Saturday, December 21, 2013

The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense...

As a long-time firearms instructor and even many more years as a firearms enthusiast, I am often asked about breaking in a new gun... is it needed, what ammo, how many rounds, etc. Over the decades, I've read a lot of information, spoken to dozens of instructors, heard from many gunsmiths... and there is no single answer, or even overall consensus... so I have developed my own recommendations, and what follows is my recommendation for breaking-in handguns for self-defense.

First of all, I am always amazed at how many people I've met that are carrying guns for self-defense that have less than a hundred rounds of ammo through them. I am further astonished at how many folks have shot their handgun, but never with the personal defense ammunition they've selected, often because it is too expensive to shoot.

You need to understand that the 500-round handgun break-in for self-defense I recommend is as much about breaking-in the gun as it is about breaking-in the shooter to the new gun. Not only will you break-in the gun, but the you will have had significant practice with the new handgun before trusting your life with it.

The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense requires 400-rounds of practice ammo for your gun, usually some FMJ or "Ball" ammo and 100-rounds of your selected ammunition for self-defense, often some type of hollow-point or other personal defense type of bullet and cartridge. Usually, by the time you've fired 500-rounds of the ammunition I suggest, you will either trust your life with the handgun or be parting with it as soon as possible.

This is not an inexpensive undertaking, but what is your life worth? Depending on your caliber, you are probably looking at $100 to $150 of practice ammo and $100 to $150 of your personal defense ammo. You don't have to do all the shooting on the same day.  Here are the basic steps I recommend:

  1. Thoroughly clean your new handgun as recommended by the manufacturer... yeah, read the manual. Most folks over-lubricate their handguns and many semi-autos only need a couple of drops of lubricant in strategic places.
  2. Use all your magazines and speed-loaders... number or mark them so you know which is which in case you ever have a problem.
  3. Shoot the first 100-rounds of practice ammo practicing loading and reloading. Get to know your gun. Adjust the sights if needed. Try a few shots one-handed with each hand. Learn the operation and manipulation of the gun.
  4. Shoot the second 100-rounds of practice ammo. Load your magazines to capacity if you haven't yet done so. If you haven't had any malfunctions, try randomly loading an occasional dummie-round and practice clearing some malfunctions to better acquaint you with the gun. If you've had a couple of malfunctions with the gun, not the ammo, at this point, I'm usually not too worried because the freshly machined parts of the new guns are starting to wear and work together.
  5. If you haven't cleaned your gun thoroughly since you started the break-in  process, give it a good cleaning at this point. Just like that first oil-change on your new car, this cleaning will get rid of any initial build-up of grime, residue, and/or left over gun-grease you missed with the first cleaning and and grit or microscopic shavings left over from the manufacturing process. This is also a good time to do a thorough inspection of the gun. Anything coming loose? Screws needing tightened? Something needing some blue-medium thread locker to hold it in place? Any pins backing out?
  6. Fire 20 to 25-rounds of your personal defense ammo to check feeding, function, reliability, and accuracy. You don't often see a lot of change for the point of impact when switching between a lot of handgun ammo, but sometimes you do. Adjust sights accordingly if needed. If you have feeding problems, you may want to try some different personal defense ammo. I have seen some semi-autos that just do not like feeding hollow-point bullets.
  7. Fire your third set of 100 rounds of practice ammunition. Practice drawing and reloading from concealment if you can. Use a timer and start really refining your accuracy and precision with your new gun. If you are having significant reliability problems at this point (like a malfunction every few rounds), then it's time to contact the manufacturer and send it in.
  8. Fire your second set of 20 to 25-rounds of your personal defense ammo. Check your accuracy and precision against the clock. If you're shooting 9mm 115gr. FMJ for practice and switch to 9mm+P 124gr. JHP for personal defense... is the recoil affecting your accuracy and precision? Your handing of the gun and follow-up shots?
  9. Now comes my final test. I like to be able to run through the last 100-rounds of practice ammo and then the remaining 50 to 60-rounds of personal defense ammo with no, make that ZERO, problems or malfunctions that are gun-related.
  10. At this point, you and your gun have had plenty of time and practice to adequately break-in and get used to operating with reliability and consistency for every-day use and carry. If you've reached this point and are still having any regular or periodic malfunctions that are gun-related and not ammo related... it's probably time to have the manufacturer take a look at it, if that didn't occur at step 7.
I have numerous handguns, like our multiple Ruger SR9's and SR9c's, SR1911, LCP's, LCR, and Glock 19, that have passed through this break-in process without a problem.  We're currently working our Glock 26 and Ruger LC9 through the process. On the other hand, I've had some handguns, like our Kel-Tec 3AT, that can't make it through this process reliably... even after two trips back to Kel-Tec.

Now, have I ever carried a gun for self-defense that didn't have the 500-rounds of break-in through it... sure... but I have never carried a gun on duty or for self-defense that I hadn't shot enough, including with my personal defense ammo, to have confidence in it's reliability. I have one Ruger SR9 that I used for Todd Green's 2,000-round challenge.  It came out of the box without even being cleaned and ran for 2,619-rounds without any cleaning or lubrication before a stove-pipe caused the first malfunction. That is not how I recommend breaking-in a new gun.

Well, you have my recommendation for breaking in a handgun, what's yours?  Or do you have any thoughts on... The 500-Round Handgun Break-In for Self-Defense...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

One-handed work for guns and prepping...

A lot of folks who practice regularly with their firearms still forget about working with their off-hand, or weak-side and developing one-handed firearm manipulation skills. I have had the pleasure of instructing firearms for several folks over the years who have had challenges due to physical handicaps or conditions... some permanent and some temporary... that have required them to adapt and overcome to be effective with their firearms and other activities.

My wife has had a torn tendon in her off-hand arm for a couple of years... and cortisone shots were no longer effective... and she could barely use the arm and hand. So, back before Thanksgiving, my gal had surgery to repair a torn tendon in her fore-arm.  The surgeon installed a couple of metal studs in her elbow to suture the tendon to as it healed... and then put a massive cast on her arm from the upper arm to the fingers to keep her wrist and fingers from moving too much, but enough to do some manipulation to help the healing process. Aside from having to deal with a cast for several weeks, she'll be looking at several months of rehab after Christmas when the cast comes off.

