Ben Stoeger Training – Learnings and Focus Areas

It has officially been one week since my 4-day, ~3.5K round training marathon with Ben Stoeger.  The soreness has passed, but the blisters haven’t healed all the way yet.

If you’ve found this article and want to know if the training is worth it – sign up for a class with confidence!  Shooters of all levels – beginner to GM – will learn something from Ben.  Don’t hesitate… just take the class.   Classes are typically two days long.  My club decided to plan two classes back to back (Fundamentals and Skills & Drills), hence the 4-day reference.

Key Learnings

My grip needs work

Wow – yes, grip.  When going slow, I can shoot groups well.  When I go fast, though, I add too much tension into the equation from the wrong places, i.e., shooting hand, shoulders, etc.

This will take A LOT of dry fire to fix.

I have two speeds – Slow and Out-of-control

The class consisted of drills and stages.  Shooting open, my splits between shots were faster than those shooting iron sights.  However, Ben pushed me to run the gun as faster… since it was an open gun.  “Max speed” was the term he kept using.

When going truly max speed, as in, the fastest I could pull the trigger, I would sometimes lose the dot.  If I focused to try to see the dot, I’d go slow.   Towards the end of day 2, I saw the dot on target 90% of the time, but the speed was 80%.

I’m hoping that fixing the grip will help with this also.  Otherwise, there will be a lot of live fire happening for me to try to get used to the “max speed.”

Next Steps

Before I get into the next steps, I think it is worth mentioning that there were LOTS of other places where I can improve.  I only listed two that have been swimming in my head since the class.

So, my improvement plan consists of the following:

  • Dry fire
  • Live fire
  • Personal health training
    • Workouts
      • Agility
      • Strength (sprinting)
    • Food

For me to keep consistent, I need a goal.  So, my 2018 goal is to score 75% or better in Open at Nationals.

Boom.  It’s out there now.  Time to go get it.

Skills transfer between divisions, but not immediately

So tonight at a local USPSA match, I decided to shoot Production. I’ve been shooting almost exclusively Open for the past 2 years. I know that I have only exclusively dry-fired Open for the past several years. However, I’ve won handily at this club several times by a decent margin. When I don’t win, I’m usually close 2nd or 3rd, depending on how badly I screw up a stage. My thought was that I should be able to pick up my old Prod rig and still be competitive.

Wrong.

Lots of things that I’ve been working on – movement, transitions, reloads, etc – seemed to transfer 90% from Open to Production. 90% isn’t good though. Everything was just “off” enough to make me horrible. My timing was off, Mikes on occluded head boxes – terrible.

This does provide a good learning for me next year. I had originally planned to try to shoot all 3 nationals since they will be back to back to back. No go, Ghost Rider. If the goal is to be GM in Open, focus on the goal. Don’t get distracted by other divisions.

Mark 7 Autodrive – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First off – disclosures: As of the writing of this post (2017), I do not have any affiliation with Mark 7 or Dillon Precision.  (Mark7/Dillon – I am, however, open to anything haha 😀 )

Next, I am assuming that you shoot A LOT of 1 bullet configuration – hence the need to automate.  If you like to load a few rounds (less than 5K IMO)  before switching calibers, then automation on a single press may not make sense for you.

My Mark 7 Setup

I have the first year model of the Mark 7 Autodrive with the upgraded engine. I think this makes my setup a “Pro,” or whatever is the highest level. Press is a Dillon Super 1050 with a Mr. Bulletfeeder.

Impressions

The Mark 7 Autodrive is a game changer – provided that you already have a functioning Dillon 1050.   Setting up the Autodrive itself a very quick process – I’d say about 30-45 minutes to get it properly attached to the press.  YMMV.

Using the Mark 7 is very straight-forward and intuitive.  Even though you should read the manuals, you can infer how to use the tool by the setup of the user interface.

Once I got the 1050 set up properly, the Mark 7 makes very consistent ammo.  Std dev of velocity via chrono seems lower than when I was “using the stick.”  Though to be fair, pre-Mark 7, I was loading on a Hornady LNL.  Again, YMMV.

Lastly, it is very convenient.  As a hobbyist shooter, I never know when I have the time to squeeze a match into the schedule.  On those seemingly rare events, running the Mark 7 for 30 minutes makes more than enough ammo for the match and for a possible pre-match practice session.

Bottom line:  Mark 7 is very very good!  It is a well thought-out design, and exceeded my expectations for the machine.  Their support staff is also very good, so if you ever run into a snag, they’re really happy to help you out!

Key Recommendation – Dial in the 1050 before attaching the Mark 7

Read and infer into the verbiage that I used above – “…Mark 7… is a game changer – provided that you have a functioning Dillon 1050…” and “…Once I got the 1050 set up properly…”

I highly recommend that you load at least 3k-5k rounds on your Dillon 1050 BEFORE you attach a Mark 7.  You need to ensure that everything works fluidly before you automate it – because – if you have something set up incorrectly, Mark 7 may replicate the problem 100 times before you catch it.

Start at the beginning, knowing that what I write is not an inclusive list of the things you need to verify – it’s just what I can think of in 5 minutes:

  • Do your cases feed onto the plate properly?
  • Does your decapping pin set properly?
  • Are spent primers getting caught in the swaging station?
  • Do I have enough flare?  Too much?
  • Is my primer depth setting set properly?
  • Is the center ring tight enough so that primers seat consistently?
  • Is my primer slide arm tightened enough that it doesn’t slide up on the primer tube?
  • Is my powder station set properly?
  • Does my Mr. Bulletfeeder work at least 95% of the time? (this. drove. me. crazy.)
  • Seating depth ok?
  • Am I crimping enough?  Too much?

Once you get this far and connect the Mark 7, you’ll have to re-verify all of the above again – with the following new questions:

  • Will my dies work with rapid reloading? – I have really nice Redding adjustable dies for seating and crimp, and a Lyman 2-stage flare die.  All are really nice for hand press operation.  At the rapid rate that the Mark 7 introduces, I noticed that the Redding dies didn’t hold the setting, and I needed to red Loctite the Lyman to keep the internal parts from unscrewing themselves.  At the end, I ended up going back to the stock Dillon 1050 dies.
  • Do I have enough torque?  Too much? – This will vary depending on the type and condition of the brass.

If you attach a brand new 1050 to a brand new Mark 7 – like I did, and never used a Dillon 1050 beforehand – you will be trying to do all of this troubleshooting simultaneously.  It can be done, but it is not for the feint of heart.

In retrospect, I would do as I said above – load 3k-5k rounds on a naked 1050 with Mr. Bulletfeeder, and then add Mark 7 once I felt confident in the settings.  Then, revisit and tweak the settings when the press is automated.

Final Thoughts

The Mark 7 is a very useful machine that helps me make consistent and reliable ammo relatively quickly, without having to buy a truly industrial ammo-making machine.  I highly recommend it to anyone!

Any “issues” I experienced with the Mark 7/Dillon 1050 combo were mainly around the tweaking of the 1050.  This is not the fault of the Dillon machine – Dillon makes fantastic reloading machines!  It is instead a product of my impatience.  If you take the time to learn and properly set up the 1050, then you add the Mark 7 for automation, you too will be able to create very consistent ammo reliably and rapidly.

%d bloggers like this: