Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Evolving with Revolving

Happy New Year 2015!

I made an early resolution this fall to learn about revolvers, and you may recall my original post about that here

Well, that initial interest has morphed into a determination to learn to shoot revolver in IDPA in 2015. Yes, I know, I haven't even mastered SSP, Production or 3-Gun yet, but I'm tackling ANOTHER something new. I'm kind of a novelty-junkie that way LOL! It may also be a defense-mechanism. "Of course I'm not 'good' - this is still new to me",  is my excuse for making mistakes, and it works well for me!

This being New Year's, I thought I'd post a bit about my progress - my evolving with revolving, if you will LOL.

I purchased my new-to-me used S&W 686SSR in October. Then as part of my swag bag for Brownell's Lady 3-Gun, I received a 50% off card from , which gave me the opportunity to properly outfit myself for revolver competition. There was a small hitch with the type of  speedloader I needed, but that was quickly and ably taken care of by Hope and Courtney. Thank you very much, Safariland!

The biggest thing for me is that speedloader reloads with revolver are "backwards" from reloads of all of my other firearms. Pistol and rifle are weak-hand reloads for me, and I even do weak-hand twin-loads on shotgun.  So, I've been working on basement dry fire with the revolver to build-up the repetitive motion of reloads and start to make it less awkward.

I have twelve dummy rounds, and I've also been using six empty brass rounds that I can eject at the start. I painted the bases of those with nail polish, just so if they were in the gun, I could see at a glance that they were my dummy/empties. I didn't want to get used to seeing real brass in my chambers when I was dry-firing in the house. I'm just paranoid like that.

One of the other pieces of equipment I got from Safariland besides a holster and speedloaders is a loading block. When I'm loading up  6 or 7 speedloaders at a match, this should make my life a whole lot easier. I also got a belt holder for the speedloaders - the revolver equivalent of a mag pouch. It's still weird to mount that on the right side of my belt though.

With all of this stuff to keep track of, I also made use of a bedding bag I had lying around. You know - the kind that new sheet sets come in? I can never bring myself to throw out a nice zippered bag - Reduce/Reuse/Recycle - LOL. It should help me keep track of the revolver gear and keep it separate from the pistol gear.

Finally, I had the brilliant idea of using a scrap of fleece I had in my fabric stash as a pad to catch the ejected dummies. They didn't bounce or roll off the table that way, and I didn't have to keep bending and chasing them all over the floor. My 51 year old joints thanked me.

My next project is to cut out some full-size IDPA targets for dry-fire, to replace the 8.5 x 11" printed substitute I'm using now. Remember that box that my Patriot case came in? That's not going to waste either - LOL!

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Upland Game Birds and My Dad

I'm sitting here on Christmas Eve, slurping homemade Turkey/Wild Rice soup that I made from frozen Thanksgiving leftovers. It gave me a sudden flashback to the Grouse/Rice soup that my mother always made for the family's New Year's Eve open house. I wasn't planning on a blog post this evening, but here it is - just flowing out of the ends of my fingers...

My mother made Grouse/Rice soup, because game birds were usually more plentiful in the freezer than chicken or turkey when I was young. My father was the hunter in the family. My mother's idea of the great outdoors was a beachside hotel. But they had a deal. If he cleaned everything he brought home, and froze it, then she would cook it. I was the only kid in my class that got to ask for pheasant for my birthday dinner - and pick the shot out of my teeth - LOL. In my family, we ate Pheasant, and Grouse, and Woodcock, and Hungarian Partridge, and venison of course. I even recall a taste of moose, and squirrel pot-pie once.

Dad had a very tight circle of trusted bird hunter friends, and they were rather secretive about where their favorite spots were - especially, as I remember, for Woodcock. The single time that I got to out with Dad where I actually carried his shotgun was to a "game farm" for pheasant. It wasn't one of the secret spots - LOL. I also distinctly remember swinging too far on the single shot I took that day and making Dad duck. I didn't know what I was doing, and I didn't like that. I wanted to be with my dad, but was uncomfortable with the gun, and I never went again. I was twelve I think. I haven't ever told anyone that part before. I was embarrassed that I was unsafe, and just never spoke of it again until now. 

Of course knowing what I know now, I know that I didn't have enough training before going out that day. I also know that I have a shortish length of pull even as an adult, so as a kid, I'm sure that FIAS 20ga was probably too big for me. I wonder if that gun went in the auction when Dad died, or if my brother still has it? I'm starting to think that I might like another crack at it - to sort of redeem myself, for lack of a better term.

In related news, I have been honored to receive an invitation to the Women's Outdoor & Shooting Industry Dinner at SHOT Show this year,   

even though I'm just a blogger and I don't actually work for the "Industry".  The theme this year is "Birds of a Feather", and the logo includes pheasant tail feathers. I think this is what is triggering some of these memories.

I'm wondering what I'm going to come up with for "feather accessories" for this dinner. I really wish I had saved some of dad's fly-tying stash when he died. He had "cock-bird" tail feathers streaming out of mason jars on top of the cabinet. Boy, I wish I had some of those now LOL.  Dad had some beautiful bird mounts too - but those are now in the wildlife display cases at the public library.

Well, I'll come up with something - even if it's a Halloween feather boa. But I'm definitely hatching plans for another bucket list entry. I'm thinking I would definitely like another crack at upland bird hunting before I die. I'm not sure how yet, but hey, I'm going to SHOT, right? I'm not good at networking, but it sounds like I have a mission now - LOL!

Oh, and Merry Christmas!!

Sent from my iPad

Friday, December 19, 2014

Own It. Respect It. Secure It. -- For the Holidays and Every day

I'm taking a cue from the NSSF's Project ChildSafe this Christmas to remind all of us to secure our firearms - especially if you are going to be having holiday guests.

It's that time of year again. The time when you have housefuls of people, and the food and alcohol are flowing. You've made your list of shopping and guests,  and you've checked it twice. But do you REALLY know who is naughty and nice?

This time of year it is especially important to make sure that your firearms are properly secured. This is even more essential if you usually don't have children in your household. If you aren't used to the concept of "child-proofing", some safety precautions may slip through the cracks. Children and snooping relatives are resourceful, and cannot be trusted to make good decisions. Maybe not even your co-workers - do you REALLY know if that other guy from the cubicle farm has a felony record or not? Your cousin's kids may not be the only ones with sticky fingers.

