Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sizing Up Deer Hunting Property

This past weekend I took a long 3-day weekend and headed out to the deer lease and scout out the situation, repair some blinds and stands, and work on some feeders in preparation for the upcoming deer season. I’m lucky to have a decent-sized lease this year with abundant water and natural forage. But not everyone is as lucky. When searching for a good deer lease or hunting property, there are a number of considerations to be taken into account other than the cost of the property or lease.

So: what should you look for when evaluating a piece of land as potential hunting property?

First is food and water sources. The main attractants for deer are forage and water, and your hunting property should ideally have both. Does the land have food plots or field crops? Are there edible mast type foods such as nut-and acorn-bearing trees and bushes? What about water? Water is almost more important than food availability, especially in more arid regions. Ponds, streams, creeks, rivers and lakes will all attract deer seeking hydration.

This brings us to the next thing to search for: game trails. Scout around water sources and forage areas for game trails leading to and from the water and food. Active trails with fresh deer tracks are the best, but deer may change the areas they browse depending on what crops are abundant and whether water is fresh, so bear this in mind when you come across older tracks. For example, areas with deep and large lakes or rivers may have abundant deer during droughts, while areas with field crops may only harbor deer until the crops are harvested.

Cover is very important to deer. Dense cover from hardwoods, tall grass and thickets provide secluded areas where deer can bed down to rest, or find safe areas to breed. Cover is also a great way to keep an eye on how the yearly rut is progressing. Keep an eye on trees for rub lines and scrapes.

The size of the property will play a defining role, but even small tracts of land can bear trophy bucks if they are surrounded by the right environment. Evaluate the value of the land to deer by identifying what assets the land has to offer deer. Some tracts are ideal for cover, but offer little in the way of food or water. Others may simply have critical travel routes deer use to move between bedding areas and forage.

Another important aspect to consider is hunting pressure. Is the land you are considering surrounded by areas that are heavily hunted? If so, it may only be good hunting for a limited time, such as the first weekend of bow season.

Finally, consider the huntability of the land. If the land is nothing but open fields or thick cover with no game trails, you may not be able to find a good spot to set up. Blinds set up along frequently traveled game trails, or on the edge of a field with the wind blowing in from the field are ideal.

My scouting expedition turned out to be fortuitous, as I snuck up on an unwary feral hog, ensuring at least some hog meat in the freezer. While scouting your hunting property, keep the above tips in mind while deciding where to set up your hunt, and you will benefit from the increased likelihood of taking a nice trophy buck this season.

September E-Postal

True Blue Sam The Travelin’ Man is this month’s host of our E-Postal match series. He’s got a devious target designed with a pack of coyotes surrounding a hen and henhouse. The premise is simple: hit each coyote twice, once off hand and once from a rest, and avoid hitting the henhouse and the hen.

True Blue Sam explains the rules below:

You’re sipping your coffee early one morning, and as you look out the back door, you see your favorite rooster about to do battle with a pack of coyotes that has invaded your farmyard. He’s a tough rooster, but he’s no match for a coyote, so you grab the nearest shooting iron and let one fly to stop the attack, and follow up with a kill shot. To shoot this match, CLICK HERE to download the target (*.PDF). Shoot once offhand (one or both hands), then once with a support, at each coyote. Use any type of improvised rest which simulates resting against a doorframe or window ledge. This can be a monopod, bipod, shooting bench, side brace, etc. A touch will count for three points, and a solid hit (Half or more inside the line) counts as five points. Hits on the chicken house count as one negative point. If you goof and hit your rooster, well, take the family out for a chicken dinner. At least the coyotes didn’t eat him.

Shoot this contest at 25 feet with a pistol, 50 feet with a rifle, and 15 feet with a smooth bore BB gun. If you must shoot at different distances at your shooting range, provide the distance with your target scan, and I will adjust your score proportionately. (Shoot with a rifle at 300 feet, and your score will be increased 6 times.)

Class I: Rimfire with iron sights
Class II: Rimfire with optics
Class III: Centerfire with iron sights
Class IV:Centerfire with optics
Class V: Rimfire with iron sights
Class VI: Rimfire with optics
Class VII: Centerfire with iron sights
Class VIII: Centerfire with optics
BB, Airsoft, and etc:
Class IX: Iron sights
Class X: Optics
More: You shoot it, and I will score it!
Scan or photograph your targets and e-mail them to: Truebluetravelinman (at) gmail (dot) com
If you have difficulty with Google Documents, e-mail me, and I will send the pdf directly to you.
Please send your entries in by midnight, September 30, 2010.
Make it an outing for family and friends, and have a good time shooting.
Every entry in Mr. Completely’s e-Postal contest is eligible to win a $50 gift certificate from Cheaper Than Dirt, so take several guns with you to the range and enter multiple times to improve your odds!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews Sarah Irish

I was talking with Julie Golob a couple of weeks ago and we were discussing the Women of USPSA and some of the up and coming Junior Shooters when Julie mentioned that I should talk to Sarah Irish and possibly interview her and post her profile here on the Shooter's Log. Quite honestly, I didn't know much about Sarah except for hearing of her performance at the ICORE match last year, but a quick search turned up Sarah's website and some videos that truly blew me away. I could see why Julie wanted me to talk with Sarah: she just turned 18 years old, but already she's one of the fastest shooters in USPSA!

Julie put us in touch, and I got the chance to give Sarah a call and talk to her a bit about how she got started shooting and her future in the USPSA and shooting sports in general.
Hi Sarah, thanks for talking with us today. First of all, congratulations on your recent High Lady win in the Open Division at Area 5. Thanks! I was really surprised that I placed high in that match. I'd just graduated high school the weekend before, so I didn't have time to really prepare myself. I spent two weeks before the match writing my graduation speech, and generally getting ready for graduation. Going into it, I didn't expect much in the way of my performance at Area 5.

Did you grow up shooting with your family? Not really. I went out with my dad to shoot at my grandpa's property when I was at least 3. After that I didn't shoot again until I was probably 12. I took a Hunter's Safety Course. After that I went to the range with my dad, trying to get some practice and we saw that they were doing a bowling pin shoot, so I started doing that.

You just came across the bowling pin shoot at the range and thought it looked like fun? Yeah, I thought it looked like fun so I tried that for a while.

It looks like you got pretty good at the bowling pin shoots, you set a number of record times clearing the table. Yes, I set the fastest time at the range. The time was a 1.98 second run, and then more recently I shot a 1.18.

That's incredibly fast. Tell us a little bit about how you do it. It took me a while to get there. I never really get a chance to practice much, even now because of school. It kept me really busy so I never got much chance to practice. I really just practiced by shooting other matches.

Does your family participate with you at the matches? My parents actually shoot most matches that I shoot at. Both my mom and dad shoot with me. They help me with the financial side. Now I'm a poor college student going out, so they help me with that part. [Ammunition prices] are brutal. Buying the open guns has a big [financial] impact as well.

How often do you get the chance to go shoot a match or get out to the range? We usually shoot a match every weekend or so.

Do you practice at home at all with dryfire or airsoft? I do have an airsoft setup in the attic. I do that occasionally, but I've been slacking from that. I do do some dryfire occasionally.

Do you have a typical routine or drill you do when you dryfire practice? Not really. Mostly I'll look back on video to see what I messed up on at the last match, what's something I could improve on. I'll do some draws and reloads too.

Do you do any specific training for the different types of matches like Steel Challenge? Not usually. I usually just go out and shoot, which makes me rather atypical compared to your normal shooter.

It sounds a lot like you're just a natural. {nervous laughter} I guess you could put it like that. I will train if I get the chance to, but usually I just have a lot of time constraints.

Did you have any coaches or mentors who helped you as you began to get better and faster? Not really. I did do Kay and Jerry Miculek's Junior Camp twice. That helped me out a lot.

I'm actually at their house right now training. They've really helped me out a lot. I've been practicing down here from the beginning of the month.

You've recently made the move from Junior to Ladies. Do you feel ready to compete against the big names like Kay Miculek and Jessie Abbate? I think I'm ready to go. I've done a lot of matches. I generally just shoot to go out and have a good time. I never really got competitive until now.

Still, you definitely seem to have a competitive spirit. You just graduated Salutatorian of your high school class. Then last year you picked up a revolver for the first time and shot the ICORE match where you managed to place 5th overall and take home a win in the Ladies division. Obviously something has awakened that competitive nature. Yeah, I think part of is that I'm pretty good at adapting to new situations. The revolver match, I'd only shot a revolver three times before that match. I'm just generally pretty good at picking up something new and figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing.

You're heading into college now and I'm wondering where you see yourself heading in the future. Will you stick with Chemical Engineering or do you see yourself becoming a part of a major shooting team? I'd kinda like to do both, if it's possible. Becoming a sponsored shooter, that'd be way more fun than being a chemical engineer. It depends on the financial side as well, whether or not I can support myself in a shooting career. I'm not entirely sure about that, but I'd be open to the opportunity.

