Preparation for the 2012 Bianchi Cup: One Competitor’s Gear List

   05.23.12

The 2012 Bianchi Cup begins today and I’m looking forward to four days of shooting fun. Last year, I shot the Cup as a writer choosing to shoot the whole event to experience it better. I shot a borrowed Para 18/9. The gun had a great trigger, was accurate and I was familiar with the 1911 format, having shot a couple of matches with my old Colt Gold Cup in the early ‘80s. I used a borrowed holster and belt, and I burned through a lot of .22 rimfire ammunition in my old Gold Cup with a Colt conversion unit. The problem was, I really wanted to shoot Production Class and 1911s are in Metallic Class. My performance was markedly less than stellar.

After the 2011 Cup, I began working with rimfire, using a GSG 1911 on plates with a much more suitable Safariland Bianchi rig. The upgrade in holster and belt helped but I needed more than just good equipment. My deliberate accuracy is OK but I tend to get reckless with the trigger when I try to speed things up. I took a three day Pistol Operator class with my friend, Chris Cerino of Top Shot fame and he really taught me a lot about grip and trigger management, but old habits die hard. Since about March, I’ve been trying to get in at least one complete falling plate course of fire at least four times a week. I’m getting better but I don’t think Rob Leatham, Bruce Piatt and Doug Koenig have too much to worry about yet.

Eventually, I decided on the Springfield XD 5.25 for this year’s Cup. This is an out-of-the-box match gun with adjustable sights and a really good trigger. One of the great features of guns like Springfield’s XD 5.25 pistols is the fact they come as a complete outfit. The gun came in a high quality carrying case with a loader, three magazines, a magazine carrier, a good paddle holster, extra grip inserts, and a security lock. The quality of the accessories is really high, as good as almost anything you might normally buy. I instantly began practicing with the XD with the furnished holster until my, more appropriate for the match, Bladetech holster arrived.

To complete my equipment requirements, I’ve chosen the Bladetech Classic On-the-Waistband (OWB) with Drop and Offset Attachment (DOS) holster to complement the Safariland belt I obtained after last year. For this type of competition, you must have a good holster/belt and the Safariland inner/outer belt is a boon for keeping the gun in the proper location.

For ammunition, I decided on the Zero Bullet Company’s 115 grain 9mm load. Many Bianchi competitors already are using Zero Ammunition and they’re a sponsor for the event so they were a natural choice. My choice of 9mm caliber comes because a 9mm passes the power requirement and recovery for the next shot comes quicker with a lighter load. I’m really happy with Zero Bullet, the ammunition is accurate, recoil is manageable, and it functions perfectly in the XD and other nines I’ve used it in.

Speaking of ammunition, it’s true that the best shooters consume truckloads per season. I once heard someone ask Jerry Miculek what he does for a living and his answer was, “I make once fired brass.” I’ve also been told the best way to prep for the Bianchi was to shoot till you’re knee deep in brass. There’s no doubt repetition is an invaluable part of preparation for this kind of shooting but most of us simply don’t have the time or can afford to shoot four hours, five days a week. There are other options to keep the impact to your wallet at a minimum and save you from divorce because you spend every free hour at the range.

My house is part of a mini shooting facility, with a shotgun, rifle, and pistol range as part of the grounds around the house. I’m still not able to shoot as much as I would like to and have been utilizing a great tool, the LaserLyte Laser Target Trainer, in my Bianchi prep program. This system allows indoor dry fire practice with accountability that can really improve your shooting. Since I began competitive shooting in 1976, I’ve used dry firing as a training tool and I teach it in virtually all my classes, shotgun, rifle and pistol. The problem is, many new shooters go through the motions but don’t hold themselves accountable for accuracy when dry firing. Often, this isn’t really their fault because the sight picture looks perfect to them but they fail to manage the trigger adequately to actually perform when firing live rounds.

The LaserLyte Laser Target Trainer uses a laser “round” that sends an impulse of light to the target which records the shot location and stores it. When you shoot the display sensor with the laser, the display shows your group. To reset, you shoot the reset sensor and you can shoot another group on a fresh target. I find this invaluable in establishing a solid set of motor skills in drawing the gun, acquiring the target, and managing the trigger through the shot. Without the trainer target, I could accomplish the first two objectives but I’d have no idea of how well I was really managing the trigger. I could see my shot on a blank wall by using only the bullet transmitter but there’s a good chance I’d exacerbate my already troublesome habit of looking over the gun for a result on each shot, an action which is highly detrimental in shooting the falling plate event.

Alright, I’m much better prepared this year than last. I have more time on the gun, a better holster and belt, knowledge of what to expect, and more practice with my equipment. How well do I predict I’ll do this year?

I firmly believe I’ll do better than last year but I’m aware of my limitations. As a great old rifle coach used to say, “Think positive but don’t lose track of reality.” The best shooters at the Bianchi are nothing short of phenomenal. On the other hand, I’m not shooting this match to be the winner, I’m shooting it to improve myself and enjoy the experience. Provided I do the best I can and enjoy the experience, I can’t possibly lose.

The same goes for anyone who wants to get involved in competition. Don’t worry about how you’ll finish or feel you’ll embarrass yourself. Just go out and shoot the best you can. Focus on improving on your best previous score and have fun. Maybe next year, you’ll be trying the Bianchi. You may not win, but I promise you, if you shoot your best and have fun, you can’t lose.

Watch here for a follow up report both on my experience as a competitor and results and news from the Bianchi Cup.

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