A few days ago I participated in a steel shooting event
About two days ago I participated in a steel shooting event which took place on a beautiful outdoor range in the desert. It was the second time in my life I participated competitively at an organized event in any physical sport. Because of ammo shortages and acute difficulty I've been having getting .45 ACP, I did not have any ammunition with which to practice before the event, and even though I own a beautiful used Kimber, I chose to use my Ruger P97DC because I have practiced a great deal with it over the course of the last year, whereas I would have been new to using the Kimber. One very practical issue is that I can reach the slide release on the Ruger with my right thumb (I shoot right handed) whereas with the Kimber it seems to be just out of reach for my right thumb. Also, Ruger mags are built pretty tough so I felt I didn't have to obsessive compulsively worry about dinging my magazines when performing speed reloads.
When some people go shooting they have tee shirts, bags, or tattoos corresponding to some branch of the military, eg. Marines or what have you. As a joke, I decided to show up wearing my Peace Corps tee shirt. Also, nobody saw it, because I carried my pistol in a holster, but the case for my Ruger still has a Peace Corps sticker on it.
I didn't feel that I shot very well. For a good portion of the beginning part of the event the mental pressure of being timed, competing, and so forth made me shoot less well than I am capable of. My hands were visibly shaking, just like they were during the last time I competed. Even though I'd made the mental committment to careful aiming, I found myself intending to rush, and this basically made me miss.
One time, I'd hit every target except for the last one on a course of fire, and, thinking I'd easily hit it with just one more round, I reloaded an old magazine from my back pocket instead of using a fresh magazine, in order to save the fresh magazines for the next string. However, because my mind was on magazine management (an effect of playing tactical FPS video games?), my shot missed, and I ended up having to reload a second time. So I ended up doing two speed reloads with a locked slide at the last target which really wasn't very time efficient.
Another time, I was shooting on a relatively complex "fun" stage with many white targets and a couple of colored targets and an element of randomization in terms of the order you were supposed to hit the targets. I felt I did really well, that my shooting was accurate and my movements were smooth, and I felt really confident. I aimed at the last target but my mind wasn't on my front sight anymore, because I was thinking instead about how easily I would hit this last target. I ended up having to fire an atrocious number of shots to hit the last target in contrast to just seconds earlier when I had been quite accurate.
I feel like shooting is really a practical Zen. You have all kinds of mental pressure, noises, you're out in the hot desert sun, and there are rules to remember for each stage of shooting. Either you have a one-pointed mind on your front sight and your movements are smooth and efficient, and you hit the target, or your mind has gone somewhere else and you miss. The success or failure of your implementation of that one-pointed mind is very quantitative.
As time went on I felt more relaxed. My hands stopped shaking, and my accuracy really improved. I think the act of breathing and shooting in and of itself calms me down. It is very similar to meditation. Last time I'd competed about a year ago, I'd "warmed up" with 50 rounds to calm myself down before the event started, but with .45 ACP so scarce nowadays that wasn't feasible for this steel shooting event. In any case even though I felt I did better in the second half of the event my score was still pretty horrible, but I feel like I will be able to do well in the future with more practice as I get better at focusing on my front sight and not getting distracted by the various mental flare-ups that occur due to the stressful aspects of the event.
Here are some photos of the event, in the order they were taken:
There is a nice picture of the Ruger being fired with the slide back and smoke coming from the barrel, and a couple nice pictures of me with my slide back and my left hand reaching for my mag pouch.
Actually, one tentative plan that I have is, at least for these relatively informal steel shooting matches, to see if I can use my Romanian surplus Tokarev, because that ammunition is one of the few that are cheap and plentiful, and I can order Wolf Gold ammunition, which isn't steel jacketed, so nobody would freak out over my using it. As nice as it is to use a higher-quality pistol, if I can't get the ammunition, then that in and of itself rules out any and all event participation. The only problem at the moment is that on my Tokarev the rear sights are dinged a couple of milimeters to the right, and for some reason they're also higher than the front sights. Sure enough when I went to test fire it, the Tokarev shoots high and to the right, so at this time it's not suitable at all for competition. However, if I can get a gunsmith to fix those sights, I might decide to use it on the basis that being able to practice a lot and participate a lot trumps having a higher quality weapon that you can't practice with.
Perhaps I should just order a new Chinese Tokarev. Does anyone know if those things are safe?
(Here is a picture of my Tokarev sights, BTW: http://tinypic.com/r/a09mr5/5 )