Category Archives: Tactics & Training

SKILLS: Tips for Wintertime Concealed Carry

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When you prepare for a cold weather outing, make sure your CCW needs have been addressed, and modified as needed. Here are a few ideas. Keep reading…

wintertime

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

As I write this, the first real cold front of the year is pushing its way through the country. It is also a time that we might reflect upon this business of dressing around your defensive handgun. The first thought might be that now, with the cold weather, everyone is wearing some sort of coat (perhaps even one of these tactical jackets), so it will be much easier for us to blend in with whatever covering garment we use for concealing our guns. However, even with winter carry, there are some issues that we need to consider.

When people are confronted with a violent criminal attack, the one thing that they can’t afford to waste is time. The criminal has already made the first move, and it is critical that we be able to respond in a timely fashion. Having to unzip or unbutton a coat is a loss of time that we might not be able to overcome. There are several ways to deal with this issue.

If we are alert, our first move when we see a potential threat might be to get that garment open so that we can respond if it turns out to be an actual threat. The assumption and the problem here is that we are alert enough to spot a possible criminal attack while there is still time to respond. What happens if a threat comes at us from behind and takes us completely by surprise?

Another solution might be to keep a small defensive handgun in one of the outer pockets of a coat. It might even be smart to have that handgun in a pocket on the support-hand side of our body. Of course, that means that we have to practice our pistol presentation with the support hand. When out in public, we might consider having the small handgun in an outer pocket on our support side and a larger handgun on our hip on the strong side. This gives defensive shooters some versatility in their choice of responses to the potential attack.

Another issue to consider with winter weather is the wearing of gloves. Will your gloved trigger finger fit into the trigger guard of your defensive handgun? Do you practice your pistol presentation while wearing gloves? These are things that should be checked out. Fortunately, modern technology has given us suitable gloves that are not bulky, and a change to gloves made of a thinner material might be all that is necessary to solve the problem.

Some might think to solve the problem by simply pulling the glove off before going for the handgun. The problem with this, of course, is the fact that it wastes time.

Your dry-practice sessions are the place to work out your pistol presentation while wearing your winter coat and gloves. Opening the coat and operating the pistol with gloves on can be worked out if you will simply take the time to practice it and work out the best moves.

The differences in weather around the country and an individual’s choice of cold weather gear make it impossible to form one set rule for winter carry. Smart defensive shooters will take a bit of time to evaluate what they wear and how to respond to a violent attack while wrapped up in warm clothing. It may well not be as much of a gun issue as it is a clothing issue. A different coat and a thinner pair of gloves may be all that is needed. But you won’t know until you experiment with what you carry.

In the winter time it is important to stay warm, but it is far more important to stay safe.

First-Time Handgun Buyers Guide: 6 Steps to Success

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There are a staggering number of choices available to the first-time buyer. Here’s a solid guide to help find the right gun for you!

first time gun buyer

SOURCE: NRA Family, by NRA Publications Staff

For several years, women have been the fastest-growing demographic of new gun owners, but many (and some men, too) don’t have a knowledgeable network of personal contacts that can help them acquire the information they need to choose their first gun. This is especially true when that first gun is a handgun for home defense or concealed carry. Fortunately, there’s a rational process they can follow to choose a handgun that fits their needs, familiarity level, and budget.

Step 1: Determining Your Needs
Why do you want a handgun? The answer to this question will determine many of your new gun’s characteristics. If concealed carry is your goal, you’ll want a gun that is short, small and light, while one for home defense may be larger and heavier. Understand that no one gun can do everything well. While there are a few double-duty handguns suitable for both home defense or concealed carry, it’s best for new owners to determine their handgun’s single most critical function and let that guide the selection.

Step 2: Choosing Between a Semi-Automatic or a Revolver
Two types of handguns are widely relied upon for self-defense: semi-automatics and revolvers.

