Friday, January 13, 2017

Instructor Training Part 3 - The Finale

Say hello to a newly minted NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor!

I finished the course work this past weekend, and it was an interesting experience.

The BIT portion (Basic Instructor Training) was on Friday night. This is apparently a standard start to all Instructor Training, no matter what discipline ( pistol, rifle, shotgun, etc). That lasted about 4 hours.

Then, Saturday was the meat of the deal, with group activities, role-playing being a teacher/leader in front of a group, and a ton of information that we would need to be competent instructors. This lasted about another 9 hours or so. We had a good group of six student/candidates, so we had a fun time of it, in addition to learning the essentials. 

My only frustration was that because ( I think) the materials have recently been changed, what was on the power points didn't necessarily match up with the order that things appeared in our hand outs. Being a control freak, this made me crazy at times. From med school and residency, I am programmed to follow along on the power points with my handouts, step-by-step, and make corresponding notes as I go along. This bit of disorganization was frustrating for me. But - improvise, adapt and overcome, as they say.

There was also  a range qualification. I am happy to say that I passed this with flying colors. I used my Gen3 Glock19, because it was my first gun, and I thought it might be good to qualify with it for sentimental reasons. I "may" have even shot the best out of the group, but I'm not positive. I had some worries about my performance going in (pre-match jitters), but those worries dissipated when my first set of five shots produced a single ragged hole in the target! :-) I was very proud of myself, especially considering that  we did our shooting outside, when it was 15 degrees F. Brrrr. 

So, it was an interesting experience despite my inner control freak twitching from time to time, and I now have an NRA diploma in my office right next to the medical diplomas. I hope the wall doesn't burst into flames.

I don't think I'll be offering classes anytime soon yet. But I'd consider assisting someone else here and there 'til I get a better feel for things in the meantime.

My next immediate focus is SHOT Show. I leave on Sunday. 

I'll try to post new updates every day, both here and on the Facebook page.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Instructor Training Part 2 - The Lead-up

I discussed in Part 1 
how after much soul-searching, I signed up for a course to become an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor. Now, I'm going to tell you about what has transpired since signing up. 

When I registered for the course, I had about two weeks' lead time. This was actually one of those "good" for me things. Having a short lead-time forces me to get off my butt and get the prerequisites out of the way, instead of procrastinating. It also gives me very little time to over-think my decision and get cold feet.

The first hurdle was actually registering for the course. Check. The second hurdle was making sure my work schedule was arranged such that I could get to the Friday evening session on time. Check. The third hurdle was registering for and taking the online prerequisite, which was the 7-ish hour NRA Basic Pistol Course, part 1.

Now, remember that on top of shooting local pistol competitions for at least seven years, I've also had my state carry permit for going on eight years now, and taking the actual Basic Pistol Course was a requirement for that at the time. But there was no on-line material at the time I took that course. It was all in-person. This was a whole new ballgame. 

Let me be honest and confess that the online stuff has been a bit of a frustration. I HAVE learned a few things online that I still didn't know - like how to load a single-action revolver (I've never handled one), and what a decocker is for (likewise, never had one). But of necessity, the course is designed at about an eighth-grade comprehension level. The material seems to me to be boring, pedantic, and repetitive. So I have to keep reminding myself that this is written for the general public, who it is assumed knows zero about firearms. I realized that I HAVE to know what this material is like, so that I know what a 65 year old grandma who barely finished eighth grade, and barely understands the internet, and is in my class, needs to know from me. Lesson in humility. Check.

In addition to the online course, I needed to get ready for the in-person course, which involves live-fire. In my control freak-ness, I had to decide which of my handguns I was going to take the class with. (and maybe bring a back-up in case of malfunction?) After some hemming and hawing, I decided on my Gen 3 Glock 19. This was my very first firearm, and the handgun I took to Gunsite. I figured it might be kind of appropriate to use it for instructor training as well. But I haven't shot it in about 2 years. (been working on my miniGlocks and revolver instead) So, that became my New Year's Day range project - Blow the cobwebs off of the Glock 19, and the holiday lethargy out of my brain.

