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John's New Shooter Journey


BenBreeg

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A little about my background, I've been shooting for about 14 years or so but as far as handguns, I never really did much more than go to the range, shoot the ammo I brought at paper targets, and go home. Shot local league trap for a while but some other things like kids and grad school put an end to that. Have been wanting to get into USPSA for a while so now I have begun the journey.

So far have a G34 with Sevigny FO front, and plain black rear. East Huntington had an orientation class last week and it was really helpful for me. Even though much of the classroom stuff is available online it was nice to have some guys to ask questions to for clarification. The best part was that everyone got to shoot three stages if they wanted. I have been dry firing but that was the first time going through a stage for me.

I learned quite a few things. One, my gun is fine. As much as I like to tinker and there is a lot of talk on here about gun setup, I think the sights were the appropriate upgrade and that guide rods, springs, aftermarket triggers, etc. are not money well spent for me at this point. I actually shot pretty well and was really surprised how easy the FO sight was to see.

Another thing was how, once the beeper went off, it was really different. I actually had no trouble staying on the front sight, it was just kind of there. But physically moving felt slow to me. I wasn't trying to go fast at all but I just felt like I was moving in molasses.

So the plan is to shoot a match in the next few weeks and get more structured with my dry fire. I have big hands but I am not releasing the mag all the time. I have the big backstrap on and may see if the med changes the way my thumb engages the release. I have Ben Stoeger's books so I should be able to put together a program that makes sense.

I will update my progress, see you soon!

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So one week in and not too bad. My program is pretty basic. At this point the foundation is Ben's 15 Minute Dryfire Routine. The main or "A" program being the core and working through the others as well as different sections of his dryfire book. Once a day for now.

This week:

-Reloads are a sticking point. When I turn the gun enough to see into the magwell I end up driving the mag into the other side. In other words, that causes me to overrotate the gun. If I just bring the gun at an angle where I see the edge of the magwell that seems to line up with the mag as I bring my left hand to the gun.

-Getting better at bringing the gun up to my eye and not "scrunching" my neck. A little forward lean and slight head rotation down is enough. I have two bulging discs in my neck so I need to stay tight but relaxed, lots of tension in my traps and neck is going to be nothing but trouble in the long term.

-Moving even a step really changes things. In baseball you run on the balls of your feet when tracking a fly ball to reduce the ball "jumping" if you landed on your heels, I need to work on smoother glide steps I think.

-Just even getting one week in is helping my index. The gun may not be perfect but the sights are at least somewhat lined up at the end of my presentation.

That's it for now.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Have started to get more organized. At first I was just doing Ben's A routine from the 15 minute dryfire. Now I have different sessions, including the A routine and different sections from his dryfire book. Still keeping to the fundamentals, with movement being limited to a step or 90 degree turn.

-reloads getting better but still overrotate the gun a bit more often than not, my grip tends to get a little lower after the reload though

-have managed to get most of the tension out of my neck while still using shoulders and arms to apply pressure to the gun

Will probably shoot my first match this Sunday. It’s been all dryfire and no live for me for the last few weeks. May be able to get to the range Sat morning, not sure. Little worried about the qualifier stage since it has both SHO and WHO shooting but I guess I will just take my time, those aren’t anything I have ever done live before.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Shot my first match today. It was really a good time. Shot at Clairton near Pittsburgh. Learned lots! I actually hadn't fired a live round since the intro class almost two months ago but have dry fired almost every day.

I made it through the match without a DQ, so that was good. My key takeaways:

-draw and reloads are fine for now, they didn't affect my performance

-what did was an ambiguous sight focus, I think a lot of the time I was just kind of looking through the gun. This seemed to happen much more on the poppers, I guess waiting for them to fall causes you to look at them

-in dryfire I grip the gun hard, I am pretty much unaware of how hard I gripped the gun on my runs

-rehearse the stage in your head always!!! I was good on this until we had an "easy" setup which was three targets, reload, three targets. It seemed to straightforward I didn't do any mental walkthrough before shooting. Before I knew it I had shot the first three and was two shots into the second array before realizing I didn't reload

That was pretty much it except on stage 4 I was shooting and realized my front sight was coming loose. I probably should have stopped? Not sure but I didn't think about it then. Finished the stage and it fell at my feet literally after the last shot. The screw was still in the slide and I screwed it back in and finished. The gunsmith who installed it didn't put any kind of Loctite in there.

