CompTac Texas State IDPA Championship (and ammo talk)

1. I had a great time!
2. I shot ok, but scored poorly (and yes, that is possible)
3. I had a great time!

I was up early and on the road a tiny bit later than hoped, but still in plenty of time. Signed in, got my score sheets and promptly stuck the barcode labels in the wrong spot. Oh, well. I had fun with it and it doesn’t appear to have actually hurt me 🙂

The match started pretty much on time and my squad started at Stage 8. Between “first stage” jitters and the general weirdness of the stage itself, comprised of three arrays of targets at different tactical sequence ranges, many with partial hard cover and a swinger directly in front of the seated shooter, it was not my best score ever. The SO warned us that it had generated a lot of FTNs and sure enough I had one on that stage; not the last of the day, I might add. At least I got the pressure of achieving a zero down match out of the way early.

After a bit of a lukewarm start, the rest of my shooting was not bad. Lots of 0’s and 1’s, a few 3’s, and occasional honest misses. By the term “honest miss”, I mean a miss when engaging a target. The pain point of my performance was a couple of stages where I failed even to engage some targets.

The worst of these was Stage 5. As the first shooter on this stage, I did not have the benefit of seeing others’ plans and my own relative inexperience lead me to skip two targets. For the steel, that’s 5 down plus an FTN plus a procedural for not shooting in sequence, and for the paper, 10 down plus FTN plus procedural. The rest of the stage was 0’s and 1’s.

Stage 10 was one where poor planning resulted in running out of ammo at a critical point. There were two disappearing targets triggered by falling steel. The first went well. Drop the steel, it triggers the paper target, which turns to expose then turns back to hide. The shooter has about one second to place two rounds on it. Proceeding to the second one, I dropped the steel, fired one at the paper and… slide lock. My one shot missed, so 10 down. At least there is no FTN on a disappearing target. In my defense, at least one shooter slide locked dropping the steel and had no shots for the target itself. The better plan for me would have been to drop the first steel then shoot to slide lock at the first target, which would have been four rounds. Reload, drop steel then take at least three shots at the second paper. Next time.

Stage 2 was a fairly average score, but due to some taping logistics, I got a free 0 out of a disappearing target. When triggered by a falling steel target, it raises straight up, which causes it to drop it’s counterweight, which makes it again fall out of sight. John S and I were the main people resetting and taping this target, but it turned out we were adjacent in the shooting order. I taped and reset the target when John was on deck, but when I was on deck, John was following the SO counting his own scores. Someone reset the target but nobody tapee it. When we counted my scores, there were three 0’s and a 1. The SO elected to give me a 0 on it. I checked with John and he gotten a 0 on it, which means the single 1 was actually mine. So, tiny bonus!

The painful bit was my overall score. My total raw time was 433.79, which itself would be just below the center of the pack in my class & division. However, 162 points down, 2 Non-Threats, 4 Procedural Errors and 3 Fail to Neutralize tacked on another 118 seconds, for a total of 551.79, placing me third…. from the bottom. Really, next to the bottom. The very bottom shooter did not finish.

The other bad stat, which also doesn’t account for the fact that I got 0 or 1 down on 78 of the 106 targets is “Least Accurate”. Understandably, however, 162 points down is still 162 points down. I was number 228 of 234 shooters on that list. Ouch.

I was slightly rushed when editing, so the video is pretty basic. I started at Stage 8, and the stages were shot in an offset sequence, but they are presented in stage order here. Stages 2 and 3 are missing because I didn’t start the camera correctly (if at all) before those two stages. The memory card on the camera filled up while we were scoring Stage 7, my last for the day.

I just barely broke into my 6th box of ammo, using just over 250. That would include about a dozen unrecovered live rounds cleared at the end of the stages, so I shot a pretty solid 230+ rounds. I thought I had no ammo troubles, but in putting the video together, I found a failure to go into battery in Stage 7 that I had cleared quickly and forgotten. The first magazine was downloaded to 6 rounds. I emptied that one, changed magazines, fired one shot and that second round did not go into battery. I probably should have bumped it in, but I racked it out instead. That was the only one for the whole match.