It's a good thing I decided to do a  refresher shoot with this gun, because when I dug it out of the safe, I discovered that though the gun itself had been well cleaned and lubed before storage, 1) I was missing a few magazines and would have to find them, 2) The magazines I did find were still a little rattly with grit from the Gunsite range, and 3) The holster was still scraped up and gritty from Gunsite as well. Guess who had a holiday cleaning project in front of her?

Fortunately, the club range was empty at 10:45 AM on New Year's Day, so I grabbed the furthermost bay - the one with the plate rack in it. I set up my pvc pipe target stand and an IDPA target, and started warming up on the -0 zones from about ten yards. Even with fairly rapid fire, I managed to keep all twenty or so shots in the -0 zones. Fair enough - I could still manage the stock Glock sights and my stock-ish weight pink trigger.

But then I decided to push myself, and that's when it got uglier - LOL. I decided to try "Dot Torture" at seven yards. My stock Glock front sight pretty much covered up the dots, so it was wing and a prayer time. Suffice to say that my prayers weren't answered. Deciding that maybe seven yards was a bit ambitious for Dot Torture, I put up a new target and tried it again from five yards. That was a little better, but I still stopped to take a target photo BEFORE trying the strong/weak hand only drills, because I knew it was going to suck - LOL.

   Dot torture --- was.

Finally, I moved on to the plate rack at about 20 yards. I'm used to shooting plates with my M&P9, which has a small front fiber optic. The Big-Arse Glock cantelope-size stock front sight however, made the plates a real challenge. I did not do as well as I usually do with my match gun. BUT, I will say that I was doing a "fair" job by the time my ammo ran out. 

    My first three plate rack shots at 20 yards.

I know what some of my next accessory purchases are going to be - Hi Viz sights for my Glocks. You don't realize how much difference it makes until you shoot something else, and then come back to stock. I know the switch made a huge difference on my revolver. So, add new Hi-Viz sights for all my Glocks to my birthday wishlist.

All told, I ran through 200 rounds on this range trip. But this was bulk random re-man that I bought from I-forget-where back several years ago when ammo all but disappeared. It wasn't very good stuff, and I needed to use it up anyway, so I figure it went to a good cause.

When I got home from the range, I took a nap ( Ahhhh, holidays), and then slogged through the remainder of the online course hours, passed the final exam, and printed my certificate. The only thing left now, is getting ready for the in-person course this weekend.

Not a bad start to a new year.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Instructor Training Part 1 - Pulling the Trigger

I may have discussed here before my general reluctance up to this point in getting myself some higher level responsibility training. I have always been fine with, and indeed actively sought out, more actual SKILLS training with my firearms. But I have thus far actively resisted advice that I should become anything that represents OFFICIALDOM  - such as official Safety Officer training, Instructor training, and the like.

My reasons for this have been mostly selfish. As I have explained to many people, I have enough stress and responsibility in medicine as it is. Additionally, as a single working mother, a business owner, and a physician, I am the one "In Charge" of every other aspect of my life. Shooting has really been the ONLY activity I have, where I have almost zero responsibility beyond basic safety and courtesy. Shooting is the thing in my life where I can "Show up, Have Fun ... and then Leave". 

That's not to say that I've been a complete jerk. I always help run the clipboard at my club, and stay to help tear-down when we're done. I even occasionally show up early to help set up. I just didn't want to HAVE to. Does that make sense?

With all that said, I have watched as women with less experience than I, and what I felt were fewer skills than I, become pistol instructors and teach other women to shoot. I have wondered at the wisdom of teaching others, when you yourself have only been doing such an activity for a year or two. But it was happening nonetheless - with or without me. Then of course my inner critic chided me, stating "If YOU aren't out there, then of course other people will be." 