It's not good enough to just have a "hiding place" for your firearms. Children climb on top of refrigerators, rummage through drawers and go through coat pockets in closets. So can your nosy great-aunt Sally. It is safe to assume that NO unlocked place in your home is secure when you are busy with 30 guests and the children are only semi-supervised. Even otherwise responsible adults make bad decisions when the eggnog is spiked and the bravado is getting deep. Just don't give anyone the opportunity. Lock up your firearms.

And don't forget your carry purse. I can't tell you how many times Poison Control has been called and the PICU has admitted children who have gotten into Grandma's meds in her purse. How easy then, for a carry purse to be similarly ravaged if left unattended for even a moment.

Here is a sampling of the various methods for securing firearms available in the LateBloomer Household.

                                                   Cable lock

                                           Padlocks on cases

                                        Quick access safe

                                             Small safe

                         Large safe

Secure firearm storage doesn't have to be expensive or inconvenient. There are many good options out there. What it does take is forethought and planning.

Have a Safe and Joyous Holiday Season - whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Festivus, all -of-the-above,  or you just plain enjoy lights and food! Be Safe and Have Fun!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My "Arsenal" and My "Ammo Cache" - A Primer for My Non-Gun Friends

I'd like to use this post to explain a few things to my non-gun friends, and shed some light on a subject that tends to make people paranoid. It's going to be long-winded, so you might want to get a Coke and a sandwich first. I'll wait.

I saw on the news recently where the Black Friday sales of firearms set some new record or other. It is inevitable to me that the popular press will then start speculating about "all these guns", and who owns them. Which will then cause them to start throwing around inflammatory terms.

The press and politicians tend to throw around words like "arsenal" when they discover that someone owns firearms. To these people an "arsenal" is a collection of firearms in any number that exceeds zero. It implies militaristic and somewhat evil intent -- and sometimes mental imbalance -- depending on what spin they put on their story. They imply that even owning one firearm is dangerous and imbalanced enough, WHY would anyone "need" (GASP) more than one firearm?

What they lack understanding of is that a firearm is a tool. And like any other tool from golf clubs to kitchen knives, one uses different tools for different applications. Would you use your big chef's chopping knife to carve radish rosettes? No, of course not. Well, I wouldn't try to use my self-defense pistol to try to take down a deer, either. I'll bet you wouldn't use your little eyeglass phillips screwdriver to take apart your lawnmower, would you? That would be silly - almost as silly as if I tried to use my revolver to shoot skeet. Do you see where I'm going with this?

I thought maybe if I walk my non-gun friends through the various firearm purchases I've made in the past few years, that maybe it would shed some light and dispel some misconceptions about firearms owners, and why they seem to have "so many" guns.

I bought my first firearm in the spring of 2009. It was a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol. I wanted to learn about guns, and how they worked, so that they wouldn't be a great big intimidating mystery anymore. I bought that particular pistol because it was small enough to store easily, simple enough that I could learn to tear it down and clean it by myself, and it was what I felt was a reasonable caliber to learn to shoot with.

My second firearm was a 30-30 cal lever action rifle. I bought it because I wanted to learn to hunt deer. It fit me without being too long for my arms, and it was a suitable caliber for big game without being so big that it hurt me to shoot or knocked me over. It was not a semi-auto like my pistol, so it had different functions to learn. I liked the lever action because it reminded me of the cowboy movies :-)

My third firearm was a very tiny .380 cal Ruger LCP pistol. I bought it as an experimental self-defense gun. By then, my Glock 19 pistol was being shot in local fun competitions, but I found it too large to easily conceal with the clothing that I usually wore.

My fourth firearm was an AR-15 style rifle. I had heard and read a lot about this style of rifle, and had gotten to shoot one once. I wanted to learn more, and not be intimidated, so I did my research about what features I wanted, and bought one. This has an entirely different method of operation than my deer gun ( semi-auto vs lever action), and it uses a different caliber of ammunition. ( My deer gun uses a bigger, "deadlier" bullet by the way). This firearm is currently the rifle I use in 3-gun competition.

My fifth firearm purchase was another 9mm semi-auto pistol. But this one I bought to be used specifically as a "shooting match gun". It was full-sized ( as opposed to my Glock 19, which is a compact size), and I had fiberoptic sights and a better trigger installed. ( Both of which are useful in competition, and which my other pistol did not have) So, even those these two pistols function the same way and shoot the same type of ammo, they are set up for different applications. Are you seeing a pattern here?

My sixth firearm purchase was a 12 ga semi-auto shotgun - because I needed a shotgun if I wanted to learn the sport of  "3-Gun". I also started, but didn't get very far yet in Skeet. If I decide to pursue that further, I will probably need ANOTHER shotgun more suited to that sport. Again, are you seeing a pattern? ( Ha - Shotgun pattern - get it?... okay, never mind).

My seventh firearm purchase was admittedly an impulse buy. It was the first gun that I bought without a truly justifiable reason in mind. I just liked it. It was another AR-15 style rifle. But it was made by a good company and had a pretty paint job and I had thoughts about training my daughters with it.

My eighth firearm was a new self-defense pistol in .380 cal. This was also a Glock, and was brand-new to the market this year. I got to shoot it at SHOT Show before it was even released to the public, and I LOVED it. I couldn't wait to get home and buy one for myself. I've since even shot this gun in competition too. I love it so much that I think I'm going to sell the first gun that I bought for self-defense, because I never shoot it. If so, the LCP will be the first gun that I go through the selling process with.

My ninth firearms purchase was sort-of an impulse buy, but with rational reasons. This was a lightly used Smith & Wesson revolver that was designed for competition. I've been wanting to learn revolver skills (as they are not quite the same motor skills as those used with semi-auto pistols), and I'm kind of interested in revolvers from a historical perspective. Just like I was jazzed by the lever action on my deer rifle, the revolver kinda tweaks me the same way :-) Don't judge me. Hey, some gals are into shoes - to each her own. LOL

My tenth firearm was not a purchase - well, I purchased some raffle tickets, but that's all. I won a beautiful and very well tricked-out competition rifle in a Breast Cancer Fundraiser Raffle put on by a company called Adams Arms. And don't anybody get their britches in a bunch - even though I won this gun in a raffle, I still had to jump through all of the hoops of background check and paperwork to the tune of a 20 dollar fee. I don't begrudge my local gun shop the money, because running the paperwork and doing the transfer takes time and effort, but it does get old after awhile. I'm still the same good person I was 2 months ago when I did all this paperwork with the revolver, and I'm the same good person I was 6 months ago when I renewed my carry permit. Do you think felons and drug dealers bother with going through all this effort?? * Sigh* But I digress...

