3 May 05
I spent the afternoon with my good friend John Milano of DSA at their facility in Illinois.
New products: GTC Carbine (223). This is a gas-piston AR-15 look-alike. It has a op-rod, instead of a gas tube. This advancement on the original Stoner design has been attempted in the past, but this current iteration is very nice. The rifle stays a good deal cleaner than does the ones on the original design, because gas does not come back into the receiver. The GTC bolt has no gas seal rings to break and rot away, because they are no longer necessary. This unit tests well and will be a good competitor for existing AR-15s as well at Robinson Arm’s new XCR.
Rotex3 suppressor. It securely and quickly clamps on the AR-15s existing flash suppressor. No muzzle flash and no muzzle disturbance to contribute to launch signature. This has application with both military and police situations, as the sound generated when it is in place is muffled and unrecognizable as a gun shot. Handy in populated areas where gunfire is upsetting to the general population.
Eventually, I believe all sniper rifles will be equipped with can suppressors. Accuracy is usually not degraded and actually may be improved, and launch signature is greatly reduced. Nothing not to like!
DSA is a progressive and aggressive American arms company. I have several of their FALs, and they are wonderful. Like Robinson Arms, They’re poised to become a major player.
3 May 05
Gerber is producing viable competition to the Leatherman tool. It is called the Diesel Multi-Pliers. Excellent utility tool with some features not found on Leathermans, like a scissors. Rugged and well designed, I’m adding this to the list of suggested items to be sent our Marines deployed overseas. Recommended!
4 May 05
I spent the afternoon with Mark Krebs and Brian Conrad at Krebs Custom here in Illinois. Krebs Custom makes the KTR, a slick, short, light Kalashnikov rifle, with a folding stock. It has a Western-style peep, rear sight, and sharp corners and edges have all been smoothed off. Available in 223, 7.62X39, and 5.45. Of the three, I prefer the 7.62X39 (30 Soviet). Effective and universally available, here and overseas. Makes a perfect “Car Gun.”
Krebs has concentrated exclusively on the Kalashnikov system, and Mark and Brian make a good, reliable, utility gun. If you like the Kalashnikov System (and I do!), the KTR is a good way to go.
4 May 05
I need to comment on the relatively new phenomenon of serrations on the forward portion of 1911 slides. All 1911 slides come with serrations on the rear portion, rear of the ejection port. They are there, of course, to provide a firm grip when one needs to pull the slide to the rear. Recently however, many 1911s have been produced with additional serrations on the front of the slide, forward of the ejection port. In fact, most Kimbers, at least the full-sized ones, now come that way.
For recreational/competitive shooters, particularly those who find it necessary to put optical sights on top of their pistols, the rear of the slide is difficult to grasp in the traditional manner, ie: over the top. Front serrations were originally made for them. Soon however, they found their way onto many other pistols, even those ostensibly used for serious purposes.
Front serrations don’t hurt anything on a serious pistol, so long as they are ignored! They do tear up the insides of leather holsters but seem to have little effect on ky-dex. The trouble starts when people use them when they attempt to reciprocate the slide with the traditional (and correct) support-hand, overhand grip. The support hand then gets too far forward and actually occludes the ejection port, making it impossible for the pistol to cleanly eject a recalcitrant round or an empty case. In addition, with the hand in this forward position, the little finger invariably drapes over the muzzle. Poor technique indeed!
Some claim forward serrations are helpful in performing an “underhand” chamber check. Underhand chamber checks are not recommended, as it is difficult to precisely meter the amount of force applied in order to move the slide out of battery, but, as noted above, the technique is sometimes necessary with pistols encumbered with optics and other extraneous junk. On serious pistols, the overhand chamber check technique is the one we teach and recommend. Executing this correct procedure is not facilitated by front slide serrations.
To summarize, front slide serrations have no legitimate function on serious pistols. They will surely not be found on any of mine, as I don’t own any “non-serious” pistols. If your serious pistol has them, just pretend they are not there, and the gun will work just fine. Covering the ejection port while reciprocating the slide would appear to be an inherent contradiction. Placing fingers in front of muzzles, for any reason or duration, is not recommended on any day!
6 May 05
Comments from a friend working in Europe:
“Went to the Arms and Armor Museum in Vienna yesterday, and I noticed that the medieval evolution of fighting gear, much as is the case today, took two, parallel tracks. One track was toward real, practical fighting equipment. The other was toward otiose ‘game’ gear. That this parallel race has been around since the middle ages (actually, probably since Greek/Roman times) did not come as a surprise, but I was struck with the similarity to today’s.
What I saw as I walked through various galleries was a distinct evolution of the arms and armor used in real battle and a analogous one used in ‘tournament’ fighting. In order to play by the ‘rules,’ protect the participants from mortal injuries, and give competitors every ‘advantage,’ there was a series of add-on equipment, modifications and changes, which made it all but impossible to actually fight in tournament gear. The armor, in particular, had specialized to the point where it was so specific to, for example, a jousting event, there was absolutely nothing else the competitor could do in it other than that particular activity.
In addition I saw one of the first ‘integrated weapons systems,’ with tactical light! It was a shield, permanently mounted to the armor of the left arm. Attached was a short sword, and four other edged weapons. Looked like a Swiss Army knife. In addition, there was a small compartment which opened up to reveal a lantern, doubtless for competing in low light. If only they had known about Picatinny rails!”
Comment: Technology changes, but human nature doesn’t. Turning serious subjects into games, and games into a “counterfeit reality” is an activity as old as civilization. Harmless in many instances, but attitudes are always reflected in habits. Habits, in turn, delineate character. Character defines a destiny. When, in one’s head, there are two, separate attitudes, there will soon be two, separate sets of habits, two characters, and ultimately two destinies. Few can serve both well.
