3 July 04

Taking the lead from the Burbank PD, LAPD is eliminating buckshot from their inventory and going to an all-slug shotgun program. This has been under consideration for some time, but the move is finally being made now. Of course, only low-recoil slugs will be issued.

We might call this a trend among American police departments, although buckshot is still thoroughly entrenched in many places. I find low-recoil slugs wimpy, and I would rather see the recoil issue addressed by issuing small-statured officers 20ga shotguns, but, in big departments, that is a logistical challenge many don’t want to tackle.



4 July 04

Good advice:

“Carrying loose change in the same pocket in which you carry your folding knife can wind up jamming the blade, so that it can’t be easily opened. I had a dime wedge between the blade and the handle on my Cold Steel Voyager. It required 2 1/2 hands and several frustrating moments to get the knife opened. Fortunately, the incident didn’t take place at a critical moment.”

Lesson: Another good reason to carry your folder in your waistband instead of a front pocket!



4 July 04

From a friend at Cor-Bon with regard to penetration of soft body armor:

“We exhaustively tested our 9mm, 40S&W, 45ACP, 357MG, 357SIG, and 400CB. I used JHP, PowerBall, and the new DPX. 9mm, 40S&W, and 45ACP were fired from rifles, as well as handguns. The rest were fired from handguns only. I used Second Chance Super Featherlight, level IIA vests (circa 1995) at the test medium.

Nothing passed through the vests. The closest was 9mm DPX, shot from a sixteen-inch-barrel carbine. It went through all but two layers of Kevlar, but was still captured within the vest itself. 357SIG/PB went most of the way through the first layer.”

Comment: All IIA vests will stop the vast majority of handgun bullets. However, when impact velocities exceed 1,600 f/s, design specifications will be stretched to the limit. Bullet design, frontal area, angle of impact, and other factors influence penetration also, but all vests have a velocity limit. For example, IIA vests are routinely penetrated 223 and 308 rifle rounds, even M1 Carbine.

It is no secret that I like Cor-Bon ammunition and personally carry it regularly in all my handguns, regarding it as superior in terminal performance to other brands. The issue of vest penetration is, of course, a great concern to those who wear vests regularly. My advice is to personally test your brand of vest with whatever ammunition you wish. That way, you will be able to settle the question for yourself (to the degree that it can be settled.)



5 July 04

Pistol Training with the USMC:

Vicki and I just competed two, consecutive two-day defensive pistol courses with Marine and Navy personnel who are about to deploy to Iraq. Training took place at Camp Pendelton, CA. This is our fifth program with the USMC this year. Our students included a number of colonels, light colonels, Navy corpsmen, staff NCOs, and other NCOs. I now have an enthusiastic and accomplished cadre of instructors from previous courses who greatly enhance the program. Assisting Vicki and me were Lt/Colonel Blish, Capt Wild, CWO4 Ross, M/Sgt Mitchell, Sgt Cervantes, Sgt Mkrtchyan, Sgt Saldana, and Sgt Taff, as well as Steve Camp, Steve VanMol, Tom Burris, and Pete Taussig.

It struck both Steve VanMol and me (both of us former Marines) that today we have a better Marine Corps than we had in the 1960s and 1970s when Steve and I were in. We surely had some great people in those days too, but our students last week were the best we’ve ever had. Enthusiasm and acceptance of the new training philosophy to which they were introduced was superlative. We were delighted and honored to be there.

Everyone used the Beretta M9 (92F) pistol, and all worked just fine. Ammunition was 9mm hardball, and each student shot in excess of eight hundred rounds over the course of two days. To their credit, the USMC had on hand all the ammunition we needed, and we made a joyful noise!
The concept of a hot range was, once more, accepted immediately by all. Everyone got used to carrying around a loaded pistol. Most commented that this is the way all pistol training should be conducted. At the end of the day, no one wanted to unload, particularly when they saw that all of the instructors remained hot. Many years ago, all officers and staff NCOs carried loaded pistols all the time, on and off base. It was a point of honor. We need to get back to that practice. The first step is to convince all Marines that it can be done safely, and that it must be done, so that we will have the opportunity to handle our pistols daily. Handling a pistol once a year is not often enough to cement in place necessary gun-handling skills. It is “The Profession of Arms” is it not?

