I had two objectives this morning at the range; start tracking my accuracy in a quantitative fashion and understand how it diminishes at greater distance. While I’ve had fun visiting the range every couple of weeks for the past few months, rattling off rounds at vampires and zombies isn’t really giving me a sense of progression. And with the whole quantified-self movement I thought it was time for some measurements. Perhaps more importantly, having a proper methodology not only gives me something repeatable, it legitimizes my efforts – at least in my eyes.
Upon arrival at the West Coast Armory I purchased three boxes of 9mm ammunition and three of the same target. If you’re curious a single box of 50 cartridges runs about $15 right now. So, depending on how fast you shoot, the tab can add up quickly. My plan is to exhaust 50 rounds in each target at 7, 10, and 12.5 meters. With the right target I can score every round, weighing the value of each shot by accuracy, and chart my progress. Armed with my perfect plan I felt virtually assured of success. Regrettably it’s only about two minutes before my plans for perfect measures are foiled.
Gun bay #2 is presently full. This shouldn’t surprise me. It’s Sunday and the Seahawks have a bye week. I’m guessing if you tried to do a Venn diagram of gun owners and Seahawks fans in the area you’d essentially be looking at a circle. Gun bay #2 is important as it has digital readouts on distance as you extend your targets down range. If I use gun bay #1 (for non-members typically) I’ll have to rely on the painted sight line indicators at 7, 10, 15, and 20 meters. That’s the equivalent of trying to size up a guy by the door height indicators as he’s running out of a freshly-robbed convenience store. This sets off a fire storm of conflicting sensibilities. I highly value accuracy, but I also have absolutely zero patience. I agonize over this decision for at least two seconds and accuracy loses to impatience yet again. The outcome was never really in question. I have a list (lists!) of things I need to get done today and we’re just getting started.
I head into Bay #1 which also has narrower booths per person. It’s fine actually. It’s fine. I stifle my 5% annoyance and get onto the task at hand. I’m quite eager to shoot today as its been a while since I’ve been at the range. First I get everything prepped. I like everything in one place while I load my first two clips. As I load my extended magazine it occurs to me that this clip (not the one pictured to my right) is illegal now in certain states. I say this without commentary or opinion – it’s simply a fact in states with stronger gun control laws like New York. I suspect gun control advocates aren’t terribly worried about me and have their sites set (if you’ll forgive the pun) elsewhere.
I prep my first target and extend it out to 7 meters. 7 meters is the distance of the first proper marker in this bay and, from my internet research, feels about right as 5-20 meters is the optimal target range for handguns given most self-defense situations occur within this range. Now, 7 meters (21 feet for my Yankee readers), is pretty close so I expect most of my shots to fall in the chest of my target. I’m not disappointed when I see my initial results.
Feeling confident I move my next target out to 10 meters. Showing my age I squint a bit to tell how on-target my shots far falling. I again seem to be shooting squarely in the chest range of the target though not quite as many.
I contemplate sending my 3rd and final target down a full 15 meters, but when the pulley speeds its way down it suddenly looks very far away. I bring it back a few meters and settle on what I imagine eyeball at 12.5 meters. At the increased distance I don’t have much of a sense for how well, or not, I’m faring with each shot. After spelling nearly half a box of ammunition I reel the target in for a look. I’m pleased. Most of my shots are falling dead center with a few outliers. My accuracy is dropping, but not appreciably.
Overall I’m feeling pretty good about my close quarters marksmanship. I’m getting more comfortable with my stance and more accurate. The next time I’m in I’ll have to increase the distance; perhaps starting at 10 and then 15 and 20 meters. I only have three weeks until I have my two-day defensive handgun training. I want to make the most of it.