Shooting Small Guns in Competition

This is a guest post from long time KR Training student Glenn M., who shared his thoughts on shooting several different guns over several months, at a local tactical match, with permission to use as a blog post.  (He’s a left handed shooter. The most common shooting error for a left handed shooter is hits going low right, the mirror image of the low left hits the typical trigger yanking right hander produces.)

One endless debate is whether competition (usually IDPA or USPSA will hurt you on the street). The matches supposedly lack realism as compared to actual critical incidents and/or training motor memories in ways that are not useful in such. One other solution is a more ‘realistic’ match – if a match can be realistic. In the San Antonio/Austin area, Eric Lambersons’s Short Range match is oriented to your carry gun and scenarios based on real critical incidents: I’ve shot it a few times and used my actual carry guns: a S&W 642 revolver, Glock 42 and a Glock 19. Here are comments on three different matches with all my faults visible:

Glock 42:  I bought it has pocket gun for those dress circumstances that warrant it and as a BUG. Out of the box it was a horror during a KR Training pocket gun class. It jammed almost on every round. At an indoor range, it fired out of battery, with fire, sparks and smoke coming out of the ejector port – which scared the crap out of me. It went back to Glock as the 42’s had lots of trouble at first. It seems fixed now and it ran at the match.

The Match:  This was a fun match.

The emphasis was close up and difficult target configurations. My frustration was with me. I decided to shoot my new G42. It’s the third match for the gun. After going back to Glock, it now runs well. No problems with it. However, on the first two stages, I stunk. I couldn’t hit a whale. The smaller grip, etc. led me to default to the classic left hander’s problem of hits going down to the right very badly. The last three stages, I managed to get back into decent but not great shooting. I was truly annoyed with myself.

My G42 mags do not drop free easily. You have to extract the empty mag most of the time. Thus, carrying a bigger higher capacity gun is a plus for the more complex stage or problem. But this is a pocket gun. I’ve conquered the “low right” hit problem with my full sized guns. But this little guy just brought it up. I had shot it in an IDPA match before and it wasn’t that bad. More practice is needed. I think I shot a J frame a touch better. Might try that.

Since the stages were based on real problems with multiple attackers – the guy who says you only need two shots on the average – BAH! Reloading the little guys is slow, esp. if you pocket carried the gun and extra mags.

It is a very soft gun to shoot. Not like a Ruger LCP which I found really was sharp in my palm. WWB, Herters and Blazer Brass – no problem or discomfort.

Not my best day. Lots of reloads and screwing up at first with the G42. However, it was a good match and a learning experience. Takeaway points.

1. Scenarios can be more complex than those written with IDPA standards
2. Small capacity guns and lots of targets are challenging
3. Need to practice with new small guns. Can’t assume you will be on target with it.
4. G42 – after its trip to Glock – ran perfectly and recoil is trivial.
5. Used a DeSantis belt holster for the G42 – it’s very small. It’s the only left handed holster I found when I last looked. For a mag pouch, I found that a Galco leather 1911 one would take the G42 mags with some screwing around with the screws. However, carrying it on the belt seems silly. If it’s a belt gun – then the G19 or 26 is the gun for me. The 42 is clearly a pocket gun.

Glock 19 – This is a 2nd generation gun I’ve had for years. It usually runs well (until it doesn’t). It is my most common EDC, alternating with a G26. Holster was a Galco Matrix.

The Match:  Shot the match again today but with my G19 which is a carry gun. So I didn’t suck. I hit most targets quite well. The scenarios were taken from real life and some were quite interesting. A multiple attack Mumbai run does make the pocket gun less attractive as a primary and more of a BUG. However, sometimes reality dress issues intervene.

On an Internet forum, a poster claims never to see a semi jam. Well, in my squad – I saw a CZ fizzle out once. A new SIG was repeatedly problematic. My Glock did one stove pipe and another Glock malfunctioned twice. I guess semis do jam. Lots of folks were hitting three targets twice each in 3 to 4 seconds from the draw.

The incident used for scenario set up is relevant as compared to the artificiality of some matches. Of course, all such matches are somewhat artificial.

The results: Good news – points down out of 30 shooters, I’m 5th. Time – I am an old fat sloth who rambles around. Towards the bottom. I might say that I’m deliberate – yeah that works. I’ve always been slow in IDPA. Accuracy – always good.