7 May 05
As rifles, particularly AR-15s, in beat cars continue to become common among police departments in the USA, questions with regard to weapon status, while the rifle is kept in the car, keep coming up. For rifles that are not under our direct control, but which still need to be in a relatively high state of readiness, I recommend “Transport Mode” and the ChamberSafe device.
Remember, “SAFETY” AND “READINESS” ARE ALWAYS MUTUALLY ANTAGONISTIC. The more safe a gun is, the less ready. The more ready, the less safe. Any serious firearm must be kept in condition that is a reasonable compromise between the two extremes, commensurate with circumstances and the job the gun is expected to do. Modes can then be upgraded or downgraded, as changing circumstances warrant. A gun that is acutely ready is acutely dangerous. Conversely, any gun that is “perfectly safe” is perfectly useless. You can’t have it both ways!
The purpose for following “mode drill” is to help students to organize their thinking, so that poor judgement and blunders, born of confusion, can be reduced.
(1) STORAGE MODE: There is no ammunition in the weapon. The bolt should be forward with the hammer down (for long-term storage). Storage mode is appropriate for weapons being prepared for non-accessible storage, such as in a gun safe or any other storage situation where rapid access is not a requirement. In storage mode, the rifle unloaded, and the magazine is removed or voided if it cannot be removed. As noted above, for long-term storage all springs should be at rest, so the hammer is down (dry fired) on an empty chamber.
(2) TRANSPORT MODE: Transport mode is intended, as described above, for unattended weapons that are kept close at hand but not carried on the person. The rifle is not under the owner’s direct control, but it is still intended to be readily accessible and available for defensive purposes on short notice. In transport mode, the chamber is empty. The bolt is in battery (all the way forward), and the hammer is down (dry fired) as is the case with storage mode, but, in transport mode, a fully-charged magazine is inserted in the magazine well and locked in place. The manual safety is in the “off” position. The gun is thus inert, but it can be quickly rendered ready to fire by simply reciprocating the bolt.
(3) CARRY MODE: Carry mode is appropriate only if the weapon is being continuously carried on the person and is thus under the operator’s constant, direct control. In carry mode, the rifle is immediately ready for use. A round is in the chamber, bolt in battery, hammer cocked, and a magazine is inserted, locked in, and fully charged. The manual safety is in the “on” position. A slung rifle is not directly analogous to a holstered pistol. Most holstered pistols have trigger and trigger guard protected and inaccessible. Not so with slung rifles. Slung rifles have a profoundly exposed trigger and trigger guard and are free to flop about. They are not held rigidly in place as is the case with a holstered pistol. Thus, slung rifles must have the manual safety continuously in the “on” position.
(4) ENGAGEMENT MODE: Engagement mode is the condition of the longarm when it is held at eye level and mounted on the shoulder. There is a high likelihood that the rifle will have to be fired on short notice, or, it has already been fired and well may have to be fired again. A fully charged magazine is inserted; chamber loaded; hammer cocked; manual safety in the “off” position; bolt in battery. The weapon will now discharge when pressure is applied to the trigger. The only difference between “carry mode” and “engagement mode” is that the manual safety is pushed from the “on” position to the “off” position as one goes from the former to the latter.
An issue that rears it head within police departments is the fact that most military rifles, in any of the above modes, look the same! One cannot tell, from outward appearance, what mode the rifle is in. Enter a clever, and inexpensive, device called “CHAMBERSAFE,” invented and marketed by good friend and distinguished rifleman, Chief Jeff Chudwin.
ChamberSafe is a one-piece, plastic chamber probe, attached to a large, and highly visible, pull ring. ChamberSafe is intended as a disposable, but intensely conspicuous, “mode indicator” for patrol rifles. ChamberSafe’s probe is inserted into the chamber of the patrol rifle, through the ejection port. If a live round or empty case is already there, you’ll be unable to get the probe in place. When in place, the large pull ring is plainly visible from the outside. Bolt will go forward as far as it can but will not be in battery. When in place, one can tell visually that the rifle’s chamber is empty.
With the rifle in transport mode, and the ChamberSafe device in place (the rifle cannot be dry-fired with ChamberSafe in place), the officer needs only to hook the pull ring with a finger and pull ChamberSafe free from the rifle. It can then be discarded. The bolt will immediately go the rest of the way forward on an empty chamber. The officer can subsequently reciprocate the bolt (loading the rifle), if necessary. Thus, removing ChamberSafe does NOT load the rifle.
With ChamberSafe in place, the rifle’s manual safety can be either “off” or “on.” I recommend it be “off.” With ChamberSafe in place, the manual safety in the “on” position becomes a pointless redundancy.
Inexpensive, disposable, inert, no moving parts, easy to learn and easy to use, works with nearly any autoloading rifle, ChamberSafe is an excellent idea for your patrol rifle. It reduces confusion without reducing readiness. Web Page is at www.chambersafe.com. RECOMMENDED!
7 May 05
Current Marine Pistol “Qualification,” from a friend on active duty, and one of our instructors:
“Last week, I dutifully went to the known distance (KD) pistol range to undergo my requiem, annual pistol ‘qualification.’ The system requires officers, S/NCOs, MPs and some others to qualify with the M9 Pistol (Beretta 92F) annually. The ordeal consumes four days. Lecture and live fire. Total rounds fired, over all four days, is only two hundred, all at a stationary, NRA bullseye targets, pasted over ‘E’ silhouette backers. I look forward to seeing future threats wearing white shirts printed with concentric rings, standing perfectly still, and with the middle two rings blackened for my aiming convenience!
All ranges were ‘cold,’ of course, and the regimen is sufficiently undemanding so that no one ever fails. Thus, precious little ‘training’ actually takes place. Expectations are low, as everyone shows up merely to get their tickets punched (between yawns) and nothing else.
