5 May 04

Manual Decocking:

Last weekend we had a woman join us for a Basic Defensive Handgun Course in MI. She brought with her a S&W 3913LS (“Lady” Smith). The single-column 9mm pistol fit her hand well, and it was light enough for her to carry it comfortably in a belt holster (Comp-Tec “X-Draw”). She was accurate and enterprising, a good and determined student.

However, as with most people with small hands, she found the slide-mounted, two-stage manual decocking lever (found on S&Ws and Berettas) impossible to operate quickly and smoothly. Her master grip had to be radically compromised in order for her to reach the lever with her right thumb. In addition, because the lever is duplicated on both sides of the slide, pulling the slide to the rear invariably pushed the lever down, sterilizing the pistol. It then had to be pushed back up (in order to enable the pistol) via a separate motion of the right thumb. By the end of the program, she was doing as well as could be expected, but decocking was still too slow for her to pass the DTI Proficiency test at anything but the “Beginner” level.

No fan of manual decocking in general, I have come to particularly dislike slide-mounted, two-stage decocking levers, just because I see so many iterations of the foregoing. I recommended to this student that she acquire a S&W 3953 (self-decocking), or a Kahr P9. If she can get her hands around a double-column pistol, we can add the G19 and the H&K P2000 to that list. When she bought her 3913, she was told by the salesman that manual decocking was “no big deal.” He lied! For her, the pistol turned out to be all but unusable.

A frame-mounted, single-stage, manual decocking lever, found on SIG Pistols, are surely an improvement over the S&W/Beretta system, but, even with that layout, most shooters still must compromise their master grips in order to access the lever. Now that SIG has the DAK trigger, I see no reason for them to produce their pistols (for serious use) any other way.

It is one thing to shoot twenty rounds through a pistol in as many minutes and then casually announce that you “like it.” After a thousand rounds over twenty-four hours of carnassial, defensive exercises, negative issues with the pistol will make themselves clear, as they did in this case.

With any pistol you select for carrying and serious use, there are going to be things you don’t like. We all need to decide whether a particular issue is a “deal-buster” or just a nuisance. For this student, a slide-mounted, two-stage, manual decocking lever fell into the former category.



5 May 04

From a friend in Washington, DC:

“Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee recently had a firsthand encounter with Pentagon bureaucracy. His frustration mirrors our own and leads us all to unhappily conclude that, so long as America has bureaucrats, we won’t need enemies!

Seems that deployed troops in Iraq are crying for armored vehicles, and not just tanks and APCs. Even Humvees and Trucks need armoring. They are not armored now. The need is critical and immediate.

Enter the Army bureaucracy:

Armor plate is available in the system. It has long since been tested and approved, but, before putting any of it on vehicles, some nervous bureaucrat decided that first it needed to undergo yet another interminable series of ‘tests.’ So, while the issue is being internally ‘debated,’ the steel in question sits around gathering dust. Vehicles in the combat zone continue to be unarmored. To their credit, Marines didn’t wait around. A courageous procurement officer took the personal risk of cutting through red tape and signing off on the project. Marine vehicles, at least, are getting armor immediately.

We can’t blame politicians. The problem is a fossilized military bureaucracy, where saying ‘no’ is always safe, while saying ‘yes’ carries with it great personal risk and no benefit. When something goes wrong, naysayers always have an easier time finding a place to hide than do innovators. So, the courageous are ever made into scapegoats, while weasels routinely weather the storm and go back to shuffling papers.

Within the military bureaucracy, indeed all bureaucracies, we have this overriding, maniacal preoccupation with the utter eradication of risk and risk taking, to the point where everyone seems to have forgotten the original goal, ie: WINNING THE WAR. Time for heroes to step up to the plate!”

Comment: If it is not too much to ask, perhaps, when the armor issue is settled, we can finally get an effective rifle caliber and maybe even a decent pistol!



5 May 04

Comment of SA/DA autopistols from a friend at S&W:

“John- ask any gun company how well self-decocking (DAO) pistols sell to the general public. We can’t give them away! I’m sure things are much the same at SIG. Glock and H&K sell them, because they don’t offer pistols any other way. As you noted and I agree, DAO pistols make great carry guns, superior to any DA/SA system. No argument there.

Several East Coast states (Maryland is one) now require any new pistol sold to have a ‘manual safety.’ Police are (of course) exempt. Our DA/SA pistols qualify. Glocks and SIGs do not. This is one reason our management continues to want to manufacture these guns. Apparently, neither Glock nor SIG thinks the lost business is worth worrying about. Actually, it probably isn’t.