This had provided a great opportunity for us to re-focus on what works and doesn't work when we lose the use of an arm or hand.  There are plenty of techniques that can be used and readily adapted to different tasks such as loading, cycling the slide, and operating your firearm.  There are many other daily tasks that a prepping-minded person should think through too.

Here are some thoughts to challenge you:

  1. Try taping up or putting a mitten on one of your hands.  Now try operating your firearm or doing other daily tasks that way.  How did you do?  What modifications will you need to undertake to make things work for you?
  2. Check your firearms and equipment for one-handed or limited strength operation. Can you make it work? Do you need modifications like sights on your handgun that are made to help you cycle the action by catching on a belt or boot? Do you need to carry or position your firearm or equipment differently? If you're right-handed and lose use of that hand or arm... do you have a left-side holster?
  3. Have you worked on ambidexterity lately? Try going through an entire day at home and/or work using just your off-hand, weak-side hand and arm... something I try to do on occasion. How do you draw your gun?  How do you shift your vehicle into drive or between gears? How do you write?

These are just some ideas to consider. I think that while there are standard procedures that work with many firearms, everyone needs to learn and adapt techniques to their own needs.  Just don't forget to think well beyond firearms... as there are many other daily, prepping, and self-defense considerations to think through.

You will find that no matter how good your physical condition is, no matter how good you think you are... that time, age, and circumstances may render you needing to adapt. I once had an elderly gal in my NRA Basic Pistol/Ohio CCW course that had terrible arthritis problems. She could do just about everything with a semi-auto handgun except cycle the action... she just couldn't get a strong enough grip on it. I suggested that she look at some tip-up barrel guns like Beretta's offerings so she could load with out having to pull the slide back... and she's now the proud owner of a Beretta 84 with a tip-up barrel which she shoots with very proficiently.

So what have you done to prepare for... One-handed work for guns and prepping...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

About laws requiring concealed carry training...

2014 will mark a decade of legal concealed carry in the State of Ohio. With the likely prospects that Ohio's current House Bill 203 will make it to the governor's desk for a signature before the tenth anniversary of Ohio's law allowing law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed handgun; the Ohio concealed carry laws will have been successfully modified and revamped for the better over a half-dozen times since it was first passed.

Two aspects of Ohio House Bill 203 that will greatly affect many law-abiding citizens is that it would basically require automatic reciprocity with any state that issues a license or permit to carry a concealed gun... regardless of other states' training requirements, or lack thereof. The same bill would also reduce the minimal required training time from a total twelve hours down to four hours, while still requiring the same content to be taught and tested by a certified instructor.

This is both good news and bad news. First, the good news is that the state legislators behind the law realize fallacy of mandating a minimal training time of twelve hours required for an Ohioan to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun (at least that is what they call it in this state), but they still are requiring the arbitrary four hours of minimum training time even though the same law, if passed, will recognize permits from states that require no training at all.

The bad news is that there are a lot of people out there carrying guns that think the twelve hours currently required, and subsequently the four hours that will likely be required if the law passes... is adequate as a one-time only training to carry a concealed firearm for self-defense. 

Here is my take on the whole matter of required training by states issuing concealed carry licenses and permits. First, states and governments in this country should not be in the business of issuing permits and licenses for fundamental rights to begin with, but it's what we're currently facing for the foreseeable future in many states. 

Second, the states and governments minimum training time requirements... and even competency requirements... for all practical purposes are pretty well worthless for determining any individual's overall, life-long or on-going level of ability to safely handle and use a firearm for self-defense.  If you don't believe me, just ask any law enforcement officer with more than a few years of experience about the overall proficiency of firearms handling and use by fellow officers.

Now I worked in law enforcement and I'm meaning no offense to those who are out there putting their lives on the line for the residents they serve, but let's be honest here. There are officers who are very proficient with their firearms and there are always officers - sometimes more that we would like to admit - that can barely qualify with the handling and use of their firearms, even with the pathetically low benchmarks set by many local, state, and federal agencies or governing bodies.

Ultimately, I believe in a concept that has all but disappeared in today's American society... the concept of personal responsibility. I think it is the personal responsibility of every individual person the chooses to use or carry a firearm, or any weapon for self-defense or other purposes, to maintain adequate levels of training, practice, knowledge, and ability to effectively and safely keep, carry, and use their tools of choice against those actively threatening or attacking them, without being a danger to their fellow citizens who are not.

Twelve hours of training yesterday may be more than enough for some people while a thousand hours of training fifteen years ago may be inadequate for others. As an NRA instructor, I've often heard people say that the NRA Basic Pistol Course - that is what Ohio's current training requirements are based on - is inadequate for concealed carry. Well, the law in Ohio requires a firearm safety course, NOT a concealed carry course... and the NRA Basic Pistol Course was never designed as a concealed carry course.

Now if you really want to judge the NRA's concealed carry training... you need to look at the entire sequence of almost thirty hours and hundreds of rounds fired on the range that is required to complete the sequence of the courses made up of Basic Pistol, Personal Protection in the Home, and Personal Protection Outside of the Home parts I & II.  After completing all those courses... then tell me what you think of the NRA's concealed carry training.  The NRA's curriculum was never designed to be and end-all and be-all for everyone, but to encourage ongoing training and practice.

The key to training is that is must be timely, effective, and relevant with regular, ongoing practice to truly be effective. I think it's up to each person to individually determine what is appropriate for themselves and their needs. As an husband, father, and individual... I know my limits and needs for training and practice. As an instructor, I also know the level of training I feel comfortable and effective teaching and delivering to others and I continually practice and seek out additional training opportunities to keep my knowledge, skills, and abilities at an effective level as an armed citizen and as a firearms instructor.

Minimal training standards and times mandated by law are often ineffective, as current laws for residents with concealed carry licenses or permits and laws and policies for many law enforcement officers have proven over many decades.  That is why a life-long pattern of good training and practice is invaluable, but requiring very limited training by law for a fundamental right guaranteed by our creator, a right that is assured protection via the Constitution from our government as an individual right... is not an effective idea.

So... what do YOU think... About laws requiring concealed carry training...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First Shots Cold... Preparing for cold weather.

