Gun Blogger Rendezvous 2008

Barb and I have made plans to attend the Gun Blogger Rendezvous in Reno this October. We won’t be there the entire time. We are first going south to Tonopah where Barb’s father lived for several years. We will be in Reno sometime on Friday afternoon or evening and will be there all day Saturday. Sunday we probably will do something that isn’t particularly gun related such as hiking or museums but if others want to hang out with us that would be fine.

I probably will bring my .300 Win Mag for long range fun on Saturday, at least one handgun, and my shot timer.

Training with Todd Jarrett

If you listened to the Gun Nuts on August 19 you would have heard me wonder how Jarrett was going to handle the wide range of shooting ability in the participants when we showed up on August 22. I believe I had the most training going in. A partial list of my firearms training:

Most of the others had not had any formal training. Other students who have taken courses from multiple schools have wisely told me that when attending a new class you should approach the class with an open mind and if you can take just one good thing away then the class was worthwhile.

Jarrett did a great job of dealing with the disparity. He obviously had to get everyone up to speed with the fundamentals such as grip, trigger control, and sight alignment. He did this on the first day mostly in the classroom. On the second day he did something everyone was impressed with. He made marks on our hands that helped us get the grip right:

Robb Allen’s hands with the Para USA LDA .45 in full recoil. Notice the smoke leaving the ejection port?

Notice the mark on Robb’s right thumb just below the joint? There is a matching mark on his left hand. These two marks line up when he was holding the gun properly. It’s difficult to see but there is also a mark on his right hand directly behind the beaver tail safety underneath the slide. This mark should be directly in line with the long axis of the gun and the axis of the shooters arm.

When I saw what Jarrett was doing with these marks little shivers went through me. This was a brilliant teaching aid. I was the next to the last person to get the marks and he told me I was the only person to already have the proper grip. John D. to my left and the last person also got it right. I had made a very slight modification to my normal grip when I showed it to him. I had to shift my right hand just a little to get the proper alignment. The single stack gun is much narrower than what I am used to and once I got the marks on my hands I began practicing my draw making sure that the lines matched up even when I was drawing at full speed.

The draw was one of the areas where Jarrett cut some corners on the training. He talked about it some but didn’t have us do any drills specifically working on the draw. He focused on doing a safe draw but not much on speed. This probably was a wise thing considering the other things that were going to be a lot more fun and new to the more advance shooters but in terms of self-defense shooting this probably was more important.

We shot at 8″ plate racks from about 15′ as we were pushed to shoot faster and faster. This was very frustrating for me because my plates would go down hard enough they would bounce back up. Some plates I put down three times only to have them remain standing.

We did some 25 yard slow fire shooting to verify our trigger control and zeros. On an silhouette target my gun was giving me head shots when I aimed at the chest. Jarrett verified it did the same for him and adjusted the sights for me.

Our range had the capability to give us moving targets:

Looking carefully on the left you can see the remotely reset steel plates then the turning targets. The two rails on the right are for targets that, from the shooters perspective move horizontally left and right. All of these were utilized.

This was nearly all new to me. In competition I have shot at moving targets and moved while shooting but I have had near zero formal training on it.

We shot at the turners. We were given two seconds to empty our eight round magazines into silhouette targets.

We shot over, around and through barricades:

Me, shooting at a steel plates over a barricade. Photo by JR.
Yes, I was taking advantage of my height when everyone else had to use two different shooting positions to get access to the same targets.

Me, supervised by Todd Jarrett, shooting around a barricade. Photo by JR.

We shot on the move. We advanced on the targets while shooting (photo by JR):

We shot at horizontally moving plates while standing still. We shot at plate racks while we were moving horizontal.

We shot at horizontally moving plates while we were moving both left to right and right to left.

The things I took away from this was:

  1. Follow through on your shots with the moving targets. Keep the gun pointed at the target even after you fire. The gun just happens to go bang every once in a while as you are pointing it. It got so I could hit the moving targets almost as fast as the stationary targets.
  2. When you are moving you need to keep your knees bent to keep yourself level.
  3. Walk like you are on a tight rope or balance beam. This keeps you from rocking from side to side as you walk.

Me, supervised by Todd Jarrett, shooting at a steel plate while advancing. Photo by JR.

See also this video from Sebastian:

We did some rapid fire from the hip shooting at a steel plate about 18″x24″ in size from just a few feet away from us. The point was to be able to get the gun on target in a close quarters situation. Below you can see Tamara, having just completed the drill, getting a little further instruction from Jarrett on the topic:

We then did some plate shooting from 35 yards. Here is Kevin hammering the plates (and having them bounce back up) at distance. 

