US Steel Nationals 2014 – A long overdue update

Probably thought I completely forgot about shooting since I haven’t posted anything shoot related since late last year. I haven’t stopped shooting, simply haven’t had time to get any new posts done.

US Steel Nationals 2014

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I spent a week and almost 5,000 rounds in Florida shooting. I first spent two days with Shannon Smith of Universal Shooting Academy, during this session we established realistic goal times for all the stages. I then spent the remainder of the week leading up to Saturday practicing. The match was fun I didn’t do as well as I was hoping, but I still walked away with 6th production which is 4 positions higher than last year. One bright spot, is though I was within a second of my time at the Texas State match, I only had 17 make up shots which is much much less than I did at Texas State.

Stage wise, I only set a personal best stage time during Smoke and Hope; and Roundabout both of the hoser stages. On the other hand even though my stage times were worse on other stages like Five to Go my times were more consistent. Since I know that I had shoot these stages faster, I just need to do it more consistently since my previous way of doing it often results in me crashing and burning. Now two things I noticed that I really need to work on is to reacting to the buzzer faster and prepping the trigger. I really need to get my hands moving at the first sound of the buzzer rather than waiting for the buzzer to complete. Also I noticed from watching the video (you didn’t think I did the video because it is cool?) that I was resetting the trigger after I got to the next target, I really need to do that between targets.


Smith and Wesson M&P 9 Pro 5″ – This was the first time that I’ve had a parts breakage at a major match. During practice on Thursday the left side slide lock lever broke off. It wasn’t a major issue since you are doing reloads in Steel Challenge, so I trucked on with my current gun rather than breaking out the back up. The only thing I had to do because of it, was use an empty magazine to lock the slide back. I called S&W and they said it was a factory only part so I would have to send the gun in to get a free replacement. I just bought a couple, and will be doing the replacement myself during the next spring replacement cycle.

Now I did have three stoppages, all three were with Freedom Munitions Remanufactured 9mm, and all three sounded like a squib with a stove pipe failure to eject. I had no issues with the Atlanta Arms and Ammo 9mm reloaded match ammo.

Safariland ELS Belt System – This was my first major match with the Safariland ELS belt. Overall I like the stiffness of the belt along with the convenience. Every time I put it on the mag pouches and holster are all in the same position. When I am eating lunch I can quickly slip off my QLS attached holster, and my ELS attached mag pouches. If I am going into town for lunch, I can simply take off the outer belt. And then there is the fact that even though the mounting platforms don’t change, I can easily change the exact attachments for the division that I am shooting. So for this match I had my Comp-tac International Holster for the M&P, and the Safariland 773 magnetic mag pouch. For Bianchi it will be the XDM version of the Comp-tac holster. For USPSA I will change the mag pouches. The list goes on.

Now I did have one issue with the belt system, somewhere during the week I lost one of the pegs that holds the belt together. I noticed it on Friday, and I didn’t have a back up belt so I had to keep on trucking (Safariland has said that a replacement peg is on the way). I also say people that didn’t secure their belt well lose the belt during stages like Outer Limits. I can see why Shannon Smith uses police style belt keepers with his competition belt system. If I have any issues I will likely be doing the same.


Bianchi Cup and Other Pistol Matches

I picked up my second XD(M) 9 5.25″ that I will be using as a back up gun for these season’s NRA Action Pistol matches and any in the future. It took a few hours but I got it configured the same way as my other XD(M), now I am just waiting on the backup holster from Comp-tac. Anyways I am signed up for the Crawfish Cup, World Action Pistol Championship, and the Bianchi Cup. I got my squading for Bianchi Cup, I request and got the same shooter number as my last two years, and I got all afternoon slots. I am definitely looking forward to shoot the new mover in Columbia, as they’ve upgraded it to an Action Target tracked mover. I am currently working on getting an extra day at the SWLA Rifle and Pistol Club range to practice the stages a little more.

Anyways on to the second half of my season, due to the World IPSC Championship being at USA this year, the Monster Match is cancelled. Since I enjoy shooting Shannon’s matches I’ve signed up for the US IPSC Nationals, which will be the same stages just a week or two after the world match. Should be a fun match, and since I am going to be shooting classic division this will be first time shooting a major match with a 1911. I need to get some stuff hammered out to get my STI Trojan ready for the match.

I was hoping that the USPSA would move the World Speed Shooting Championship to fall at USA, but that didn’t quite work out. The date for the Texas State Steel Challenge Championship hasn’t been announced yet, but I am hoping that it will work out so I can shoot it in addition to the US IPSC Nationals. Either way, I am seriously thinking about going to the Georgia State Steel Challenge Championship next year.