First Shots Cold... I think this may be an occasional, re-occurring theme.  As an instructor, I think one of my greatest assets is that I'm a life-long learner, an eternal student. As a shooter, I'm just an every-day, middle-aged, sub-height-for-weight-specs, guy... who is practical, realistic... a husband, a father, a friend, a neighbor. I'm not an operator, a tactical ninja, an urban warrior.

That doesn't mean that I'm not a proficient shooter. As an every day guy who carries a firearm for self-defense, I want to be sure that I can defend myself when the time comes. I am actively losing weight, exercising, weight-lifting, and watching my diet... but ultimately, the firearm gives proficient shooters a defensive advantage to a threat of death or serious bodily harm regardless of your physical condition when compared with going unarmed.

With that in mind, and with winter approaching... I have been practicing with layered clothing and heavy outerwear to get ready for the season of cold that is quickly approaching.  In the photo above, I'm wearing multiple layers including thermal underwear - top and bottom, for a total of four layers of upper body clothing and two layers of lower body clothing, hence the over-sized pants to tuck in some of the upper layers.

I prefer layered clothing in the winter so I can adjust my insulation level as I heat up or cool down with my activities. The layers create several concealed carry considerations. I can consistently draw from concealment and place a shot on target in under two-seconds at twenty-five feet in regular clothing for summer wear, but I'm slower in the winter with either my layered clothing or just a heavier coat or jacket like my parka. First, the belt is not as secure in it's position around my waist when on top of three, four, or six or more layers... and second, the layers mean I have more to deal with when accessing and drawing my firearm.  This makes a good, stiff carry-belt even more important.  

So how does this all relate to first shots fired? I practice often, usually using a timer for various drills, but the drill and time I'm most interested in are my first shots fired. Each time I go out back to the range and set up to practice... I get my timer out, I set it for a random start delay, and at twenty-five feet I draw from concealment and fire. THAT is the time and accuracy measure that I ultimately use to assess myself. 

Sure, I can drill and practice and drill and practice and see what my best time is... I often do that. I can game the scenario with a shoot-me-first vest and an OWB holster practicing for IDPA, but ultimately... I want to be able to draw from my concealed Comp-Tac MTAC holster with my every-day-carry Ruger SR9 or SR9c and put a center-of-mass hit on target at twenty-five feet, in my every-day clothing in under two-seconds.  Hence, I test myself when I take my first shots on the range by timing my first shots fired from concealment.

Winter clothing choices can really hinder your access to your firearm. While I usually carry on my strong-side hip, I will often switch to strong-side appendix carry with heavy winter coats and jackets. I like a winter jacket that has Velcro closures in addition to a zipper, because I can leave it un-zipped and just Velcro-ed closed for a quick, rip-n-access draw.

So... as the seasons change and your clothing choices grow heavier and more layered... make sure you're practicing... and ready for those First Shots Cold... Preparing for cold weather.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's in my blood... American Exceptionalism.

I may be one of the few that's left... a shrinking minority... a man who still believes that the United States of America is exceptional. My friend, Matt, over at Jerking the Trigger recently posted a link to a video of Greg Medford speaking at a gathering of employees and friends at Medford Knife and Tool. It reminded me of why America is still exceptional... because we are more than just a geographically defined land mass... we are a group of diverse people who live in a nation founded by a Declaration of Independence and on a Constitution that spells out and protects the rights of man given by God, our creator. Sadly, I believe many folks have forgotten where we came from, how we got here, and where we should be heading.

Pappy, my brother, and... me.
My great grandfather had five boys who grew up on the farm. They made their own way, worked through the tough times of the Great Depression farming, selling milk, building homes, doing various jobs as necessary and as they could. They took care of their family, their friends, their community, and their country. Some served in World War II while folks like my grandfather farmed and worked in the steel mills along the Ohio River to help produce the raw material that continued to build our country.

I have great memories of my grandfather, "Pappy" as everyone called him.  Maybe those memories are inflated, almost legendary in my recollection, but he was a good man, a strong man, a manly man. He worked hard... in fact I'm not sure he knew how to not work hard. Ask anyone who's had dairy cows about getting up every morning, working every day in a labor intensive job, then working each night to keep the farm going. He could make, fix, or build just about anything... and he and my grandmother gardened, butchered beef, and provided for most of their own needs.

He still found time to have fun and do things with his family, friends, and grand-kids. I think I tend to live a lot like he did... I saw it in my mother too... a hard working lady who could cook, sew, and change a disposal under the sink or build just about anything she set her mind to. She put herself through college, married, and had two boys of her own, still working daily tutoring math as a volunteer in our local schools at almost eighty years of age. She can't stop past our house without doing some kind of work around here. Heck, we almost have to have some odd job lined up for her or she won't stay to visit very long.

The gals and I are pretty self-sufficient and can do just about anything we set our minds to and if we can't figure it our or have the right equipment... we have good friends and neighbors who probably have what we don't... so we help each other out like friends and neighbors should.  That is something that's not lost out here in the country.  I know my neighbors that live a half-mile away better than a lot of city and suburban folks know their neighbors that live forty-feet away from them.

Folks, we're headed for some rough times ahead... there's know doubt about it. We can't borrow our way out of it forever and at some point it's going to come down to fending for yourselves, your families, your friends, your community, and your country. I don't think endless growth is sustainable and while we may not have a total collapse... I believe we're at least heading for a "constriction" of our country's economy and general life-style. It's time to skip a few soccer games, occasionally turn off the TV and Facebook, and spend some quality time with the ones you love... building skills, knowledge, capabilities, supplies, and relationships that are real, practical, and meaningful.

We may not be as exceptional as we once were, but we have the foundation to be more exceptional than any place else on earth... if folks are willing to step up, take personal responsibility for themselves and their families, acknowledge reality, and move forward... looking towards a future.  THAT is why places like Medford Knife and Tool are prospering in tough times... that is why Pappy's legacy lives on generations later... and that is why my gals and I will do fairly well no matter what our circumstances are. We're not invested in and our worth is not found in things, but in folks.

What can I say... It's in my blood... American Exceptionalism.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

First Shots Cold... with our Ruger SR-556c.