One thing that I found as a glaring omission was learning to reload quickly. It was appropriate given the time constraints and disparate training of the students but I was hoping for some “fine tuning” of my reloads.

My biggest surprise was how useful laser sights are for training. I’m not convinced they are particular useful for the shooter as he or she is actually shooting but as an instructor or by video taping as the student is shooting a lot can be learned and taught. I was previously of the opinion the most useful aspect of them was as a toy for dogs and cats. One small example is to have the student shoot rapidly and watch the path of the laser on the target. It should track nearly straight up and down without overshooting the point of aim. Similar lessons can be learned and taught in transitioning from one target to another.

The most fun was the shoot house. I already have a full post on that and won’t go into that again except to say that I disagree with Kevin with what was happening while we were taking turns going through. Kevin is of the opinion ninjas from Gunsite Ranch were spying on us. I think this was actually a vulture from the Brady Campaign hoping for some blood to be spilled:

Quote of the day–Dennis Hennigan

The lines are being more clearly drawn on the gun issue. One day after Senator Obama made it clear that he thinks assault weapons should be banned in a remarkable portion of his speech, here Senator McCain selects someone who is not only proud to be endorsed by [the NRA], an opponent of that ban, but apparently is pretty enthusiastic about the guns themselves.

Dennis Hennigan
Legal Director for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Newsweek: On the Hunt–Sarah Palin, a moose-hunting, lifetime NRA member guns for D.C.
[You got that right Dennis. So what this means is this election is going to have a significant component that is about the right to keep and bear arms. The contest in November will be about those that recognize a specific enumerated right and those that want to infringe upon it. It will be between the Brady bunch, the Violence Policy Center, and a handful of lesser known (and knowledgeable) groups composed of a few 10s of thousands of members versus the NRA, GOA, CCRKBA, and dozens of other pro freedom organizations with several million members. Not everyone agrees with me but I think it’s game over man, game over. There is still work to be done in the trenches until November but some of the generals are going to be planning for a Sarah Palin/Bobby Jindal ticket in 2012.–Joe]

Quote of the day–Elliott Greenblott

Agree with me or not, the Second Amendment hinges on the necessity of a militia (National Guard or Reserve) for the protection of our country; not as an excuse for anybody with a few extra dollars, a chip on the shoulder, or a grudge, to become an armed vigilante.

Elliott Greenblott

August 30, 2008
Letter to the editor of Brattleboro Reformer
[Ironically he goes on to compare the Heller decision to the Dred Scott decision. In the Heller decision the right of the people to bear arms and throw off tyrants who would make us slaves was confirmed. But the Dred Scott decision said certain people were slaves and could not sue for their freedom. And his basic underlying assumption that the “armed vigilante” was the conclusion of the Heller decision is totally without foundation. I can only conclude he has mental problems.–Joe]

Quote of the day–Al Gore

Take it from me, if it had ended differently, we would not be bogged down in Iraq, we would have pursued bin Laden until we captured him. We would not be facing a self-inflicted economic crisis; we would be fighting for middle-income families. We would not be showing contempt for the Constitution; we’d be protecting the rights of every American regardless of race, religion, disability, gender or sexual orientation. And we would not be denying the climate crisis; we’d be solving it.

Al Gore
August 28, 2008
[Notice he doesn’t say anything about protecting the rights of gun owners so one has to wonder why he doesn’t think his idea of registering all gun owners, support for the so called “assault weapon” ban, and restricting the right of free association at gun shows didn’t show contempt for the Constitution. Would registering all homosexuals and outlawing gay bars not meet his threshold for “showing contempt for the Constitution”?–Joe]

Frangible ammo from International Cartridge Corporation

At Blackwater last weekend we used ammo supplied by International Cartridge Corporation.

The ammo worked great. I have zero complaints about the performance of the ammo. Accuracy was excellent. We fired the ammo about five or ten feet from steel plates (that is what Tam was doing here) with only a hint of dust coming back when the wind was right. It is made of sintered copper and tin so it is non-toxic. Because there is no jacket the bullets can be made very accurate. The major factor in bullet accuracy is the jacket being of different thicknesses on one side than another. This puts the geometric center of the bullet at a different point from the center of gravity. As the bullet traverses the barrel the bullet rotates about its geometric center. As it exits it rotates about it’s center of gravity. If the two centers are not the same it will “jump” a little to one side as it makes the transition. This will cause the bullet to go in a slightly different direction than that which the barrel was pointed. Hence the homogeneous, sintered, bullet can be made more accurate.