Our current-production SA/DA autopistols are precut to allow conversion to a spring-loaded decocker, ie: a single-stage, slide-mounted, decocking lever. We’ve sold many single-stage, manually decocking pistols to police. Up on the slide, the decocking lever is not likely to be confused with the magazine-release button, as sometimes happens with SIGs where the two controls are right next to each other.”

Comment: I suspect the two-stage, manual decocking lever, like the “magazine safety,” is something all manufacturers wish had never been invented. I, for one, wish neither had ever existed. Label any contraption a “safety,” and some politician (who wouldn’t know a gun from a waffle-iron) will decide to mandate it. They care about their own safety, not ours!

With an item of emergency, safety equipment, like a pistol, that I carry routinely, the last thing I want on it is some confusing gimmick that will prevent it from working! Those of us who are serious need to have access to serious guns. We can only pray that manufactures, between meetings with politicians and other grasseaters, will think of us every now and then.



6 May 04

More Comments on Pistol Systems:

From a friend in the federal system:

“As a left-hander, my SIG P220 works well, as the left index finger operates both the trigger and decocking lever without compromising the master grip at all. For left handers like me, who are required to have a pistol with a decocking lever, SIGs work, in spades.

During training, I often notice agents inadvertently pushing the decocking lever down (sterilizing the pistol) while working the Beretta 92 slide. We see this unfortunate phenomenon far less often with S&W pistols.”

From a friend at SIG:

“Happily, we don’t make a pistol with a two-stage decocker. I never figured out why S&W and Beretta did. It certainly wasn’t a crystal ball that told them decades later MD would require a ‘manual safety.’ Your friend at S&W is right when he says that conventional, self-decocking (DAO) pistols have a small part of the pie commercially, right now. However, our DAK and H&K’s LEM (P2000) have generated considerable interest among police. Law enforcement sales bring forth a huge driving force on commercial guns. As cops go, so goes the commercial market, albeit delayed by a year or two.”

From a friend and trainer in SA:

“I do not know a serious gunman who will, out of choice, carry a SA/DA pistol. That system is a non-player here. What tops the list in sales and use are:

Glock, among those who can afford them. They are expensive here.
H&K P2000, also expensive
SIG/DAK, VERY expensive, but highly prized
Norinco and Armscor 1911 clones, for those who cannot afford expensive pistols. American 1911s (Springfield, Kimber) are so expensive here, one can say they are priced out of the market.”



10 May 04

Confrontation with a blade, from a friend in SA:

“One of our students is part of the local Critical Incident Response Unit here in Port Elizabeth. He was called out last week to subdue and arrest a deranged suspect threatening people with a knife. Local police decided they couldn’t handle it. Because of our government’s intense paranoia with regard to guns, most law enforcement officers here are terrified at the thought of using theirs, so much so that they routinely expose themselves to suicidal risk rather than use deadly force.

Case in point:

Our friend approached the suspect who was confronting him defiantly, still holding his knife. The officer got close enough to strike the suspect in the arm with his baton in an attempt to persuade him to drop the knife. No luck! The suspect charged and stabbed the officer on the left side before he could get out of the way. A single downward thrust opened a deep gash from the deltoid to the elbow, completely severing the triceps. With his remaining hand, the officer drew his G23 (acquired and paid for by himself) and began shooting as the knife attack continued.
First shot went through the attacker’s right foot. The second hit the knee cap on his right leg and deflected down his calf. First two shots were obviously jerked low and left. The third hit him in the navel. That one dropped him and effectively ended the fight. The bullet penetrated to the descending aorta and perforated it, through and through. Suspect was DRT within a minute. Our officer will be okay but will suffer some permeant disablement.

I asked him why he chose to use the baton instead of confronting the suspect at gunpoint immediately, but I knew the answer before I asked. People here are so afraid of going to jail for any kind of self defense that they dither when confronted by criminals and end us as statistics.”

Comment: At the ultimate time of individual reckoning, our personal resolve, determination, and superiority of purpose will carry the day. In the end, our fighting skills, strengthened by our training and mental preparation, will prevail in the face of the evil that now confronts us.



13 May 04

Machine Guns and White Men:

On the eve of WWI, British and most other Western military thinking tended to discount the importance of machine guns. Machine guns had been around for decades, starting with Dr Richard A Gatling’s multi-barreled device, developed in the 1860s. But, from George Custer on, war planners disliked them, because they thought machine guns were well suited only to the defense, and thus encouraged a “defensive mindset” on the part of infantry and cavalry. The army had to be highly mobile, and machine guns would only slow it down. Curiously, machine guns were considered perfectly appropriate for colonial Africa where they could be (and routinely were) used to great effect in gunning down hoards of charging natives. But, it was generally thought, when employed against armies made of white, Europeans, machine guns would be counterproductive. As with Custer, ethnic arrogance was again to seal the fate of thousands of hapless British and American soldiers.

