Category Archives: Tactics & Training

SKILLS: Misconceptions About Pistol Sights

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The sights are your connection to the target. Don’t buy into myths surrounding choices in a sighting system for your handgun. Read about it!

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Tom McHale

What’s that old saying? A lie, told often enough, becomes truth?

We gun people are often guilty of a related thing. That would be passing along hearsay comments over and over, until they become assumed fact.

pistol sight big dot

Some of the things that I’ve heard a thousand times relate to gun sights. You know, observations like “Big Dot sights are too big to be useful” or “they’re not precise enough!” I got an itch to put some of these handgun sight myths to the test so I could start to separate truth from hearsay.

Let’s take a look at a few of the more common handgun sight myths.

Big Sights Aren’t Precise Enough
To test this potential myth, I figured it was a good time for the first annual Shooting Illustrated Math Fair. In this inaugural event, we’re going to use really basic geometry to see exactly how big that Big Dot sight looks down range. In other words, at realistic handgun shooting distances, how much of your target is covered by the Big Dot sight?

Since this is supposed to be fun and informative, I won’t be a buzz kill and share the math in excruciating detail, but it’s pretty simple. We know that the shooter’s eye is the starting point. We also know that this particular Big Dot Sight is .18 inches in diameter because I measured it with my reloading calipers. We also know, that in my specific case, the front sight is about 24.5 inches from my eye when I’m shooting. Seriously, I measured with a yardstick. So now we have a proportional relationship. At a distance of 24.5 inches, the sight is .18-inch wide. As a result, we can easily figure out how big that sight appears at other distances.

Don’t fool yourself. Even “big” sights don’t cover an appreciable percentage of the target at reasonable distances.

Here’s how much the Big Dot covers at various ranges. Keep in mind that the Big Dot is a circle, so “coverage” of the target down range is also circular. The sizes I relate below reflect the diameter of that circle.

BIG DOT SIGHT

Clearly, Big Dot sights aren’t intended for NRA Precision Pistol Matches. Rather, they’re made for self-defense handguns with the emphasis on speed, clarity, and “good enough” accuracy at self-defense ranges.

What’s the bottom line? When you look at the real numbers, that huge front sight doesn’t cover much of your target at all. At 25 yards, it’s just 6.6 inches, and that is a much farther distance than 99.9 percent of defensive shooting scenarios. If you can shoot into a 6.6-inch group from a distance of 25 yards while someone is shooting at you or charging with an ax, then please submit your application to be my permanent bodyguard! At more realistic self-defense distances like 3, 5 and 10 yards, we’re talking an inch or two of target coverage by that front sight. Even at a whopping 100 yards, if you can hold well enough, you can easily hit a standard 19-inch-wide self-defense target. Yes, your front sight will overlap it, but just a little. To me, this precision myth is exactly that — a myth.

Big Sights Aren’t Any Faster
The idea behind using a large front sight is that your eye can pick it up really quickly as you raise your gun to target. There’s no ambiguity or confusion about which dot is the visible area is the front or rear. In fact, XS Big Dot brand sights don’t even use rear dots. Rather, the rear sight is a shallow “V”shape, much like the rear sights on lever-action carbines from the Bonanza era. I don’t know if Ben Cartwright gets royalty checks or not, but he should.

So, is this approach to handgun sights faster? I decided to find out by performing some semi-scientific testing. Since I’m writing this article during the great Charleston Monsoon of 2015, my shooting range has been unusable, being submerged in water. So I decided to get creative and put my LaserLyte Reaction Tyme targets to work along with a Beretta Px4 Storm, a LaserLyte Cartridge Laser, and a set of XS Big Dot Sights. My plan was to set up two Reaction Tyme Targets in my (relatively) dry living room and recruit a couple of people to shoot for time using the standard Beretta Px4 factory sights. Then, I would install the Big Dot sights and repeat the process, comparing before and after times. If nothing else, I figured this would be a great way to burn off some “four days of non-stop rain” stir crazy.

pistol sight on target

I recruited two shooters, neither of which had any experience with Big Dot Sights. I set up the two Reaction Tyme targets about four feet apart at a distance of 12 feet. The idea was to hit one and have to transition to the other quickly. My thinking was that would exercise the sight acquisition part of the experiment. Each shooter fired 10 shots alternating between targets. The “hit” area on the Reaction Tyme targets is only about a two-inch circle, so shooters had to aim, even at a distance of 12 feet. Only hits counted, so each shooter had to stay on a target until it registered a hit with an audible beep.

What were the results? Each shooter completed three timed runs and I averaged the results. Shooter A completed the course using standard sights with an average time of 12.6 seconds and Big Dots sights in 8.0 seconds. That’s a 36.6-percent speed improvement. Shooter B averaged 20.4 seconds with standard three-dot sights and 17.2 seconds using the Big Dot configuration. That’s a 15.2-percent improvement.

While not completely scientific, the results were pretty clear. Each shooter reported seeing the dot much faster and commented that there was not a need to “focus and line up.”They simply covered the target with the dot and pulled the trigger. The rear “V” sight just fell into place naturally.

Iron Sights Aren’t Accurate
People often refer to the inaccuracy of iron sights. That’s not exactly a true statement. Iron sights are plenty accurate. It’s our ability to line the sights up properly and consistently that is the issue. The accuracy capability of shooting with iron sights is really more about the limitations of our eyesight and our ability to hold those sights steady shot after shot.

Very rarely is the firearm the reason we don’t shoot accurately. Sight radius plays a part, but the shooter’s role is far more important.

Here’s what I mean. Like the precision scenario we discussed earlier, the accuracy potential of shooting iron sights boils down to a proportional relationship. In this case, we’re concerned about how much or little the front sight moves relative to the rear sight. If you put your handgun in a vise or perfectly mounted Ransom rest, your sights are going to be in the exact same position for every single shot. The minute you rely on human eyesight to line up those sights for the next shot, you’re limited by your vision.

A real example will help illustrate my point. Suppose I fire a shot at a 25-yard distant target using the same Beretta Px4. Now, I settle back into my sandbag rest to fire a second shot in the group. It’s up to me, the shooter, to make sure that the front sight, rear sight, and target are all in the exact same alignment as they were for the first shot. What happens if my front sight is just .01 inch out of perfect alignment relative to the rear sight? Let’s find out.

handgun sight radius

The sight radius of my Beretta Px4 is 5.77 inches. That’s measured from the rear of the rear sight to the rear of the front sight, or the parts that my eye actually sees. If my front sight drifts just .01 inch in any direction relative to the rear sight, that translates to 1.6 inches off target at 25 yards. If we were using a gun with a 2-inch sight radius, the error down range would be even larger. Considering that many modern production pistols care capable of shooting one to two-inch groups at 25 yards when in a Ransom Rest, that’s a big deal.

What does all this mean? When you read about “accuracy” of any given handgun, know that unless machines are involved, what you’re really getting is an indication of that pistol’s ability to be shot accurately. That may depend on the quality or type of sights, the sight radius and the overall ergonomics of the pistol. Viewed another way, a pistol with a 10-inch barrel may or may not be more accurate than one with a two-inch barrel, but it sure will be a heck of a lot easier to shoot accurately. If a human shoots those two guns from sandbags at 25-yard targets, they’ll almost certainly get better groups with the 10-inch gun. That’s because it’s easier to aim precisely with its longer and more forgiving sight radius, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the gun is more accurate.

We shooters tend to pass around too much hearsay information and consider it truth. It never hurts to be a bit skeptical and think things through on your own or even test them if possible. Heck, your life may one day depend on it.

SKILLS: Three Self-Defense Myths That Just Won’t Die

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Don’t buy into these age-old myths! Sheriff Jim tells the truth, and the truth might just save your life… Keep reading!

defensive rounds

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Just about the time it appears they have been proven false and dismissed, the same self-defense and gun myths pop again. Part of this is probably due to the fact there are always new people who finally realize they need to do something about their personal safety and begin seeking answers. Unfortunately, it is also due to the tendency of some people to pass on advice they have heard, but never took the time to find out if it is really true. Since it sounds cool, it must be right. This is one of the many reasons why defensive shooters need to receive professional training. With a good, professional instructor, it is remarkable how many of these myths quickly fall by the wayside and are replaced by cold, hard facts. Let’s look at three of the old self-defense myths that just won’t die and discuss the truths they conceal.

Myth No. 1: Hit him anywhere with a .45 and it will knock him down. This myth probably started with the advent of the .45 Colt back in the 1870s, but it has been repeated most often when people refer to the .45 ACP. Nowadays, you will hear it touted regarding the .44 Mag., the .41 Mag., the .40 S&W or whatever new and powerful pistol cartridge that has just been introduced. The truth was discovered way back in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his third law of motion. Newton stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In other words, if a bullet shot from a handgun was so powerful that it could actually knock a person down, it would also knock the shooter down. There are a lot of reasons why a person who is shot may appear to fall down, or even be knocked down. But, the truth is the force of the bullet striking him is not knocking him off his feet. That only happens in the movies and TV. In reality, a person who is shot with even a relatively powerful handgun may show very little indication of being hit. There will also be very little sign of blood, especially at first. Therefore, the defensive shooter should not rely on these as cues that the fight is over. The important thing is to recover from recoil, regain your sight picture and quickly re-evaluate the threat. If the criminal is still armed — whether or not he is on his feet — and if he appears to still be a threat, additional shots may be necessary. Just don’t expect the bad guy to go flying off his feet, because it probably won’t happen.

Myth No. 2: There’s no need to aim a shotgun, just point it in the general direction of the bad guy and fire.
The shotgun is an awesome firearm that is altogether too often overlooked by today’s defensive shooters. However, it is not a magic wand. People who claim you don’t have to aim a shotgun have simply never done patterning tests with their favorite defensive smoothbore. When shot exits a shotgun barrel, it does so in almost one solid mass. That mass is smaller than a man’s fist. It is only as the shot travels downrange that it begins to spread apart, and it spreads much more gradually than a lot of people expect. Whether you are using buckshot or birdshot, from 0 to 10 yards you should consider it to be one projectile. Actually, by about 7 yards the shot has begun to spread noticeably, but not as much as you might think. From 10 yards to about 25 yards, the average shotgun will deliver a pattern that will still stay on the chest area of a silhouette target. But, by 25 yards some of the pellets may stray off target. When dealing with a threat at 25 yards and beyond, it’s time to think about transitioning to a slug. Instead of taking anyone’s word for it — mine included — the defensive shotgunner should run pattern tests using his shotgun from extremely close range out to 25 and 30 yards. He will also find his shotgun performs better with one brand of ammunition than others. There are a lot of reasons for this preference for particular loads, but the defensive shotgunner should know this occurs and make his selection accordingly. The smart defensive shooter will run tests until he knows which load his gun prefers and exactly what his shot pattern is doing at the ranges his shotgun could be called upon to perform. Always true: don’t just believe it, test it!

Myth No. 3: If you have to shoot a bad guy in your front yard, drag him into the house before calling the cops.
As ridiculous as this may sound, it is one of the self-defense myths that just won’t go away. A student brought it up once in a defensive pistol class. There are couple of good reasons why this is a terrible idea.
To begin with, most states determine the justification for using deadly force as being a reasonable response to prevent immediate death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, if a person is justified in defending himself inside his home, he is also justified in defending himself in his yard, because he is under an immediate attack in which he could be killed or seriously injured. This varies from state to state, so check your own state’s laws before determining your home-defense plan. The second, equally important, reason is the crime scene will quickly make a liar out of you. Any investigator worth his salt will know within five minutes that you moved the body. And, if you’re lying about that, you are probably lying about everything else, or that’s what the investigator will assume. It is the quickest possible way to go directly to jail. Protecting yourself in a completely justifiable shooting can get expensive. So can lying to the police about a shooting.
Part and parcel to obtaining a defensive firearm should be obtaining advice from a criminal defense attorney. He can tell you what your state laws are, how they are interpreted in court and the limitations regarding use of deadly force and how they apply to a legally armed citizen. Getting that sort of advice from the guys down at the bar or from an Internet commando is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

SKILLS: 4 Things Shooting Instructors Do That Drive Students Nuts

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There’s good and bad firearms training instruction, and it’s all about the instructor/student relationship. The Sheriff writes this one to offer some insight for those on the instructor-side of the equation… READ MORE.

Driven crazy

SOURCE: NRA Family
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

A while back I did a piece on the things that students do to give defensive instructors gray hair. Well, my friends, that knife cuts both ways. An instructor can easily ruin a class for his students. Being a good shot or a gunfight survivor does not automatically qualify a person to be a good instructor. If that instructor lacks basic teaching skills, a student may learn very little and be very disappointed with the class. Here are some of the common errors that instructors make.

ONE: FAILURE TO THOROUGHLY EXPLAIN…
Some instructors think that it makes them sound authoritative when they use tactical terms such as OODA Loop, EDC and Watch Your Six, to name a few. There is nothing wrong with those terms as long as an instructor takes the time to explain them instead of assuming that his students actually know what he means. It’s never a mistake to just use common English, although some High Speed/Low Drag instructors haven’t figured that out yet. I know of one instance when an instructor finished the morning lecture only to have a student ask, “What is a muzzle?” While some may chuckle at this, it is a legitimate question and indicates that the instructor and the students were not operating on the same information level.

TWO: TOO MANY WAR STORIES…
Now I love a good war story, but the fact is that too many instructors use war stories to impress the students with the instructor’s experience. A few war stories aren’t bad, as long as they are used to illustrate certain important points that the teacher is trying to get across. I know of one instructor who loves to show a video of himself killing a man during a police action. There’s no point to the video except to have the class see him do it. “Unnecessary” and “tasteless” are two descriptive words that come to mind.

THREE: EXPECTING TOO MUCH OF THE STUDENTS…
Students in a defensive class should be challenged to learn and perform tasks that often put them outside of their comfort zone. A good defensive teacher knows when the class is ready to try something new and when they are not. One must have a good handle on the basics of defensive shooting before moving along to learn other skills. Knowing when to safely push a student into something new is one of the marks of a good defensive teacher.

FOUR: FAILURE TO MAINTAIN A SAFE RANGE & TEACHING ENVIRONMENT…
Some instructors run a hot range (guns are always loaded) and others do not, preferring to have guns unloaded except during actual firing. Neither one is less safe than the other, as long as everyone understands the safety rules and adheres to them.

A safety lecture should be the start of every defensive class. Students should be reminded of the required safety rules throughout the class. More importantly, the safety rules should be strictly enforced at all times.

There is never a good reason for firearms to ever be pointed at students, instructors or range assistants. Nor is there ever a good reason for students, or anyone else, to be downrange when guns are being fired. I know of these things being done at some schools in the past, and my only hope is that this no longer occurs. I can’t imagine what kind of defensive instructor would allow this sort of thing to happen.

Editor’s Note: Looking for training? Check out classes from certified NRA Instructors here and here.

A good defensive school and a good defensive instructor should be all about the students. The instructor should be as good at his teaching skills as he is at his shooting skills. His job is not to be cool; his job is to help people learn. In short, his job is to save lives. Fortunately, we are blessed with a large number of defensive instructor/teachers who fully understand this important fact.

SKILLS: Top 3 Terrible Pieces of Advice Women Get in Gun Stores

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With an increasing number of women purchasing firearms, Tamara Keel advises that’s it’s about time the counter staff wises up… Read the story!

Girl gun

SOURCE: NRA Publications, Shooting Illustrated, by Tamara Keel

Every now and again, I get a writing assignment that’s not even work. This is one of those. “Hey, Tamara, would you like to do a piece on some of the worst advice women get in gun stores?”

Oh, honey. Pull up a chair…

I wouldn’t have worked in the gun sales business as long as I did if I didn’t enjoy it, but like all career fields, you get a wide range of quality in employees. You know that one guy in your office who means well but still hasn’t figured out which part of the envelope he’s supposed to lick? Well, his cousin sells guns, and for some reason I have interacted with him from the customer side of the counter a bunch of times over the years. Let me tell you, he has some downright awful ideas about women and guns. Let me share a few of them with you.

ONE: The worst piece of advice I’ve gotten in a gun store…
…is hopefully an artifact of the past. I haven’t heard it in many years, but who knows? Maybe some dude working in a place out back of beyond is still handing it out. Basically, it’s the, “What do you want a gun for? Let your man defend you…” The first time I heard this in a gun store I was dumbstruck. I am standing here trying to give a dude money for merchandise and he’s trying to talk me out of it. That was a unique retail experience.

It didn’t happen often and, like I said, it hasn’t happened for years, but I swear it happened. There was this occasional guy behind the counter who thought I was intruding in his clubhouse, and told me that I didn’t have the defensive mindset or mechanical aptitude or whatever for a gun, because, well, icky gurrrrl.

Closely related to this is the next piece of bad advice, usually delivered by a guy who is affecting the “veteran persona,” which is this: “Oh, what you need to do is load the first chamber with [a blank/snakeshot] because you don’t want to kill anyone. You don’t know how horrible it is…” At which point they gaze off at a far corner of the shop with a 10-yard version of a 1000-yard stare.