In the chronograph stage (also not on video because it wasn’t me shooting), my ammo performed well, too. I used load data from various sources to arrive at my particular load, 4.5 grains of Titegroup pushing a 165 grain RNFP plated bullet from Rainier Ballistics. I had not clocked them myself, but I predicted about 950 FPS. The official chrono rounds were 968, 933 & 986, for an average of 962, power factor 158.

Titegroup is reputed for burning pretty clean, especially at higher pressure loads. After the match on Saturday, the muzzle of the pistol had a tan colored deposit. It reminds me of the color deposited on the spark plug of a well tuned engine. Maybe there is a correlation; maybe a 165 grain bullet sitting on 4.5 grains of Titegroup approaches stoichometric.

Speaking of ammo, I have just started using some Tula small primers that I acquired in a group buy back in December. I have found that they seem to feed better than the Winchester WSPs that I have been using for a while. After a little analysis, I think there are two reasons. First, they appear to be smoother or maybe plated. While it’s not a lot of friction, less is usually better. Also, the Tula primers are heavier by about 0.5 grains each. Since there is a column of primers in the chute, a half grain times about 20 primers in the chute is about a half a gram more gravity at work. That doesn’t sound like much, but for the smooth flow of primers down a plastic chute, it may be enough to make a difference.

The cup is slightly thicker on the Tula, which probably accounts for some of the weight difference and may also explain the occasional complaint of light strike misfires on Tula primers. The anvil is of a slightly different design and is likely made from the same gauge of brass.

I don’t care for the plastic tray that the Tula primers come in. It appears to be designed to flip the primers anvil side up while in the trays. However, I need them to be anvil side up once transferred to the primer tray on the press. So far, I have not found a reliable way to turn them. I have gotten close by placing a plate over them, flipping the whole assembly, pushing them into a small bundle, then covering the bundle with the primer tray and flipping that back. Because of the dimension of the plate and tray, the primers either drop a couple of millimeters and bounce or turn maybe even fall out. I will figure out something.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Counting down the hours to my first really big match, the CompTac Republic of Texas State IDPA Championship. There will be 250 shooters on twelve stages and a quick glance through the match booklet shows most are 17-18 round stages totaling over 200 rounds. Lotsa bang-bang.

To that end, I seem to have (most likely) solved the occasional failure to go into battery that I had at the last local match. Those rounds were a little short in OAL, 1.118 to 1.122 from a sample of 5 kinda random cartridges from each of three boxes. I experimented with the gauge block and to some degree with the chamber on my Lone Wolf barrel and round that 1.130 – 1.135 was about the maximum OAL that would drop freely into and out of the gauge block. The chamber in the barrel is even a little more forgiving. I have not had the opportunity to fire any of them (and probably wont get a chance before the match) but I hand cycled 45 rounds through the pistol without a single failure to go into battery or jam. We’ll see, but I am cautiously optimistic.

In loading up for this match, I wanted to ensure I had the least opportunity for ammo related failure, so I would load up my output box full, gauge them all and set aside any rounds that didn’t gauge the first time through. Most of the time, out of the 70 or so cases that the press can hold at one sitting, 40 or so would gauge the first time. Of the remaining 30, almost all stuck on a case bulge and could be fixed by running through the Bulge Buster. The remaining few turned out to be a little long, 1.140 to 1.150. Running singly through the seating and crimping died fixed most of these. Seems like there would usually be one or two that none of the above would address, but those cartridges are noticeably… lumpy. Not really deformed, but not smooth either. Maybe the wall of the brass is too thick or maybe not cleaned well enough. Maybe they were over length and the crimping step buckled them. Maybe those particular bullets are oversize. In any case, I have a special box for plinking rounds. They should not be dangerous, but they might have feeding problems, so I don’t want them to land in a box of ammo for a match.