Met some nice people, in fact everyone was really great. Can't wait to think about what happened, continue the dryfire, and make sure I get some live fire before the next match to work on sight focus during real shooting.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Finally got to go to the range this morning to see how the dryfire is working out. When I was doing draws in dryfire I have been focusing on consistent grip and getting the sights lined up more than on speed, I don't work with a timer. I was getting a very consistent grip there. This morning I used my phone app timer. Well, things kind of regressed grip-wise. It took a lot of effort to not just worry about breaking the first shot and rushing. I was just doing Draw-2 shots at 7 yards. Hits were mostly As with some Cs to the left. Times were 1.8ish draws and .3ish splits (nothing under .32). Not too concerned about the actual numbers at this point, but I basically chewed up my right hand with the slide. I am aiming for a high grip like Vogel demonstrates. Maybe a bit too high, had to clean the slide of blood at the end.

Another side note, the set screw from my rear sight was working loose to match my front from the match last week. Got some blue Loc Tite to fix those up.

Wish I knew how I did at last week's match but they still haven't posted the scores. I am sure it wasn't good but I would like to just see how I compare.

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I took a lesson with a local GM and it went well (from a learning perspective, I shot worse than I had hoped). The plan is to shoot 1 match a month, live fire practice once a month, and take one session with him once a month. That is minimum, hopefully can get one more live fire practice and/or a second match in. This is on top of my daily dry fire practice.

So we started out with the basics and I was doing draws to single shot. Lots of misses. This was pretty unexpected because I was getting hits my last practice on my own and the last match I didn't shoot too too poorly. Here was my breakdown:

A- 73

B- 1

C- 31

D- 3

M- 5

So he saw me dipping the gun right before I broke the shot. Certainly not doing this in dryfire but one thing he noticed was how late my grip kind of came together. So I am tightening my grip pretty much as I am breaking the shot, not good.

When we did drills with multiple shots things stayed pretty tight though.

The other thing were my reloads. Once again, they had become pretty smooth during dryfire but not so good on the range. I was missing the release buttong and flubbing the actual insert. Once again, it was nice to have another pair of eyes. The position of my gun made is so the angle of the magwell and the angle of the mag in my hand weren't aligned and he could see where that was causing some issues. By bringing the gun just a little higher things ended up more aligned and smoother.

So while I am going to continue using Ben's dryfire program, instead of just focusing on improving everything, I am going to keep going through all his drills but am seeing a goal of 100% A Zone first shot hits off the draw in 1.8 seconds and going to work on reload repetitions to get used to keeping the gun a bit higher.

I think the mini goal will be good, it is measurable and pretty achievable in the short term.

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So up until this point I wasn't using a timer for training at all, figuring I would just repeat the fundamentals and speed would come. At the suggestion of the guy I took lessons with I started incorporating the timer. I am using it for draw timing, as my immediate goal is fast and accurate first shots. It is making a big difference. While without the timer I was not drawing slow, I was at about 1.8s. Just by using the timer and challenging myself I am doing 1.3s dryfires with an acceptable sight picture on break. Will get out to live fire next week to see how it is translating.

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  • 1 month later...

So since my last entry I have shot another match and got some live fire in as well as keeping up with pretty much daily dryfire. I added the timer into dryfire and that seems to help, especially just with making it a familiar part of shooting.

