Run and shoot? Or just shoot?

USPSA matches frequently have stages which can be shot many different ways. It’s a thinking game almost as much as a shooting game. What is the best way to shoot this stage? And the best way depends on the shooter. Can they easily make long distance shots? Can they run and stop quickly? Can they shoot better over or under obstacles?

One of my biases has always been to run to a set of targets and shoot them from close up rather than shoot from a distance. I consume time running but I can shoot a lot faster and get better hits when I am close to the targets. But there is a tradeoff. If there is only one target then almost always it is going to be better to take your time and make one or two carefully aimed shots rather than run 50 (or more!) feet to hit a full sized USPSA target. So how do you know when you should run and when you should just shoot?

I’ve always just sort of guessed and sometimes had dramatically great results. So much so that I have had better scores than Master class shooters and the shooters who followed me would shoot it “my way” rather than the way others had been shooting it before me.

But how can one know which is the better way, without shooting the stage both ways, rather than relying on intuition? I decided to do some tests. I reserved a bay at the local indoor gun range and placed a bunch of USPSA targets at the end of the range. I then moved back various distances and tried shooting the targets various ways.

In each test I shot carefully enough to get all A-zone hits.

At 15 yards I found I could run to about one yard away from the targets and then get a single shot on the first target in about 3.5 seconds. The second shot on a target required about 0.20 seconds. As I moved parallel to the target line the transition to each new target required 0.40 seconds. From 20 yards the run time was about 4.4 seconds with, of course, the same splits on the targets as I moved parallel to the target line.

From a low ready position at 15 yards it took me about 1.3 seconds for the first shot with splits of about 0.55 seconds regardless of whether it was the same or a different target. From 20 yards it was about the same acquisition time for the first target but with splits of about 0.95 seconds.

I also tried shooting at the same time I moved toward the targets. This took much longer than either of the other methods.

From this information I made a spreadsheet that allowed me to explore the decision as to run and shoot or just shoot. The results surprised me. I expected that at greater distances it would be require more targets to make it more worthwhile to just stand and shoot rather than just shoot. But that wasn’t the case.

At 15 yards I should run and shoot if there are five or more targets. Otherwise I should just stand and shoot. At 20 yards I should run and shoot if there are only three or more targets.

It turns out the time to run goes up linearly with the distance but the additional split time (compared to shooting from one yard away) goes up at a faster rate. I was going to extrapolate from these two data points to different ranges but with the split time varying in a non-linear fashion I need more data to be able to do a proper extrapolation.

Steel match results

On Monday evening I received an email saying the normal match was canceled. No reason given. On Tuesday morning I got another email saying “Change of plans…The Steel Match is back on for this Saturday the 25th.”

It was a cool and cloudy day and sort of dreary but I have never been on a ferry ride that I didn’t like:


Chatting with people before the match I found out the reason for the cancellation was because the weather forecast was for rain. The reason for having the match anyway was because a couple people sent email saying they wanted to have the match anyway. It was sprinkling a little bit before the match. During the match only a few drops came down but we didn’t get wet.

We suspected the questionable weather was the reason for there being only eight people who showed up. With only eight people we just ran one squad and had more time to socialize during the match than usual.

The stages weren’t quite as interesting as they have been sometimes but there was a good variety. As is usual for this match they use a yellow stop plate:


In most of the pictures if you look closely enough (click on the picture for a higher resolution photo), you can see the tennis ball used for the aiming point for starting if you aren’t using a holster. No one uses a holster for rimfire guns and combined with the lower recoil the rimfire people turn in some really great times.

That last stage is very similar to the stage we called “Drag Race” at the March 28th match:


The stage yesterday was a little slower than back in March because of the position of the stop plate but I still did well on it. Some people were impressed with one string in particular which, IIRC, using my STI in .40 S&W, I completed in 2.93 seconds with 1.59 seconds used for the draw and first shot. I know it was below three seconds because Jeff said that was the time he wanted to beat. He came very close. He had one string of, IIRC, 3.08 seconds. And one of 3.15 which included a miss, and a makeup shot, on the stop plate. If he had not missed it would have been 2.75 seconds. Also of note is that all the other centerfire shooters were using 9mm which has a lower recoil but I do fine with the .40.

To me, even though I can repeatedly do it, it’s almost unbelievable to be able to draw and shoot five targets of that size, at that distance, in about three seconds. After consuming 1.5 seconds on the draw and first shot the split times between the other shots average a third of second.

Both my guns ran perfectly and although I had a few misses things went well.

The match results were as follows:

RF Rifle Optic Sights
Jeff Kanter 57.87
CF Pistol Iron Sights
Joe Huffman 82.6
Bruce Barchenger 84.6
Jeff Kanter 91.66
John Hamilton 96.88
Dennis Bohling 153.15
RF Pistol Iron Sights
Joe Huffman 69.39
Allen Vautier 84.14
RF Pistol Optic Sights
Jim Dunlap 77.47
Susan Kleiner 94.8

It’s a game

I participated in a USPSA match on Sunday. It was the largest local match I have ever participated in. Originally they told us 97 people were attending but the results only show 92 so maybe some people left without shooting. That would be entirely understandable. It was a hot day for the Seattle area. It was 97 F when I left. The sweat was dripping off of me most of the time and I consumed two liters of water without once using the bathroom. Including my travel and registration time I spent 10 hours participating. It’s a good thing it was fun.