I'm not much fun sometimes because I'm not a gamer and I'm far more practical than tactical. At around a half-century on this third rock from the sun, I'm not an operator... just a husband, a dad, a pudgy country boy, and a gun guy. Yeah, I use a timer when I practice with my firearms and when I compete in local IDPA, three-gun, and other competitions, but I don't participate in competition to beat anyone else but myself.

It's not that I'm making an excuse for being a poor shot or for mediocre firearms handling... I think I do alright handling guns and I shoot pretty well, but I'm more interested in my speed and abilities with my everyday carry gear than I am in how well I do with a race-gun or a competition-specific rig while wearing a shoot-me first vest.  Along those lines of thinking, I'm always interested in how I perform when I step out on the range taking my "first shots cold" or FSC.

My everyday home and self-defense, kill-a-coyote rifle is our the Ruger SR-556c with an Aimpoint PRO for an optic. I plan to use it for a 100-yard high-power, three position rifle match coming up this Saturday which only allows iron sights or zero-magnification red-dot sights. Now I realize a fourteen and a half inch barrel and a red-dot sight is not exactly standard fair for precision shooting at targets... four and two-legged varmints... yes... but precision targets... no.  I'm being practical.  This is the gun I bet my life on.... the gun I bet my gals' lives on... so when I grab it and take those first shots cold... it better hit what I'm aiming at.

The target above is from my practice time last Saturday and shows the first three-shot group using Federal .223 Remington GoldMatch with 69-grain Sierra MatchKing bullets shooting from the prone position resting the gun on the Magpul PMAG.  The target was at exactly 100-yards and the rifle was set up with a 50/200 yard zero.  The 2.5-inches over at 100-yards is pretty much dead on, but the 1.5-nches to the right is a little off, maybe due to taking the Aimpoint PRO on and off and couple of times.

I can't complain about the accuracy and precision... can you ask for anything more than a sub-one-MOA group from a defensive AR?  The rifle and I both performed to my expectations for self-defense. By the end of my practice time, I had re-zeroed at 100-yards for the match this coming Saturday with over two-thirds of my three-shot groups at less than one-inch.  Will I likely win the match competing against long-barreled rifles with precision peep-sights... not a chance. 

Again, I'm not shooting to win or be a gamer, I'm shooting to be practical and the best I can be... call it an excuse if you want... but that is why I'm always mostly interested in testing myself... and whether it's a pistol, rifle, or shotgun... those first shots are what count when your life or your family's lives are on the line.

This Saturday I'll again see how I do when firing those... First Shots Cold... with our Ruger SR-556c.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Back-up USB power for your technology.

We live in a technology-dependent culture whether we like to admit it or not.  For years, when the power went out... which happens a lot out here in the country where we live... the good 'ol trusty telephone still worked because it had a separate power source from Ma Bell. These days, we don't even have a "land-line" any more as it was dropped when my daughter was finally provided a cell phone several years ago.

While I've talked about back-up power before, sometimes you need a quicker or more portable solution for your technology, a lot of which can now be charged via a USB port. First of all, make sure you pick up a USB adapter for your vehicle's cigarette light, which can usually be found for less the ten bucks.

Another solution, which is quite inexpensive, is a battery-powered back-up USB power source. We picked up several of these Rayovac 7-Hour USB AA-Battery Powered Chargers for less then ten-bucks each a whole back and they come with a set of four AA-batteries.  I've tried one of ours and it actually lasted for almost nine hours of continuous use on a discharged cell phone, which it did bring to a full charge.

I also purchased one for my daughter who is away at college and has already experienced an eighteen-hour power outage.  Keeping those iPhones, iPads, iPods, and iWhatevers charged is critical in an emergency, so for anything short of the zombie apocalypse... pick up some... Back-up USB power for your technology.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pistol Packin' Pickin' Priorities...

If Peter Piper picked a pistol to pack, which pistol would Peter Piper pick? There are a lot of great resources out there with good information to help folks choose a handgun for self-defense so I'm not going to try to make this a "Beginner's Guide to Choosing a Concealed Carry Gun". I'm not a tactical guy and I've never served in the military. 

I did spend around five years in law enforcement, have been a firearms instructor for over twenty-five years, have about twenty years of concealed carry experience, taken a lot of training myself, and I'm an American citizen with the right to keep and bear arms who has learned a lot over the years about handguns, sometimes through the school or hard-knocks and out-right mistakes (don't ask me about my friend's Jennings 22 that literally broke apart in my hand while shooting it back in high school).

So what follows are some of my own thoughts and opinions for ya'll to consider that may be in line with many main-stream and big-name folks in the gun culture and some comes my experiences with teaching new shooters and helping many folks select handguns for many years.

1. Caliber

The gals and I usually carry a 9mm or a .38 Special/.357 Magnum.  I own several .45 ACPs and love to shoot them, but their heavy, have far less capacity than 9mm and most things I've read indicate minimal statistical differences in "stopping power" or "rate of incapacitation" between 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.  With that in mind, I want to be able to pull the trigger and have the gun go "BANG" as many times as possible before having to reload.  That's why I carry a 9mm.  In any given size gun, it will hold more 9mm rounds than .40 S&W and .45 ACP.  Recoil - on average - is more manageable for the gals and I, plus 9mm is common and cheaper so you'll likely practice more often... I know the gals and I do. 

I have occasionally carried a .380 ACP as a back-up gun or just because of special circumstances and because it meets the first rule of gun-fighting's minimal criteria of "have a gun".  There have been a couple of folks I've trained who were advanced in years and arthritis for whom I recommended a .22 long rifle or .22 Magnum, but those were special situations.

As far as revolvers go, there is really only one practical choice for caliber and that is the .38 Special/.357 Magnum calibers.  The gals and I typically use .38 Special +P self-defense cartridges in our five-shot snubbies if we carry them even though they might be rated for .357 Magnum due to being able to control recoil a lot better.  Again, .38 Special is common and cheap, so you'll likely practice more often.  Again, the .22 long rifle or .22 Magnum are viable alternatives in special situations.