Several students had been instructed to carry the pistol with the decocking lever in the down (sterile) position. Others had been trained to carry it with no round chambered. Those foolish practices were quickly abandoned when students learned how fast they were expected to draw and fire. Within a short time, all were carrying loaded pistols correctly, with the decocker up (enabled).

Betterbilt’s Rotating Steel Targets were, as always, a great challenge and kept students shooting at them, even during breaks. Most students had never shot at steel targets before. Much more exciting and versatile than paper.

Exercises included advancing from covered position to covered position, with loaded pistol in hand, transition from rifle to pistol and back, drawing and firing at close range, low-light shooting, and retention and disarms. These are all drills that are currently considered “too complicated” and/or “too dangerous” to introduce to the general body of skills and knowledge of Marines. Those stale, feeble excuses were swept aside. Everyone who attended the class is now convinced otherwise!

Several students approached us and said, “Why aren’t we doing this throughout the system?” and “I enjoy going to the range and being treated like an adult” and “This is what being a Marine is all about!”

We are trying our best to start a trend that will change the entire small-arms training philosophy, within the USMC and eventually throughout all armed services. Just as there is a vast difference between a chef and a waffle-iron-operator, Marines have to start thinking of themselves as professional gunmen, not just occasional gun operators. I hope we’re succeeding, and pray we succeed in time!



6 July 04

I just arranged for the S&W Custom Shop to convert my CS45 to self-decocking (DAO). I sent it to them on a Monday and had the gun back in my hands on Thursday. Master pistol smith, Jim Seifert, as always did a wonderful job.

The pistol no longer has a decocking lever. Trigger pull is ten pounds and short. Reset is deep, and there is no second-strike capability, but S&W can convert any of their pistols, and the process is fast!

Friend Brian Hoffner made one of his wonderful “Minimalist” IWB holsters for me, and the little pistol carries well.

S&W has some really good people. We expect them to get back into the mainstream. We all want them right back up there with Glock and SIG.



12 July 04

War and Pistols:

I have received much comment with regard to our recent training of Marines to handle and use pistols correctly. One that stands out is:

“Get serious. Pistols don’t win wars. Pistol training for soldiers and Marines is largely a waste of time.”

I agree! On the grand, strategic scale, pistols probably don’t contribute much one way or another. Pistols are instrumental only in saving individual lives, and are thus considered unimportant by those who have never had to risk theirs.

I’m old fashioned enough to still believe that the greatest moral responsibility of any military commander is to the safety and welfare of his men. Some may consider their lives “unimportant,” but they are extremely important to their families. Everything we can reasonably do to insure they come home from the war in one piece, we should be doing, in spades.

At the top of that list is competent pistol training!



12 July 04

It had to happen!

With its new 500S&W Magnum revolver, S&W has been back ordered since its introduction. Of scant interest to concealed pistol carriers, the pistol has still garnered the attention of handgun hunters and nimrods alike, not to mention CNN! The big revolver is now even available with a four-inch barrel, in addition to the standard, artillery model. Cor-Bon is the company that invented the cartridge, at S&W’s behest, and is still the sole manufacturer of the round, although others will probably chime in as the market expands.

Predictably, legion have been the comments about recoil. So, Cor-Bon has now introduced the 500 S&W “Special” cartridge. Slightly shorter than the 500 S&W Magnum, the “Special” will still pack a wallop, but recoil will be noticeably reduced. Much as is the case with the 38Spl and the 357Mg, the “Special” will become the standard, “carry” round.

I love this Country!



12 July 04

Leather holsters:

At an Advanced Defensive Handgun course last weekend in WY, a student used a Colt Commander (45ACP) in a “Cozy Partner” leather IWB holster. Prior to the class, he had been practicing his draw from this holster, and all seemed to be fine.

However, once he started sweating and moving, the leather flap that sits between the rear part of the slide and the body (sweat barrier) became progressively soft, and started flopping over the top of the holster, blocking the entryway, and making rapid reholstering impossible. This caused consistent delay in his moving off the line. In a real fight, such delay in reholstering could be harmful.

On serious holsters, a sweat barrier must be:

(1) Stiff enough so as not to fold over and block the entryway, as described in the foregoing.

(2) Broad enough so that there is no possibility it could inadvertently enter the trigger guard of a pistol (as the pistol is holstered) and put pressure on the trigger.

