Category Archives: Shooting Skills

SKILLS: Choices — Just The Right Size Handgun

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The middle ground is pretty good… READ MORE

bob campbell choices
The CZ 75 9mm, top, is among the finest service pistols of all time. The CZ P10C, bottom, is a great concealed carry handgun.

Bob Campbell

When choosing a handgun the analogy to a vehicle, something most of us use every day, is useful. We all know what dead weight is. That is the weight of the bed of the truck (or the support structure in architecture — that’s not what we are looking at today) when unloaded. Live weight is the truck loaded. The handgun, its ammo, holster and spare gun load add up quickly in live weight. Sticks of copy and reams of paper have been slugged during this discussion and now bytes by the millions. The thing is while there must be room for personal choice there is a bottom line for performance and quality. If you like a small car you can easily drive in the city — that’s fine. But you cannot go out and pick up a dining room set with it. If in the worst case scenario, a truck runs a stop sign and hits the Smart Car, well, you may have wished you had something a tad big larger. By the same token any gun is good for a threat but if you really need the pistol you may wish you had something larger and more appropriate for the task at hand. There are really small guns that people find attractive and make all kinds of excuses for wearing them. Some are high quality, others are actually dangerous in my opinion. I think that the middle of road and a handgun that fires a credible cartridge with a good chance of being effective is ideal. The pistol should be a mid size so to speak.

bob campbell choices
Top to bottom— Nighthawk Falcon Government Model, five inch barrel, Devil Dog Commander, 4 and one quarter inch barrel, and the Guncrafter CCO with a shorter grip and Commander length slide. For most of us the CCO is an excellent compromise.

A good number want the security — and it is false security — of carrying a gun but they don’t want to invest in proper training and carry gear. They just want a gun, no matter if it is potentially ineffective. If the gun is so light it is unnoticed it may be misplaced or lost. Don’t laugh. I have seen plenty of this in my career. Guns have been left in lavatories, bedrooms on the dresser, and dropped between car seats. The gun should not be comfortable, it should be comforting. You don’t want to give up your CWP because of a dumb move, so always be aware of exactly where the carry piece is. A number of years ago the FBI did a study on duty guns. FBI agents are better trained and in better shape than many of us, but just the same the results were interesting. A handgun over thirty five ounces becomes a burden on the belt, the study concluded, and the rank and file will complain or even leave the gun in the car. In other words a three inch barrel .38 on the belt is better than a .357 Magnum you don’t carry. So is an Officers Model 9mm better than a Government Model .45 you don’t carry. But then modern polymer framed Glock handguns are light and they are reliable. A Glock 43 9mm is just one example. Of course, you will shoot the Glock 19 even better…

bob campbell choices
Snub nose .38 Special revolvers are generally delivered with a 2 inch barrel. A slightly longer barrel as found on the S & W Model 60, top, is a beneficial to most shooters. That is a Blackhawk! holster, an excellent choice for concealed carry.

Then there is the fellow who tells you that most, if not all personal defense shootings occur at very short range. That is true but you do not get hits by instinctive shooting any more than you can drive a car with your eyes closed. You must aim somehow, even if using the meat and paper type aiming as all you have. The junk guns are not very accurate past bad breath range. There are so many scenarios that could happen, from an adversary behind cover to a mass shooter in a public place, that it is pretty important the handgun be reasonably accurate. Even a quality snub nose .38 Special will place all its shots in the cranium at 7 yards, but the shooter behind the trigger must do their job. Medium sized handguns such as a three inch barrel revolver or a compact self loader are much easier to shoot well. I think that a handgun with the potential to place all five shots into 5 inches at 25 yards is a realistic minimum.

bob campbell choices
If you are able to carry and conceal the CZ 75, upper, or SIG P210, lower, you have a wonderfully accurate low recoil handgun. Most of us must compromise to an extent.

Then there are those who feel that the .32 and .380 are just fine, as long as they put the bullet in the right place. This usually comes from someone who has only fired their handgun during the CWP class and doesn’t actually shoot very well. Despite feel good ballistic preaching and revisionist history, no, the little gun doesn’t perform like the big gun. Don’t use small calibers to attempt to solve a big caliber problem. The baseline should be a .38 Special or 9mm Luger caliber handgun. I guarantee you that with proper training you will fire and use a compact 9mm or three inch barrel revolver better than the smaller guns. The grips fit most hands better, the controls are easier to manipulate, and the sight radius allows better accuracy. Actually fire the guns and you will understand the difference in hit probability. Hitting more accurately with a more powerful round seems attractive to a thinking person. Remember that there are three factors in the application of force in this light. They are direction, strength, and point of application. The first and second properties are combined in a mathematical calculation called vector. The point of application, well, that is the point of the arrow and the spot on the target where the force does the most good and the most meaningful damage. This means accurate delivery.

bob campbell choices
Whichever gun you choose — you must practice often. The comfort level is dictated by grip length and width and the pistol’s weight.

Others claim they cannot conceal an effective handgun. I feel the pain. You may be the envy of everyone around you as the rest of us attempt to cut weight. But a thin person may have to wear looser fitting clothing, and perhaps take a longer look at holsters. Wear a quality IWB — supple leather works best for me — over the right rear pocket. The draw is compromised but you simply cannot wear a handgun on the point of the hip and conceal it. You will look like a water moccasin that has swallowed a muskrat. It isn’t pretty. The draw is compromised just a little but concealment is excellent. Buy a quality rig, not a ten dollar fabric holster at a chain store! Galco is a good name, Blackhawk! has interesting designs. If you go the custom route then you will find a number of very interesting designs, well made, crafted one at a time just for you. At the minimum you will be able to conceal a Glock 43 X or an Officer’s Model Citadel.

Think hard about the concept of concealed carry. What are you carrying for? What is the likely scenario? What is the worst case scenario? Don’t be the person in the unenviable situation of being armed with a deadly weapon but unable to defense themselves well.

bob campbell choices
The SIG P229 is perhaps the best balanced and sought after of the SIG P series double action pistols.

The Best Choices?

Citadel 9mm Officers Model — reliable, accurate well past 25 yards, and fast to a first shot hit there is a lot of love about the Citadel.