I mean, he’s sort of right, in that I don’t particularly want to kill anybody. But another thing I don’t want to be doing is explaining to a judge and jury why I blinded or maimed a person for life when I didn’t think they rated the use of deadly force. Because make no mistake about it, pointing a firearm at someone and pulling the trigger is deadly force, and “snake shot” or “rat shot” is not some kind of harmless stun ray. It’s perfectly capable of blinding and maiming at defensive distances.

TWO: The second-worst piece of advice I’ve gotten in a gun store…
The second most common piece of bad advice I’ve gotten in gun stores is the “cute gun.” This is where the clerk, apparently operating on autopilot, steers you to the tiniest little nickel-plated, pearl-handled .25 or .32 in the case. Apparently he has decided that those are girl guns, and you’re a girl, and so… Obviously a match made in heaven, right? It sometimes doesn’t even matter if you’re in there to get a trap shotgun or a long-range precision rifle, it can take a crowbar to pry the clerk off trying to sell you that little .25, because you’re fighting (or frightening) his automatic programming.

THREE: The most common piece of advice women get in gun stores…
And this brings us to the most common piece of bad advice given to women in gun stores, and it’s one often given with the best of intentions: The lightweight .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolver. If there is a single firearm configuration that has put more novice women shooters off the idea of shooting as a hobby than the lightweight 5-shot .38, I don’t know what else it is.

Don’t get me wrong, the lightweight .38 snubbie has settled a lot of bad guys’ hash over the years, but it’s not really a beginner’s gun. The light weight amplifies recoil and also hurts accuracy, in that a 12-pound trigger pull on a 1-pound gun will really test the shooter’s abilities to keep the sights aligned through the whole trigger press. The sight radius is short, the sights are minimalistic and low-contrast, and the grip is tiny.

In short, the little snub is an expert’s gun that gets foisted on novice women shooters because it’s small and light and has a reputation for being effective. I think there’s also this idea that because it’s a revolver that it’s “simpler” and therefore easier for our lady-brains to understand or something. Nothing is more discouraging than being handed a gun that’s unpleasant to shoot and challenging to fire accurately when you’re a novice, especially when you’ve been told it’s the perfect gun for you.

So there are a few of the worst pieces of advice I’ve been given in gun stores, but there’s plenty more where that came from. Hopefully this will become a quaint relic of the past as more and more women get involved in shooting.

SKILLS: Pocket Pistol Drills

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Preparation is key to concealed-carry success, so make sure you take the time to prepare! Here are 4 drills for skills with the smaller end of the spectrum. Read on…

pocket pistol kit
This pocket pistol is the popular Ruger LCP II, carried in a DeSantis Gunhide SuperFly holster and loaded with Hornady Critical Defense .380 ACP ammo.

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Ed Head

Small, easily concealed handguns have become an increasingly popular choice among firearm consumers. It makes sense to assume many of these pistols are carried in pockets. Pocket carry may actually be the most-popular mode of carry, but I wonder how many folks actually practice with it? Being small, lightweight, and often equipped with miniscule sights and heavy trigger pulls, pocket pistols aren’t the easiest guns to shoot well. Then again, attributes such as compact size and light weight make these handguns easy to carry around. Some folks use them as primary-defense pistols, while others relegate them to the role of backup guns.

There are a good number of folks who often rely on a pocket pistol but spend their practice time with a larger handgun. Don’t assume that because you’re confident and competent with the preferred “full-size” pistol that you’ve developed the skill set necessary for equal competence on the pistol you perhaps more likely will have to rely on.

Pocket pistols should be carried in a holster! Well-made pocket holsters protect against accidental firing by covering the trigger, position the gun in the same way in the pocket every time and break up the outline of the gun, making it more concealable and less likely to “print” while in the pocket. With the pistol in the pocket, you should be able to obtain a firing grip, with your finger straight along the outside of the holster, and pull the gun from the pocket, leaving the holster behind. Now here’s the important part: Never, ever attempt to re-holster the gun with the holster in the pocket. Keeping the pistol pointed in a safe direction, finger off the trigger, safety on (if there is one), take the holster out of the pocket, re-insert the pistol, then carefully place the holstered handgun back into the pocket.

Depending upon how big you are and the size and cut of your pockets, you may wish to pocket carry with the pistol in a front trouser pocket or rear pocket. Pocket carry is possible in jacket pockets as well. Have you ever seen a police officer approach a driver with his or her support hand in a jacket pocket? You can bet that hand is grasping a gun, most likely a small revolver. While not strictly pocket carry, I know people who use a pocket holster as an inside the waistband holster, either in the appendix or behind the hip position. The same careful holstering rules apply to this carry method.

Here are a few drills you can practice with your pocket pistol. If you’re really comfortable with drawing the pocket gun, start these drills with the handgun holstered. If not, it’s best to start with the pistol in the hands at a low-ready, muzzle-depressed position. After each shooting drill, top off or reload the pistol and carefully and safely return it to your starting position. This isn’t a quick-draw drill. Take your time and keep the finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. Considering the role of the pocket pistol, you can do these drills at close range — 3 to 7 yards — on paper. If you want to practice on steel targets, maintain a safe distance of 7 yards or farther.

Drill #1: Fire 2 rounds to the vital zone of your target. Repeat. Total of 4 rounds.

Drill #2: Fire 2 rounds to the vital zone of your target and 1 round to the head zone. Repeat. Total of 6 rounds.

Drill #3: With two targets placed side by side, fire 2 rounds to the vital zone of each target. Repeat. Total of 8 rounds.

Drill #4: Repeat Drills 1 through 3 by taking a step to the side as you bring the pistol up on target. Total of 18 rounds.

A little practice with your pocket pistol will pay big dividends in improving your accuracy and confidence. Put down your favorite big pistol for a while and spend some time with your little, constant companion.

How to Avoid Being a Victim

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Avoidance is preferable to engagement… Here’s some pointers from The Sheriff on learning to give off the “leave me alone” vibe. Read on…

atm victim

SOURCE: NRA Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Some years ago, we busted an armed robbery team that specialized in hitting convenience stores. A day or two after the arrests, one of the suspects became willing talk to us about what they looked for in a potential target. We drove him around at night and he critiqued the various stores as to lighting, get-away routes, and other factors that made them look appealing to an armed robber.

One of the stores looked particularly good to me, but it had never been hit. The crook told me that it would be a good location except for the guy that worked the night shift. He said this was the sort of guy who would keep a gun under the counter — I knew that to be a fact, a .45 Colt New Service. When they had cased the store, this clerk looked at them, made eye contact and didn’t act afraid. This crook was so right. Had they tried to rob this particular store, somebody could have gotten hurt.

Most people don’t realize how knowledgeable crooks are about body language. Now, they don’t give it formal study like we would but, trust me, they understand it thoroughly. They can understand when someone looks at them and doesn’t show fear or apprehension. They also know that the person who looks at them and makes eye contact will probably make a good witness for the police, too. Simply put, most crooks are cowards and don’t want to take a chance of getting hurt.

In the past, I have suggested that readers study articles and books, even take some classes, on body language. It truly will help you identify people who are up to no good even before any words are spoken or weapons drawn. But very few people give any thought to the type of body language that they are putting off.

When we walk down a street with our head down, not making eye contact with anyone, we look like easy prey. It is only worse when we have our faces stuck in our cell phones. When we encounter a potentially dangerous situation, do we look like we are preparing to fight or do we look like we are preparing to take flight?

People frequently encounter possible threats when there is yet no reason to draw the defensive firearm. However, there is nothing wrong with getting into an athletic stance, making direct eye contact, and putting a sound of authority in the voice. When you have to speak to a potential threat, do it with short sentences backed by the sound of strong confidence. This is not the time to make lengthy speeches. If you establish an authoritative body language, you are telling the possible threat that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to try anything.

Now I am not suggesting for one minute that you have to, or should, go around trying to look like Wyatt Earp Jr. In fact, you should be pleasant to those around you whenever possible. However, when your senses tell you that trouble might be about to happen — when you go from Yellow to Orange on the Cooper Color Code — you should look and act like you can take care of business. You are specifically not challenging the crook to try something, but your body language is telling him that jumping on you might be a really big mistake.

SHOOTING SPORTS: 3 Great Shooting Disciplines for New Shooters

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Fun and simplicity are the two keys to choosing a first shooting sport experience. These are proven great beginnings! Read more…

smallbore rifle
Smallbore rifle.

SOURCE: Shooting Sports USA, by John Parker

These days there is no shortage of new sports for prospective shooters who believe they are ready to take the plunge into formal competition. The three disciplines listed below are ideal for beginners.

ONE: BB Gun/Air Rifle
Air guns are traditionally regarded as guns for beginners. Some types, such as the familiar BB gun, are excellent as a “first competition gun,” while there are numerous other types designed and used by seasoned international competitors. One great reason for air rifle shooting is how easy it is to set up a range, even in your own home.

Juniors can compete in BB gun until their 16th birthday. NRA rules define BB guns as: Any shoulder held smoothbore BB gun with metallic sights, in which the propelling force is developed through the use of a compressed spring, gas or compressed air. Courses of fire are 40 shots; 10 each in prone, standing, sitting and kneeling, or the three-position course of fire which omits sitting. Also something to note: NRA BB Gun rule 7.10 provides for ISSF-style “Finals” for top competitors at matches to have a chance to show off their shooting prowess. Matches with Finals also provide for a great learning experience for those who plan to continue his/her shooting career.

The NRA Sporter Air Rifle Position rules govern the conduct of 10 meter three-position and four-position air rifle shooting. The rules allow for any type of compressed air or CO2 rifle with a few restrictions: Only .177-cal. pellets are allowed, and the weight of the rifle may not exceed 7½ pounds. Prone, sitting, kneeling and standing are the four positions utilized. Common courses of fire for sporter air rifle are: 10 shots each prone, standing, sitting and kneeling; 10 shots each prone, standing and kneeling; 20 shots each prone standing, sitting and kneeling; 20 shots prone, standing and kneeling; 40 shots standing; and/or 60 shots standing. NRA Sporter Air Rifle also has rules for a “Finals” for sanctioned matches, very much like BB gun.

BB guns and air rifles are an excellent way to begin competing in the shooting sports. In recent years, air guns have undergone dramatic improvements in reliability, durability and accuracy. These guns offer flexibility?because they can be fired safely by shooters of all ages and experience levels.

TWO: Smallbore Rifle
Smallbore rifle competition is the logical next step after learning the ropes with an air gun. It’s a sport that dates back to 1919, back when companies like Savage and Winchester introduced special .22 target rifles, the Winchester Model 19 NRA Match Rifle and the popular Savage Model 52. To be a precise and accurate smallbore shooter, you’ll need a quality rifle, sights and ammunition. But you really don’t need a new rifle to try out the sport of smallbore rifle; if you have a decent .22 LR in your safe, just use that to begin.

The NRA Smallbore Rifle rules allow for just about any .22-caliber rimfire rifle for use in competition. There are no restrictions on the barrel length or the weight of the rifle.

NRA Smallbore courses of fire are shot over 50 feet, 50 meters and 100 yards. There are four positions utilized (see Section 7 of the NRA Smallbore rules): prone, sitting, kneeling and standing. All four may be used, or even just one, depending on the match. NRA smallbore can be fired indoors or outdoors.

Recently a new form of prone shooting?Metric prone?has gained in popularity. It’s a combination of the two styles of smallbore prone shooting, NRA and ISSF, using a more difficult target with a shorter course of fire.

THREE: GLOCK Shooting Sports Foundation (GSSF)
Are you more interested in action shooting, rather than shooting at static paper targets? There’s no denying the satisfying feeling one has when shooting steel and hearing that characteristic “ding.” GSSF is one of the most popular practical shooting disciplines around, and not because it’s an easy sport?it’s mostly because the main requirement is the use of a GLOCK pistol, which isn’t that hard to scrounge up if you don’t have access to one already. GSSF stages will include steel plate racks or poppers, and others will use the NRA Action Pistol D-1 tombstone target, or combinations of both steel and paper.

Think of GSSF as “practical shooting-lite.” There’s a total of eight divisions: Civilian, Guardian (law enforcement, firefighter, military etc.), Subcompact, Competition, Heavy Metal, Major Sub, Masterstock, and Unlimited. No holsters are necessary, and the common G17 model can be used for any category except for Subcompact and Major Subcompact.

GSSF shooters are divided into masters and amateurs. Masters are defined as “competitors who are classified as ‘master class’ in USPSA, PPC, ICORE, NRA, Cowboy Action, or shoot on an Armed Forces shooting team, or have been promoted to master by GSSF.” All other shooters are considered amateur.

Want to learn more about the shooting sports? Visit www.ssusa.org!

SKILLS: Trigger Jerk: How to Solve It

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Trigger break is the “last thing” that happens in making an accurate shot, and if it’s not done well, you’ll probably miss… Here’s how to fix it.

finger on trigger

SOURCE: NRAFamily.org, George Harris

The Problem: Up until this point in your firearm training, the emphasis had been on achieving an acceptable sight picture and squeezing the trigger in a slow and steady manner until the gun fired as a surprise. That had been working fairly well, until you attended a tactical shooting class where all the drills and exercises were timed. Your shots were so slow, the instructor joked about getting a sundial to time you. His emphasis was making a relatively accurate shot in minimum time, which he referred to as command detonation. By the end of the class you had developed a command trigger jerk, as well as a pretty significant flinch to go along with it. You see the value of making a shot on demand, especially in a defensive situation, but hitting the intended target while jerking the trigger and flinching as well is iffy at best.

The Solution:
The objective of shooting is hitting your target. With that in mind, a person can’t shoot fast enough while missing the target to accomplish anything but the expenditure of ammunition. A good axiom to go by is: Shoot only as fast as you can hit your target. Keeping that in mind, it seems like perhaps you need to redirect your thinking a bit to speed up your shot delivery.

The first thing to do is remove the word “squeeze” from your vocabulary when referencing trigger operation. Squeeze in any other sense of the word means compressing all of your fingers as well as the palm of the hand together to hold or apply pressure to an object. Think of squeezing a tube of toothpaste or the hand of another with whom you don’t want to lose contact. Making those types of motion with a gun in hand will cause the muzzle to move off the target, low and to the inside as the trigger is being moved to the rear, therefore resulting in a miss.

In this case the trigger jerk comes from the tightening of the whole hand on the gun trying to make the shot as quickly as possible without regard to the muzzle’s position on the target. The flinch is usually a result of several stimuli that trigger responses in the emotional mind. Think fight-or-flight, self-preservation response, or the subconscious response to an unexpected or surprise event.

Being under the assumption you have undergone the noise- and recoil-inoculation drills in your previous training (both of which will all but eliminate the tendency to move involuntarily — flinch — when the gun fires) likely leaves the sound of the beep (go signal) as the likely culprit for the cause of trigger jerk. This is because it comes unexpectedly at random times which, for lack of a better phrase, scares you into action.

One of the methods we use to overcome the phenomenon of trigger jerk is simply to listen to the “go signal” while thinking that this signal is permission to do something you like to do. That is to shoot. This puts your brain into a “Let’s do it!” perspective as opposed to an “Oh $@&*%!” response when the signal is given.

The next step is to correct the deficiencies in trigger jerk, grip and trigger manipulation to where the trigger finger can move at any speed, independent of the rest of the hand, without affecting the position of the muzzle on the target. This can be done dry with the “Wall Drill,” which will give the basis for the live-fire segment, which we call the “Now Drill.” Try it without the beep at first, then integrate the beep once the trigger can be quickly and smoothly operated without moving the muzzle.

The “Now Drill” is a really simple exercise for the experienced shooter. A good starting point for a shooter new to the concept is placing an 8-inch paper plate at 7 yards while standing with the finger on the trigger, aiming at the plate, waiting for the command to fire. When the signal to fire is given, the initial goal is to hit the plate in one second or less with one shot. As proficiency and skill improve, times can be shortened and distances increased to further the challenge of shooting an accurate shot on demand.

A cautionary note should be included for this drill. Regardless of whether you call it command detonation, the now drill, or anything else, the student should have basic marksmanship skills firmly ingrained and extensively practiced well beforehand. This will lessen the likelihood of creating unnecessary problems such as a trigger jerk or a flinch when trying to increase their speed.

He who hits first wins, regardless of the speed of the opponent’s miss.

Ultimate Reloader: Gavin’s First PRS Match

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Ultimate reloader first precision rifle series
Gavin goes prone!

