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Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Right Royal Night at LRG

For our date night, Big T and I signed up for a Primitive Archery class at Last Resort Guns, a local range right down the road.  Big T goes there to practice sometimes, and he also teaches the NRA Beginner’s Handgun class there occasionally.  Russ Durling, the CEO, was our instructor.  Russ is retired RAF and has a wonderful sense of humor.  He is also quite knowledgeable about bows (and weapons in general).  Plus, I must note that he has a lovely British accent.

The goal of the class was to make a longbow and three arrows and then learn to use them.  For information regarding the English longbow from Wikipedia, click here.

Our class was comprised of six students.  Besides the two of us, there was a mum and her two daughters and another lady.   We began by choosing the colors of our bow string, fletches, and nocks.  Fletches are the feathers for the arrows, and nocks are the pieces on the end of the arrow that notch into the bow string.  My fletches were blue-white-blue, my nocks were yellow, and the bowstring was black.

 Our first task was to make our arrows.  We were given dowels that had been “sharpened” sort of, on each end, but not to a point.   Using an ancient secret adhesive, Super Glue, we first attached the nocks to each arrow on the more pointy end.   

Then using the same ancient adhesive, we attached the pointers on the other end and gently tapped them with a hammer.
My most challenging part was next – attaching the fletches.  Using two popsicle sticks to hold the fletch, we added three small dots of the glue on the rib of the fletch and then placed it on the arrow, lining up with the little bump on the nock.   

 After we had one fletch on each arrow, then a guide was used to mark two more spots 120 degrees apart so that the fletches were equally spaced on the arrow.  After all of the fletches were glued on, then we ran a bead of glue down each one to make them stay put.  Then we set the arrows aside to dry completely while we worked on the bows.
We were all issued two pieces of bamboo, for the bow and the backer.  First we sanded them so that they had smooth edges on the side so that we didn’t get any splinters and so that our bowstrings wouldn’t be cut by a jagged edge in the notches.   

 Next we found the center of both pieces and lined up the centers and tied the two pieces together with leather string on each end with a flat knot.  
Now we had to choose a piece of leather about 5”x8” to wrap around the middle for our grip.  This was also secured with a longer piece of leather lace.    

And to make it very secure, two more leather laces were added between the grip and the other tie points.   Then we added a highly technical piece, a coffee stirrer,(see above) as an arrow rest. 
Lastly, we added the bowstrings.  First we made a loop and attached one end, then Russ showed us how to determine the length by placing the bow between his feet and behind his left knee. He then bent it to an arch to where the bow string would be approx. 13” from the arch.  

 Then the string was looped for the other end.   And tada – our bows were finished!
We are now ready to go to the range and put them to use. 
Big T had a huge advantage over me, as that he has used a bow before when bow-hunting. You can see here that he has a good stance.
  I had never even picked a bow up that I could remember, but with some good instruction,  I was able to hit the target after a few tries at the 5 yard mark.   I didn’t realize that you are supposed to hold the bow at a 10 degree angle; I always thought that it was held straight up and down.  I also learned that the more I thought about the shot, the worse it was.   I did have to keep reminding myself:  “Elbow down”, “thumb on cheek”, and “breathe”.   At one point, I was running through scenes from “Princess Diaries 2”, “Hunger Games”,  and “Lord of the Rings” in my mind, trying to figure out what to do to correct my shots.  I was glad that my shooting wasn't determining my fate or my dinner.

 Russ decided that he would challenge us a little and moved my target and Big T’s target to a distance of 15-20 yards.  I personally believe he over-estimated my skills, but after a few shots at that distance, he put up new targets.  My first shot was a bullseye!  

I freaked out!   Of course, I couldn’t repeat that.  But it was still cool. 

For our last couple of rounds, he let us choose zombie or alien targets.  I got an alien target.   On the very last round, I was able to get three arrows to stay in the target instead of go through it for a very funny picture.   Yay!!

Southbound with the Hammer Down - Turner Travels - Day 7

 When Big T finished his competition, we loaded up the Toyota with his gear, fueled up and headed south.  
Illinois in the rear view mirror

Once again, we did a bit of "shunpiking" and saw some noteworthy sights.   We saw so many homes flying the Stars & Stripes that I had to get one shot just to give them all a shout out.  It was encouraging to see the patriotic love for our country everywhere we went.