2. Size and Shootability

Let's talk about gun size and shootability as I believe they go hand-in-hand. Shootability is the capability YOU have to reliably and accurately shoot and operate a particular gun. Ideally you want a handgun that fits you and your hands, but often many folks go for a smaller handgun for concealability.  Now I realize that folks with different body types, particularly smaller body types, may have trouble concealing larger handguns, but I've come to prefer carrying and concealing a full-size gun over the years for a number of reasons.

I find a full-size gun is easier to shoot more accurately, manipulate, and carry more rounds of "BANG".  With a good IWB or OWB holster, I have no problem concealing a full-size handgun.  Now that being said, there are times I do carry a compact or pocket-size handgun because I need it as a back-up to my main gun or I'm wearing an outfit (like working out at the fitness center) where carrying a full-size gun with a good, quality gun-belt is not an option.

Modern polymer pistols like the Ruger SR series, the S&W M&P series, Glocks, XD's and others offer a reasonable combination of full-size and lighter weight than the typical 1911's or the boat-anchor .45 ACPs like the S&W 4516 .45 ACP that was standard issue in the police department I worked for. Truthfully, the length of the grip of your gun is a far more troublesome aspect to carrying concealed than the length of the barrel. If Glock would make a gun with a Glock 17 barrel and a Glock 19 grip-size... it would make sense to me.

As far as revolvers go, the gals and I can shoot our full-size Ruger GP100 far better than our Ruger SP101 or Ruger LCR, but the SP101 and LCR are far more concealable.  Snubby revolvers seem to be popular first concealed carry gun choices by many, but they are generally not easy to shoot accurately for new shooters in my experience as an instructor. I can reliably shoot a fairly tight, threat-stoppin' group at ten yards with my LCR, but I have to keep in practice to do so reliably.

The Ruger SP101 is probably the most over-engineered, over-built five-shot snubby available. The additional weight makes this the only .357 Magnum snubby I've shot that is actually truly controllable for me with full .357 magnum loads, although I typically carry .38 Special +P rounds in it. The problem is that it's a very heavy snubby to pack around all day compared with a lot of the lighter-weight offerings like the Ruger LCR or the Smith & Wesson Airweights, but it is lighter than the full-size GP100 or a Smith & Wesson 66 or 686.  Is a lighter gun you'll carry regularly all day worth the loss in recoil control and accuracy many folks find with a full-size gun?  That's something you'll have to consider for yourself.

Now small guns seem to be the hot ticket that last few years as more and more concealed carry license and permit holders have hoped to find a pocket-rocket that is easily concealed, sometime sacrificing shootablilty for concealability. Now I know that the first rule of a gun fight is to have a gun, but I've been finding more and more folks and students in my courses have gone out and purchased a snubby .38 or a pocketable .380 without actually firing the gun only to find that controlling recoil and maintaining accuracy can be quite the challenge. I can reliably shoot our Ruger LCP .380 ACP accurately at closer distances, but it's not as easy as my other, larger guns... particularly beyond fifteen to twenty feet.

3. Gun Families

I prefer and recommend gun families. If you're full-size gun is a Glock 17 or Glock 19, then if you want something compact you should get S&W M&P Compact... NO! Get a Glock 26 so everything operates and works the same. Going from my Ruger SR9 to my Ruger SR9c when I need a slightly smaller-sized gun to carry concealed is a complete no-brainer for operation and shootablilty while the full-size magazines work in either gun. The other thing I like is that I can buy a holster for my full-size SR9 and it works perfectly with my SR9c since the barrel is just a bit shorter, but the shorter grip of the SR9c is really what makes it print less for concealed carry for me.

Revolvers are the same way, all my Ruger revolver cylinder release buttons work the same and the cylinders all rotate the same direction. I will make an endorsement of the Ruger LCR if you're set on a light-weight, snubby. It seems to have less recoil with the same +P rounds than S&W Airweights and the Ruger LCR has the best out-of-box, double-action trigger pull I've ever tried.

4. Test Drive

I'm amazed at how many folks go out and buy a gun that they've never shot before... and I have been one of them in years past! I tell students who are thinking about buying a new gun and want to take my NRA/Ohio CCW courses to wait on purchasing a gun until they get through my course.  That way they are armed with knowledge and they also have an opportunity to try just about any size gun and caliber they want with our collection the gals and I have built up over the years.

If you're thinking about buying a gun, at some point you need to quit reading web reviews and watching YouTube. Go to a range that rents the guns you're interested in or find a gun friend or instructor that will let you try the gun out... not just fondling the gun at the gun counter in the local gun store, but actually pulling the trigger and feeling the "BANG".

5. Practice and Training

You need to practice and train with your handgun. If you're primary handgun and ammo choice is such that you can't shoot a hundred rounds in the course of an hour on the range at least once a month, you need to rethink you choice.  Whether it be the recoil is too painful or the cost of ammo, if you can't shoot and practice regularly, you've probably chosen the wrong gun.

Also, make sure you run your self-defense ammo through your gun in a decent quantity to check relaibility.  I meet too many folks carrying handguns with ammo they've never actually shot through the gun because good defensive pistol ammo rounds run about one to two buck a piece and that's too expensive to practice with.  Folks, your life depends on it!  Which again, is another good reason to be lookin' at the 9mm or .38 Special.

There are a lot of things to consider if you're looking for a first gun or another gun to carry concealed or use for self-defense.  The best advice I can give you is don't just go by what someone else tell you, but educate yourself, check the guns out yourself, and try the guns out yourself... so that way you'll develop your own... pistol Packin' Pickin' Priorities...

Well folks, those are some of my thoughts... how about some of yours in the comments...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Teaching the Weaver stance...

When I was growing up, I made a lot of hard-earned money working on the farm.  I spent an unbelievable amount of time sitting on a tractor seat doing the necessary work of the day like planting, cultivating, and mold-board plowing. All of those activities required some hands-on instruction, practice, and constant attention to detail or you'd mess up those amazingly straight dead-furrows and planting rows any good farmer takes pride in.

These days things have changed and progressed in the world of agriculture.  Those straight-planted rows are accomplished with the assistance of GPS, which sometimes even takes care of the steering altogether for you. Round-Up ready soybeans and other herbicides let you knock almost every weed out with mass-chemical application so hours spent in the field cultivating beans and corn are a thing of the past.  Finally, mold-board plowing has been done away with by chisel plows, low-till, and no-till farming techniques that save money, labor, time, and conserve the land better... in some folks opinions.

