New “Stage Builder” tool by Target Barn

A contact of mine at Target Barn hit me up about a new Stage Builder tool that they have recently released. Stage Builder is a web-based tool for building competitive shooting stages for sports like IDPA, USPSA, and so on.

I’m not a stage designer, but I have to admit I had been giving it some thought recently, so I did play around with it.

Forgive the lack of fault lines in this screenshot

The good news is, it’s easy and intuitive to use. The stage above was put together in about five minutes. You can create simple stages without a lot of hassle. If I was building IDPA or multigun stages, this tool would work quite well. The stage description feature is also appreciated, not to mention that you can save your stages.

The bad news is that it doesn’t necessarily have all the features you may expect. I was a little surprised I couldn’t easily label props/targets (had to make separate labels), or that there wasn’t a simple way to show distance marks for scale. I also felt that walls and shooting areas probably could have had their own native functions instead of being props and squares. A list of total props used would also be good, given the constraints many ranges have on equipment. Perhaps later versions of the tool will have these features?

Overall, I think this is a very convenient alternative to some other stage design software, and if I were designing a match with less complex stages, I’d be using it. The killer app here very well might be sharing stages with friends, perhaps even as some sort of community of stage builders.

Gorospe x Wampler Collaboration Advanced Practical Shooting Class AAR

While hanging out on Discord awaiting primer notifications and checking out the dankest memes, I heard some chatter about a new advanced class that was being put on by David Wampler in collaboration with Kevin Gorospe, and that it was amazing. Honestly, I had no idea who these guys were, but some Internet research showed they were legitimately top-level shooters with a lot of good knowledge to share. Plus, it was a one-day Sunday class on a free Sunday, and not a ton of money… things were lining up such that it seemed like a great idea to go. I signed up on @gw_collab Instagram and this past Sunday, I saw what it was all about.

Was it good? Read on.

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An Ode to the P320, and a Journey of Pistols

My first centerfire handgun was a 9mm Sig P226R with the DAK trigger system. The DAK trigger is not really as horrible as some people make it out to be – for a bedroom safe gun, it provides some margin for sleepy bump in the night wake-ups – but I will say that it’s also not the trigger I’d want to be shooting USPSA with. It’s a long pull, with a heavy (albeit shorter) reset.

I bought a whole bunch of Israeli handguns after that. They were cheap surplus, they functioned pretty well (after a spring change, sometimes), and they did have a cool factor associated with them. I even bought a S&W SW9VE, which was my first ever striker-fired handgun. The SW9VE isn’t the garbage everyone thinks it is, especially after you get a trigger job done to it, but I have to admit that it was average at best, and would be mediocre by any of today’s standards.

But just before MD’s AWB came into effect, I bought a Glock 17 gen 3. I had no intention whatsoever of using this pistol as a pistol – I actually paid the FFL at the time to register it as an SBR so I could mess around with pistol chassises. Frankly, I am still looking for one that I think measures up. But what I also discovered was that the Glock 17 was not a terrible gun. It was simple, reliable, had a much better trigger than my SW9VE, and magazines were not as wallet-busting as the SW9VE magazines. This, along with a bit of Blade-Tech gear, was my entry into the world of training and action shooting. I took a holster draw class, and I was hooked from then on.

After that, I got heavily into Glocks and Polymer80 pistols. Doubly so when I took a class with Modern Samurai Project and found out how much more I enjoyed shooting optics-equipped pistols. I procured a couple of Glock 34s and shot them in Production and SSP, while a pair of optics-equipped slides kept me going in Carry Optics. It worked out well!

However, I found myself starting to wonder if there was more I could do with striker-fired guns. The Glock platform just seemed to have a performance ceiling, and while more skill always beats better gear, better gear can help you better use what skill you have. This was happening about when Sig released the P320 X5 Legion. Looking at it, it checked all the boxes – heavier, better trigger, modular, and with a very substantial aftermarket. When a local person advertised theirs at a reasonable price, I went for it. It was everything I was hoping it would be, right out of the box. I bought a second one a few months later, and then recently a third (AXG Scorpion) and fourth (FCU build on a TXG grip and full-sized slide with threaded barrel).

What I love about the P320s is that they give me options without much compromise. AXG grip with threaded barrel upper? No problem. Threaded barrel upper on an X5 polymer grip? Just an FCU swap away. If I decide I really want to go with a compact-style or even subcompact-style grip, it’s $50-$60 to make that happen if I don’t already have one. All of them are optics-ready. All of them take the same magazines (size limitations not withstanding). Sig is only the manufacturer that seems to be doing modular pistols “right”, despite any number of them (Ruger American, IWI Masada, etc.) being nominally available. This is the sort of thing that makes me gravitate towards the P365 now that Maryland has opened the gates to concealed carry by normal folk – one gun could be like four different ones with slide and frame swaps.

I’m not making a play that the P320X5L is the end-all be-all of Carry Optics and Production division handguns. It’s not. It has a lot of really good competition from the Shadow 2 OR, Walther Q5 Match SF, Beretta 92X Performance, and so on. I shoot (Bul) 2011s from time to time when I can get away with SAO guns. But, from the perspective of “here is a handgun that I cannot hit the limits of, yet”, the P320 X5 Legion has been very good to me. If Sig ever brought back modular hammer-fired guns ala the P250, but with fantastic DA/SA triggers, I’d certainly love to add a couple of those FCUs and slides to my inventory.

