That Time I went out Back To School Shopping and found a Gun Range

Shooting at the Master Gunman on my birthday.
Shooting at the Master Gunman on my birthday.

The Flinch.

I have been dry firing for months. In that time I’ve been to the range around four times. I’ve gotten good instruction. My grip has been changed, I’ve learned how to use the sights and I’ve practiced.

I have owned a gun since 1998. And I’ve learned more since I started this blog than I had in the previous 14 years.

But I had this flinch.




Flinches like California.
Groups like California.

At seven yards, I was shooting groups that were roughly the size of my hand and the shape of California, if Cali sloped down and to the left. Still not bad. If I shot like this in a crisis situation, each bullet would hit center mass. On the other hand, if I was shooting like this when I was slowly and deliberately aiming, the chances of me shooting this well during a crisis situation are pretty slim.

I’ve been training with Samuel Hayes, pretty regularly. He told me in one of our first meetings that he expected for me to be able to reach a decent level of accuracy before we would expand into draw and fire. And my bullshit ass, California shaped groups were wasting my time and his.

You can’t get rid of a flinch without getting in range time. You just can’t. You have to train until your body doesn’t anticipate the noise and recoil. So, all of the dry firing in my hot ass garage wasn’t going to make me much more accurate.

Anyway,  I made a wrong turn out of the Walmart on Rockbridge in Stone Mountain, as I was waiting for them to develop pictures from out trip to the Botanical Gardens as part of a Back to School project for my son when I stumbled upon The Master Gunman.

The shop portion of the Master Gunman was pretty small. There were a handful of Taurus’. (Tauri? Tauruses? What’s the plural of Taurus?)  and a S&W Shield in the case. If memory serves me, there were a couple of AK variants on the wall.

The real news was the shooting range. The whole thing cost about $35 dollars. Twenty of that was from that one box of 9mm bullets. I also bought three targets and rented ear and eye protection. Not bad, considering it about five minute’s drive from my house. Next time I’ll bring my own bullets.

The Master Gunman. If my favorite bar in Philly had a shooting range and a small selection of firearms, and no alcohol
The Master Gunman. If my favorite bar in Philly had a shooting range and a small selection of firearms, and no alcohol

The range… Let’s just call it rustic. How about high mileage. Tried and true? The targets hung from wire. You cranked them out and back again. Anybody who has ever had wind up windows in their car knows what I’m talking about. They’ve been around since the 80’s. Let’s call it retro.

I had shot thirty rounds before I realized that I didn’t have a plan. By then, I had cranked the target as far out as possible. I went out and bought two more targets, and borrowed a pen.

Below is a picture of the second target following a haphazard warmup. The target was at about seven yards. Notice the WTF’s. They were always the first shots in the group. I overthink the first shots.



The group in the upper right hand corner was my best. By then I was over the shock of the first shot. I was also down to my last five bullets
The group in the upper right hand corner was my best. By then I was over the shock of the first shot. I was also down to my last five bulletsIf you took them away, the groups were respectable.Miscellaneous:
  • I’ve already said that I need to buy bullets. I also need to bring my own eye and ear protection. I found myself trying to see through a thick band of blurry distortion where the rent-a-glasses curved. As for the ear muffs, they were great. I hate the little squishy things that some ranges offer. Muffs are awesome. I just need my own. I’m sure they are diligent about cleaning theirs, but still. Cooties.
  • I like the place. I like it so much that I will try to make it there every week or two. Still, it isn’t the kind of place I would choose for a double shooting date. Quick Shot is better for that. Their waiting area is nice and big, and, last time I went, they had cookies. Stoddards would do in a pinch. But, if they are trendy clubs, then The Master Gunman is your corner bar. Not fly, but just as necessary.
  • I know Taurus is flamebait on Facebook, second only to Hi Point. But, they had a selection that was priced so nice that I was looking for an excuse to buy one.



The Draw and Shoot Drill Part II: Going Beyond Accuracy



I’ve been working on accuracy for months. Dry firing in a small corner of my garage, after doing the dishes and walking the dog at night. I rarely hear about handguns being equated with meditation, but I’ve found that the acts of dry firing and draw and fire is as close as I’ve come to meditation in a martial art.

Photo courtesy of They Die By Dawn.
Photo courtesy of They Die By Dawn.

Last time I wrote about the results of all of that practice. Three disappointing attempts to shoot the hole left from the first shot, followed by a revelation, some trigger time with a Glock 17 that shot 22 cal bullets, and then victory.

That was the prelude.

