Over several years I have missed many adventures for all kinds of reasons. “It’s too expensive,” or “It’s too far away.” When it came to competitive handgun shooting I also added, “I’m not good enough to compete with the pros,” and “I don’t have one of those high-dollar comp guns.” It seemed that there was always a reason not to even try.
As a military policeman, deputy sheriff and city cop with almost 40 years behind the badge I did a little handgun and rifle shooting but going for the brass ring seemed to be a little out of reach. Sure, I could shoot great scores on department qualifications and even did OK in a few local competitions but the “big one” just didn’t seem to be in the cards.
In the mid-1980’s I started shooting trap and in 1988 got bit by the “registered trap bug.” Starting out with a Remington 870 field gun I knew that I could shoot well but the gun, in my hands just didn’t have what it would take me to score the big wins. A few years later I “graduated” to a Remington 1100 and later an 11-87. These were followed by Browning Citori’s and finally a couple real nice Perazzi’s. And with each new gun my scores got better and better.
Over the course of teaching cops, military and civilian shooters I focused on standard “stock” guns. The same things that cops, civilians and soldiers carry for defense purposes. Not one of them was really a bad gun but all had their limitations. Shooting IDPA, IPSC and USPSA type matches I discovered that when I did my job the guns seemed to shoot fine.
Then came the day when my buddy and I decided to shoot a local NRA Action Pistol Match in Aurora, Colorado. Ranges from 10 to 50 yards were the order of the day and the shooting was a challenge. Out to 25 yards my scores were competitive but at 35 and 50 yards by rounds were missing the mark. I believe the age-old saying of, “It’s not the song, it’s the singer,” so after the match I really started to focus on technique.
The next match was a little better, but not much. And those darn 8” steel plates at 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards just weren’t falling as often as I thought that they should!
I compared my shooting techniques to those of the winners and there really wasn’t that much difference. Our ammo specifications were pretty close and some of the guys even let me try their ammo in my gun in my quest for just one more plate or one more “X.” I was improving a little but nothing seemed to really help. That was when I started looking at what my fellow competitors were shooting. What an eye-opening revolution!
There were revolvers with huge sights and ribs and 1911’s with optic sights and compensators but not many Glocks. Asking around I learned that many Glock shooters would come to a few matches and after failing to be even remotely competitive would opt for a discipline that had bigger targets and closer ranges. Many of the shooters that had left, people who I knew, were fine marksman but their equipment just couldn’t handle the challenges of NRA Action Pistol.
At this point my buddy and I were still pumped up but realized that our Glocks just weren’t quite there. Still, hoping for the best we decided to sign up for our first Bianchi Cup in May of 2013. The cost was about $300 for entry fees, then there was travel from Denver to Columbia, Missouri, food on the road and the hotel. Total cost about a grand. A little rich for my blood. But like fishing, hunting, skiing or going to Vegas, this was a vacation and an adventure. It didn’t take much arm-twisting and my buddy had me ready to give it a try. Even my wife was behind me and thought this would be a good experience.
If I thought that there were some really tricked out guns at our local action pistol match I was in for a surprise when I saw what the other competitors were using. Competition holsters, over-sized grips, compensators and huge optics. I knew that I was pretty much out of my league but now was not the time to crawl away. So, like they say, “You pay your money and you take your chances.”
The best way for this part to end would be to tell you that this old cop and his stock Glock 34 won the Bianchi Cup but that isn’t quite what happened. I did win a little money in the Production Division (which means that I was shooting a stock, unmodified gun) but even now I still can’t figure out how.
The next year wasn’t much better, either. If fact, it was more of the same. I knew that the key to my improvement would be a different gun but being a road sergeant I didn’t want to compete with one gun while I carried something totally different “on the street.”
Coming back from my second Bianchi Cup I would talk to some local shooters about my experience and the fun I had. So as not to sound too much like a cry-baby I kept my thoughts about my gun to myself. Then one afternoon after a match (in which I didn’t do great) one of the shooters I really respected told me that if I wanted to get better a new gun had to be in my future.
I am a “Glock-guy” had carried one for almost 20 years on the job. I need a gun that I can depend on anytime, all of the time. I explained my position to my mentor and after a few minutes he started rooting around in his shooting bag producing a catalog for the GlockStore. Suggesting that I consider some “upgrades” he left the catalog with me saying to get it back to him when I was done.