Bianchi Cup 2013 and Flagler Cup 2013 AAR

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With the last shot fired at the Bianchi Cup marks the end of my major match shooting season, with exception of the Monster Match I have no major matches scheduled until next year. All though I enjoyed shooting the Bianchi Cup, I am disappointed with my mental errors, I practiced quite a lot on my weak areas, and though I felt I addressed them some what my score didn’t reflect that. But even saying that, at the Bianchi Cup I got a better score than last year, and I was within a point of my score at Flagler Cup.
Falling Plate Event

  • Flagler Cup 400 – 40x
  • Bianchi Cup 400 – 40x

This year is the first year that I went prone at 25 yards, I managed to get 9 plates at 25 yards during both matches, which is a much more consistent score than in the past, with a little work I think I can bring that up to clearing both runs fairly regularly. Unfortunately due to mental errors I dropped plates at shorter distances (including getting fragged at 10 yards during Flagler). I am also considering going prone at 20 yards, but that is something that I need to test on a shot timer.

Practical Event

  • Flagler Cup 443 – 14x
  • Bianchi Cup 413 – 18x

This event I made some major improvements, my Flagler Cup score is the highest practical score that I’ve gotten yet; and my Bianchi Cup score, though not stellar, is my second highest. I did this by working on eliminating my issues at 50 yards with dropping shots below the target, I also worked on my weak hand only string. Though I have some work to do to bring the score up even higher, this is one of the few parts of the match that I truly happy with how it turned out. Other than the usual tightening up the groups, the major thing I need to work on is weak hand only, though I am pretty sure that I got 8s or greater on most of those six shots, at that distance I really should be getting all 10s.

Moving Target Event

  • Flagler Cup 420 – 9x
  • Bianchi Cup 435 – 15x

Nothing to really report here, I did descent though not as well as last year. I think I need to spend some time working each distance, putting together more exact holds for leading the target.

Barricade Event

  • Flagler Cup 391 – 14x
  • Bianchi Cup 400 – 6x

This is probably my weakest event, I have a lot of work to do on this event to get it under control. Unlike the plates I am not quite sure exactly what is wrong. My best guess is that I am not letting my sights settle between shoots by shooting too fast. Using something to support myself with shooting isn’t something that I normally do. I guess I simply need to practice it.


  • Flagler Cup 1654 -77x
  • Bianchi Cup – 1648 – 79x


At Flagler I got third production, and second sharpshooter overall, winning me $50 and a plaque. At Bianchi I got 23rd production and third production sharpshooter, winning me $200. I am continuing the tradition of donating a dollar for every X-ring I shoot at Bianchi, along with 10% of any cash prizes from that match. So I will be donating $99 to the American Cancer Society, the better I do, the more money they get. It is win – win for both parties. I also achieved one of my shooting goals, I didn’t get a single mike on the AP-1 targets throughout the entire Bianchi Cup, so that goal has been revised to make it harder as noted by a earlier post.


Gun: Springfield XDM 9 5.25″ Competition – It is funny that this is the gun that I like the least, but it has won me the most money. Since I keep the magazines cleans it has been very reliable, and accurate. Beyond that there is nothing really to report as I’ve made no changes this year.

Holster: Comp-tac The International DOH Holster – I changed to this holster sometime late last year, it really works well. About the only issue I’ve had with it is sometimes not pulling the gun straight out. Also there was the pointy thing that I mentioned in my initial impressions review of the holster, but a few minutes with a Dremel took care of that. Anyways I highly recommend it.

Mag Pouch: Safariland Magnetic Competition Magazines Pouch – I’ve wanted this pouch since last Bianchi Cup when Rob Leatham showed me the prototype (which as a side note he neglected to mention that it was a prototype), Safariland finally released it. Through a little trading I was able to get one at the Bianchi Cup. I will have a more in depth review in the future, but I love this pouch.

Ammo: Atlanta Arms & Ammo 115gr Match/Practice Match – Thanks to the ammo panic it was very very hard to get the ammo I needed to shoot the matches. I was literally scrapping together every spare round to shoot my major matches. But beyond that the Atlanta Arms performed to expectations, chronoing well above power factor for both match lots that I was using. While having zero issues with the 1,705 rounds I fired. I also brought another 400 rounds of Federal white box range ammo, that I used to supplement my Atlanta Arms ammo, by shooting it during the shorter strings.

