Wednesday, August 24, 2011


So, the third season of Top Shot is on. Yeah, yeah, it's a silly reality show–and that's redundant, isn't it?–same kind of hokum as Survivor and Big Brother, but what can I say? I like watching guys who can shoot do it under pressure. 

Spoiler: There were two women this time. They went home first and second.

One quickly picks favorites and villains and roots for or against them. The shotgun guy who says, "Hey, this is my game, this is why I'm here, I'm a champion!" who misses half his targets. He won't last. The revolver guy who says, "I don't know from Glocks." but who shoots the pants off the Glock expert. He won't make it to the end.

The usual. I'm currently rooting for the self-taught kid who works at a Christian youth camp. Likable guy, and they sent him to a shoot-off because they figured he didn't have it. He smoked his competition. 

It brought to mind some gun things ...

My local gun club has a combat range, whereupon the various action shooting sports are played, the local police train, and all like that. In order to qualify to use it, you have to take a safety class. Safety being one of things that is considered of major import when you start whipping loaded guns from out holsters and waving the pieces around in a hurry as you cook off rounds. 

You also have to shoot an IPSC match clean to get the little sticker on your ID badge that lets you use the combat bays. 

Shooting a match clean in IPSC–International Practical Shooting Confederation–basically means you don't plug the range officer, shoot yourself in the foot, nor swing your muzzle around to cover your own self, the other shooters, or fans watching. If you break a safety rule at an IPSC match, you are gone. And that doesn't mean you are simply disqualified, it means you have to pack your gear and leave the area. If a range officer DQs you, that's it, no argument, it's Adiós, Billy-Bob, see you later. It's a good rule, it keeps you on your toes.

Also means you have to try again iff'n you want to use the combat range.

So, I took the safety lecture, entered the match, and shot it clean. Actually finished a lot higher in the standings than I expected. I could have come in dead last and still gotten my range sticker, which is all I wanted.

Two hundred rounds or so over ten or twelve stages–each of the shooting bays set up in a scenario, requiring that you shoot them in a certain order; some of them shoot/don't shoot targets; this many rounds each, stand here, lie there; mandatory reloads, and so on. 

The morning of the shoot, we walked through the stages, were shown what they were, and given a sheet laying out the course of fire. Went in groups and took turns.

I was using a five-shot revolver, a snubnose .38 Special, and right off the bat I was at a disadvantage, because the match was not what is known as "revolver neutral," and certainly not "five-shot snubby neutral ..." (This means some of the courses needed seven shots, and most of the semiauto-pistol magazines would allow that without reloading.)

I was slow, had to reload more often, and using what are called "rudimentary" sights. Even so, I beat a few guys with tricked-out pistols, (aka raceguns,) because this kind match is scored for speed and accuracy, and you basically can't shoot fast enough to make up for more than a couple of misses. Speed is fine, but accuracy is final. I was slow, but I was hitting the targets.

When I told this story on a gun forum, I had a guy call me a liar. Dude, he said, no way you could beat guys with raceguns using a S&W Chief, no way!

I pointed out that there were a lot of newbies qualifying and this was their first time and they didn't deal well with the pressure: that there were folks who thought spray-and-pray was the way to go–got fifteen? use 'em all! Plus I had put several thousand rounds though my weapon, was comfortable with it, knew where it would shoot, and took my time. Usually the hare wins, sometimes, the tortoise does. I didn't win, but I beat a lot of hares. And I was particularly pleased to beat them at the 50 yard range with my itty-bitty gun. Guy with a tricked-out .45 ACP, red-dot sights grinning at my little peashooter, and I hit more of the silhouettes at that range than he did? I loved that, I mean, I really did.)

I shot as a martial artist, as opposed to a gamer, and I'll explain those terms as they apply to this kind of handgun competition.

The basic difference is that the martial artists tend to use gear they will be carrying on the street, either as LEOs or LACs (legally-armed-civilians). The gun, holsters, reloads or spare magazines are sported as if they were what an off-duty cop or concealed carry citizen might be expected to use. (And there are disciplines like IDPA that require this, but that's another story.)

The serious gamers push the envelope for gear–custom, high-capacity pistols, skeletal holsters, scopes, compensators, big magazine wells, lots of spare magazines, like that. Gets spendy real quick, you can drop three or four grand on the hardware, and burn through a lot of ammo bringing it up to snuff.

These players also figure out how to game the system. If a rule says you have to fire twelve rounds from two positions, put two into each target, and do a mandatory reload between positions, but it doesn't say how you have to divide those up? The gamers will quickly figure out that maybe shooting eleven from this position, leaving a round in the chamber and shoving in a fresh magazine to cook off the last shot at the second station will gain them a  couple of seconds. 

Nothing wrong with this. It's legal, and if your goal is to win the match, you look for ways to shave time, because at the top end, everybody will be doing it. You want to win the Mr. Olympia? You better be stacking steroids. 

The martial artists don't win the open matches. There are divisions configured for stock pistols or revolvers, but those shooters don't win the open matches, either. You don't beat a fuel dragster in the quarter with your stock Camry. Unless the dragster blows his engine ...

The marital artists sneer at the gamers. They are there to learn how to use their street hardware effectively, and while there aren't any rules about where you have to stand and how often you have to reload on the street, chances are, they say, you won't be carrying a high-cap racegun in a holster that is essentially a dowel rod shoved up the gun's barrel, along with nine magazines on your belt.

True. Two different games. Not to say you can't learn both, but it's hard to make one tool work for both.

Anyway, next week the Top Shot guys get to play with a Gatling Gun. I'm looking forward to that one. 

Oh, and two points for the first person to identify the shooter in the picture. If anybody gets it, it'll be an old fart, I bet ...


Jay said...

Is that Edward G. Robinson in the picture?
meeyeah, see?

Steve Perry said...

Jay --

Nope ...

Joe said...

I think that's the old "Highway Patrol" show I saw as a kid. Crawford?

Steve Perry said...

Yep, Broderick Crawford, from the old TV series Highway Patrol. He was a hard-drinking, hard-living guy, and his movie career had gone into decline -- hard to get along with, apparently -- but the ZIV company liked him for the role, which lasted four years.

As to the Matadors, at the moment we see ebooks only.
We considered POD -- here's a link for the discussion:

Dan will probably produce a file that will look great for POD-- but it'll be up to the customer to get the actual printing done. It doesn't make sense for us to do it on a lot of levels.

Frankly, I don't think many people will go this route. My experiences with offering POD books has shown interest approaching zero. People say they want it, but when it comes to it, they don't opt for it.

Stan said...

Just a guess... Broderick Crawford?

Oops, I see that Joe beat me to it! Joe must be older than me! ;~)

Jay said...


Joe said...


I'm 53.

I think the show as from the late 50's or very early 60's. It was in re-runs when I was a kid.


Stan said...

Hey, Joe! I'm also 53! I guess you're just quicker than me! ;~)

Steve Perry said...

Yep, the show ran from 1955 to 1959, so if you are a lad of fifty-three, you caught it in re-runs -- it was in syndication for years.

Joe said...

'55-'59? Sounds about right. I remember when my dad brought home our first TV in 1964. It had a huge cabinet, small black & white screen, took 5 minutes for the tubes to warm up.

Thanks guys, now I feel every one of my 53 years!

Steve Perry said...

My first TV: