4 Dec 00
The incompetence of the management of the NJSP is beyond description! This is from a friend in the NJSP:
“Even we can’t believe this! The latest delay on the issuance of our new S&W M99 pistols is that the department is now going to, at great additional expense and delay, retrofit decocking levers onto the already-purchased, already-made, already-delivered pistols that specifically and purposely were manufactured WITHOUT decocking levers, at the insistence of our agency and against the advise of S&W.
I swear you could never make this stuff up! The taxpayers should run these guys out on a rail”
12 Dec 00
I just completed a Defensive Handgun Program in Georgia. One of my students used a Glock 22C, but he had replaced a Glock barrel with one made by Accu-Match. His Glock was rendered temperamental and erratic in its performance. All this, of course, to make the gun more “accurate.”
The after-marked barrel lasted for one hundred rounds! During a shooting exercise, his gun suddenly seized up and refused to function. I took it from him and was unable to manually move the slide in either direction.
I then pointed the pistol at the backstop and pressed the trigger. The slide abruptly shot forward and nearly fell to the ground. An examination of the barrel revealed that the locking lug had sheared off completely!
The shooter did not have the original barrel with him, so he was forced to switch guns in order to complete his instruction.
Lesson: I will stop short of condemning all after-market parts and accessories. However, “accurizing” of defensive firearms with after-market gimmicks invariably makes them unreliable. Glocks work just fine the way they are!
13 Dec 00
Comments on aftermarket parts:
>” I’ve seen similar results with aftermarket ‘Glock’ firing pins (titanium, for shorter ‘lock time,’ don’t you know!), connectors (for that 3.5 lb trigger pull you just have to have, 5 lbs. being altogether too heavy), and extended slide stop levers (apparently to remedy some problem I have yet to determine).
If the user doesn’t like the features of a particular pistol, I think it’s generally a better course of action for him to pick a different pistol, than to attempt to modify one he doesn’t like.
If I thought an extended slide stop lever would likely change the outcome of a lethal confrontation, maybe I’d rush out to get one, too. I don’t rush out to get one because I’ve gotten to the point where I think there are at least forty or fifty (or maybe sixty) things more likely to affect the outcome than an extended slide stop, and none of them – except the trigger and the front sight – are attached to my handgun!”
>”Like many others, my ‘dream guns’ used to be parts guns put together by THE ‘smith of the town.’ Nowadays, I am content with something that is easy to use and works each time, every time. As such, most of my gear is close to stock. Getting old I guess…”
Lesson: Aren’t we all!
13 Dec 00
The First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), July 1861
Between 1815 and 1860, the American federal army had withered to a nearly harmless size. Intuitively distrusting a large, standing army, Americans relied heavily on the privately armed, citizen militia to augment regular forces when and if war came. By 1860, widely scattered regular federal forces totaled fewer than 16,000 men.
Regulars fought an inconclusive, running battle with Seminoles in Florida between and 1835 and 1842, and, in 1846, Americans launched an aggressive war with Mexico, conquering a vast territory, all the way to the Pacific Coast. However, militia members were quickly mustered out the moment the Mexican war ended, again leaving only a few regulars to carry on until the next war. They didn’t have to wait for long!
In the first half of the Nineteenth Century a number of individual states, mostly in the South, feeling themselves threatened by industrialized, northern states, repeatedly threatened to succeed from the Union. In fact, such threats were so common that they rarely made headlines and were usually greeted with little more than polite laughter.
On 17 December 1860, the laughter abruptly stopped! Abraham Lincoln, an ambitious Illinois politician, was seen in the South as unfairly favoring northern states and simultaneously looking down his nose at southerners, regarding them as residing in a collection of backward, unenlightened, and insignificant, vassal states. War clouds gathered ominously when Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election via an overwhelmingly northern electorate.
His election as president was the last straw for South Carolina. The legislature there voted unanimously to succeed from the Union without delay. Predictably, succession fever quickly spread! Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana joined the new “Confederacy” by the end of January. Texas entered on the first of March, having only just joined the Union in 1845. By the end of May, Virginia, Arkansas, and North Carolina also succeeded. Kentucky remained neutral, and Missouri broke apart in its own, internal civil war. Both Delaware and Maryland nearly succeeded but ultimately did not.
In April, South Carolina demanded that the island federal installation at Ft Sumpter (in Charleston Harbor) be evacuated. When the commander of the resident, federal garrison politely declined, the fort was shelled by state militiamen, and the War was on in earnest!