SASP Equipment Series: PCCs

Continuing on with my series of SASP equipment articles, let’s talk PCC.

PCCs are a nice transition gun for athletes who started on rimfire rifles, but want to move into a new division as they get older. They are heavier and have a bit more recoil, but are generally not too overpowering even for 10-12 year-olds.

Read on for some thoughts.

Continue reading SASP Equipment Series: PCCs

SASP Equipment Series: Rimfire Rifles

As I’ve alluded to in other articles, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time these days coaching an SASP team. We did great at Nationals – much better than I expected – but a lot of work went into it to get the team there.

I would say one of the biggest responsibilities for an SASP coach is guiding athletes to what equipment is going to give them the most (legal) advantage at matches. While I don’t think equipment is the end-all, be-all, I do think it will help give athletes a noticeable performance advantage. Good example: one young woman on the team who was already a fantastic shooter swapped to fiber optic sights and a better trigger, and she turned in better times on several stages. Those equipment changes didn’t make her any better or worse, but they sure helped enable faster splits across transitions. (She wound up placing third in women’s iron sight competition at Nationals, which is awesome!!!).

One critique I have of the SASP organization is that there is precious little out there in terms of writing about how to equip athletes… and I am going to try to help fill the gap. While it is tempting to simply go “use what the RFRI/O Steel Challenge folks use!”, not all of those choices work well for young adults who are not fully physically mature quite yet. Read on for some thoughts.

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Aridus Industries Carrier Spring Tool Review

Aridus Industries has released a carrier spring tool designed to set the springs in the Aridus Q-DCs deeper. Further, the newest Q-DCs will already have the springs set deeper by default, so those of you who are newcomers to the ecosystem won’t have to deal with this in the first place.

Why is this important? Because setting the springs deeper fixes the issues I had with too-strong retention that I encountered during the Green Ops shotgun class. Shells go into the carriers without getting caught on the cut-outs, and they come out of the carrier with much less force. The shells are still held in pretty well, so you’re not losing that Q-DC retention performance that made the system so attractive in the first place.

The tool comes with instructions, but you really don’t need them… just stick the tool into each slot on the carrier from the top and then the bottom (or vice versa), and it will push the spring in adequately. The tools are supposedly calibrated for Federal Flite Control shells, but the difference was immediately obvious even with dummy shells.

The one caveat that that you’re paying $12 plus shipping to buy the tool to do this, and if you only have a couple carriers, I’m not sure it will be cost-effective. I have a whole bunch of carriers, so it seemed worthwhile. There is a part of me that wonders if a 3D printed version could accomplish a similar goal, but that is an experiment for another time…

Burris Fastfire IV (4) Review

I’ve gotten deep into optics on pistols. But this is mostly optics mounted to pistol slides. Now that I’m coaching an SASP team, I’ve started having to familiarize myself with pistol optics mounted to rails. SASP competitors go this route so they can use the same pistols in both irons and optics divisions. In a perfect world, you’d use different guns, but this could mean literally mean thousands of dollars in guns, and youth sports don’t typically support such high costs.

I have a Ruger MkIV 22/45 Lite and a MkIII 22/45, and I needed an optics solution for them. I had an old Docter-style ADM mount lying around, so I decided I would try out the new Burris Fastfire 4 (FF4). I liked the FF3 – I still run it on a Glock slide from time to time – but found that the window was smaller than I preferred. The FF4 has a bigger window, better battery life, and an intriguing selectable reticle. What did I think? Read on…

Continue reading Burris Fastfire IV (4) Review

Green Ops Advanced Competition Pistol Class AAR

It’s been about six months since I’ve taken a class. This was not entirely intentional (a TOC class got cancelled in the interim), but is in line with my goal of being more selective with how I use my time vis a vis classes vs competition.

When I saw the post from Green Ops on Facebook that they would be hosting an advanced competition class, I jumped on it. I literally signed up minutes after seeing the post. I know I have deficiencies with movement and stage planning, and a class that could help me fix those things would be absolutely worth it.

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Wolf 145gr .300 AAC Blackout Ammo Review

My friends at the TargetBarn company – an online ammo and targets retailer – apparently thought that my previous review of Federal Syntech 130gr “PCC” 9mm ammo was not the worst thing in the world that they had ever read, and offered to sponsor another ammo review. We went back and forth for a bit, because it’s the ammo crisis, and I also didn’t really know what anyone would find interesting. Boring reviews don’t help them, and they don’t help you.

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Poking around, I noted that they had some of the 145gr Wolf .300 AAC Blackout ammo. Despite my previous assertions that .300 AAC Blackout is a caliber with no real mission, I had built out a cheap-ish upper anyways because Wolf had (or would have) cheap steel-cased ammo, and I’m a sucker for such things. They agreed to provide some for review. Well, smash-cut to September 2021, and that cheap ammo is not looking so likely anymore. Now we have a different question: should you stock up on a bunch of this before it’s gone?

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