Calling the program a frightful bore fails to do it justice! Participants are never taught, nor required, to draw from a holster. Pistols are never carried loaded. They’re never ‘carried’ at all! Tactical pistol presentations are disallowed, as they are seen as ‘unsafe.’ I was, in fact, bruskly informed that thigh holsters, actually ALL holsters, were ‘unsafe’ (hope Marines currently in Iraq don’t find out about this). Thus, I was chastised for wearing my Eagle holster, that has served me so long and so well, from Panama to Tikrit, by youngsters who have yet to fire their first shot in anger. Oh, my Randall knife was also deemed ‘unsafe.’ I was tempted to ask if we should all just report to the range in the nude, but I controlled myself!
The day had only begun! I also ‘learned’ the Weaver stance, for no reason that was ever articulated, was no good. Only the Isosceles stance would be tolerated. In addition, a proper grip, I ‘learned,’ involves crossing one’s thumbs, so he can manipulate the decocking lever with his support-side hand. When I asked how I was supposed to manipulate the decocking lever when my support-side hand was unavailable, I drew a blank stare, one that became ever more irritated as the day progressed. Oh yes, we were to use the ‘sling-shot’ method of slide manipulation exclusively.
At this point, my attention-span lapsed, as did that of the other folks who had previously attended competent pistol training. We all just got it over with. After all, standards are so low, there is no possibility of failure anyway.
As the ordeal mercifully wound down, we were instructed to turn in ‘old’ magazines (read: Beretta OEM) for ‘new’ magazines (read: Checkmate) as the new magazines were ‘much improved.’ The fact that Checkmate magazines are inferior, after-market, lowest-bidder crap was diplomatically ignored. Suffice it to say, my ‘old’ Beretta OEM magazines worked just fine and thus stayed with me as I left.
In my naive youth, I had good-natured tolerance for this pitiful BS, but I can no longer remain silent in the face of such institutionalized ignorance. With real lives at stake, I can’t stomach my valuable time being squandered on this pathetically outdate trash, masquerading as ‘instruction’.”
Comment: These young Marine instructors are, I’m sure, well meaning. But, they have been poorly trained. We thus see “the blind leading the blind.” Their embarrassing ignorance is not their fault. They have been set up to fail. What they ‘teach’ is just rote memorization, as none of them, at any time in their young lives, have actually carried a pistol for serious purposes. Thus, myths are passed along. They don’t know what they don’t know. Their students know even less. Fortunately, when Marines are exposed to enlightened pistol training, they take to it like fish to water and routinely ask why all firearms training isn’t conducted the modern way and on hot ranges.
It gets worse: as discouraging as the foregoing sounds, Marines are “advanced” when compared with the other branches. I am personally disappointed that I have obviously been unable to generate more positive change within the system.
8 May 05
On British and Australian individual weapon procedure, from a friend in Country:
“Our British and Australian colleagues immediately unload all guns (rifles and pistols) upon coming back through the wire, even though we live in an uninterrupted combat zone. Since we have to depend on them, I habitually ask, ‘Are all your guns loaded?’ Imagine my surprise when I first discovered that, in British military jargon, ‘loaded’ translates to ‘transport mode.’ They are so afraid of actually putting a live round in the chamber of any rifle or pistol, most even carry outside the wire with an empty chamber. When they do load, they instantly unload every chance they get, even when it is conspicuously unwise to do so. Loaded guns are treated as if they carried some contagious disease!
Don’t get me wrong. Brits and Aussies are good soldiers, but they have been philosophically castrated by their respective nanny-states. In their national confusion, fear of guns has become a ubiquitous, domestic obsession, and it has spilled over, even into the military. These two nations will indeed be lucky to survive this current period of world history.”
Comment: We Americans may not survive either. History does not deal kindly with sissified, delusional wimps who are afraid of their own birthright! We live in exciting times. Guns need to be loaded. Get used to it!
9 May 05
Kahr M1 Carbine, a disappointment.
Kahr Arms produces a wonderful line of small, concealment pistols. I own and carry several regularly and recommend them. Quality has been good, and customer service has always been excellent. At last year’s SHOT Show, Kahr expanded its line and introduced its new M1 Carbine.
We’ve had several Kahr M1 Carbines in classes now, and they have, without exception, been undependable. In some cases, unserviceable. I really wanted to like this gun, but I can’t. The Kahr folks have always been nice to me, and I wanted to return the favor and recommend this rifle, but I can’t.
Based on my experience, I don’t recommend it. Kahr needs either to drop the item from their catalog or upgrade quality control to the point where the rifle is acceptable. Unreliable rifles have been returned multiple times to Kahr, and even they can’t seem to get them running right. Customer service is good, but the end product is still unacceptable.
I like the M1 Carbine. I own several, and I think they make ideal “car guns.” With the imminent introduction of Cor-Bon’s DPX ammunition in 30M1, this rifle will become vastly more toxic and useful than it is now. We were really hoping Kahr would step up to the plate and be a good and reliable source, but it is apparently not to be.
10 May 05
ND’s within the Army:
USA Today, and several other papers, ran a front-page story today on small-arms ND’s within the Army. This does not include “accidental hits” (“fratricide”), where the result is unintentional, but the discharge itself is still deliberate. Fratricide is a thorny issue by itself, but not the subject of these articles.
Compared with previous wars, ND’s have actually been low during current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the big picture, we’re getting better. The reason is, I believe, a higher quality of individual is being recruited today than was the case in the past. However, ND’s are still a delicate and unhappy subject within all service branches. Everyone agrees that we need to do better.