Are you planning on continuing to shoot while you're in college? Actually, the college I'm going to has a range 6 miles away. If I get a chance I'll be out there as often as I can.

Is there a pistol team or shooting club at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where you'll be attending this fall? They have a rifle team with a rifle range on campus. I've thought about participating with the team but I'm not sure yet. I may go to tryouts, depending on when they are. It's just so different from USPSA, I don't know if that will throw me off. They do like 60 shots over the course of two hours.

It would be a different experience. I might do it just for the experience, but I haven't decided so far.

I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us and I know we all look forward to seeing your future performances in USPSA. Thank you too.

After this interview Sarah placed 3rd in her division at the USPSA World Championship Steel Challenge. She's currently attending Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology where she's pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. You can learn more about Sarah at her website SarahIrish.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Installing a Scout Style Scope on a Mosin Nagant

One of the most common questions customers have after purchasing a Mosin Nagant is, "How do I mount a scope on there without altering my receiver?" Generally, scopes are installed on to a receiver that is drilled and tapped to take scope rings. This presents a problem on the Mosin Nagant, as the straight handle bolt would interfere with the scope's eye piece. The only viable alternative is to install a scout style scope, but the wooden stock and fore grip of the Mosin make such a proposition a bit complicated to properly execute.

S&K Manufacturing stepped up to the plate with their Mosin 91/30 scope mount. It utilizes existing hardware on the rifle and replaces the original iron sight with a Picatinny style rail to which virtually any scout style scope can be attached.

The most difficult part of installing the scope mount is driving out the pin that holds the rear sight in place. You'll need a few simple and inexpensive tools that aren't included with the scope mount to accomplish this: a punch and a brass hammer. If you use a steel punch (which we recommend, as brass punches are too soft and may bend or break) be very careful to make sure that it is perfectly lined up with the pin before striking it so as to avoid marring the sight. On most Mosin Nagant rifles, this pin is held very tightly in place and takes a while to carefully drive out.

Once the pin is most of the way out, the spring pressure on the leaf sight will push the sight up and partially trap your punch. Carefully remove the punch and then the leaf sight and spring before continuing to drive the pin out. With the pin completely driven out and the spring and leaf sight removed, carefully place the flange nut into the rear of the sight holder. Placed properly, it should appear as shown in the image to the right.

Next, place the actual rail in place into the sight box and place one of the screws through the hole where the pin once was and gently thread it into place but do not tighten it. Using your punch, ensure that the flange nut is lined up with the countersunk hole in the top of the rail and then screw it into place with the countersunk screw and an Allen wrench until it is just snug and then loosen it 1/4 turn. Then go ahead and screw in the other screw through the other side of the pin hole until both sides are snug and then back those out 1/4 turn.

At this point the rail should have some play and be able to be wiggled ever so slightly. Remove the bolt and place your scope on the rifle and gently snug the rail mount rings onto your rail. Bore sight the rifle by and adjust the set screws on the rail until the scope's cross hairs are near the center of the bore. For this process, you may need to remove the scope, adjust the set screws, and then place the scope back on the rail. Once you have a decent bore sight, tighten up the counter sunk screw into the flange nut and then the pivot screws where the pin used to be. With the rail tightened up, reinstall your scope and continue to sight it in as you would normally.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Myth Of The “Girl Gun” – Why Semiautomatics Are Great For New Shooters Of Any Gender

When a new woman shooter begins shopping for their first pistol, invariably someone will steer them toward a small snub-nosed double-action-only revolver that is usually decked out with pink grips. But is that really the best choice for a lady looking for a self defense or concealed carry pistol? Small hammerless snub-nosed revolvers are obviously an easy to conceal and often lightweight option, but many experienced shooters and notable bloggers, including a few women, have raised concerns over the ability of an inexperienced shooter, no matter if they are male or female, to effectively and accurately employ the pistol.

Gun Nuts Media quoted Tiger McKee who said:

Most people think revolvers are easy to shoot and operate, and for some reason they think this is especially true for women shooters. This is simply not the case, regardless of the shooter’s gender. The trigger on most revolvers is longer and heavier than the majority of semi-autos.

Double-action triggers present a unique challenge when it comes to getting an accurate trigger pull. The trigger on most double-action revolvers is long and heavy, sometimes weighing in around 12 pounds or more. For a new shooter trying to be accurate with a pistol is tough enough without needing to master a difficult trigger.

The size and weight of a .38 snub nose also presents a unique challenge, as recoil and muzzle blast are much more pronounced than on a heavier pistol with a longer barrel. This effect is even more pronounced on extremely lightweight revolvers such as Smith & Wesson’s Airweight line. These are great revolvers for concealed carry as their small size and light weight makes them versatile enough to be worn with just about any wardrobe, but they are not ideal for someone just learning to shoot a pistol. The short sight radius and even shorter barrel also make this choice revolver more difficult to aim and less accurate than their longer barreled cousins.

One of the main reasons given for recommending a small revolver to a new female shooter is the simplicity of the design. While it’s possible that at one point this may have been a valid point, as technology has advanced there is really no benefit in “fool proof reliability” for choosing a revolver over a modern semiautomatic like a Glock 19. It is no more difficult to teach any new shooter to rack a slide in a semiautomatic than it is to teach them to swing a cylinder out on a revolver.

And what about reloading? It is arguably much easier, not to mention faster, to eject a spent magazine and slam in a new one than it is to swing a cylinder out, eject the spent casings, grab a speedloader and get it positioned just right before releasing the rounds into the cylinder, and then closing it back into place.

Pro shooters such as Randi Rogers use the Glock 19 for concealed carry, and for good reason. It’s simple, reliable, and easy to carry concealed. The 15 round capacity means you have to reload much less than with a .38 caliber revolver, and the longer barrel and longer sight radius make it easier to aim and more accurate.

The Glock 19 is no panacea for beginners, however good it might be. Everyone has different sized hands and will find different guns that fit them well. Personally I find that Sig Sauer pistols fit my hands extremely well, while my wife loves her CZ-75. The point is that a new shooter will need to try many different guns and find what fits them best. There is no perfect gun that fits any beginner. More importantly, when introducing somebody to firearms for the first time, the experience needs to be positive. Lightweight snub-nosed revolvers have enough fire-breathing kick to scare off a newbie. A bigger, heavier, soft shooting autoloader is much more suitable for the first time out, and you’ll find that they are no more complex or difficult to use than a hammerless revolver.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kel-Tec Sheds Light on the Shortage of PMR-30 Pistols

I get literally dozens of calls and emails nearly every day with people wanting to know if they can get the PMR-30 yet, when it will be available, and what the hold up is. We've been bugging Kel-Tec as well to find out what the hold up is.

Kel-Tec gave us this response today:
No, we are not at full production on PMR-30s. It has nothing to do with the product but more with the time line we set to release the PMR-30.

Back in January we announced that Q2 was the release date. It was based on estimated time to move from prototype to full production. What we had in January was a working model, but was not made on production CNC machines.

Our estimation proved to be quite off in terms of development. We noticed it before release but felt if we really pushed ourselves we could meet the Q2 release. The first batch of 80 or so, were done by that deadline, but had not been tested extensively (as we do with any first production run). After testing we found some inconsistencies in the CNC work and did some re-tweaking to fix it.

Since that first batch we've sent several other batches out, each with it's own new little fix. All of the fire arms that have been sent out work, but in the course of production we've found little adjustments here and there that are improvements.

In all honesty this is stuff that should have been going on before release.

What should have happened (because hindsight is 20/20) was that we push back that official release date until October at the earliest.

Basically we underestimated the time it would take us to get these badboys into full production.

So we had a choice: either stop production completely and just wait until a later date (angering those that were told July as a release date) or release smaller batches so the guns can at least see the light of day as production catches up (also angering customers as they see guns coming out but can't seem to get one). Obviously
we chose the latter (the right choice? this remains to be seen). The PMR-30s going out now are in working condition, but we've made that they may want to upgrade to, depending on serial number.

These parts will of course be free.

One thing we've discovered since shipping is that the PMR-30 does NOT like ammunition made in the Philippines (Armscor/Fiocci). The brass is weak and blows out.

So in conclusion: We are still making and shipping PMR-30s while production can get on track. They are still in small batches (30-70) and we are waiting on various redesigned parts to come back from heat treatment so we can start producing them in larger quantities.

Simply put we jumped the gun a bit on release (no pun intended), we acknowledge it, accept it, and are doing everything in our power to get things moving. In the meantime we are still sending out PMR-30s in small batches as we make them.

I hope this clarifies some things. My suggestion is to just pretend as if we set a release date for sometime in October and if you happen to come across a PMR-30 then it will be a pleasant surprise.

So, there you go. We're still waiting for our next shipment of PMR-30 pistols. If you want to be one of the first ones to get your own PMR-30, follow this link and sign up by clicking on the link inside the red box to receive an email as soon as we have more PMR-30 pistols in stock.

