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!