I blame Imposter Syndrome  and the Dunning-Kruger effect  

Essentially, the more I learned about shooting, the more I realized how much I didn't know. This then caused me to wonder how in the world I could presume to teach or supervise others, when I knew so little myself. Turns out, I know more than I think, and others don't seem to have the same reservations as I do.

I have finally reached a point in my shooting "career" though, where I've decided that even if I don't want to actually "teach" ( I'm not sure I have enough patience or am enough of a "people person"), I should at least GET the instructor training. That way, I know what is expected, what is considered basic essential material for a new shooter, and I'll have at least some level of training -- so that I can "help" if asked questions by new shooters. 

I've always been a "baby steps" kind of gal. I figured that getting the training would just be a baby step, and then I could decide later how far I want to take it. I think it also helped that at my recent Cornered Cat class, Kathy Jackson told me that she thought I was ready for Rangemaster instructor development. That meant a lot. Having an outside observer of her caliber give me that reinforcement helped to shush the inner critic in my head.

So, with all this swirling around in my brain, quite fortuitously, last week a post appeared in my Facebook feed about a new NRA Instructor class being held in early January 2017. And it was local. I asked a few questions ... and then took the plunge.

This is my new journey. I am literally starting out 2017 with a "Bang" :-)
I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year-end Odds and Ends

You may have noticed that the blog postings have dropped off the past couple months or so. Sorry about that. I've been kind of busy, and I guess I should catch you up.

Don't worry - there's been nothing earth shattering, but life has kept me occupied. Some of the "busy-ness" of which I am most proud are several articles which I have written for other places on the internet. Yes, I know, this is kind of like feeding everyone else but yourself, but it made me happy anyway.

One article was for A Girl & A Gun Club, here

And two more articles were for Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO), which is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.  Here And Here

In fact, why don't I just give you the whole list that I've written for DRGO,  Here

Other things I've been up to are:
Cooking-up some ducks I shot for Thanksgiving

Quartet- ing for Christmas (times 3 separate events, plus a National Anthem) - insert video link

Various sewing projects for new additions to the human race ( photos)

I'm also starting the learning process for becoming an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor,
And I'm looking into obtaining a provisional patent for a gun-carrying idea,
And of course - working my actual "day job".

Whew! Hope you had a great 2016, and here's to an even more interesting 2017!
P.S. I've discovered that they are no longer offering updates or support for the Blogger app on iPad. It is getting wonkier and wonkier, and using Safari is not helping much either. If I have to switch to Wordpress in order to maintain my sanity, i'll definitely let you know.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Santa and Behavior

I'm going to rant for a second this morning. Some of you aren't going to like it, but I think it needs to be said. I'm veering off the firearms topic and into seasonal business for a change.

I'm talking about the Santa stuff, and "proving" to your children that he's "real". I mean seriously? If your kids are smart enough to question the (admittedly well-intentioned) lies that you have been telling them, then isn't it time to fess up and break it to them gently - not double-down on the deceit?? Placing "footprints" on the carpet, or producing photoshopped images of your living room as "proof", in order to shore up your ruse for skeptical children seems cruel to me -  even counter-productive. You WANT your children to develop analytical minds, and question what seems illogical. That's a sign of burgeoning maturity and brain development. Intentionally trying to thwart that process just so that you can have your "tee-he, isn't that cute" moment for one more year is selfish and stupid in my book.

I have a problem with the whole "Santa-cam" and Elf on a Shelf business too. So, you are basically admitting that YOU are not the authority figure in your family - some imaginary bribery fairy is? I don't get that. To me, that means you have abdicated control and responsibility because you want to be your child's friend instead of the parent. In my mind that makes you just as bad as the morons who threaten their kids with "The doctor is going to give you a shot if you don't behave" ... Seriously??!!

