Friday Tip-off: Traveling to events, part 2

Today’s tip comes to you from Abbotsford, B.C., so it’s appropriate that we continue our series on traveling. I’m finding that an iPad isn’t the best tool, so please excuse a couple typos.

This week, we’ll focus on the actual travel portion of the trip, in other words, getting from home to wherever you’re going.

Packing:

Packing is probably my least favorite part of traveling. I suggest making a checklist of all of your important equipment and keeping a blank copy on your computer. That way, you can always go print a fresh one with each trip. Your list should also include things like cleats, your shooting jersey and anything else you normally have on the range with you. Check things off as you pack, there’s nothing worse than getting halfway (or more) to an event and realizing you forgot your ammo, favorite rabbits foot or whatever the case may be. If you’re flying, make sure that your checked luggage doesn’t break the magical 50 lb barrier to avoid incurring some nasty baggage fees.

Driving:

My cut-off time for driving vs. flying tends to be around 10 hours or so for a pistol event. 3 Gun tends to be a bit longer, simply due to the logistical challenges of flying with 3 guns and ammo for each. So, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time if you are driving. I’ve found google maps to be a pretty accurate indicator of real time spent. While it generally calculates off of a much slower driving speed, you make up for it in stops for gas, restroom, etc. I don’t like to use my Garmin by itself for navigation, as it can tend to send you on… Strange routes at times. If I’ve got a printout of where I need to go, I know when to ignore the windshield driver. General observation: make sure to stay well hydrated while driving. I’m one of the worlds worst at not drinking water to minimize bathroom stops, but unless you have a day in between to recover, it’s pretty much a bad idea.

Flying:

Whenever you are bringing a firearm, make sure to get the ticket counter 2 hours before your flight, and maybe even longer during peak times. Dealing with the ticket agent and TSA is probably a whole other article, but here are some basics.

Be polite:

Duh. Hopefully, this doesn’t need to be expanded on.

Guns and ammo:

All firearms must be packed in a locked, hard-sided container. This can be anything from the simple plastic box most guns ship from the factory in, to a large pelican or aluminum box. I like to use something that I can put a large padlock on to discourage tampering. Ammo must be packed in a container that separates each round. I like the hinged MTM boxes. Remember, the 11 lbs of ammo thing is an airline regulation, not something set by TSA or FAA, and while most follow that guideline, Frontier will allow up to 50 lbs on a domestic flight.

Depending on the airport, you will either take your bag directly to TSA for screening, or wait in a designated area while they x-ray in a controlled location. Travelers Pro Tip: Take everything out of your pockets except your boarding pass and ID and stick in your carry-on while you wait for them to clear your bag. By doing that, you can walk up to the security check point, take out your laptop, shuck your shoes and go. Everybody hates standing behind the guy who waits until he gets to the little table to take off his belt, get his keys, wallet, phone and other junk from his pockets in the little tray. Don’t be that guy.

Once you’re at that point, you should pretty much be in the clear and can relax until you get to your destination, which will be the topic of part 3!

Tech Tuesday: A Visit to XS Sights

When I volunteered at my first HAVA Family Day a couple years ago, I became fast friends with Jon and Stephanie Pastusek of XS Sight Systems. Jon and Steph have an awesome energy and enthusiasm for everything they do, a lot of which is introducing new and young shooters into the sport. With the company being based in Ft. Worth, they invited me to come visit the shop and hang out sometime. Well, Monday was finally that day.

XS 1

 

The parent company, Horizon Tech Industries, has been in business for about 30 years. They make a lot of different stuff, though most of the production capacity is now focused on XS Sights. I knew that the Big Dot sights were popular,

A small bin full of what will soon be front sights for a Ruger LCR.

A small bin full of what will soon be front sights for a Ruger LCR.

but I didn’t realize just how popular these sights really are until I saw the number of machines dedicated to making them. Now, before somebody starts talking about how Big Dots aren’t accurate, suited for competition or anything else, let’s remember that they are really designed with a single purpose in mind. Shooting a bad guy inside 20 feet, and for that, they work extremely well. As talked to all the employees, it was pretty apparent that they all share a passion, and everybody is committed to making the best possible products for their customers, and that’s always cool.

 

Now, enough of that, the real purpose of driving up there was to give their Xpress sights for a shotgun and XTI sights a good test drive. I probably shot about as many slugs on Monday as I have in the past year, which was a little painful from a cost standpoint, but hey, don’t want them to go bad right? Up until now, I’ve been using the factory fiber optic bead that came on my Mossberg 930 JM. It works extremely well inside 50 yards, but it can start to get a little interesting past that. With the not quite bead, not quite rifle sights design of the Xpress sights, things started looking better quick.Slugs The biggest difference that I noticed right away was my ability to call the shot vs shooting with a bead. With the factory set-up, I was always waiting for a audible signal (ding or a spotter call) to really have any idea if I hit or miss a slug target.  I’ll be using the sights at SMM3G coming up in a few weeks, so I’ll have more to report soon!

 

 

 

Friday Tip-off: Traveling For Events – Part 1

To say that I travel a lot might be understatement. Between March 8 and June 23rd this year, I’m scheduled to be on the road all but two weekends. Traveling for events is a skill that needs to be practiced just like any other. Now, not many people travel at quite the same pace, but all the principles still apply just the same. This is going to be a several part series, and today we’ll focus on the travel planning stage of the trip.

