Quote of the day—Brian Enos

Awareness in shooting comes from observation without thought. Awareness leads to action without thought. Awareness exists only in the present tense, along with shooting. Although awareness happens actively, it’s perceived passively.

Brian Enos

Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals Page 16.
[I know what Enos is saying. I sometimes experience this when shooting and am trying to get into “the zone” consistently. I think this is the major obstacle to my further improvement at this time.

I’m not certain this is the best way to say what Enos means.

I went looking for Yoda quotes to supplement Enos but I couldn’t find one that was a good match.

A year or so ago I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to try and find out more about getting into this state of mind and body. It wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped it would be.

Several decades ago, when I played a lot of tennis, I read The Inner Game of Tennis. This was when I first started understanding this state. I’m beginning to wonder if I should read it again and apply it to shooting.—Joe]

USPSA firsts for me

Today I shot in an USPSA match at the Paul Bunyan Rifle and Sportsman’s Club (results are here). I’ve been shooting USPSA matches for over 20 years so one might expect there are very few, if any, things I have not seen and/or done or at least heard of in regards to stage designs. I certainly thought that before today. Sure, at the big matches they have fancy props and they do interesting things with platforms, carrying odd objects (I seem to remember a squirrel statue from many years back), and even a mining cart. But have you ever seen a stage which one only required one shot? A state which required a reload between each shot? Or a fixed time stage with no timer? Well, today I shot all of those oddities.

The stage called Quick or Slow was a single USPSA Popper at 35 yards. You started standing in a box with the gun loaded. Upon the signal you were to draw and knock down the Popper. If you missed you were required to reload between each shot until you knocked it down. I was the first shooter in our squad and I felt pretty good about dropping it on my first shot with a time of 2.21 seconds. Others did quite a bit better. The overall winning with a pistol caliber carbine dropped it in 1.17 seconds. The best pistol shooter (with an optic sight) dropped it in 1.38 seconds. I came in at 13th place in Limited class out of 26 shooters, 38th out of 97 overall, and got a whopping 2.647 points (in overall ranking) on that stage. One poor person took over 37 seconds to get 0.158 points (in overall ranking).

The stage called Murmaider had four disappearing targets which the shooter activated by stepping on a slightly raised platform. It was Virginia Count scoring so you had a maximum of eight shots. Your gun was loaded on a table directly downrange of the activator. Two targets were drop turners which presented themselves three times. The presentation time couldn’t have been more than a half second for each turn. There were two swinging targets that were pretty fast acting too. The “fixed” time was the total time the targets were visible. It was self actuated so there was no buzzer required. Hence, no timer. Here is how one shooter handled the problem:

Out of 40 points possible the overall winner got 31 (Limited class winner got 29). I got 22 points even after reflexively shooting at one of the drop turners three times when I realized I had a miss as I fired the shot. I knew I made an error and didn’t take one of the two shots I should have taken at one of the swinging targets which were much easier shots. This avoided the extra shot penalty but cost me the opportunity of another five points. The 22 points gave me a tie for 4th and 5th out of 28 shooters in Limited.

There was one other first for me today. I shot a Popper, got a clang from a hit, assumed it went down and continued with the rest of the stage without confirming that it went down. I didn’t realize it didn’t fall. I was totally surprised when the range officer asked me if I knew that I left it standing. We went over to look:


There was nothing wrong with my shot. I was shooting 40 S&W with a Power Factor of 170 or greater so I asked for a calibration test. I’ve never done that before. I’ve shoot low plenty of times and figured it just wasn’t worth the effort to get a calibration test and took another shot (or two) to get it to fall.

This time the range master came over, shot it with the 9mm calibration ammo almost exactly dead center in the circle portion of the target, and it slowly fell forward as it was supposed to. I got a miss. Oh well, it was a bit of bad luck.

