Friday, September 19, 2014

Hooray! I found my holster!

Not for me, you understand, which is why I was so very, very annoyed at not being able to find one of my holsters. I found someone who wanted to trade my XD.45 for a Glock 19. The XD wasn't precisely what he was looking for (and he's still looking for an XD or XDM in .40 if anyone's got one) but he liked that I had two holsters to offer with it. But you know how one is none and two is one? Two holsters turned out to be one once I tried to figure out where I had last put the Crossbreed Supertuck I had promised to trade. It took me a week to find it (that's a week after the trade was made!) and I was actually planning to give up today and order him a new holster. I didn't want to do that, of course, but it was a little late not to deliver what I'd promised. Luckily, giving up and deciding not to look for the thing anymore did the trick (as it so often does) and I found it sticking out of a drawer of clothes this morning. No idea how it got there; the last time I remembered seeing it was when I brought it into the house from the trunk of my car about three weeks ago.

The first holster I'd bought for the XD had been a BLACKHAWK! SERPA, followed by a BLACKHAWK! Sporter, the same basic holster without the SERPA retention device.  I trashed the SERPA early this year after learning that a rash of negligent discharges upon the draw were leading many instructors to ban it from gun school. I never had a problem personally, and in fact I liked the fact that, with my particular draw, the SERPA lock button tended to place my finger high on the frame, nowhere near the trigger. But there seemed to be little point in taking the risk, especially for a holster I wouldn't be able to use at gun school, and once I found videos of SERPAs locking up when they got dirty, there was just no point in messing with it. There are a LOT of holsters out there.

I held on to the Sporter, because without the retention device, it makes an excellent holster for range time and USPSA competition. It's secure, the big front cutout aids in reholstering, and the paddle attachment is robust and well-designed. My only comparison, from personal experience, is admittedly a Comp-Tac International competition holster . . . but that sample of one left me unimpressed. I like the Comp-Tac and continue to use it in USPSA with its slotted belt mount, but the paddle is thin and fragile, as if it were designed to save weight. Mine cracked in two across the top of the mount the first time I tried to slip it on. The Sporter has held up to years of use. 

Anyway, all that aside, I didn't lose the Sporter. I traded it with the pistol last weekend, and I was pleased to find that my new Glock came with the same holster (with the paddle already mounted.)

No, I lost that Crossbreed Supertuck that I had customized with my own "Combat Cut." Back when concealed carry in Illinois was more of a possibility on the horizon than a fait accompli, I wanted to carry my modern polymer pistol in a modern holster designed for it, so I looked around and noticed that all the buzz was about these Crossbreeds and other "hybrid" holsters. They were supposed to be the ultimate in comfort, and that sounded good, and they were "tuckable"for the ultimate in concealment, and that sounded great. I picked one up when my friends at KAP Guns were clearing them out at half price, the owner having been offended by something Crossbreed had done on their last order.

And I carried that XD across Missouri and Kansas in that holster, and it worked as advertised. It really was pretty comfortable, and I began to realize how little attention people paid to the odd bulge here or there on a clean-cut guy with his shirt tucked neatly in. It was carrying that XD across the west that made me rethink my assumption that I would need to get a small subcompact pistol "when carry passes." But it was also bulky, and it was very hard to do anything more athletic than a brisk walk with a full-weight service pistol in it. Today, I don't have a "hybrid" for the Glock I carry, and I won't be adding one. Instead, I'll be carrying the G19 (once it's vetted with carry ammo, which no, I haven't done yet) in the same Raven Concealment Phantom I use for the G17. I use the tuckable belt loops, and unlike the Crossbreed, that holster is locked onto my belt and going nowhere. I've actually carried after the gym with the RCS Phantom on a Volund Atlas belt worn over my gym shorts with no problems. The Phantom is a big wide kydex unit itself, but still significantly narrower than the Crossbreed.

The biggest difference of all may come down to the difference in belts, since I've made big changes toward stiffer, stronger gun belts since I stopped using the Crossbreed, but it is this: the Supertuck allowed the butt of the gun to jut out far from my side, while the Phantom causes it to tuck in. I can wear a G17 just behind my hip, and I'll feel the grip against my back most of the day. I *like* that feeling; it feels like I can wear a better-fitted shirt without giving away the game. I don't have to wear tighter shirts, of course, but I've lost 110 pounds over the last two years, and I'd hate to have to keep wearing big baggy stuff just so I could carry a big, bulky gun.

(Speaking of which: I've only tried on the G19 for a few minutes at a time, but I can't believe the difference such a small change in grip length makes. It may be that one day I'll have that G17 cut down to 19 length, if it's that big a payoff. We shall see.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One is none, and two is one, and three is some, and math is fun!