 

Personally, I try and book travel a month at a time. For instance, when I get ready to book my travel to the HAVA Family Day at Academi in June, I’ll likely book all of my travel in June (which includes the Northeast Steel Challenge, TF Dagger 3-Gun and a 3 Gun Nation Pro Series Event) at that sitting. For me, this helps keep things straight, and I don’t have to think as much about which trips I’ve made plans for in that month. Don’t travel that much? Take that principle and apply it on the smaller scale of booking your entire trip all at once. Make sure your airfare, hotel, rent car and anything that requires advance booking is done and over.  Generally, you don’t have to pay for the car rental or hotel until you get there, so there isn’t really a good reason not to make sure it’s done. I like to save the confirmation as a PDF and put it in a dedicated folder on my computer so I can reference as needed.

 

061206_expedia_roach_motel

 

Yep, we’ve all been there. Orbitz shows a screaming rate at a hotel that will save you a few dollars and you jump on it before it goes away. A month later when you arrive, you discover that the pictures on Orbitz are more than a few years old, the carpet is mildewed, and you aren’t quite sure what you saw dive underneath the bed when you turned the light on. One of my last experiences of this was a few years ago at SHOT Show when I booked the Imperial Palace. It cost a total of about $250 for the entire week, and shortly after arriving, I found out why. The bed felt like a board, the sheets were paper-thin, and being on the ground floor near the parking garage, getting a cell signal in the room was near impossible. After that, I learned that spending a little more to make sure you are comfortable is money well spent. Travel is stressful enough by itself, being in a dirty hotel room, or nervous about the neighborhood/location just adds to it. I also apply the same method to rental cars. My Dad and I used to always shop around for the cheapest rate available, until we had a similar experience to the Imperial Palace. Driving into the fairly remote areas of a major shooting range in a car that you have serious doubts about what maintenance had been performed adds to stress and lowers the overall enjoyment of the trip. Let’s face it, the biggest reason we go shoot matches is because it’s fun, if something starts to interfere with that, then the whole thing becomes a waste.

 

My suggestion? Join a solid rewards club and stick with the brand. I always rent from National Rent Car. Yes, they tend to be a little more expensive, but not excessively so.  There’s nothing I hate more than trying to deal with my luggage and wait in line for a car, and as an Emerald Club member, you can walk past the counter, right to the car and leave. As far as hotels go, I try and stay with the Wyndham Group. They have a huge range of hotels from Travelodge, up to things like the Wingate and Hawthorn. The best part is that there is always a Wyndham hotel near where you need to go, and you can keep racking up points. Free nights are nice every one in awhile, but I usually go for the gift card rewards and use it to buy something I’ve been wanting for awhile but never had the money to get.

 

Next week we’ll talk about the packing and actual travel portion of the trip. Until then, Train To Triumph!

Photo Of The Day: “Please sir, I’d like some more”

So, there’s a few things on this sign at Academy Sports that jumped out to me. The first is of course the policy of limiting each customer to one box of each caliber listed, and no more than 3 boxes total. I see both sides of the argument, though it feels very strange to buy only one box of 223 ammo… On a positive side, they seem to have more rifle (223, 308 and 7.72×39) ammo than I’ve seen in quite awhile, so hopefully things are starting to bust loose.

 

The second thing that really jumped off the sign to me was “MSR”. NSSF has done a fantastic job with this campaign, and I applaud Academy for picking up the running with the term. The more it’s used, I believe less stigma will be attached to the “assault rifle” notion, but it’s always an uphill battle to fight.

 

Academy policy

Tech Tuesday: Hogue Knives

Several years ago, Hogue teamed up with Allen Elishewitz to produce knives that were of custom quality, but without the $600+ price tag for most of Allen’s beautiful pieces. The line has since expanded to include 4 different folders and one fixed blade, each available with different blade lengths and options.

The EX-F01 is the sole fixed blade in the lineup and is available in both a 5.5″ and 7″ blade.  Your first impression when you pick it up is that it is a pretty serious piece of equipment. Designed with survival and woods use in mind, it is balanced really well for both slicing and chopping. g10_ex-f01_detail_3_smPersonally, my two favorite features of this knife are the removable grip panel where you can store some various items, and the thick spine that can be used for a strike surface for flint or other fire starter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My normal EDC knife is a drop-point EX-o2 with a flipper for opening. This is the best knife I’ve ever owned by far. It opens extremely smooth and easy and locks solid when its open. One of the cool features that are built into Hogue folding knives is the manual safety lock, which keeps the blade open even if you press the button or liner lock. While a thumb stud is available, I prefer the flipper for it’s ease of opening, but also, when combined with the already deep finger groove, it makes for an excellent hand stop if you need to use the knife as a defensive tool. ex-02_flipper_smAlso, the other end of the handle sports a glass breaker, which I’m sure can also work well as a defensive tool if need be. The 154CM Stainless that the blade is made out of does a great job holding an edge, even after doing ugly things like opening boxes, prying staples and and cutting telephone wire, at least that’s what I heard from a friend…

 

 

 

 

My next knife (which hopefully will come soon) is going to be an EX-04.ex-04 They debuted these awhile back, but are just now getting production ramped up. I knew I had to have one as soon as I saw it. It just looks way too badass not to own… Look for a review soon!

 

Tech Tuesday: On Hold

Hey Guys,

Doesn’t look like I’m going to make the publish deadline today… This whole moving/getting a home loan thing has really put dent in the hours available in the day. After I get moved in over the weekend, things should be back to normal. I will be filming a video tip or two tomorrow so you won’t have to miss the Friday Tip-Off though!