So anyway, that's how a person like me can end up owning a very innocent "arsenal" of firearms.  All of these firearms have different features, purposes, and applications. And NONE of them mean that I am plotting to overthrow the government or shoot up a classroom. They DO mean that I am interested in the mechanics, the safety, the skills, and the history of firearms.

And while I'm on the topic of explanations, I should point out that the same things apply to ammunition. The press tends to report sensational things like "he had 'thousands of rounds' of ammunition in a cache in his home". This makes the general public ( and you, my non-gun friends), think that this person was a crazy who was ready to murder the population of the entire city. But let me tell you something - "I" have "thousands of rounds of ammunition" too, and that doesn't mean anything. In fact this is the norm for pretty much any gun-owner that does competitive shooting ( and even many who don't).

The term "well stocked pantry" has positive connotations of a talented cook, who has planned ahead and has every needed ingredient on hand. But when one applies the same logic to ammunition, the positive vibes disappear and everyone loses their minds. "Well-stocked ammo cache" doesn't mean the same thing to people - at least to non-gun people.

So let me explain this to you. I shoot a couple or three matches per month Spring-Summer-Fall for 9 months of the year. If I use, say 150 rounds per match, then I need almost 4000 rounds a season  just for competition -and that's not counting practice. And I'm not even a hard-core shooter. When ammo supplies got short last year, that is when I really began to appreciate the wisdom of stocking-up ahead of time. Picking up a box or two of ammo here and there at the gun shop doesn't cut it. Buying on-line and ordering a case of a thousand rounds or more at a time is the way to go. I should probably give my Fed Ex guy a donation toward physical therapy for hauling all that lead for me.

Then, remember that I don't shoot just one gun. I have several different calibers of handgun, which all require their own size ammo. I also have several different long guns - including a shotgun - which have different ammo requirements too. So, you can do the math here. It is not hard to accumulate 5 or 6 or 10 thousand rounds, just to have on hand what you need. That doesn't mean that I or any of my shooting friends are evil or crazy people - despite what reporters or politicians WANT you to believe.

So, the next time you hear a "journalist" or politician on television breathlessly expound about an "arsenal" or an "ammo cache", please tell them to take a breath. Don't get sucked into the hysteria. Just remember me - the female pediatrician with the "arsenal" and the "ammo cache' -  and remember what I just  told you, okay?  You could even try to one-up them. "Two thousands rounds? - Pffth, my pediatrician keeps more ammo than that wimp. " LOL!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

IDPA BUG Nationals

I attended my first really big pistol match last weekend, and let me tell you that I am pathetically proud of myself for doing so! You would think that becoming a doc at a late age would be enough to keep me permanently proud of myself, but no -- I get surprisingly large self-esteem bumps out of my ongoing firearms accomplishments, too.

The match was the second ever IDPA Back Up Gun National Championships in Springfield, Massachusetts. And yep, it followed Brownells Lady 3 Gun by less than a week. I was home from Atlanta for 48 hours, during which time I did laundry, repacked,  and most importantly --stripped my car and all my gear of everything that might get me arrested in the state of Massachusetts.

I'm not kidding. Massachusetts is a notoriously gun-UNfriendly state. It astonishes me how Smith & Wesson can in good conscience continue to stay there, but it is what it is. Maybe it's just plain dig-in-your-heels stubbornness, which I suppose I should admire. It just made me inordinately paranoid travelling there. Not to mention that getting to Springfield also required travelling through the states of New York and Connecticut, which aren't any better. 

And then there is New York City. I used the Mapquest app on my phone and specifically tried to avoid that giant sucking vortex of doom, but on the trip up, the turn-by-turn "missed" an exit until I was 500 yards past it, and committed  me to a white-knucked, sweaty-palmed ride into the dragon's lair.

Now, my Glock 42 and .380 ammo were in separate padlocked boxes, in the back of my car, and the boxes were also bicycle cable-locked to the inside structure of the vehicle, so I was obeying all interstate transport laws, and then some. But I did not trust anyone who stopped me to actually KNOW what the law was. I've read too many stories. So, I obeyed the speed limit, tried to make as few lane changes as possible, tried to become invisible (where is the One Ring when you really need it?) and kept on moving. Did you know that the toll for the George Washington Bridge is THIRTEEN DOLLARS?!! Unbelievable. Screw you, Mapquest - next time I'll use a paper map.

After a tense half-hour or so, the dragon finally spit me back out into Connecticut. But the travel adventure wasn't over. After Hartford, I was tired and I had to pee, but the sign said only 7 miles to Springfield -- oh thank goodness. Wait, why is traffic stopping? ( insert profanity)

Those last 7 miles took the better part of an additional hour to cover, due to the smouldering hulk of what was once a very large truck in the right hand lane. Okay, better to have a screaming bladder than to have been "in" that wreck. Blessings counted. But I STILL had to pee!!

There were additional hotel issues to deal with once I got there, but you came here to read about the match, not about my inability to keep dates straight, so let's keep moving.

There were two guys from my home club also shooting this match, so we met up for dinner after registration, and agreed to meet back up at the Smith & Wesson Facility bright and early the next morning. We were shooting on Thursday on squad 11, so other than the SO's, we were the first batch to shoot the match.

  My beautiful redneck mag pouch, made out of an old cellphone case and duct tape. Since in BUG, mag changes are off-the-clock, I didn't bother to invest in "real" mag pouches for this gun yet.

I was glad that the guys from my club were there to squad with. It helped with my usual "never been here before, I don't know a soul, what do I do?" jitters. I almost always do this alone, so it was nice for a change to have some familiar faces.

The shooter's meeting was a little later than the scheduled 7:30 start, and as I looked around, I saw only a handful of other women. Yeah, this wasn't L3G - I was back to the usual match sausage-fest. At least there wouldn't be a line for the ladies room - LOL! One of those handful of women was also on my squad though, so that was nice - another shooter gal to pal-up with is almost always a good thing.

    My 3 milliseconds of fame on the IDPA page, thanks to match photographer Paul Erhardt

    Yay!!  Other Women Shooters!!

I was nervous. I hadn't ever shot indoors before, except for the "fun house" at Gunsite last summer. I also hadn't ever shot low light/no light stages except at Gunsite. This was going to be an interesting adventure.