Marysville Rifle Club has stages that are more complex and challenging than those I have found at any other club. Don’t fool yourself into even thinking for even a millisecond these are anything like real life scenarios. They are problems to be solved using gun skills and your ability to move. It’s a game and this match demonstrated it better than any other match I have attended.

Here is an example:




Where, in real life, might you find something that looks like this?

Other stages were difficult because there were targets which were hard to find even when you weren’t on the clock. I, as well as many others, overlooked one target because of this and got a lot of penalties for it.

One stage required us to run about 60 feet then shoot a bunch of targets. I ran, shot targets, started to move to the next set of targets and reached for one of my four spare magazines on my belt. Three of them were gone. My stopping at the first set of targets caused the magazines to fall out of their holsters. This was a 30 round stage and I had just dropped one of my two remaining magazines that still had ammo in it. I had planned to do another reload when I moved between target arrays again. The magazine that remained was my one special magazine. It has a special follower that allows it to hold 19 rounds of .40 S&W. Along with the “super powers” the follower has a flaw. It doesn’t lock back the slide when the gun is empty. For this reason I don’t normally use it but it gave me 20 rounds in the gun and I decided to continue on without going back to look for the missing magazines or pick up the one I just dropped from the gun. I finished the stage with one round to spare.

An unusual thing did happened on a couple stages which can be blamed on the polymer coated lead bullets. They produce a lot of smoke. When shooting targets in deep shadows while the gun is in the bright sunlight the targets would sometimes nearly disappear in the smoke after a couple shots. The smoke reflected the sunlight creating a bright cloud between me and the targets.

As interesting as the previous stages were they weren’t the “best” one. Check this one out:


See the Texas Star on the right? Here is someone shooting one the conventional way:

In our case we had two Texas Stars. One on each side of the barricade. We also started the stage over 100 feet away and had to shoot 11 other targets on the way to the barricade.

It turns out that barricade has a special name. It’s called a Rhodesian Wall. The 1996 January/February issue of Front Sight, the USPSA magazine, had this to say about Rhodesian Walls:

With a Rhodesian Wall, which is not commonly used any more, the shooting position is a raised box behind a wall with a stout rope hanging down the middle. The problem is that the wall is so wide that you can’t shoot around it except by holding onto the rope with one hand, leaning around the edge and shooting one-handed while keeping the feet on the box.

Here is one of the participants in Sunday’s match practicing on the wall:


Yes. You had to shoot small moving targets one handed, around both sides of a barricade, while dangling from a rope, after running over 100 feet.

I have never seen such a difficult stage before. Many people in our squad ran out of ammo before hitting all the plates on the Texas Stars. One guy left three plates on one star and hadn’t even shot at the other one. With misses like that you end up getting a zero on the stage. There were stage times approaching 200 seconds. And I saw one guy get disqualified for breaking the 180 on this stage.

Fortunately last Thursday I went to the range and practiced my one handed shooting. I did well on this stage completing it in 42.12 seconds (an average of 1.316 seconds per shot) with no misses. I had good hits on the paper and got 154 points. The Grandmaster shooters in Limited came in with times of 32.80, 36.83, and 39.48 seconds with points in the range of 150 to 152.  This put me at 7th out of 33 in Limited Division and 13th out of 92 overall.

That was my high point of the match. I also did decent on the classifier for a change. I might actually get my classification back up into the B range with that stage.

The worst stage was where I overlooked the target and had a miss on another target racking up 40 points in penalties.

I had misses on other stages as well. It was very common with even Master and Grandmaster shooters having misses.

Overall I was pleased with the results. My gun ran perfectly. But the fiber optic front sight insert did disappear sometime along the way, I think it might have been on the Rhodesian Wall stage. It is very fragile and I had to shoot through a port there (as well as several other stages) and it is easy to bump it on the edges of the port. But the irons were still fine and I didn’t really miss it.

Overall, across all divisions, I came in at 40th out of 92. In Limited I came in at 13th out of 33. In B class, I came in 2nd.

Here the blog post of Loke Tan who was at the match and came in 3rd overall. He also made a video of him shooting each of the stages:

Ammo matters

I tested out some different .40 S&W ammo the other day. Although I usually use my reloads I like to know which factory ammo can also be used. I seldom have reliability problems with centerfire ammo but accuracy is frequently a problem.

I was very pleased to discover that Federal RTP40180 (RTP => Range Target Practice) did well in my STI DVC Limited. The two groups below are offhand at 10 yards and 25 yards:


The groups are small enough I believe about half of the group size is due to user error. Compare this ammo to other ammo I have tested in the same gun here.

What I find odd is that I can’t find the ammo on Federal’s website although several websites have the ammo for sale at a good price.