The goal was to draw and shoot a target suspended five yards away. Again, we used a sheet of copy paper. Copy is roughly the size of both a man’s head and the chest cavity. If you can consistently hit it, you might be on your way to developing combat accuracy.

One note on combat accuracy. I had been so tuned into shooting that little dot, that much of my dray fire practice had been weighted more towards hitting the dot, and less towards the actual draw. The goal wasn’t to draw and shoot a dot the size of a bottle cap in less than three seconds. The goal was to draw and shoot a sheet of paper. Big difference.

The drill: Draw and fire on the target. This time we would go in stages. First, draw and fire one round in three seconds. Then two rounds, then three, and finally four rounds. As you can see, the whole drill took about a minute. As you can see, I was slow. I did, however, land every shot on the sheet of paper.



Norcross Training Sessions: Keep Your Hand off the Trigger… Slow Down

Second shooting session at the Norcross Gun Range. This post I'll focus on accuracy. Next time I'll talk about draw and fire.
Second shooting session at the Norcross Gun Range. This post I’ll focus on accuracy. Next time I’ll talk about draw and fire. These were my last groups before progressing to draw and fire.

This is what progress looks like. I shot these earlier this week at the Norcross Gun Range.

My last session focused on a Black dot. It was my nemesis. I had to shoot it five times in a row before we would move on to draw and fire drills. I spent so much time shooting raggedy groups that instead of worrying about draw and fire, it was decided that I would worry about accuracy. Accuracy before speed became the mantra.

It wasn’t a total loss. I learned an important lesson about maintaining muscular tension in my chest, arms and hands, in order to control recoil. As an internal martial arts guy, that was an eye opener. I went home and worked on maintaining tension and developing a smooth trigger pull. That was over a month ago.

One of my first groups at five yards. Can you see the flinch? It's all I can see.
One of my first groups at five yards. Can you see the flinch? It’s all I can see.

This was one of my first groups after my return to the range. I had been bragging about how I would be able to shoot the black dot. Bragging about shooting a bottle cap size hole in a piece of paper at a range of about five yards? Yeah, well you have to start somewhere.

Sam said, “Slow down. You’re rushing it. Each trigger pull is a separate thing.”

This resonated. It sounded almost zen to me.

This was my second group. I was repeating a mantra as I shot. “Focus on the target…focus on the target…focus on the target…”

The group in the center marked "Sam" was Sam's group. Duh.  There in the middle you see my WTF moment, and below it are four more holes that should have been right on top of it. But it was one tight group.
The group in the center marked “Sam” was Sam’s group. Duh.
There in the middle you see my WTF moment, and below it are four more holes that should have been right on top of it. But it was one tight group.

It yielded a tight group, especially if you ignore the outlier hole. Thing is, that was the first hole. It was also supposed to be my point of aim. It seems as if I have a flinch. I unconsciously push the muzzle down as I pull the trigger in order to compensate for the recoil.

He pulled out a 22 cal Glock 17. “Do it again.” I shot to the left to get used to the diminished recoil, and then I took aim. I whispered my mantra, and I pulled the trigger…One… Two… Three… Four… Five… That was it.

We repeated it a couple more times with my S&W 9mm. He had to make sure that the groups weren’t flukes. The results weren’t flawless, but they were workable.

Monday I’ll post part two. It will be all about the draw and fire drill.

In the meantime…


  • Shooting the Glock was an eye opener. I haven’t shot a Glock for years. Once I got my M&P 9mm, I just didn’t like the old Glock 17 that I bought back in the 90’s. In fact, I traded it to Sam for the lessons.
    As a result, I never got much of a chance to compare the trigger pulls of the Glock to the M&P. After all, the trigger pull is the biggest criticism of the M&P.
    Shooting them back to back I had my palm-to-head movement. That’s what they were talking about! On the M&P you don’t know when the trigger has been reset. I could feel it on the Glock.
    Do I want the first Gen back? Nope. If you can’t tell, I really dig these lessons. I also like the steel magazine and the thumb safety on my M&P. But I get it now.
  • Also, Sam had to correct me on my trigger discipline. “Take your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot.”
    That’s not a big deal except for the fact that I didn’t realize that my finger was on the trigger. I tend to be very careful, almost overly so. After all, I have a thumb safety on my gun… But trigger discipline trumps almost everything else.
    Do better Chad.
  • I’ve seen M&P 22’s going for about $350, if my memory serves me. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention. After all, what do I want with a 22? How about more practice time for less money.
    It won’t be my next purchase, but it is on my radar.
  • My homework? More dry firing, (I’ll be going into the specifics of it in the coming weeks) and range time. The only way to handle a flinch is to shoot until you’re used to shooting.