I hadn’t planned on writing this after action report, but the perfect storm of match performance and social media interactions this past weekend altered my plans. It all started the night before my most recent local IDPA match when one of y’all replied with expressed interest in an after action report to my Twitter post where I announced I would be running my EDC gear in the upcoming match. While that wasn’t the catalyst for this post in of itself, it was followed by a mediocre match performance that I followed up with posts of my blunders in the match while I was reviewing the recorded footage. All of that got me thinking about things I could to avoid repeating that performance which in turn cemented the idea behind this post.
So what happened?
During the first stage, which was an 18 round limited scoring stage, I experienced the VP9’s first “malfunction”. I’m using the term, malfunction, very loosely here, but bear with me. Given the the array of three targets which each got a exactly four shots to the body and two shots to the head as a result of two failure to stop drills and the ten (10) round Carry Optics Division magazine limit, I had planned on performing a slide lock reload after the two body shots on the fourth failure to stop drill as the initial 10+1 load would have gone dry. However, the slide did not lock back. This can be seen in the video below at the 14 second mark. At that moment, the footage shows me hesitate briefly before performing a reload. Thinking I must have miscounted and still had a round in the chamber, I pulled the trigger which resulted in a very obvious dip of the muzzle attributed to a pre-ignition push. That was followed by a slingshot style rack instead of a malfunction clearing tap, over the top rack, and bang before I continued to finish the stage. All of this got in my head and set the pace for the remainder of the match.
So why did the slide fail to lock back? Why indeed. My best guess is that magazine #2 is getting ready to fail. A couple of years ago, I published a post that covered my approach to magazine inventory management where magazines are dedicated to a singular task. What I didn’t mention in that post is that I label each magazine for easy identification and I also use them in a particular order. VP9 magazines two through four are reserved for practice and I consider local level one matches, like this weekend’s IDPA match, to be practice. Magazine #1 was originally in that group but it has been modified specifically for practice with the MantisX. Another thing that I do is I use the magazines in an ordered sequence when practicing. In the case with local level one matches, I always start a stage with magazine #2 and is always followed by magazine #3 which is followed by magazine #4. This makes it very easy for me to remember which magazine had a problem. It also puts the majority of wear and tear from practice and local matches on the lowest numbered magazine which makes it the most likely to fail. The failure to lock back the slide happened twice in this match, both times when magazine #2 was in play.
Assuming the failures were in fact induced by magazine #2, it is also possible that it was due to the magazine being excessively dirty as they have received heavy use over the past few months and I have been a bit lazy about cleaning them. So before I throw the baby out with the bath water, I’m going to give the practice magazines a good cleaning and give them another run before putting magazine two out to pasture.
The same failure to lock back, muzzle dip, and slingshot rack symptoms occurred again on Stage 4 (as seen around the 12 second mark on the video above).
I may have presented my performance this weekend worse than it actually was while discussing it over social media this past weekend. My final results were the worst I’ve posted since mid-June this year, but were on par with the rolling average of my score history. So relatively speaking they weren’t horrible, but I expected to do better than I did. Nevertheless, there are some things that went very well and I want to continue doing. For example, many of my first shots are happening right around a second after the signal on relatively easy targets and under two seconds after the signal on more difficult precise shots with solid A-zone hits. There were several moments where two ejected cases can be seen in the same frame from the footage which means split times are getting better while still maintaining good hits. It can be sometimes difficult to identify good things from a mediocre performance, but it’s important to identify both the things we want to change and the things we want to keep doing.
The silver lining in all of this is that it exposed some bad habits that I’ve picked up recently. Those being:
- Not properly maintaining my magazines
- Developing a pre-ignition push… again.
- Slingshot racking instead of tap racking (over the top of the slide)
And these three things are all things that can and should be remedied. Let’s talk about how.
The magazine maintenance thing is just laziness that is fueled by complacency. It doesn’t take much effort to disassemble a magazine and clean it. So from now on, every time I perform a routine cleaning and lubrication of the pistol, the magazines will get a cleaning as well. Easy enough as long as I don’t get complacent again.
Pre-ignition push is something I’ve struggled with in the past and a lot of folks do it without knowing it. It is a subconscious habit that is developed where the shooter begins to drive down the muzzle after breaking the trigger in order to recover from recoil faster. The reason this is bad is that it can result in driving shots low because the push can begin to happen before the projectile leaves the barrel. In other words, the sights are disturbed before the projectile is in flight. Furthermore, the motion can result in slower splits because it may take longer for the sights (or dot) to settle back on the target enough to break a follow up shot. What we should do instead is maintain the sight picture on target until the recoil lifts the sights and allow the grip to bring the sights (or dot) back to line of sight. The best way to break the pre-ignition push habit is to perform live/empty drills in live fire practice. I’ve mentioned this drill in both the KR Training Skill Builder course and KR Training Handgun Beyond Basics course after action reports.
I’m not completely certain where the slingshot racking came from, but I suspect it is a side effect of all the dry fire practice I’ve been putting in. The repeated click-rack-repeat cycle is something I have done a lot of. I hadn’t really noticed, but looking back I realize that my racking technique isn’t consistent during dry practice and I’m certainly not tapping before racking. As such, I think it’s very likely that I reacted to the click after the trigger pressed with a nonstandard rack when the slide failed to lock back. The remedy for this will be to be more present during the set up for the next trigger press during dry fire and for the time being I will add a tap before performing a consistent overhand rack (leveraging the optic).
Right or wrong, that’s my plan for the immediately foreseeable future.
And for any of y’all who have read this far and want to see the footage from the match in its entirety, here it is…