Overdue Calibration

It was election day in my state. I hadn’t been to the range since the Presidential Election of 2020; over a year ago now. My absence from the range was not politically motivated–Covid-19, protests that hinted of civil unrest, & growing popular support for the Democratic party had all conspired to render ammo difficult to find & expensive when found. My decision to avoid the range was a fiscal, not a political one. Nonetheless, I believe in the responsible exercise of the “Right to Bear Arms”–meaning, I believe in “exercise.” I wanted to assess proficiency with my primary defensive weapon–a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield. This handgun is a 9mm pistol carrying a maximum number of 8 bullets. It is not an “assault weapon;” but provides an honest man a reasonable chance to defend his life if need be, especially give it’s suitability to carry concealed with appropriate license if legal to do so in your area.

I was sent to the hybrid lane. Given the long layoff, it took me more time to readjust to this lane’s touch screen controls vs the old-fashioned switch in my usual pistol lane than it took for me to rediscover my aim. Although my first shot was low, it was still straight center & in the target. This would have been an effective self-defense hit. My sight picture & trigger control had not fallen off much.

My very first shot after a year-long layoff at 5 yards was slightly low but still passable for self-defense.

Mag 1

I was using 3 of my 4 magazines today–my two extended 8-rd ones & 1 of my two 7-rd ones. The other seven rounder I was holding out of practice as I like to keep at least one loaded for a just-in-case self defense situation. Despite its 8-round capacity, I only had it loaded to 6. I was using an already opened box of Remington Range 124 grain ammo that I purchased during the Covid summer of 2020. Early on, my pistol tended to malfunction with 115 grain Winchester “white box” ammo. After talking to some RSO’s (Range Safety Officers) & a couple of friends who were retired police, I decided to focus on my grip & use 124 grain bullets when possible. The weapon has proven much more reliable since then, & today was no exception. Today would feature a malfunction free performance.

Despite a couple of low shots I was satisfied with the results from my first magazine.

Mag 2

A bit prematurely, I decided to test how well I had retained trigger reset discipline . I loaded my second 8-rd magazine with 7 FMJ bullets this time. I fired one slow shot as I had done all throughout my first magazine but over the next five rounds I managed to perform two separate double-taps. Results were decent but were nothing to get excited about. I was only shooting at a target 5 yards out.

Mag 3

I pushed the target out to a more serious 10 yards. I used my smaller 7-round magazine & chose the target at the top of the left column as it had not yet been punched. I noticed that I had to focus a bit more on my grip, initially at least, after dropping down the the shorter magazine featuring barely any space for my pinky to grip. Nonetheless, I managed two sets of double taps & two slow, deliberate shots over the course of the 6 rounds I’ve loaded. AMMO CHANGE: Since I knew the Remington Range 124 grain tended to cycle well through my pistol, I didn’t want to burn through the entire box. I took advantage of the opportunity to buy a new box of target ammo for a reasonable $23.99. (Because of the ammo shortage, many gun dealers/ranges only sell ammo if you are renting a lane for practice or buying a firearm.) I bought a box of Fiocci Line Classic at 123 grains. While I liked the bullet weight, I had not cycled this bullet through my weapon before. I wanted to test it for proper function. Starting at Mag 3, this is the ammo I used until I choose to fire off a single Speer GD hollow point that I found loose in my range bag.

Mag 4 & 5

Back to an 8 round magazine. I aimed for one of the bottom circles at 10 yards. I go back to double taps. I’m a bit low. (no picture). Dissatisfied, I reload the next 8 round magazine with 7 rounds. I use six Fiocci FMJs & the one loose Speer GD.

Here is a lower target following an assortment of drills from between 7 & 10 yards.

Mag 6

I loaded another 8 round magazine to six or seven then moved the target closer to the common self defense practice distance of 7 yards & practice double taps. I didn’t photography for accuracy as I was more concerned with trigger reset & quicker follow-up shots. While my accuracy at self defense ranges had not fallen off much over the last year without practice, the speed of my follow-up shots had. I wanted to redress that situation quickly m, if possible.

New Pistol

By this time, I had run through 6 magazines with my subcompact 9mm pistol. I had expended between 36-40 rounds using primarily 124 gr FMJs from Remington & Fiocci plus one lone Speer GD HP, also at 124 grain. Satisfied with the reliability of my ammo as well as my residual proficiency, I wanted to try some rounds through my “deep cover” pistol. In a post from November 2020, I reported that my beloved Kel-tec P3AT pocket pistol, which had served me dutifully since 2007 with barely any malfunctions, suffered a catastrophic failure that made me consider retiring the old warrior for good. But over the layover, I decided I didn’t want to give up on such a faithful companion so soon. I purchased a factory replacement recoil spring & guide rod thinking changing them out would most likely solve the problem. If not, I could at least try this $12 solution myself before contacting the manufacturer for a possible warranty repair.

My first shot with my little mouse gun was promising. Sadly, the promise would soon be broken.

Old Gun

I don’t remember if I was shooting from 5 yards or 7. But my first shot was decent considering how dramatically smaller this .380 ACP pocket pistol was compared to my “subcompact” 9mm. I was optimistic with my first shot but not yet satisfied. Over the next 5 shots (I had my 6 round magazine loaded to the max), I would try to dial in my aim. It wasn’t meant to be. On my 5th shot, I noticed the round failed to expel. I thought I had experienced a common jam when I racked the slide to examine the issue. What I discovered was well worse. I experienced the same catastrophic malfunction that I had witnessed back in 2020. Even with the new springs & guide rod, I was still hanging on to an old gun.

Oh well. This Kel-tec was no Colt. It didn’t have legendary status. It didn’t cost a fortune. But for what it was meant to be, it had done it’s job. I still plan to call Kel-tec about it for any warranty options I may have. But either way, I’m hanging on to this old gun for the memories of nothing else.

Notes & Observations

Since I had shot a little low at 5 yards to start & then a little high at 10 yards later on, I didn’t bother testing my proficiency at distance. For my primary CCW pistol, I want to see about half my shits strike the intended circle for a distance of 25 yards. That assessment would have to wait until next time though.

When I go through a layoff from the gym, the first thing to go isn’t my strength but my stamina.

When it comes to shooting, the first thing to go isn’t my accuracy but speed.

Moving forward. I know I can go a year without practice & still remain competent with my weapon; but that’s pushing it. A more reasonable time frame would be nine months max between sessions if I am to retain my speed with follow-up shots.

My overdue calibration was now complete. I passed.

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