During live fire on the timer I noticed a lot of first shots go left with the rest better grouped. When I did my lesson Matt noticed that it seemed my support hand was not really gripping the gun fully until until I was close to pulling the trigger. I tested this in dryfire and it is true that if I wait until late to fully grip with my weak hand, the sights are left. Focusing on getting my full grip as early as possible and when I do that the sights are lined up as soon as I can see them.

During the match I actually was in the middle of the pack for all stages but the qualifier. The qualifier required SHO and WHO shooting. I got 3 Mikes on the weakhand portion and that hosed me. Other than that it went pretty well.

Shooting a match next week and am going to focus on hits. I think the last two I was trying to balance speed and accuracy but I want to see how it goes and where I end up when I really focus on all As and let the time take care of itself.

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  • 2 months later...

I shot my fifth and probably final match for the year yesterday. I actually had some pretty good runs. One stage all Alphas and one Charlie. The major snafus for the match were FTE a target on a complicated (for me) stage setup with four shooting boxes and I need to work on longer target accuracy, as those tended to impact low. But close targets were all Alphas yesterday, and mediums were pretty much a high % Alphas.

I've actually only live-fire practiced once all summer, but dryfired an average of 5x/week I'd say, I think it really paid off. I'm sure I will only classify D because I am terrible at qualifiers (especially WHO and SHO) but I am going to put a plan together from Ben's dryfire stuff for the winter and really stay on it.

I did have a great time this year and now that I have a few under my belt I hope to get at it on a more regular basis next year.

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  • 1 month later...

So I have been done with matches for a month or so now. My first classification was pretty low, mid-D, but I am not worried about that, it will come. I have been following a pretty structured dryfire routine with almost no interruption. I plan on periodizing the off-season to focus on different areas as I go and leading up to the spring. My routine is based off of Ben Stoeger's program/drills. I have 4 main categories I am working on, with trigger pull as a it's own "side thing". So my focus areas are: Draw, Reloads, Movement, and Transition. For the first phase I am focusing on reloads. That means all 4 sessions during the week will contain the reload drills. The other three will work in Draw, Transition, and Movement twice each, with some basic trigger press stuff (blank wall trigger press, trigger pull on the beep) on Sunday as well. So I will follow that routine until just before Christmas, take a week or two off, then change it up.

Likely the next area of focus will be SHO and WHO shooting, that ate me alive in my qualifiers. Then I will start putting more combos together leading up to the first match. Draws with some movement, reload, transition between targets and stuff like that.

One thing that happened for the first time is I dropped my gun during a draw. I was actually doing a reload drill, draw, 6 shots, exit and do a reload and then engage other targets on entry. But I moved the gun forward before the muzzle cleared and the front sight caught on the holster and yanked it out of my hand. Even knowing it was unloaded that was unsettling.

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I'm glad you are sticking with the routine. Keep practicing. Dropping the gun sucks no matter what, but that's what practice is for. Now you won't do that.

Get a video camera and watch yourself practice. You'll learn a lot and can post some vids here for critique. We'll help you make sure you aren't practicing something incorrectly.

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  • 2 months later...

Have been following my training routine consistently since my last post. Got Stoeger's new video which was interesting and Seeklander's book. At first I was trying to combine the programs but instead decided to stick to Ben's for the rest of the off-season.

One change I made was using par times for drills. Previously I wasn't, figuring since I am a new shooter just doing the drills was good. I think this was correct for a few months but once I kind of got the basics down, the par time became valuable. It helps me in a couple ways. One obviously is tracking improvement in time. The second less obvious one that I kind of discovered by accident, is it forces you to have discipline. Where this crops up is if I don't have a good draw, take a little longer to get my grip, or whatever, at some point I know I am not going to make par and it takes discipline to just stay on the sights and shoot what you see, as opposed to going sloppy just to beat the buzzer. I think this will translate to a match if I fumble somewhere. Just keep shooting when the sights are on target and don't try to rush to make up the time.

The other thing that is kind of "taking" is transitioning with my body and not leading with the gun/hands/arms. When I do the latter the gun tends to overshoot the next target and I have to bring it back, even if only a fraction. When I get my eyes on the next target early and use my body, the transition seems crisper, stopping right where I need it.

