It's coming up on two years since we started the local pistol matches @ Abilene Gun Club. Here's a little history of how we got it started.
After reading about a "new" type match, developed by CMP called the "M&P" (Military & Police) match, I was inspired and wanted to try this here at home. Since their version restricted certain weapon features and ammo types, I felt like that would hinder local participation. Knowing there are lots of guys & gals who own sidearms, I felt we needed a match that would appeal to those who were not the "hard-core" competition shooters. I liked the course of fire and the generous time limits allowed. Not everyone is a "run and gun" type shooter so, I felt like our version of the M&P match would be geared toward folks who wanted to do some "advanced plinking" and increase their skills with a handgun of "their" choice....why not? Everyone has a favorite and a big percentage of "favorites" wouldn't have fit the criteria required by the CMP.
Before trying the first match, I ran this proposal past the service rifle shooters who were 100% in favor! Grady, with AGC was also in favor so, I set about and built target frames, bases and scrounged all the cardboard I could find to paste the B-8 targets to. We held our first few matches on the main firing line but, found the existing shooting benches less than ideal plus, we hindered normal operations of the main firing line. The club obtained several carports for the old cowboy action pits so, the pistol match(s) were moved to that location. This necessitated building dedicated shooting tables but, now that we've done that, things are much better!
Keeping the same 40-shot course of fire, we have incorporated rimfire only matches and, a "compact carry" match with the range reduced to 15 yards instead of the usual 25 yards. This puts the smaller pistols and revolvers on a more suitable course as it was hard for them to be competitive at the longer distance. Many shooters shoot both matches. I will continue to consider other types of matches, speak up if anyone has any ideas.
After two years of running these matches and, keeping up with scores, here are a few of my observations:
It's fun! Quite a few of you have personally told me how much they enjoy these matches. That "makes my day!" ...I enjoy seeing everyone having fun and at the same time increasing their skills with a handgun. My personal thanks to everyone who comes out to shoot!
25 yards is a long way to shoot with a handgun for most people. I'd be willing to say a large percentage of our shooters had rarely shot a handgun much at this distance. A big percentage of shooters can bounce a can at 10 yards, but, staying within the scoring rings (19.68 inches for the 5-ring) with all 10 shots is another matter. Nearly everyone came away saying "It's harder than I thought."
Close to 100% of the shooters expressed dread knowing they would be required to shoot one-handed with their weak hand. Now that they've tried it, they see it's not as bad as they thought. Some shooters frequently shooter better with their weak hands than they do with their strong hands! I've also noticed if you are right-handed, when you transition to your left (weak) hand, your shots will consistently group to the right of point of aim....see this over and over again. Most shooters have learned to "hold off" to the left to compensate. Obviously, one would have never learned this without trying it.
Model 1911 pistols are dominant. With a few exceptions, the old tried and true 1911 pistols frequently top the list. Most red-blooded Americans have been in love with the 1911 for over a century. It feels good in the hand and has a good single-action trigger. The .45ACP is a wonderful target cartridge that delivers top accuracy. Even 1911's in other calibres shoot well. Several folks prefer the 9x19mm versions and, we've even had a couple in .40S&W too.
Handloads better than factory loads? Are home-made cartridges, frequently using home-made cast bullets, superior to new factory loaded ammo or, is it the person using such ammo just can afford to shoot more and become more skilled? In my opinion, both....there's absolutely nothing wrong with properly handloaded ammo and, I've proven to myself that my home-cast bullets are superbly accurate! I do believe handloaders become better shooters since they can & do shoot more affordable ammo. Just because the factory made the ammo doesn't mean it will shoot better...I'll put my ammo up against the factory stuff all day long, any day. Those that believe otherwise can think what they want....
Optical sights help the old eyes. Since our primary objective is to have fun, optical type sights have allowed shooters that have focus difficulties to get back into the game. So far, I still get by and prefer good ole irons but, it's an option that may help some shooters.
Revolvers are still viable. It seems most shooters these days focus on the semi-autos but, the good old revolver still has a place! Several of our shooters shoot the course with their favorite wheelgun (so far, no single-actions though). Since the time limits are generous, reloading is usually a non-factor. Even the 70-second timed-fire stage isn't a problem if the shooter stays focused. I really like shooting my revolvers and recently shot my best overall score with any handgun using my S&W M19-3 Combat Magnum and home-cast wadcutters. I like em all but, admit my favorite is my 1911 in .45ACP!
Those that work at it, become very good shooters! Our most dedicated shooters challenge themselves to get better each and every match. It doesn't happen overnight. Old and frequently bad habits are hard to break. The better shooters work on their weaknesses between matches. A big part of this is mental...practice equals being prepared. Being prepared equals confidence. Confidence equals better scores.
Murphey's Law. I've seen quite a few "failures" with equipment. Sights getting loose and almost falling off. Batteries dead in optical sights. Magazines that won't feed. Ammo that won't chamber. Stove-pipe malfunctions. Failures to eject. Stuck bullet...no powder in cartridge. Dud primers. Double feeds. Brought wrong ammo. Forgot to bring ammo. Didn't bring enough ammo. Didn't bring magazines.....reminds me of an old SWAT saying: "He who fails to prepare should prepare to fail." or another: "One is none, two is one." Check your gear the night before...nuff said.
Don't give up! Attitude determines altitude! I'm very proud of one of our shooters who has come from one of the lowest scores ever fired on this course to very near the top. He didn't allow his poor initial performance to get in his way of becoming a better shooter. He accepted coaching, broke bad habits and above all worked at becoming better. This should be an example to all that everyone can get better if they work on their weaknesses and stay in practice.
Looking back through the match reports I see the wide range of handguns used in the matches. With 1911's being the most common, we've also seen the full spectrum ... all the way from a crude Hi-Point to the refined Hammerli 208. This is of great interest to me. Nice to see some of the oldies still shooting such as Tokerevs, Lugers and Browning Hi-Powers. Lots of brands represented too....H&K, Para-Ordnance, Springfield Armory, Colt, Beretta, Smith&Wesson, Browning, LesBaer, Rock Island Armory, Ruger, Walther, Glock, Hi-Standard, Sig-Sauer, EAA, Kimber, Taurus, Wilson, STI, ATI, CZ and maybe some I've forgot.
Ammunition: In addition to .22 rimfire, we've seen a wide array of calibres used. Everything from .32 S&W Long up through .45 Colt. In revolvers, the .38 Special is hands down the most widely used. The wonderful old .45ACP is the most common auto pistol calibre with the 9X19mm also popular. It's not uncommon to see 7.62X25mm, .357Sig or .40S&W. I tried to get a count on rounds expended in the matches and came up with 12,440 rounds expended since we had our first match in July of 2013. That oughta keep the ammo and component companies happy! I enjoyed every shot!
As always, I welcome everyone's comments, good or bad. If you don't mind sharing your thoughts/comments, use "reply all" ...Thanx!
Photographer from Tyler Texas. Images in collections and museums in the region. Still using film for exhibitions. Commercial work in digital.
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