USPSA Area 1 Championship

For the first time in over 20 years I’m attending a level III USPSA match. In two weeks I’m going to Bend Oregon to participate in the Area 1 Championship. This consists of 17 stages shot over the course of three days. At this level match you get to shoot some interesting/different/challenging stages.

Some of the stages have a western theme such as Wild West, Showdown, and Outhouse Slider:




But there is one stage of particular note. This will be the most interesting/different/challenging stage I have ever shot:


New shooter report

Yesterday Dana and Chris from Barb’s Book Club went to the Bellevue Gun Club with Barb and I. Neither had even touched a gun before.

It went well. As usual I taught them how to shoot a pistol since it’s an indoor range with only 25 yards available. I did the usual stuff regarding safety, then stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, dry fire, and finally had them take their first shots with a suppressed .22 from 10 feet away from the target.

The following three pictures are by Barb. Yes, there is something wrong with the stance and grip in each of the pictures. They were still working on getting everything correct at the same time. It got better latter on before it deteriorate as they got tired at the end.




I also talked them a little about ammunition. The bullet, the shell casing, powder, and primers. After I showed them rimfire and center cartridges Barb spoke up, “I didn’t know that! So that’s what you meant by that all this time.” Whoops! I thought she knew.

Dana had some problems at first. The shots were going all over the place. Chris’s first two shots were several inches high but close to each other. I asked if the top of the front and rear sights were level with each other and without a word put the next several shots into the bulls-eye. Okay, that’s an acceptable answer.

Dana shot again and after asking a few questions all of a sudden many of her shots started going into the bulls-eye. She had only been using the front sight. Once she used the rear sight in combination with the front sight things worked much better. Imagine that.

I had them shoot a .22 revolver in single action mode. Then had them dry fire in double action mode and advised them that in general they would probably be happier shooting semi-auto handguns.


Near the end of our reserved time we put up two USPSA targets and I talked to them about self defense shooting. This included where to shoot, what to expect in terms of the threat response to hits in various locations, and when it was legal to shoot.

After a couple of magazines through the Ruger 22/45 Mark IIIs I had them start from a close ready position and then push out to fire first one shot at a time then two shots at a time. They did very well with all shots in the lower A-Zone (except the two Chris tried in the upper A-zone). I was very pleased with all the progress they had made and they thanked me multiple times.


At the end of the month another new shooter from the book club is scheduled to go to the range with us.

See also the QOTD.

Quote of the day—Dana

Of the top five things people would never expect me to do, learn to shoot a gun is one of them.

This is exciting!

June 1, 2019
[I’ll have a full “new shooter report” later today.


In the picture above Dana is the woman on the left. Chris is on the right. By their own request, they are getting a sample of what self defense shooting is about.—Joe]

One of these is not like the other

I was at the range a couple days ago and noticed my handgun was shooting a couple inches high at 10 yards. Odd, I thought.

I put the target out to 25 yards and tried again. Yup, obviously high. I adjusted it down and continued my practice. It bothered me and I kept thinking about it.

Then I noticed the front sight looked a little odd. I looked closer and from a different angle and discovered the problem:


On the left is a new sight from my spare parts bin. On the right is the old sight.

I apparently broke it off shooting through a port at a recent match. To avoid damaging your gun you need to push all the way through the port or stay out of the port completely. If you are mostly centered in the port the recoil can interfere with the proper cycling and, as in this case, damage you gun.

I replaced the sight when I got home, order a new one to put in the spare parts bin, and went back to the range the next day to rezero my gun:


The top group is from five yards and the bottom group is from 27 yards away. One flyer with each six shot group but good enough to believe the sights are where they belong.

Quality control

For USPSA matches I’ve been using 40 caliber 180 grain, polymer coated, Truncated Cone, bullets from Black Bullets International. They are very accurate, clean to reload, clean to shoot, and don’t have a jacket that comes back at you when you shoot at steel. I have reloaded almost 11,000 rounds using these bullets.

My only complaint about them is the quality control appears to be a bit marginal. One time I found a 125 grain 9mm bullet in with the 180 grain 40 caliber bullets and a few bullets which weighed as little as 177.5 grains.