Most northerners desperately wanted to believe that the whole “misunderstanding” would all be over in a few weeks. Lincoln, spurred on by ambitious newspaper editors and armchair generals, believed the conflict could be ended, in grand, Napoleonic style, via a single, decisive battle. His Grand Plan hinged on one preemptive, conclusive, and incontrovertible victory, which would cause the fledgling Confederacy to precipitously disintegrate. Secessionist states would then, one after another, meekly ask to be readmitted into the Union. Lincoln’s foolish underestimation of southern resolve was inexcusable and would ultimately cause the deaths of 618,000 Americans.
The commander chosen by Lincoln to conduct this battle was forty-three-year-old Irvin McDowell. He had been promoted from the rank of major to that of brigadier general in a span of two months! Under heavy pressure to get an army together and march on Richmond, McDowell scurried about Washington DC trying to organize and train a disorganized avalanche of newly arriving state militia units. Some were even arriving unarmed!
Giving into political pressure to “get the offensive going,” McDowell started out toward Richmond with his “army” of 73,000 mostly untrained troops. One New York unit, lead by Benjamin Butler, found and fired upon an enemy unit, only to discover the “enemy” was another unit from New York! The real enemy subsequently met both units and easily defeated them. This and other bad omens should have cautioned McDowell to delay his offensive until his army could be trained and equipped properly. However, with an anxious Lincoln breathing down his neck, he plunged forward anyway in a direct advance toward Richmond.
McDowell’s troops advanced at a snail’s pace, giving Confederate General Beauregard ample time to outmaneuver them. An intermediate objective was a critical railroad junction at Bull Run. Once the junction had been secured, McDowell planned on his soldiers riding to Richmond in railroad cars! At a tributary of Bull Run, called Young’s branch, Beauregard’s troops hit the disorganized Union line. Union militia units instantly fell apart and disintegrated into a pall mall retreat. The regulars held, but only for a short time. Panic spread like an epidemic through Union formations! McDowell, seeing a terrorized hoard that used to be his army, running back toward him, realized in horror that he had lost all control.
McDowell’s disorganized mob sprinted all the way back to Washington, many abandoning their weapons as they ran! Dumfounded spectators, who had come out with picnic baskets to witness the “glorious victory” ran back with them. McDowell had lost nearly three thousand troops as well as twenty-three of his fifty-five cannon. It was the most humiliating defeat of the War. It would be over a year before the Union Army would be ready for another offensive. McDowell kept his rank but was unceremoniously shuttled to the rear. He would never command troops in battle again.
One of Beauregards’s generals, Tom (Stonewall) Jackson, wanted to capitalize on the victory, chase the Union troops all the way back, and then burn the city of Washington! He was overruled, a grave mistake which may have changed the course of the War.
Lincoln, now realizing that the War would be long and bitter, abandoned Napoleonic strategies and opted for the British tactic of slow strangulation and attrition. Four painful years later, this plan would ultimately yield victory.
Lessons: When politicians try to micromanage a war from afar, overruling local commanders, the seeds of calamity are sown! Seasoned regulars, who know how to fight, are usually victorious, but even the brave become timid when they are confused. Confusion leads to hesitation. Hesitation leads to panic. Panic spreads like fire, and catastrophe is assured.
17 Dec 00
This from a friend who is park ranger in Southern California:
“I recently completed the PC832 Reserve Academy Refresher Program through our local community college. We used our city police department range and firearms. Those who didn’t bring their own pistol had a choice of completing the course with the Beretta 92-F in 9mm, the S&W 5906 in 9mm, or the S&W 6906, also in 9mm.
Ninety rounds into the live-fire portion of the Program, two of the Berettas broke locking blocks, and one other broke its trigger return spring/pin. All three had to be removed from service.
Toward the end of the Program, two of the Smith & Wesson pistols broke the trigger bow in the corner. They still functioned, but the trigger acquired a mushy and inconsistent press. They were also pulled from service.
One student brought a HK USP pistol in 40S&W. No problems noted.
I used my own SIG P220 in 45ACP. With 30,000 rounds already through it, it went through the Program without a hiccup.”
Lesson: In my experience: If you have a Glock or SIG, your pistol probably won’t break no matter how much you shoot it. If you have a S&W, Kahr, or a USP, your pistol probably won’t break either, but there is a greater chance than with the first two listed. If you have a Beretta, your pistol probably will break within 15,000 rounds, much sooner if it is in 40S&W caliber.
