Glocking Around Again

I stood on the line, bow in hand, arrow nocked, fingers trembling on the handle of my release. The occasion was my first-ever national archery competition. The rules were simple: 3 arrows in 2 minutes aimed at a dime-sized bullseye at 18 meters (about 20 yards). The judge blew his whistle which was the signal to commence shooting. I jerked my bow to full draw, wildly aimed, slammed my finger on the release, and quickly grabbed another arrow. Two more times I flung a hopeful arrow in the general direction of my target. With three arrows, successfully downrange, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had made it, no doubt with only seconds to spare. Glancing around, I saw the archer next to me nock his second arrow of three. He calmly stood a moment and studied the target before serenely drawing his bow, aiming for an interminable amount of time, and sending his shaft down range pinwheeling the tiny 10 ring. After a brief rest, he repeated this again on his third arrow before turning to walk off the line. I was sure his last two arrows wouldn’t count. Certainly two minutes had expired long ago. But no. It was a good half-minute more before the judge blew a double toot on his whistle signaling that time was up.

On the line at a major archery competition.

So, why am I talking about archery when writing about shooting my Glock? Glock doesn’t build bows or arrows. But I remembered this archery event from 30 years ago as vividly as if it were today after blasting off five quick shots at the giant AC-1 target. The place was Schuylkill Gun Works in Schuylkill Haven, PA and the event was round two of their annual GSSF Indoor League.

Looking back to last summer for a moment, you might remember that I attended my first Glock Shooting Sports Foundation event at Topton gun club. That was a rather humbling outdoor event but the upshot of it was I had to join the GSSF to play. So, membership in hand, when the opportunity came up to try a Glock Indoor event not far from home I thought I’d give it a whirl. I missed round one of the league which occurred the first week of December. That also happens to be the first week of rifle deer season in PA and I was otherwise occupied.

There are some pronounced differences between the outdoor and indoor Glock events not the least of which is that, obviously, one is outdoors and one is indoors. There are also less divisions available to choose from, and less variety of targets in that there are no steel targets inside. The main thing they have in common is that the participant is required to shoot a Glock pistol.

When determining how all this worked, I turned to the very-well-written GSSF rule book which spells out virtually everything about all these events in explicit detail. If you have even a vague interest in giving one of these events a try (indoors or out) I strongly suggest pouring a cup or glass of your favorite beverage and giving the GSSF rule book a through read. It isn’t just rules. They tell both participants and host facilities exactly how the shoots work and what to do and what to expect. I won’t rehash all the details here but what is relevant to the story is that Schuylkill Gun Works uses the original format. Glock provides several options so facilities can have maximum flexibility. Essentially, for each division the participant wants to shoot, 50 rounds are fired in total. In this case the course of fire looked like this:

GSSF AC-1 Target

For those that have only watched action heroes on TV use double Glocks to shoot aliens from the roof of a five story building, none of these shots may seem particularly challenging. For those that have actually shot any sort of pistol, you are probably looking at the 10 shot string at 75 feet and thinking “Whoa. That’s pretty far.” But not to worry. GSSF doesn’t require you to plug the sliver of a bad guy’s head from behind a hostage. You get a pretty shooter-friendly AC-1 target. And trust me that 30 seconds is an eternity.

It’s always a good plan to close your eyes as you shoot. But hooray for Hollywood.

When I arrived at Schuylkill Gun Works (henceforth referred to simply as SGW for brevity’s sake . . . . . why is “brevity” 3 syllables?) I was greeted by a pleasant gentleman at a cash register who glanced at my range bag and two Glock pistol boxes and inquired “Here for the match?”. I explained that I was and that it was my first indoor GSSF event. He went on to say that SGW makes it pretty easy and pretty laid back. Little did I know what an understatement this was. My expectation was the usual start time for a group of shooters with a range office and handheld timing device controlling the action. There’s always a little extra pressure when you are doing your best to hit targets while your own personal witness stares over your shoulder probably wondering if you accidentally loaded blanks.

SGW is about a 45 minute drive from home. I decided since I was making the trip, I would aim to shoot two divisions: Stock, and Unlimited. This is one subtle difference from Outdoor classifications. The Glock 34 I would be using makes me “unlimited” for indoor simply because it is equipped with an optical red dot sight. Unlimited basically allows any and all sorts of modifications to the gun including after-market triggers and other parts designed to make one’s gun easier to shoot and more accurate. Aside from the red dot sight, my Glock 34 is all stock and on the outdoor field would either be in the “competition class” or MOS class. I actually need to get clarification on that before I head to the next outdoor event. But the important thing for now is my Crimson Trace equipped 34 made my second division “unlimited”.

My Glock 34 with Crimson Trace Rad red dot sight. I think I’m really going to like this gun when the trigger gets a bit more smooth.

The GSSF indoor league is really bargain pricing. It was a grand total of $25.00 to shoot two divisions. $15.00 for the first and $10.00 for every division thereafter. I happily paid the fee and then the pleasant gentleman at the register walked me back to the very deluxe indoor range. I’ll digress to say, I’ve been to a few indoor ranges but wow. Nothing as nice as this. It featured electronic door locks, closed circuit cameras, and state-of-the-art turning target holders. We’re getting ahead of the story though.