YOU need to be the authority figure in your child's life. YOU, and the boundaries that YOU set need to be the reason that they behave. Otherwise, all you are doing is abdicating your own authority, and lowering the bar for your children's moral development.

Yes, we all love the sweet Santa-believing innocence this time of year. But that story should be a story of the spirit of generosity, and thinking of others besides yourself - not a crow bar to leverage good behavior, or a punitive bludgeon against rational thought.
Rant off.

Monday, November 28, 2016

My First Ducks and My Benelli 828U

Last Saturday was a landmark day for me - I checked another accomplishment off my bucket list. That's the day I became a Waterfowl Shooter.

The occasion was made possible by Calibered Events
and M&M Hunting and Sporting Clays

This Ladies Only event took place on the grounds of M&M Hunting and Sporting Clays in New Jersey - about 30 minutes from Philadelphia. Since I wasn't local, I accepted the invitation of my friend Annette     to lodge near her, so that we could drive over together. I'm so glad we decided to do that. I had never done ducks before, and she had never hunted at all before, so we were our own mutual support group. We started our day with breakfast at a local diner so I could get my scrapple fix,
and then we ventured across the big bridge into New Jersey. 

The M&M Facility was huge and gorgeous. We met our event host Ann Marie Foster in the main building, and filled out our one day New Jersey hunting license papers. After a few introductions to the rest of the ladies, and some organizational housekeeping, we split into golf-cart size groups and hit the sporting clays course to warm up our trigger fingers.

We warmed up with 50 shells of sporting clays. The course was well organized , but our method was a bit unorthodox, as we drove around in our golf carts looking for traps that would send us the crossers and incoming shots that we needed to practice on. We did get a few odd looks from other (mostly male) shooters, but how common IS a group of nine women in camo on a shotgun course in New Jersey? The sun, the blue sky, the falling leaves, and the smell of the spent shells made for a PERFECT fall day.

Link to video 

After our clays practice, we ate a large hearty lunch in the main building at M&M, and got to know eachother a little more. The laughs had started already, and we had some visits with our Labrador partners-to-be as well.

Before we knew it, it was time for the donning of rubber boots, and then off to the marsh release area we went. 

I had not planned on duck hunting in shirt sleeves. In fact, I had sewed-up an entire camo fleece outfit to wear under my outer shell for insulation. I had come prepared for twenty degrees and damp. Fortunately, I had thrown a camo wicking shirt in my suitcase as well, which was originally intended to be my baselayer. That shirt ended up being my "only" layer due to the nearly 70 degree weather. I brought the fleece and shell just in case, but they ended up staying in my daypack. Ah well - better to have and not need, than to need and not have. I am never one to look "gift horse" weather in the mouth!

There were several permanent blinds set up, scattered around the pond/marsh area where the shoot took place. We were to rotate as groups between these blinds during our two hour session. We split up into three groups of three women each, with a guide and dog each per blind.

The first two blind locations weren't very productive for our group of three gals, which consisted of myself, Annette, and Lynn.  We kind of felt bad for the dogs (Trigger, Avery, and Hook). They wanted to jump into the water with every shotgun report - even if it was a miss. ( Yeah, sorry guys)  But Annette saved the day with the first birds for our blind.

For me personally, it took awhile to be able to judge distance. Ducks are bigger than clays, and thus looked "closer" because I wasn't used to the size - if that makes sense. (That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it) Thus, I took some shots that were much too far to be useful. But this was a learning experience, and by the time we got to the third blind I was learning to be patient and wait for a closer shot. I also got some repetitive motion experience in standing up, flicking off the safety and shouldering the gun --- and then reversing the motions to sit back down again, when realizing that the shot was too long. Everything can be a learning experience if you let it. (ALSO my story, and I'm sticking to it!)