17 Dec 00
With regard to my last posting. From a friend at a large PD training academy:
“Not my experience! Glocks are nearly indestructible, as you noted. However, I have owned four SIGs, two 9mms and two 45s. None of them have gone more than two hundred rounds without needing to be cleaned and lubricated, heavily. Same at the Academy. We all qualify with a SIG 226 each month, and it typically won’t go through three, fifty-two rounds qualification courses without needing to be serviced.
I can really do without the gun. Give me a Glock every time!
Lesson: We are all victims/beneficiaries of our own experiences.
18 Dec 00
From a friend at SIG:
“Since the gun is the one variable that we can control, it makes sense to show up with one that is going to work, meaning that it is well maintained and is loaded with good ammunition. How often a gun needs to be cleaned is no measure of its quality. Ergonomics, reliability, and accuracy are far more important.”
From friends and students who are obviously SIG fans:
“I’ve carried a SIG 228 every day for eighteen months, putting about 20,000 rounds through it and surviving a couple of Farnam courses during that time. It never even came close to failing in any way. More than I can say for the operator!”
“When I went through the LFI Advanced Handgun Skills class, I shot 850 rounds over two days with my personal SIG 226, without cleaning, and it worked fine. I did keep it heavily lubricated. SIGs may be more maintenance sensitive than Glocks, but they rarely break.”
“I’ve used a SIG P226 in a number of Farnam courses, firing thousands of rounds, often grubby reloads, with no problems at all. This is the first complaint I’ve heard about SIGs!”
“When I took your advanced pistol course we used your two, dueling spinners. Those ammo monsters (which we still use, though they have been rewelded numerous times) burned an enormous amount of ammunition that weekend! My SIG P220 personally ate 1,300 rounds with nary a hiccup and no cleaning. When I did clean it after the Course was over, the barrel and slide were caked with a grimy mixture of soot, grease, and sand.”
“My SIG 226 was a mid-eighties model, and I was its fifth owner. One day, the frame rails cracked on both sides. I didn’t know this until I disassembled the gun later that day. It continued to function normally, and accuracy was not affected. When I brought the incident to the attention of SIG, they immediately replaced the gun and asked no questions. I’ve carried the new one ever since.”
“Granted the Glock is easier to use, but the reliability of either gun (Glock or SIG) would seem comparable. Longevity may be a different story. However, who wants to experiment with the limits of useful life of any critical equipment?”
From a friend at S&W with regard to the broken trigger bow mentioned in my last posting:
“This sounds very much like the old style draw bar. Our Customer Service Dept will fix them if he sends them back, immediately and with no questions.”
Assorted other comments:
“I have found only two truly durable, reliable handguns in over forty years of shooting: Ruger revolvers and Glocks.”
“My Kahr P-9 has functioned flawlessly through heavy use. I carry it every day.”
“My Beretta 92F developed a crack in the frame at the 25,000 round mark. I had previously replaced a broken locking block at 18,000 rounds. I purchased the gun in 1986. It was replaced by the factory at no charge in 1996, ten years later, no questions asked!”
“How many officers have you trained who have permitted such heavy lint buildup in their pistols that they bursts into flame on the first shot? We’ve seen it here!”
From my friend who made the original comment:
“While proper maintenance may keep a SIG running just fine through fair weather and fowl, no maintenance at all and even outright abuse are unable to keep a Glock from functioning normally. And, while I have neither the data nor the desire to persuade anyone to forgo their favorite weapon, I do think that information like mine, even though anecdotal, should be taken in good faith and at least go into the hopper when one is trying to make an informed decision.”
Lesson: It’s important to distinguish between (1) reliability and (2) durability. All firearms benefit from a competent maintenance plan at both the user and the armorer level. I would surely not recommend neglect of any defensive firearm. How maintenance sensitive a particular firearm may be is a subject of lively debate, as we all can see.
Durability is a much more important issue. Guns with durability problems frequently break critical parts no matter how competent the maintenance program. This is a bad thing, because it is out of the control of the owner. Guns with serious durability problems are far less desirable than are those which can be said to be “functionally durable.”
The other important element in the equation is the reputation of the particular manufacturer for taking care of its customers. I’ve seen every species of defensive firearm break parts at one time or another. When the factory immediately fixes the problem with no questions asked, they score big points with me!
20 Dec 00
SOP-9, as it is called, is NYPD’s ongoing statistical study of lethal-force incidents in which MOSs (Members of Service) are involved. It dates from the 1860s to the present and is a credible source of information, one of the few available.