The bullets are also made with a lubricant for release from the mold during the manufacturing process. This lubricant is part of the structure of the bullet and is still present when the bullet is fired. Along with the tighter diameter tolerances (about 0.0005″) the guns shooting these bullets run much cooler. Todd Jarrett told us of full auto guns having barrels cool enough to hold the gun by after emptying a complete magazine loaded with this type of ammo.

The ammo rep on-site with us said the price was about the same as hollow point ammo. He also said the bullets were not available for reloading. Something about them being too fragile and cracking in reloading presses. This seems a little odd. They didn’t crack when we dropped them on the gravel in the shooting bays. They didn’t crack when we dropped them on the concrete. The didn’t crack when they were fired.

I also found where they are sold for reloading. From their dealer page click on There you can find prices, loading data, and lots of other interesting information.

One thing you will notice about the bullets is they are much lighter than the same caliber lead bullets. This is because the materials used, copper and tin, have a lower density than lead. They can, and are, loaded to higher velocities and can reach IPSC major power factor in .45 ACP, 10mm, and probably .38 Super. Minor PF can apparently be reached with 9mm. .40 S&W appears to be unable to reach major PF.

If my blood levels of lead were on the high end of normal I would probably buy the bullets and reload them in my pistols for practice and competition. As it is my lead levels are on the low end of normal and lead bullets are cheaper (in .40 S&W about $0.18 versus $0.11). And in any case I don’t think I would use the bullets for self-defense. I’m inclined to believe that heavy, deep penetrating bullets are better fight stoppers than light bullets that leave a lot of fragments behind upon entry.

Another reason I would be disinclined to use the light bullets is the recoil. For the same bullet momentum (Power Factor in USPSA terminology) you get more recoil. This is because more powder is used with the light bullets and the high velocity powder exiting the barrel adds to the total recoil. The recoil is also spread over a longer period of time with the slower moving bullet. Hence a light fast bullet causes a very “snappy” recoil which tends to be uncomfortable. I noticed this with the .45 gun I was shooting over the weekend. The recoil was much different than what I expected from a .45. I asked what the bullet velocity was on the 155 grain bullets we were shooting. About 1150 fps I was told. Normal .45 ACP velocities are in the range of about 750 to 925 fps and you feel more of a “push” than the “slap” I was feeling.

Still the lead free frangible bullets have their place. I could see indoor ranges requiring lead free bullets or steel plate competitions requiring frangible bullets. I remember taking a pistol class once and the instructor telling us that for every class they usually have, on the average, one injury from the back splatter from the steel targets. They had about 10 students per class and were firing about 1000 rounds each on steel so there were a lot of bullets going down range and eventually the odds would catch up with someone. The injuries were always minor and required nothing more serious than a Band-Aid but still the injuries did occur. Wrap around eye protection and either directly facing the targets or facing away was required. Those concerns would be eliminated with ICC’s frangible ammo.

Pirate Hunting

Kim recently brought up the idea of modern-day privateering and I think it’s a good one.  It’s high time.

Col. Cooper recommended a 30 caliber machinegun for the purpose.  I tend to think he was right, but a machinegun is a necessarily heavy piece and not easily moved.  Two of those mounted, say, one bow and one stern, or one starboard and one port amidships, would be a good deterrent.  I’d think you’d also want some hand-held rifles (M4s or Kalashnikovs, etc) for portability.

For clearing a whole deck of pirates in a hurry, nothing would beat a modern Gatling gun.  My son and I came up with the idea of a 10 gauge or 8 gauge smooth bore Minigun, firing heavy loads of 000 buckshot at 6K RPM.  Yeah, that should about do it.  If there is armor involved, Ma Duce would be a good choice, and she’s excellent at punching holes in engines and transmissions.

Now where do we get our licenses and tags?

Quote of the day–Hans Halberstadt

If you ask any good sniper, he will tell you that making the kill is better than sex. If you offer this sniper an opportunity to shoot 12 enemy soldiers or hop in bed with a Playboy Playmate the sniper will choose to make the kills first–then he will want the girl too.