As late as 1916, British General Douglas Haig had only two machine guns per battalion. He considered them big, bulky, ponderous, ammunition squandering, gimmicks. Hundreds thus sat out the War, gathering dust in warehouses.

Opinions on machine guns changed when everyone finally noticed that Germans were using them to astounding effect, even when on the offensive. Haig’s influence gradually weakened, and the British ultimately demanded that their only domestic manufacturer of machine guns, Vickers, instantly quadruple its production. Vickers, of course, could do no such thing on such short notice. Thus, right up to the signing of the 1918 Armistice, British infantry units never had anything close to adequate numbers of machine guns and trained crews. Victims of the same faulty thinking, Woodrow Wilson and the US War Department were surprised and saddened to learn that, when America entered the War in 1916, there were only seventeen machine guns in the entire American inventory, and there were no trained crews to operate even them.

Lesson: As is so often the case, aggressive introduction of vital, war-winning equipment was delayed, and delayed, and delayed. Who knows how many brave lives were squandered as a result? The culprit was, as always, timid and fearful men in high positions; men who, on a visceral level, fear change; men who are far more interested in keeping their jobs than they are in doing their jobs. In the private sector it’s called “janitorial management.”

Boldness, even when ill-timed, is still the sure mark of a relentlessly victorious army. Among dauntless and courageous men, occasional missteps are, of course, annoying weeds, but their presence is an unmistakable sign of rich soil. Such an army, such a civilization, can never be beaten!



13 May 04

Serious Training:

Last weekend one of our students brought and used a Wilson 1911. It worked fine, but like most possessors of such expensive guns, its owner used downloaded, unjacketed, “practice” ammunition. Smokey, greasy, and underpowered, I consider such ammunition unsuitable for any legitimate purpose. It does not give the user a legitimate impression of what shooting real ammunition is like, in terms of recoil and muzzle flash/blast. Accordingly, I encourage students to use full-powered, “service” ammunition in training, but owners of expensive pistols worry obsessively about “excessive wear” and often use this underpowered crap instead.

The pistol was also equipped with a “recoil buffer,” one of Wilson’s trademarks. When I inspected the gun, I removed it, to the horror of the gun’s owner. He indicated that the pistol was “tuned and set up” for the buffer and that it may not work without it. I told him not to worry and explained that I’ve seen buffers break into pieces and jam up many pistols. In addition, when equipped with such buffers, pulling back the slide and releasing it may not chamber a round, as the buffer takes up so much room that the slide thus cannot move back far enough to cam down the slide-stop lever. It’s a really bad idea on any serious gun.

The Wilson ran just fine without the buffer. It even ran fine with a few rounds of real ammunition we put through it.

Lesson: We all tend to cherish prized possessions, particularly when they are expensive and take a long time to get. However, with serious pistols, we have to remember who is working for whom! Serious guns don’t need to be pretty, but they do need to work, not just under ideal conditions, but in the mud, blood, and beer too. And, we need to train with them using real ammunition. In my experience, they can take it, if we just stop babying them and give them a chance!

Rubber recoil buffers are highly not recommended. I’ve never seen a pistol that did not run better without them.



14 May 04

SA XD Problem, from a friend and colleague:

“Just finished a five-day pistol class. Round count was 2,500. I brought two SA XDs in 40S&W. Up until now, I’ve liked them, but after my experience at this class, my confidence is shaken.
On day four, one of the ‘captured’ guide rods broke its end cap, which, after closer examination was just one of five, separate parts that makes up the recoil-spring assembly. In any event, the pistol was useless from that point forward. We examined the second XD and identified the same problem. We contacted SA and explained the trouble. The assured us they would look into it. The ball is in their court now.

With one of these pistols, one should inspect the recoil-spring/guide-rod assembly regularly and tighten it as necessary, but it is my opinion, on a serious pistol, constant tightening should not be necessary.”

Comment: All the XDs we’ve seen so far have worked well. This is the first critical XD issue of which I’ve been made aware. It is now up to SA to show us what kind of gun company they are. The can ignore it or fix it. We’ll see.



17 May 04

On Training and Equipment, from a Friend and Colleague:

“An H&K P7/M8 blew out its extractor, but the pistol continued to work! The only thing it would not do was eject manually. Shooting was not affected. I now think a lot more of P7’s!

Lots of stoppages and related gun problems due to poor ammunition. If only we could get rid of hobby reloads! Wolf is not much better. We experienced two Wolf squibs within an hour (40 S&W). The bullets had to be pounded out of the barrels.

