Building a backyard air pistol range

I bought a MatchGuns MG1 air pistol at the Arizona Desert Midwinter championship earlier this year. But, until recently, I had not taken advantage of this pistol. Primarily because I didn’t feel like I had a good setup in the backyard.

For example, here’s a photo of my backyard from a period where we were having some work done.

The backyard while getting some work done

This photo is looking from the back of my house to the alley. What this picture doesn’t illustrate is:

  • Past that chain link fence is an alley way that people often drive or walk down
  • Past the alley and the bushes is a park
  • Just a few feet past my fence line on the right there is a dog pen with a couple of dogs
  • My neighbor to the right has a couple of kids that play in the yard
  • I also have a neighbor to the left

I didn’t want to shoot the air pistol in my back yard and risk 1) accidentally hurting someone or 2) scaring a passerby that then called the cops, even though shooting air pistol on one’s own property is legal in my city.

With that in mind, I began planning how I could setup the backyard in a way that I’d feel comfortable shooting air pistol.

Privacy fence

When thinking about the above issues, the first thing that came to mind was, “Boy, it sure would be nice if I had a privacy fence.” A privacy fence would act as a backstop to ensure that any misses stayed on my property AND it would block passersby from being able to see me shooting in the backyard. 😱

So… we had one built. 😂 The picture below is from roughly the same place as the picture above, but looking toward the back left corner of my backyard.

A picture of the backyard before the staining was complete

To be clear, we didn’t have the privacy fence put up solely so that I could shoot. It’s something that we’ve talked about in the past. But, wanting to shoot air pistol in the backyard was definitely the motivation that I needed to actually get the fence built. 😄

Setting up the target

While researching some options for setting up the target for my air pistol range, probably the best article that I found and read was the safe backstops and bullet traps article on Pyramd Air. The article makes several suggestions, but what stood out to me were the several mentions of the Champion trap in the comments.

This trap is made from steel and is rated to stop .22 caliber bullets. So, it seemed like a safe option for stopping .177 pellets. 😄

The issue that I ran into once I got the trap was how to set it up…

At first, I thought about just mounting the trap to the fence directly. But, I didn’t like this option because it would have added significant weight to our new fence.

Then, I thought about adding a folding table to the fence, after reading this blog post, so that I could place the trap on the fence when necessary. But, in the end, I decided against this option because it would minimize my options for a backstop (in case I missed the trap).

So, I put things off for a bit. One day, while out running errands, I noticed that several stores were putting fence posts in buckets and filling the buckets with concrete in order to cordon off areas and/or post temporary signs. This was during the coronavirus pandemic after all…

After seeing this at several stores, it clicked that I could do the same thing in my backyard so that I ended up with a functional, movable trap holder.

So, without further ado, here are a couple of pictures with the trap stand that I created, with and without the trap mounted.

While the trap is portable, I did pick the above location for a reason. 😄 Specifically, since my carport is behind the target, that means that a missed shot would need to make it through two layers of privacy fence, and possibly my car, to end up in my neighbor’s yard.

Here’s a selfie with the trap in the background.

Disregard the dog in the background. I shoo him off before shooting 🙂

Future work

I’m liking my backyard and air pistol range. But, nothing is perfect. 😄

One thing that you may notice in the pictures above is that there is very little protection against errant shots that go high. Personally, I don’t expect to shoot a shot wide enough that it misses the trap. But, shit happens. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

One thing that I’d like to do in the near future is add a backstop that 1) protects the fence and 2) adds some protection above the fence line. Until I have that backstop in place, I don’t plan on letting anyone else shoot my air pistol in the backyard. 😉

Arizona Desert Midwinter Championship 2020

This past week, I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the Arizona Desert Midwinter Championship.

Here’s a bit of a teaser video and then you can continue reading the rest of the post if you’d like. 😄

Initially, my only interest in this match was for the service pistol and rimfire EIC matches that were being held. So, my plan was to arrive Friday night, shoot on Saturday afternoon, and then book it back home on Friday. Wichita Falls is a bit more than 14 hours away from Phoenix, so that would’ve been a lot of miles in just a few days. This was fine with me though because I’ve had that points monkey on my back ever since I got my hard legs for both service pistol and rimfire pistol.