Our squad got to start on stages 1-3, which were the VERY cute "Honeymoon" scenarios. The idea was that there had been a Hatfield-McCoy type wedding, and bloodthirsty in-laws kept trying to crash the Honeymoon. There was a tropical hotel room set-up, a tikki bar, and a beach set-up. It was sponsored by the US Coast Guard Academy, Academi training, and Comp-Tac. It was a very fun way to start the match! I've never shot strong-hand-only while holding a coconut umbrella drink in my weak hand before :-) I've also never had SO's wearing matching  Hawaiian shirts before, either. Needless to say, my early match jitters were gone by the time I finished with this really fun set of stages, and I was set to enjoy the rest of the day.

          The bartender is a mannequin, not an SO, so don't ask him any questions.

Stages 4 and 5 were a warehouse robbery scenario. These were skills I was a little more familiar with. There was hard cover, and no-shoots, shooting on the move, shooting while retreating, and shooting in sequence from cover.

Stages 6 and 7 were another new experience for me, as I had never shot from a living room couch, or a bed before. The bed stage was also the first of many that would involve low-light. I learned my first lesson about lighting here. Even though on the walk-thru, I thought there would be enough ambient light to do the job, in the end, the muzzle flash proved me wrong. The bedside lamp messed up my dark vision too. Interesting lesson. IDPA may be a "game", but I learned a few things applicable to real-life home self-defense in this stage. From then on I had my tactical flashlight with me. It also started me thinking that getting tritium sights for my little Glock 42 might be a good idea.

Stages 8, 9, and 10 were shot through ports in more low light. People might be tempted to think that 5 shot strings through a port would be easy. Uhhhh ... no. The targets were not only in low light, they were also overlapping each other - which makes "slicing the pie" interesting - and one of them had a swinging no-shoot. The stage designers really gave us a work-out in this set.

        This is while the lights were still on

Stage 11, sponsored by Voodoo Tactical, was appropriately, a cemetery and gravestone hard-cover type stage. The gravestones were steel, and if you "crowded" them too much, you got a lot of auditory feedback with the indoor range. Really fun!!

Stage 12 gave me even more skills that I had never tried before. One string required me to hold the "window" open while shooting strong hand only. Another string required me to open a different window and drop to a knee to see to shoot through it. And the really fun string involved the gun in a box with a timer switch, that turned off the lights 2 seconds after you opened the box. Fortunately, I had learned my lesson by then and had my flashlight ready in my non-dominant hand, because 2 seconds was NOT enough time for me to retrieve the gun and get off 4 shots before it got really dark. And I'm not kidding. This was a long, narrow, walled-off cubby hole of a course at an indoor range. It was like a crypt. The official S&W designation was "Range F".  I think that stood for "F, it's DARK!" LOL

Stages 13 and 14 were our last stages of the match, and they were just as deviously designed as the rest, if not more so. Stage 13 involved headshots while retreating, and not just one, but two steel plates placed directly in front of no-shoots, such that if you missed, you not only didn't get a make-up shot with the 5 round string, you also got tagged with a hit on a non-threat. I am thrilled to report that I got both steels without penalty!  

Stage 14 was a poker-game stage that stretched my planning skills considerably. There were three strings of Limited Vickers. There were three targets that all had to be engaged at least once during each string. The first string was sitting at the poker table, the second string was retreating toward the doorway, and the third string was using the doorway as cover, with a no-shoot obscuring part of the view. When the dust cleared, each head had to have two hits and each body had to have three hits. Shooter's choice how to make that happen. Fortunately, a squadmate had SO'd a similar stage at his club, and graciously helped me with a strategy. Otherwise, I might still be standing there counting on my fingers LOL!

When I finished those last stages, I did a little happy dance. I didn't know how I placed at that point since it was only the first day, and there would be squads shooting Friday and Saturday too, but I was very happy with my performance. I didn't DQ, and I only had one Failure-to-Neutralize, and one Non-threat penalty for the entire 14 stages and 200 rounds! I was thrilled!

I had several comments/inquiries about my Glock 42, and how I liked it. It will be interesting to see how the stats look when the Tactical Journal comes out. Last year they published stats on which gun models were used, and it was very M&P Shield heavy. But since the Glock 42 is new this year, it will be interesting to see how many of us used them. At the time they did my equipment safety check, mine was the first that the fellow had seen. But it was only the first day

I have to say that this was a wonderful first "Nationals" experience. I hadn't shot IDPA  anywhere but my own club before this. The SO's were all kind and encouraging. I don't know what I expected, but I guess I thought things would be a little more "hard-nosed" at a National match, maybe? I was very happy to be disavowed of that assumption. I was even complimented by SO's on a couple of stages, and that made me feel good. Nothing like hearing "Down zero, Down one, Down zero - Well Done, Shooter!" to give me the warm fuzzies :-)

That evening, the club guys and I celebrated with steaks, and there was much plotting for our club matches for next year. The match booklet is going to provide either fun or headaches for our fellow local IDPA-ers come Spring! LOL

The fellows headed on home the next day, but I had decided to stay for the match dinner because I wanted to have the "whole" experience. It was kind of nice to have two whole days in a hotel with no particular obligations. If I had been home I'd have felt obliged to do laundry and clean. Instead, I visited museums and blogged about Lady 3 Gun. If you are ever in Springfield, MA with  nothing to do, I suggest visiting the Springfield Armory National Historic Site.  You can also swing by the collection of 4 Springfield Museums - 2 Art, 1 History, and 1 Science.  And while you are there, you can also visit the Dr. Seuss park, since Theodore Geisel was born in Springfield. The things you learn when you go on a shooting trip.

The Match Dinner was fun, thanks to a father and son who struck up a conversation and invited me to sit at their squad table. My HEROES!  It may not be apparent to the casual observer, but I do have a bit of social anxiety. I'm fine when there are set tasks and routines to be followed, like at a match, or during a patient encounter, ( or I'm behind a computer screen LOL),  but cocktail receptions are absolute torture for me.  I stand there, and fidget, and look around nervously, with no one to talk to. I usually end up getting a glass of wine so I have SOMEthing to do with my hands. I stand in a corner or off to the side, and fight off mild feelings of panic. I HATE it. I was to the "get wine" stage when this father and son engaged me in conversation. It's a good thing, too because dinner ran over an hour late. Alone, I'd have bailed by then and gotten a pizza in my room or something LOL.