Gavin’s First PRS Match: The Experience

By: Ultimate Reloader

For a long time I’ve talked with friends about trying out a PRS-style match. Life has been busy, but when the right opportunity came, I decided to give it a try. My friend and shooting partner Jim Findlay offered to help me prepare, and told me it would be “fun to shoot gas guns together”. I decided I would shoot an AR-15, and thought that would be an ideal opportunity to try something new: the 22 Nosler. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting myself into, but that’s typically the way things happen when you’re really trying something new. It was a great experience, and it taught me a lot about shooting. I also made some great connections and friends during the match. If you are at all interested in PRS (Precision Rifle Series, or just Precision Rifle in general) I would suggest you enter and compete in a match. You most likely won’t regret it.

In this post, I’ll talk about preparing for the match, and the experience of competing in the match. In a follow-up post, I’ll go into more detail on the gear we used, and some of the gear we’d like to try in the future. So stay tuned for that!

Preparing For the Match

There were a few things to take care of before I started practicing with Jim in earnest for the match. I decided on the rifle platform I’d be shooting: it would be the AR-MPR AR-15 rifle, but with a 22 Nosler Upper. While I was waiting for the upper and components to arrive, I started practicing with 5.56 ammunition that I thought would be close to what I’d be shooting with 22 Nosler. I signed up for the match and paid my entry fee, and then downloaded the Practiscore Match App.

Practiscore is great, because you can read about each of the stages in order to prepare for each activity within the match. Here’s an example from the match I participated in:

After reading up on the match, it was time to create a game plan with Jim, and start practicing!

Practicing For the Match

Jim and I spent quite a few range trips preparing for the match, and I did quite a bit of practice up at my place, the “Ultimate Reloader Outpost”. First up was to sort out our gear, and get on target- we started at 600 yards. As I mentioned, this initial practice was performed with a .223/5.56 AR-15 configuration. With distances going out to 700 yards on match day, I chose to load 77 grain bullets for practice in 5.56 cases. At our 600 yard practice distance, these rounds did fine, but I wasn’t as confident about going out to 700 yards as they were getting into the trans-sonic zone.

Enter the 22 Nosler. The added velocity provided by this new cartridge combined with the extreme performance of the 70 grain Nosler RDF bullets I decided to use were a great combination. Here are the first shots I fired at 600 yards after the 100 yard sight-in and testing (see bottom group on target). The first round fired at 600 yards was on-target thanks to the G7 BC supplied by Nosler and Shooter App dope I had calculated. That’s a great feeling!

During our practice sessions, Jim and I focused on prone shooting, barricade shooting, and even shooting at a moving target at almost 600 yards. It was a lot of fun, but 90 seconds (the allowed time for each stage) was proving to go *very* quickly. Would I be ready on range day? I couldn’t wait to find out. Here we have Jim (far) and myself (near) shooting at 400 yards in preparation for one of the stages:

Match Day

On match day, I was fortunate to have friends Eric Peterson and Carl Skerlong running the camera and drone respectively. That meant I could focus on the shooting stages, and final preparations. I had printed out the courses of fire, had printed a dope card and zip tied it to my rifle, had dialed in the shooter app, and had all of my gear ready to go.

Overall, the match was more fun and more laid back than I thought it would be. The guys in our squad were all really helpful, and even loaned me gear to try out when they noticed my gear wasn’t right for a particular shooting activity. One such case was when Ken Gustafson (of KYL Gear) offered to loan me one of the bags he had made. Below you can see me shooting off the infamous unstable tippy tank trap with a KYL Gear bag, and I’ll have to say- it was amazing. It helped me lock down my rifle and get on target. What a great feeling!

I did run into some trouble- I had loaded my 22 Nosler rounds to max charge weight with Varget powder and experienced some failure to feed issues during the match. Initially I thought my bolt needed more lubrication, but after the match I discovered pressure signs on the rounds I had fired to investigate what went wrong. While I didn’t have malfunctions in practice, the match day was between 96 F and 100 F at the hottest part of the day- the same time I experienced issues. I was over pressure! I switched to a slower powder after that discovery (H-380) and found 22 Nosler to run perfectly (and at higher velocity), even in similar temperatures. I learned that you have to test everything you plan to use on match day, and take into account things like weather conditions as well. I also had my bipod fly off the rifle while shooting off a barricade- but continued with the stage and did alright. Even with these challenges, I kept on “giving it my best”, and I still had a ton of fun.

Summary

PRS is all about pushing your rifle skills to edge. You may have to hit targets at four different distances in 90 seconds- and dial in your dope between each shot. These kinds of challenges are super-difficult, but with enough experience and practice, it’s amazing what you can do. I saw guys that were so smooth, steady, fast, and accurate, it was mind blowing! It doesn’t come easy, and the guys at the top of the heap are super-dedicated. One such guy named Sheldon Nalos (in my squad) told me about how he dry fired off scale replicas he made of the T-Post Fox Hunt stage- practicing again and again until he was confident he was ready.

I don’t have the goal to be at the top of the heap within the PRS community, but I do think I’ll compete in more matches- they are super fun to experience, and the friends you’ll make may just last a lifetime. If you have any thoughts of trying PRS, I say “do it”! Stay tuned, because in my next post, I’ll talk about the PRS gear I used (and wanted) and then after that it’s time to go deep into 22 Nosler.

Thanks,
Gavin

Can The Government Confiscate My Firearms During a Disaster?

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firearms confiscation

During the recent disaster wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the impending landfall in Florida of Hurricane Irma, many of our members have been asking if the government can confiscate their firearms if the Governor or Federal Government declare a state of emergency.

Following the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New Orleans police went door to door seeking people who rode out the storm in their homes to force them to comply with the forced evacuation ordered by the government. As part of the effort, the officers were also confiscating firearms.

This created an outrage among the law-abiding gun owners of the country and resulted in the passage of state and federal laws to prevent such confiscations from occurring in the future.

In 2006, Congress passed the DISASTER RECOVERY PERSONAL PROTECTION ACT OF 2006. The law was intended to prevent the government from seizing legally owned firearms during the time of a disaster. It was incorporated as an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act 2007 and signed into law on October 4, 2006.