Biggest Appleseed Rifle Event Ever

We’ve discussed the Appleseed project in past blog posts. For those not familiar with the project, it aims to train a nation of riflemen to be able to shoot and hit targets out to 500 yards while educating them on our nation’s history.

The RWVA is now planning the largest ever Appleseed event at the Aurora Sportsman’s Club in Waterman, Illinois. They will have 60 instructors on site to train the 300 expected participants. This will make it the largest Appleseed event ever, and you can be a part of it. The event is absolutely free for children, women, and active military personnel. Past participants in previous Appleseed events will also be able to register for free, and people who are new to the Appleseed project can register for only $70. This represents an enormous bargain for the whole family to be able to learn a fun and valuable skill.

The Appleseed project website has more information:

The Appleseed 300 will be the largest two-day Appleseed event ever. Bringing together three hundred students and over sixty instructors, we will crush a number of current Appleseed records including: most attendees at a single event, longest contiguous firing line, and most rounds fired in a single volley!

Why Should YOU Be There?
Record setting is great – great to do, great to be a part of – but it’s what you can get out of the Appleseed 300 that will drive your decision to attend. Marksmanship skills? Great! Knowledge of your heritage as an American? Even better!

At a time when dark clouds seem to be rapidly building Appleseed will bring you renewed HOPE about the future of this country. And because of that, you’ll want to bring everyone you know to experience this Appleseed. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, relatives – persuade them all to come with you.

It’s even a great experience for kids. Parents have told us that a weekend of learning marksmanship and heritage has had a very positive impact on their family as children learn that by paying close attention to what they’re taught they can become successful marksmen. Being taught safety around firearms can be a real injection of maturity into young minds, an important part of their ‘growing up’!

So, come be a part of this record event, but don’t come just for that. Come and find out what Appleseed can do for your rifle marksmanship, your family, and your faith in America.

Anticipating the Appleseed Experience
At this record-breaking Appleseed event you will learn how to take accurate shots using nothing but your rifle and a sling – no benches, bipods, or rests. You will learn the Steady Hold Factors for prone, seated/kneeling, and standing/offhand positions. You will discover marksmanship “secrets” such as The Six Steps to Firing the Shot, the Rifleman’s Cadence, Natural Point of Aim, and how to zero your rifle efficiently.. You will acquire the skills necessary to shoot out to 500 yards, a distance traditionally known as “The Rifleman’s Quarter-Mile.” You’ll even learn to dance – the Rifleman’s Dance!

Reliving Our Heritage
In addition to outstanding marksmanship instruction, our instructors will teach the historical significance of the American Rifleman, starting with the beginning of the War for Independence. As our nation’s history is recounted, you will find yourself transported back in time 234 years to witness the first shots on Lexington Green and hear the resounding clash of arms as British Regulars were forced from the North Bridge in Concord. You will hear the stories and personal sacrifices of those who are in danger of becoming all but forgotten footnotes in history. Sadly, the true story of the birth of our nation is slowly fading, becoming infused with myth. We intend to reverse this trend by retelling the unadulterated facts. The actions of our founding generation need no embellishment.
Will you help us, by attending this very special Appleseed event?

We’re planning a special tribute to honor those who gave their lives for Liberty. Among other experiences, everyone at the Appleseed 300 will participate in a special volley fire event. You’ll find yourself standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other Americans – men, women, and children – who share your love of liberty and rifles. Imagine what it will be like to hear three hundred rifles all fired at once, and all in honor of those heroes that fell on April 19th, 1775! And don’t miss the opportunity to fire one of them.

As if taking part in this historic event wasn’t enough, concessions and Appleseed gear will be available on-site. Various prizes will be awarded throughout the event and a special award will be given to the person who travels the farthest to attend. Our premiere gift will be a brand new Marlin Model 795 .22lr semiautomatic rifle, fully outfitted as a complete Liberty Training Rifle package. It’s perfect for practicing your skills as a Rifleman, and even better suited to teaching others!

Outstanding Value For Everyone
With the economy in mind we are making it easy to attend by offering the Appleseed 300 free of charge to almost everybody. Just who can attend this event for free? Well, for starters, women, children, and active duty military. (including reserves and National Guard)

We are also offering this class FREE to ANYONE who has ever attended an Appleseed event. Just register online with the special code WM 300 AND bring proof of attendance at any earlier shoot to the registration table at the Aurora Sportsmen’s Club. What counts as proof? An Eventbrite ticket receipt, a canceled check, or a scored AQT (Army Qualification Test) will all get you admitted to this event free of charge.

Those who do not qualify to attend this event for free will pay only $70 for the entire two-day class! And will recieve a certificate to attend their next Appleseed FREE!
Come help us ensure the great American tradition of rifle marksmanship and our colonial history is not lost for future generations.

Click HERE to sign up for this event.

Contact RWVA Illinois state coordinator Dan Hendrickson at (630) 525-5654 or via email at IL@appleseedinfo.org for more information.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Team Glock's Randi Rogers

Randi Rogers is one of the younger pro-shooters on the circuit today, but don't let her age fool you, she's got well over a decade of experience. Randy has been shooting since the young age of 11, and started competing in Cowboy Action Shooting with her grandfather who was well known among CAS shooters. Randi took the time recently to talk to us about her background in the shooting sports and give us some valuable tips for anyone who wants to improve their game.

First of all, congratulations on your recent win in Colorado, you managed to post a personal best on your way to winning High Lady at that match. Thanks!

You do a lot of work with the Junior shooters at these competitions, tell me a bit about how you got started doing that. Well, I actually started shooting as a Junior. I started when I was 11 years old and I've been in competition since then. I guess you could say I have a soft spot for Junior shooters because I've been there. Every time I see one I try to reach out to them and try to make them comfortable and give them any tips. I ask them if they have any questions and just try to keep the fire alive because I think that Junior shooters and female shooters are the future of our sport and we want to keep them around as much as possible.

Wow, 11 years old is pretty young to get started shooting. If I recall it was your grandparents who got you started shooting, is that right? Yeah, my grandfather is the one who taught me how to shoot and I actually started in Cowboy Action Shooting. I started there because he shot that at the time. We went out together and I got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents that I wouldn't have normally. It shaped my life and I think made me a much better person.

The shooting sports provided quality bonding time with the adults in your life? Absolutely.

As you came up through the ranks you probably had some mentors, coaches, or role models you looked up to. I would have to say that the biggest mentor I ever had would be my grandfather. His name was Gene Pearcey, and his alias was "Evil Roy" and he coached every shot I shot for ten years. He made me the shooter I am today. After that I always paid attention to those female shooters, Julie Goloski at the time now Golob, Kay Mikulek. I'd see their pictures in the magazines and I just knew some day that that was what I wanted to do. Since then I've met so many great shooters, Dave Sevigny has been my teammate for several years and he's given me so much help. He's really made my learning process as I transitioned into a different style of shooting much easier and given me a lot. There have been so many people over the years it's hard to name them all...

...but your grandfather stands out as the most infuential. Absolutely.

Did you move straight from Cowboy Action Shooting into Steel Challenge matches? Well, what happened is four years ago Glock was in the market for a new lady shooter. At the time I was the current Cowboy Action Ladies World Champion, and they heard my name from a couple of different sources so they came to me and said "We could use a new lady shooter, would you like the job?"

It was way too good of an opportunity to pass up, so I started shooting with Glock. I probably started most heavily in IDPA, but I now do IDPA, USPSA, Steel Challenge, Pro Am, and I currently also to NRA and Bianchi. I guess I started in IDPA but it was all kind of a whirlwind and there wasn't a big time period between starting to do IDPA and doing other things.

Had you ever shot a Glock before that? I had, my grandfather owned a Glock for self protection among other things. He'd take me out and make sure that I knew how it worked, just in case we ever got in a situation where I might need it. I'd shot a Glock, and I really enjoyed it, but I'd never shot one in competition.

Do you carry one for concealed carry now? I do. I do carry for self defense, and I carry a Glock 19.

That's a good sized gun for concealed carry. It is pretty big for concealed carry, but I just feel it's got the best combination of size versus ammunition and power. I've always felt the most comfortable shooting it. It runs like a little sewing machine, I love it.

Do you shoot a Glock 34 or 35 in competition? I shoot both. I actually shoot a 34, a 35, and occasionally a 17, but I most often shoot the 34. The normal division that I compete in is Production, and for Production I think the G34 is just the perfect way to go.

It's really soft shooting in comparison to the 35. It is very soft shooting, and in Production you aren't penalized for shooting a smaller caliber. If you have a choice, I prefer the 9mm because it's a little bit easier to shoot.

As long as you don't have to worry about making power factor. Exactly.