There was one trend that was hard to ignore. A noticeable percentage of cartridges that fell through all the correction procedure and ended up in the plinker box are headstamped Geco. I didn’t really analyze whether there were also a lot of Geco cases that passed, but I did notice a lot in the fails.

When I am less rushed, I will dig through the brass and compare these to others to see if I can find a common issue.

Using this QA procedure, I loaded up 300 rounds of what should be reliable ammo. They are Rainier 165 grain Round Nose Flat Point bullets over 4.5 grains of Titegroup in mixed previously fired brass. I have not chrono’d this, but I expect it to be around 950 FPS and 155 power factor. This is the same load I shot at the last local match and except for the couple of issues with rounds not going fully into battery, they performed well. The pistol is pretty clean, with only an inch or so of light smudging at the muzzle and a remarkably clean chamber and ejection port.

I finally bought a proper concealment vest, a Rothco Plainclothes, in basic black. These types of vest conceal your weapon well, but they are not called “shoot me first” vests for no reason. They hide the weapon but they also scream “I’m hiding a weapon”. Or maybe it screams “I’m hiding 19 rolls of film, 3 cameras, two tripods and a portable darkroom”. In any case, I don’t think it will see much street use for me. With 7 pockets inside and 16 (!) outside, I can picture the last few seconds of my life looking like I’m picking fire ants off me while searching for the particular pocket I put whatever that thing was into. In any case, it’s comfortable and it hangs and swings well for drawing and holstering, and that is why I needed one. Maybe it will help the SOs be less nervous when I reholster at the end of a stage because my Dickies shirt cover can be flimsy.

On the airsoft front, WalMart supplied a couple of useful trinkets.

First, I got a cute yet useful target. It’s a gel coated target that does a good job of capturing the BBs. It’s has an artists rendering of an armed zombie-like creature, done in realistic nuclear green, but otherwise, it’s a good way to keep those BBs from going everywhere when I am doing various drills. One drill I like to do is draw, fire once, drop and reinsert the mag and fire again. This target gives me something less general to shoot at *and* lets me easily recover the BBs to shoot again. Plus, you don’t step on them later.

The other thing, and I’ve actually had this for a couple of months but have been doing dryfire drills and didn’t need projectiles, is this speed loader from Crossman. You fill this plastic injector thing with 6mm BBs, depress the magazine follower and inject BBs into the magazine a few (6-8) at a time. Three or four depressions of the plunger and the mag is filled. Reloading a magazine takes 5 seconds instead of a minute or two. Construction is kinda flimsy, but adequate if you get the angle just right and don’t force the plunger.

Sir Jitter of Stimula


I have enough bad habits and few enough rounds downrange that I don’t need to pile on The Folger’s Thumps.

Even with my difficulties in printing a good score, the stages were fun. There was a mix of moving and staying aware of your cover with challenging standard stages, made all the more challenging by the shakes. Lunch was light and coffee seemed yummy in the afternoon, but by match time, it was in full effect.

There was a consistency in the score sheet. Points down and penalties added 8.5 to 10 seconds to every stage.

I must admit, I don’t remember what my procedural error was on Stage 1. I definitely remember that Stage 2 was the only stage without one…

In stage 3, I had one procedural and one bad idea. You start seated in cover behind a barrel. Three targets, two each in tactical sequence. Move way back to P2, behind cover at a long hallway, two rounds on one target. Most shooters (the good ones, I might quip) continued down the hall to take a target to the left, then two more to the right. *My* plan was to avoid the easier breach of cover and take those last targets from the farther hallway. It was doable and had the potential of not harming my raw time. Where it was bad was that I took the first long target from cover, moved to the other hall and took one target, reloaded, then went down the hall. The first target to come into view was the one I had already engaged, but I stopped and gave it two more anyway. To add that extra little something, I had one miss each on the last two targets. My PE was failure to take the first three targets in tactical sequence. Moments before the timer started, I verified with the safety officer that they were to be taken in tactical sequence. Timer goes off, two rounds in the first target.