This is why concealed-carry holsters, and all other serious equipment, must be carefully and knowledgeably selected and then realistically and thoroughly tested. Design flaws, such as described above, will escape notice otherwise.



12 July 04

From a friend and colleague:

“We put on a Patrol Rifle class last week. In one drill, we used Action Target’s three-dimensional cardboard targets, suspended on strings. Balloons were placed in the head, or torso, or groin, or in combination. Of course, the balloons are inside the target and not visible to the shooter, but breaking all of them will cause the target to fall. Ranges were six to fifty meters. The exercise was timed

Here is what we saw:

(1) Rushing your shots will cause you to miss

(2) Being simultaneously:

(a) Anxious
(b) Out of breath

will also cause you to miss

(3) Diffusion of focus (trying to think about the clock, and your front sight, at the same time) will also cause you to miss

(4) Confusion, such as when the target doesn’t do what you thought it would do, or was supposed to do, will (if you let it):

(a) Disrupt your plan
(b) Send you into confusion
(c) Cause you to dither… and miss

Several of my exasperated, and less inspired, students complained:

(1) Balloons should all be the same size.

(2) The exercise shouldn’t be timed, as timers generate stress

(3) All targets should fall instantly when hit

That would make the exercise more ‘fair,’ they insisted

My response:

(1) Since when is ‘fairness’ an indispensable ingredient in training exercises?

(2) How does ‘uniform target reaction’ prepare you for real fighting?

(3) Don’t you think you ought to be learning here, in training, how to deal with stress, anxiety, fatigue, confusion, sensory overload, and frustration? How smooth and manageable do you think your next real gunfight will be?

(4) If you were already perfect, what would be the point of you being here?

(5) Why is ‘making yourself look good’ the only thing you ever seem to think about?

They all nodded in embarrassed agreement, and we all went back to work.

Frail egos, fear of failure, fear of success, and immaturity are all speed bumps we instructors face every day, eh?”


“Good timber does not grow in ease.
The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.
The farther the sky the greater length,
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snows,
In trees and men, good timber grows.”



13 July 04

In an effort to imitate S&W, at least from the barrel down, Ruger has made a stab at increased user friendliness with the new P345. Ruger still has no trigger system to rival Glock’s nor the SIG DAK (the Ruger pistol still uses a two-stage, slide-mounted, manual decocking lever), but they have obviously gotten serious about selling guns to American police, something at which they have been, up until now, notably unsuccessful.

Unhappily, they also imitated the one thing that needs to be discarded forever, the “magazine safety.” Equipped with a magazine safety, the pistol is useless unless there is a magazine to go with it. Also, pistols with magazine safeties tempt the owner to simply remove the magazine instead of unloading and storing the weapon correctly. I won’t own a pistol equipped with one.

Unhappily, Ruger’s new pistol also has a “loaded chamber indicator,” another “feature” of dubious value. Pistols equipped with such a device tempt the owner to depend upon it, instead of performing a legitimate chamber check.

I’m sure Ruger’s lawyers think magazine safeties and loaded chamber indicators are great ideas. They are- for lawyers! For those of us who have to actually use this equipment is serious circumstances, they represent a significant step backward.



15 July 04

From an LEO friend in Norway:

“As is the case in the USA, Norwegian gun laws are a product of our history. From the 14th century to the year 1814, Norway and Denmark were a single nation. In 1814 Norway was ‘given’ to Sweden in the wake of the Napoleonic wars. That unstable union lasted until 1905, when Norway officially became the independent, sovereign nation that it is today. We were poor then and thus could not afford a standing army. Like you, we relied on a militia, which included all able-bodied citizens. Laws required that each farm supply and equip one soldier, including his arms.

The pivotal event was the Bolshevik Revolution of 1914 in Russia. The Romanovs had close, genetic ties with nearly every other royal family in Europe. The brutish murder of the entire Romanov family at the hands of Communist revolutionaries sent shock waves through every other royal household on the continent. Paranoid royals everywhere waxed delusional and fearfully imagined themselves besieged by angry mobs of their own armed citizens. That is when the concept of ‘gun control’ really took hold among Western Europe’s royals (and modern-day politicians who arrogantly see themselves in the same role) and why private gun ownership is today so highly restricted here. In the minds of cynical politicians, mobs armed with sticks and pitchforks were not nearly as scary as if they were armed with guns. ‘Gun control,’ wherever it is instituted, is not designed to protect citizens from criminals. It is designed to protect politicians from citizens!