Steel Challenge match results

Ry and I went to a steel challenge match yesterday. I shot both a .22 and my STI. The .22 ran perfectly. But with my STI I had one round with an oversized spot (0.434”, versus the specified 0.4241”) just above the extractor groove which locked up the gun hard. I had to grip the slide tightly and bang away on the grip with the palm of my hand to get the round extracted.

I had about 100 rounds of the polymer coated lead bullet cartridges left. About half of them would not fit in the case gauge. Last week I purchased the Lee Precision 40SW10-mm Carbide Factory Crimp Die and ran all the rounds through that die and tested about 20 or 30 cartridges. They all fit or were just a little tight. I tested the tight ones in my barrel and found they dropped in just fine. I didn’t bother to run all of them through the case gauge and paid the price for it. I think it may have come from an old batch of reloads from before I started putting all my brass through the Redding G-RX Carbide Push Thru Base Sizing Die. I had assembled thousands of rounds with that brand of bullet before I got the die. Some of the older rounds could have gotten mixed up with some of the newer ones. It didn’t matter as long as I was using my old gun, but it matters a lot with the new one.

Anyway… I finished off all of the existing rounds that might have the problem and should be fine for the future as long as I used both the specialized dies for the new gun with the tight chamber.

Here are the results:

Rimfire Pistol

Stage # SCSA ID Stage Name
1 ?? Go Fast
2 ?? In & Out
3 ?? Focus
4 ?? Speed Trap
5 ?? Saving Ammo
Place Name Comp SCSA Division Aggregate Total Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 DQ Additional
1 Adam T 3 RFPI 49.74 49.74 7.95 11.28 11.81 12.19 6.51
2 Christian S 36 RFPI 51.41 51.41 7.30 10.66 10.56 9.86 13.03 Junior
3 Alexander W 31 3362 RFPI 53.20 53.20 8.24 12.70 12.72 11.46 8.08 Junior
4 Mark P 45 A75542 RFPO 53.30 53.30 9.41 13.41 11.50 9.61 9.37
5 Jerry F 58 RFPI 53.98 53.98 9.94 14.90 11.51 11.37 6.26
6 Zane C 2 RFPI 66.01 66.01 10.22 17.15 15.75 12.97 9.92 Junior
7 Joe H 14 TY29386 ISP 67.01 67.01 11.10 16.28 16.95 13.53 9.15 Senior
8 Myron S 12 RFPI 67.36 67.36 10.98 17.53 14.73 16.09 8.03
9 Connor P 33 A87260 RFPI 68.21 68.21 10.00 16.82 17.30 14.76 9.33 Junior
10 Jim C 10 RFPI 69.54 69.54 10.36 14.82 17.33 19.67 7.36
11 Bradley M 35 RFPI 70.25 70.25 7.68 11.20 12.67 10.63 28.07 Junior
12 Myron S 4 RFPO 73.51 73.51 14.25 16.46 14.39 15.17 13.24
13 Tristin D 1 RFPI 77.13 77.13 9.42 18.81 19.83 16.92 12.15 Junior
14 Hugh T 5 RFPO 81.70 81.70 18.45 18.59 16.81 16.99 10.86 Senior
15 Jen M 38 RFPO 82.50 82.50 11.15 23.77 20.39 16.53 10.66 Lady
16 Addison L 29 RFPI 84.86 84.86 12.04 21.80 15.96 17.70 17.36 Junior
17 Michael S 30 RFPI 85.86 85.86 11.03 20.98 18.13 18.45 17.27
18 Sara W 49 RFPI 118.59 118.59 13.80 29.43 32.12 23.47 19.77 Lady, Junior
19 Adrian C 59 RFPI 123.71 123.71 14.09 28.32 22.98 19.56 38.76 Junior
20 David M 55 RFPI 131.45 131.45 16.04 28.32 34.43 19.21 33.45 Junior
21 Montana F 53 RFPO 136.30 136.30 20.73 27.49 23.94 29.93 34.21 Lady, Junior
22 Sabrina W 54 RFPI 163.27 163.27 16.54 36.11 43.30 29.54 37.78 Lady, Junior
23 Chris B 40 RFPI 201.24 201.24 25.61 50.41 46.09 32.19 46.94
24 Ezzy A 50 5478 RFPI 220.02 220.02 18.45 68.17 41.63 51.51 40.26 Lady, Junior
25 Natalie F 51 5416 RFPI 267.15 267.15 38.52 69.24 54.48 54.34 50.57 Lady, Junior
26 Chet J 61 RFPI 534.27 534.27 120.00 120.00 120.00 80.60 93.67