The most concerning to me, which isn’t that big of a deal if you take it into account in your reloading, is the weight variation. They are advertised as 180 grain bullets. I have had batches that averaged 181.26 grains. And, most recently 179.2 grains.

Looking a bit closer at the data (a sample of 20 bullets) I found:

Mean Standard Deviation Min Max ES
179.2 0.574 178.3 180.7 2.4

If I had assumed the bullet weight was the advertised 180 grains, adjusted my load for 925 fps to get a 166.5 Power Factor and expected to meet the 165 minimum PF required to “make Major” at a USPSA match I would have ended up shooting Minor with a PF of 164.9 if chrono man had pulled a 178.3 grain (or less) bullet. This would have made me rather annoyed. One has to take into account the variation in bullet weights too, not just the average or the minimum from sample. The statistics are a bit complicated and beyond the scope of this blog post but after taking into account the weight variation, velocity variation, and temperature sensitivity of the powder I had to load for a PF of about 175 at 70F to have less than a 10% chance of shooting Minor at a match where the chrono tested was done when the temperature was near freezing.

Okay, fine, that’s not really a big deal. I can tell the difference between a 175 PF load and a 165 PF load but it doesn’t make that much of a difference in performance.

Today I found another thing to annoy me about their quality control:



It looks as if the bullet mold was not completely closed when the lead was poured. Why wasn’t that caught by some quality control process? When Barb and I toured the Montana Gold Bullet manufacturing facility QC was clearly a big deal. The bullet above clearly would have been rejected. But I have other indicators that Montana Gold may be an exception in the QC department.


Halle Berry training for John Wick 3

This afternoon daughter Jaime, her fiancé, and I went to see John Wick 3 – Parabellum. It’s a good action movie. There is some humor too. As Jaime pointed out the humor is “interesting”. It’s delivered completely straight and frequently without even any words. I recommend it for more than the entertainment value. It shows very skilled gun handling and shooting by both Keanu Reeves and Halle Barry. I’m inclined to believe, as is stated in the second video below, we see actors shooting guns at skill level never before seen in a movie.

Below is Barry doing, essentially, USPSA stages. I expect she is performing at about a low class B for a USPSA shooter.

There is some controversy in the gun community over this. I’m inclined to side with Uncle on it.

I expect the anti-gun people universally hate the movie and the training videos. It shows what can be done with guns and make it look fun. And it is fun. I’m going to a USPSA match tomorrow, and do most of what Reeves and Barry did in the videos above and I’m going to have fun doing it.

Boomershoot 2019—Sunday

Staff started arriving at 7:00 AM to mount the reactive targets on the wood stakes we had driven into the ground Thursday and last night. By 8:30 we had completed that job and the opening fireball target, designed by Barron Barnett, was complete by 9:30.


There are a dozen pieces of 10 foot long rebar stuck in the ground around the target. On each piece of rebar are two road flares. The flare are to ignite the gasoline. The placement of the rebar was determined from viewing the video of previous fireballs. We have learned that placement is critical to getting good ignition of the gasoline.

The opening fireball target was detonated by 9:57:

Notice the last frame of the video. The sand platform was only reduced to about the same level as the surrounding ground. It worked wonderfully, resulting in almost no crater.

I think we have this fireball creation dialed in. There was no question about ignition of this fireball. We is suspect the good ignition was the reason it was the hottest, by far, of any fireball we have ever produced. Notice the photographer leaving the area as the fireball climbs into the air? His left arm received a minor burn from the radiant heat.

It was wonderful weather for the long range shooting. With almost no wind, hundreds of targets disappeared in minutes. The rate of target detonation approached that of a high intensity event.


One experienced Boomershooter told me he got six boomers with eight shots, all of which were over 650 yards away. The entire upper area of the hill was emptied of boomers within just a few minutes.