Stage 4 suffered a similar fate. The description was from P1, two shots each target, tactical sequence, freestyle. Reload, advance to P2, two shots each target, tactical sequence, strong hand. Reload, advance to P3, two shots each target, tactical sequence, weak hand. Limited Vickers count. First rattle out of the box, I had a round fail to go into battery. I cleared that round and continued, but in that confusion, broke tactical sequence. Due to the lost round, I had to reload early for the last shot from P1. That obviously meant I needed to reload early from P2 as well. Somewhere in that reloading fiasco, I took an extra shot at one of the targets. Since I also had a miss on that target and the penalty for exceeding round count is to have the best scoring round dropped, I lost a zero and gained a miss.

I had the GoPro but operating it apparently suffered similarly from my mental compromises and I only captured stages two and three, presented here in reverse order. I guess I still have some chemicals in my system.

I failed to mention that the ammo issue above was not the only one, but it was the only one to interfere with the match. I had trouble a couple times at load and make ready. The SO suggested they might be seated short. It occurs to me that must exactly be it. The seating and crimping die on my press was set the 165g RNFP bullets that I had originally gotten from Xtreme Bullets. When I loaded a batch of BBI’s, they were pretty much identical in profile, so very little adjustment was needed. However, what I was shooting last night are plated bullets from Rainier Ballistics. Their RNFP profile is slightly different, closer to RN than the other two.

This is a catalog picture of the Xtreme bullet:

… and this is the Rainier:

Compare the ogive of the two. Though they are of the same nominal weight, the Ranier is slightly longer and has a slightly more acute ogive. The longer bullet means that it gets seated deeper in the case and the sharper angle presents differently to the ramp.

This picture, borrowed from another blog about the affect of bullet profile on rifling engagement, also shows the effect of the ogive and seating depth on the overall shape of the cartridge and THAT can cause chambering problems.

So, this morning I measured and compared a few rounds of both types and I discovered that the cartridges with the Ranier bullets were seated even deeper than just the bullet profile would explain. You may recall that I was having troubles getting cartridges with BBI bullets to gauge well. Some of them, due most likely to a thicker coating of polymer on the bullet, needed to be pushed a little deeper because they were engaging the rifling and jamming into battery. This was not as often a problem for actually shooting, but it frequently meant a jam clear at the end of a stage.

So, let me reiterate this again…. 🙂

Don’t load a bunch of bullets until you have verified all the dimensions and that they will function smoothly and correctly in your pistol…

…especially with your first major match a week away…

I’m Ready For My Closeup, Mr. DeMille.

I asked if this camera made my head look fat and my favorite reply was, “No, it’s those big orange things.”

The headstrap mount worked pretty well, even though it was not particularly comfy. I had trouble getting it to sit on my head with the strap above my ears, which really only mattered because I prefer my electronic muffs to earplugs.

I used the GoPro app to control the camera. That worked pretty well with the exception that my phone kept dropping that network and I’d have to reconnect in order to regain control. I ended up running the camera longer than I wanted to because I couldn’t necessarily trust that I could turn it on and start recording in a timely manner and I didn’t want any shooting to wait on me to be ready.

My previous use of the GoPro wireless remote on an ATV was very successful, but the remote display also mimics precisely the size of the screen on the camera. For everyday life, my contact lens prescription is split, one eye for distance and the other for close up, but for shooting sports, I like to put the distance lenses in both eyes. This makes the tiny screen of either the remote or the camera difficult to see, especially in the somewhat variable but subdued lighting of the Winchester Gallery range.

In any case, I got some fun video for the match last Thursday.

Due to a fluke of squad logistics, I shot the stages in their actual order. I was on the squad that started with Stage 1. Because of some shuffling to pair spouses and newcomers with their friends on the same squads, our squad was too big and the other squad had to wait for us to finish. I was one of the a couple of people shuffled to balance the squads while the stages were being reset, so instead of 1-2-4-3, I got 1-2-3-4. Not that it matters, but it made editing the video easier because each take was in order. 🙂

So, as you saw from Stage 1, I skipped a target. This cost me about 10 seconds in penalties, pushing me to 3rd of 4 in my division and class where it might have been 2nd. Other than that, I did ok. Always room to improve.