Main Match

Stage # SCSA ID Stage Name
1 ?? Go Fast
2 ?? In & Out
3 ?? Focus
4 ?? Speed Trap
5 ?? Saving Ammo
Place Name Comp SCSA Division Aggregate Total Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 Stage 5 DQ Additional
1 Greg V 46 PROD 77.51 77.51 11.65 19.32 18.92 15.28 12.34
2 Bob S 47 ISP 84.97 84.97 13.43 19.05 21.34 18.18 12.97 Senior
3 Cel A 48 TY54938 PROD 91.81 91.81 14.85 20.28 23.04 16.77 16.87
4 Alex P 8 ISP 92.12 92.12 12.97 21.39 22.14 19.40 16.22 Military
5 Connor P 32 A87260 PROD 96.58 96.58 10.99 21.35 16.88 16.30 31.06 Junior
6 Dan P 22 A87261 PROD 96.86 96.86 13.13 22.90 23.40 19.01 18.42
7 Bradley M 34 PROD 104.51 104.51 17.20 17.15 18.66 15.81 35.69 Junior
8 Joe H 15 TY29386 ISP 109.83 109.83 14.48 21.89 25.06 20.59 27.81 Senior
9 Heather S 39 TY86040 PROD 111.81 111.81 16.33 23.92 23.64 18.98 28.94 Lady
10 Jeffrey K 42 A84426 PROD 116.89 116.89 14.93 27.46 25.84 23.77 24.89 Senior
11 Tim R 7 ISR 128.76 128.76 18.94 29.50 25.23 32.29 22.80
12 Eric W 23 3362 PROD 133.94 133.94 15.94 25.89 27.48 24.82 39.81
13 Bob L 24 ISP 140.66 140.66 17.18 28.39 30.18 28.78 36.13
14 John W 9 A66667 ISP 151.42 151.42 15.45 29.00 30.06 29.49 47.42 Senior
15 Mark P 44 A75542 ISP 158.89 158.89 13.31 96.63 19.30 16.93 12.72
16 Brad M 25 ISP 159.75 159.75 16.77 32.39 28.16 25.77 56.66
17 Tod R 27 ISP 168.42 168.42 15.18 46.86 34.97 30.33 41.08
18 Susan E 19 PROD 169.82 169.82 21.57 28.27 42.37 29.45 48.16 Lady
19 Ry J 20 TY76202 PROD 182.86 182.86 23.74 42.26 37.14 34.35 45.37
20 James W 17 PROD 186.00 186.00 17.84 45.95 36.87 33.38 51.96 Senior
21 Ryan R 26 PROD 188.69 188.69 23.44 41.63 37.54 34.83 51.25
22 Taylor C 28 ISP 220.87 220.87 22.46 45.73 63.07 29.10 60.51 Lady
23 Jen M 37 ISP 303.69 303.69 48.28 67.54 60.24 54.46 73.17 Lady
24 Chris B 41 ISP 403.49 403.49 56.08 87.44 99.55 91.04 69.38

I’m pretty pleased with the results. I was top Senior in Rimfire and came in second Senior in the Main Match. If I had practiced a few times in the two weeks prior I might have done a little better but for the most part things were going pretty well for me. Ry took a few videos of me on stage 1 (see also here, here, here, and here).

Here is a video of four of Ry’s runs on a different, far more difficult, stage:

The most disappointing part of the match was that, as she vowed last time, Taylor didn’t hang out with me this time.

Steel match results

As I mentioned yesterday I shot in another steel match on Saturday.

It was a beautiful day for a ferry ride:


Here are the match results:

Name Class Time
Steve RF-RI-O 43.96
Brian RF-RI-O 50.12
Brian RF-O 51.19
Steve RF-O 51.67
Jeff RF-RI-O 53.47
Joe Huffman RF-I 71.38
Joe Huffman CF-I 77.18
Steve CF-O 78.66
Bruce CF-I 88.87
Tanner RF-O 92.39
Brian CF-I 105.85
Jeff CF-I 106.59
MAC CF-I 107.50
MAC CF-RV-I 111.46
Tanner CF-I 112.99
John CF-I 119.07
Mitch CF-I 128.48
Susan RF-O 128.76
Rebekah RF-I 236.19

The codes are:

  • RF-RI-O: Rimfire, rifle, open
  • RF-O: Rimfire, open
  • RF-I: Rimfire, iron sights
  • CF-I: Centerfire, iron sights
  • CF-O: Centerfire, open
  • CF-RV-I: Centerfire revolver, iron sights

Even with the malfunctions I had I won in my classes. I felt like I was shooting very well. I wasn’t thinking, I just moved the gun past the targets and it went off when the sights were on the targets. Misses were rare. It feels really good to have things working like that again.

There were five stages. The times are the sum of all the best four of five strings fired on each stage. So with five stages and four strings per stage you can figure out that I averaged 3.86 seconds per string with my centerfire pistol. That is 3.86 seconds for a draw and five shots on five different targets.

With the rimfire pistol it was an average 3.57 seconds per string. With the rimfire pistol I did not have to draw. The start position for the pistol was pointing at the tennis ball you see in each of the pictures below:

This was a very fast stage. I think I had a couple runs that were under two seconds.

Two thousandths of an inch

As I reported last weekend I put all my polymer coated lead bullets through a max case gauge and still had problems with my new STI. I had saved one of those cartridges to diagnose the problem.