Smith and Wesson Model 60 Three Inch Barrel — compared to the two inch barrel snubnose that little bit of extra sight radius and dampening weight makes a difference.

CZ P10C — just enough larger than the Glock 26 to make a difference the CZ P10c is among the finest of the striker fired compact handguns.

There are others — choose the one that suited you best.

SKILLS: Holsterless Handguns — Viable?

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A true packing pistol should be viable if simply shoved in the waistband… READ MORE

no holster carry
Carrying the piece crossdraw in the waistband works well for many shooters.

Bob Campbell

For years most of us have counseled concealed carry handgun carriers to choose a proper holster. A holster keeps the handgun stable and angled for the proper draw. Just the same, who am I to go against two hundred years or more of tradition? Wild Bill Hickock kept his revolvers in a tightly woven sash. Few early holsters were suitable for concealed carry. Even today many folks like pocket carry. I will leave that for another time. Many of us like to shove a handgun in the belt for a quick run to the store or for more casual carry. Among my friends that are retired cops the trend seems to be toward such carry. That’s fine as long as they know what they are doing. The handgun must be tightly sandwiched in between the belt and the body and reasonably secure, not likely to be dislodged. I am not recommending concealed carry with no holster, far from it, but I am also a realist and feel that this common practice should be discussed.

no holster carry
If there were ever a better packing revolver than the Colt SAA the author has never seen it.

Sam Colt designed pocket, belt and holster guns. Each was a different size, for different needs. They generally ran .31, .36 and .44 caliber. Today we have sub-compact, compact and service size pistols. Some are less suited for concealed carry than others. As an example, I usually carry a Commander .45. I may carry a Government Model .45. I have learned after much experimentation that rail guns can be tricky on the draw. The Springfield Operator seems the best of the bunch when coupled with the Galco N3 holster, and a sharp draw isn’t difficult. Sometimes this isn’t true with other designs. If you are going to carry the 1911 in the waistband then the casual outlook probably doesn’t include a rail for mounting a combat light. The rail may snag on clothing. It is important to practice the draw. It is obvious that carrying the pistol cocked and locked isn’t the best idea if the handgun isn’t carried in a holster. The 1911 may reasonably be carried hammer down in relative safety if the pistol features a firing pin block or extra strength firing pin spring as most all modern 1911s do.

no holster carry
A cocked and locked 1911 rail gun, upper, may not be the best choice for waistband carry. The P210 9mm, lower, is long but slim and rides well without a holster. It is also easy to cock the hammer quickly.
no holster carry
This rail may snag the undergarments — practice a few draws to be certain.

The problem is cocking the hammer on the draw. It isn’t that difficult with the modern Government Model with a spur hammer. Some practice needs to go into this draw and making the pistol ready. It is slower than cocked and locked carry. But it is faster than carrying with an empty chamber. If you are carrying a self loading handgun with an empty chamber you really need to be carrying a revolver! When it comes to other single action hammered self loaders we have a mixed bunch. I am not exactly a snowflake, but I find the hammer of the Browning High Power 9mm very difficult to cock on the draw. The hammer is powered by a very heavy spring. The High Power will certainly crack most any primer, which is the design intent, but that hammer renders the High Power much less desirable for holsterless carry. I have to use two hands to rack the High Power. The CZ 75 is another matter. This piece is snug against the body, nearly perfect for carrying in the waistband. While the CZ is a double action first shot pistol it is pretty easy to cock the hammer on the draw. I am very much enjoying the SIG P210A. This is a wonderfully accurate and very well made single action handgun. I find cocking the hammer on the draw quite easy. I don’t feel comfortable carrying any striker fired handgun thrust in the waistband. Neither should you. Some self loaders dont work well based on design. Among my favorite light handguns is the Bond Arms Bullpup 9. The Bullpup 9 is a great shooter and its double action only trigger makes it a safe enough pistol to pack without a holster. The problem is the super compact geometry. The piece just doesn’t fit and balance well in the waistband.

no holster carry
The Model 69 .44 Magnum, top, is a good waistband gun — the Ladysmith, center, is pretty good but the snub .38, bottom, may squirm too much.

For the most part revolvers do not work nearly as well in the waistband without a holster. The snubnose .38, among the most trusted defensive handguns, is too short and squirms in the waistband. A three inch barrel version is a bit better. I sometimes carry the Model 69 2.75 inch barrel Combat Magnum .44 in the front, to the right of the belt buckle, and it is okay for a casual walk. The absolute best balanced revolvers for casual in the waistband carry are the plow handled Single Action Army types. This is among the reasons so many lawmen kept the SAA long past its prime, it is simply well balanced and fast handling. A 4 ¾ inch barrel SAA is about as compact as most double action .357 revolvers and balances well if worn in the front and tucked into the waistband. If you are worried about the revolver slipping into the pants then open the loading gate (crossdraw in the waistband also works as well) as you draw close the loading gate.

no holster carry
Striker fired pistols such as the SIG, top, are not the best choice for carry without a holster. The DAO Bond Bullpup, lower, is a good handgun but the geometry demands a holster. Just not enough real estate to keep the piece steady in the belt.

I think that there are times when holsterless carry works well. It isn’t ideal but then all types of concealed carry are a compromise.

SKILLS: The Real Deal

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The real deal may not be flashy or exciting but it will save your life. READ MORE

bob campbell
Whatever firearm you choose, practice often and master the pistol to the bet of your ability.

Bob Campbell

In a profession that should be conservative by nature we see a lot of flash, bling, and pie in the sky in the personal defense field. A healthy dose of self respect is sometimes alloyed with ego, but the real deal in training means that the trainer must train for likely scenarios.

bob campbell
Marksmanship is a critical skill.

Personal defense isn’t a tactical operation by any means. It is small scale and most important only to the ones involved. I have trained many individuals. Most were civilians but a number were police and a few were military. Some wanted the paper and the permit and a few genuinely wanted to be proficient. Many showed up for class without enough ammunition, an improper holster, and without a spare magazine. Some had the gear but they left it at home. Quite a few showed up with the cheapest handgun they could find and there were problems with these choices. On the other end of the scale some showed up with tactical gear including tactical vests, a thigh holster and a chest full of magazines. A few showed up with practical gear well suited to concealed carry. None of those showing up with the tactical vests, knee pads and long slide Glock pistols were police or military. There is a big difference between public safety, which I was originally trained in, and private safety, which should concern each of us the most. We may use good tactics but the term “tactical” is sometimes confusing when applied to personal defense.

bob campbell
While a fast reload may not be needed often, it behooves us to practice such skills.