People loved all the steel. The big USPSA silhouette targets range like bells. You could easily hear the most distant one even though it was 700 yards away. One Boomershooter told me, “It sounds like I’m at church!” Yup, this is The Church of Guns and Explosives.

Without any wind the targets were so easy to hit that of the nearly 700 hundred targets available only 15 were still undetonated by lunch time. The only target we found that definitely had a sold hit without detonation was hit by a .22 caliber bullet at about 650 yards. It’s just too much to expect for the .223 cartridge to deliver the velocity required at that range.

With the near perfect detonations and the good wind we learned a new lesson. Watch the weather forecast and adjust the number of targets accordingly. We needed far more targets for a day like today.

We let the participants shoot at the steel another hour after lunch before we packed things up and everyone went home. Barb and I were headed down the hill to Orofino by 5:00 PM.

It was an awesome Boomershoot.

Update: More fireball videos.

Quote of the day—danno

OMG.. This is a bucket list item… I’m trying to figure out why I’M NOT THERE” This is a “walk over coals” event.

May 2, 2019
Comment to Boomershoot 2019—Thursday
[I ask a lot of people that same question. After people attend just once they are either there or have extremely good reasons, like, “I can only afford to drive from Maryland once every two years.” Or, “I’m dying of cancer and I don’t have the strength to get out of bed.”

Today is Boomershoot Sunday. Why aren’t you here?—Joe]

Boomershoot 2019—Saturday

Daughter Kim got the Boomerite production back on schedule and we have all the targets we need for Sunday. This is the production line as seen this afternoon:


Here is the finished result, just under 700 targets:


Yeah, there is a large stuffed bunny in one of the crates. But guess what it is stuffed with!

The dry ice is to keep the targets cool and fresh. The targets go dead over time and the dry ice slows down that reaction. We want the targets to be easier to detonate after being stored overnight. It made a big improvement in the successful detonation rate.

Here is what the High Intensity event looked like from the perspective of the targets:


We put out hundreds of targets and after only a couple minutes only five targets were left. One guy melted his hand guard on his AR-15 from shooting so much. Another melted his blanket with the muzzle of his AR when he touched it on the blanket.

This is only a hint of what High Intensity is about. You just cannot capture experience of multiple shock waves hitting each second. Multiple new shooters came up to me afterward and said something to the effect, “That was amazing! I know you told me, but I had no idea.”

Attend Boomershoot 2020 and find out for yourself.

Boomershoot 2019—Thursday

Boomershoot is, technically, a three day event; Friday through Sunday. For Barb and me, it is a five day event. Among other things, we arrive on Wednesday, rent a U-Haul trailer, get the ATV from my brother, get gasoline for the fireballs, make sure the generator is working, and generally prep for Thursday when a bunch of the staff show up.

Thursday we put wooden stakes with little signs indicating the position number at each shooting position, distribute garbage cans along the shooting line, pound targets stakes on the hillside, fill milk jugs with gasoline for the fireballs, and put the steel targets out.

Usually we put out about three or four steel targets. This year, in addition to the new targets I put out a couple weeks ago, I put out ten steel targets. Four are full size USPSA Poppers. Two are oversized bowling pin shaped targets. And four of them are full size USPSA silhouette targets as seen on the left side of the picture below. This one is at the 375 yard line. The other targets are spread out between about 600 and 700 yards. This is the first time I have used the silhouette targets at Boomershoot.

I brought out the full size silhouettes so people could relatively easily make a hit compared to connecting with the other targets. The targets will swing and ring with a fairly loud sound when hit. This will give new shooters and those with low end equipment some reward for reaching out to greater distances than they might normally be successful at.


In the picture below you can see the hillside (click on the picture for a higher resolution version of the same picture) after nearly all the steel for the Precision Rifle Clinic was deployed as well as the Boomershoot steel.


Thursday went really well this year. The weather was dry with partly sunny skies. This enabled us to transport materials easily and stay comfortable as we did almost all the outdoor preparation work.

