The Folly of Chasing Gear – Competition Version

In the last 18 months I have changed my competition gun 3 times while chasing the elusive “perfect” pistol so allow me to spin you a yarn on what not to do.

First, I must note that I am FAR from the first person to write or talk about this subject.  Ben Stoeger had a Podcast about it and the guys at Triangle Tactical have warned against this more times than I can count. But I can be stubborn and had to learn these lessons hard way.  It is my hope that you are not as stubborn as I am, and that you won’t repeat my mistakes.

Oh the circuitous path I took.

When I started in competition I wanted a gun that would work for competition, but also work as a defensive weapon.  With that fallacy firmly in mind I went out and bought a Glock 34 – a fine competition gun by the way –  then I sold it almost immediately for the XD-9 Tactical I wrote about in “My Time With An XD”.  With my “competition” gun on hand, I geared up with a Comp-Tac International Holster, a cheapo mag pouch and a 5.11 Belt from Bass Pro Shops.  The gun worked fine (the cheap mag pouch – not so much) but after a few matches I had a nagging “what if”; a “what if” that was only fueled when I got to dry fire Ben Stoeger’s Stock II and then shoot both a Stock II and a SP-01 that belonged to other people.

IMG_4830It was with dreams of greatness that I sold the XD and proceeded to buy a CZ P-09. (the one in the photo)  I had decided that I “needed” a DA/SA competition gun and already owning a 2nd generation P-07 I knew of CZ P- series awesomeness.  Truthfully, deep down I knew I would end up with a metal gun, but I wanted to prove the DA/SA was something I could master and compete with first.  What better than the bigger brother of a gun I already owned, right?  It didn’t take long to fall in love with DA/SA and prove to myself it was the way I wanted to go.  Thoughts confirmed, I pulled the trigger (pun intended) on a Tanfoglio Limited Pro.

In all of that swapping and monkey motion I learned some valuable lessons.

Losing money (gun) – I liked the XD, but it was never going to be what I really wanted.  I knew if I fell in love with competitive shooting I would want a metal gun. I should have bought the CZ P-09 first.  That would have given me a chance to run a DA/SA at the high round count class with Ben Stoeger and I would have ultimately saved money.  I don’t regret buying the P-09; but I do regret the money I spent “learning” the XD, only to part ways with it 9 months later.

Losing money – ancillary equipment – You just changed guns?  Great! Now you can buy a new holster, spare parts, sights, trigger job, extra mags, and grip tape.  If you are really lucky, your existing mag pouches won’t work (read: Tanfoglio Large Frame) and you get to modify what you have or order new ones.  If there is a shining spot it is the fact you can re-coup some of that gear cost by including it in the sale of the gun.

Ammo “wasted”?–  It is nice to say we learn from every round shot, but wouldn’t it be nice to do that learning on a platform you will keep?  Then you gain both the knowledge, as well as trust in the platform.  I put about 1k through the P-09 before I moved to the Lim Pro and while I love the P-09 and plan on keeping it, it would be nice to have that ammo back to live fire practice with the Lim Pro.  This desire to have the ammo back is an order of magnitude greater when thinking of the XD.

Tracking Improvement –  I am better now than a year ago, but I know it is not all the gear.  I will proudly admit a 44 ounce gun with a 2.5# trigger is amazing and make for easy controlled pairs, but I must also admit that much of my improvement has been due to a refined trigger control, more efficient movements, and seeing what I need to see.

To better illustrate, you can’t go back and start over with your beginner skill level every time you change gear.  As you run and learn your new gear you are also adding to your current skill level.  The simple fact is the improvement you realize from the gear change is over-stated in your mind.

Rebooting, again and again –  Oh, you have your mag changes down to 1 second?  Great!  Now change platforms and tell me what happens!  Every time you change gear, you back up some and have to relearn draws, mag changes, transitions, and on, and on.  Sometimes it is small – like going from the P-09 trigger to the Lim Pro and sometimes it is brutal.

Pick a gun and stick with it – It seems that in most cases this is the best bet.  But as with most things in life, there are concessions to be made.  If you are starting out with a Ruger P89, you would probably benefit more from a gear change (update?) than someone starting out with a Glock G17.  Similarly, if all you own is a G27 then by all means shoot it while planning for an upgrade; but I suggest staying with a G22 or G35 so the familiarity remains.

Are there gains to be made by changing gear?  Sometimes; but, first you need to evaluate your current skill level against the gains you will realistically see in the near term.  I have dry fired an awful lot this year, likely enough to be a high A class in USPSA, but I am not because most of my dry fire time was spent learning new gear and not refining a specific skill.

My advise?  Decide if what you currently own will work and be realistic about it.  A Glock 17 will take you to Grand Master in USPSA and Distinguished Master in IDPA, where as a Hi-Point probably won’t.  If you want something better that’s fine, but I suggest you shoot what you have and save up to get what you really want the first time to minimize the re-learning.  Bouncing around only waste time and money.

If you don’t want to listen to my experience, that is also fine; I just ask you withhold your shock when you look back and realize the money and/or ammo spent.

Lest anyone think this applies only to competition shooters, I have done CCW swapping as well; but that is a story for another day.