Most of the concerns in personal defense are mental. If your everyday gear is a tactical vest and eight magazines then your agency is most likely providing good training. There is little I can add to that. If it is all a game then get involved in IPSC and shoot against some of the best marksmen in the world. Personal defense is another discipline. Many shooters attend tactical courses, even carbine courses, and may do well but they do not really understand the application of skill. It is good to be all you can be but another to understand which skills are applicable to your likely scenario. If you are serious concerning personal defense you will learn and practice the applicable skills. An observation I have made often among shooters is that many simply cannot recognize quality gear. They come to glass with junk ammo and cheap plastic holsters. I have had to move shooters from the line because their floppy fabric holster demanded both hands to return the handgun to the holster! The handgun should be a quality piece, not necessarily expensive. The Glock 19 or the CZ P01 are good examples of very reliable but affordable handguns. They are not too small or too large. They are just right. The holster should be rigid and supported by a quality gun belt. Carry ammunition isn’t difficult. Hornady Critical Defense is affordable and reliable and offers good wound ballistics. You need a couple of speed loaders for the revolver and at least three magazines for the handgun. You probably won’t need a reload but best to err on the side of caution and carry a spare gunload. High round count battles occur when the police are chasing armed felons. If the threat retreats don’t chase him or the situation becomes mutual combat.

bob campbell
Firing quickly and getting a good hit is important.

The National Rifle Association has stated many times that the presence of a firearm deters crime more often than it needed to be fired. Many battles are over before they begin when the attacker realizes you are armed. The first thought is to get the handgun into action but it is also important to move off the X and get out of the line of fire. Felons motivated by profit don’t wish to be shot. But then some threats are psychopaths bent on causing human pain and suffering or even death. They may be formidable both physically and mentally and they may have been shot or stabbed before. All attackers may not be shaky junkies and you must be prepared to deal with the threat. If no shots are fired you are ahead of the game. The real goal is to escape unharmed without being shot stabbed or assaulted. That is winning the fight. Presenting the firearm quickly from concealed carry and getting a fast and accurate hit is what counts. The most important shot is the first one.

bob campbell
But just because you can get a lot of lead in the air doesn’t mean you should unless they are all on the target.

In a home defense situation you may have a shotgun at the ready for quickly access. You may have a handgun or a rifle. The goal is much the same with a shift in focus to convincing the intruder to leave and break off any conflict. If there are children or other family in the house we have different concerns and will engage room clearing or a search. You must quickly insure the family’s safety. This means moving carefully, taking cover, and making certain you have identified the threat. There are worse things than getting shot and shooting the wrong person is one of these. This is simply common sense. Have illumination handy. The final consideration comes when the situation demands you fire. While a double tap is acceptable, a volley of fire or hosing down the target isn’t. Only accurate fire is effective. You fire to the center of mass of the exposed target. You fire to stop. What the adversary is doing must be so terrible it must not matter morally or legally if they die as a result of being shot — but we never shoot to kill. We shoot to stop.

You are preparing a strong defense against attack. There is nothing wrong with going on the initiative and clearing the house and being proactive in training but never lose sight of the ultimate goal. That is to survive without firing a shot. And if you do fire, that you survive within the law. Concentrate on marksmanship. This doesn’t mean getting a group centered on target but getting a hit quickly and following with other hits. A group of fifty shots with the occasional shot outside the scoring rings isn’t ideal. The important shots are those that that you are firing now, and which hit the target. Fire accurately and if the shot doesn’t take effect fire again. Practice moving. Drawing the handgun and moving may conflict but the balance may be found in practice. Draw as you move off target. Train hard and practice relentlessly. Be aware that you may need your handgun to protect yourself and your family. Be certain that you are willing to use the handgun. The use of the firearm must be justified morally and legally. This is a very narrow range of circumstances.

 

 

 

The Round and the Square of It

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Sometimes the shape of the grip is everything. READ MORE

square vs round
The author is firing a round butt .44 Magnum Combat Magnum, M69. The round butt allows the shooter to take a good grip.

Heyward Williams

When choosing a double action revolver the shape of the handle makes a great deal of difference. The primary difference is between round butt and square butt grip frames. Smith and Wesson offers only one grip frame, the round butt, in modern revolvers while conversion grips allow the use of either round butt or square butt grips. Understanding the how and why of grip design will allow you to make the best choice for different chores. Let’s look at a little history and the pros and cons of round butt and square butt design. The first revolver grips were well designed and survive with little modification. The Colt Navy grip fits most hands well and the plow handled Single Action Army is similar. When double action trigger cocking revolvers were introduced there was a need to stabilize the grip as the trigger finger swings down and back rather than straight back as with the single action revolver. Recoil and abrupt edges began to be a concern with the grip design.

square vs round
The round butt, left, has less area overall than the square butt grip, right.

A grip frame that properly stabilized the firing hand was essential and slippage was a concern. Some revolvers had bird’s head type grips. This is an odd shape that while round in cross section in double action revolvers offers a stabilizing wedge. The square butt and round butt had made their appearance by 1870. Smith and Wesson’s first revolver, the No. 1, was introduced with a square butt but later models were manufactured with a round butt grip frame. Concealed carry and the ability to cup the small grip in the hand were advantages of the round butt.

square vs round
Round butt Smith and Wesson on left and square butt on right.