Hans Halberstadt
From Trigger Men: Shadow Team, Spider-Man, the Magnificent Bastards, and the American Combat Sniper, page 53.
[This is a very interesting book. Taken out of context this quote is a little on the scary side. It sounds like the mind of a sociopath but it is more about stopping the enemy before he or she kills a teammate or an innocent. Still it is soboring. I’m really enjoying this book because it explains the role of the sniper in our current war and how important their precision fire has become even, or perhaps especially, in an urban environment.–Joe]

Kayaking for geeks

Because my officemate, I, (and a few others) won an award for working some long hours last year and delivering on time we spent the money by taking a few others and going kayaking on Lake Union this afternoon. I updated my Twitter account several times and was wardriving with my cell phone while kayaking. Here are the twitter updates:

My boss took some pictures and updated his Facebook account with them while still on the water. Ry (who wasn’t even there) tagged some of the pictures with names before we made it back to work and dropped people off.

Gun Nuts talk about Para USA/Blackwater

Tonight the Gun Nuts will have another show on the events from this weekend. I don’t know for certain who will be on. I was invited again but thought I would just listen and let other people talk this time. The live show starts at 2300 Eastern, 2000 Pacific time.

Para USA, Blackwater USA, Blackhawk, International Cartridge Company, and Crimson Trace will probably all be topics of discussion and will all get well deserved praise.

Quote of the day–David Hardy

Woke up this morning in Arlington VA (I fly back to AZ this afternoon), opened the motel room door, and this was the view.

The firemen say a room on the next floor burned up. After two trips thru the shoot house, this really isn’t that exciting. Hmmm, a motel fire. Be careful not to trip over the hoses while getting some coffee to wake up.

David Hardy
August 26, 2008 4:46 AM PST

Quote of the day–Frederick Douglass

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Frederick Douglass
[Very appropriate for gun rights activists. But what is even more interesting to me is where I found it. I found it in an anti-freedom blog post. I read it and it just didn’t seem right. So I looked it up and found what you see above. The anti-freedom person used this one:

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.

What a difference the context makes! As always, they have to lie and obfuscate in their attempts to win. To be fair he did supply a more complete one in the comments when called on it. But initially he stripped out the lines that make our point better than his.–Joe]

The shoot house

I’ve done a lot of USPSA shooting but never anything in a 360 degree shoot house with a dozen rooms, real doors, and real hallways in it. As various people said in various ways during our visit to Blackwater “This place is made of awesome.”

The walls were made of plywood covered 2x4s with steel plating on the outside walls to contain the bullets. The USPSA targets we used were mounted on bullet traps. We used frangible ammo from International Cartridge Corporation which worked extremely well (Sebastian has more on the ammo).

There were buildings in various configurations including one with the building named “R U Ready High School”. We used range T7 that could have been an office building or a home.

In front of our building were walls and a gate that could be used for breaching exercises.

They have the repair materials for the breaching practice walls nearby.

The shoot house is a metal roof with partial walls coming down from the eaves to about 10 feet above the ground. The interior with the walls, doors, hallways, targets, etc. has a smaller footprint and has about eight foot walls. Some shoot houses had catwalks overhead. T7 did not have the catwalk and the video guy had to use a ladder to peak over the walls and get his footage.

Just 100 feet or so from our shoot house was this hulk. Apparently used a different type of exercise.

This sticker was on the inside of the plane wreckage.

The white board on the front of the building shows this is really a classroom not just a place for fun. Rob Allen is supposed to report on what we saw on the white board. You won’t want to miss that post.

More pictures, and drooling, about the shoot house is available here.

Because we could only run one person at a time through the shoot house we spent a lot of time standing around talking. Here Caleb* explains how things should be done to the rest of us.


This was also the place where Caleb and I settled our bet. Originally I had suggested an El Presidenta and Caleb agreed. But it was clear it was going to be a hassle to find and set up a range for that so we agreed to use the shoot house course since that was to be timed and a winner determined anyway. I was concerned about the 9mm versus .45 aspect which the USPSA rules for the El Presidenta would have taken into account. But we were using USPSA targets here and I figured we could use the time and the hits and again use USPSA scoring and have the 9mm versus .45 disadvantage compensated for. But then the scoring was announced by Todd to be merely time with a miss counting as a three second penalty and a hit on a hostage to be a five second penalty. This put me at a disadvantage. I was shooting a high recoil gun with a Light Double Action trigger with a bug that had been haunting me anytime I tried to shoot fast versus Caleb shooting a light recoil gun with a single action trigger which was working well for him.

Caleb was the second person through the shoot house and what sounded to me like an okay time. Not great but not bad. 24 rounds in most types of environment should be completed in about that many seconds for an average IPSC shooter. But with the eight round magazines, numerous doors to open, and it being a surprise stage it should have taken me about 30 to 35 seconds. Caleb did it in about 46.3 (I forget the exact number on the tenths) but he hit a hostage which, according to the rules, gave him a 51.3. All I had to do, in my mind, was not make any mistakes. I went through immediately after Caleb and had at least three malfunctions of various types with the gun. I also ran down a hallway that was a dead end and had to back up to go the proper way. I made a bunch of mistakes but still turned in a time of 49.89. Good enough to win but not anything to be proud of. Caleb now owes me free ammo for life**.