I knew that there was a barn quilt trail in Tennessee, but I didn't know there was one in Illinois too.
This one also reminds me of a favorite cousin.

I was on the lookout for old signs painted on brick buildings, but they were few and far between.

This church just had some neat looking windows.  Unfortunately I was shooting from the passenger seat at the red light, so I don't feel that I did them justice.

And yes, we got our kicks on Route 66, for about a minute and a half.

No, we didn't get lost and go to DC.  This is a picture of the Mount Vernon, IL version of the Washington Monument.

As you can see, it was beginning to get dark, and so ended the sight-seeing for this trip.  Plus, we were back on boring ol' interstates.   When you get the chance, travel the backroads.  You never know what you will see!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Sight Picture of the Nationals: A Newbie’s View of the 2015 USPSA Production Nationals

 “Two Alpha!”
 “Two Alpha!”
It didn’t take me long to realize that we want to hear the phrase “two alpha”, and hear it frequently, while watching the 2015 USPSA Production Nationals shooting competition in Barry, Illinois this week.  I learned also that a yell of “Mike!” was not someone looking for our first shooter.

I enjoy target shooting at the outdoor range, but I have never competed.   I have attended one of Big T’s local matches prior to attending the Nationals, and I occasionally watch the “shooting shows” with Big T, but I still feel like I am pretty much a newbie to the shooting competition world and the rules of scoring.  So, this trip was going to be VERY educational.

The Facility
Nationals were held at PASA Park in Barry, IL.   It was very easy to find following the signs from the interstate.   From what I understand, quite a few competitions are held at PASA Park, and they have a very nice facility.    The stages were roomy and most had bleachers for spectators.  I appreciated that they had porta-johns with handwashing stations near the Safety Areas.  (Safety Area is where the shooters go to take their guns out of their pouches and holster them and vice versa.  It is also where they go to deal with a mechanical problem with their guns.)   They did have golf carts and small trailers to shuttle folks from point to point, but the walking was not too bad since we had a pull-behind cart for the range bag, the camera bag, water bottles, snacks, and rain gear.   They also provided a hot sandwich lunch to the competitors, and the non-competitors could purchase a sandwich, sides, dessert, and a drink as well. The staff was very friendly and helpful.  I can see why USPSA continues to use PASA Park for their events.

The Organization of things
All shooters are separated into groups called “squads”.   Big T was in Squad 3, and there were 18 squads competing simultaneously.  Squad 3 was on the small side, with only 7 shooters, but they were a fun group to watch.  It was a pleasure to get to know Mike Calderisi, Phil Groff, Steve Hamblin, Ken Ito, Ryan Wilks, and Yee-min Lin.

The squads were spread out on different “stages” throughout the facility.   Each stage had a covered area where the range officers, or “RO’s”, kept the stage description, score sheets, paint, and pasters. Each stage had a different name and different target arrangements, so that all of the shooters’ skills are tested thoroughly.   One of the stages, called “Dark House”, was exactly that.   The shooter worked inside a small building with blackened windows and walls and only had a tactical flashlight for lighting.   

Some stages are called “classifiers”.   The scores received on these stages will be used to determine the shooters’ classification – whether D, C, B, A, Master (M), or Grand Master (GM).   

Order of Events
Once we arrived at a stage, one of the RO’s would read the stage description. 

The description included the stage designer, stage sponsor,  start position, what to shoot at, what not to shoot at, the scoring (which involves some computations between accuracy and speed that I still don’t get completely), the type of targets, and any special activations.   An example of a special activation would be shooting a target that would drop and pull a string and make another target swing back and forth.   After the description is read, then the shooters have 5 minutes to walk through the stage. 
 As they walk through, they mimic the motions they plan to do –their steps, their gun position, and their reloads.    There is an orange outline at each stage that indicates the area that the shooter must stay in.
After the walk-through, the fun begins.   We had a certain order of shooters that we stayed with the entire time, like a batting order.   They would even call out who was “up”, who was “on deck”, and who was “in the hole”.   As we moved from stage to stage, the first shooter would be moved to the bottom of the list, so that the order would be varied at each stage.    The RO that would be running the timer would stand behind the shooter and say “Make ready”.   This means that the shooter would get into the start position per the description.   Some of the start positions were sitting in a chair with the gun and ammo on a table or standing with hands on a wall.  