For years, we were all told SOP-9 established the “average” number of rounds fired by an MOS during a lethal encounter was two to three. We later learned that figure was incorrect and was actually the result of sloppy statistical analysis. Naive statisticians simply took the total of all rounds fired outside of the firing range and divided it by the total number of shooting “incidents.” Unhappily, “incidents” included accidents and suicides!
A more careful analysis of the data (which included only intentional shootings) revealed the actual figure to be very close to six rounds. What that said to us all was that officers, when threatened with lethal violence, were firing every round they had in their six-shot revolvers. After six shots, there was a mandatory pause for a conventional reload or a “NY reload,” which consisted of producing a second revolver! After the reload, additional shooting was rarely necessary.
That was prior to 1994. In 1994 autoloading pistols were introduced to the NYPD system.
When autoloaders (mostly Glocks, with an occasional S&W and Beretta) came into the NYPD system, we all expected that figure (six) to go up into the teens, fully expecting officers to continue to fire every round they have. The latest data has shown our expectations to be incorrect!
The new “average” number of rounds fired is eight. Subsequent data may alter that number, but that is what we have now. What jumps out at me is that, after eight rounds are fired, the parties separate or accommodate to the point where additional shooting is not necessary, at least in the short term, even though the officer is fully capable of firing more rounds. NYPD shooting accuracy has improved steadily, but the average hit percentage is still below twenty, so, out of eight rounds fired, only one or two are likely to impact anywhere on the suspect. In most cases, hit or not, the suspect disengages and runs away.
If you’re wondering if there is a point lurking in all this:
If you have enough rounds in your magazine to get you through the initial exchange and still have some rounds left, you can then reload at your leisure. If you go to slide lock prior to the fight ending, then you’ll have to reload and resume firing on an emergency basis. We teach students to reload on an emergency basis in any event, but having enough rounds to get you through the fight without the necessity of a reload bringing about an inconvenient interruption would appear to provide a genuine advantage.
Debates about calibers, accuracy, and ammunition aside, a fifteen-shooter or even an eleven-shooter would appear to be a better choice than a seven or eight-shooter, at least in New York City!
21 Dec 00
Another issue that jumped out at me from the latest iteration of SOP-9 is that, when NYPD officers are shot by criminal suspects (this excludes accidental shootings):
(1) The distance from the officer to the suspect is “conversational” (six meters and in), and
(2) The part of the officer’s body most often hit is the lower abdomen and right leg
This suggests to some that criminal suspects only shoot at officers within a six-meter radius, but statistics do not bear that out. In actuality, criminal suspects shoot at officers at ALL ranges, but they usually are unable to hit the officer until they get within six meters. Even then, they typically jerk their shots low and left, striking the officer in the lower abdomen and/or the right leg.
This suggests to me that our ability to unerringly detect and verbally “arrest” suspects at a distance greater than six meters and then keep them from getting closer is an important skill. It also suggests that our ability to identify and skillfully use movement and available cover is also critical.
In addition, the data suggests that our ability to be effective with a pistol at ranges out to fifteen meters is critical. We can hit consistently at extended ranges. They can’t. So long as we do not allow them to get close, they remain at a critical disadvantage.
22 Dec 00
Tunnel vision and movement:
Tunnel vision, along with auditory exclusion and a host of other psychosomatic symptoms, are commonly associated with the high levels of anxiety which are normally present in everyone who is involved in a potentially lethal incident.
The bad guy will therefore be looking at you through what appears to be a hole in a doughnut. When you sidestep four feet to one side or another, you, in effect, disappear! In order to visually reacquire you, the bad guy must blink, draw back, and move his head. In the critical second or two it takes him to do that, you can compound your advantage.
Sun Tzu said many centuries ago, “The more possibilities you present to the enemy, the more diffuse he is forced to become. The more diffuse he becomes, the more difficult it is for him to concentrate sufficiently to make a successful attack.”
Movement confuses bad guys. When they are confused, they hesitate. We can then take advantage of their hesitation to further weaken their position.
On the other hand, we must ourselves develop the ability to transition from concentration to diffusion quickly, always more quickly than our adversary. We thus stay one step ahead, and the bad guy is then forced to continually play catch-up. When one is playing catch-up, a successful attack is extremely unlikely.
23 Dec 00
From a student:
“I read your comments about the Carbon-15 rifle. I too recently handled one for the first time. One of my fellow students at a defensive rifle course had one. Like you, I was impressed with the light weight and overall handiness. However, this initial impression changed when the shooting started.