SGW’s indoor range looking back to the shooting area from downrange. You can see the targets turned to a non-shootable position. They are electronically controlled for the amount of time the shooter has to fire each string.
Photo Credit: Reading Eagle

Once on the range I was handed off to a young man who was handling the event. Yes, one person was running the shoot. How is that possible you ask? Remember I said they made it easy and laid back? Well, each shooter ran their own event using a tablet hooked into the target hangers.

I failed miserably in getting names. I suspect the young man mentioned his name but I’m old and forgetful. He had me sign the GSSF waiver, and the SGW waiver, and add my name, division, and models of guns to my 2 scorecards. I also wrote my name on a total of four targets. Two would be used for each division. Once done, I was handed a key card to come and go from the range as I liked. (Did I mention laid back?) We then headed in and I was shown how to use the system. It was ridiculously simple. The tablet were pre-programmed for the shoot. The participant only had to hang their target, choose “Target 1” or “Target 2” and hit start. (It is noteworthy that the course of fire calls for the target to be changed after the first 3 strings. Hence target 1 and 2.) Once started, the shooter got a 5 second countdown, and then the target holder turned sideways so that the shooting surface of the target wasn’t visible. By the wonders of modern electricity and technology, the target carrier moved downrange to the preprogrammed distance and then turned facing the shooter. This was when the shooter’s time began on each stage. At the end of the designated time, the apparatus automagically turned forcing the shooter to cease and desist. The participant then, at their leisure, could reload, relax, and when ready, hit “resume” to move to the next phase. All this was repeated until the shooter completed the required strings of fire.

So at this point one might ask “How did you do?”. The answer . . . not terrible. I shot far better than I did out the outside shoot but there is room for improvement. I was not particularly nervous. Not having a crowd or even a range officer helps with that tremendously. In fact, it felt not a lot different from just shooting for fun and practice on my own but just with a lot fancier setup. Still, at risk of getting boring, we’ll run through a couple strings.

As mentioned, for the stock division, I used my trusty Glock 17. I have more shots through it than any pistol I own and the trigger is butter smooth. The addition of Dawson precision fiber optic sights was truly a game changer on this gun. My shooting has improved exponentially from the blocky night sights it came with. Anyway, the first string up was 5 shot in 15 seconds at 7 yards. Easy peasy. I double checked the magazine to be sure I only had 5 rounds, stuffed it into the gun, closed the slide to chamber a round, and tapped “Start” on the tablet. As the target hanger motored itself downrange, I assumed a low ready stance and prepared to shoot. Flip. BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Holes appeared mostly in the middle as I shot but not quite as good as I am capable of at this range. As the last shot left the barrel, I expected the target face to disappear almost instantly. But it didn’t. In fact it sat there so long staring back at me that I was certain the mechanism must be broken. I ejected the spent magazine and set my gun down on the table in front of me. Still the target face remained. Finally, it turned. “Hmmm. Okay Pete, that may have been just a tad faster than it needed to be.” This isn’t unusual for me. I very much rushed my shots at both the outdoor GSSF shoot and the falling steel shoot prior to that. I’m hopeful that, like competitive archery years ago, with experience comes patience and less worry about time limits.

I worked my way through the remaining strings of fire in the stock division, changing my target out at the half-way point. In hindsight, the smart thing to do is probably to shoot much more leisurely. As it was, I sort of hurried things along.

Once my course of fire for stock was done, I switched over and repeated the whole things with my Glock 34 for the unlimited division. The first few shots at 7 yards were a bit disappointing. I acquired my 34 just a couple months ago using the coupon I received from Glock for joining GSSF. I had only put a couple hundred rounds through it and, in typical Glock fashion, the trigger is still a bit stiff compared to those that I have owned and shot for a while. I have a bad habit of sort of mashing the trigger when it doesn’t go off when expected. This forces rounds to hit low and was the case with the first few rounds of unlimited. Again, in hindsight a smart person would have probably spent a few minutes dry firing the 34 between divisions just to adjust from the well-worn trigger of the 17 to that of the 34 but I’ve never claimed to be a smart person. Lesson learned though. With a couple exceptions I shot the remainder of unlimited better than stock which is to be expected. Part of this was due to convincing myself I had plenty of time and not rushing shots. I can also attribute it somewhat to the easier sighting (for me) with the red dot sight and the longer, more accurate 34. It is marketed mostly as a competition gun.

One rather humorous moment happened when I was down to almost my last string of fire in unlimited. Throughout the evening, I had been squinting down range after each string to try to glean how I did. In archery days, I’d have had a pair of binoculars but respectable people don’t do that at indoor ranges with pistols so squinting it was. And then I paid closer attention to the screen on the tablet and realized the target holder also featured a camera that showed a close-up of your target face and exactly how you did. Did I mention I’m not a smart person?

Scoring for the indoor match. Done at the completion of the course of fire.

In addition to not having a range officer over your shoulder hanging on every miss . . er . . move, scoring is simple. Unlike archery, there is no need for competitors to score anything as they go. The young man running the event collected my targets and tallied my score for me. Of course the league is a competition and there are prizes for winning in all different categories including overall, I had seen the spent targets turned in by other shooters laying on the floor outside the range and knew I wouldn’t be in the running for any sort of overall trophy. I would need to be a much better pistol shooter than I will likely ever be to do that. My goal was to have fun and improve my shooting skills. Mission accomplished! I’ll be back in February for the last round of the league.

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