Can you still farm the way we did thirty and forty years ago? Sure you can, but the new ways are definitely better.  Back in the 1980s when I worked in law enforcement and did a lot of bullseye, action pistol, and bowling pin shoots... and began teaching folks as a firearms instructor, I taught the Weaver stance.

Now before all you on-your-knees-worshipers of whatever stance you're swearin' by jump my case... remember, back in the 1980s police departments were just switchin' over to Mel Gibson's Lethal Force 9mm's with million round capacities that the .357 Magnum revolvers just couldn't keep up with... or so the theory went. I've held onto the ol' 9mm as my primary carry gun for years and now many folks and agencies are switchin' back from the .45ACP and .40S&W to the 9mm for the same reasons I held on to it... but that discussion is for another day.

Now the truth be told, I personally used a modified Weaver stance quite successfully for years, but definitely didn't have much luck with the straight-armed Chapman stance. In the 1990s, I started working on the Isosceles stance for defense and competition, and teaching it. My personal Isosceles stance is actually modified as I still keep my shooting hand foot slightly off from my non-shooting hand foot rather than "squared-up" or perfectly perpendicular to my target.

Why did I lose my Weaver stance religion? Well, one factor was participating in more practical-type shooting competitions, but a large part of it was watching all the dash-cam videos on VHS, then DVD, and the last few years on YouTube. I've seen a lot of law enforcement officers who were trained to shoot with the Weaver stance end up in shoot-outs and almost without fail, when the bullets start flying and the stinkin' stuff is hittin' the fan, they naturally go to a "faced-off" position with the target in an Isosceles stance even though they've been trained and practicing a different stance... sometimes for years.

Now wait a minute, you say... folks will shoot how they train and practice... muscle-memory, repetition, and all that jazz. Well, I'm not always so sure about that and I think there are now about two decades for anecdotal video evidence to prove otherwise. Yes, I think you can train your mind and body to do certain things that will be instinctive when necessary, but what if you've trained your mind and body to do something that is not instinctive? Then stress of a crisis hits, will you revert to gross motor skills, tunnel vision, and maybe naturally instinctive tendencies take over?

I've been training with, practicing, and teaching the Isosceles stance as preferred over the Weaver and Chapman stances for about ten to fifteen years now. I still demonstrate the various stances to students and explain pros and cons of each, but I have to say that in the end my recommendation is Isosceles for being the preferred stance to use. It's instinctive, easily repeatable, requires less "muscling" of the gun, particularly guns with mule-kickin' recoil, and in many, many classes I've taught... new shooters in my courses and other activities have consistently better results with the Isosceles stance.

So in case you're wondering after catchin' the title of my post... I haven't been doing so in a long time, you know... Teaching the Weaver stance...

Kathy Jackson over at the Cornered Cat has a good article on the various stances if you're interested. Feel free to fire back with your comments.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Range time... and the first shots fired.

I practice regularly off the range with our firearms. Dry-fire, target acquisition, reloads, malfunctions, assembly, dis-assembly, drawing from concealment, movement, seeking and taking cover, working with my gals (the team), running through scenarios, visualizing all of the previous in my mind... it's something I do continually. I'd recommend you do it too, but when it's all said and done... ultimately, in my opinion, you can't beat actual range time with your firearms... with actual ammunition that is what you carry or use every day... or at least very close to it.

My good friend Matt, over at Jerking the Trigger, joined me this past Saturday for some time on the range and conversation among men. I've known Matt for some years now and while he's my junior in years, he's definitely my senior in many gun-related matters, particularly with the ARs and AKs. Among the many moderm muskets he brought along, he had his trusty Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.  With ammo costs continually going up even without the mass shortages and hoarding going on all over... practicing with a .22 that completely matches the SOPs of your regular defensive rifle... makes good sense... except when you can't find any .22s.

Even so, dry-fire and .22s aside... I'm becoming more and more of the belief that ultimately, you can't replace practice with regular ammo in your regular firearm. Yeah, my groups and target transitions are amazing with the .22 during practice, but it can lead to a false sense of confidence and security in your abilities... just like dry-fire practice can.

That doesn't mean that practice and conditioning off the range or with lesser, cheaper ammunition in a similar gun isn't valuable, but if you haven't been on the range regularly... you may just be fooling yourself.  The gals and I are fortunate to have a shooting range out back we can use as often as we like, but we've also budgeted and planned for many years to maintain our shooting practice and skills.

Also, when I'm on the range, I'm concerned with the reality of my skills. It doesn't mean that I don't want to have fun and beat the clock, but the most important time on the Pact Club Shot Timer 3 is the first shots I fire on the range.  See, often when I go out back to the range, I'll set up my targets and other items... but then I walk over to a spot somewhere between five and fifty feet from the target... hit the timer button for a random delay... then draw and fire my gun from complete concealment... just as I carried it all day long.  THAT is the time most important to me... the first shots I fire... the shots fired cold... the shots that hit the target before I've warmed up and started to "game" my practice by re-trying and over-thinking my scenarios and set-ups.

Give it a try. Tracking your time for making good shots is an excellent indicator of how you're doing... but try tracking your times of your first shots fire each time you hit the range... not the best time you achieved on the range that day.  It might surprise you.

My pastor often says you can tell where most folks' priorities are by their check-books and day-planners. I hope your check-books and day-planners show that those of you who use and carry firearms for self-defense... are concerned with... Range time... and the first shots fired.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Magpul MagLink Magazine Coupler: More KISS

There are a lot of ways to carry spare magazine's for your AR. Some folks have chest rigs and belts and outfits that would intimidate a Navy SEAL or even the most over-equipped mall-ninja. There's nothing wrong with getting good equipment and practical ways to carry it, but sometimes more is actually less.

The gals and I often keep a rifle handy at night in addition to our other self and home defense firearms. When something goes bump in the night or the wiley coyote ventures too close to the house or barn... some folks gear-up, but we usually just grab the rifle. Having an extra mag for the rifle is always a good idea. The Magpul MagLink Magazine Couple allows you to do this by keeping the spare mag right on the rifle.