By far the most prevalent are semi-automatics, also called self-loaders, which use the gas pressure generated when a cartridge is fired to cycle the gun’s loading mechanism. First, the slide moves rearward, which in turn, ejects the empty case and cocks the firing mechanism. When a spring returns the slide forward, it feeds a fresh cartridge into the gun’s chamber from a detachable magazine, which may hold anywhere from six to 20 rounds. There are various types of semi-automatics, but all share the same advantages over the revolver: more rapid reload-ability, greater cartridge capacity and, for citizens with carry permits, a thinner, more concealable profile. Compared to a revolver, however, the semi-autos may be a bit more complex to operate. The beginner will need more practice to gain and maintain proficiency. Also, the semi-automatic is potentially less reliable than the revolver, and shooters with limited hand strength may find slide retraction and magazine loading difficult. Finally, while the semi-auto functions best with ammunition of a certain power level, the revolver digests everything from light target loads to heavy defensive loads.

Modern revolvers have a cylinder that swings out to the side. The cylinder has five or six chambers into which cartridges are loaded, and the cylinder rotates with each shot to bring a fresh cartridge in line with the barrel. Firing is accomplished in either single-action mode (the hammer is manually cocked and then released by a short, light trigger pull) or double-action mode (a single long and relatively heavy trigger pull both cocks and releases the hammer). Defensive firing with a revolver is always performed in the double-action mode.

Step 3: Selecting the Proper Caliber
Next is the selection of the caliber of your defensive handgun — that is, the exact cartridge it is designed to fire. This choice is critical, as it determines both the level of recoil you’ll have to manage and the effectiveness of the handgun/cartridge combination in a defensive situation. Caliber choice also influences gun size; a 9mm Parabellum pistol, for example, can be made smaller and lighter than one for the physically larger .45 ACP.

In general, as bullet diameter, weight, and velocity go up, so do cartridge power, recoil, and effectiveness in a defensive situation. Thus, 9mm Para. is not as powerful as the .40 S&W, which in turn is bested slightly by the .45 ACP. Also, each cartridge is offered in a variety of loads featuring different bullet weights and types at different velocities. The beginning handgunner will usually shoot faster and more accurately with one of the lower-recoil cartridges suitable for self-defense — such as the .380 Auto or 9mm Para. in semi-automatics or .38 Special in revolvers — than with more powerful choices such as the .357 Magnum or .45 ACP. Remember, shot placement is more important than sheer cartridge power.

Cartridge choice is not made in a vacuum: A person unable to handle a 9mm Para. in a small gun may still be comfortable with a .40 S&W or .45 ACP in a heavier, large-frame pistol. Thus, an informed choice involves firing guns of different sizes, barrel lengths, and grip configurations in different calibers.

Step 4: Hands-On Shopping
Once you have established a preference for a particular gun type in a specific caliber, your best bet is to test-fire that model. Various makes and models of guns of the exact same type — say, medium-frame 9mm semi-automatics — will differ widely in how they operate, feel, handle and shoot. It’s important to experience all that firsthand.

However not all gun stores have the means for such test-firing, and if a would-be buyer doesn’t have personal contacts who can help, hands-on research may be a difficult proposition. But because it is important, we’d recommend making an effort, and there are a few ways to do so.

Whenever possible, identify nearby gun stores with in-house ranges. Frequently such shops have test or rental units of the most popular models, and in fact many indoor ranges rent guns to customers. Quite likely, those rentals will include examples of models that interest first-time buyers of carry or home-defense handguns.

Another option would be to sign up for an NRA Basic Pistol or Personal Protection Course. The instructor may be able to help arrange for a student to test-fire different models of the type of pistol being sought. Whether a gun has already been purchased or not, these courses are very beneficial and highly recommended for every new gun owner.

Of course it’s also possible that the gun-owning friend of a friend or family member would agree to let a newcomer shoot his or her gun. Most handgun owners understand perfectly why gun ownership is so important, and many will be glad to help mentor a new shooter.

Step 5: Test-Firing Potential Candidates
The first thing to consider during your test-fire session is safety. Applying lessons learned from personal contacts or from a basic pistol course, is the gun easy to operate safely? Are safety or decocking levers positioned within finger reach, and are they easy to manipulate? Integral safety locks, available on some guns, may be worth considering as they may foil inquisitive children, but they can be a hindrance if the gun is needed to meet an immediate threat.