Glock26Toter,

Thanks for the response. Got a little bracket for my phone to put on a tripod. Will get some vids up soon. My brother in law is LEO in Aurora, love to visit out there, it is beautiful.

John

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  • 1 month later...

Some updates.

Consistency is one thing I am noticing in the last month or so. Grip, slight alignment on draws and transitions, and crispness of transitions is where it is showing up most noticeably.

I have been making use of my notebook more, writing down the things that I notice are key components for executing each skill. I have it categorized by movement, grip, transitions, etc. It is useful to glance at before practice so I don't waste some reps before remembering something I was supposed to be doing.

Two changes I made since last time really helped. I am pushing my support hand thumb down now instead of forward on the frame. This really helped with sight alignment on draw and transitions. I think my thumb, even though I thought it was off the gun, used to be exerting pressure when I moved. This, along with stressing transitioning with my body instead of arms, has led to a lot of improvement.

The second change was with my footwork, most notably for turning draws. I used to do it how I saw Vogel explain how he did it, which is relative narrow stance and step over with the left foot and pivot on the right. I was all over the place with this technique. Then I saw one of Tim Herron's video and he is doing a drop step, then bringing the left foot around. For me, this is working WAY better, so it is nice to have that figured out.

Can't wait to get started shooting matches (as soon as I finish this powder room remodel and make my wife happy!!! :) )

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  • 1 month later...

So here we go! First match of the season tomorrow, pretty excited.

One thing is that since last match last year I have only live fired once, so that will be interesting to see if that has any effect. Aside from a few days where I was pretty sick though, I have stuck to my 5-day a week dryfire routine religiously. My goal for the off-season was to start being able to identify specific things to work on for different skills and the effect they have on my performance. I think I have accomplished that. Reloads were a priority, and after many blood blisters on my loading hand, there are two core components that make or break a reload for me. First, I need to rotate the gun ever so slightly clockwise as I bring it back, that aligns the magwell with the long axis of the magazine as my left hand goes to insert it. Otherwise I end up with some binding. Second is pretty obvious and that is look at the magwell. But not just look at it, look at a very specific part on the edge on the right side, it makes a difference.

Transitions: need to really force my eyes/head to snap to the next target then transition with my torso, otherwise I "hunt" through the sights and overshoot or undershoot the next target. This is something that usually doesn't happen on the first few reps until I consciously remind myself. Need to get that to become the subconscious normal from the first transition to the last.

I also kept a journal or maybe just a notebook. Not documenting every practice, but I document every insight like the ones above that I have discovered during training.

So, just have to keep my matches in perspective. When you don't get to shoot much you tend to put too much importance on the opportunities you do have. I need to just focus on my sights and go into match mode a la Steve Anderson (whose podcast I only recently started listening to but has had the most impact of any I do) and see what happens.

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So I shot the match yesterday and it went pretty well. Finished 11th out of 32 production. I definitely need to get out and do some live fire to translate all the dryfire work I put in this offseason though. Really felt like I lost a lot of that awareness I have in dryfire during the match. Like I don't think I was gripping the gun hard, and I have worked on grip all year.

Goods:

-stage plans and metal rehearsal/visualization was much better, and helped a lot

-no hiccups at all with reloads and I put those as a priority in my training this past winter

-was able to shoot some targets on the move (more like a slow glide) and engage fairly early when entering positions

Needs Improved:

-stage planning- even though overall it was good, got a penalty because I looked at a target from a distance and through the semi-transparent "wall" I thought there was a shadow but it was actually hardcover and I plunked one right in there (should have walked up and verified it!!!!!!!!!!!)