When Smith and Wesson introduced the successful Military and Police double action revolver it was manufactured with a round butt grip frame. Eventually the square butt frame became more popular and the majority of Military and Police .38s were square butt revolvers. I frame revolvers were mostly round butt designs but the Regulation Police was a square butt design. The original .22 Kit Guns had special grips that fit over the I frame’s round butt. The J frame was much the same but today is offered in round configuration only. Target sighted revolvers were delivered with square butt frames and when the N frame .44 frame was introduced it was a square butt. When Smith and Wesson introduced the Model 19 Combat Magnum with 2.5 inch barrel it was designed as a round butt revolver. Among my prized revolvers is a Smith and Wesson Model 66 four inch barrel with round butt. It is relatively uncommon. This revolver and its good traits spurred this article forward. While Smith and Wesson revolvers are the ones I use most often Colt also had different frame designs. The Colt New Police and the first Police Positive revolvers had one of the most uncomfortable grip frames ever designed for a double action revolver in my opinion. The Colt Police Positive Special and the treatment given the Detective Special were great improvements. In the small calibers used in the Police Positive the grip frame didn’t matter as much. With the .38 Special things were getting uncomfortable.

square vs round
This is the classic square butt Smith and Wesson K frame revolver.

With this background in mind we have a basis on which to choose our best hand fit. When Smith and Wesson went to the modern transfer bar actions they also went to the round butt grip frame. Both K and N frame revolvers have the same frame dimensions. (The Classic line differs.) This is fine for manufacturing process but not always the best for the consumer. The revolvers supplied with square butt grips are fitted with conversion grips that give the round butt grip a square butt profile. The worst kicking .44 Special I have ever fired was a Smith and Wesson Model 21 with the modern round butt and small pre Magna grips. I fitted a set of Culina round butt grips with plenty of wood as soon as possible and had a tractable and controllable revolver. The round butt is a good choice for fast handling defense revolvers. The square butt is best for target revolvers. The single action press must be controlled and the larger square butt grip allows that. As an example even the 2 inch barrel Combat Masterpiece with square butt grips is a very accurate revolver. As a field gun for accurate shooting well past fifty yards I will choose my proven Model 19 Combat Magnum with square butt grip. The hand remains in place when the thumb is used to cock the hammer for single action fire. On the other hand the Smith and Wesson Model 66 with four inch barrel and round butt handles quickly in double action fire. The round butt is less likely to print on covering garments when the 66 is worn concealed. The round butt is smaller and has less area but also invites a very fast grip acquisition. When firing heavy loads the smaller grip frame of the round butt may transfer more energy to the palm but that is a trade off — the trigger is more quickly manipulated, in my opinion, with the round butt grip. Another concern is heeling, sometimes called combat heeling. This is the effect when the handgun is gripped improperly too high on the grip. With this grip the shooter will often fire for the heart and hit the head unless the bullet simply flies over the head of the target. This is a product of hurried training and not taking time to affirm the grip. For what it is worth I believe that this type of problem is less likely with the round butt grip frame.

square vs round
Early double action revolvers had to cope with trigger cocking demands on the anatomy. The Smith and Wesson Number 1, top, is a late model with round butt.

After firing revolvers for many years I have learned that how a grip feels may not necessarily mean it will give the best performance on the range. Smaller grips may actually make for more encirclement with the fingers and a stronger hold. Trigger reach may be slightly shorter with the round butt for most hand sizes. This is important when dealing with a double action revolver. Carefully consider your needs. Smith and Wesson began manufacturing their most successful double action revolvers with a round butt and today the round butt may be the best choice for most of us. I use both Hogue and Pachmayr grips with good results.

square vs round
The author is using a set of Hogue MonoGrips on the round butt M66. The Hogue presentation grips, left, are good for most uses and the hide out grips, far left, have their place.

 

SKILLS: Training and Re-Training

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There are many considerations in training- but in the end you are responsible for your own safety. READ MORE

training
Any training regimen should include a presentation from concealed carry.

Bob Campbell

There is a lot of discussion concerning training. A lot of it revolves around choosing a trainer. There is much truth in this as the trainer gets you started on the road to proficiency, but it is all your own responsibility in the end.
You have graduated from the public school system good or bad and you are able to read so you survived and perhaps have learned a great deal on your own.  We all remember fantastic teachers who inspired us — and then there were the inept. So it is with firearms trainers.  Some practice by rote and use the training wheel method and then advance to repetition of the same boring drills. A broken record perhaps. You are well advised to never go to the range without learning something new and thinking about it- and never thinking that you know it all. There should be some stress involved in training. Different personalities handle stress differently. Some have stress from peer pressure others want to be all they can be. There are a number of types of trainers just as there are different types in every work place. There are a several types of men. If you have any work experience, institutional or otherwise, you know these men. The “me first” type cares little to nothing for his fellow man. He is out for himself. The “me too” guy is much the same but generally inept and will cause you much grief. The deadwood really cause a lot of trouble and while some mean well and may even be honest they just don’t get it and will get you killed. Then there are the dedicated. They are in the minority and everyone seems to know who they are.  They do things right for its own sake. They master whatever profession they have chosen and will do their best in whatever situation they are thrown into. Trainers of this type understand the physical and mathematical forces at work.

training
Training should be fluid and include movement.
training
Firing while moving is an important skill.
There are things I have learned which may be helpful. Some of you may have experience that makes my own experience no more than light reading, but then battle scars are a form of validation. You learn as you go along the things you need and concentrate on these skills. You can learn to master stress and perhaps even fear. A good healthy respect for the possibilities of combat will serve to make an intelligent person avoid such battles if at all possible. A well trained person will default to training and do what needs to be done and perform as well as possible during a critical incident. Afterwards they may decompress and have the shakes, knocking knees or even tears. True fear is a different thing. There is a type of fear that is a fester. Determination, gumption, self respect and ability are robbed of us by this type of fear. We have all been demoralized by a losing streak and given exuberance by a sense of accomplishment. We must balance the two. One of the ways to balance apprehension and confidence is to move from two dimensional to three dimensional training. Because standing squared to a target and firing for groups is practically one dimensional.

training
Mixing up the targets with targets without a clearly defining scoring ring is a good idea.