The coupler is made to work with both Gen2 and Gen3 PMAG magazines. It locks them securely together and you have some positioning options with the coupler and the magazines. Reloads are quick to index with two PMAGs perfectly spaced apart for fast insertion in the mag-well.

Yeah... two fully-loaded mags add weight to your gun, but when you grab your rifle in the middle of the night, you don't have to slow your self down grabbing and extra mag and stuffing it in your pocket or take the time to "kit-up" with a full chest rig.  Not this set-up will limit you to about sixty rounds, but at least you're not bumping around in the dark looking for your extra mag or chest rig.

I'm not saying that other "kits", chest-rigs, and gear don't have their place, but this is a good way to Keep It Simple, Stupid with rifle...  So if you want to keep it simple and straight forward, go with the Magpul MagLink Magazine Coupler: More KISS

Monday, August 5, 2013

Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

I've often jokingly said, "How much can you hang on to a gun before you can't hang on to a gun?" The idea of a KISS rifle... a Keep It Simple, Stupid rifle... has been around for a long time. While different folks with far more knowledge than I have have weighed in on this matter... My gal and I thought we'd share ours with you.

Some are primarily concerned about weight, some about cost, some about purpose (or mission for you tacticool folks), and some are worried about all three or other concerns. Phil Morden took the approach of looking at weight, while some want no electronics or batteries which Andrew discussed over at the Vuurwapen Blog a few years back. My friend Matt over at Jerking the Trigger even has some excellent digression about the Cult of KISS and why maybe what one thinks is simple may not be.

My gal and I decided to set-up a KISS AR15 rifle a little over a year ago.  We already have a number of KISS rifles in the form of Ruger Mini-14s... stainless steel with a sling and iron sights, an Aimpoint 9000L mounted in the rock-solid Ruger stainless steel 30mm scope rings, or the latest with an Aimpoint H1, but I'm not debating the Mini-14 verses AR15 platform as both have done what we've needed them to do over the years.

While I have had the opportunity to fire both full-auto M16s and a lot of AR15s over the years, I'm still newer to owning the AR15 platform as a primary rifle system for home and self-defense, but having owned and extensively used an AR for some time now, we have researched and developed our own criteria for a KISS AR15 rifle.  I'll try to lay out our needs and thought process on a KISS AR15 and why we chose our rifle and accessories.

We tried to balance cost, weight, and technology with our multi-purpose needs and some reality thrown in for good measure. We wanted a KISS rifle for home and self-defense, plinking and fun, and maybe some three-gun competition... plus it is not our only AR15 rifle. While our Ruger SR-556 is a piston-driven AR, we didn't feel that was the best for a KISS rifle. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle is a solid platform with a good reputation of reliability to build on that is reasonably priced.

While the M&P15 Sport lacks a dust cover over the ejection port or a forward assist for the bolt... ninety-nine percent of the time, we are not crawling around in three-feet of muck and mud or diggin' in the dry sands of Afghan foot-hills. It has proven to have solid accuracy and reliability at a reasonable cost for us in fairly substantial usage under a variety of conditions including cold, heat, rain, etc. and we have yet to need the forward assist button to keep it up and running.

The A2-style front sight and the Magpul MBUS folding rear sight are factory standard and work very well, but we added the Aimpoint PRO red dot optic since for us, it helps greatly with speed of target acquisition and aiming.  You can still use the iron sights co-witnessing through the Aimpoint PRO optic or the Aimpoint and be quickly removed without tools if needed thanks to the large, torquing knob on the rail mount.  I know some don't think a battery operated device should be used on a KISS rifle, but we think it's worth it for quick aiming and the we've had years of experience with Aimpoint products and the PRO is an outstanding, reliable set-up... you can even just turn it on and leave it on 24/7 with it's three-plus year battery-life.

We decided to use the Streamlight TLR-S1 Weapon Light since we already have several, they are very reliable, and reasonably priced.  Unlike our other AR weapon light set-up, we didn't go with a remote pressure switch.

We mounted the light in the left side of the A2-style front sight with a rock-solid Midwest Industries MCTAR-01G2 Tactical Light Mount which allows mounting on either side and has quick-detach sling mount sockets if you want to connect a two-point sling of that far.

The mount positions the light for easy momentary-on using the shooter's left-hand thumb while keeping the grip and fingers and/or thumb off the A2-style front sight and barrel, which can get pretty hot... although I should note that the gals and I are all right-handed so it may not be ideal for a south-paw shooter.

Since most of our use of this rifle is for home and self-defense, plinking, fun, training, and maybe some three-gun... a single-point sling suits us just fine. We've had good luck and reliability with the well-made, single-point Troy Battle Sling with quick-detach swivel.  We connect it to a Troy Professional Grade Rifle Receiver Sling Adapter which offers both a left or right side quick-detach socket.

If you're really concerned about costs, there isn't much more we'd spend money on in setting up this rifle, but we did add a B5 Systems Bravo adjustable stock. The standard M4-style adjustable stock provided by Smith & Wesson appears to be as good a stock as any, but it does wobble a bit much like many do. We did add the Bravo stock which fits a little more snuggly and has a rubber butt-plate that is angled better for myself and my gal's mounting position.

The B5 Bravo also adds two more quick-detach sling mounts giving our rifle six total quick-detach sling mounts (although one is covered by the weapon light) to allow for many quickly changeable and detachable sling configurations. We also like the cheek weld we have with mounting the Bravo better than the standard M4-style stock.

I know some will be wondering specifically about the weight, so weighing the gun unloaded... and it comes in right at 7.6 pounds on a digital scale. As far as how much it will hit your bank account... the approximate consumer prices for the rifle ($700), optic ($400), light and mount ($140), sling and mount ($90)... so you're at right about $1,300 to $1,400 with tax and or shipping for most folks. The Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport had a barrel spec change in 2012 moving to the current six-land-groove configuration, but either way it is hard to beat this KISS AR15 rifle set-up or something similar for a good balance between cost, weight, purpose, reliability, and quality.

We have quite a few rounds through this set-up over the last few months in all kinds of weather... and it is holding up well without and functioning or reliability problems... and the Aimpoint Pro has been left on continually now for several months. Sure, you can add more to it, change something out, or take some away in your own set-up, but if nothing else... you now have something to think about and compare to and this set-up may even be a cost-effective tool for law enforcement folks on a budget.