I'm pretty excited about a Glock 19 over here. I killed two birds with one stone over the weekend* by trading a .45 XD for the slightly-more-compact Glock to go with my G17. Also put an end to that disturbing one-gun-long "new gun from a gun store" streak. Don't want to let that kind of thing get legs under it.

So, if I understand this correctly, I had one copy of my carry pistol before, and now I have added a second. This leaves me with one, which is much better than before, when I had none.

But seriously, folks, I'm pretty happy about this. I plan to vet the G19 and start carrying it daily, while the G17 will wear the yellow 5.11 training barrel most of the time so I can dry fire whenever I want. That should make it a lot easier to dry fire daily for awhile, which should make it easier to do more serious work in dry fire. After that disqualification at Lefthander's club match last week, I've been working on movement with the gun, and using the yellow barrel makes me feel like maybe I dare dry fire in the back yard. Not sure about that, but there should be a lot more dry fire when I don't have to unload my actual carry gun to manage it. The G17 will also become my "gamer gun" for now.

Next Glock question: what sights to put on the G19.  I've been pretty happy with Warren Tactical 3-dot night sights on the 17, especially after I bothered to sight them in at 25 yards and see what kind of sight picture I needed to see. On the one hand, that argues for the same sights on the 19. On the other hand, it's a chance to try something like the Trijicon HD's that Tamara and the rest of the internet like so much. It wouldn't concern me to have different-looking sights, necessarily, but I'd like to have similar sight pictures for both guns in terms of where the point of impact is compared to the front sight.. We'll see.

*It literally takes a weekend to trade handguns with someone in Illinois. Meet in the parking lot at Scheels on Friday, (they don't have to worry, I went in and bought much more profitable items than a used Glock) make a deal, then go home and wait to meet up again on Monday to exchange the guns. After all, if I'd handed over the XD and he'd handed over the Glock on Friday, why, we'd have had guns.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cullen L. Cullen is a real person, not a pseudonym used to write Twilight fanfiction. (Probably.)

I know nothing about Cullen L. Cullen except that he's the Superintendent of the Venice, IL school district, he looks like a stock photo named nerdy_dad_001.jpg, and he's running for the Illinois House of Representatives as a Democrat (he was unopposed in the primary, natch.)

And that's pretty much all I needed to know. If I were being greedy, though, a FAQ section that included the question, "So . . . what's the deal with your names?" would have been ideal. In its absence, I feel justified in imagining that Enrico Fellatini, a mild-mannered school administrator, never expected to be swept off his feet by a YA urban fantasy novel, but the Twilight series was just too much for him, and before he knew it, it had somehow become clear to him that he had to change his name--in a very real, and legally binding sense--to reflect the fact that he is, at heart, not only a Cullen, but the Cullen. The very most Cullen that there could ever be. 

Cullen Cullen.
I have not altered this photo of Cullen L. Cullen ( in any way.
(But of course that email address is fake . . . as far as I know.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

What are you training for? What can you do on demand?

When I talked about making my first 5K run in 18 years or so, I said it was a milestone for me. At first glance, maybe that doesn't make sense if you've been a runner for awhile. Maybe 5K isn't much of a challenge for you; in fact, if you look it up, you'll find that one of the main reasons 5K races are so popular as fund-raisers is that they're considered friendly to "non-runners."

But for me, being able to run 5K wasn't the whole story. What mattered more to me was that I was able to run it without a lot of specific training. It was the fact that my general fitness has reached the level where I can go out and run 5K on demand without getting hurt, without getting worn out--literally running that far for fun.

Training for life, not for an event:
That's the biggest change in my overall health and fitness goals in the last few years. I am not training for some single event anymore. I don't train to be a better football player, and I don't train to get a BJJ blue belt. I can switch that on temporarily any time I want (currently, I'm still working toward a weight goal that will allow me to go skydiving) but the real purpose is to build a body and mind that can be adapted and pressed into action for whatever athletic goal I come up with next. I looked at the people I truly envied for their athleticism, and what I noticed was that most of them were capable of doing whatever they wanted with their athletic skills. If they wanted to learn jiujitsu, they could start today. If they wanted to go skydiving or climb that tree over there, they didn't have to say, "Wouldn't it be great if I could get in shape to do that?" They were in shape . . . they were ready for their next interest to come along, even though they didn't know what it would be.

