Rangemaster Tactical Conference match performance – brief thoughts

The results from the 2017 Rangemaster Tactical Conference live fire match are up.

The spread between the top 20 was tight, only a few seconds between Kirk Clark’s 22.78 win, Dave Reichek’s 25.90 5th place, Massad Ayoob’s 26.86 7th place, and my own 27.51 11th place finish. The split between 18th and 19th place was 0.01 second and there were many gaps of .2 seconds or less between the top 20 finishers out of the 207 that shot the match.

Lesson re-learned #1: penalties matter.  Dave had 3 seconds in time added, which would have moved him to 2nd overall at 22.90.  Would it have taken him a few more tenths to make better hits? Probably.  At 2 seconds of time added, with 1 full second spent shooting “down zeros” 23.90 would have been good for a 3rd overall finish.

In my own case, I had 2 seconds in penalties, from my first 2 shots at 15 yards.  The preceding strings in the match had all been from the 7 yard line, and despite knowing that it was going to take a little more focus at 15, and knowing that it’s common to miss shots following a transition, I still had just enough slop to push 2 shots about 1″ out of the zero zone, which was a costly mistake.

Changing a 27.51 to a 25.51 would have been a solid 5th overall finish.  Even taking a full second to turn those +1’s into 0’s would have moved me up to 7th with 26.51.

Lesson relearned #2: Any skill that isn’t 100% in practice (10 times out of 10, preferably proven under stress), has potential to fail.  The topic of whether you should do a “power stroke” or use the slide lock lever for slide lock reloads has been discussed ad nauseum on line.  The slide release technique is faster, the power stroke more likely to work every time.

There was one slide lock reload required in the 30 round match.  Seeking every competitive advantage, my plan was to use the slide lock lever on the load, to gain that 0.5 second it provides, when things go right.  I had been working that skill in practice, but it wasn’t 100%. My hands are on the “small” side of the median. I run the small grip insert on my M&P.  That means reaching the slide lock lever without shifting my grip is do-able but not easy.

In the match, I was working the lever as the gun was headed to the target to fire that first post-reload shot, when I realized the slide wasn’t moving forward.  Having to observe, orient, decide and act (pulling the gun back enough to do the power stroke) added at least a full second to the reload time. It felt like more than that when it was happening.

Advocates of the slide lock lever technique might suggest the solution is to put a larger lever on the gun. I do run a slightly larger mag release button that I took down to the absolute minimum increase necessary to split that difference between “more reliable mag ejection” and “activates when you grip the gun hard”.  So I may explore possibilities for a larger slide lock lever.

Had I just gone with the thing I knew was absolutely going to work, minimizing the risk of disaster factor, I would have been better off but left with the lingering doubt that I could have shaved off that 0.5 second had it worked.

Lesson re-learned #3:  Confidence matters.  My talk this year ate up a lot of time that took away from dry and live-fire practice, so I didn’t feel as well prepared as I wanted to for the match.  Practice creates confidence. Confidence creates performance.