Short range with the J frame – 642.

I’ve carried the 642 quite a bit.  I’ve shot it in IDPA. Since I carried it – I took a class in snubby usage from Claude Werner’s at KR Training. Very useful.  Folks who just recommend them and don’t shoot them – they need to rethink that recommendation for a beginner.

I decided to shoot my S&W 642 that has a Crimson Trace laser grip. I wore a holster as you can’t draw from the pocket per match rules. I had two speed loaders (HKS speed loaders) on the other side. So, gun on the left side and the ammo on the right.

Eric’s match is designed to simulate real and close up encounters that he draws from life and videos of such. Thus, the targets can be complex. There can be no easy cover and clear shot paths. This is unlike IDPA where the design usually gives you cover and the path to shoot fairly easily with cover with a small number of no-shots.

One stage had six targets mixed in with overlapping and close to equal numbers of no-shoots. Another had three close in opponents with t-shirts to obscure the obvious IDPA centers. Third, a drill: three targets, hit the first with two rounds, the second with three rounds, reload and the last with 4 rounds. Repeat. Fourth – barricades, no shoots and lots of targets – the kicker – the last target is at 10 yards (the farthest distance) and it is a picture of a terrorist. You have to fire one shot at the head – if you miss – it is considered that he was a bomber and he blows up and you lose 10 seconds (as you are blown up). Last, a series of close targets with a kneeling component. So, how did it go?

1. Accuracy – pretty decent – on the first stage before my grip and trigger settled in – I missed two head shots between some no shots but got the body shots.

2. On the others, usually no -3s (targets were 2 shots, except for some mandated 2 body and 1 head and the bomb dude warranted just one head shot. So at these distances I was in the range of most of the semi shooters and better than some. I got the head shot on bomb dude – by that stage my muscle memory of the J had returned. Most people in my squad got the bomber but some were blown up. The other squad blew up quite a bit or so I am told.

3. The laser – at the real close – I could see the dot and used it for a fast sequence close up. However, in the Texas sun, it was not visible beyond really close and looking for it, is stupid – thus -the old iron fixed sights.

4. The tee shirts – lots of folks shot so low. Below the bottom of the 0 circle. Hmm? I dealt with those by remembering what I was taught and shot between the shoulders.

5. The no – shoots. In the very crowded stage, about 5 out of 8 people hit a no shoot. The shots were usually on their edges, I don’t recall a center mass shoot through but there could have been one. Something to think about for the Internet dude who will not shoot an innocent in a Orlando scenario because he is soooo good.

Take away about the J as a gun. Well, I could use it. With multiple targets – oh, are those reloads slow – no I’m not Jerry Miculek and I run out three times in a stage.

Thus, it is a nice one or two mugger at the gas pump gun. In the pocket and let’s hope they flee in terror. In some horror show – I would prefer my Glock. I shot that the match before and it was much, much easier.

The J is uncomfortable to shoot after 90 rounds – ouch. 130 gr. UMC. Started to feel it. Usually never feel my 9mm, 45 ACP or a 380. These weren’t +Ps, my usual carry.

It’s not a gun for the non-gunner if you take it seriously as compared to pulling it out and scaring the bad guy away. Yes, folks do use these successful and shoot them better than me.

Conclude, it’s a bug or mowing the lawn gun. Today’s world, I want better for the extreme case. Taking Claude’s class was a big help. Laser – maybe at night or from a weird angle with no time for a sight picture but I like the sights better. The match is a good one as it moves away from some of the artificiality of the big games.

Take aways:

  1. Practice with a real carry gun when you can. Of course, competition with a specialized gun is fun but one needs some experiences with the EDC.
  1. If you carry a little gun, that needs practice. I note that the first shots with both little guys were off until my grip settled.
  1. In my mind, there is a distribution of critical incident intensity. It’s multimodal. The first peak is no shots fired as the gun is a deterrent. Don’t need to carry ammo. The second is the one or two muggers with economic motivation. They generate the arithmetic mean we hear of 2 to 3 shots fired. Those shots, usually stop or shoo away the attackers. Then, there is the rarer high intensity incident like an Orlando, Mumbai or San Bernardino – multiple attackers and shots. Sure you should flee but if you had to fight – a low capacity J frame or semi-auto is not optimal. Shooting a match like Eric’s points out all these factors.