A month or so before the trip, another Texas shooter, Mason Talbert, posted in a Facebook group asking if other Texas were traveling to the matches and whether they wanted to plan travel together. The catch, Mason wanted to go all of the matches in the week. This meant that I would need to extend my travel from 3 days to at least 7 days. More importantly, that meant that I would need to miss an entire week of work instead of just one day. 😱

That’s a lot of time, especially considering that I’d like to go to the national matches this summer as well, which will be 1-2 weeks. But, getting to hang out with, and learn from, Mason and others made it worth the trip. So, I ran it by the bosses (wife and work) and got permission to go. 🎉

Travel

As mentioned above, the trip from Wichita Falls to Phoenix is about 14 hours by car. My route would normally be go north through Amarillo, through Albuquerque, and then on to Phoenix. But, since Mason lives in College Station, I ended up taking the southern route, which went through El Paso and Las Cruces, so that Mason and I could meet up in Midland.

Wichita Falls, TX to Phoenix, AZ

The trip itself was pretty simple on the way there. We met in Midland, loaded Mason’s stuff in my car, hit the road again, and then stopped in El Paso for the night. The next morning, we took off around 7am and got to Phoenix by 3pm.

The way back, however, was a bit of a drag. 😂 We didn’t leave until after the awards were given out on Sunday afternoon, which was about 2:30pm. Since we were leaving late, we knew that it wasn’t a great idea for either of us try to make it all the way back home. So, we decided that we’d stop in Midland for the night. This was about a 10.5 hour drive, which meant that the earliest that we’d arrive was about 1am. With various stops, we didn’t actually arrive to Midland until 3am.

Results

Overall, I was pretty happy with my results. The week started out rough, but got better as it went along. I did less than my average for air pistol, standard pistol, service pistol 900, and EIC matches. But, after getting some advice from Mason, I was able to start the 2,700 match with a new focus and shoot a personal best.

That personal best was shooting a 2,398/2,700. This also means that I’m shooting nearly 89% and getting close to being reclassified as an expert. 🎉 I believe that score was also good for second overall sharpshooter.

Photos

Takeaways

Competing in large matches takes a lot in general, whether it’s time, money, effort, etc. The payoff in going to large matches though are:

  1. Getting access to matches, such as centerfire pistol, air pistol, standard pistol, and EICs
  2. Getting to interact with and learn from great shooters

The second of those, interacting with and learning from great shooters, is really the biggest payoff for me. Below are some of the takeaways that I got from this match:

  • “Ask the trigger” to go instead of “tell the trigger” to go.
    • This nugget comes from Mason. I understand this as a different way to describe triggering, instead of using “squeeze the trigger” or “slowly pull the trigger”.
  • Treat the trigger like your best friend, which means spending time with it and understanding its preferences.
    • This nugget also came from Mason. I understand this as dry fire more and don’t be afraid to try a slightly different approach to triggering if something stops working. Mason described that second bit as taking your friend to the arcade if your friend decided that they didn’t like going to the movies anymore.
  • Be bored shooting 10s. Shooting 10s are great, but you shouldn’t jump for joy every time you shoot a 10. You should expect to shoot a 10.
  • “Just do that thing you know how to do.”
    • When talking to Mason about the recent funk I’ve been in, he mentioned that sometimes he tells himself to “do that thing he knows how to do”. When he gets to the line, he’ll think that to himself before and in between shots.
  • “Push your legs down and out” for more stability.
    • This was a suggestion from John Zurek to Mason.

Pistol Training 1-26-2020

Since 4-H rifle and pistol classes were today, and I was already going to conveniently be at the range to coach a few kids. I got to the range about 1.5 hours early to set the range up and get some practice in.

To get the most out of the limited time I had before students and coaches started showing up, with my 45 calibre pistol, I did a few minutes of dry fire followed by about 80 shots of progressive training. For more about progressive training, see my last training post.

I had a bit of a rough time with the first 40 shots. But, I ended up with a solid target for my next 40 shots:

Some takeaways/thoughts that I had:

  • Many of my misses were low, which could be relaxing or jerking the trigger (which definitely happened several times)
  • After getting home and cleaning the pistol, including the trigger parts, the trigger was MUCH SMOOTHER. I should probably clean the trigger parts much more often, or find a way to keep them lubricated better
  • I often lost the front sight in the aiming black (with center hold). I’ve noticed that my white dot no longer shows on the front sight. I need to paint this back on.