But it all worked out. I met some interesting new people at their squad table, had a yummy dinner, applauded the winners, and best of all - found out my scores. I am tickled to report that I placed 18th of 54 Marksman in pistol!! To say that I was pleased would be  an understatement. I was happy-dancing in my seat, I was texting friends and family - you'd have thought I won something! LOL

But really - my first IDPA match that wasn't at my own club, shooting a gun that just came out this year, having never shot indoors before, or much in the dark before either, and after the week of shooting and travel I had at Lady 3Gun ---- this was way better than I thought possible, and I was ecstatic!

I was on Cloud 9 the whole drive home the next day. And honestly, I still am. ( I'm also still cleaning all those guns - LOL). My shooting season is over until Spring, and what a fantastic way to conclude the year! What a Happy ( and Lucky) Girl I am! :-)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fabulous Lady 3-Gun

I may not be a Professional Lady 3-Gunner, but I DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express for three nights! LOL

The Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Conyers, Georgia served as the official match hotel for the inaugural Brownell's Lady 3Gun Pro-Am Challenge,  and I certainly came home from the South River Gun Club  feeling like a winner!

What a fantastic experience!! I'm sure there were some hitches - as there always are when putting on an extravaganza such as this for the first time - but Match Director Lisa Marie Judy, Assistant Match Director Kay Miculek, Range Master Chris Palmer, and an entire HOST of coordinating staff and RO's deserve a ten minute standing ovation for pulling off this history-making event! It was truly FABULOUS!

I just don't have enough good things to say about this match. One of the most important to me, was the sudden realization partway through the first day, that EVERY shot I was hearing - coming from all over the range - was coming from a WOMAN. It hit me so suddenly, and gave me such a surge of pride that I can't even describe it to you. It almost brought tears to my eyes. It was one of those times when you realize that you are part of history-in-the-making. I'm guilty of overusing this word, but it was truly AWESOME, and I can't thank everyone enough for making this come to pass.

From what I could tell, there wasn't an RO who was less than kind and helpful, and there wasn't a shooter who wasn't thrilled to be there. It may not have been Disney, but it sure seemed to be the happiest place in Georgia last weekend. I've never hugged a Range Master before, but yeah, that happened too. LOL

But I'm getting ahead  of myself.

So where do I start the story?

There was a whole saga involved in me actually getting ON the road, but nobody wants to hear about that, so let's cut to the chase.

When I arrived at the match hotel and checked in, the first thing the desk clerk said to me was "You ladies sure do love your guns!" 

And that was pretty much the theme for the entire event. I heard stories all weekend about everyone from airline baggage clerks to other hotel guests being taken by surprise by how these women "love their guns". Nobody seemed to think that the big case full of noisy hardware should belong to a female. Yet there we were - all nearly 200 of us. And we proved to the country and the industry how MUCH we love our guns! :-)

We started off with Match Registration at the beautiful and well-appointed South River Gun Club in Covington, GA (and by "well-appointed", I mean "Yay for flush facilities!") where I received my registration bag, literally stuffed FULL of industry support, including the beautiful and feminine match t-shirt from

That was followed by a wine and cheese reception ( and eventually beer and salami LOL), sponsored by even more industry supporters. This allowed the ladies a chance to mix and mingle and get a little better acquainted, and also to hear some announcements about the following day's start.

I am not a night owl, so I was in bed early while visions of shotgun reloads ( or maybe those were nightmares LOL) danced through my head.

Match Day #1 dawned early and was cool, but sunny. The profusion of gun buggies, carts, and wagons, brimming with firearms of every color, was truly a sight to see. The crowd of excited women gathered around the pavilion for welcome announcements and self-congratulations, and then ... history was made.

I was part of the Fun and Fabulous Squad 7, and couldn't have felt luckier. We all bonded well, had a great time, supported each other and videoed the Bejeebers out of each other. 

I volunteered to go first on our first stage, mostly just to get over the jitters, and boy, was that scenario fun! A pre-staged revolver and a real live minivan! Imagine if you will, your favorite female, engaging targets out the window of the family van, then transitioning to shotgun, and finally grabbing and charging the semi-auto MSR out of the back hatch of the minivan to finish off the marauding hordes. It was SUCH a rush!  It would have been enough to send "Moms Demand" into a fit of pearl-clutching vapors LOL!!  (Video can be found on the blog Facebook page)

Each stage that day provided a similar rush and feeling of accomplishment, until we had reached our allotted four for the day. By that point the guys from 5.11 Tactical had been hard at work prepping our delicious dinner, and it was ready to serve.

OOh, did I mention that there were costumes? Yep, this day of shooting fell on Halloween, so not only were there some brave souls who were actually shooting IN costume, there was also a costume party and contest as part of the evening's dinner festivities at the range.

There were some ingenious and entertaining outfits, let me tell you! Prizes were awarded courtesy of Nikki Turpeaux and Archangel Tactical. Yours truly actually won third place. I'm a little fuzzy on details because I was so exhausted, but I seem to have flashbacks about a Well-endowed Hula Girl, a Jedi, a very large Squirrel, a Care Bear, the Cast of Grease, and a Troupe of Gorillas chasing a banana...... and no, I'm not hallucinating, I only had one beer LOL Most of my costume photos didn't turn out well due to the ambient lighting, but you can imagine the scene - 3-Gunners in wild costumes arrayed across the Cowboy Town stage on a gun range.   Mind. Blown.

     My costume-win goody bag

The second day of shooting started out cold and windy - temps in the 40's with wind gusts into the 30 mph range - especially uncomfortable for those who had packed for what they assumed would be southern weather. The colorful shirts of the previous day disappeared underneath layers of extra t-shirts, sweatshirts, and drug store gloves bought on-the-fly. The swag-bag fleece beanies from Leupold got quite the workout that morning. There were some cute shemaughs too. (and I see that Voodoo Tactical has one in pink and black - hint to my offspring for Christmas LOL!)

But, the "No Whining" flag was flying, and we soldiered on, trying to keep our trigger fingers warm while "on deck".   There were even a couple of pros-who-shall-not-be-named who tried to keep warm by making a banner into a burrito :-)

That second day for my squad started with Stage 3, which involved a wobbly "bridge", and a black fabric "house" - really interesting! I've done a similar bridge with pistol before, but never with rifle, and this bridge seemed even more wobbly. I stretched my skill set a bit with that one. But for me, that's really what this was all about anyway - learning, having fun, and pushing myself a little. I wasn't perfect, but I was happy with my performance.