Are you shooting the Generation 4 Glocks in competition yet? I have actually shot the Gen 4 G17. I shot it at the IDPA nationals where I won High Lady. It's a great gun. I have pretty small hands, and while I've never had a problem with the standard size Glock but the Gen 4 just fits really well in my hands. The biggest thing I noticed when shooting it is that not only does it fit better in your hands but it puts your fingers closer to the controls so that the magazine release button and slide release button are much easier for me to shoot. I don't have to shift my hand as much.

That's pretty important to maintain a good grip. Absolutely, yeah.

Did you use any of the backstraps? I didn't use a backstrap. I used the smallest version which is the frame with no backstrap. It felt fine, but I shot it before I went to the match with both backstraps just to see what it felt like, and I felt comfortable with both but the smallest was obviously best for me.

Let's talk about training for a little bit. I like to get to know how various top level competitors such as yourself train and stay in shape. What does a typical week of training look like? I dry fire every day. I try to dry fire between 15 minutes and an hour, and I do everything dry fire that I would do live fire. I do draws, I do mag changes, and I do movement. Obviously the Glock doesn't reset, but I kinda fake my way through shooting multiple shots.

Then for live fire I try to practice a minimum of twice a week on the range. I usually get out more like four or five [days a week]. Those practices range anywhere from a couple of hours to four hours. I can't usually do more than four hours, especially in the Georgia heat. It's a little bit much for me.

For round count, I practice anywhere from 300 rounds to 600-700. Steel eats up more ammo just because you have to shoot all of those shots. That's just the way it works, you have to shoot more. If I'm practicing for USPSA or IDPA it's usually a lower round count.

I try to do short drills and break things down into the basics because you can set up a stage and shoot it eight times and you'll get better, but you won't know where you're getting better. I like to break things down into small pieces like draws, double taps, and small drills I can look at and see where I'm good and what I need to work on.

I also try to shoot local matches. You can't reproduce match conditions in practice I don't believe. I think local matches are really important so I try to shoot those whenever I'm in town.

Breaking it down into the base components seems like a pretty important principle that allows you to perfect each unique aspect before you string them all together into a complete stage. Yeah, a good analogy I always use is baseball. When you're learning to play baseball, you don't just go out and play baseball games. You practice hitting and pitching. When I practice for shooting, I don't shoot stages, I practice draws and reloads and things like that.

Where do you find yourself spending the most time practicing? What are some areas that you focus on? One of the biggest things I've struggled with for a while is movement. I came from Cowboy Action Shooting where there's not a lot of shooting on the move. That has been a challenge for me over the past years. I try to do drills where you start in one position, shoot a couple of rounds and then run five yards or ten yards and shoot another position. I often work on moving into and out of position, so I'll set up barrels and walls and I'll practice going into position and coming out of it. I'll just try to learn where my limits are and make myself more comfortable with it.

Luckily your teammate Dave Sevigny is one of the best at transitions and movement. Absolutely, Dave is incredible when it comes to moving in and out of position. I watch him whenever I get the chance.

Many top shooters, Dave included, emphasize the importance of having the proper mind set going into a match. I think shooting is much more mental than it is physical. I would say probably 80% is mental preparedness. I think it's very important to visualize the stage prior to shooting it. I think it is important to know what your sight picture is going to look like as well as the target layout, and be prepared so that when you walk up there it's not foreign territory. You need to be as comfortable with it as if you'd already shot it. It's important to look through the positions and visualize your movement so that you're prepared when you get there.

It's so difficult to keep that game plan however. I know I've stepped up to the line before and as soon as the buzzer goes off to signal the start, my mind blanks and the whole plan I had goes right out the window. I would say that, obviously, it starts with experience. The more you practice and the more you shoot the easier that will get. The other thing that I do is I visualize in great detail. I close my eyes and I see the targets, I see the wall, I see the reload going into the gun and so on.

I read something somewhere that if you visualize something in great detail that your mind doesn't know that you haven't done it. If you visualize shooting the stage in detail, you trick yourself into thinking that you've already shot it. That way, when you walk up there if something happens or goes wrong, you know you're comfortable and you feel like you've already done it so it's much easier to bounce back. Other than that, just train to stay calm.

That's pretty important, staying calm. I know it's hard not to panic when you throw a mike or drop a shot and try to rush to catch up. My grandfather nicknamed me "Ice" when I was a kid, because he just couldn't get over how calm I was. If you just try to stay relaxed and remember your sight picture above all else. The more experience you have, the better it will be. That's why I think it's so important to shoot local matches. Even though I've been doing this for years, I still think that there are things I can learn. I know there are things I can learn. You can't give up, you have to shoot all the time.

There are a lot of new shooters out there who read these interviews. What one piece of advice would you give a new shooter? The biggest piece of advice I can give a new shooter is really to just hit your targets. I see a lot of new shooters who go out there and try to push so fast, they want to be Rob Leatham or Todd Jarrett, then they come back with six mikes and they don't understand why their score is so bad.

For all new shooters I would suggest that the most important thing is to get your hits. If you can hit the target, the speed will come as you get more comfortable. You just have to know how to hit the targets and know your limits.

You've even said in the past that while you like to go fast, you prefer to be accurate. I do, yeah. Going fast is fun, but being accurate pays off.

That's a lot of great advice. I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us, it's been a pleasure. Absolutely! I'd also like to thank you for the interview. I appreciate that, and I'd just like to remind everyone to stay safe and have fun!

Randi lives in Smyrna Georgia where she works for Glock. When she's not at the range, Randi enjoys hiking, biking, rafting, and the outdoors in general.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews Top Shot Winner Iain Harrison

He's been shooting firearms since the early age of 10 and competed with pistols since the age of 18. He served as an officer in the British Army before moving to the United States. He placed second in the Trooper class at the 2009 MGM Iron Man 3-Gun competition, but you probably know him best from his appearance on the History Channel's newest reality TV show "Top Sot".

Following his incredible win Sunday, we gave Iain Harrison a call to talk about his background with firearms, his immigration to the United States, as well as his experience on Top Shot.
Congratulations on your win. Have you made any decision as to what you will do with the $100,000? Pay the taxes on it. {laughs}

Ah, yes there is that. Uncle Sam always gets his share. Let's start by talking about your background. You grew up in the United Kingdom? That's correct, yeah. I moved here to the United States about 12 years ago.

Firearms are heavily restricted in the United Kingdom. Did you have any exposure to firearms prior to joining the military? Yeah, I started out shooting around age 10 when, like so many other people, someone hands you a .22 caliber rifle and you go "Hey! This is fantastic!" Then I got a shotgun around age 14 and air rifles and that sort of thing. I got pistols when I was legally able to at 18 and then started shooting a bunch of IPSC.

Tell us a bit about that, at 18 you were still in the United Kingdom? Yeah.

At that time you were still legally able to own a pistol back then? That's correct.

Were your parents involved in the shooting sports? No, not at all. It was something I did entirely on my own.

Explain for those of us who grew up in the United States and are unfamiliar with the restrictions placed on firearms in the United Kingdom. What's the process you had to go through to get a shotgun or a pistol back then? At the time, obviously I've been out of the loop for a while so I can't comment on the current situation, what you had to do was fill out a bunch of forms. The police would then come and interview you and inspect your security arrangements. You had to had have a safe bolted to the wall. Then you would specify exactly what firearm category that you wanted, you could have one .357 Revolver or one .45 ACP handgun, and how much ammunition you could to get for it as well. It's fairly restrictive in that case.

In order to get anything like what we call a Section 1 firearm, which is a centerfire, you needed to prove good cause which generally entailed having property on which to shoot it or, if you weren't one of the landed gentry, being a member of a firearms club.

Did you join a firearms club to get a pistol? Yeah, I did.

Was that when you started shooting IPSC? Yeah.

And this must have been before you joined the military then. It was, yeah.

What prompted you to get started with IPSC? Firearm ownership and consequently the shooting sports aren't very common in the United Kingdom. How did you first find out about action pistol shooting? Let's see... I'd been shooting clay sports for a while. Then I just decided I wanted to take the next step and do something a bit more difficult. Not that I'm knocking anybody who shoots clay sports, but I think that pistols are much more difficult to master. I figured it was something with a very short sight radius and something that you couldn't brace against your body, and that it would be the next step up.

So, I did that, decided I was going to shoot handguns and then figured that the new sport of IPSC coming along seemed to have a lot of challenging variety to it. I thought that if I was going to shoot pistols that was what I wanted to do.

Let's move on to your military experience I was an infantry officer commissioned in 1990. I spent about 8 years serving in that capacity. I started out as Armored Infantry and then did a spell as dismounted Close Recon. Then I did a bunch of other jobs like Second in Command of the Company and Operations.

Now, you've got a background in the shooting sports and you've served in the British military. Why make the decision to immigrate to the US? I was getting toward the end of the time I wanted to spend in the Army. I wanted to leave for good reasons, you see so many people who are staying on for their pension and become bitter and twisted and disenchanted with the whole situation. I didn't want to do that, and I didn't want to be flying a desk either. That was kind of the stage of my career that I was in.