Despite trying to stay positive, I admit to getting a little discouraged by the time we got to the third blind rotation. I had still not bagged my first duck, despite a couple shots where I felt I "should" have. But persistence and location were the keys- as well as the aforementioned patience - and I ultimately bagged at least six. It was hard to keep track, as we were taking turns, and all the ducks were just in a pile. I took home seven, because a few of the gals didn't want all of theirs, but I know I hit six. 


It was interesting watching the way the ducks flew. Unlike clays, they could purposefully change direction and respond (or not) to the calls of our guides. They also took advantage of the prevailing winds. Some breezed on past out of range, while others banked and headed over to check out the decoys. Some even came straight at us.  I shot one of those incoming overhead ducks successfully. But as it folded, the momentum dropped it nearly on top of my blind mate's head! Fortunately, she had bent down to get a drink, or it might have hit her square in the face. I wish I'd had a GoPro to record that one!

There were other moments of levity - not all of them G-rated. I remember Lynn wondering aloud if the ducks that successfully landed among the decoys were disappointed to discover that they were plastic. I couldn't quite keep a comment to myself about discovering that your blind date was really a blow-up doll. Yeah, Dignity and Decorum - that's me. 

I managed to provide other comic relief as well. Being the paragon of Grace, Beauty, and Charm that I am, I managed to hit my head on the back roof area of the blind a couple times, while I was standing and shooting - Owwww. (Except "Oww" wasn't what I said - Dignity and Decorum, remember?) Between repetitively bonking my head and shooting a box and a half of high brass, I really needed some Ibuprofen by the time I got back to the hotel - LOL

As far as firepower goes, there were only two of us in the entire group using over/under guns. The rest were shooting semi-autos. There were a few times where I thought a third shot from a semi-auto would have been useful to me, but I'm discovering that I feel the same way about my Benelli 828U as I do about my revolver. Knowing I have limited rounds forces me to change my mindset. Instead of blasting away, I have to slow down, concentrate, and make every shot count. I like the discipline that is coming along with that. It's good for me. 

Some people may wonder about a "released" shoot, and whether that was "sporting" enough. Truthfully, I wondered how I would feel about it myself. But in the end, I didn't feel bad about shooting these animals - even as releases. Plenty of the ducks evaded us and reached freedom, and even though they were raised before release, they had lived a better life than the average factory farm chicken. 

I did have a bit of a "moment" though when I crouched down to stroke the feathers of the birds on the ground.  I had a memory flash of watching my dad clean the day's bag limit in our basement as a child. Part of me was a little sad that I didn't get to share this with him. But I've realized that things happen in their own time. That time just wasn't "for" me. I wasn't ready then. But now IS my time, and I'm so thrilled that it is :-)

This was a great experience, and a great way to get my feet wet with waterfowl. It may not have been a completely "wild" setting, but it allowed someone like me - who will never have her own dogs or her own boat or her own decoys - to get a taste of the experience in a positive way.

Thank you Calibered Events and M&M Preserve for the unforgettable opportunity!

  This bottle of feathers and license is going on my keepsake shelf

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 828U - My Benelli Family Addition

Those of you who read here regularly know that I am on the shotgun learning curve. You also know that I have an affection for Benelli. My love affair started back when I was first looking to get into 3-Gun, and needed my own shotgun. 

A few years after that, while at SHOT Show, I got to shoot the new Benelli ETHOS. Here was a "classic" looking shotgun that worked and felt exactly like my M2 - meaning that I wouldn't have to learn anything new in order to shoot it. By about a year later, I owned an ETHOS of my own, and started learning to shoot sporting clays.
I even shot my first pheasant with that gun!

Now, this year, I've been shooting more clays than ever before, and have been "jonesing"  for an even more classic shotgun style. Watching some of the other shooters with their over and under guns kept reminding me of my father, and the only one of his guns I ever got to shoot.

What I really wanted was a Benelli 828U - the new design Benelli introduced at SHOT 2015.

But I kept telling myself "Maybe next year", and "You don't need another shotgun". Alas, those of you who know this type of craving, know that there is no such thing as "need" - only "must have".