Subsequent stages struggled a bit with the wind. Steel "clays" wouldn't always stay perched on their stands, and poppers either stayed up or went down, depending upon the direction of the wind gusts at any particular moment. But the stage RO's maintained their humor and made it a fun day for all.

Finally, we finished up our eighth stage for the match, and it was all over but the celebrating! The match dinner was held at the Cherokee Run Golf Club, and the prize table was amazing! I hear-tell that there was over $200,000 worth of prize gear donated by VERY generous sponsors.

Benelli offered a $5000 check for the top pro (Lena  Miculek), and a new travelling trophy cup for the top amateur (Ashley Rheuark)  - in addition, there were fabulous prize table pics in each division. I personally scored 54th out of 106 in Tac Ops and was very happy with that - especially since this was only my 5th 3-Gun match ever. I chose a fantastic Vooodoo Tactical range bag full of goodies from Hogue, Freedom Munitions, JP, Fiocchi, Hornady, and well, there was so much I've lost track. As I've said before, the sponsor support was overwhelming, and all the women were extremely appreciative.

​As if that weren't enough, my experience had an even bigger surprise cherry on top. Adams Arms was holding a fundraiser raffle for Breast Cancer Research, and amazingly enough, for the gal who never dropped a single quarter in a slot in Vegas, because she never wins anything - my ticket was pulled! So thanks to the generosity of Adams Arms, and everyone who made a donation to Breast Cancer research, I got to keep a gorgeous pink-blinged rifle! I'm pretty sure that this rifle can out-shoot me LOL. But the most important thing is the money raised to help fight this disease. Everybody wins here. Thank you again, Adams Arms, and I'll post more pics when my prize gets to my FFL :-)

     Photo courtesy of Becky Yackley Photography

Those of you who are regular readers, know that I like my "soapbox", so I'm going to drag it out again for a minute before I close this up ...

You all know that I'm not one of the "cool kids" in the shooting world - I don't wear a pretty sponsored jersey, and even though I have tons of fun, I'm not very "good".  The majority of the industry photos of this event you will see ARE those of the cool kids in the pretty jerseys though -- even though there were a whole ton of us in just plain T-shirts (and insulated sweatshirts ....and Walgreens gloves and hats .... with "hot hands" tucked into our pockets LOL) that were having a helluva good time.  But honestly, for this event particularly, that's where I think the emphasis OUGHT to be - on the gals in the plain T-shirts. Because the vast majority of shooters in this sport (and the vast majority of IDPA and USPSA shooters as well) are not the sponsored shooters in the fancy jerseys. They are the average Joe (and now Josie) working their tails off at their home clubs across the country. I am concerned that we aren't going to swell the ranks of women shooters by only showcasing the "Jersey Gals".  

Don't get me wrong  - we LOVE Our "Jersey Gals". They are the public face of our minority in the sport, and we love them to pieces - but they aren't the only story here. The REAL story here is about all of the UNsponsored women who squeezed airfare out of the family budget, or carpooled a thousand miles and used loaner equipment just so they could SHOOT! 

THEY are the future of the shooting sports (and honestly the entire 2A) in this country. If the grassroots woman in a plain T-shirt wants to shoot that badly, then we should ALL support her! That is exactly what happened this weekend, but you won't see a lot of that in the news wire photos. New friendships were forged, hugs and applause were exchanged, memories were made, and hopefully the true objective was achieved  - of getting, supporting, and KEEPING women in shooting. I just don't want THAT message to get lost amongst all of the pro action shots and sponsor thanks.

Although I personally made out like the proverbial bandit, prize and swag-wise, I would honestly have done this even if all I got to bring home with me was a fistful of stickers and a hat. The experience, the comaraderie, the laughs, the learning curve -- all of it was phenomenal. I really hope that Lisa Marie et al, haven't totally exhausted themselves, because I am already looking forward to doing this again next year!

Thanks so much again to everyone! Congratulations on a fantastic job well done!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gearing up for L3G

​​For all you gentlemen who read this blog, I thought I'd let you know that there is a rumbling building underneath your feet. Right now, as we speak.

That rumbling is the final build up to the Explosion of Female Shooters that will be the Brownell's Lady 3 Gun Pro-Am Challenge in Covington, GA next week.

Even as we speak, OVER TWO HUNDRED women from across the country are gathering their gear, packing their ammo, and checking airline reservations. They are also excitedly posting introductions to a closed Facebook group created just for these competitors.

For most of these women, myself included, this event means so much more than just being a competitor, however. This is about accomplishing personal goals, learning new skills, meeting new friends and drawing attention to the increasing numbers of women entering the shooting sports.

The excitement is already evident on Facebook, as these women introduce and post photos of themselves, share "my first match" and "my worst flub" stories with new shooters, and establish comraderie before they have ever met on a squad. There is even a writer/blogger meet-up being planned. If you have a favorite female gun writer, chances are that she will be shooting and covering this event, so watch for it.

The sponsor support of this event has been overwhelming, and the prize table is stacking up - be jealous, guys. Be VERY jealous! It's THAT big.

So, after you finish cheering for your favorite 3 Gun Pro series Shoot-off competitor this weekend, start watching your newsfeed next week for updates on Lady 3-Gun. It's going to be a BLAST!

Excuse me now, because I have packing to do... :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's a Disease, I Tell You!

I mentioned that I'm signed up for BUG Nationals in a few weeks, right?  As if that didn't involve enough personal insanity, about a month ago, I realized that there might be "stage guns" at this match - where you have to shoot whatever gun is provided at the stage - not necessarily your own gun that you are used to. I had a moment of panic when I realized that one of those stage guns could be a revolver. I know ZERO about revolvers! I was thinking that you might even have to hold it differently to fire one. EEk!

To stave off my panic, I contacted a friend and fellow IDPA-er, who offered to give me a tutorial on his revolvers. Whew - THANK YOU!!!  Turns out that there are "seasoned" (I won't say "older" LOL) retired law enforcement guys out there who basically cut their handgun teeth on revolvers. I had hit the jackpot and didn't even know it!

I learned a ton of new information in the span of less than 2 hours. For instance, did you know that the direction the cylinder rotates depends on the manufacturer? Who knew?  It's not standard. That would be important to know for things like loading up with one empty chamber. What one does with the "release" button also varies by manufacturer.  Do I push it forward? Press on it? lift it up? Pull it back? Also not standard. Geez, I'm glad I asked. And YOU DO have to hold your thumbs a little differently to keep them away from the rotating cylinder, or from overhanging the front of it and getting in the way of the side blast. Also VERY GLAD I asked. I like my thumbs, and would like to keep them LOL!