Friday and Saturday the Precision Rifle Clinic takes place during the morning until late afternoon when the High Intensity event takes place. The rest of the crew will be busy during the day on Friday and Saturday making the exploding targets.

Last year we tried a sample from a new chemical supplier and decided to go exclusively with them this year. The ammonium nitrate from them is denser than what we have used in the past. We will have about the same number of targets as last year but have considerably more explosive mass. It will total over 2,600 pounds of explosives. This will be the most explosives we have ever made for a single event.

Boomershoot 2019 is going to have great weather and a real blast!

You aren’t going to see this very often

Yesterday I shot a USPSA match at Renton Fish and Game Club. In Limited Division I won the classifier stage (the stage was CM 03-09 On The Move). It wasn’t that great of shooting even though I beat both a Master and Grandmaster also shooting in Limited. I only got a 50.1% classification percentage. This is in the middle of class C.

What is really strange is that out of 13 shooters I had the slowest time (13.66 seconds), but I had the best hit factor. Because I tend to be more accurate than most shooters it’s common that I will get a better hit factor than some of the faster shooters. But I can’t recall ever seeing the slowest shooter doing even mediocre on a stage let alone winning the stage.

New Boomershoot steel

Last weekend I installed some new steel targets for Boomershoot at the 375 yard tree line.

Here is the old steel (picture from last December):


The targets were made and donated by an extremely generous Boomershooter. They thought they were doing the right thing by making the targets out of soft steel. The thinking was that this would prevent ricochets. It turns out this is not the way to do it. The steel becomes cratered:


The craters cause the bullets fragments to spray back at the shooter and large fragments can travel dozens of yards at relatively high velocity. It is very dangerous and you should be 100+ yards away to be safe.

Very hard steel causes the soft bullets to turn almost into dust and come off of the flat face at about a 20 degree angle. These targets are safe to shoot at a much closer distance.

I purchased four targets from ShootSteel.com and installed on the old target stands.

The previous targets were suspended by chain which was welded at both ends. No problem. I have bolt cutters.

Uh… not as easy as I thought. The chain was really tough. By putting one handle against my chest and pulling on the other handle as hard as I could I could just barely cut through one side of the link. This didn’t leave a gap to disconnect the target. I had to cut the other side of the link to get the link apart. Two extremely difficult cuts per chain. This wasn’t the best solution.

I went back to my car and brought back my AR-15 with some M855 ammo. I got back about 20 yards and cut the chain with rifle fire:


Much easier!

Here are the new targets.The two old targets on the right couldn’t be replaced easily so I just left them.


Yes, it was very muddy. But the weather since then has been pretty good and the forecast is good. I’m expecting decent ground conditions and weather (cloudy with highs in the mid 50s) for Boomershoot 2019.

The new targets are not the ideal shapes. What I really wanted was seven inch squares and four inch squares to mimic Boomershoot targets. I could have had targets custom made but I ended up just purchasing off the shelf targets and painting them to mimic Boomershoot targets.

Here is one of the targets after being shot with my AR-15 with lead core bullets (the targets are rated for 30 caliber magnums at this range as well) from the shooting line:


No craters!

I wish

It would be nice if it were possible you could rent a carry gun when you are traveling. Suppose you were going to do some domestic travel for a few days, then continue on to an international destination before returning. You want to be able to carry when you legally can but leave the gun behind when you visit your international destinations. Renting for a few days would be a good option.

Another option would be to have a small storage service that you could trust your gun with while you traveled.

Does anyone know of such thing in the Fort Lauderdale area?

Limits to muzzle velocity standard deviation

When attempting to get the best long range accuracy there are a number of contributing factors. Some of the are

  • The firearm components including barrel, scope, bedding of the stock, etc.
  • The consistency of the bullet in weight, jacket thickness consistency, and shape
  • The consistency of the primers
  • The consistency of the shell casing
  • The consistency of the powder
  • The consistency of the powder charge

When reloading these last five are the ones you have most under your control. You buy match grade bullets and primers and obtain good brass. You might even weight each piece of brass and turn the necks to be uniform.