The cartridge still failed to chamber when stripped off the magazine by the slide when I tried it again at home. The bullet in that cartridge was seated too deep by about 0.040”. None of the others were too deep so I suspect it happened during the chambering of the cartridge. I pulled the bullet and reseated it at the proper depth and it chambered just fine. Hmmm… maybe the crimp just isn’t tight enough, the bullet gets driven deeper into the case, then the cartridge fails to nose down into the chamber as it comes off the magazine.

I shot in another steel match yesterday to get more samples.* On the first stage the first few strings went fine then a round failed to chamber the entire depth. I couldn’t pull the slide back. The gun was essentially locked up. I dropped the magazine, held tight to the slide then pounded the grip forward with the web and palm of my hand. The extractor pulled the round out and it was ejected. I put in a fresh magazine and completed the string in 17.xx seconds. I switched to my Montana Gold JHP handloads for the rest of the match and had no more problems.

I brought home the problem round and put in the case gauge. It fit just fine. I put it in a magazine and tried to to chamber it. It failed to chamber all the way. I tried dropping it directly into the chamber and dropping the slide. It chambered but again I couldn’t extract it without slamming my hand into the grip.

But the round fits just fine in the case gauge!

I measured the round. At the largest point it is 0.425”. The specification for .40 S&W is 0.423. So, it is oversized by 0.002”. But CASE GAUGE!

Hmmm… Maybe I have another case gauge around here… I did. I had lost one for a while and purchased another. I pulled out the other case gauge and the cartridge failed, big time.

These pictures are of the same cartridge in two different case gauges:


In the picture on the left I applied a couple ounces of pressure to get it to seat all the way. In the second picture I put the maximum amount of pressure I could comfortably apply with my thumb to get it in that far.

So why is just the ammo with the polymer coated lead bullets giving me problems?

I measured a few bullets. Depending upon which axis I measure the bullets they have a diameter of 0.400” to 0.403”. The specification is 0.401”. The Montana Gold JHPs I measured have a diameter of 0.399.

Here is the cartridge:


You can’t really see it but you can feel a bulge where the base of the bullet is in the cartridge.

Five conclusions:

  1. With a slightly over spec bullet and probably max thickness brass** I end up with an oversized cartridge.
  2. The Midway case gauge, on the left, is slightly oversized.
  3. My gun has a minimum sized chamber.
  4. Two thousands of an inch can make a huge difference in the reliability of a gun.
  5. I must use the L.E. Wilson case gauge (on the right above) for this gun.

I might be able to use the Midway gauge for some other gun(s).

Scary thought… Can you imagine needing your gun in a life or death situation and losing the fight because of two thousands of an inch?

* I can’t use this ammo at indoor ranges and I don’t have easy access to any outdoor ranges except when I shoot at matches.

** Not all cartridges with polymer coated lead bullets fail the tighter case gauge. Only some of them fail.

Firing 40 S&W in a 10 mm Glock

Over at The Truth About Guns.

Pretty interesting. I was confused for a bit though, until I realized that by “excessive headspace” the author really means “excessive case length” which would result in inadequate headspace. Using the shorter 40 S&W cartridge in a 10 mm barrel results in excessive headspace, so it’s a sort of Opposite Day article in that regard. It’s a well-written and interesting article otherwise.

The greater implication, at least for Glock shooters, is that you can go ahead and trim your brass at or below minimum spec and the gun will run just as well and possibly better. This would explain some of the commercial ammo I’ve seen, which has what appears to be a roll crimp rather than the prescribed taper crimp. That COULD result in a dangerous situation, as the crimp opens up across the chamber shoulder. So long as the case is short enough though, that the case mouth never touches the chamber shoulder, everything’s fine and dandy.

I’m one of those people who regularly checks finished rounds by plunking them down into the chamber (barrel removed from gun) to check for headspace. That’s a fine idea for several reasons, but this article puts all that into a rather different light when it comes to Glocks.

I have some 40 ammo lying around, though I don’t own any guns chambered for it, so now of course I’ll have to try it in my G20.

As an aside; I wish we could get past the little, political/legal/social dance we often perform when it comes to disclaimers. The author of that article asserts that using 40 in a 10 is actually safer than using 10 in a 10 or 40 in a 40, but still feels the need to dance the “Don’t try this at home, Kids” dance. I understand how this social twitch came about (I witnessed the whole thing) but really you can stop any time you like.

That wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be

Yesterday I participated in the Washington State Steel Championship. I knew this was going to be a whole new level of competitors for me and I didn’t expect to have results that would appear to be anything beyond, maybe, average. After shooting a couple stages I was concerned I would come in dead last even though, from my perspective, I was shooting pretty good. I was clearly the slowest shooter in my squad.

I started out shooting polymer coated lead bullets in my STI. These have almost zero hazard of bullet fragments returning to hit shooters and observers. I had put every single round through the case gauge and hoped that would fix my feeding problems I had last week. The first and second stages were fine. On the third stage I had one failure. On the fourth stage I had something like five or six with one set of three failures in a row.