The practice of firing at a one dimensional target you are squared to is one that is suitable only for beginners. We were all there at one time and we progress further we hope. Then there is the problem of aiming for center mass or even finding center mass. Where is the center of the target? Hopefully we are able to quickly set the sights in the center of the target we have available. There is a very good chance that such practice by rote will result in hesitation when confronted by a problem we have not trained for. If the assailant is running toward you, running to one side and firing or particularly if the adversary is behind cover you much revamp your expectations and do so very quickly. There is a steep learning curve to be addressed. You may well be conditioning yourself for failure with poor training. Waiting for a perfect shot or for the adversary to present himself in a more likely position for a shot may result in serious death or injury. In real life the threat shoots back.

training
Getting on target quickly is important. The steel plate is a good training aid.
Ok, so you are using the center of mass shot. This is firing for the center of the opponent in order to increase the likelihood of a bullet hitting the target- the whole target, the threat. This is something of a compromise as this isnt necessarily the most efficient area to produce a shut down of the body, but it is a reasonable tool for most situations. There are degrees of wound potential lost by aiming for center mass versus aiming for the arterial region, the area most likely (other than the cranium) to induce a shut down for blood loss. The ideal type of training will involve moving target, the shooter moving off the X and finding cover, and firing for center mass when there is no other opportunity and firing for the arterial region when you are able. Consider the likely problem and keep your training three dimensional.

 

SKILLS: Do You Need A Rifle Scope?

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To push the limits of your tactical rifle a long-range rifle scope might just be what you need, or not… READ MORE

rifle scopes
Some shooters romanticize the idea of getting a huge rifle scope so they can shoot a country mile. It is best to find balance in realistic goals for your rifle and the optic.

SOURCE: Springfield-Armory Armory Life, Adam Scepaniak

In previous articles we discussed the merits of utilizing and understanding the practicality of iron sights as well as when red dot sights can improve speed and awareness and be beneficial to those of us with less than perfect vision.

That now brings us to the topic of more conventional rifle scopes with magnification. There is a novelty in being able to push one’s shooting prowess to its limits and see exactly how far you can connect on a shot. Simultaneously, you don’t want a rifle scope on an all-purpose carbine that is so overmatched for your target that close quarter targets become unfeasible to engage.

There is a certain balance that must be achieved in magnification, weight and other ancillary features to accomplish the mission at hand. In the third part of this series on carbine sighting systems, we will now cover the pros and cons of rifle scopes on your modern sporting rifle.

Realistic Goals
With most people’s modern sporting rifles being chambered in .223 Rem/5.56mm NATO, your effective range is roughly 600 yards (without deep-diving into reloading your own ammunition and some other wizardry performed on your firearm). Understanding this is essentially the practical limit of the cartridge, you then need to ask yourself how far you are actually going to shoot.

Secondly, how close do you want to shoot? If you top off your rifle with a titan of a scope you may not be able to engage anything quickly under 100 yards. Conversely, if the magnification of your rifle scope is too weak, how comfortable are you shooting long distances with low magnification? Identifying your working range, or the distances you intend to engage targets, will lead you to what magnification your rifle scope should be.

rifle scopes
A good quality scope, such as this Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6X, can offer you close range performance as well as the ability to reach out to longer distances.

My answer to that proposed question was potentially 300 yards at a maximum and possibly 10 yards at a minimum. Sounds nearly too close and too far at the same time, right? Well, there are a bevy of rifle scope manufacturers who make optics that could amply cover that range of distance. With a rifle scope that is 1-4X, 1-6X or 1-8X, you have the ability to shoot both near and far while not adding significant weight to your weapon platform.

Real-World Applications
With a rifle scope that can be dialed down to 1X or essentially no magnification, you have the ability to do the work iron sights or a red dot can accomplish. This affords the shooter a greater field of view and better awareness of their surroundings. This can be exceedingly valuable for defense or hunting situations. Also, many rifle scopes offer the feature of lit reticles so your optic could truly do the work of a red dot in close quarters.

At the same time, you can spike your magnification up to potentially 6X or 8X to engage long-distance targets. This makes that example of a 300-yard shot more feasible without sacrificing your ability to shoot something a stone’s throw away in front of you. While some of your friends might boast of their ability to shoot far with little magnification, it is better to make your shots as easy as possible instead of tight-rope walking the limit of your abilities behind a rifle.

Practical Considerations
Another consideration aside from the magnification of your optic is the size and weight. Most modern sporting rifles are viewed as mobile firearms — something someone can easily carry or sling over their shoulder. At a weight of roughly 6 lbs., it really diminishes the mobility of your firearm if you tack on a gawdy 4-lb. rifle scope. While it might appear cool for social media and your range buddies, it will fail a “practicality test.”

rifle scopes

rifle scopes
Something that a rifle scope can accomplish that iron sights or a red dot cannot is to make a long, difficult shot more easily possible.

With a rifle scope that can be brought down to 1X, you get the benefits of greater awareness and field of view with the ability to apply magnification.

So, if you have an AR-15 in your stable like a SAINT and want to turn it into more of a workhorse, a rifle scope can add a lot of value! If you believe a scope will be too overpowering or will ruin your chance of close-up shots, think again. A well-chosen rifle scope has the potential to give you the benefits of iron sights, a red dot, and magnification all in one.

The only thing that might deter some people is the price that comes along with it. Good rifle scopes can start around $200 and easily exceed $2,000 fairly quickly. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about finding that balance of what you wish to accomplish and what will get you there. Be safe out there, and happy shooting!

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Adam Scepaniak
Adam is a manager at The Guns And Gear Store in Waite Park, MN. He’s also a writer for the NRA Shooting Sports USA, TheFirearmBlog, Sierra Bullets, All Outdoor, OutdoorHub, and Boyds Gunstocks. He is a Glock and Smith & Wesson Certified Armorer as well.

 

SKILLS: When You Need A Red Dot

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What are the advantages and disadvantages to red dot optics? READ MORE

red dot sight

SOURCE: Springfield-Armory Armory Life, Adam Scepaniak

While some people who have not jumped on the bandwagon of red dots might view them as a gimmick, I can assure you they offer more than you might think. Red dots can be useful for individuals who may have vision impairments or wear glasses because there’s no need to focus on three points — the rear sight, front sight and the target you are engaging. For some people, having to focus on three varying points can be very difficult. Instead, you can have a singular focus on a red dot overlaid on your target.

red dot sight
A good red dot optic like this Vortex Sparc AR will give you a great sighting option for your rifle.