By the way, one inquiry about politics in the USA: Why do you use the term ‘liberal’ to describe Bolsheviks. Marxists, and Communists? In Norway, ‘liberals,’ are freedom loving.”

Good question!



15 July 04


As the age of repeating rifles and machine guns dawned upon Western Europe with the coming of the Twentieth Century, it became obvious to forward-thinking military planners that soldiers’ uniforms had to lose much of the conspicuousness that so characterized them in previous decades. Bright reds, yellows, blues, and whites, the pride of so many armies and units, needed to give way to dull, drab, even camouflage. The matter was a delicate one, but the British and Germans lead the way, introducing khaki and gray infantry uniforms in the early 1900s. The French, of course, bucked the trend, insisting that brightly colored, gaudy uniforms were “quintessentially Gallic.”

They paid a terrible price for their shortsightedness at the Marne in 1914. With the sun shining on their bright colors, French infantrymen could hardly sneak around on the battlefield. Feathered hats, shining breastplates, polished buttons, and brightly colored sashes all provided excellent targets for German rifleman and machine gunners. The Germans took full advantage and annihilated the French (nearly a quarter million in a single battle), particularly the officer corps, who were individually picked off with ease. Once again, the French had to learn the hard way.

Shortsightedness, as illustrated in the foregoing, is a grave issue, even today, and brave men, it seems, always have to pay the price. Military planners who “don’t know what they don’t know” need to take it upon themselves to become enlightened. Those who “don’t want to know what they don’t know” need to find something else to do!



15 July 04

Good marks for RRA, from a friend in the Federal System:

“John, I’m sure you’re aware that our agency awarded a contract for 2,200 AR-15s to Rock River Arms. These carbines are semi-auto only LAR-15s. To date, 43 of them have been issued. During the mandatory transition course, an agent will fire 1,500 rounds. 50,000 rounds so far, and not a single malfunction, not one. The only addition we make is the D-Ring, which you recommend.”

Pretty impressive!



19 July 04

Another reason to shun 1911 recoil buffers:

At a Basic Defensive Pistol Course last weekend in NM, a student used a plain-vanilla, Colt, Series 70 1911. It consistently failed to live eject. That is, it would eject empty cases but not live rounds. This made unloading nearly impossible, as the recalcitrant round would always hang up in the ejection port. I had to pound on it the my Dejammer in order to dislodge it.

The problem was, of course, a rubber recoil buffer, installed on the recoil spring guide rod. The pistol’s owner said he had no idea how the buffer got there (yes, they always seem to grow spontaneously!), but, as soon at is was removed and unceremoniously discarded, the pistol starting working normally.

Lesson: Once again, rubber recoil buffers should never be installed on any serious pistol. It is a life-threatening mistake!



20 July 04

From one of my instructors:

“I recommend to my students who carry a revolver as their primary weapon that they should opt for a barrel length of at least three inches. This allows for a long ejector rod and full ejection of spent cases. Snubbies have short ejector rods, which add three or four seconds to the reloading process.

I know we all recommend factory ammo, but I am going to start requiring it in my classes. Hobby reloads are typically wimpy, smokey, and filthy, despite assurances from the student. Practicing with wimpy, target ammunition does not prepare one for a real fight. Those who do are kidding themselves.”

Comment: Good advice!



22 July 04

On CZ pistols from a friend who works there:

“The new, P04 series features a frame-mounted decocker, similar to SIGs, that lowers the hammer to half-cock.

The CZ85 has the traditional, ambidextrous, manual, two-position safety lever. These pistols need to be carried cocked and locked. The pistol is trigger-cocking, but there is no safe, convenient, or fast way to get the hammer down on a live round (ie, no decocking lever). The trigger-cocking feature is only useful for dropping the hammer for a second time on a recalcitrant round.

The CZ75DAO model is a service-sized, self-decocking pistol (DAO). We make them, but, frankly, they are not particularly popular.”

Comment: Self-decocking (DAO) pistols, in order to be appealing to most shooters and gun carriers, need to have a short, light (no more than eight pounds) trigger, with a distinct and shallow to middle reset (link). Glock and SIG’s DAK pistols both fit this description well, and neither company can make them fast enough to satisfy demand.