The ‘Israeli’ (‘Mossad’) method of carrying a handgun with an empty chamber is the ultimate in self-deception. I had one student last week who insisted I allow him to use this technique. I refused and suggested he either ‘humor me’ or find another range.

A student showed up with a G35 (long slide), equipped with a brightly colored, ‘Hi-Viz,’ plastic-tube front sight. They’re all the rage these days. After a high-volume drill, we all noticed that the entire sight had melted! The two ends were still captured in the metal frame, but the
middle had drooped, and the plastic was making a puddle on the G35’s slide. This stuff may be fine for duck hunting, but has absolutely no business on a serious gun.

Lots of feeding problems with Para-Ordnance 1911 double-column, reduced capacity magazines. Bullets (hardball) nosedive due to inadequate magazine spring pressure. We also had several of the signature oversized baseplates move too far forward and thus prevent complete insertion. A number of such ‘problem’ magazines had to be sidelined.

SIG DAK is extremely popular with SIG owner/users. Saying goodby to manual decocking is something none regret.”

Comment: Emergency equipment upon which your life may depend needs to be tried and true. Test your stuff. Don’t allow yourself to fall in love with everything that glitters.



17 May 04

Confrontation, from an LEO friend in Australia:

“Late last month I was informed three thugs were out front of the local hotel beating a woman to death. Since I am the ‘local police,’ I got out of bed, ‘armed’ myself with a cell phone, jumped in my personal car, and drove up to the hotel.

Sure enough, outside were three of the biggest thugs I’d ever seen with a half clothed, bleeding woman lying at their feet. As my headlights shone on her she reached toward my direction and pleaded, ‘Help me!’ As soon as I got out of the car, all three blokes started walking toward me. The smallest one outweighed me by at least fifty pounds. The biggest was well over six foot, skinheaded, bare chested, covered in muscles, and full of tattoos, including a Nazi swastika on his left chest.

I was not in uniform, as there was no time to put it on. I had no gun, OC, nor baton. As I instruct martial arts locally, I did have a ‘boken’ (long, hardwood staff) in my car. I retrieved it and confronted them squarely. ‘Hello boys, what’s going on here then?’ I obtained the eloquent reply, ‘Who the f___ are you?’ I replied that I was the local, f______ policeman, and again asked what they were up to. They looked at each other and then said that they were just ‘helping’ this woman. I replied that their definition of ‘help’ was curious indeed. As we talked, the woman crawled over and begged me to rescue her.

Swastika boy then got too close. I showed him my boken and told him to go sit down on the curb while we waited for the other nice policeman to arrive. He ignored me and kept coming, so I said, ‘Let me put it another way: take another step and I’ll start using this.’ He aggressive demeanor instantly changed as he backed off with his hands in the air, mumbling that he really didn’t want to fight after all.

Then, Godzilla decided to have a go. He comes at me, and I tell him the same thing. He stops, grins, utters the statement of the night, ‘Mate, your not good enough to use that!’ He then bunches up his fists and moves in on me. The next sound was the defining ‘crack’ made by the boken at it struck this guy’s right leg, just above his knee. It sounded like a pistol shot, which caused the local pub to empty out. Godzilla hit the ground with a crash, clutching his leg, and screaming that it was broken. The other two quickly backed off, became suddenly docile and compliant, and sat down on the curb as I had originally asked.

The woman was taken off to hospital. She recovered. All three thugs were arrested without further incident. Godzilla’s leg was not fractured, but my boken was, split down the middle.
I learned my lesson. No matter how much of a hurry I’m in, next time I’ll be sure I have all my gear with me. I was lucky this time.”

Lesson: Aside from the obvious, when you’re confronted by multiple people who indicate they mean you harm, select the biggest/most aggressive/closest and take him out decisively, emphatically, and without warning. In most cases, the fight will be over at that point, as it was in this case. If you fail to take out the biggest one, first and fast, your situation will deteriorate rapidly. If there must be a fight, the best kind is the short kind!



18 May 04

Good marks for Kimber, from a friend and colleague:

“Yesterday was the first running of our Action Pistol Match. Mostly Glocks and SIGs that worked and ‘custom’ 1911s that didn’t, except for an excellent Kimber.

One guy managed to jam the cylinder of his S&W L-frame using his own too-long reloads. Amateur hour!

An inexperienced shooter with a Beretta 92F attempted three runs at the course of fire, without ever figuring out what to do with the safety/decocking lever. He tried to use it as a ‘safety,’ and, over and over, ended up frantically (and unsuccessfully) trying to fire his pistol with the lever down. He also, several times, tried to holster the pistol with the hammer cocked. We stopped him just in time, each time. Slow learner!