So far, seventeen American deaths have resulted from ND’s during current conflicts in the Mideast. In addition, there have been over one hundred non-fatal injuries. There have, of course, been additional deaths and injuries in training stateside, but those are not included in the above figures. Since only one in one hundred ND’s actually result in an injury, and the vast majority of non-injury ND’s are covered up and thus never reflect in any statistic, there have probably been in excess of 10,000 ND’s since the war started! The exact number will never be known. In all fairness, that is still only a minuscule percentage of the billions of rounds actually expended in training and in actual combat, but, in view of the fact that ND’s are 99% preventable, these injuries and deaths are as calamitous as they are inexcusable.
Some heroic Army officers have tried to address the pervasive cold-war, gun-phobia that is at the root of the problem. As Marines have always done, the Army is now providing increased opportunity for recruits to handle and “live with” the (unloaded) tools of their craft. Unfortunately, opportunities to handle loaded and fully-functional rifles and pistols continue to be extremely limited, conducted only in sterile, stilted environments, and are still overshadowed by fear and abhorrence. Thus, the “two-sets-of-habits” issue, which lies at the heart of the problem, has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way.
A bright spot: Innovative commanders have instituted a policy of trainees carrying pistols and rifles with training blanks chambered. It is a half-step to a loaded gun. Damage from occasional ND’s is thus reduced, but not eliminated. Blanks are still potentially injurious at close range, but every ND is noted and immediately corrected. ND’s “happen,” but now become opportunities for all to learn. Embarrassed recruits learn the “soft way,” but the lesson is still learned. This program needs to go system-wide, but, as noted above, there are risks, and we all know the difficulty the system has with any species of risk!
If the only goal is to reduce training accidents, we have seen some success. If the goal is to reduce ND’s in combat zones, we have largely failed. At some point in their training, recruits need to be exposed to hot ranges and eventually accept hot ranges as the normal way to train with rifles and pistols. Soldiers and Marines must, at some point, learn to “live with” loaded guns. Anything less, timid half-steps like “clearing barrels and “gun-free” zones, and we’ll just continue to kid ourselves.
11 May 05
From a friend in Brazil:
“Here in Brazil we are living in a more-or-less continuous, civil war. Territorial battles rage among rival drug gangs, and our ‘government’ is only too happy to cater to all of them! Brazil is the second most violent country in the world, exceeding even South Africa. Current murder rate is nearly twenty per 100,000 persons, per year. We are exceeded only by Venezuela, at twenty-two. Last year, Brazil had 40,000 (reported) violent deaths. Serious injuries were twenty times that number. The actual figures are probably several times higher, as many go unreported. In rural areas, bodies are rarely found.
For the struggling (and rapidly disappearing) middle class, like me, criminal violence is always close. My parents, sister, and me have all been held at gunpoint by armed robbers multiple times, despite our extensive precautions. My mother once; my sister six times; my father and me both twice. We’ll all lucky to be alive and (so far) uninjured, but we believe it is only a matter of time before one of us gets hurt. With our personal security so grievously and continuously threatened, there is time to think about little else.
Concealed carry licenses are difficult to get here unless you’re connected politically. Drug dealers, for example, all have them! Fee is $1,000.00 (US) for just one year. Only the rich can afford it. Even then, you have to ‘know someone.’ My family owns few guns, and we highly value them all.
Black Brazilians, descendant of African slaves brought here in the 1800s, form the poorest layer of society. They are perpetually angry, and I don’t blame them. Unlike in your country, they have never been integrated economically and have thus largely been excluded from the middle class. As such, they are easily manipulated by a government anxious to use them to threaten those they perceive as enemies.
Our federal government now wants to imitate Australia, South Africa, and the UK and outright ban the private possession of all firearms. Of course, they have already announced that they will make convenient exceptions of themselves. They would have us foolishly believe that ‘rules and regulations’ do away with the need for independent, unilateral action. Who lust after the seizure of political power always want to disarm the middle class, for they believe it is us who threaten them most. It is the same in your country. The gun ban is being promoted as a ‘crime control’ measure, but a frightened, cowed, (and soon) defenseless middle class is the real goal. Proud, independent, decent, and self-reliant people, the kind who built this country, are no longer wanted, nor will we be tolerated.”
Comment: Who believes “rules and regulations,” even in a civilized society, provide comprehensive, personal protection is a fool, soon to be a dead one! The “personal capacity for independent action” is the cornerstone of all free and productive societies. Our Founding Fathers knew that personal freedom is impossible without economic freedom, and that economic freedom is impossible without personal security. That is why they insisted upon the Second Amendment. Governments that force decent people into helplessness and defenselessness by suffocating them with arbitrary and burdensome regulations, squeeze the life out of the very “civilization” they purport to protect.
11 May 05
The Compton, CA shooting, early Monday Morning:
Early Monday morning, a number of LASO deputies fired a total of 120 pistol rounds, over a span of less than a minute, at a single suspect who was seated in a slowly moving vehicle. Range never exceeded fifteen meters. The suspect had attempted to run over at least one deputy, and that is what prompted the shooting. LASO deputies used Beretta 92Fs (9mm). Ammunition is a high-performance hollowpoint, but I don’t know the brand. No shotguns nor rifles were involved.
The result was that the suspect suffered four, minor injuries. He was subsequently arrested without further incident. He never lost consciousness, and appeared to be completely ambulatory, displaying no apparent disablement. One deputy was shot, evidently unintentionally, by another deputy. The suspect did not fire any shots, no did anyone else other than LASO deputies at the scene. The round that struck the deputy hit an area protected by his ballistic vest. It did not penetrate, and he was not injured seriously.
The sheriff, in a televised interview yesterday, tried to rationalize the high number of rounds fired by saying his deputies “really didn’t want to kill” the suspect. Such an absurd and blatantly preposterous statement was, I’m sure, an conspicuous insult to his deputies. Suggesting that we can shoot at people without wanting to seriously hurt them insults my intelligence and that of every other police officer. He must think the public is really stupid. I can’t believe he made that statement with a straight face.