Real-World Applications
Red dots can be extremely useful for close-quarters target engagement, whether for a competitive league event, recreational shooting or self-defense. Instead of taking the micro-seconds to align a rear sight over a front sight, you can more quickly obtain a sight picture of a singular red dot over what you are shooting. Moreover, wherever a red dot appears, regardless of the shooter’s orientation or symmetry to the target, they will accurately hit.

red dot sight
Combining a red dot and iron sight set up on your SAINT can really amp up its performance.

Red dots may appear to “float” within the optic and that is a result of the red dot correcting for a shooter’s angle or level at which they are aiming. Wherever the dot appears, you will hit. This is a result of the effects of reduced parallax in non-magnified red dot optics. But, putting aside the tech-speak, the end result is that no matter where the dot may appear in the optic, it will be on target downrange. No need to perfectly center it. Simply get the dot on the target and press the trigger.

Another valuable benefit to red dots is their ability to provide good contrast in low-light situations. When iron sights may not be visible during dusk, dawn or overcast conditions, even to an individual with perfect vision, a red dot can create enough contrast to safely and successfully engage a target. Black iron sights on a dark silhouette may make placing a safe shot difficult because you don’t know precisely where on the silhouette you are aiming. A red dot will crisply and definitively show you your reference point.

Pros and Cons
One downside that should be considered for red dots is a need for batteries. The batteries themselves are usually cheap and the battery life of most red dots are improving exponentially to have a working lifespan of one to two years or even more. Even so, you may want to have extra batteries squirreled away in the pistol grip of your rifle or your pocket just in case.

red dot sight
When installing a red dot while iron sights are present, allow for enough space to manage your red dot. Do not block off any buttons you may need to press.

One tactic people will employ if they fear their red dot dying is to co-witness a red dot with their iron sights. The act of co-witnessing is to align their rear iron sight peep through the optic and to the red dot which is covering their front sight post. This triple-alignment assures you are as level and in line with your target as possible. If you happen to break your red dot or its battery dies you simple continue to shoot with your iron sights. This safeguard method is used by a lot of people, and they will flip down their rear sight if that sight picture appears “too busy” to look through.

red dot sight
One option for utilizing your red dot is by co-witnessing (seeing both the red dot and your iron sights) at the same time.

Another advantage with red dots is their capacity to allow the user to have greater spatial awareness around them while shooting. Since you are not tunnel-visioned or intensely focused on a front and rear sight, only the red dot, you can take in your complete peripheral vision and see everything occurring around you. This can be highly valuable in defensive situations so you are not blindsided.

There are lot of benefits to both iron sights and red dots when shooting with your rifle. Be safe out there and happy shooting!

red dot sight
Another co-witnessing option is to fold down your rear sight and align just your red dot and your front sight post.

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Adam Scepaniak
Adam is a manager at The Guns And Gear Store in Waite Park, MN. He’s also a writer for the NRA Shooting Sports USA, TheFirearmBlog, Sierra Bullets, All Outdoor, OutdoorHub, and Boyds Gunstocks. He is a Glock and Smith & Wesson Certified Armorer as well.

SKILLS: The Truth About Snub Nose Ballistics

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Which round is the best for you? READ MORE

snubnose revolver

Jason Hanson

Jay L., of Greenbrae, CA was a car collector who had amassed an array of 1970s-era cars in the past, but being 90, Jay had been selling off most of his collection. He dwindled down his cars to owning a 1996 Mitsubishi and a 2005 Ford.

One morning, around 10:45 a.m., a criminal entered Jay’s home, detained him at gunpoint, and searched the residence for valuables.

During this time, the burglar told Jay there was a contract out on him. Jay asked, “How could there be a contract out on me?”

To which the burglar replied, “I understand you’re the guy with all the expensive cars.”

At one point, the burglar led Jay at gunpoint to the bedroom, which he ransacked for valuables while 90 year old Jay sat on the bed concocting a plan.

Next, Jay told the burglar he needed to use the bathroom, which is where his five guns were hidden.

When the burglar refused, Jay pulled his pants down and said he would defecate on the spot.

The burglar let him go into the bathroom but would not let him close the door. Jay then asked the burglar, “Do you like to watch people?”

Then the burglar let him close the door and Jay went for his Smith & Wesson .38 snubnose.

As Jay exited the bathroom, the two men exchanged gunshots, resulting in Jay being shot once in the jaw and the burglar being shot three times in the abdomen.

Both men emptied their firearms and the burglar ran from the home.

The burglary suspect drove away from the scene before calling 911 and claiming he had accidentally shot himself.

He spent nine days in the hospital before he was taken to jail and charged with attempted murder, burglary, robbery and firearms offenses by a felon.

Clearly, Jay did exactly what he had to do that day to make sure he made it out alive.

There is no question the criminal was targeting Jay since he believed there was large sums of money in the home because Jay collected cars.

The thing is, many people who may be similar in age to Jay prefer to own revolvers since they are so simple to use and you don’t need the hand strength to rack the slide like you do on a semi-auto.

With that in mind, I often hear the debate about which handgun caliber is the best between .38, .38+P, or .357.

For that reason, here is a breakdown on the different calibers and what may be best for you and your situation.

.38 Special. The .38 Special is a classic revolver caliber and it’s impossible to go into any gun store and not find a selection of revolvers chambered in this round.

It has a history as a workhorse and gained popularity among law enforcement in the 70’s and 80’s.

Today, .38 special rounds are still carried by some law enforcement as a back up weapon, and are used by citizens who want a small revolver that can still deliver effective rounds. .38 Special rounds are great for new shooters and can be a very effective self-defense round in close quarters.

From a ballistics perspective, the .38 operates at a maximum average pressure of 17,000 PSI, with typical penetration being around 12 inches depending on all the variables.

Of course, the .38 special round is going to create less recoil compared to the other two rounds below.

While the .38 is still effective, it wouldn’t be my first choice for home defense since I would rather have a bit more power in my home defense round.

.38 Special+P. Prior to the development of the .38+P round, there was the .38 Special High-Speed round, which was intended for use only in large frame revolvers.

Nowadays, the .38 Special+P round is suitable for most medium frame revolvers and delivers a maximum average pressure of 20,000 PSI, and typical penetration of 13-14 inches, which is a significant, but not massive increase over the .38 special.