The rifle did not function well. It malfunctioned (mostly failure to feed) at least once every ten rounds despite being adequately lubricated! Different magazines, ammunition, and shooters were tried, and the rifle was completely taken down and cleaned. Nothing changed.
Our overall impression of this weapon is negative.”
28 Dec 00
This from an instructor who has been working with the new H&K “Red Lion” shotgun in an attempt to develop a lesson plan for teaching its use in a defensive scenario:
“Got word today from the local H&K guy. Contrary to what I previously thought, the Red Lion shotgun DOES have a manually activated, bolt hold-open device. It is engaged by depressing the elevator, which causes the button on the LEFT side of the receiver to protrude slightly. Then, the bolt is moved smartly to the rear and will hold open fully retracted until the button is pressed back in. This procedure will, of course, allow the chamber to be emptied (or ammo swapped) as is normal for a semi-auto shotgun.
Too bad the Operator’s Manual, which comes with the gun and which is so chock full of warnings and excoriations about accidentally shooting oneself that there is precious little said about actually operating the gun, provides NO HINT of this critical operating procedure!”
Lesson: When writing gun operations manuals, lawyers need to let genuine gunmen actually take a peek now and then!
28 Dec 00
Follow up from another instructor:
“If it’s any consolation, the same nonsense is the case with power tools, hair dryers and almost anything else one purchases for actual use. I just received a Panasonic cordless drill. The instruction manual has PAGES of precisely written warnings and cautions.
The actual instructions for use are cursory, confusing, poorly translated, and incomplete.
I would think that in the case of a deadly weapon, at least, they would be more attentive.
29 Dec 00
From a friend and student in Africa:
“A week ago, I visited a friend in an unfamiliar part of town. As I left my parked car, I was passed by two individuals (pedestrians) who were taking a keen interest in me. I made eye contact with them, but there were undeterred and turned to follow me. Keeping an eye on them, I hurriedly entered the foyer of the apartment block and called my friend on the intercom.
The two suspects paused outside the foyer, spotted me, then entered. I was carrying my pistol (Browning Hi-Power) in a fanny pack. I loosened the access panel and placed my hand on the butt of the pistol. There was little doubt now as to what these two were up to. They rapidly split up as they entered, and the one on the left approached me yelling something as the one on the right kept his distance and drew a pistol from under his cardigan sweater.
I immediately drew my own pistol and fired two shots at the gunman (9mm hardball, which is all we can get over here). The armed suspect had drawn his pistol in an exaggerated, theatrical style (imitating what he had seen on American TV, no doubt) and was thus hit by my rounds before he was able to aim or fire. I would have continued to fire, but he immediately turned and fled. His astonished accomplice, though not fired upon, stumbled backward and fell, sprawling on his backside. However, he quickly recovered and was back on his feet at once.
Both suspects, now fleeing, arrived at the exit simultaneously, but the gunman’s sweater became entangled in the iron grating. He pulled free and continued running, dropping both the sweater and his gun in the process. He stumbled and collapsed after running several more meters, and from my position I could see him lying in the street. I could also see a pool of blood accumulating under him. His uninjured accomplice disappeared completely.
I was fairly confident that I had hit the armed suspect, because I used my sights as I had been trained to do, but I really wasn’t sure until I saw the blood stain. When I fired at him, he ran away very fast. He didn’t remind me of a man who had just been shot!
Hearing the shots and suspecting that I was in trouble, my friend (also armed) had arrived at the entrance to the apartment building. He called the police on his cell phone. While all this was going on, the injured suspect got back up and resumed fleeing! He quickly disappeared, but he left a large blood stain on the pavement.
A police vehicle arrived after an hour. After questioning us briefly, they recovered the suspect’s gun (only because I pointed it out to them) and left. They wrote nothing down, took no photos, and no measurements. We’ve heard nothing from them since and don’t expect to.
This was my first (and I hope my last!) gunfight. When I fired, I can recall hearing only muffled thuds, and my ears did not ring afterwards. I did experience the slow-motion effect that you had discussed when you were here. My friend recalled my two shots being separated by a scant fraction of a second, while my recollection is that they were spaced by several seconds.”
Lessons: Alertness and competent training sets one up for victory! My student was alert and saw trouble in the making. He wasn’t confused nor did he lapse into denial. He confronted a desperate circumstance squarely and quickly made a plan, confident in his own ability and resolve. He didn’t hesitate and didn’t miss. His decisiveness and competence saved his life. Good show!