The real lesson here is that pistols, fired at moving cars, rarely have any discernable effect, nor are most pistol bullets likely to penetrate car doors with enough force to cause serious damage on the inside. That is why so many rounds were fired. They didn’t seem to be doing any good!
The ancillary lesson is that we need rifles in beat cars! We now have 223 ammunition that will reliably penetrate car doors. It is Cor-Bon’s 223/DPX. Had those LASO deputies been armed with rifles and DPX ammunition, far fewer shots would have been necessary. The fight would have been over far sooner, and the suspect would have been DRT!
The third lesson is: Don’t “surround” violent suspects! When suspects are surrounded, and shooting suddenly breaks out, we end up inadvertently shooting at each other. Remember Rule Four, and, when you discover yourself in a potential impact zone, get out of there!
12 May 05
Target, Front Sight, Focus, and Movement:
Earlier this week, a friend, who is an accomplished clay-bird shooter as well as a competent upland bird hunter, pointed this out to me: MOVEMENT ATTRACTS FOCUS.
He helped me understand that, in all successful shotgunning, one must focus on a moving, airborne target in order to be successful. Conversely, in successful defensive shooting with rifles and pistols, one must focus on the front sight. We all know this, but he drew my attention to something I had not fully considered, and I am persuaded he is right: The human eye will automatically detect movement and then focus upon the object that is moving most, or at least the most conspicuously.
For example, demonstrably successful upland bird hunters often do poorly at sporting clays, trap, and skeet, precisely because clay birds do not have flapping wings to attract the attention of the shooter’s eye. When a live bird flushes, the shooter focuses in on wildly flapping wings and the characteristic sound they make. He barely notices his shotgun’s muzzle swinging onto the target. Focusing upon the target is automatic in this case, because of the movement of the wings. That same shooter, when trying to hit a flying, clay pigeon, will instead focus upon his shotgun’s swinging muzzle, because the clay bird has no flapping wings, and the one thing he sees that is most in motion is his shotgun’s barrel. Therefore, to be successful, he must manually override his mind’s tendency to focus on the thing that has the most movement (his muzzle) and, focus instead upon the wingless clay pigeon. I takes a great deal of concentration, and, even then, many find success illusive indeed.
In serious pistol and rifle shooting, we have the same problem, only in reverse. When shooting at stationary targets, the one moving object we see in front of our face is the pistol itself. It is natural for the eye to pick up the moving front sight, because everything downrange, especially the target itself, is perfectly still. The shooter naturally concentrates upon his front sight and achieves consistent success. When that same shooter encounters a gingerly animated bad guy, his focus bypasses the front sight and goes straight downrange to the target! He often does not see his front sight at all, because it is moving far less than the target itself. He presses the trigger as he is focused upon the target and predictably misses. This well documented divergence of performance has historically been a great source of vexation for us trainers. We need to understand the role movement is playing in order for it to make sense.
Like the student of successful shotgunning, we must learn to manually override the tendency to focus upon the moving target and compel ourselves to redirect our focus (accommodate) upon the (less moving) front sight. One excellent way to do this is do devote a increased portion of our training time to engaging moving (animated) targets and less to stationary targets.
I noticed some time ago that students trained on Betterbilt’s Rotator targets picked up the focus-on-the-front-sight maxim much faster than those trained on stationary targets. It finally dawned on me that the movement itself, on the part of the target, is what makes the critical difference. To be successful gunmen, we need to practice on genuinely animated targets, a lot!
So-called “moving targets” that run at slow speed, along a predictable, linear path are not particularly therapeutic. For students to get adequate practice accommodating (changing focus) from target to front sight, targets used in training need to move fast and erratically. I thus commend the Rotator to all serious trainers.
Targets that move; serious pistol training is not complete without them!
16 May 05
Good news from SA! American news media will never report this:
“South Africa’s Constitutional Court (Supreme Court), in a landmark decision last week, has restored the rights of property owners. Dubious claims by ‘indigent persons’ to occupy private land have been ruled illegitimate. The court held that allowing illegal land grabs was ‘tantamount to anarchy.’
Illegal squatters have, for years, occupied privately owned farm land and simply claimed it as their own. The government, more interested in staying in power than in righteousness and legitimacy, sided with squatters. Land owners attempted to oust these squatters through all legal means, to no avail. The leftist government here has no interest in protecting the rights and property of anyone but selected voting blocks.
The government will now have to pay affected land owners for lost revenue and restoration expenses. The government is also responsible for the prompt removal and relocation of squatters.
Not surprisingly, government officials are fuming, and diving for cover!”
Comment: Thankfully, SA’s continued movement toward the lot of Zimbabwe has been (temporarily) halted. Maybe we could get some SA judges to sit on our Supreme Court!
16 May 05
Important note on holsters, from one of our instructors:
“I recently purchased a new pistol, like yours, and made an accompanying purchase of a kydex IWB holster. As expected, the pistol fit into the holster perfectly. I set off to the range to test the ensemble last weekend.
To my surprise and dismay, when I attempted to draw, I discovered the holster wanted the pistol more than I did! Pulling on the gun with as much strength as I could muster simply caused my entire belt, trousers and holster to rise up toward my armpit, with the pistol stubbornly remaining stuck in the holster. Several attempts, and I abandoned the effort and removed the holster from my belt.
Removed from my body, the gun slid out of the holster with barely a catch. With the naked eye I could see no reason for the problem. Mystified, I repeated the exercise with the holster back on. Same result. The pistol would not budge! Adjusting tension screws had no effect.