The .38 special+P is a moderately powerful round that is easy to shoot for reasonably experienced shooters.

In addition, the .38 special+P muzzle blast is louder than standard pressure .38 loads, but far less than .357 Magnum loads.

For many years, the standard FBI service load was the .38 Special +P cartridge. Their lower recoil and muzzle blast make them faster for repeat shots than full power .357 loads.

They are also less blinding and deafening when fired indoors at night. This is the round that I recommend for most people who want to carry a revolver.

.357 Magnum. The .357 was the first magnum handgun cartridge. The .357 rounds are loaded to a maximum average pressure of 35,000 psi, and typical penetration is well over 16 inches.

The recoil from full power loads is sharp and the muzzle blast definitely gets your attention. Fire a full power magnum load at night and the flash looks like the gun exploded.

Experienced shooters can generally learn to control the .357 size revolvers and with practice, very fast and accurate shooting can be accomplished with .357 loads.

In a survival situation, the .357 could be effective for hunting game for food.

There is no question that revolvers are still effective for self-defense situations.

While semi-automatics are highly reliable, they still have to deal with stovepipes, jams, and failure to feed issues on occasion. Some semi-autos are also prone to the pickiness of ammunition.

Revolvers don’t care about that. This is why revolvers are and will always be a solid choice for defensive purposes.

Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author of Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life. To get a free copy of his book, visit www.SpyEscape.com.

Why You Need Iron Sights

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This is part one of a three-part series on sighting options for your rifle. This first entry covers iron sights. READ MORE

iron sights

SOURCE: Springfield-Armory Armory Life, Kit Perez

While the AR-15 (or “Modern Sporting Rifle”) continues to balloon in popularity for competition, hunting, and defense, there is one facet of it that does not seem to get that much attention: iron sights. Why is that? Many people who are enamored with the AR-15 are equally infatuated with optics. Whether it is magnified optics or red dots, both types of sights are tremendously popular compared to iron sights. So, with optics coming to the forefront of shooter preferences, why and when would someone want to still run iron sights? Fully knowing what a basic set of irons are capable of might be half the battle.

Always On
The misperception of iron sights might stem from the various upbringings we have all had with firearms. If you were introduced to guns as a child with a single-shot, bolt-action .22 Long Rifle with iron sights you likely progressed from there to bigger, better and more modern firearms. Other factions of shooters may have joined the arms bandwagon later in life and began with an AR-15 with an optic, or potentially a different scoped rifle. If you initially skipped over iron sights in your start with rifles, it would be admittedly difficult to regress back to “lesser” technology. Unfortunately for that aforementioned group, lacking a rudimentary understanding of iron sights means you’re missing a basic skill of marksmanship.

When the conversation of “should you use iron sights,” or at a minimum understand them, comes up, I immediately think of Murphy’s Law: What can go wrong, will. Moreover, the technology in optics can fail. Whether it’s a battery dying or glass being irreparable damaged, if you have back-up iron sights you can always remain in the fight, hunt, or competitive event.

Old-School Rangefinding
So, removing the thought of Murphy’s Law from your mindset, why else should you understand and deploy iron sights? For one, the width of a mil-spec front sight post (FSP) can be used to measure the relative size and distance of objects. A mil-spec FSP such as the one present on the Springfield Armory SAINT AR-15 is 0.07” wide. Some fast math tells us that is loosely 3.2 mils at 100 meters.

iron sights
The SAINT’s rear sight has two peep apertures you can use — one is for normal aiming and the other for quick, close-quarters shooting.

More people should become comfortable and familiar with this view because if your optics fail this may be all that you have to work with, for better or worse.

The military teaches that a mil-spec FSP at 150 meters is the average width of a military-aged male’s torso (approximately 19” across). So, for example, if a whitetail deer is facing you straight on and your FSP completely covers the deer’s chest, that particular deer should be at loosely 150 meters. While this is a very primitive ranging technique, in the 21st century it’s great knowledge to keep tucked away in your mind. And it always works. No batteries to run out or glass to break.

Even More Options?
With many sets of iron sights such as on the SAINT, you also get multiple rear apertures through which to aim. Sometimes they’re referred to as day-time and night-time peeps (small and large) while more modern shooting manuals identify each aperture as being utilized for normal shooting and faster close-quarters target acquisition. The ability to have two choices in a rear aperture and greater awareness by not being forced into “tunnel vision focus” with an optic can be quite valuable.

iron sights
While you might think you don’t need those iron sights that come on your SAINT rifle, they are actually a highly capable aiming system.

Since iron sights can serve a two-fold purpose in their peeps and there are handy secrets in their dimensions, when should you use them then? Some of the best applications are for hunting and competition. If you’re going to be participating in a 3-Gun competition, an educational carbine course, the Tactical Games or a similar style AR-15 course of fire, then iron sights could be immensely valuable. In regards to hunting, the ranging ability and fast target acquisition could be handy for unpredictable game appearances. Also, when Murphy’s Law finds you, the likelihood of a nearby gas station stocking your obscure watch battery for your primary optic will be abysmally low. When you’re competing or hunting, it’s often better to “have and not need iron sights than need and not have.”

iron sights

So, if you just added an AR-15 to your arsenal and are thinking of stripping the factory iron sights off of it, think again! They offer a lot of value. Possibly consider using them as a back-up and know that you’ll be more informed and prepared. Be safe out there, and happy shooting!

Adam Scepaniak
Adam is a manager at The Guns And Gear Store in Waite Park, MN. He’s also a writer for the NRA Shooting Sports USA, TheFirearmBlog, Sierra Bullets, All Outdoor, OutdoorHub, and Boyds Gunstocks. He is a Glock and Smith & Wesson Certified Armorer as well.

Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Accuracy In Handguns

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Bob Campbell is the author of Gun Digest ‘The Accurate Handgun.’ Here are his thoughts on this topic. READ MORE

handgun accuracy
The Smith and Wesson M69 .44 Magnum and SIG Elite ammunition are a good pairing.