CAN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CONFISCATE MY FIREARMS?

This law amended 42 U.S.C 5201 Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to add the following provision:

SEC. 706. FIREARMS POLICIES.

(a) PROHIBITION ON CONFISCATION OF FIREARMS- No officer or employee of the United States (including any member of the uniformed services), or person operating pursuant to or under color of Federal law, or receiving Federal funds, or under control of any Federal official, or providing services to such an officer, employee, or other person, while acting in support of relief from a major disaster or emergency, may–

(1) temporarily or permanently seize, or authorize seizure of, any firearm the possession of which is not prohibited under Federal, State, or local law, other than for forfeiture in compliance with Federal law or as evidence in a criminal investigation;

(2) require registration of any firearm for which registration is not required by Federal, State, or local law;

(3) prohibit possession of any firearm, or promulgate any rule, regulation, or order prohibiting possession of any firearm, in any place or by any person where such possession is not otherwise prohibited by Federal, State, or local law; or

(4) prohibit the carrying of firearms by any person otherwise authorized to carry firearms under Federal, State, or local law, solely because such person is operating under the direction, control, or supervision of a Federal agency in support of relief from the major disaster or emergency.

(b) LIMITATION- Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any person in subsection (a) from requiring the temporary surrender of a firearm as a condition for entry into any mode of transportation used for rescue or evacuation during a major disaster or emergency, provided that such temporarily surrendered firearm is returned at the completion of such rescue or evacuation.

Following the lead of the federal government, most state legislatures adopted their own version of this law.

TEXAS LAW ON FIREARMS CONFISCATION

In Texas, Government Code Chapter 418 (EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT) permits the Governor to declare a State of Disaster which suspends certain state laws and regulations to allow local authorities to conduct rescue and recovery operations.

However, it does not allow for the seizure of any legally owned firearms, with limited exception.

Specifically,

Sec. 418.003.  LIMITATIONS.  This chapter does not:

(5)  except as provided by Section 418.184, authorize the seizure or confiscation of any firearm or ammunition from an individual who is lawfully carrying or possessing the firearm or ammunition;

Sec. 418.184.  FIREARMS.

(a)  A peace officer who is acting in the lawful execution of the officer’s official duties during a state of disaster may disarm an individual if the officer reasonably believes it is immediately necessary for the protection of the officer or another individual.

(b)  The peace officer shall return a firearm and any ammunition to an individual disarmed under Subsection (a) before ceasing to detain the individual unless the officer:

(1)  arrests the individual for engaging in criminal activity; or

(2)  seizes the firearm as evidence in a criminal investigation.

To read Governor Abbott’s actual declaration, click here.

FLORIDA LAW ON FIREARMS CONFISCATION   

Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution permits the Governor to issue an Executive Order to declare a State of Emergency in times of a natural disaster, allowing him to enact provisions of the State’s Emergency Management Plan.

For Hurricane Irma, the Executive Order provides specific provisions regarding the activities permissible to state and local officials during the emergency, as provided for in  Florida Statutes beginning with Chapter 252.31  “State Emergency Management Act.”

In part, the Executive Order states:

Section 2. I designate the Director of the Division of Emergency Management as the State Coordinating Officer for the duration of this emergency and direct him to execute the State’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and other response, recover, and mitigation plans necessary to cope with the emergency. Pursuant to section 252.36(1)(a), Florida Statutes, I delegate to the State Coordinating Officer the authority to exercise those powers delineated in sections 252.36(5)-(10), Florida Statutes, which he shall exercise as needed to meet this emergency, subject to the limitations of section 252.33, Florida Statutes.

But those powers have certain limitations with regards to firearms. In particular,

Chapter 252.36(5)(h) states the Governor may:

(h) Suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives, and combustibles. However, nothing contained in ss. 252.31-252.90 shall be construed to authorize the seizure, taking, or confiscation of firearms that are lawfully possessed, unless a person is engaged in the commission of a criminal act.

FINAL WORD

So, there you have it. During our times of disaster, we can all focus on recovery and not have to worry about the authorities coming along and confiscating our firearms. The Second Amendment survives disasters.

Surprising Hurricane Harvey Heroes

 

[Addendum: Due inquiries from Members, this story was updated on Sept. 7.]

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS CONFISCATING FIREARMS

On Tuesday, the island’s Governor ordered the National Guard to confiscate weapons and ammo that may be required for them to carry out their mission.  What that specifically means is unclear. Also, the U.S. Virgin Islands IS NOT governed by the U.S. Constitution, but instead by the “Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands,” a federal law approved by Congress in 1954. The island does not have its own constitution yet.

The NRA has threatened to file a lawsuit, and here is their take:

In 1997, the chairman of the House Committee on Resources asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to clarify just how the U.S. Constitutional applies to various “U.S. Insular Areas,” including the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its findings were inconclusive and unsettling, especially to those now living under Governor Mapp’s orders. Said the report:

Under the Insular Cases and subsequent decisions, rights other than fundamental rights, even though they may be stated in the Constitution, do not apply to the territories or possessions unless the Congress makes them applicable by legislation. The Congress can by law extend the coverage of the Constitution in part or in its entirety to a territory or possession, and has done so with respect to some territories. In the absence of such congressional action, however, only fundamental rights apply.

Digging further, one finds that only parts of the Fifth Amendment are considered to be “fundamental” based on court rulings, and none of the Sixth Amendment applies. And nothing is said in the 75-page report about the Second.

If the NRA does sue and their position is sustained by the courts that people living on the island are U.S. Citizens with full protection of the U.S. Constitution, the issue will be settled. If not, or no suit is filed, those living on the island will be subjected to having their weapons confiscated by the National Guard.