I set off to my office (my student is a dentist) and re-inspected with magnifying lenses and a bright light. What I discovered was that this pistol comes with a sharp edge around the inside of the trigger guard. The pressure exerted on the holster by my belt pressed the inside surface of the holster against this sharp edge and gouged a small ledge into the kydex. This ledge locked the pistol into the holster so securely that the gun could not be removed as long as the ledge was engaged by the pressure of my belt. As soon as the holster was removed, the pressure was released, the ledge disengaged, and the gun would release.
Solution was simple. Five minutes with a dental handpiece (Dremel tool would work just as well), and I removed the sharp edge on the trigger guard. I also buffed the ledge off the inside of the holster. Gun/holster combination has functioned perfectly ever since.”
Lessons: Sharp corners and edges on carry guns are bad for the shooter, but great for the photographer! Guns with sharp edges and corners photograph better than do practical guns, which have been “de-horned.” Crisp, clean lines are always more aesthetically appealing than are rounded edges. In fact, rounded edges look soft and out of focus in promotional ligature, and thus marketing people don’t like them. Unfortunately, manufacturers, wanting to sell guns, often listen to marketing consultants rather than to customers!
If, like me, you don’t enjoy bleeding when handling new guns, now you have an additional reason to de-horn your pistol before carrying it. De-horning is something that should be done at the factory, but it is an expensive, labor-intensive, finishing step, and gun companies don’t like running their costs up by including it. Happily, any competent pistolsmith can de-horn your gun at reasonable cost and quickly. Highly recommended!
Thoroughly testing new equipment before betting your life on it is also a good idea. I’m glad my student discovered this problem at the range, not during his first gunfight!
16 May 05
More on de-horning:
Friends at SIG have informed me that they will be offering heavily de-horned models of the 229/DAK and 239/DAK pistols, starting next month. All de-horning is done at SIG’s Custom Shop.
Designated 229/SAS and the 239/SAS (Severe Anti-Snag), these pistols are designed specifically for concealed carry. You can see them on SIG’s Web Page, http://www.sigarms.com/documentation/SAS_Series_Sell_Sheet.pdf
I will have a copy shortly!
17 May 05
Uncle Mike’s has been compelled to recall several thousand Kydex Glock external/duty holsters with retention straps. Fobus had the same problem not long ago, and they too had to recall holsters.
Uncle Mike’s current problem is identical to Fobus’. A retention strap, integral with the holster, somehow gets inside the trigger guard as the pistol is holstered. In some cases, it exerts enough pressure on the trigger to cause a discharge as the gun is shoved into the holster.
Like Fobus, Uncle Mikes has been compelled to redesign the strap in order to preclude this eventuality. Only time will tell if this fix permanently addresses this problem.
I’m not sure if any of this is “foreseeable” before the fact, but the best duty holsters have now dispensed with retention straps altogether and instead rely on internal clamping devices that secure the trigger guard.
The era of holster retention straps may indeed be over, particularly with kydex holsters. You’ll not find any on holsters I use regularly for serious carry.
18 May 05
Sage comments from one of my instructors:
“From my experience collecting 1911s, I have come to the conclusion that the term, ‘de-horn,’ is interpreted differently by each manufacturer and each gunsmith. For example, the Kimber that Pat McAndrews (Loveland, CO) de-horned for me was made as smooth and snag-free as I prefer. However, I have several other really expensive 1911s from well-known custom manufacturer/gunsmiths, and none came out of the box anywhere near as smooth as I think a carry gun should be, as smooth for example, as Glocks already are!
Except for my Kimber, which worked perfectly from the beginning, my experience with high-end 1911s has been a seemingly endless series of disappointments. I can part with $3,500.00 for a top-of-the-line, ‘custom’ 1911 that, despite the fact that it spends most of its life in the repair shop, or in transit back and forth, still doesn’t work right when I, at long last, finally get my hands on it. Or, I can spend that same amount for five Glocks that work perfectly without any ‘customizing,’ are as accurate as any serious guns needs to be, come already de-horned, rarely require more than casual maintenance, even with heavy use, and are fast and convenient to get serviced on those rare occasions when repair is necessary.”
Comment: My friend, like so many others, has discovered that paying a lot for a pistol, even from a “big name,” guarantees little. I can’t tell you how many expensive, “custom” pistols I’ve seen go down within the first two hundred rounds. Glocks are hard to beat. No doubt!
19 May 05
More comments on de-horning and custom 1911s:
“I really did give this fair trial. Bought a good sample of 1911s, from mid to high price; broke them in properly; lubricated them competently; used good magazines; shot them correctly.
Even the best of the lot, the Kimber, is only as reliable and accurate as an average Glock, and it is still snag-prone and heavy for the amount of firepower it contains. In consideration of the relentless attention given to modern 1911s by capable men, I really expected a better outcome.”
From a friend in the Phillippines:
“We have lots of 1911s here. In general, the older and looser they are, the better they run! Reliability is inversely proportional to the amount of ‘custom’ work they’ve had. Glocks run fine too, but they’re not perfect. I’ve seen G19 and G17 slides crack. Not often, but it happens.
However, when my 1911 breaks, I need to go on a twelve-month waiting list to get it fixed by one of a dwindling number of competent gunsmiths. When I break a Glock, I can buy another that day, and I know it will run just fine, right out of the box. Even if I’m wary of slide cracks, I can buy two Glocks, extra magazines, and a good deal of ammunition, all for the price of one 1911.
I have two G17s, good holsters and accessories from Gregg Garrett, and 115gr HP ammunition from Cor-Bon (Powerball has not made it over here yet), all for less than the price of a single 1911, despite our prohibitive exchange rates. Another benefit is that one never gets too sentimental with Glocks. So, I actually practice with and regularly carry mine, rather than just oil it up and admires it like a trophy.