Tales From a 3 Gun Beginning: First Stage

20140702-111523-40523012.jpgThough I have been practicing in my coaches’ backyard range, which includes an abandoned horse barn, a chicken coop and a rusty horse walker, the first stage I encountered at the Freedom Munitions Memorial match at Clinton Plantation was more complicated than any I had ever tried. It began with a pistol draw from the belt and shots at a dueling tree from behind the hood of an old suburban. The pistol dump bucket was in the back seat of the vehicle and my shotgun was staged in the front seat. Once I complete a few pistol shots from behind the truck, I will grab my shotgun and clear a steel spinning star with birdshot, load slugs and shoot distant steel gongs. Upon finishing the shotgun portion of the stage, I should run to a ladder and climb to the bed of a large truck on which my rifle has been staged (and has been soaking up the noon sun). Lastly, I should engage six steel gongs at a distance of between 200 and 350 yards.
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Easy Modifications for CZ 712 Practical

20140521-111630-40590364.jpgFor the purposes of my review (parts 1 & 2 linked here) CZ-usa was kind enough to put together the very first 712 Practical (since production had not yet officially begun) and ship it out to me. I am exceptionally grateful for this generosity, but CZ didn’t stop there. They gave me the freedom to modify the 712 Practical as I see fit, because they realize that is exactly what their product is designed to do. A 3 gun shotgun, or any gun used in competition for that matter, should be expected to receive at least a few modifications before it is all said and done. CZ is well aware that their 3 gun shotgun doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the high end models by other brands. They leave these modifications as opportunities for the end user to adjust as they see fit. I agree with CZ’s thinking here, because from what I have seen even the high-end 3 gun ready shotguns, do get some tweaking for the pros.

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Review: CZ 712 Practical for 3 Gun (Part II)

20140518-181637.jpgIn my post on Wednesday we covered the following parts of the CZ 712 Practical, (6) Loader, carrier button, (5) safety, (7) bolt release, (8) bolt handle, (10) mag tube extension and follower. Some, I felt, were excellent for an entry level shotgun such as this one, other features, I said, needed minimal tweaking to bring them to a level that would benefit the beginning 3 gunner. We’ll get to the DIY opportunities that the 712 Practical offers, but first, we must discuss a few major (and a couple minor) features of the gun.
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Review: CZ 712 Practical for 3 Gun (Part I)

cz 712 practical shotgun for 3 gunFor the past few months I have been learning the ins and outs of 3 gun shooting competitions and it would have been pretty difficult to accomplish this without a shotgun with which to work. By SHOTShow 2014 I had at home, a rifle and a few pistols, yet, up to that point, shotguns were still not on my radar. So when it came time to bring a shotgun into my world, I wanted to work with one that had some 3 gun mods already, but that might also fall into the category of “entry level”. CZ’s 712 Practical retails for $699.00 and with the brand’s long history of lux sporting shotguns, one can expect a solid platform on which to build.

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Best Tool for the Job, An Emotionless Choice

20140505-120307.jpgI’m sure I’ve made it clear how much I love my CZ75B. It was the first gun I ever purchased. It’s insanely accurate and the weight of the all steel frame makes for minimal felt recoil. And in the over three years that I’ve owned this gun the only modification that I’ve made to it, was the addition of rubber grips. My CZ75B is full sized so it didn’t seem that much of a stretch for me to plan to use it for the Lady’s 3Gun Pro-Am this coming October. However, during my recent practice one of my coaches informed me that I was “fighting” my gun.
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Decision: Pistol Grip on a Shotgun or Traditional Stock?

20140226-104541.jpgThere seems to be a simmering debate that folks are not directly addressing. This is the question of pistol grips on shotguns. I was doing a little research on 3-Gun shotgun preferences and I found that in most cases competitors prefer a traditional stock. However, anyone who is a fan of pistol grips on their scattergun has told me that it gives them a tactical advantage. Is there no overlap between the tactical community and 3-Gun on this?

I tend to believe that 3-Gun is one of the most tactical of the shooting sports, so I began to wonder why there was such a difference of opinion when it came to pistol grips on shotguns? Some will tell you that having this protruding part coming from your gun will actually slow you down. I could see how this might be the case depending on your reloading method. Others, who would not give up their pistol grip, feel that this part gives them comfort and stability. I can also see their point. There is a certain extra level of stability and ease of grasping that a pistol grip will offer.

When I look at CZ-USA’s new 712 Practical, I begin to wonder why they went with the adjustable stock with pistol grip, especially when they are using the same manufacturer, ATI, for their 712 Utility. I would have expected them to flip these two stocks, and see the traditional on the Practical and the pistol grip on the Utility. What do you think about their choice? And about pistol grips on shotguns in general?

CZ’s P-09 Updates

20140129-105037.jpgHave I mentioned I’m a CZ fan? This year at SHOTShow CZ brought to the table products that were better than brand new. They brought previously introduced products that had been given BIG updates for 2014. After all, if it ain’t broke… One such offering is the updated P-07 which now has the great features introduced last year in the P-09. These include interchangeable backstraps and the option to change between a manual safety and a decocking leaver. So the P-07 is now better but just a small P-09, so let’s talk about that bad boy instead.

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CZ’s New 3-Gun Ready Shotgun

20140124-135830.jpgAt the beginning of SHOT Show I made a bee line for the CZ-USA booth. The company has held a special place in my heart since I purchased my first pistol, a CZ 75 B, and they haven’t let me down since. I didn’t know it as I visited the CZ booth, but later that day I would find out that the first ever ladies only 3-gun major match was about to be announced. What made this news even more exciting was that it would occur in Covington, Georgia, surprisingly close to my home in Atlanta. Thus began my crash course in 3-gun competition. Back at the CZ booth I was shown their brand new 3-gun ready 712 Practical shotgun.

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Happy Christmas! What did you get?

20131225-103803.jpgMerry Christmas y’all! I want to know what Santa brought you. Was there a shiny new scatter gun under the tree? Anyone find ammo in their stocking? That would have made my morning!
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