As reported earlier Caleb only cried for a little while***. The brown paster on his chest is his “badge” for shooting a hostage.

* I’m kidding. Caleb was not the least bit arrogant or a braggart. I think we both knew shortly after the shooting started on Friday that it was going to be a close match.

**  Just kidding, it’s two hundred rounds of 180 grain FMJ .40 S&W.

*** Again, I’m kidding. The “crying” incident was two days earlier. I don’t know how I managed to get the above picture. I just took so many pictures that one of them “fell into my lap” for exploitation.

The bet has been settled

I won the bet with Caleb today. Caleb reported it live from the range. I won only because I made fewer mistakes than he did. In a second run through the house with a different configuration I again beat him by a slim margin because I made slightly fewer errors than he did. In both runs through others beat us. My second run was good enough for second place and I won a set of Crimson Trace laser sights.

Pictures from day two at Blackwater

Due to requests from the Tamara Fan Club Unwashed Masses (see the comments) the pictures are heavy on Tamara.

I also took the first picture on JR’s post.

Caleb has pictures up too.

The view from in front of the hotel a little after 7:00 AM this morning.

Soybeans in the background.

Almost ready for the trip to breakfast.

Our guns have lasers in the grips by Crimson Trace and they have people here shooting with us.

Rob showing off our transportation while on site.

Kevin Baker.

Say Uncle.

Dave Hardy.

John D.



Kerby Smith is the guy behind this from Para USA side.

Todd was able to make an improvement in Robb’s shooting. Say Uncle in the background.


Rob Allen.

Caleb is going to be a formable opponent for our modified bet.

No. Tam is not pissed and about to try shooting Todd with an empty gun.

Don Gwinn and Michael Bane.

Crimson Trace rep, Sebastian, and Say Uncle.

Say Uncle getting a lesson on cleaning a 1911 gun from Todd Jarrett.

Kevin hitting 8″ plates at 35 yards.

Cool! But it has a Pri 0 bug



This is the gun (with part of the serial number obscured) I have been shooting:



Custom guns just for us knuckle dragging gun bloggers! How cool is that?


I had some problems yesterday and finally figured out what was going on (with a simpler repro of the problem by JR). If the gun cycles, you let up on the trigger to the first click, squeeze (it will hit a hard stop without firing), then let up until the next click, then pull the gun will lock up. You have to manually cycle the slide (roughly the equivalent to a computer reboot) to recover. I mentioned this to Kerby, the Para USA guy, and he said, “Yes. It will do that. Don’t do that. After the gun cycles move you finger until the nail touches the front of the trigger guard then do your pull.” He went on to explain that this is because I’ve been shooting single action guns for a long time. Others that shoot double action or Glock type actions before using a Light Double Action (which this is) don’t have this problem.


At Microsoft we call a bug that is easily reached and causes the program to crash a Priority 0 bug. Priority 0 bugs must be fixed before the product is shipped. Telling the customer, “Don’t do that” isn’t really an option for a released product.


Yesterday I had many failures to feed as well. After oiling the gun this morning those problems went away until very late in the day when the gun got dirty again. And after adapting my shooting technique to avoid the system lock up (and the required reboot) I did pretty well. On the last big “stage” at the end of the day with shooting on the move, shooting movers, and plates racks I had the best run of anyone (possibly even Todd who fumbled some reloads and had other problems) until Caleb shot the stage with a borrowed gun that had 18 round magazines. The rest of us used eight round magazines and I required five magazines to complete the stage.


At the end of the day several of us, including me, were able to hit the eight (?) inch plates at 35 yards half the time or better.


I have to conclude the gun works well as long as you don’t run into that one bug.


Draw your own conclusions as to whether the gun (your version would look like this) is for you.

Quote of the day–Say Uncle

I learned more in the last three hours than I have since I’ve been shooting.

Say Uncle
August 22, 2008
Referring to instruction from Todd Jarrett while being taped for Michael Bane’s television show.
[I had told him, several times, that professional instruction would make a big difference. Not that he ever disagreed with me. But it’s nice to hear him confirm what I had been saying. This is not to say that his shooting was particularly bad. Just that you learn a lot from someone who knows what they are doing and how to teach.–Joe]