I brought out my handloads made with Montana Gold JHPs which I also had run through the case gauge. I switched to that ammo and never had another failure. There were lots of fragments coming back but that was no different than anyone else.

I was shooting fairly consistently. I had few misses but many of the other shooters on my squad would have multiple misses and still have times a second less than me. And this when my time for a string might be in the four to five second range. So they were shooting, including multiple misses, in 25 to 30 percent less time than me.

Pat Kelley was in my squad and there were other shooters in our squad doing as well or better than he was. I consider Kelley god-like with a shotgun and wonder of nature with any other gun.

The overall results are here. I came in 44th with my iron sighted .22 and 58th with my STI in .40. This is out of 105 entries. I was actually concerned that I would come in dead last so I feel pretty good about being in the middle of the pack.

But look at where Kelley came in! He shot his Limited gun in the open division as well as limited and came in 30th and 40th overall. Mike Gallion (he went to the European Steel Challenge Championship and came in 12th) came in 39th! The competition was really tough.

That was overall. In Limited division Kelley did win and I came in 11th out of 35. Okay. I don’t feel bad at all about that. Especially with a gun that was malfunctioning on some of the stages.

In Limited Seniors I came in second, behind Kelley, out of nine.

In rimfire iron sighted pistol I came in 9th out of 21.

In rimfire iron sighted pistol Seniors I came in 1st! I also came in last as the only senior in this division.

I had fun and wasn’t completely embarrassed by my results so it was a good day.

Steel challenge match results

Despite having a cold I participated in a Steel Challenge match yesterday. I shot two different guns (not at the same time). Here are the results:

Main Match

Stage # SCSA ID Stage Name
1 SC-103 Smoke & Hope
2 ?? Saving Ammo
3 SC-106 Pendulum
4 SC-108 Roundabout
Place Name Comp SCSA Division Aggregate Total Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 DQ Additional
1 Steve M 32 A86909 OPN 64.17 64.17 13.65 14.48 20.21 15.39   Senior
2 Alexander W 6 3362 OPN 73.46 73.46 13.51 19.08 25.79 14.64   Junior
3 Bradley M 2   PROD 79.62 79.62 15.09 22.28 24.85 16.96   Junior
4 Connor P 8 A87260 PROD 86.28 86.28 14.18 19.97 33.08 18.61   Junior
5 Daniel C 17   PROD 93.81 93.81 20.04 23.59 28.99 20.75    
6 Heather S 38 TY86040 PROD 98.51 98.51 17.79 28.38 29.87 22.03   Lady
7 Michael M 44   PROD 102.00 102.00 23.53 25.67 28.46 23.90    
8 Joe H 28 TY29386 ISP 102.79 102.79 19.16 35.86 28.66 18.67   Senior
9 Matt H 40   PROD 110.62 110.62 19.43 32.85 32.52 25.38    
10 Jeffrey K 30 A84426 PROD 110.77 110.77 18.51 34.77 31.42 25.63   Senior
11 David B 39   PROD 111.37 111.37 19.05 41.60 29.01 21.27    
12 Earl B 24   ISP 111.51 111.51 16.23 39.53 34.23 21.08    
13 Greg M 41   PROD 112.41 112.41 19.15 29.37 36.90 26.55    
14 Brad M 11   ISP 112.94 112.94 20.68 34.57 33.23 24.02    
15 Dan P 13 A87261 ISP 123.24 123.24 17.44 47.69 32.99 24.68    
16 Theresa D 43 TY65454 OPN 125.78 125.78 22.97 33.72 42.37 26.28   Lady
17 Tod R 12   ISP 127.72 127.72 20.13 43.36 37.89 25.90    
18 Jim S 14 A91246 ISP 131.87 131.87 22.29 30.58 48.01 30.55    
19 Bob L 10   ISP 136.66 136.66 20.05 45.77 39.12 31.28    
20 Jesse P 1   PROD 143.77 143.77 22.04 52.61 37.64 31.04    
21 Jason F 25   PROD 147.80 147.80 21.22 48.26 48.55 29.33    
22 Susan E 16   PROD 150.20 150.20 22.55 43.04 56.38 27.79   Lady
23 Daniel C 15   OPN 216.63 216.63 52.23 52.68 57.26 54.02    
24 James W 19   PROD 236.98 236.98 58.67 50.62 90.49 39.79   Senior


Rimfire Pistol

Stage # SCSA ID Stage Name
1 SC-103 Smoke & Hope
2 ?? Saving Ammo
3 SC-106 Pendulum
4 SC-108 Roundabout
Place Name Comp SCSA Division Aggregate Total Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Stage 4 DQ Additional
1 Alexander W 5 3362 RFPI 49.07 49.07 11.35 10.26 15.96 11.50   Junior
2 Bradley M 3   RFPI 55.05 55.05 17.07 10.54 13.95 13.49   Junior
3 Cel A 21 4893 RFPO 57.28 57.28 12.18 11.24 21.81 12.05    
4 Joe H 27 TY29386 RFPI 74.63 74.63 13.30 22.70 22.50 16.13   Senior
5 Theresa D 42 TY65454 RFPI 75.38 75.38 13.91 13.70 28.96 18.81   Lady
6 Earl B 23   RFPI 82.38 82.38 13.23 24.32 25.86 18.97    
7 Addison L 9   RFPI 82.50 82.50 14.54 23.10 30.01 14.85   Junior
8 Heather M 26   RFPI 248.60 248.60 49.06 53.69 87.78 58.07   Lady