I mentioned that my fitness coach is on vacation this week. I'll be back in the gym with him tomorrow morning, first thing, but this week he was out of the office. What was he doing? He sent photos of himself riding a Flyboard in the ocean somewhere. This thing:

That is literally just a board with jets on the bottom to cause you to fly up into the air. Wikipedia says "physical strength is not important to perform the subtle control movements, but balance and coordination are important."  Translation: bench presses are not going to get you there without more well-rounded athletic training. And this thing didn't exist before 2011. I couldn't have known about it three years ago, but I also couldn't have ridden it three years ago. Today, I think I could.

What can you do on demand?
So that's where my fitness philosophy is today. Being able to get up in the morning and decide to run 5K on a whim without doing a "Couch to 5K" program or the like, that represents real fitness to me. Fitness, like shooting, is about what I can do on demand. A 5K run is not a high bar for a runner, but today, I can do it when it's time to do it, not "after I lose weight." That's a big first step for me.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fitness milestones: 5K run.

I answered a question for myself yesterday. See, I've never been much of a runner. Actually, I've hated running. In high school, I played football, a sport where if I ever had to run 100 yards at once, I'd be on a highlight reel. That was no accident. I did run track for my last two years of high school, but just about by accident. My favorite teacher coached the track team, and he pressured me into throwing shot put and discus by convincing me that all the running the team did would make me a better football player. Back then, I cared a bunch about that for some reason. Probably hormonal.

I never amounted to anything in the shot or the discus, 'cause it turns out those are more about skill than size, and I didn't have any. And of course, in a foot race, I was a 6'1", 260-pound ape, and nobody was worried that I'd catch anyone. But there was a race where I could contribute to a track team: the 3200 Meters, or as we called it, the Two Mile. See, even most of the real runners hated the Two Mile race, and often at a triangular track meet there would only be two or three contestants entered. If I entered, I could place--and earn points for my team--simply by grinding it out and refusing to quit until I finished the race. There was one meet at our home field where I had to move outward on the last straightaway because they'd begun setting out the hurdles for the 110 before I finished my two miles, but I did finish it. I recall running about 10-minute miles and finishing the race in 20 minutes and change most of the time. In those days, two miles just about killed me, and I often wanted to stop before the race was over. Then I went to college, did no distance running for football anymore, quit football and began gaining weight steadily. Of course, I got back into shape quickly when I got married, but having kids was what really pushed me to get jacked . . . 

No, wait. That's the opposite of what happened. I ballooned.

Anyway, present-day me has been weighing in at 259-260 again since the weekend, and I've also been thinking lately about trying to run a 5K. I've walked a few, but never really thought of myself as someone who can run a 5K. I wanted to attend one this weekend, but #3 Son has a soccer game at the same time. Still, the idea of running it was intriguing. My fitness work so far has not involved much distance running. I run laps around the gym, but that's not far; Wayne at HIPE is not a fan of long-distance running. Luckily, he's off on vacation somewhere this week, and what he doesn't know won't hurt him. I've also made the Fight for Air Climb three times, climbing the stairs at the Springfield Hilton hotel from the basement to the top floor, but that seemed like it might be too different. Could I run 5K, or about 3.1 miles, without stopping?

I started smaller. On Saturday, I took my car to have the oil changed about a mile from home and ran home. That seemed easy enough, so I waited until it was ready and ran back to pick it up. That made about 2.2 miles, but not all at once. Would I get a surprise if I pushed it further?

On Monday, I got up early and took off before the sun was up. My plan was to try to do two miles without stopping, but it felt good, so I extended my route a little and was well past two miles before I had to turn home to make it to work on time. Unfortunately, I hadn't gotten out of the house as early as I wanted to. I also hadn't paid attention to my feet, so I had the beginning of a nasty blister on one--but in terms of my lungs and heart and limbs, I felt like I could have kept the same pace indefinitely. I felt sure I could go out and do 5K when my feet were ready.

Yesterday, I got up, checked my feet, found them sound, and decided to go for it. It was raining a bit, but warm enough, and it felt great to run. I ended up putting 3.5 miles in without wearing out! I don't know what my time was, but I know I listened to an episode of "Welcome to Night Vale" (The Whispering Forest, to be exact.) I think I did 3.5 miles in less than 30 minutes, which would be a faster pace than I ever ran such a distance back in high school. I don't think that would be completely surprising, because I never really understood anything anyone tried to teach me about running form back then, and I think I run much more efficiently now.

This is a milestone for me, even if it may seem like no big deal to others. I think it's likely that by any objective measure other than maximum bench press, I'm healthier and more athletic now than I was when I graduated from high school. I "worked out" a lot back then, but I didn't know what I was doing. I was constantly injured and had little real core strength or cardiovascular endurance. Moreover, I feel like I'm on my way to lighter and leaner weight and greater and greater strength. I'm pretty confident that 36-year-old me could take 18-year-old me in just about any athletic contest, and I expect 40-year-old me to be capable of smoking 20-year-old me.