Bob Campbell

Over the decades I have researched handguns and used the terms practical accuracy, intrinsic accuracy, and absolute accuracy. Firing from the benchrest is important and always interesting. But absolute accuracy isnt as important as the practical accuracy we may coax from a handgun. I think handgunners don’t take accuracy as serious as riflemen. Perhaps most cannot shoot well enough to take advantage of the accuracy in a superbly accurate handgun and don’t bother. Competition seems to place a premium on speed rather than accuracy. In personal defense the balance of speed and accuracy is important. If you don’t think accuracy isnt important in personal defense we have been to a different church. Shot placement is accuracy. The standard of measuring accuracy has come to be a five shot group at 25 yards, This is fired from a solid braced position from a bench. I use the Bullshooters pistol rest to remove as many human factors as possible. There is some compromise with shorter barrel or lightweight handguns and they are tested at 15 yards.

handgun accuracy
This is excellent practical accuracy.

The quality of the handgun, the fitting of the slide, the quality of the rifling, the sights, whether fine for target shooting or broad for fast results at combat range, are very important. The quality of the trigger press is important. The shooter is the most important part of the equation. There are those that may state that such testing of handguns is irrelevant as personal defense use almost always demands firing at less than ten yards. There is much validity to this argument. Not that combat shooting, drawing and firing and making a center hit, are not difficult. It may be reasonable to test an 8 3/8 inch barreled Magnum at even one hundred yards but a personal defense handgun with few exceptions will never be used past ten yards. Just the same those of us that test handguns like to take them to the Nth degree and test firearms accuracy. It is an interesting pursuit that is rewarding although there is some frustration in the beginning.

handgun accuracy
This group was fired with the Beretta 84 .380 ACP at 15 yards- accuracy is relative.

Service pistols, high end pistols and revolvers have different levels of accuracy. A revolver with five, six, seven or eight chambers that rotate to line up with the barrel for each shot is more accurate than it should be. As an example the Colt Official Police .38 and the Smith and Wesson K 38 are each capable of putting five shots into 2.2 to 2.5 inches at 25 yards with Federal Match ammunition. This is excellent target accuracy. When cops qualified with revolvers at 50 yards these handguns were up to the task. The Colt Python is easily the most accurate revolver I have tested and perhaps the most accurate handgun of any type. At a long 25 yards I fired a 15/16 inch group with the Federal 148 grain MATCH in .38 Special. This involved tremendous concentration and frankly it was exhausting. I have fired a similar group with the SIG P220, but this was unusual. The SIG will usually do 1.25 inch with the Federal 230 grain MATCH loading. The Python will group very nearly as well with full power Magnum loads. The Federal 180 grain JHP .357 Magnum is good for an inch at 25 yards, as an example. A much less expensive revolver is superbly accurate and nearly as accurate as the Python. The four inch barrel Ruger GP100 is good for groups about ninety per cent as good as the Python. It is also more rugged. As I have seen with 1911 handguns you pay a lot for the last degree of accuracy.

handgun accuracy
The Nighthawk 1911 is arguably as good as it gets in a .45 automatic.

In self loaders the Les Baer Concept VI is a solid three inch gun at 50 yards. The SIG P220 I mentioned may not run a combat course as quickly as a 1911 handgun but it will prove more accurate than all but the finest custom guns. The Nighthawk Falcon is a well made and reliable handgun worth its price. I am surprised when it fires a group larger than 2.0 inches at 25 yards with quality ammunition. The Guncrafter Commander with No Name is among the most accurate 1911 handguns of any type I have tested. So far the single most accurate loading has been the Fiocchi 200 grain XTP with a 25 yard 1.4 inch group. This takes a great deal of concentration to achieve. However- this pistol is among the most accurate of handguns in offhand fire as well. Firing off hand at known and unknown ranges the pistol is surprisingly accurate.

handgun accuracy
The Smith and Wesson Model 27 is a superbly accurate revolver.

When it comes to modern handguns it is interesting that there seems to be a race in both directions, to the top and to the bottom. Makers are attempting to manufacture the least expensive handgun possible that works. Someone buys it, and some of the handguns like the Ruger LC9/EDC types are reliable and useful defensive handguns. The same is true of revolvers. Even the inexpensive Taurus 450 .45 caliber revolver I often carry hiking will place five shots into less than two inches at 15 yards, reasonable for a revolver with a ported two inch barrel. I am unimpressed with the accuracy of many of the polymer framed striker fired handguns. I think that they are accurate enough and no more, but the trigger and sights are probably the limiting factory. Almost all fire five shots of service grade ammunition into 2.5 to 3.0 inches at 25 yards. High end handguns such as the Dan Wesson Heritage and Springfield Operator are more accurate than the majority of factory handguns of a generation ago. As an example thirty nine years ago I convinced the lead instructor and range master to allow some of us to carry to the 1911 .45. I barely managed to qualify with the Colt Commander Series 70 as qualification included barricade fire at 50 yards. With factory ammunition of the day the pistol would not group into ten inches at 50 yards, the military standard for 1911 handguns. Using a 200 grain SWC handload the pistol grouped into eight inches at 50 yards and I barely made the cut. The sights were small, the trigger heavy, and the grip tang cut my hand after fifty rounds. But the pistol was reliable, fast into action, and it was a Colt 1911. Later I added a Bar Sto barrel and enjoyed much better accuracy. Today a SIG 1911 Fastback Carry will group five rounds into 2.5 inches on demand at 25 yards and sometimes much less, and it is a factory pistol.

handgun accuracy
This is the kind of accuracy we dream of.

Other handguns are more accurate than most give them credit for. While the SIG P series is regarded as a very accurate handgun the CZ75B will give the SIG a run for the money. The CZ 75B is easily handled in off hand fire and very accurate. The Beretta 92 is also an accurate handgun as I discovered in instructors school when a veteran qualified with the Beretta 92. As a rule .40 caliber versions of the 9mm are not as accurate as the 9mm version but there are exceptions. The SIG P229 in .40 is an accurate and reliable handgun that makes an excellent go anywhere do anything handgun. My example will place five rounds of the Fiocchi 180 grain XTP load into 2.0 inches at 25 yards on demand. Accuracy is interesting. There are other considerations such as how quickly the pistol may be drawn and placed on target, and control in rapid fire is important. Reliability is far more important. But accurate handguns are interesting.

handgun accuracy
The handgun must be fired often to master the piece.