I’m not sure shooting two different guns was a good idea. The trigger pull on the two was quite different and several times my new STI went off before I expected it to and I missed the targets. I also had problems with jams on the new STI. The cartridges would just start into the chamber and then stop. There were also some rounds that were very tight in the chamber. I suspected my handloads were the problem.

When I got home I looked at the ammo. I think I don’t have enough crimp on my handloads. The factory ammo has a noticeable crimp. My handloads are crimped just enough to have a straight case wall. I also know that not all my handloads would pass the case gauge. If they didn’t I would test them in the chamber of my old STI and throw them into the ammo can anyway. Since that barrel is history I need to run all my rounds through the case gauge again. I probably should crimp them a little more too. I’m going to the International Steel Shooting Association Washington State Championship (ISSA is different from the Steel Challenge Shooting Association) on Saturday so I need to get my gun working this week.

Despite not feeling well, the trigger pull issue, and the jamming problems I did manage to decrease my times on Pendulum and Roundabout. Previously I had times of 30.87 and 23.43. This time I achieved times of 28.66 and 18.67. Smoke and Hope was slightly worse with 19.16 when I had a time of 18.76 in March. I also won my division with the STI.

I wish the club would use some different classifier stages. I need 5 to Go, Showdown, Outer Limits, and Speed Option before I can really know my level compared to other people.

Barrel analysis

After my gun barrel split open I had a reader request that I send the barrel to him for analysis. This is what I know so far:

May 21, 2015:

I cut the end off the barrel to expose the fracture surfaces.  I see no evidence of fatigue at the macroscopic level, the barrel will have to go under the microscope.  I took the intact muzzle section and put it under the hardness tester.  KKM advertises their barrels as being heat treated to 45 HRC.  I measured an average value of 42 HRC with a minimum value of 40.9 HRC.  Heat treatments on small parts are generally +/- 3 HRC meaning a barrel in spec will range between 42 and 48 HRC.  I would state at this point that this barrel was in spec for heat treatment, but just barely and on the low end.  Of course I will send the data out to my senior engineer for review.  He was the chief metallurgist for Remington and I’ll get his opinion on the heat treat spec.

June 4, 2015:

I put the fracture surfaces of your barrel under the microscope today, as well as having the chemistry done.  The chemistry was within specifications, but the manganese to sulfur ratio was low.  What I saw the was most interesting was a crack at a 45deg angle coming down from the front of the first locking lug into the barrel, almost 1/4 of the way through the thickness of the barrel.  This crack looks to have been formed during the repeated firing/cycling of the gun and caused the barrel to rupture in front of the chamber and at the 12 o’clock position.  As the top surface of the barrel came free, this imparted a bending moment on the opposite side of the barrel and caused it to split at the 6 o’clock position.  

I am frankly amazed at this failure.  I have never seen shear fatigue in a gun barrel before.  I’m going to send this off to my firearms expert, he’ll find this interesting. 

June 8, 2015:

LHS is “left hand side” and RHS is right hand side (breach towards you, muzzle away, in the as-assembled orientation), the barrel having been split in half along the major fracture surfaces.  As you can see there is a crack at about 45 deg from the front of the first locking lug going in the muzzle to chamber direction.  It goes about a quarter of the way though the thickness of the barrel.  I am having the barrel cut by our machinist to expose that crack fracture surface to look for evidence of fatigue.

The color pics are optical microscopy, the black and white are scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

He sent me 18 pictures. I’m posting the more interesting ones:

LHS 003

LHS 01
LHS 02

LHS 08

RHS 01

RHS 002

RHS 04

Boomershoot 2015 email

After Boomershoot I don’t want to even think about it for a while. Unless email requires a response from me I just let it set in my inbox. I finally got around to looking at the collection and thought I would share some of it.

From Cat:

Hi Joe,

I had a fantastic time at my first Boomershoot!
Thank you and your crew for making this event happen, and for supporting the 2nd amendment.
I hope to be back next year!

The BBQ was amazing!

She also shared a picture of the fireball:


From Matthew:

Enjoyed the opportunity to come with the guys and get to shoot.
Enjoyed meeting some of the other shooters, great folks!!!!!!

From Grete:


It was a great experience!

See you next year!

From Greg and Bob:

It was the most enjoyable event we’ve been to. The weather was perfect and our shooting neighbors were friendly. It was great. We did not have any issues during the event. The fireball was amazing, the targets exploded and the BBQ was excellent. Looking forward to next year.

From Joe:

Dear Joe,

Thanks again for this wonderful event. I have been coming for many years and each time is the best time I have all year. Looking forward to next years event already.

You and your crew give a great party!

From Bill:

Joe, I had a great time throughout the weekend.  Great people, food and scenery. Something I will do for next year is site my riffles better (add scope).

Mark your calendars. Boomershoot 2016 will be April 22nd, 23rd, and 24th.

Ammo matters

I went to the range today and tested various ammo in my Ruger 22/45.

This target was made shooting five rounds offhand at 25 yards with CCI Standard Velocity ammo:


This is the same target after I fired another five rounds with Federal “”Target Grade Performance” “Auto Match” (AM22) at the same range:


Other people also report accuracy issues with the Federal ammo and others report problems with reliability.

I shot more groups at seven yards with similar results. The Federal was far less accurate than the CCI. I shot some old CCI Blazer at seven yards. The one flyer was my fault. There are four rounds in the hole that looks like only two shots:


I shot some more rounds through my new STI DVC. The following are five rounds at seven yards:




I then tried some handloads that used 180 grain Rainer Restrike JHP bullets. The results were terrible. I moved the target to 25 yards to see if there was some key-holing or something. Only one bullet was on the paper! It looked like a normal hole so I moved the target to 10 yards and saw what I was expecting:


It’s most obvious with the top hole. See the “grease mark” out to the right of the hole? That’s from the bullet striking the paper nearly sideways. Notice the other holes with the asymmetric tearing? Compare those holes to the holes from the factory ammo. The factory ammo has symmetric holes. The Rainer Restrike handloads are unstable in my gun.

Ammo matters. It matters a lot.

Front sight problems

I’m not the only one to recently have problems with the front sight of their new gun (H/T to gonxau):

He also had problems with the rear sight. I’m not up to 500 rounds yet so I may have problems as well by the time I shoot that many rounds in my new gun.

Slightly off topic… I should soon have some microscope pictures from the gun barrel that died in April. The reason why it split is apparently quite unusual. Assuming I have permission I’ll share everything after I get the pictures.

New gun

Yesterday I picked up a new gun to replace the old one which died at a match on April 19th.


It’s another STI. This time a DVC Limited. Again it’s chambered in .40 S&W.

I didn’t realize it but this gun was just introduced at Shot Show this year and they are hard to get. I was going to get another STI Eagle but I saw this on the STI website in mid March and called around trying to find one.I asked the local gun shop if they could get me a good deal on one and after calling their distributors and STI found they could not. Only authorized dealers can get them. There are only three dealers within 100 miles of me. One told me I could get delivery in September. Another told me delivery “by the end of the year”. Another dealer told me they were on sale if I ordered by the end of the month and I would get it “in April or May”. It would have been nice to just “go pick it up” but April or May was a lot better than September or the end of the year. And getting it below MSRP was a big bonus. I ordered the gun and then less than a month later the STI I purchased in 1997 and carried almost daily died.

Getting the gun was a big thrill and I checked the holster fit before I getting in my car. It fit both my competition holster and my IWB carry holster. It was a little tight in the carry holster but not a big deal. I loaded it up and it felt so good to have a STI on my hip again.


I had been carrying my Ruger P-89 in the Alien Gear IWB holster but after a few hours it was uncomfortable. And when I bent over to lift something the gun would pop most of the way out of the holster. I used to have Kramer holster for it but couldn’t find it.

I stopped off at the range before coming home. I shot factory ammo which I had known to be accurate in my old STI but it was a huge disappointment in this gun.

I bought a different brand in a different bullet weight and tried that. Still horrible.

I was about to give up and go home and decided to just empty the magazine. The last couple of rounds went about six or eight inches right of my point of aim on a target 21 feet away. Oh! I need to check something.

I tipped the gun to the left as I brought it closer to look at it and the front sight fell off:


That happened with my first STI after a few hundred rounds when I first got it.

I put a 0.004 shim of plastic under the front sight and carefully tapped it into place just like I had done with my first STI.

I went to the range again today and the results were much better. I adjusted the sights for a 25 yard zero and tried it again at 7 yards.

This is five rounds, off hand, from 7 yards away with some of my Montana Gold handloads:


This is five rounds, off hand, from 25 yards:


Okay. That’s more like it! Most of the group dispersion is probably just my aging eyes in the relatively low light of the indoor range and the tremors in my hands and arms.

It’s been many years since I could get groups like that with my STI Eagle. I had been wondering if it was my aging fire control system or the gun. I’m pretty sure I can say it was the gun. The slide to frame fit on the Eagle was never very good. The gunsmith who assembled the kit had deliberately put it together with loose tolerances for reliable carry. After 40K rounds through it the tolerance probably increased enough to make the difference that I suspected were aging of the flesh rather than wear of the gun.

The first thing I did with the DVC Limited, assembled by STI, was check the slide to frame fit. I cannot detect any movement at all. It has to be on the order of 0.001” or less gap. Same with the barrel. No detectable motion when I try to wiggle it.

I’m very pleased now that the front sight is staying in place. I can’t wait for the next match.