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Changes for the next Bianchi Cup

Other than the issues I noted above, one thing that I am going to do to bring things together is to practice by shooting group periodically. I hate shooting groups, but I think if I can buckle down with the fundamentals, that is the only way that I am going to tighten things up. I also need to work on developing a more evened pace through out my shooting. Watch someone like Rob shoot the match, and his pace between shots is practically the same since he lets his sights decide when he lets the shot off.

Equipment wise, I don’t see too many changes. Unlike last year I am going to work on the assumption that my M&Ps will not be back from Apex. If my M&Ps come in before I go to Florida for the Monster Match great, but I can’t rely on that happening. But other than doing a recoil spring replacement and a deep clean of the my current XDM I am probably not going to do much to the gun. Now one thing I will be changing is my ammo supply, I am going to switch to Zero Ammunition. I am not switching because I don’t have confidence in Atlanta Arms & Ammo, in fact quite the opposite I love their ammo and they’ve been good to me. But Zero allows me the option of placing an order today, with delivery at Bianchi next year, that way I am not running around like a headless chicken a few weeks before the match.

That about wraps things up, I will have the occasional local match report, along with range logs but it will be fairly quiet until next year.

Score sheets

Flagler Cup

Bianchi Cup

My plate score sheet went missing so here are the hits by distance and string

  • 10 Yards 5 – 6
  • 15 Yards 6 – 5
  • 20 Yards 5 – 4
  • 25 Yards 5 – 4


Match Schedule

I’ve been thinking about my perspective match schedule for 2013. I’ve decided to peruse two sports majorly, and shoot the rest as fun matches. The two sports I decided on are NRA Action Pistol, and Steel Challenge. So with that in mind I am currently planning to shooting the following major matches.

NRA Action Pistol

  • Crawfish Cup
  • Flagler Cup
  • Bianchi Cup

Steel Challenge

  • Texas State Championship
  • US Championship
  • World Championship


  • Texas State IDPA Championships
  • Any local IDPA sanctioned matches

With that in mind I’ve also decided to adjust my local match schedule. Currently I am shooting four club level matches a month, in a mix of steel challenge, IDPA, and USPSA. I’ve decided to switch my schedule up, and only shoot two club level matches a month, and leave the remaining weekends for practice sessions. With that in mind I will be shooting a Steel Challenge match, and mix the remaining match between IDPA and USPSA. Also I will be shooting every other NRA Action Pistol club level at Lake Charles, LA when they shoot it fall to spring.

2012 Shooting Goals

Late last year I posted on Sigforum asking about people’s shooting goals. Figured it would be good to post them here.

Initially I set the following goals for 2012:

  1. Shoot Bianchi without embarrassing myself.
  2. Complete an IDPA match with zero points down period (ie no procedurals, or any other sources of points down).
  3. Compete regularly at a steel challenge style match.
  4. Return to my normal volume of practice.
  5. Finally get classified with the IDPA.
  6. Compete at a sanctioned IDPA match.

My mid year update:

  1. Bianchi is done, and I got a descent score.
  2. Shot a IDPA match with zero down
  3. I’ve shot a steel match virtually every month that I wasn’t traveling during the match.
  4. Still haven’t returned to my previous practice levels.
  5. Got classified as a Sharpshooter
  6. Work in progress I am scheduled to shoot the Lonestar Championships in October.

Also part of the way through the year I set the following longer term goals for my NRA Action Pistol Shooting:

  1. 1. Shoot the AP-1 target events at a NRA Sanctioned match will all shots on the targets.
  2.  Achieve Expert Class
  3.  Shoot the practical with zero points down.

All three of these are a work in progress.

Bianchi Cup 2012 Shooting AAR

Shooting the Barricade

Photo by: Dustin Pluth

Final score 1630 – 78X

  • Practical – 401 – 15X
  • Barricade – 399 – 10X
  • Moving Target – 450 – 15X
  • Falling Plates – 380 – 38X

I was going to write a stage by stage analysis, but honestly other then a couple of issues I think I’ve got a handle on the match, now it’s just refinement, bringing my fives into eights, and eights into tens.

I know some say don’t worry about the longer ranges, but IMO the longer ranges make or break your performance. 25% of the match is at the 25 yard line alone. Another 12.5% at the 35 and 50 yard line. That makes nearly 40% of your available points at 25 yards and greater. That almost 40% of the points is where you are going to make up ground as nearly everyone is going to score most of the close range points.