This part shouldn't matter for the BUG match, since BUG reloads are off the clock, but I was also shown briefly how to do reloads with different speedloaders. Wow, that's a whole other set of motor skills right there! Strong hand reload with gun in weak hand is completely backwards from what I'm used to with semi auto pistols. The speed loaders didn't work the same way as each other either. One required a twist, and the other required a push. Much as I like my thumbs, I felt like I had grown ten of them that day LOL. More than one round met the dirt at my feet that morning while I fumbled around.

But, I at least learned the basics, and got a feel for the double action trigger and single action trigger, and managed to keep my shots within a reasonable diameter for a first time with the platform. I picked some brains about types of revolvers and learned what terms like "J-frame", "K-frame", and "L-Frame" meant. I also did a little brain picking and research about what kinds of revolvers might be good ones to learn on. 

I was intrigued - can you tell? LOL. Not that I had a concrete plan or anything. On the contrary, my reasonable budget-brain kept reminding me how much I had just spent on my daughter's Homecoming dress, and how much her senior portraits were going to be, and how much I had just spent on ammo, and how much the travel and hotels for Lady 3-Gun and BUG Nationals were going to be. I was NOT shopping. I was just learning new information -- honest.

And that was the gawd's honest truth ... right up until Tuesday. LOL

Tuesday was my day off. I had gone innocently enough, down to my local gun shop to pick up a couple extra magazines, and as usual there was a bit of a wait, because the owner was there by himself. As I waited, I wandered around and glanced into the glass cases. 

There, reclining sedately  in the "Used" case, was a revolver labeled - Smith & Wesson 686 SSR Pro. It called to me softly in its loneliness. "I'm what you were looking for", it whispered. I peered into the case, my nose nearly leaving a print on the glass. Hmmmm...

So after I lost my filter on the know-it-all guy in line ( as I confessed on Facebook) I asked the owner if I could check out that used revolver over there. Now remember, I know virtually nothing about revolvers, only the little bit I gleaned from brain-picking smarter people than myself. Thanks to the tutorial I had been given, I at least knew how to open the cylinder without looking like an idiot. The gun was in really good shape, and didn't look like it had a lot of wear ( as determined by a few strategic texts back and forth LOL) My good sense prevailed however, and I walked out of the store with only the purchases I had come for. After all, I told myself, I SHOULD have been practicing shotgun reloads with Lady 3 Gun coming up - not looking at revolvers.

But then I went to lunch. As I ate my bagel sandwich, I did some Googling on my phone. The Google gods told  me more about the model 686 Pro, gave me product reviews, and what prices would be like "new". Holy cow, that was a really good price for a lightly used version of that model. I kinda wished I hadn't looked that up - LOL. 

I pondered, and I hemmed and hawed a bit ... and ended up back at the gun shop after lunch.
My prize even came with the original case - though I'll have to contact S&W to see if they can email me an owner's manual. I got a box of .38 special and a box of .357 to try out, and the shop owner even threw in a speed loader for free. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't an impulse buy - that it was a great gun to learn on, which would still be good enough that I could try shooting SSR in a match if I wanted to try that,  and I was never going to find such a gun again at such a price. But it was still an impulse buy. It was a WISE impulse buy, but an impulse buy nonetheless. LOL

I got the new baby home and proceeded almost immediately to the range to try it out. I'm impatient like that. I dragged out a target and stand leftover from the Halloween-themed IDPA match last weekend, and set about putting some rounds downrange out of my new ( to me) revolver. The first 24 rounds all made it into the -0 ring at ten yards. I didn't think that was too bad considering it was a set of unfamiliar sights and an unfamiliar trigger pull. I'm told that revolvers are more accurate at distance than semi-autos, so next time I'll get a little more adventurous distance-wise, but for a first foray, I was happy. The wind picked up, and Frank the target was having trouble staying upright, so I quit at a half box of ammo.... for now.....

I didn't get to try out any .357 that afternoon, as the shop guy accidentally grabbed the wrong box, and I didn't know any better. Turns out the .357Sig I was given is not the same as .357Magnum. I opened that box and pulled out rounds that had "shoulders" like a rifle round. I knew they didn't look right and they didn't fit the chambers either. That's another "Who knew? " for my list. I'm always learning something. I guess it's kinda like 9mm Luger is not the same as 9mm Makarov, which is not the same as 9mm Short. It's enough to make a newbie's head spin. But, that's fodder for another blog post another day.

So, it looks like I've got more gear to shop for - speed loaders, holster, the "holders" for the speed loaders.... Like I "need" an excuse to shop. LOL - it's a good thing I'm going to SHOT Show in a few months!

I kinda felt a little guilty that I got "another" gun to learn on, when I haven't even mastered the guns I already have. I told a friend that I might need an "intervention" - and that maybe I had GADD - gun attention deficit disorder - since I couldn't seem to stay focused on one platform. He just laughed and assured me that even if that were so, "It was a good disease to have" :-)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Taking Suggestions - What do you think?

To quote Monty Python, "And now for something completely different..."

Here is something that I'll need you readers' help with. In case you haven't noticed, this blog is all about "me". It's basically a public journal, and I write whatever strikes my fancy. There's a bit of beautiful freedom in that, but I realize that it can also get boring for people.

Since I'm not much of an "expert" at anything gun related, (I rather think half the appeal is that I write from the perspective of a relative "noob")  I can't really throw the doors completely open to suggestions for subject matter. I'm limited to what I already have experience with. BUT...

The 2015 SHOT Show is coming. As with last year, I'm going on my own dime - simply because as a blogger, I can. I want to see what there is that is new and interesting. So, I'm asking - what do you want me to look at? What do you want to hear about?

The only caveat is that they have changed the rules this year for Media Day at the Range. This year, media has to be "invited" by an exhibitor. Since I have no sponsors or advertisers, I will not be getting an invitation. Thus, I won't be able to shoot anything new and exciting, like I did with the Glock 42 and Benelli ETHOS last year. 

Oh well. I'm a little disappointed, but honestly I'm probably better off, for now, to be able to write without "strings". Also, this way no one can claim that I have some sort of medical conflict of interest, or that I am somehow "in the pocket of the [dreaded] gun industry". I write about what I like, not what I'm told.