Conversely, self-decocking pistols with triggers that are:

1) too heavy (in excess of ten pounds), like S&W’s DAO series

2) too light (less that five pounds), Like PO’s LDA

3) too long, like Beretta’s 96D

4) too deep of a reset, like both S&W and Beretta,

are never going to sell well.

With regard to the last item, a positive trigger reset is, in my opinion, extremely important to serious shooting. Auditory exclusion and other stress-related phenomena make positively perceiving the fact that your pistol just fired dubious. People can’t count their shots, because they, literally, can’t hear them. Thus, in gunfights, a positive trigger reset is the only true indication to the shooter that his pistol just fired. There is no other way for him to know for sure.

Accordingly, trigger reset that is:

1) deep

2) indistinct

3) mushy

greatly detract from any serious pistol’s usefulness.

Self-decocking pistols are the current trend in American law enforcement. Manual safeties and manual decoking levers are on their way out. If they want to sell guns, manufacturers need to worry less about superfluous rubbish like “loaded chamber indicators” and “magazine safeties” and more about legitimate consumer features, like good triggers that enable users to shoot accurately, confidently, and fast.



22 July 04

From a friend and instructor in OK, on the new Ruger 45ACP:

“After your quip on the subject, I made an opportunity to examine, in detail, the new Ruger 45ACP pistol. Ergonomics are the best this pistol maker has ever managed. Levers are nicely contoured and flat. The pistol would be comfortable in a holster. Much improvement over earlier generations of pistols from Ruger.

The deal-buster is the magazine safety. Magazine safeties on S&W pistols simply make the trigger go slack, which is sensory input to the shooter that the magazine has become unlocked or is not inserted at all. Either way, the shooter instantly knows what to do to correct the problem and get his pistol running. On the Ruger, the magazine safety, when activated, will still allow both trigger and hammer to function normally. It simply blocks the firing pin! Upon hearing a “click,” instead of a “bang,” the shooter knows little, because the pistol has told him little. Chamber might be empty. Might be a dud round. Magazine may be unlocked.”

Comment: A rapid TRB should still fix the problem, but, when the hammer falls, the gun should fire. Simply blocking the firing pin and letting the rest of the mechanism function normally is not the way any safety device should work. My opinion of magazines safeties is widely known, but this one is clearly the worst of the lot. Design engineers who lack the experiential base to understand what serious pistols are for shouldn’t be designing pistols upon which someone’s life may depend!



27 July 04

From one of my instructors in SA, confirming principles of training well known to all of us:

“Shooting any gun in a stressful, dynamic environment is vastly more challenging than casual plinking or competition shooting. Everybody naively believes they’re a good deal ‘better’ than they really are. In a fight, none of us will perform nearly as resplendently as we do in our own daydreams.”

Comment: The foregoing is why we should spend our training time inspiring our students, rather than trying to impress them. Students need to be encouraged to dare and press on, making their mistakes as they go, repenting and going forward. When instructors or students insist they are already perfect and incapable of error, unable and unwilling to honestly confront their own shortcomings, no growth will take place. Disappointment and disaster await them. Fame is a trivial, petty thing, as fickle as the weather. Only fools lust after it.



30 July 04


My friends in the ammunition business tell me that new lines of “high-energy” rifle ammunition are the direct result of new propellants and loading techniques, neither of which are available to hobby reloaders. For example, Hornady now markets a 30-06 round that nearly duplicates 300WBY ballistics! Enhanced performance is accomplished via, as noted above, new propellants and a compressed-powder technology that requires a die that encloses the entire case as the powder is being added and the bullet seated. This is necessary to keep the case itself from bulging during production.

Years ago, we were told that the 308 was “ballistically equivalent” to the 30-06. That was, of course, little more than wishful thinking. Maybe now, it can actually come to pass. Who knows? This new loading technology may be used someday to actually make the 223 into something other than a prairie-dog round. However, ammunition cost and production complexity will be greatly “enhanced,” along with performance.

In the same vein, I also have been told that the Army’s new rifle and cartridge project is now on the “fast track.” Pardon my cynicism, but we’ve been told that for the last thirty years! Getting anyone entrenched in the Pentagon bureaucracy to actually make a decision is a noteworthy event indeed.