Then the British government decided that the 20,000 of us who actually shot pistols in the country legally were good targets to prove how tough they were on crime. That was kind of the kicker for me.

You actually decided to immigrate based off of the government's decision to ban handgun ownership? It was one of the reasons. It was certainly a factor.

Did you move straight away to Oregon? No, I moved to New York, and actually didn't shoot pistols until I moved to Oregon two years ago.

That was quite a lapse in your participation in the shooting sports. Yeah. I shot sporting clays for a bit in New York and started getting into practical rifle competitions toward the end of my stay there. The biggest kicker for me to get back into the shooting sports competitively was moving to Oregon.

What shooting sports are you involved in? You mentioned practical rifle, are you shooting 3-gun or Multigun? Yup. Sure am. Pretty much anything with a trigger, I'll pull it.

We definitely saw that by your performance on Top Shot, you really had the ability to pick up just about anything and do well with it. Moving on to talk about the show, they put out an open casting call near the beginning of this year. How did you find out about the show and why did you apply? My wife kinda steered me towards it really. I didn't take the whole thing very seriously at all. I sent in my application kinda tongue in cheek. I got a call the next day. they wanted to see me on video, so I sent in a video and I think I put my casting video together when I was horrendously hung over. I'd been celebrating the day before after moving a client into their house.

I think pretty much every thing you shouldn't do to get on the show, I did.

Were you shocked that they wanted to have you on the show? I was a little surprised, given the caliber, pun intended, of the people I saw at the casting in LA. There were 50 people down there and I wasn't even a blip on anybody's radar. There were some really big names in the shooting community down there, I'm sure you got that information from the other guys you've spoken to so far.

Yes, we've talked to a lot of them. I know J.J. Racaza and Blake Miguez were somewhat intimidating factors for everybody. When you showed up what were your thoughts when you found yourself surrounded by so many big names? My thoughts were "Great! Let's go the bar, let's swap war stories."

One thing everyone I've spoken to about the show mentions is how many good strong friendships were formed. I think part of it was that everyone going into the show was conscious of the fact that this was a first. I don't know whether it was subconscious or overt, but I think that everybody really wanted to show the shooting sports in a positive light and show that we're not a bunch of crimson naped rednecks. We're passionate about what we do, and it takes a lot of discipline to do what we do.

We just wanted to dispel some stereotypes. With that group mentality you kinda define yourself as this small clique of guys who are passionate about what we do and are surrounded by people who don't know what we do. It really was a sort of "getting to know you" experience, both from our standpoint with what goes on in any reality TV show, and then [from the view of the media] "OK, these bunch of shooters, are they just potential mass murderers?"

Did the producers make a conscious effort to portray the shooting sports in a positive light? Yes, I think they did. I think that once they found out that we are who we are, I think they did an absolutely stellar job of casting the first series. From the reality TV standpoint you have to get conflicting personalities in there, but it wasn't overboard when you compare it to some of the other reality TV shows.

I think yeah they did. Then when they saw that we really did know what we were talking about, they gave us a bit more free reign.

We did eventually see some of those personalities clash with Kelly and then later with Blake and Adam. Did you have a plan going into the show for how you would handle the social aspect of the show? Yeah, I did. I went into it with a little demon sitting on my shoulder saying "How is this going to play out on national TV to your friends?" Everything that I did, I had that little fellow on my shoulder.

It's a 42 minute spot that they have to fill and they have about 300 hours of footage going into it. With 42 minutes and 16 people, you're not going to get very much character development there. Your character is defined fairly early on, and that's what you've got to stick with. If you give them the material to define you as somebody you don't necessarily want to be defined as, it doesn't matter. That's how you're going to be seen.

By the same token, if you don't say it, they can't show it. You're kinda looking at peoples character through a magnifying glass. That prism that they use to show people's character is very very intense. You know, if you meet any of these guys for a working day, where you're only spending 8 hours with them rather than 24 hours with them, then everybody comes off as a stellar guy and someone you want to go have a beer with. If you spend 24/7 for 33 days you're going to pick up on people's character traits that you might otherwise overlook.

Again, it's interesting to note that despite the overexposure you had to each other, there were still deep long lasting friendships formed Absolutely. Pretty much all of the cast is in daily communication with each other. We're actually planning a reunion right now.

We didn't see you get voted into any elimination challenges. Would you say that was because of your success navigating the social aspect of the competition? No, because Blue Team kept winning. When we did lose, such as with Adam and Caleb, the pair was self selecting to a great extent. Then the only other time was when I shot against Jim.

Was there any point where you kinda relaxed and forgot the cameras were there? To some extent. The biggest thing for me to get adjusted to was that there was a camera and sound crew there recording your every move. You're mic'd 24/7, so that even if you're off camera and you're not being followed by the guys with the big cameras on their shoulders, you're still on surveillance camera and everything you say is recorded. When the guys with the big cameras fade into the background you can let things slip that you might otherwise not.

Concerning the actual competitions, a few of the competitors commented on the quality of the equipment that was provided. You know, it was a learning experience for everybody. It was our first time out, and I think that some mistakes were made regarding the quality of the equipment I think. having said that, shooting iron sighted rifles with 4-8 pound triggers on them really puts people outside of their comfort zone if they're used to shooting an AR-15 with an ACOG and a side mounted red dot and a 1-1/2 pound trigger. It really concentrates the mind and gets you back to the fundamentals of marksmanship, getting those sights aligned and making the trigger squeeze. In that aspect, shooting guns that weren't race prepared was a real leveler.

Peter mentioned how his background in the military gave him the ability to adapt to whatever equipment was issued, no matter the quality or how familiar it was. Did you experience the same thing? Yeah, it did. Also, because I'm a cheap bastard.

I've got a few ARs, I don't have a Beretta. I've got an HK variant, but I don't have an HK-93. Come to think of it, I don't own really anything that we shot.

Coming down to the individual eliminations when we saw the teams go away, did that change catch anybody by surprise? It was shocking that it happened so late. We were thinking "OK, we've got a week left on the schedule, when's it going to happen?" When it came down to the final 8, well it would have been final 8 were it not for Tara having to leave, we were like "OK, let's do it. This is what we're here for."

Going into the initial competition, the pistol shot on the burning fuse. What was your strategy for that challenge? I was up first and I though that I would want to shoot as long a fuse as I could to set the bar high for anybody else following me and make sure that somebody crashes and burns behind me.

That was the wrong strategy because the fuse burned a lot faster than I anticipated. So I was playing catchup during the first round.

Later we saw a different strategy emerge in the second round as J.J. and other shooters tried to shoot a tight group at nearly the base of the fuse in an attempt to sever the burning cord. Yeah, J.J. and I both did that. That was definitely the safe way to play it and in the end it worked out to our advantage.

Kelly had the dubious distinction of going first in the next challenge, the hill climb. After seeing his performance, how did you adapt your plan for conquering the course? I think any of the guys who had been shooting 3-Gun or IPSC decided it was time to go balls to the wall and just load one single load in each firearm on the platform. The targets were fairly large, and the fact that Kelly managed to shoot the first target with a pistol with no problems, so I thought "Well, screw it. Let's just single load and try to smoke the time on it."

I think it came down to confidence in your abilities. It had the potential of going south, that strategy. A miss and then a reload is going to completely blow your time. I think having the confidence to do it was key to it.

How important was that confidence, that mindset, when you know you have to hit each shot the first time with just one shot or you're going to be sent home? I approached from the standpoint of "I know I can do this." If you know you can do it then you're only shooting your own match, you don't worry about any body else's performance. You just go out and do the best you can. I think if you start looking around and looking over your shoulder people are going to catch up with you. It puts too much mental pressure on you and you just crash and burn.

Next of course you had the dueling pistol trees where you went heads up against your rivals. Yeah, and what fun that was. I mean, J.J. put on a stellar performance. It was just an exhibition match for him.

Were you relieved not to have to go up against J.J.? I was, but if I had gone up against J.J. and lost, I would have gone up against Pete for the elimination, and I knew I could beat Pete with a pistol. Ultimately I don't think the outcome of that one would have changed much.

Moving on we got to see a new style of challenge where each competitor got to choose a shot, kind of like the basketball game of Horse. Why did you choose to shoot shot glasses at 50 feet? I chose that shot because during the trick shooting episode I got to see everybody shoot a DA revolver. I was quite surprised by the fact that I was able to pick up a DA revolver and shoot it pretty well. You know, I hadn't shot a revolver since leaving the UK.

It was a really really nice Smith, I would say it came in around 12 pounds double action, but really really smooth and before it tripped you could feel it stage. I used to shoot a fair amount of revolver in the UK, so I guess that muscle memory just carried over. That allowed me to see everyone else's groups as to what they could shoot comfortably with that revolver. I figured if I pick a DA revolver shot and Chris makes it that means that Chris comes into the final with me and I don't have to shoot against J.J. Racaza.