I fought the craving all summer. But then I signed up for a Ladies Duck Hunt,
and the presidential election turned into a circus side-show. My inner rationalization machine kicked into high gear. My craving heart told my budgeting brain all kinds of whining and wheedling tales, trying to pry open my wallet.

"But the hunt is in JERSEY - wouldn't you have to worry less if you didn't take a semi-auto?"

"But the election - won't guns start flying off the shelves if the election goes badly? And then you won't be able to find one when you want it! - Remember 2013??"

"But it would remind you of your Dad..."

I finally caved to the pressure from within, and made the trip to the big box store three weeks ago - because there were no local shops that carried Benelli.

I LOVE this gun. She really IS beautiful - even with the black anodized receiver. My ETHOS has the gorgeous nickel-plate, and the sales guy tried to steer me in that direction this time as well,  but I decided that if I was going hunting, I didn't want the shiny this time. This was actually a tough decision for my inner girl, because I do like pink and shiny so very much. But learning to appreciate the beautiful woodgrain of the 828U is another homage to my father :-)

My 828U came in a hard case, with padded tartan lining, and included a box with 5 crio  chokes, Benelli oil, and various shims for adjusting drop and cast. I couldn't WAIT to try her out!

Three days after my purchase, I took my new prize on her maiden voyage for three rounds of skeet with some friends. I'm even worse at skeet than I am at sporting clays, but the GUN was awesome! This gun is so light, and so well-balanced, that I could hold it with ONE finger! Despite being lightweight, the 828U didn't seem to have any more recoil than my ETHOS or M2! This had been a concern for me, in switching from semi-auto. But the Progressive-Comfort stock did a spectacular job. 

Another reason I love Benellis - and the 828U was no exception - is that the guns FIT me right out of the box. There are multiple shims with which to adjust drop and cast, but I don't seem to need any of them. The length of pull works for me, and the gun mounts easily.

That isn't to say that I don't have some adjusting to do while I'm working to learn a new "platform".  I have to keep reminding myself to angle the action slightly away from me when breaking it open after taking my shots. The ejectors are brisk, and I almost took a couple hulls to the face the first time - LOL!  But that's just me being used to semi-autos. 

The action itself breaks pretty easily despite being new. (Something that I read is NOT common with other new O/U guns) I'm still learning the workings of shotguns, but I understand that this is due to Benelli's modern redesign, using a steel locking plate, and steel breech block in an aluminum receiver, which changes the stress points and takes some of the stiffness out. I'm not a gunsmith, or engineer, so this is how "I" understood the explanation, but maybe I've got things a bit snarled. In any case, these redesigns make the gun light and easy to break open - even for an O/U newb like me.

The aluminum receiver and carbon fiber rib are also part of Benelli's redesign of this classic shotgun style, and what make the gun so lightweight and pleasant for me to carry around. I'm really going to appreciate this the next time I go on a Ladies Pheasant Hunt.

The safety switch on this gun is in a new location for me. The 828U's safety is located at the top of the receiver - for thumb activation - vs the side button on my ETHOS and M2. I actually kind of like it better on top, if truth be told. The motion on top seems more intuitive to me, and I don't have to do anything else with my trigger finger but be mindful of where it is. The barrel selector switch is incorporated into the safety switch, and is marked in an intuitive way so that even "I" can understand it.

In addition to those first three rounds of skeet, I've since shot two rounds of 100 sporting clays each with the 828U  - with no pain or bruises, and no malfunctions whatsoever. I love the way this gun points, and for some reason I like the way it "sounds" - the solid, satisfying "thunk" when I close the action with shells ready to rock --  and the oddly musical "doop" of the ejected hulls. I don't know if that pleasure means I'm channeling my inner 12 year old's memories, or if there is something genetic about shotguns. Either way, I do know that this gun is DEFINITELY a keeper.
Bring on those ducks!