I went through the catalog later that evening and made a “wish list” of all of the stuff I wanted. There was a lot of cool stuff but even before I retired (in 2015) I was still on a budget. The first two items that I ordered was an over-sized slide lock and over-sized magazine release. I teach some pretty dynamic tactical classes and the first time through some drills, those items really proved to be a boon to my performance.
Then I went to a “mag-well” and immediately I noticed that recoil was reduced as the web on my thumb was forced up into the recoil tang. Unfortunately NRA Action Pistol competition does not require any speed reloads or slide lock manipulation but still, these products seemed to be helping.
A few months later I called the GlockStore and started talking to the technicians who, even though I am a certified Glock Armorer, were really helpful. I asked about accuracy-enhancing additions, specifications and the all-important cost. These guys seemed to understand and accept my theme and instead of trying to sell me a whole package of upgrades suggested bits and pieces, something here and something there. It was like they were my advisors and partners in my gun-building project.
My scores showed a marked improvement on my third trip to “The Cup” but I still wasn’t there yet. I did the .25 cent polish job on my gun and that helped smooth up the trigger pull but it still was a challenge. While talking to the Glock techs at the GlockStore the suggestion was made to try a spring kit upgrade. That really helped! Then I started asking about the skeletonized striker and titanium safety plunger. It was then that my tech, Tad, suggested that I opt for the Pyramid Trigger System, noting that I would save a few bucks over buying the parts separately. So I did! The Pyramid Trigger System really made my Glock purr.
By this time I was shooting about 1,500 rounds or more a month for practice. My scores, although much better, were still a long way away from winning. It was at this point that one of my buddies suggested that I think about a “red dot” sight. I hate “red dot” sights! They’re for old guys who can’t see and can’t shoot. Well, his “red dot” made a difference. Enough so that I bought a Glock 34 MOS and mounted a “red dot.”
My wife supports my shooting and always has. My buddy owns a nice section of property that he built a super nice range on and allows me unlimited access for practice, classes or just to plink. This year during Spring Break (my wife is a teacher’s aide) we stayed in our trailer at the range for a couple days. She doesn’t shoot much but can run the timer, pull the rope to reset the steel plates or activate the mover.
When she saw my first run on the plates, after hearing how badly I shoot the darn things, she just simply said, “That wasn’t too bad, was it?” Actually, first time with the “red dot” I tied my personal best score ever! I was pumped and made up my mind right there that this was going to be my best year ever at The Bianchi Cup.
On the Practical Stage of the NRA Action Pistol you have to draw from a surrender position, transfer your gun to your weak hand and shoot three shots in to each of two D-1 targets, in 8 seconds. Well, with open sights this isn’t too bad but with my little “red dot” I have one heck of a time recovering from recoil. And at 10 yards you really need to make those shots good!
After a lot of practice and limited success and improvement I again called Tad at the GlockStore mostly to complain. As we visited he suggested that I consider a ported barrel to help with recoil control. The only thing I hate more than a “red dot” is a ported gun barrel but still, this guy hasn’t steered me wrong so with mixed emotions I ordered a ported barrel for my 34.
When the barrel came in I dropped it into the slide (yes, in my experience they do drop right in) and off to the range I went. Recoil was reduced enough that the cost was a valuable and worthwhile investment. With confidence running high it was off to The Bianchi Cup.There are four stages in NRA Action Pistol. The Practical, the Barricade, The Plates and the Mover. Without going into all of the boring details my scores improved in all events, including the ones I screwed up.
My scores were high enough that I took First Place in the Marksman category! A goal that I set for myself and one that I was both happy and surprised to attain.
During the 12-hour trip home the conversation turned to upgraded guns. My shooting buddy also shoots a Glock 34 and allowed me to replace some of his parts with upgrades as well. As the conversation continued we both agreed that the modular approach to upgrading our guns worked best for us. Rather than having to spend a bunch of money at once we both budgeted for our upgrades over the course of the year.
When I figured the cost of my Glock 34 MOS, upgrade parts and the dreaded “red dot” I concluded that my gun shoots well and cost about one-third of the dedicated competition guns. This is not to say that I will never upgrade my competition handgun but much like my trap gun experience it is something that I will have to work into. And until then I know that I can grow as a shooter with my enhanced and upgraded Glock 34.
There is no reason to use the excuse that your gun isn’t competitive or a comp gun will be too expensive. I’ve just proven that not to be the case. So don’t keep putting off what could be the adventure of a lifetime.