-I didn't do well on the classifier stage, it was Comstock and I didn't make up a hardcover, that and the one above were my only two bad shots of the match

-Need to practice some other starts, Working the Ports had a holstered, unloaded gun and I put the mag in soft and racked the slide, pulled the trigger and nothing, racked the slide and pulled the trigger and nothing, slammed the mag base plate, racked the slide and was good to go, but it cost me a ton of time plus the penalty dropped me down

So overall, as Steve Anderson would say, I shot to my ability. The things I had practiced hard for were improved, the things I didn't or took for granted cost me. Now to address those issues in practice. Next match is June 5th. Going to get a few live fire practices in between now and then and continue my dry fire routine.

Edit: chart from Practiscore didn't retain formatting, deleted

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I forgot one of my biggest lessons learned from yesterday: if is bright out, and you are going to close your eyes to visualize your stage plan, get them open soon enough to adjust back to the brightness. Almost got bit by that one once.

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  • 2 months later...

It’s been a long time since I posted! So my plan for a big summer of shooting was tempered by the realities of life. So far I shot two locals and one Level II (Clairton Madness). Travel for work effected things but I tried to adjust my dryfire schedule so that I minimized the impact. If I was going to miss days I would change my routine so that the days surrounding travel trained a cross-section of skills as opposed to focused areas. I still get no live fire training in and that certainly hurts me, hopefully I can remedy that a bit in the near future.

So the two locals were ok but this past weekend I had my best match so far. And the reason had almost nothing to do with trigger pulling. I really focused on coming up with a stage plan and memorizing it and visualizing it. This really helped as I watched a lot of the lower class shooters (I am D class) “hunting” for targets as they moved through. One thing I need to improve on is doing this as diligently on later stages as on the early ones. As the day went on (it was hot and humid) I found myself not as intense in this area. Also, telling myself to hustle between shooting positions also was an improvement over previous matches.

One area I need to improve on is planning shots. I shot a few hardcovers when I should have consciously decided to do a headshot, those targets weren’t that far away. That hurt me in points.

But overall I am encouraged. I won D class (Production) and actually came in higher than all the C class guys as well. So I think my routine is paying off. If I can get some live fire in I feel like progress will accelerate a bit.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Have started incorporating speed mode into my dryfire training. It was pretty eye opening, I found I was not pushing myself when I was just doing the drills and gradually reducing the par times. In speed mode I have dropped some of the par times significantly without things falling apart. Within a few reps of a drill pushing the par times I am hitting them and the sights are there.

Shot a local match this past week and finished 8th out of 30 in production. That is higher than usual. Stage planning and visualization is paying off in pretty big ways I think. If not for a couple dumb Mikes I would have done a little better, but am happy with my performance.

Really can't wait to get some live fire training in, I think it is really holding me back in translating all my dry fire into match performance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Shot another match this weekend.  Did well.  Finished second on one stage.  The qualifier was meh, SHO and WHO shooting.  I have done these religiously as part of dry fire but I think this is something that you really need live fire to get used to how the gun behaves in your hand.  Only one other stage that I placed badly in but ultimately it was a positive.  Every single shooter was shooting the same stage plan, trying to avoid a low port/barrel.  They also were engaging a disappearing target.  I used a different stage plan that allowed me to shoot an array of 4 targets straight on (the other plan had you shoot 3 from an angle then swing back at the end of the stage to get the last one), shoot the activator popper, ignore the disappearing target then just sprint and shoot a point black target as I exited the shooting area.  Great plan, poor execution.  Let myself outrun my sights and got two mikes on the first array.  But the point of it was to see if I could think the stage better.  If I had just slowed down a bit and gotten two Cs instead of those mikes (or even two Ds) I would have been in the top 5 or 6 for the stage.  So that is a positive takeaway.

Overall I continue to see the rewards of my dryfire program and planning and visualizing the stages as well.  Will continue to evaluate and work on weaknesses and build my strengths.

One more local then the W PA sectional, which should be fun.

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  • 4 months later...