Thus over the off season I think I will be spending a lot of time during the off season practicing. Also I am going to look at going prone at the 25 yard line during the practical, and the falling plates.

Also before the match I said that I would donate $1 for every X shot at the cup, and 10% of any award I took home to the American Cancer Society. Thus I donated $78 to the ACS this week. Next year I want it to be at least $100 in X rings alone.

Oh one final thing. I wanted to mention something about the pressure at Bianchi. IMO the level of stress this match can put on the shooter is tremendous.

Even state level matches don’t compare to the pressure cooker that is standing on the line on a Friday (the busiest day for spectators based on my observation) with at least a dozen people watching, not counting the photographers, and videographers.

Couple of stage comments.
Practical: I zoned out, and didn’t look for my front sight on the weak hand only string which resulted in two mikes, and two fives. 30 points right there.

Barricade: My mike was caused by forgetting to fire my last shot at 25 yards. I think my last minute switch to using the barricade for support might have something to do with my shots. I will practice that extensively between now and the next cup.

Also speaking of using the barricade for support, I need to watch my muzzle, at the 20 yard line I knocked my pistol out of battery. Luckily I noticed it before I started shooting, and used my thumb to correct it.

Score sheets:





Bianchi Cup 2012 Equipment AAR

Bianchi/Flagler Cup 2012 Equipment

Bianchi/Flagler Cup 2012 Equipment

Equipment used:

  • Springfield XDM 5.25 9mm
  • Stock Sights
  • Powder River Precision Ultimate Match Kit
  • Reduced Power Striker Spring
  • Reduced Power Striker Safety Spring
  • Comp-tac Paddle Holster

General gun comments: The gun ran fine with no non-user caused issues (will mention on the shooting AAR), though I still worry about the magazines, if I use it next season I will be upgrading the magazine springs.

Trigger: When I arrived in Columbia I had only installed the sear spring, sear, and safety lever from the PRP kit resulting in a 6lb 10oz trigger pull. On Monday Rob Leatham was nice enough to work on my gun, bringing my trigger pull to just over 4lbs.

This changed helped me quite a bit, but honestly switching from the Apex’d M&P with it’s extensive pre-travel, to the PRP’d XDM, which has little pre-travel and over travel, hurt me a lot. I’ve shot and dry fired the M&P a lot thus I can prep the trigger in my sleep, but the XDM was so different that I had to revert to slapping the trigger, now I have good trigger control that I don’t think that hurt me too much, but I think that running the same gun across all my shooting sports.

Sights: The sights were about perfect, it would be a little tighter on the sight picture, but I don’t feel that it was a hindrance at all.

I did make a mistake, when I signed up for the cup I pictured that it would be like a USPSA match where you don’t have time to make major changes to you guns, thus I arrived with a 50 yard zero. Instead that I found that as long as you don’t have two matches within a couple hours of each other you have time to make a visit to the practice range and re-zero the gun.

Now I am not going to blame all my dropped points on this, but it certainly didn’t help. Thus next year I will have the gun zeroed for 25 yards for all the events except the practical (and any events that might fall on that day if I don’t have time to hit the practice range).

Holster: No real issues.

Changes I will be looking at making:
My first goal will be to have two M&P Pro 5″ built into Bianchi capable guns. If that doesn’t happen by October I will use XDM next year.

As a just in case measure I am going to operate on the assumption that I will be shooting the XDM next year. Thus these are the changes I am considering for the XDM:

  • First I will start shooting the XDM full time from the Steel Challenge in March until the Cup.
  • Fitted Bar-sto Match Barrel: I want to squeeze that last little bit of accuracy out of my gun.
  • Stronger Magazine Springs: I just don’t trust the stock springs, they feel very weak, and will not feed some ammo like Wolf, and Hornandy Steel Match.
  • Titanium Striker Indicator (maybe item): Same appearance as the stock part, but being lighter it supposed to allow more reliability when using the reduced power striker spring.
  • Grip: The beaver tail on the right side bothers my thumb. Since I am more familiar with the rules I am going to see if I can fix it in such a way that it doesn’t bother me anymore.
  • Spare Parts: I will to get a small spare parts cache in case I need to replace any springs while I am in Columbia.
  • Second Gun: Will only start building if my M&Ps aren’t ready. I want to have a back up in case I have issues.

Atlanta Arms & Ammo 115gr JHP ammo (new match and reloaded for practice)

No issues, chrono’d at 1146fps out of my gun. But since another shooter was DQ’d because his ammo didn’t make power factor, I am going to test a box of it at home to ensure that lot makes power factor.