The muzzle velocity variation is a major contributor at the longer ranges. Suppose you are shooting a 69 grain Sierra Match King bullet with a BC of 0.301 at a MV of 3000 fps.

Here are the odds of getting a 0.5 MOA result at various ranges assuming everything else is perfect (zero wind, perfect bullets, etc.) with the muzzle velocity variation the only contribution to the inaccuracy (via Modern Ballistics):

MV Stdev \  Range 200 300 400 500
10 fps 100% 100% 100% 99.6%
15 fps 100% 100% 98.7% 80.8%
20 fps 100% 99.8% 84.4% 50.4%

As a reference point on expected standard deviation of MVs, for 55 grain American Eagle FMJ ammo I get from 20 to 25 fps. If I let the default powder measure on the Dillion 550 do the powder charges I sometimes get up to 30 fps. With match ammo from Federal and Blackhills using 10 or more shot samples I typically see 12 to 18 fps with one 10 shot sample giving me 8.3 fps.

As you can see muzzle velocity variation makes a big difference and it’s tough to get it in the range of 10 fps.

The next question is, “How much tight of tolerance on powder mass is required to get the standard deviation into the range of 10 fps?” Or put another way, “What is the MV change per unit mass of powder?”

By measuring the average velocity for powder charges on either side of your chosen load you can get an approximate answer. It’s important to not make the difference be too large from the load in question because the relationship between powder mass and velocity is not linear. And if you make the delta too small you lose your “signal” in the “noise”.

I did this measurement for two different powders for .223 loads. I was a bit surprised to find that for both powders the muzzle velocity sensitivity to powder mass was very close to the same and larger than I expected. For Varget it was 11.10 fps/0.1 grain and for CFE 223 it was 10.14 fps/0.1 grain.

What this means is that having powder masses +/- 0.1 grain can blow your entire muzzle velocity standard deviation budget!

My electronic powder scale only has a resolution of +/- 0.1 grain. Furthermore, I have found that with extruded cylinder powders like Varget three kernels of the powder weigh about 0.1 grain. Hence, if you want to get muzzle velocity standard deviations with a relatively small powder charge into the range of 10 fps you must measure it down to, literally, one or two kernels of powder.

So, how do you do that?

What I did was set my electronic charge dispenser to output 0.1 grains less than my desired charge. I then add the one, two, or three additional kernels of powder and stop when the scale first indicates the correct charge. Using this technique I loaded 15 rounds and measured them with a doppler radar chronograph. I got a standard deviation of 12.5 fps. from a loading that has approximately 11.1 fps delta for each 0.1 grain of powder.

So… what I want to know, is how do factories output 100’s of thousands (millions?) of rounds of match ammo with standard deviations in the range of 10 fps?

Rounds in the last month

During February I was sort of blocked on some rifle reloading I wanted to do. I needed to test out some new loads before I went “into production” with them. I normally like to do my rifle load tests in Idaho where I have several hundred yards available. I went to Idaho a couple weeks ago but there was so much snow that I ended up not having the energy and time to snowshoe the distances required to set up the targets and do the shooting I wanted to do. I finally joined a local range in the Seattle area which has 200 yards available. I went there yesterday and did some of the testing I wanted to do.

I reloaded 80 sample rounds with various charges and bullets for .300 Win Mag and another 99 rounds finishing off some old bullets.

In .223 I reloaded 60 sample rounds in various charges for one powder and bullet. I was able to test these and concluded I should test a different powder before settling for the best this combination could give me.

This brings my lifetime reloaded ammunition totals to:

223: 6,957 rounds.
30.06: 756 rounds.
300 WIN: 2,126 rounds.
300 Savage: 50 rounds.
40 S&W: 98,363 rounds.
45 ACP: 2,007 rounds.
9 mm: 21,641 rounds.
Total: 131,900 rounds