It has been a long time since I did a journal entry.  My plan was to take some time off after the W PA sectional.  Actually ended up taking about 3 months off.  Once I paused it was nice not getting up at 5 am to dryfire before work and I didn’t have much of an itch to force myself back into it.  The first of the year seemed a good time to start.  Redid my dryfire routine a bit, not a major overhaul but I have taken all the movement and port/barrier drills out for now.  I added a few drills from Steve Anderson’s plan to my Stoeger-based one as well as one or two from Seeklander.  I know movement and entries and exits are going to be important, but as a D-class shooter I think I need to solidify and focus on actual shooting fundamentals like transitions, reloads, and trigger work.

A couple things that I noticed really deteriorated in my time off.  One was snapping my eyes to the target first.  This was lazy and I had to concentrate on it for the first week before it started to become normal.  The second was my reloads, which were pretty consistent and smooth if not blazing fast.  They were abysmal coming out of the gate.  The mag hand wasn’t getting a proper grip, I was bringing the gun in too tight and was looking at the gun in my hand, not at a spot in the mag well (for me switching to focusing on the heel where the grip plug goes).  Those were corrected this morning and things went better.

So I am going to break my year up into phases separated by the bigger matches I am going to.  From now until the Buckeye Blast will be phase one and I will use that as well as whatever local matches I shoot as the barometer for the next phase, which will be up until W Pa sectional, then I think I am going to shoot Area 8.  That should help periodize my training and make adjustments as needed.

I also will be using Speed and Accuracy mode specifically in my practice routine.

So now to get a couple of months of consistent dryfire in and hopefully it’s a short winter!!!  (Fat chance I think…)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I had re-organized my dryfire plan to simplify it a bit, focusing for the first three months of this year on essentially stand and shoot skills.  So transitions, reloads, draws, and trigger control were what made up all of my drills.  After listening to a Shannon Smith podcast about simplifying things and focusing on fundamental and reading a Seeklander post about focusing on one thing at a time, I have simplified even further.  I am limiting my sessions to 3-4 drills or variations of a drill.  I am now using a timer to time the drills, before I just did them a while then switched.

I have been training like this for about two weeks and already I would say a majority of the drills have had several 1/10s taken off.  So practicing in speed mode with more reps per drill is helping a lot.  Blank wall trigger presses precede every session as a warm-up.  Going to keep this exact program for two months, then take inventory and see where I am.  As the season approaches I will start to work in some movement, but still not to the extent I did last year where I had entire sessions dedicated to it and shooting from ports and around walls.

Arms are feeling it.  Added wrist extensions and curls daily in addition to continuing extend a hand bands and COC work to make sure nothing develops.

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One other thing I forgot to mention.  I was googling something about grip and came across and interview from Handgunner magazine or something like that talking about looking to competitive shooters for grip advice.  Basically it was Brian Enos and Rob Leatham featured.  Lots of stuff about the history of thumbs forward but the one nugget that popped out at me was Brian's comment about thinking of gripping the gun with two hands.  This I believe was in the context of all the talk about 60/40, etc.  While it seems like a simple concept, it was a little moment of clarity for me.  Just that change in thinking has seemed to provided a little benefit for me in the last week since I started applying it.  Thinking of both hands (and the gun) as kind of one unit I think has led to less sight cleanup when transitioning.  Maybe it is completely in my head, but I think it has simplified things a bit in that area.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Reloads have been consistently meh.  I have been trying the mantra "Finger, Heel, Eyes".  Meaning grab the mag with my finger on the first round, rotate my strong hand heel just a bit to line up the magwell, and look into the magwell.  Still flubbing, especially during drills that aren't a reload only drill, but just have a reload as part of it like Starts and Stops.  Discovered this morning that the finger on the first round for me is the major variable in a successful/unsuccessful reload.  If I get the mag correctly, usually it is a smooth reload and even if the mag and magwell don't meet perfectly, it is still only a slight hitch vs. a complete trainwreck.  Going to focus on getting a good grip on the mags for the next couple of weeks, probably even add some isolation drills that have nothing more than going from sights on target to grabbing the mag.

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