather over confidence on the part of yours truly. I thought I had this part nailed so I did minimal prep work going in. I was soooo wrong. My shell caddy on my belt was an overwhelmingly bad choice, limiting me on reloads and dragging the whole mess out to where I wasn't losing seconds, I was losing minutes. The side saddle on the shotgun lost 5 of 6 screws and ended up flopping about on one stage like a fish out of water. When the 870 quit I had no backup plan.
The AR was Ok but not ideal. I ran a 16 inch A2 carbine with a 3x9 optic. I also hauled along my other 16 inch A1 carbine with an Aimpoint red dot. The red dot was no bueno. It tended to wash out in harsh light (as from sunlight bouncing off of a blanket of white snow) leaving me shooting irons a lot. The 3x9 actually worked pretty well and I ended up using it exclusively as soon as I figured out that the Aimpoint wasn't the hot setup. The problem is with the magnification on the bottom end. Long shots were easy peasy but close in stuff was iffy at 3 power. A 1x4 or 1x6 is indicated.
I need more magazine capacity in my pistol. I shot the Sig P226 in 9mm with three 15 round mags. Believe it or not but I shot it dry once and nearly so a few other times. And I was shooting pistol really, really well. The stages were that long and involved.
My belt was an abject failure. I ran flap mag pouches, a shotgun pouch with snap closure and a thumb break holster, owing to the nature of the match and course. I had consistent reloading issues with all my magazines, rifle and pistol. I don't even want to talk about the shotgun reloading fiasco. Race stuff that is adjustable for retention would have been immensely better. I could have switched mid match but I was determined to run what I brung. The only problem being that what I brung was a load of crap.
I was slow. A lot of that was because I was just...slow. But some of it was equipment issues. Watching the videos has been eye opening but it's also given me a wealth of information on what and how to improve and get faster.
I got some good advice (from a lot of you) and I ignored it. Shame on me.
First the 870 got retired immediately. I'll go completely through it and replace everything that I should have years ago but I've lost confidence in this particular gun so a safe queen it becomes. The good news is that I have a brand new, unfired 870 in the gun safe so with a few quick modifications I'll have a closet gun for the bedroom that I will trust. It's not the platform, it was that particular gun. No hate mail please.
A new 3 Gun specific shotgun. Pumps are out and a semi is in. Probably this one with the 24 inch barrel. Though I am looking at others. A better shotgun loading system. Something like this and this (in 4x4). Reaching into a pouch and taking them out on a catch as catch can basis just doesn't work. Trust me on this.
A new 3 Gun specific rifle (or more probably upper). This one is on my short list. I'll combine that with a more sensible optic choice. This one is in my price range.
A couple of more mags for the Sig. They also make 20 rounders and some 2 and 3 round mag extensions. I'm also going to be sending it to Bruce Gray at GrayGuns for some competition specific work. This has become a race only gun so carry condition is a non issue.
A better belt set up with race mag carriers and shotgun loaders.
Practice, practice, practice. I need to move faster and shoot faster. I have to cut down on the time I spend transitioning between targets and stages. That's unproductive time where all you're accumulating is lost seconds (or minutes!) and zero points.
What went right.
A lot actually. My fitness was good so the physical challenges were right in my wheelhouse. I was able to run with the big dogs, even those a few decades younger than me. Well, mostly. That felt really good.
My clothing and shoes were perfect choices. Layered blends of synthetics and cottons and Brooks Cascadias. I remained dry and warm through out, even in sub zero temps and 8 inches of snow. Though I will be researching cold weather shooting gloves. Just in case.
The Sig ran flawlessly the whole match. The one gun I could count on every time. I also shot it extremely well, so much so that on any stage that had a target where pistol was an option I shot it with my pistol. I was banging the 60 yard gongs first shot every shot. One of the reasons I was routinely shot out on my mags and consistently reloaded from a locked back slide. I was coaxing those babies out. "Come on sweetheart, just 2 more shots. Please!"
My rifle was acceptable. I'm going to upgrade the equipment but my shooting was decent. Likewise shotgun actually. In spite of the gun and equipment problems I probably only missed 1 or 2 shotgun targets all weekend.
All in all I was pleased with how I physically shot the match. I need to get faster but the accuracy is there.
Lu. She was a rock. She was my range monkey and cheerleader all weekend. She was also the primary target taper and stage re-setter for the whole squad. I highly recommend her if you can find one. Mine is taken.
I was epically challenged and I had a blast. Plus I really learned a lot. Sometimes you just have to get out there and take a swing at something. It's definitely no fun to time out on a stage, let alone 3 like I did. It costs points, standing and is frustrating as all get out but sometimes you just gotta take your medicine. The physical challenges were quite fun. We did obstacle courses mid stage with all kinds of platforms, walls, runs, drags, challenging shooting positions and most anything else you could think of. On the stages where things worked and I shot well I had a really good time. Makes me think that the trick is to make sure I'm better prepared next time. I imagine the fun factor goes up with one's score. Not that I'd know.
The end of the match for me was about the worse thing one could have imagined. That really sucked the joy straight out of the whole thing and I'm not letting it color my impressions. Ken went a long way to alleviating that when he refused to DQ me for missing a stage. Thanks again Ken. That said I will be back next year. In fact...
I'm dedicating my 2014 shooting season to Sarge. Barring injury or catastrophe I will be shooting more next year than I ever have before. I will be competing as often as I can, time, ammo and funds allowing. My range is hosting a bunch of new Multi (rifle and pistol) and 3 Gun matches next year as well as the usual USPSA pistol matches and I intend to be there. I'll be upgrading my shooting bag with a lot of new and cool stuff. Well, to me anyway. I'll be putting in orders of magnitude more trigger time and improving my fitness to the extent I am able. All this will culminate next December at Hard as Hell 2014. I'm also going to be blogging about all of this so if gun stuff, epic failures and match reports turn your crank we should have a lot of fun together. And if you're visiting or live in the area come on out and shoot with me.
If you go to the Hard as Hell Facebook link you'll see these wonderful words from Ken Nelson;
"You can't test courage cautiously."
So I won't. That will be my motto for the new year. And I'll be bringing Sarge along for the ride. Every step of the way. My guardian angel.
Hard as Hell 2014. Top half finish. Mark it down.