But, other that actually pulling the trigger on Media Day, I'm open to suggestions as to what you would like to see or hear about while I'm there. This would actually help me immensely. With acres of aisles and products, it is almost impossible to see everything. Helping me narrow down the ground to be covered would save me from wandering aimlessly LOL.

So there you have it - an invitation to tell me what you want. Feel free to post suggestions here or on the Facebook page. You've got from now 'til mid January when I get on the plane :-)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Because I Knew You

"I've heard it said

That people come into our lives

For a reason

Bringing something we must learn

And we are led to those

Who help us most to grow

If we let them

And we help them in return

Well I don't know if I believe that's true

But I know I'm who I am today

Because I knew you"

(For Good, from the Broadway Musical Wicked)​

I'm a lyrics person. Probably because I sing. Lyrics are poetry, and they often "speak" to me. That's why I have quoted the above for you - because they spoke to me this weekend in the car. I was driving at sunrise from one touchstone in my life to another, and this song popped up on my playlist. I teared up while I was driving, because it was SO TRUE.  

One could argue that I was just mid-life hormonal and tired at the time, (Lord knows that happens to me often enough LOL), but I felt the impact of those words right then, for where I was right at that moment, and doing exactly what I was doing.

What I was doing, was driving to my second shooting match of the weekend - with a quartet singing engagement sandwiched in between.  

In a 24 hour span, I had shot my G42 BUG gun in my last IDPA club match of the season (and didn't do too awful bad, either), then ran home, showered, changed clothes, grabbed my gear and drove an hour and half north to meet my quartet gals for a singing engagement. I then stayed overnight in the hotel we performed in, got up at 6AM, donned my range gear, set the phone GPS and drove to a Level II USPSA match at sunrise the next morning. Welcome to my life :-)

When the alarm went off at 6AM I still had raccoon eyes from the stage make-up the night before. I don't wear make-up too often, and I'm apparently bad at getting it back off again. I didn't even really like the eye shadow colors, but that was what the chorus we were singing with was wearing, and our Bass is a member of that chorus. (That's Bass - as in voice part, not Bass as in fishing - just thought I should clarify that for this readership LOL!) Our quartet was singing as a part of the yearly show/fundraiser that this chorus puts on. 

My quartet mates are my surrogate sisters. I don't have any sisters of my own, and my sis's-in-law are so far away that I'm lucky I get to see them once a year. So my Tenor, my Baritone, and my Bass (I sing Lead) are the sisters I never had. I would do almost anything for my quartet sisters - including wearing icky eye shadow, and paying for my own hotel room so as not to make anyone uncomfortable with the gun and gear in the room. (Maybe one of these days I'll try to take my singing sisters to the range, but I haven't pushed it yet)

My quartet sisters put up with my grumpy moods, and my flat notes. They put up with my work schedule and my stage nerves. (That's performance stage, not shooting stage - just another clarification LOL) We are all control freaks in our own ways, so we all "get" that, and realize that sometimes you just can't stop yourself. I have learned so much from them about harmony - both in music and in life.

There are also people who have come into my life, and taught me something, but didn't stay. Two people in particular were on my first medical service trip to Guatemala in 2000. It was they who "led" me into medicine by their example. I was lab tech at the time. Now I'm a physician - because I knew them - however briefly.

My shooting life (dare I say "passion"? LOL), continues to evolve with virtually each new person I meet. The seeds were originally planted by one person, who has continued to provide much needed fertilizer along the way (and I mean that in the most flattering way possible LOL), but the pruning, and weeding and cultivating of my shooting life have been performed by many people - all of whom have taught me something, or many things. Even this blog came about by chance squadding and conversation. That's how my life seems to work.

I now have a much valued shooting sister- and even brother-hood. I now have friends and  acquaintances  all over the country. I run into people at one match, that I met at another match. I run into people from one discipline that I met in another. I am admittedly bad with names, and am better with faces, but if I see you in the grocery store or even at a match dinner, and you aren't wearing your hat, glasses and ear pro, I may not recognize you immediately. Please don't take it personally - I am still immensely grateful for what I learned from you - even if my brain is temporarily displaying the "Processing - Please Wait" icon -LOL!

Despite the busy schedule, I really had a fantastic weekend. My club put on a really cute and fun Halloween-themed IDPA match. There were zombies attacking your car. There were undead rising from their graves. There were werewolves to be subdued, floating ghosties to dodge, and there was even a flying witch on a zipline. The gun fairies put in a lot of thought and hard work. I had a blast.

The chorus show went really well, and I enjoyed myself. I messed up some notes early on, but our renditions of "Mr Sandman" and "Weekend in New England" went well and our quartet was welcomed and well-received. (Note to self - In the future, don't attempt bell chords immediately after a heavy meal - Uuurp)

The Tri-State Match was a great time, and I had a good squad. I even got to shoot with a new Babes With Bullets Alum- it was her third whole match ever. (Go Girl!)  We traded cameras and video'd eachother. There were only 8 women shooting out of 120- some participants, and three of them were on our squad. How boring all the other squads must have been - LOL!

The most memorable stage for me was the Evil Clown stage. There were steel poppers which activated the clown's eyes to drop down and reveal targets behind (for a whole 1.5 seconds or something), before one had to go prone to shoot through the clown's mouth to get the other targets behind. I had the dubious distinction of being the only shooter that day to get the clown smack in the eyeball, because I was too slow! You mean that wasn't a bullseye???! ;-) So after the match was over, someone recorded the evidence for me.

There are a few videos posted to the Facebook page too, if you like motion over stills :-) 

I won't say anything about my scores, other than there were four DQ's and none of them were me. I also wasn't last. So, therefore, I win! :-D  Also, just for the sympathy vote, I should tell you that I lost my front fiberoptic rod somewhere during my 6th stage. You mean people should carry replacements for those??? Who knew??? I kept on going using the front "hole" though, and finished the match. One of my male stage mates gave me props for "powering through" LOL! One of the squad RO's even told me what to do to replace it. (though I still have to Youtube it - I do better with visual demonstrations)

It really was a great weekend. I learned some new things (like about fiberoptic rods, and heavy meals) had lots of laughs, and made some new friends. Even the sunrise on the way to the match made my day special.

All of which brings me back to sitting in my car and tearing up at that song. It made me realize  that where I was, right then, was a result of all of the people who had influenced my life up to that moment. I didn't live in isolation. I realized how indebted I am to all of the people who changed my life. So, THANK YOU - all of you. 
"Because I knew you ... I have been changed for good."