MAY 2, 2023

Editor’s Notebook:  About Harry

Back in the days of old, our Lord High Sheriff ™ decided that his “serve at the pleasure” reserve officers could do the work of civil service deputies without complaints about overtime (by doing the work for free) and they should receive department compensated training slots for instructor positions. There was considerable grumbling about it but I liked the people he’d selected. Somewhat hypocritically, I was fairly silent about it.

One of those was an old-time gun crank, Harry Carpenter. About 12 years older than me, he knew more about bullseye and PPC that I’d know if I lived to be 1,000. I was working the range with him one day bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t complete a single qual without throwing one – it was always one – round out of the main scoring zone, preventing me from cleaning the course.

He nodded sagely, asking where the round went out. It was often at fifteen yards, the place where precision and timing had to be just right for me.

We’d gone to the auto, S&W 645s, just shortly before this. He said he could help and handed me an additional magazine – I already had three.

Stapling up a fresh NRA B27 target, he had me up by the range house at fifty yards with the intention to have me shoot PPC Match 3. Starting loaded with six rounds and holstered, when the time begins, the shooter drops to sitting for six rounds. Reload as you move into prone, fire six rounds. Reload as you rise into standing left-side barricade left-handed for six rounds. Finally reload for six rounds right hand barricade. That’s a draw, three reloads, four positions, 24 rounds (six from the ‘wrong’ hand) in two minutes, 45 seconds.

No, this isn't a Match 3 target; and that's a marginal effort - but it gives you an idea of the size of the target.

Not particularly fast-paced but we’re trying to hit the B27 “X” ring – about 2” wide by 3” tall --  on the target’s ISU scoring rings. For me, I was just trying to keep them inside the 8-ring (for qualification scoring, the 8-ring counts the maximum - five points.)

That’s about 12” wide by just under 18” high from 150 feet.

The first trip to the line was miserable. Harry examined the target, then had me staple up a fresh target and load magazines while he counseled me.

Between relays, I fired Match 3 over and over, all that day and all the next day.

With his careful coaching, I had 24 rounds inside that blasted 8-ring early the second day.

“Okay. Now we’ll keep them in the 9-ring.”


He was patient, never uttered a cross word. He got me to clustering nearly all those hits inside the “9.”

I was so sick of Match 3, it was ridiculous.

But shooting from 25 yards suddenly became a walk in the park. And fifteen was nearly effortless.

Harry Carpenter knew a great deal about more-or-less standard police guns in the 1970s and 1980s, but was a master of the M1911 pistol.

Harry -- some years after we both left the S.O.

While his main line of work was ownership of a dry-cleaning establishment, I found that it was strange that there was a Star progressive reloading machine there. A good place to pick up your stash of cast lead bullets, Harry had also been known to pull the handle a few times while he was waiting on a load of laundry.

And he was a caring, knowledgeable instructor. He mentored a number of people into the trade, and passed his knowledge to many more.

After 81 years of existence, Harry’s moved on now to a better place.

God bless him.

As to his training technique and persona, I took some lessons from it.

The advantage to distance shooting is somewhat like the advantage to shooting small targets; you learn to hold that silly pistol still while you’re shooting it.

With coaching, repetitive practice – the draw, multiple reloads, shooting left-handed and right-, moving from position to position, all while trying not to miss that ‘big-as-a-bus’ NRA B27 target from fifty yards – combines to create automaticity. When you’re closer, even with less time, shooting seems less a challenge.

Not being the drill sergeant type when trying to fine-tune a middle range shooter – practicing patience – gets great results quickly.

I learned from Harry and I’ll miss him.

-- Rich Grassi