Funny how the ugly things in life can actually bring us back to our fundamentals.”
Comment: Funny indeed!
20 May 05
On the importance of pistol skills, from a friend and student, currently in Iraq:
“John, I’m working in Iraq at the moment, and I was interested to see your published in an article in SOF magazine about war and pistols. From personal experience, I agree entirely with you about pistol skills being of paramount importance. Yes, of course, it is not our primary weapon, but when you have to use it, the situation is bad and getting worse by the second, and your pistol is all you’ve got, so you’d better know how to use it quickly, accurately, and with deadly effect.
Unfortunately, I have found pistol skills are not a priority for most. Furthermore, skill levels of most operators is deplorable. If you want to carry a pistol, then be competent with, it or it’s just additional weight with no purpose. I hope more people will start sharing our sentiments about the importance of pistols, but I fear, from what I’ve seen here, it will come about only through learning the hard way for most.”
Lesson: We have lots of weapons, but pistols are the most important, because they are the most personal. Generals, politicians, and historians worry about the grand movement of world history. Each of us needs to worry about our own, personal welfare at the critical moment. If your individual defensive pistols skills are not up to par, shame on you!
23 May 05
Reloading autoloading pistols:
This issue keep coming up. We teach a “Military Reload” to our active-duty Marines and a “Speed reload” to those preparing for domestic defense. The only difference between the two is that the “old” magazine (and live rounds it may still contain) is captured and preserved during the military reload and simply jettisoned during the speed reload.
I like friend, Dave Manning’s, technique for the military reload. “Make a hole; Fill the hole” sums it up. The old magazine is first removed and quickly secured in a pocket (not in a magazine carrier, as only fully-charged magazines should go there). A fresh magazine is then retrieved with the support hand and inserted into the pistol. Easy to teach and learn, difficult to do wrong, and unlikely to lead to items being inadvertently dropped, this is the method I prefer teaching to our military students. I don’t like any reloading technique that:
(1) Requires the student to hold two magazines in the same hand at the same time, or
(2) Requires the student to hold a magazine in the same hand that is already holding a pistol.
Dropped and fumbled magazines (sometimes even pistols) regularly plague all reloading techniques that involve the foregoing.
With either option, I teach students to rack the slide after the fresh magazine has been inserted. The fact that the slide is forward is no guarantee that there is a live round chambered. Autopistol slides are supposed to lock to the rear when the last round in the magazine is fired, but none do it reliably. Racking the slide after the magazine exchange insures that:
(1) There is a live round chambered, and
(2) The slide is forward and not locked to the rear
23 May 05
Shooting Incident in Capetown, SA, from a friend there:
“One of our city police officers was enjoying a leisurely, off-duty meal in a local restaurant yesterday when he alerted on odd behavior of restaurant staff attending the cash register. When he got up and moved toward that part of the restaurant, he saw that the place was being robbed by three, pistol-wielding suspects.
He immediately drew his (concealed) pistol (CZ 9mm, w/hardball) and yelled that he was a police officer. One of the suspects pointed his pistol in our officer’s direction, and our officer responded by firing a single round. The suspect was struck in the chest and fell after taking only a few steps. He was DRT. The other two suspect turned and fled.
No one else was hurt, and everyone took a breath of relief. Prematurely, as it turns out! One of the fleeing suspects fired several shots back into the restaurant, through a glass window, from outside. Our officer and a bystander were both hit. Fortunately, neither wound was serious.
I believe this officer’s actions were heroic, but he was let down by his training, as he remained static after the initial shooting, mistakenly thinking it was all over. The importance of the techniques you have taught us with regard to automatically moving off the line of force cannot be overemphasized.
Neither of the two suspects who escaped have been subsequently captured.”
Comment: Years ago at Northwestern University in Illinois, I had the privilege of lecturing beside Pierce Brooks, author of “Officer Down, Code Three,” the first definitive text on serious police tactics. In his book, Pierce listed “deadly sins” often committed by police officers and often left uncorrected by supervisors. Of the ten listed, the one that always stuck in my mind was RELAXING TOO SOON.
The forgoing is a classic example. When you think it is “all over,” is the precise time when you should be most vigilant. Someone may forget to tell the bad guys!
26 May 05
You have to trust your people.
At the start of the American Civil War, it was a commonly-held belief among war planners in the Union Army that muzzle-loading muskets made more appropriate infantry weapons than did muzzle-loading rifles or did any breech-loading rifle.
Smooth-bore muskets were useable only out to seventy-five meters. More distance than that, and practical accuracy dropped off exponentially. Rifles of the day, on the other hand, were fully useable past three-hundred meters. Further, French mini-ball technology reduced rifle reloading time to little more that for a musket, but commanders were still unenthusiastic, because long-range marksmanship encouraged, indeed invited, individual enterprise. Commanders wanted complete control of battlefield formations, and allowing soldiers to fire individual weapons at targets of opportunity, on their own initiative, was considered contrary to good order and discipline.
Breech-loading rifles, many of which were also rapid firing, were shunned even more, as they were thought to encourage soldiers to fire wildly and waste ammunition. In addition, unlike muzzle loaders, breech-loaders could be reloaded and fired while the soldier remained in a prone position. In contrast, muzzle loaders were easiest to reload when the shooter stood up. Soldiers are difficult to see when the are in the prone position. A field commander preferred his men standing during battle, so he could control formations.
Marksmanship training was often withheld, again because it could cause individual soldiers to realize the full capability of their issued weapons and become “too proficient” as a result.
Of course, in retrospect the foregoing seems foolish; commanders actually fearful of their own people excelling in skill with individual weapons. Unhappily, this same reactionary thinking haunts many military organizations, even today. Minimal range time, cold ranges, and the official discouragement of soldiers taking advantage of outside training or obtaining personally-owned guns and blades all contribute to soldiers fearing their weapons and having no confidence in their ability with them.