Not a single modification on this rifle required more than an simple allen wrench/hex-head wrench to accomplish, so anyone can do it.  Maybe you'd swap out for a better muzzle device if you feel the cost is worth it, maybe an ambidextrous safety, or a different charging handle... it's all personal preference. The AR is truly the Lego's version of rifles and this rifle works for me and my gals despite our variances in size, weight, arm-length, and hand-size.

Everyone has their own preferences... so what do you think... when you have a look at our... Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport: KISS Rifle

So, what kind of KISS rifle have you set-up? What are your requirements?

Friday, July 26, 2013

G.P.S. Medium Range Bag by G Outdoors

Life has been a blur during the last couple of weeks.  In fact, the gals and I have been so busy we've started to have some conflicting shooting schedules and activities, so anticipating this busy schedule... my main gal decided it was time for us to get another range bag. So prior to her second three-day trip to Tactical Defense Institute this summer, this time without me, we went looking for a second range bag.

Our ol' work-horse range bag has been doing well for over fifteen years now. It's just a soft-sided tool bag we had picked up at Lowe's Home Improvement back in the 1990s. Not really designed as a range bag, it did have the features we were looking for at the time.

It's kind of amazing how far shooting supplies and accessories have come in design over the last twenty years. A range bag twenty years ago usually had one main compartment and maybe a couple of side compartments in the usual Henry Ford color choice of any color you want as long as it's black.

So when we went looking for a new range bag fifteen or so years ago, we ended up getting a soft-sided tool bag that had a lot of smaller compartments, pockets, and pouches to store gear in addition to the large compartment for ammo, guns, first-aid, and other stuff.

We also wanted a color beside black because on a bright, sunny day with either tinted shooting glasses or just your pupils closing down, it's hard to find things in the bottom of an all black case.

Recently, we picked up a G.P.S. Medium Range Bag which seems purpose-built by a shooter for a day of shooting at the range. We had been looking online at various range bags for a while, but it was a recent trip to the local Walmart the resulted in us... well, my gal... finding us a new range bag... and for the low, low price of just twenty-five bucks in the sporting goods department.

I wasn't really familiar with G Outdoors products before, but they are an American company based in California and this range bag is very well designed with compartments for just about everything most shooters will need.

The inside of the large, main compartment is medium gray so it is easy to see those hard-to-find items in the bottom. Each of the zippers has a bright red zipper-pull and a hole large enough you could use a small luggage lock to secure the compartment from children if necessary.

G Outdoors has developed a series of visual icons they call the Visual I.D. Storage System to identify compartments and they're contents. It's well thought out, although we don't typically carry binoculars like some folks, that compartment is just put to use for other items.

There are plenty of sewn-in elastic straps for everything from cleaning rods to lubricant. There are even elastic straps on top of the bag by the carry handles with Velcro-closures to secure rolled up targets. Plenty of pockets for pistol magazines and zippered inside pockets that are semi-transparent so you can easily see what is inside.

They include a re-configurable side compartment complete with a plastic organizer container, although we wish the plastic container wasn't divided into quite as many little compartments or "cells", but I guess it would be great if you take along a lot of extra screws or small pins and gun parts.

There are even marked compartments for your hearing protection and staple gun along with reinforced I mean Lift Ports to pick up the bag when filled with all that ammo you plan to dispose of at the range.

This seems like a very well-thought-out product and while not every shooter will use every compartment or pouch as indicated by the visual I.D. system, we think many folks will find it very handy. I did a web search and these bags are selling for sixty to eighty bucks online, so I'm not sure if the twenty-five dollars on-the-nose price at Walmart was the regular price or a discounted or closeout price, but it did contribute to our spur-of-the-moment purchase.

We haven't retired the old range bag, we're just getting to the point that two bags work better when my gal and I go our separate ways... to shoot, that is. This bag seems to initially be holding up pretty well after three days at TDI and several trips to the range with twenty-plus pounds of gear and ammo stuffed in it. If you're looking for a new range bag, you might check out the... G.P.S. Medium Range Bag by G Outdoors.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Eddie Eagle flies at the County Fair...

Our county fair is under way this week and in a county with a mostly rural population... as far as things to do locally... the county fair ranks right up there with corn festivals and Friday night football games.  Our 4H Shooting Sports kids had their judging prior to fair as guns can't even be brought onto the fair grounds, let alone shooting at targets in this liability conscious, politically in-corrected society.  Just imagine, a few decades ago you'd find a .22 shooting gallery at most county fairs with pump-action rifles firing .22 shorts.

After my daughter attended the NRA's Youth Education Summit last summer, she and I discussed offering the NRA's Eddie Eagle program for the the 4H Cloverbuds with kids ranging in age from five to seven years. As an NRA appointed training counselor and certified instructor, I believe whole-heartily in the NRA's quality education programs for their targeted audiences and the Eddie Eagle Gun Safety program would work perfectly at the fair grounds, just like it does when I teach it in local schools, as no actual firearms are involved.

We set up in one of the barns and had a dozen kids attend. I was fortunate to have the help of my daughter, our county fair's Shooting Sports Queen this year, along with Molly, the County Junior Fair Queen, and Emma, one of the Junior Fair Board members. The kids had a great time watching the NRA's Eddie Eagle animated cartoon on the projector screen, and the my pretty help lead the youngin's in the "Stop! Don't Touch! Leave the Area! Tell an Adult!" dance just like on the cartoon.

We gave all the kids Eddie Eagle workbooks and crayons to color with, stickers to remind them of the the safety rules for children their age, and aluminum "challenge coins" with the Eddie Eagle mantra imprinted on them. The parents seemed fairly pleased and we gave every parent an NRA Gun Safety brochure, so we may have to look at offering this again at next year's county fair.

You don't have to be an NRA Certified Instructor to offer the Eddie Eagle program.  Materials can be purchased through the NRA for minimal cost, which is really nothing if it prevents just one child from being injured or worse.  I don't believe that keeping kids in the dark and unexposed to the truth helps, but providing them with good training and instruction that is age appropriate can save a life.

From our experience today, things seem to go pretty well when... Eddie Eagle flies at the County Fair...