How shocked were you when J.J. missed his own 50 yard pistol shot? I was, was really surprised to see him because that was a single action trigger on that Scofield and I knew he had sight dope at that 50 yard distance.

And yet, everyone seemed to hit high on that shot. Even your shot hit the very top of the glass. Yeah it was definitely in the top third. I don't know what happened. When we shot that gun previously at that distance the round was dropping like a rock. Maybe it was just a sight alignment thing, maybe I just didn't get it right, but nobody else did either.

At the final elimination, you had to have an inkling that you might actually walk away with the $100,000 grand prize. Actually, walking into the last challenge winning it really wasn't at the forefront of my mind. I know that sounds stupid, but we got to the end of this whole bizarre process and I'm walking up to the final challenge with Chris who is an absolutely stellar stand up guy, real salt of the earth, and I knew if I went out I couldn't have lost to a better guy. Once you've got that kind of mindset, the pressure's off. We just went out there to show them what we could do and we put on a good show for the 2.6 million people who ended up watching it and had a good time.

There were certain things you could strategize going into it as to how you make up a couple of tenths of a second here or there, like reloading that Winchester 73. I hadn't done that as part of any of the other challenges, but just figured I'd get it as close to the source of the ammunition as I could get and then slam the gun against the box of ammo.

I think the win was pretty much incidental at that time. We walked into that challenge and saw all the guys sitting on the benches, it was a kind of mini-reunion. Then we just got to show off what we could do.

Well, you did well in that final challenge and took home the $100,000 dollars. I'm curious though, what else did you take away from the experience? The biggest thing I took away from the show was the friendships we established. I held a viewing party here locally for most of the episodes. For the finale episode we packed out the bar with a bunch of local shooters and friends and I talked to Caleb who had moved down to Seattle and he came down for the finale party. That sneaky bastard set it up so that Tara flew in 2,000 miles from Chicago.

You don't see that from any other reality TV show. It gets back to the personalities of shooters. It was a great bunch of guys going into the show and I don't think you'll see that from any other TV situation.

How has being on the show changed your life? Obviously you've got a little less worries financially, but others have made significant changes to their life after the show: Caleb has moved to Seattle, Peter is considering a move to Louisiana near Blake Miguez, and Denny has appeared in some television commercials. What has changed for you? I don't think it's changed me a whole lot. You know, it's not a great time to be in the construction industry right now, and we'll just leave it at that. The only thing that's really changed for me you know is I was standing in the airport yesterday morning at 4:30, standing in line, and somebody recognized me. They kind of nudged each other and said "Hey, there's that Top Shot guy" and that has been the biggest change for me so far.

What do you think the success of the show holds for the future? Both the History Channel and Pilgrim both deserve a lot of Kudos for having the balls to do this, a reality TV show with live ammunition. Now that the franchise has been proven, I think it's got legs. We're going into season 2 now and I think if we continue to build on the success of it it's nothing but good for the shooting sports.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and congratulations once again on your win. Thanks, it's been a pleasure speaking with you too.

Iain lives in Oregon with his wife where he works as a construction manager. He continues to participate in practical rifle and 3-gun competitions as both a shooter and a range officer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peter Palma: Devil Dog and Top Shot Competitor

Peter Palma was easily one of the biggest characters on Top Shot. Between his quirky personality, his colorful clip on ties, and his outrageous clothes, he certainly stood out among the other competitors. But when it came to shooting, Peter let his talent do the talking.

We managed to sneak in an interview with Peter who was training at the US Marine Corps Base Quantico just before he was sitting down to eat. It's pretty dangerous to get between a Marine and his next meal, but we took the risk and briefly talked to Peter about his background with firearms and his experience on Top Shot. Here's what he had to say.

Let's talk about how you first got introduced to firearms. Actually, I was always interested in firearms but I never had anybody who would support me in that. My father didn't like guns. The first gun I actually shot was when my buddy's dad took me hunting when I was 12, and I only shot one round. I still have the shell casing, it was a 20 gauge shotgun.

Then I didn't really fire any firearms until I turned 18 and I bought my first Ruger 10/22. That was the first rifle I ever bought, and the first real gun I'd ever shot more than one round. So, I learned [to shoot] that way, kinda figured it out my own way.

You'd just go out to the range and shoot a little bit and found that you had a knack for shooting rifles? Yeah, I had BB guns and stuff as a kid, but never any real firearms. I'd always hit generally what I was aiming at with the rifle, but I never had any formal training. Nobody ever really taught me anything. I just aimed and worked it out myself. It wasn't until I started buying a lot of guns and some people would try and help me. I had friends here and there, some of which were police or law enforcement, and they would give me a little bit [of help] here and there.

It wasn't until I joined the Marines that I really honed my skills. I was actually taught professionally how to shoot. I was already a pretty good shot, and then they showed me the fundamentals, and from there the rest is history.

You still had those fundamentals going into the Marines, you had some time behind the trigger already. Yes, I joined the Marines when I was 24 years old, so by that point I'd already owned firearms for about six years on my own.

You were a bit older than most when you joined the Marines. How did that work out for you? We call it an existential crises. Most people would join the Marines when they're young and impressionable, or when they're older and something happens: they get dumped by a girl, or whatever it is and they run to the recruiter to change their life and shoot for the stars. Make something out of themselves. Most of the time it doesn't workout like that, they suddenly realize "Oh my God, what have I done..." That's kind of how I felt.

There is obviously a lot of stuff people don't like about the military, like having to run around and get up super early with people yelling at you. But you also get to shoot all kinds of firearms, some of which I didn't even know existed until I joined the Marines. So, that's the plus side. I also met the best people I've ever met. Some of my best friends ever are Marines. You don't really make those connections with normal people. You only make those connections with people you've served with. It balances out.

What was your motivation to join the Marines? Did you join just so you could play with the big guns? I kinda always wanted to join the Marines, to shoot all the guns and do all the stuff that Marines do and be hard core. That's really why you join the Marines. You always have stuff going on though. You think about the fact that it's 6 years and I'll be 30 now when I'm getting out. I signed a 6 year contract and, when you're 24, 6 years seems like a million years but it goes by lightning fast. Sometimes.

I joined to shoot guns and get formal training, and to serve my country. They offered my $10,000 to go motor transport or be a combat correspondent, and I turned it down. I wanted to be a machine gunner. I turned down ten grand just to do that. I wanted to be infantry, I wanted to shoot guns. If there were no guns there, I wouldn't have joined.

How difficult was it as a Marine for you to get the time off to go be on Top Shot? I'm a reservist, so I only have to go one weekend a month and two weeks a year. Unless they activate you. I signed up for one weekend a month and two weeks a year, but they activated me for two years. The first tour of Iraq was a year, and then I went to sniper school for three months. Then I did a second tour which was a whole 'nother year. I just had to miss two weekends and my command approved.

Even though I'm down here [for my two weeks a year] right now, they still let me sneak off and find a cable television and watch [the episodes] with some of my guys.

What was your motivation to go apply to Top Shot? Somebody sent me a casting call, and the casting call said that they are looking for people with big personalities that have mind blowing shooting skills and who want to win $100,000. Obviously I wanted to win $100,000. I shoot really well, I mean I'm a Marine sniper and machine gunner, and I'm a firearms enthusiast as well so I have a bunch of my own firearms that I enjoy shooting because I'm good at it. If I was bad at it I'd probably like something else. I also have a pretty big personality, I'm a roller derby mascot and I dress a little crazy. I'm quite and individual, I like to go against the grain.

...roller derby mascot? Yes. I kinda fell into that. I wear many hats. I kinda like getting in a little trouble in the Marines every now and then, because I do some crazy stuff. Nothing too big, just something where most people are shaking their head at me and smiling.

I don't know if you watched my audition tape, but there are a couple of times where I'm doing some crazy stuff in Iraq like throwing grenades to fish and spraying silly string on some kids, ran around in my underwear, you know. I got screamed at for all this stuff, but they just scream at you. It's not like I'm out doing drugs or getting in fights or anything like that where you'd get in real trouble. I just did some stuff where you'd get yelled at.

Top Shot must have just been another way for you to go out, be crazy, and have some fun then, right? Yeah, I mean they wanted big personalities. It doesn't get too much bigger than mine. Then there was the chance to shoot all kinds of guns, that seemed awesome, and who doesn't want to be on television?

Tell me about your plan leading up to the show. Obviously you knew you were going to be firing a bunch of different weapons, but you didn't know quite what the show was going to be like. Did you do any practice or additional training to try to familiarize yourself with strange or unusual weaponry? The only thing they said in the casting call that they would be doing was the Annie Oakley shot, which seemed pretty easy as long as you've got good sight alignment. I went in my bathroom and I tried doing that, but other than that I had no idea what was going to happen so I didn't practice throwing knives, I didn't use a slingshot.