We have the opportunity today to provide soldiers and Marines with small-arms training far superior to any provided in the past, training that is consummate and self-empowering. Modern techniques and methods, learned at great expense, are now common knowledge in the weapons training community. This training can make our soldiers and Marines competent, audacious, professional gunmen, not the timid, fearful, unsteady, unenlightened gun handlers many are now.
What is holding us back? The same things that has always held us back: ignorance and fear. The solution is faith, faith in our own magnificence and in the virtue and grand potential of our people. Fearless officers are, at this very minute, pushing this enlightened training philosophy forward, but “those of little faith,” rather than leading the way, stand in the way.
We should all pray they are wildly successful, and soon, before the next world conflagration, the next Great War, where heroes, not machines, will carry the day. We may have a good deal less time than we all think!
27 May 05
Excellent history lesson from a friend and student, particularly germane on Memorial Day:
“The NRA was indeed started by a group of concerned Union Army officers at the end of the American Civil War. They were frustrated with the universally acknowledged abysmal performance of Union Army soldiers with personal weapons. Marksmanship was poor throughout the conflict. Worse, accidents were rampant due to inept gun-handling. By contrast, marksmanship and weapon-handling skills were excellent among Confederate troops, which is the reason they were able to hold out so long. Of course, the foregoing was all common knowledge, but, by 1871 (the year the NRA was founded in New York), the Army, reflecting the nation as a whole, was predictably back in its customary state of lassitude and denial.
New York’s governor, Alonzo B Cornell, gave voice to the naive, adolescent thinking of the day, ‘There will be no war in my time or in the time of my children. The only need for a National Guard is to show itself on national holidays. I see no reason for them to learn to shoot, since their only function will be to march in parades. Rifle practice is a waste of money. We should take their rifles away and sell them to benefit the treasury. It would be more practical, and far less expensive, to arm them with clubs which require no instruction in their use.’ Were he alive today, Cornell would surely be the front-running presidential candidate for the Democratic party!
The lesson here is that critical, war-winning weapon skills and age-old warrior traditions always lie dormant in peacetime, kept alive in an unofficial, self-ordained Priesthood that exists both within and without the military; a Priesthood that is relentlessly threatened, persecuted, and disparaged. In fact, sanctimonious politicians make every effort to stamp it out altogether, until danger threatens. When it does, complacent sheep who, in peacetime self-righteously made outcasts of warriors in order to promote their own pseudo-sainthood, pay for their naivety with the blood of the current generation of hastily assembled and poorly trained soldiers.
It’s a miserable cycle, and I don’t know that it can be broken. All I can do is stay sharp myself, expand and refine the Priesthood, and enlighten anyone else who ‘gets it.’”
Comment (from Kipling):
“I could not dig. I dared not rob.
Therefore, I lied to please the mob.
Now, all my lies have proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
These angry and defrauded young?
31 May 05
At an Instructor’s Course we conducted in PA last weekend, friend Mike Shovel from Cor-Bon was on hand to show us a ballistic gelatin penetration test. We fired various pistol rounds through two layers of sixteen-gauge steel, then through four layers of denim, and finally into gelatin. Our interest was in penetration of common barriers, most notably, car doors.
Most hollowpoint pistol rounds, even hardball, in 9mm, 40S&W, and 45ACP bounced off the first layer of steel, leaving a dimple, but never penetrating even one layer. 45ACP DPX, fired out of my little Detonics, penetrated both layers of steel, the denim, and nine inches of gelatin. I was astonished!
The same round, again fired from my Detonics, into the denim and gelatin, but without having to first penetrate the double-steel barrier, penetrated thirteen inches of gelatin and expanded perfectly, retaining all its weight.
DPX 223 from a standard AR-15 zips through the double-steel barrier and subsequently penetrates ten inches of gelatin, with the entire bullet remaining in tact. 223 hardball, by contrast, breaks up on the double-steel barrier and doesn’t penetrate the gelatin at all.
We all came to the same conclusion: I really like Powerball and conventional hollow-point pistol rounds, but DPX performs wonderfully well on soft tissue and, as an added bonus, goes through car doors. I’m carrying it at this moment in my Detonics, which I’m going to use at the NTI.
Up until now, most pistol rounds and 223 rifle rounds were notoriously poor at penetration, particularly of car doors. DPX changes all that. I can now reliably punch through a car door with my pistol and my 223 rifle and get at the criminals on the other side. As a driver or passenger of a car, I can also shoot through the door from the inside and hit a car-jacking suspect standing on the outside.
As a premium carry round, DPX is something we all need to look at. It has a lot going for it!
31 May 05
A friend on active duty recently assumed command of a large military unit. As is the usual case, he hosted an “assumption of command” party afterward. In attendance were a number of our instructors as well as several Gunsite instructors and other professional gunmen, as this person is well connected in our community.
This particular branch of the military is famous for ceremony, so there were also any number of uniformed folks on hand, such as band members. Many uniformed attendees were wearing Beretta pistols and carrying ceremonial rifles. Of course, all were visibly unloaded, sterilized, and rendered altogether nonfunctional. Needless to say, there were no magazines or ammunition present.
In curious contrast, just about all civilians there, in civilian attire, were heavily armed with concealed pistols, blades, flashlights, and OC! In addition, most had rifles and shotguns in their cars, with ammunition, ready to go.
The irony struck many there: In 2005, “protectors” are unarmed, unprepared, and incapable of fighting effectively, while “protectees” are heavily armed, prepared, well trained, and ready to fight effectively on a moment’s notice. It is an absurd role reversal, peculiar apparently, to our absurd times!