The biggest thing I immediately see in analyzing the video is that I have not broken the cup and saucer grip habit. That my hands are big and strong enough to shoot OK with this grip is NOT a reason to keep it. I have seen instant improvement in control with a thumbs forward grip, especially with my 1911, but it’s just not habit yet.

There was some extra fun with the video for Stage 3. I noticed several things. On the first target (1:19 on the video), the TruGlo TFO sights are REALLY bright. Then on the second target (1:21 on the video), the brass hits the camera. Finally, on the second shot at the third target (1:22 on the video), the brass clearly helicopters up. Here’s the post processed slow motion of the whole sequence:

The slow motion processing had me experimenting with the things the GoPro and Kdenlive can do. Here are a couple of examples.

I set the GoPro to WVGA resolution, which it can capture at 240 frames per second. Using Kdenlive to slow that to 5% works out to 12 frames per second:

Sorry for the inside baseball view of my desk clutter…

This speed works ok, but you can kind of detect some “stoppiness” in it because 12 FPS is below the flicker fusion rate for humans. The same raw video played at 24 frames per second is not as slow, but seems much smoother:

The GoPro Hero3 can run at a variety of resolutions and frame rates, so the experimentation will continue.

The BUG Jam

Last night’s regular Thursday match at Winchester was a holstered BUG match. This was posted on the Cross Timbers forum the night before, but I didn’t happen to read the forum until the morning of the match. However, I had the holster in my truck, the two magazines in my range bag (and one in the pistol) and I was able to adjust the tension on a CDP mag pouch to safely press it into service with the Kahr CW40 magazines, so I was able to compete as a BUG shooter!

I did ok overall, though I have definitely shot better scores with that pistol. I had a couple of misses and a procedural for which I am willing to say rushing was the root cause. In one stage, we were to take one shot at a target with the last round in the magazine (all pistols downloaded to 5 for all stages), proceed to cover, reload and place another shot on that target. Once I reloaded, I moved to the other targets in the stage. This earned me the procedural. I could have at least made up the missed shot and saved the additional 5 down, but by then I had forgotten about that target completely. 🙂 Other misses and poor scores were due to generally rushing and some of the rushing was likely due to recovering from ammo jams.

I had at least three occasions, twice in the same stage, where ammo failed to go all the way into battery and a couple of times where the last cartridge was jammed into the chamber at unload and show clear.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I have had much of the last batches of ammo, 40s and 45’s, have difficulties clearing through a case gauge. All of it has been BBI ammo. I do NOT fault the ammo. It simply takes a little extra care to ensure it is loaded correctly. The copper plated bullets I’ve used before were simply a little more forgiving.

I suspected that the slightly swollen heads of my used brass was most likely the only remaining issue. After having an ammo jam in the second stage I shot (Stage 1), I tried to purchase a box of factory ammo from the range, but they didn’t have any 40S&W at the range and the Gallery store had already closed. So, for the rest of the match, I manually sorted ammo based on the visible bulge. The differences between them to the naked eye, at least my naked eye, were subtle, but I must have sorted well enough because the selected ammo did not jam.

I verified at home last night that slightly bulgy ammo that would stick in the chamber of the Kahr barrel would not stick in the Lone Wolf barrel for the Glock, which is why all the ammo worked well enough in the Glock the last time I shot it.

Since the last post, I have discovered and purchased the Lee Bulge Buster. This is an adapter sleeve and punch that allows you to use a Lee Factory Crimp die to resize the actual full length of a case. So that I can set this sizing operation up separately, I also got an inexpensive single stage press for it. While waiting for the horses to finish their breakfast this morning, I mounted the press and tried out this bulge buster. Visually, the processed case is straight and beautiful. Dimensionally, they are definitely smaller.

This is the same case in before and after pictures. The camera angles were chosen to accentuate the presence and absence of the visible bulge in the case.

One of the cool things about the way the bulge buster works is that it can process finished ammunition, which it will be doing very soon. 🙂