Monday, September 8, 2014

USPSA Lessons Learned

I learned six valuable things at my local USPSA club match yesterday:
  1.  In USPSA, I can leave the "shooting area" all I want without penalty; it'll only cost me if I fire a shot while out of bounds.
  2.  If a stage requires me to start with gun and "all magazines" on a barrel or table, it's probably worth it to put magazines into a pouch after the buzzer unless I want to hold 'em. I seriously considered firing the first two magazines strong - hand - only, and I did fire one that way, but I stuffed the third mag in my front left pocket as I went. Only afterward did I find out that retrieving that mag from a pocket forward of my centerline should bump me into Open with the raceguns. Oops.
  3.  My ability to call shots has improved,  and I shot all alphas faster than I've shot alpha - charlies and alpha - mikes in the past.  Dry fire and working with a timer are paying off. This is no time to stop.
  4.  Speaking of things that paid off, handguns are not magical. They have to be sighted in like any other missile launcher with sights. After I installed night sights from Warren Tactical, I continued to shoot Dot Torture at 5-7 yards like my life depended on it, but I didn't take the simple expedient of putting up a paper plate at 25 yards to figure out what sight picture I need to see to hit a plate at that distance. Of course, there was a classifier stage with plates at about 15 yards, and I shot over the top of several of them before I sort-of figured it out (I also shot into the morning sun without a hat, which is dumb.)*   To rectify the situation, I had to go back to my roots and shoot those paper plates. Sure enough, the Warren Tacticals hit precisely at the top of the front sight at 25 yards. If you try to center the front dot on the plate, and you accept a sight picture that puts it on the top half of the plate, you will miss high. If you use the sights as designed, this stock Glock 17 is pretty accurate at 25.
  5.  I need to train myself to move with the gun. I discovered this very important lesson by disqualifying myself on the second stage of the day. I needed to draw and move left, shoot four targets, then sprint right and shoot four more before dashing back to the center to move forward and take seven more targets hidden from view. Unfortunately, I was focused on getting a reload accomplished during each if those sprints, and when I ran left and brought the gun up for a reload in my right hand, I broke the 180. I was, of course, immediately stopped and disqualified. I took a break to bag up my gun and gear, then took over the scorekeeping for the rest of the morning.
  6.  DQ sucks (I don't even eat at Dairy Queen) but it's not the end of the world, particularly when you're trying to learn the sport. I picked up some ideas as I walked around watching everybody else shoot, and I still got to walk-through all the stages multiple times. It wasn't the way I would have chosen to spend my morning, but hey, at least I didn't throw a tantrum.

This actually didn't put me far off on my goals for the day. I wanted to call all my shots, and I did that until the disqualification. I wanted to look for alpha sight pictures and make up any shot worse than a charlie, and I did that (briefly.) I wanted to learn the sport and learn about this particular match, which I'd only shot once before. Done.
The failure was creating an unsafe condition. That's not acceptable, and tonight will be my first dry fire in the backyard where I'll run sprints from box to box keeping a SIRT safely downrange. Eventually I'll incorporate reloads into this kind of back-and-forth movement. I think being outdoors may create enough of a difference that I have to practice it that way at least some of the time; another shooter mentioned that training indoors with two big white walls makes it easy to miss the 180 when you go outside, and most of my USPSA experience is indoors in a single-bay range running one stage per week.

So, the real question: is this making me un-tactical and un-ready, as one weird knife maker used to say? Will I get killed on the streets? Well . . . maybe.
I think I know the basics of the differences between "tactical training" and "sporting competition." But I do think techniques you don't use under pressure are generally unlikely to be available under pressure. If you think you'll "just go crazy and gouge out his eyes" when some guy who fights every weekend decides to tie you up and smash your ribs, I'm skeptical. I feel the same way about my ability to run a pistol. When I can draw from concealment rapidly and securely and place accurate shots on demand, fix malfunctions on the go, reload quickly on demand and call shots under time and pride pressure, then it'll be time to worry about whether practicing the sport needs to take a back seat to practicing fighting. In the meantime, nothing I do for USPSA keeps me from practicing unarmed, learning more about OC spray, or working out how to be more aware and less likely to be caught behind the eight ball.
There really is a quantity of fun, simple enjoyment for enjoyment's sake, that makes it easier and better to train and practice. I predict that I'll get better at running a pistol by having fun in USPSA. If you don't need that, more power to you.

*Either practicing in hats and getting dependent on them will get you killed in the street, or failing to wear a hat in the street will get you killed in the street, but the hell of it is that I can never remember which one. It's a damned nuisance.