I do have a bow, but it's a compound bow and I did shoot that a little bit, but not at 100 yards. We were shooting a bow without sights and it's not that strong like a compound bow is. I didn't practice for anything really, other than what I already knew. I've shot pistols here and there. It's not my forte but I can do it. Then my obviously rifle skills are up there as a sniper.

I didn't really practice that much because it was impossible to know what there was [on the show]. I did go to the range here and there, I went skeet shooting once just because I'd never done it before. I assumed something like that would be on there, but that was the extent of my practice. I just shot skeet and took by bow out once.

A lot of [the show] was about adapting, which you learn as a Marine, and getting crappier stuff. One of the things on the show is that you'll see a lot of the competition guys are used to getting top notch, expensive, tricked out equipment, but when you hand them a hundred year old rifle they would hate everything about the rifle. To me if they hand me a gun, that's the gun they issue me and I can't do anything about it. I can't do a trigger job or mess with the gun. I just have to deal with what they give me and make the best of it. I think that helped me there; my being able to roll with the punches.

While Brad and some of the other contestants were complaining about how some of the firearms were less than ideal, you were just going with it? Yeah, you just pick up a gun and that's the way it is. I own a lot of the firearms you saw, or at least ones very similar to them. I'd shot the M16 before. It's like an extension of my own body, I'm very at home with that rifle. The Beretta 92 we shoot in the Marines. I have a Peacemaker of my own. I have Mosin Nagants and I've shot M14s, so a lot of the modern guns on the show I'd fired already. I didn't have to familiarize myself with them. I was already used to them. Having my own collection really helped me out there.

In the Marines, you have your own rifle, but sometimes you have to roll with the punches. For example I have an M16 with an M203 [grenade launcher] on it and I go to shoot at the rifle range, obviously I'm not going to be able to take the M16 with the M203, I'll have to borrow one from the armory or use my buddy's rifle. Even in sniper schools if your rifle has a problem on the range you can't just stop for the day. The world doesn't stop, it keeps rolling. You may have never shot your spotter's rifle before, but you're going to be shooting it now. And it's for score. You just have to roll with it. I think these experiences really helped me.

How did your other teammates complaints about the equipment you used on the show affect your perception of them? You didn't catch a lot of it on camera, but nearly everybody had the same complaints. It kind of put me off. If it weren't for Blake and J.J., I would be totally put off by the other competitors because all they were doing was whining. They had to even more so prove themselves to me.

You'll see that Brad turned around. He stopped whining and he really started putting out as far as performance goes. He's one of my better friends now. He met me in Louisiana and we hung out with Blake and had a great time. There were no hard feelings there, but he definitely had to prove himself to everybody. He had some thick skin and he did show that he is a competitor.

Did you go into the show with any strategies for how to deal with the drama aspects of the show? We saw a number of competitors literally talk themselves into elimination challenges and eventually off the show. What was your plan for dealing with this? When I went into the show I learned something: The less you say, the better. Unless it was pressing, I would just keep my mouth shut and see how everything played out. Some people would actually say "I'm going to vote for you," but I just tried to sit there. I wasn't really comfortable with that.

You'll see Frank say in one episode "I'm going to vote for you, Bill," but he ended up voting for Brad and Bill voted for Frank as a way to get back at him. Frank actually sent himself to that elimination challenge by saying who he was going to vote for. I learned very quick after that not to say anything.

When we got there we could see who the teams were. I don't know if they stacked them against us, but J.J. and Blake were huge competitors for the Blue Team. As I started talking to people, I could see that the Blue Team really had some skill there. The Red Team sat down the first time to discuss who was good at what so that we could kinda plan out the game. I noticed I was one of the more well rounded people on my team. I knew it was going to be a battle and that we would get hosed a lot.

As things were going on however, I ended up consistently coming out on top, so I didn't need to worry about the drama so much. I knew no one was going to vote for me. Most of the time I did better than them. Sometimes they did better than me; Kelly for example was really good. I never voted for him and he never voted for me.

I talked to Kelly later and he kinda shot himself in the foot because he wanted people to underestimate him. He's actually won some pistol competitions and archery competitions before, but he never mentioned that to any of use. People thought that we was just a one trick pony, and I think that's one reason why they kept voting for him. I noticed, especially in that first pistol challenge, that he did very well with it. He shot even better than Brad who was supposed to be our pistol guy. I was left wondering, and even said "What else does this guy have up his sleeve?" I think if he had at least spoke about his skill a bit more he wouldn't have been voted into so many elimination challenges.

I guess my thing was that if you shoot well enough, you don't need to play the game as much. They're not going to put you into an elimination challenge because you're strong for the team, and because it could be them who has to go up against you in the elimination. Nobody wants to piss off a guy who can shoot better than they can. If you perform well, that's less drama that you have to worry about.

You say that, and I've talked to Brad about this as well, but we've seen some challenges where it seemed that some team members like Denny didn't really rise to the occasion while other performances like Kelly's really outshone others. Every one seemed genuinely shocked that Denny didn't get sent to those elimination challenges, even to the point that the Blue Team commented on the situation. What was your logic in not voting for Denny? Denny did very well in all of the challenges going up to that one point. Watching the show with the editing it makes it seem like he did far worse than he really did. He did really bad, don't get me wrong, but they focused on how bad he did. Which is true, but while every one was talking about how Kelly did so great, he did equally as bad. He only went up once, but I watched him drop 5 rounds and miss, and hit nothing.

The reason I didn't vote for Denny was that was the first time he had really faltered in a challenge. I thought he was much more well rounded. Three team members really ate it in that challenge: Denny, Kelly, and Andre. I don't know why the rest of my team voted for Kelly. I voted for Andre, but Denny and everyone else voted for Kelly.

I can't speak for the rest of my team, but it also baffles me why they voted for Kelly in the trick shot challenge. I don't understand that. He kept performing, so I never thought to vote for Kelly, even though he was my biggest threat. On my team, I was the most afraid of Kelly. Any given day, and he agrees, he could beat me in long distance rifle shooting or I could beat him. It just depends on the day, a flip of the coin. We both think we're equally skilled in that. I think if Kelly had played himself up a little bit more, he wouldn't have been picked for elimination as often, but that's my only guess. I have no idea why they ever voted for Kelly.

One thing I've noticed, having talked to many of the participants of the show, is how many strong friendships were formed by everyone on the show... Absolutely. Blake and I got along so well, after this annual training I'm trying to find my way down there, find some employment and a place to live. I'm trying to move to Louisiana. I had such a great time with him, we hit it off so well on the show, Blake was by far my favorite, and J.J. was right up there.

It was very similar to what you find in the Marines, except that you're in a mansion and you get free food. You have nothing to do. There were no books to read. We were not allowed to have books, radio, no electronics, no television, no telephones, no computer, nothing. So you're in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. In the Marines you may be sitting on the tarmac waiting with a bunch of your guys for two days, waiting for an airplane to come. We all shared a common interest and there's nothing else to do except talk to the guy next to you, or stare into space.

Obviously then you're going to start up conversations. We're all characters, in the casting process, it's a science how they choose us. Add in that we all shared a common interest in firearms, we all like to shoot. It's the perfect recipe for forming long lasting friendships. It's the same thing in the Marine Corps. You're going to meet people that you will know forever. Plus, when the show comes out, you cannot confide in anybody else because of the non-disclosure agreement. It's also a shared experience. I called J.J. up to talk to him about something on the show, but I can't talk to anyone else about that. It's the same thing in the Marines.

One thing everyone has been dying to know: what is up with the clip-on tie and your crazy outfits at the end of the show? The tie is just something you can use on a normal shirt, it's something you can do that's so little and it just sets off the outfit. You can be wearing just regular clothes and you throw on a clip on tie and "BAM!" and it goes from being just a shirt somebody has on to something crazy.

I just like to dress funny. I'm not going to lie, I like attention. I like to mix things up a little bit. I like to stand out and do whatever it takes. How do I say this without sounding a little crazy... I don't like dressing like a normal person. I like to have a bit of pizazz. People will go out and want to dress up nice, but if I go out and I'm not dressed in something a bit crazy I feel the same as people who can't go out without makeup. That's kinda how I feel. If I'm dressed like a normal person, I can't go out and have a good time.

Some people might say you've just been in uniform in the Marines too long... I think that's part of it. When you're in uniform, you have to look like everybody else, and I'm just dying inside to show myself as an individual. There's no place for that in the Marines, but I've always been like that, even as a small child.

Talk to me about the end. We saw the teams dissolve and the competition came down to individual challenges... I never thought I'd make it that far, so the fact that I made it that far, I didn't mind getting eliminated. Especially with the gun and those guys. I'm pretty proud that I was able to stand with some of the best shooters I'd ever seen and last so long.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about yourself and your experience on Top Shot. Awesome. Thank you so much, I'm gonna go eat some chow now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Interviews Julie Golob

Julie Goloski Golob began her shooting career at a young age under the careful tutelage of her father in upstate New York. Always a bit of a daddy's girl, she soon took to the sport and began participating in matches. She has since rocketed to the top of the sport after proving herself on the US Army Shooting Team, and later again as a sponsored shooter. Julie has long been a role model for Junior Shooters and always takes time to talk to them and encourage their participation in the shooting sports.