Pistol Training 1-20-2020

With 3 pistol matches coming up in February, and having spent a majority of my time training in December on slow fire, I needed to get out to the range to focus on sustained fire.

So, tonight, after work and dinner were done, I headed out to the range to focus on sustained fire.

Rough Training Plan

  • Dry fire
  • Group fire
  • Blank face timed and rapid fire
  • Rapid fire practice

In reality, I ended up adding the following:

  • Progressive training
  • Rapid fire practice

Blank Face

After talking to Daniel Miller at the January bullseye match at Dallas Pistol Club, I decided that I would add some blank face firing to my sustained fire training. The idea with a blank face is that you don’t have a definite aiming point. Because of that, you’re able to focus much more on trigger pull and cadence since there is less pressure.

Here is a picture of 40 shots fire on a blank face target.

Just looking at that group, with no scoring rings on the repair center, what do you think the rough score percentage would be? Well, let’s look at the front of the repair center with the scoring rings.

By my count, the shots are as follows:

  • 10 14
  • 9: 14
  • 8: 9
  • 7: 2
  • 6: 1

Added up, the total score was 358. Out of 400, that’s 89.5%! 😱 Not too bad for just pointing the pistol down range and pulling the trigger, eh?

Needless to say, after shooting 40 shots on a blank face, I was feeling pretty confident. So, I moved on to rapid fire.

Rapid Fire Training

When I started rapid fire training, I noticed that I was shooting very quickly and that my shots were grouping quite low and to the left. After several strings of this, and after grouping quite well in the center of the target for group fire, I was certain that I was jerking the trigger.

So, I paused on rapid fire and moved to progressive training.

Progressive Training

Progressive training is a fun game/drill that I read about in a reply from Ed Hall on Bullseye-L forum. I did quite well with the progressive training, keeping all of the shots in the black (my chosen ring), until…

My first string of 5 shots. On that string, I jerked the trigger on nearly every shot and ended up putting 4 low left, out of the black. I recovered in my next string of 5 though by putting all of the 5 shots in the black.

Overall, I was happy with how the progressive training went. It effectively acted like a reset from when I was consistently throwing shots low left in rapid fire. Feeling happy with the results, I moved on to a few strings of rapid fire and did much better.

Takeaways

In the future, perhaps I should schedule sustained fire training like this:

  • Dry fire
  • Group fire
  • Blank face
  • Progressive training
  • Rapid fire practice

The thinking behind this is that I’ll warm up with dry fire and then from there add little by little until I’m shooting full rapid fire strings. My hope is that this will minimize jerking the trigger.

Another thing I noticed was occasionally breaking my wrist. I even specifically pointed that out on one of my targets above. It’s not a big concern at the moment, but something to keep an eye on.

NWTFS September Rifle Match

Last month, Destiny and I attended the high power rifle match at Northwest Texas Field and Stream Association. This was the first match that Destiny and I had competed in at the club, and it was only the second time that we had ever competed. The first time that we competed being at the Rifle SAFS competition at Camp Perry in 2019.

Below are some pictures and video from the match.

Camp Perry Pistol Week– 2019

I spent last week, July 8th-14th, at Camp Perry in Port Clinton, Ohio for the National Precision Pistol Championship.

The Trip

The trip was about a 17 hour drive to get from Wichita Falls, Tx to Port Clinton, Ohio.

And with 4 people and all of our gear, you can imagine that the van we took was pretty packed! The picture below is with the two back seats folded down. 😱

We left on Saturday the 6th, directly following the Don James Memorial match at Northwest Texas Field and Streams, stayed in St. Louis for the night, and then finished the trip on the 7th. On the way back, we left Port Clinton at about 7:15am and drove through until we got to Wichita Falls.

The Hut

While at Camp Perry for pistol week, the group of folks from Wichita Falls stayed in a hut. Huts cost $52 per night, have four beds, power outlets, and an air conditioner. Here’s a panorama picture of what our hut looked like from the front door.

And here’s a picture of what our hut looked like from the outside. Notice all of the mayflies on the building. 😱

Results

The match results for pistol week at Camp Perry can be found at the following links:

To summarize, I took third marksman for the NRA championship but did not receive any points or win for the CMP matches. All the same, it was a great week.

Photos