You might want to know that the night sights on my Kimber 1911 started to fade. The pistol is three years old. The right dot on the rear sight went dead, and the front sight was dim. I contacted their rep (Chris Corino) and was instructed to send the slide to slide to Dennis at the Custom Shop. It did as instructed on 4 May 04. It was returned to me, with new sights, on 6 May 04. No charge!

Kimber has a friend here!”

Comment: I like companies, like Kimber, who don’t quibble with customers over product serviceability issues. They just fix them, quickly and quietly, and drive on. I have scant patience with companies whose reps are whiners and excuse makers and who don’t return calls. Good show, Chris!



19 May 04

SIG’s DAK System popularity Increasing, from friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast:

“Virginia State Police are swapping their old DA/SA P229s (357SIG) for the DAK. Officially, the old guns are due for refurbishment at $200/pistol. SIG offered them a brand new 229/DAK, plus three new magazines, in exchange for the old pistol and $100. Too good a deal to pass up! Troopers have the option of purchasing their old pistols.

Texas DPS is also moving to the DAK. Current 226s, used by uniformed guys, and 229s, used by investigators, will be traded for the DAK versions. They are continuing with 357SIG. Texas DPS has issued the 226 in 357SIG for over ten years now. They love this caliber!

Oklahoma Highway Patrol is trading their DA/SA P220s (45ACP) for 226/DAKs in 357SIG.

Chicago PD has also now approved the 226/DAK (9mm). The system will eventually replace all old SIG SA/DA pistols.”

Comment: Of course, Glock continues to be potent in all sectors, but this new SIG trigger system is garnering strong attention from police executives. I predict the DAK and 357SIG caliber will continue to surge in popularity in the police market and, in a year or two, in the non-police market as well.



20 May 04

From a friend in the UK:

“The SUN today reported that British soldiers in Iraq killed nearly every member of an insurgent unit during the British Army’s first bayonet charge since the Falklands War, twenty-two years ago! Twenty Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders charged Iraqi fighters after being ambushed in their Land Rover. Brits decided to fix bayonets on their SA-80 rifles and charge at once. They did, and between rifle fire and bayonet attack, killed thirty-five insurgents and captured nine.

Interestingly, analytical geniuses among UK’s war planners had originally left off bayonet lugs from the SA-80 rifle, considering bayonets ‘obsolete.’ I suspect those people are extremely quiet about now!”

Lesson: An instant, explosive, and violent counterattack is the very last thing most predators either expect or plan for. Predators mostly dither and ultimately deal with it poorly, as these Iraqis did. Fearless men and cold steel still frighten the snot out of the lowlife of this world. God bless the British!



20 May 04

Excellent suggestion from an instructor and colleague:

“Solution to several of our current, self-imposed problems:

(1) We sell all our Beretta pistols, on the condition that Italy leave NATO.

(2) We use the money to buy assegais (a short, stabbing spear, used with great effect by Zulus since the early 1800s. The Roman short sword was used in a similar manner, also with great effect).

(3) Bring the Zulus into NATO

In one stroke, we would acquire better weapons and much tougher guys on our side. No assegai I have ever seen comes with a safety/decocker/purge valve/fool’s lever, or, for that matter, a trigger lock!”

Comment: Wish I had thought of it!



26 May 04

From a friend and instructor in SA:

“A student was using a shotgun last weekend with a rear sight that had been epoxyed in place. During a high-volume drill, it flew off and gave him a nasty cut on the forehead. He learned his lesson, the hard way!”

Lesson: Don’t glue things on serious guns. No glue I know of is adequate to the task. Even pinning or screwing sights on is usually inadequate. Sights need to anchored in a crosscut, dovetail slot or welded in place.



26 May 04

The 1911 system gets a bad rap:

Last weekend, we had a student show up with a Colt Gold Cup, 1911. It lasted for one hundred rounds, then stopped feeding, because the recoil spring was so weak. The rear sight also came loose. We pulled it off the line and replaced it with a S&W 1911, which worked just fine for the rest of the weekend.

I warn students to stay away from any gun that says “target” or “match,” or, for that matter, any gun that the maker boasts is capable of anal accuracy. I believe anal accuracy and reliability are inherently incompatible, and I therefore have no interest in “accurate” guns. I like utility, working guns that are designed and built for serious, not trivial, purposes.

The 1911 system gets screwed with so much by gunsmiths and manufacturers alike in an effort to make it hyper-accurate, it is getting an unhappy reputation. Real 1911s are plenty accurate enough for any serious purpose.