We recently were able to interview Julie on her background in shooting as well as learn some tips and tricks for new shooters.

Photo by Yamil SuedYou began shooting with your dad when you were younger. Tell us a little about how that led you to begin shooting competitively. I started shooting at 14, but I can remember going to the range with Dad as a youngster. We had a lot of fun. I picked up brass, taped or helped him call shots with his spotting scope. By the time I was 10, I was working as a range officer with him at USPSA matches. Every August we worked the Miller Invitational. The Miller was one of the top matches on the circuit. Back then there were just a few major matches and all the top shooters came out. Seeing the pros every year and getting their autographs was very inspiring. On our way home from one of the Millers, I can remember telling my dad that’s what I wanted to do. When I turned 14, we both decided that I was ready to shoot my first match.

Sheila Brey used to shoot at the Pathfinder Fish and Game Club and was the first Master classed Ladies shooter. How did she influence your move into competitive shooting? Pathfinder was one of my home clubs in upstate New York. When Sheila shot at the monthly matches, she didn’t just win High Woman, she was in contention to win Overall. She worked very hard and the entire club was pulling for her to win nationals and make master. When she achieved master class it was very big news in our area. She was definitely one of my idols. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when she offered to take me to my first USPSA Nationals in 1994.

What prompted you to make the decision to join the Army? I had been competing all throughout high school. I met the Action Shooting Team’s coach at the 1994 Nationals and received a letter of acceptance to the Army Shooting Team. It was an opportunity of a lifetime that I just couldn’t pass up. The Army gave me a chance to achieve a goal - win a national title, pursue my education and gave me time to decide on a career. WIN-WIN-WIN

In 1999 you were named US Army Athlete Of The Year. How did that award affect your decision to push forward and go pro? Being named an Army Athlete of the Year is very special to me. I had an outstanding competition year and when I was told I had been submitted for review, that in itself was an honor. At the time the US Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) was very Olympic driven. To have the AMU’s endorsement as a non-Olympic shooter was both a surprise and honor. Actually getting receiving the title, I felt like I needed to be pinched.

Athlete of the Year itself didn’t really have an affect on going Pro. In fact, I never even really thought about it. At that point I had some time left on my enlistment and I wanted to stay in to work on my degree. By 2002 though I didn’t feel I was getting the training time and support I needed and I was ready to get out to pursue other things. The chance to work and shoot for Glock popped up. I was happy to be back shooting and be a part of the industry. Then Smith & Wesson debuted the M&P and offered me a wonderful opportunity to both shoot and do what I love to do – promote the shooting sports.

Oddly enough, my first few year’s in the Army is really what I consider my “Pro Career” time. With Glock and now Smith & Wesson I have a “day job” that keeps me busy. I work in productive training hours, but those first 5 years in the Army, shooting was truly my job.

I’m constantly searching for a training regimen that works well. Give us an idea of what one week’s worth of training looks like for you. I train for specific events. In the off-season I set my goals for the season and establish my schedule. I train based on the matches that I will be shooting. My first major is always the Single Stack Nationals followed by Bianchi Cup and the International Revolver Championships. After that it’s Steel Challenge and USPSA Nationals. Some years are different based on World Championship events like this year’s Action Pistol World Championships.

With my work for Smith & Wesson and being a mom, my training is much more limited than it was when I was in the Army. I spend a lot more time analyzing the areas I need to work on and make sure I incorporate them into my training. The less time I have, the more I know I have to focus. I work to make every round count in practice. I try to get to the range 3-5 times during the week and shoot between 250 and 500 rounds per 2 hour session. The skills I focus on are specific for the event I am training for. For example, if I am training for Single Stack, I work on difficult target arrays, challenging set ups and lots and lots of reloads. I also know there will be an all steel stage and a standards so I make sure I spend time on working the skills needed to excel there.

How important is overall physical fitness such as weight training and cardio in competitive pistol shooting? Physical fitness is very important, especially as a female shooter. I certainly want to win the ladies category, but I also want to do well overall. I know that I am competing against men who have a lot more mass behind the gun, more upper body strength and bigger hands. Spending time in the gym helps me level the playing field. Right now I work out 6 days a week in doing yoga, running and CrossFit. The more I work out, the better I feel on race day.

If there was one thing you’d tell an aspiring shooter to focus on to shave a few seconds off their time, what would it be? One thing I would tell shooters to shave off time is to work on their non-shooting skills too. Competitors often think they need to shoot faster to be better. They rush their shots and that’s when the penalties rack up. Shoot only as fast as you can control the sights. Work on pushing when you move and how you move. Learning the most efficient way to move into a position, to shoot from it and how to exit can make a huge difference in what’s on the timer. Conservation of movement is critical in action shooting sports.

I love shooting, and I love competing in USPSA, IDPA, and 3-Gun, but it’s difficult to be able to afford the amount of ammunition I’d consume if I trained and competed as much as I’d like to. What advice do you have for shooters who want to train more, but can’t afford tons of ammunition? I hear you! It’s all about being smart on how you train and make your bullets count. Everyone is feeling the ammo crunch. Even shooters with the money to buy all the ammo they want and more have faced some challenges this year. Airsoft and .22 training are good options, but you also can’t beat dry firing. Work all the skills you can in dry fire and leave the shooting skills to the range.

You’ve achieved a lot in competitive shooting, becoming the only 5 division Ladies National Champ and the only Triple Crown Ladies National Champ. Tell me, what was it like to grow and develop over time until you became good enough to compete with, and beat, some of the all time greats like Sheila Brey and Kay Miculek? Thanks so much! I am very proud of all that I have been able to accomplish. I have been very fortunate to have had all the right opportunities pop up at the right time and some great role models. I have had so many wonderful shooters to look up to, both men and women – Rob Leatham, Todd Jarrett, Jerry Miculek, Doug Koenig, Kay, Sheila, Kippi Leatham, Sharon Zaffiro (Edington), to name a few. They were my idols growing up.

In my teens I wanted to be like a sponge and take in as much as I could. When I was in my 20’s and shooting for the Army, I shot Open almost exclusively (we didn’t have as many divisions back then). I was putting lots of rounds down range and I wanted to win and dominate. Later, when I started to shoot the other divisions like Production, Single Stack and Limited-10, there were so many things to learn. Being able to shoot different platforms has helped me to become a more well-rounded shooter.

What’s your favorite Smith & Wesson revolver, and why? That’s a tough one! I love my competition revolvers but I have to say my favorite is my J-Frame, S&W Model 442. It’s my carry gun and I know I can depend on it when I need to.

The shooting sports is often viewed as a traditional “males only” sport. How do you think we can help change this perception and bring more women into the world of competitive shooting? That’s something near and dear to my heart. The biggest thing we can do is to share our sport and change the mentality that guns are just for guys. Kippi Leatham, Sharyn Cohen and I founded WomenofUSPSA.com to celebrate the women of practical shooting. There are so many talented women who have paved the way and we have showcased many on the website. We congratulate the winners and commend our hard working volunteers through our blog, Facebook and Twitter. We hope that by featuring the diverse women who shoot the action shooting sports, we encourage others to give it a try. Let’s not be shy about sharing the sport and celebrating shooters!

You recently returned to competition after giving birth to a baby girl back in 2008. How has your new role as Mom affected your schedule and ability to train and travel? Being a mom is certainly my priority. The number of matches I compete in has drastically reduced and I don’t get to shoot many state or area championship. The matches on my schedule are world and national events with very few exceptions. As a mom, I have less time to train too. When I do get to shoot though, I give it 110%. I also strive to set realistic goals. Being a parent makes your realize that life happens. Sure, I want to win every competition I enter, but I also shoot because I love the challenge, setting goals and spending time with great people.

Do you plan on getting your child involved in the shooting sports when she gets older? I would love for my daughter to be a shooter. Both my husband I love hunting and shooting. I can only hope that she does too, but if she doesn’t, that’s ok too. Most of all we want her to know how important our 2nd Amendment rights are and to always defend them with her vote.

How do you respond to people who think that pistol shooting sports should be banned or made illegal, as has been done in the United Kingdom? I ask them to try shooting before they condemn it. Chances are if they have a great experience at the range, they forget their fears and become open to a fun and exciting sport. I am convinced there is a shooting sport out there everyone can love whether its breaking clays, running through action courses or tearing out an X-ring. The trick is getting them to give it a try.

Thanks for taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to answer a few questions. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Thanks so much for the opportunity to chat. I enjoy reading the interviews posted here. Thanks for promoting the shooting sports!

Julie Golob makes her home in Glasgow Montana with her husband and baby girl.