 Then the RO would ask “Are you ready?”   When the shooter nodded, then we would hear a “beep”, and the shooting began.  When the shooting stops, the RO tells the shooter to “show clear” and after the shooter shows that his chamber is empty, then the RO tell the shooter to “hammer down and holster your gun”.   The RO would then declare “Range clear”.  The timing device displays the time and it is recorded on the score sheet at this point.  

 Then the scoring of the targets would commence.  The cardboard targets have letters on them for accuracy – A to D with A being the most accurate.  As stated earlier, we want to hear “two alpha”, but sometimes we would hear “alpha charlie” or “mike” or “alpha no shoot”.   “No shoot” means that the shooter hit something that wasn’t supposed to be hit.   That is a penalty¸ and so is a “mike” or miss.  
The white target is a no shoot.
 If there were steel targets (called pepper poppers) on the stage, then the RO would shout “all steel” to indicate they were all hit or “missed steel” if one were missed.   After a target was scored, then it could be re-painted, if it were steel, or it could be pasted with a square sticker if it were cardboard.  That way, every shooter started with fresh targets.
After everyone on the squad finished shooting, then we would move on to the next stage and repeat the process.    As a spectator, I was allowed to photograph and film.   I never asked, and the ROs never said anything, but I had my own rules about where I should and shouldn’t be.   I stayed behind any cones they set up.  If there were not cones, then I stayed behind the ROs when I was filming Big T.    I also did not EVER walk inside the “orange box” or shooting area, even during the walk-throughs, since I was a non-shooter.   
Other Observations
1. Squibs are bad.   One of our squad members had what is called a “squib”.   His cartridge had a primer and a bullet, but no powder.   Therefore, the bullet stayed in the barrel of the gun and had to be fished out.  Because the bullet was still in the barrel, the rule said they had to score the stage as it was at that moment.    And because it was his first round of that magazine, he got a zero for that stage.  That stinks. BIG. TIME.
2.  These guys have amazing gun control skills.   One of the shooters fell on his back while back-pedaling from one position to another on one of the stages.   He managed to keep his gun in the correct position, not discharge into the air, and finished the stage without being DQ’d (disqualified).
3.  The shooting community is friendly and helpful, even to the competition.   I know they all want to win, but they know that it is a truly individual sport.   They would discuss how to run a stage among themselves, but when the beeper goes off, it is all on the shooter to execute his plan.
4.  The RO's that we had were efficient, organized, and knowledgeable and did not take advantage of their position of authority.  I could tell that they wanted a safe, fair, and fun experience for their shooters.    We actually had a group of three men that traveled with us from stage to stage instead of having different RO's at the different stages, which I understand to be the norm. 
All in all, I considered it a good learning experience about a sport that Big T is passionate about.  I don’t think that I will be picking it up soon, (I firmly believe that I would shoot myself in the foot pulling the gun from the holster) but at least I can carry on a decent conversation about it.  
For other photos from the competition, check out my previous blog here.

We're at the Nationals! - Turner Travels - Day 6

So, it has taken me awhile to go through all of my pictures and pick out my favorites and do a little cropping and enhancing.   Plus I had 17 stages worth of video to upload to YouTube.

Below are some of the pics from my POV as a spectator and a newbie.  I have planned two more blogs from the trip -- one will be some pics from the back roads heading home and one will be my take on the whole event.  First picture is of Big T who is thrilled to be competing at Production Nationals in Barry, IL.  I don't have a lot of still photos of him because I was filming him most of the time.

This is a shot of the inside of stage 13 - Dark House

Somebody is catching a nap on the range

Mike shooting at a target that includes a "no shoot".

Phil reloading on the run

Phil demonstrating how to keep the gun down range while running

Steve with a mag change on the run

Ken in mid-reload

I think Yee shot three stages wearing the crown for his son. Above his gun you can see the brass ejecting.

Big T and a Range Officer.  Here you can see the brass ejecting from the gun.  It looks like it is headed for the target.

Shooting into the sun, but you can still tell that Mike is moving and reloading

This guy was not in our squad, but he is from Anniston.  This shot shows him dropping one magazine while grabbing for the next one.

I have very few shots of Ryan because he is so fast, but here he is shooting through the door at a target.

One of the few profile shots I was able to snag. 

Phil is gettin' it!

Once again, I was able to catch a magazine ejecting as the shooter is reloading.

I like this pic because it is a profile that shows the brass ejecting from the gun and the target as well as the shooter.