Reliability is the most important characteristic of a self-defense arm. Test any gun under consideration with at least 50 rounds of defensive ammunition. Semi-autos should be scrutinized for their ability to feed, fire, and eject with a wide variety of loads. Also, the magazines should load securely, then drop freely when released.
Ergonomics and ease of use are also important in a defensive handgun, which may have to be handled and fired in a fast, natural manner. Does the gun fit the shooter’s hand comfortably and point naturally? Does his or her trigger finger engage the trigger properly, about halfway between the tip of the finger and the first joint? Are all the controls smooth to operate and can your fingers reach them easily? Is the gun easy to load and unload? Is the gun’s recoil controllable, enabling rapid shot-to-shot recovery?

Finally, if the gun is to be carried, does it conceal well in a pocket, purse, fanny pack, or holster? When you practice drawing it — unloaded, of course — does it catch on your clothing? Does its weight cause your clothes to bulge or droop?

Step 6: The Final Decision
When the decision boils down to multiple viable alternatives, make the final choice by considering other factors: finishes, options, reputation of the manufacturer, and the specific model. Price is another important factor; one can expect to pay from $350 to $750 or more for a new, high-quality handgun. But it’s false economy to let a concern for saving a few dollars heavily influence the choice of what will be a lifetime — and possibly life-saving — investment.
You should take advantage of all the information resources at your disposal, including gun store employees, NRA Certified Instructors, manufacturers’ catalogs and websites, videos, books, and periodicals. As is the case with every subject, the Internet is awash in info on defensive handguns, but much of it ranges from highly opinionated to ill-informed to virtually worthless. So be careful of what’s there.

Websites like NRA’s contain many handgun reviews and always strive to be fair and evenhanded.

Owning and learning to use a defensive handgun is a big responsibility, but it also can bring peace of mind, knowing that you now have the means to defend your life and your family.

SKILLS: Will You ‘Get Killed on the Streets?’ — Personal-Defense Myths Debunked

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Don’t believe everything you hear… Personal survival depends on planning and preparation, not opinion. Read more…

know it all

SOURCE: NRA Publications, by Tamara Keel

Here’s a thing that happens often enough that it’s become a meme, a trope, a truism. Walk into any gun store and listen to the conversation around the handgun counter (or, alternatively, belly up to your favorite online forum) and within a surprisingly short amount of time you will hear someone suggest something that gets belittled by the regulars. More importantly, it will be belittled in a rather specific way, like so:

“You want to do [RANDOM THING]? Don’t you know that [RANDOM THING] will get you killed on the streets?”

It’s to the point where “Killed on the streets” has become something of an inside joke. I’ve been trying to catalog these methods of self-induced demise, partly to debunk them, and partly in the hopes I can publish a phonebook-size compendium some day and profit handsomely. I’ll just go ahead and share some of these with y’all today, though, for free.

Carrying a revolver, for starters, will apparently get me killed on the street. This caught me off guard, because I’ve seen pictures of pre-1980s America, when revolvers were the predominant sidearm for law enforcement and private citizen alike. You’d think the streets in those pictures would be hip-deep in revolver carriers who had been killed in them, and yet they aren’t.

I mean, there’s a reason police have generally moved from revolvers, and yes, I think a quality semi-automatic pistol is capable of solving more defensive problems than a revolver, but that doesn’t magically render a revolver ineffective. There are reasons some prefer wheelguns, including simplicity and the fact that they depend on the trigger finger rather than the ammunition in order to function. For some, those factors outweigh the drawbacks, and some revolver enthusiasts shoot their guns remarkably well.

Similar to revolvers in their ability to apparently cause demise upon the public thoroughfares are reloads, or rather the lack thereof. I will say up front that, if carrying a semi-automatic pistol, then carrying a spare magazine is definitely Best Practice with a capital B and P.

This is not, however, in case the need should pop up for a 35-round exchange with ninjas in the middle of the Kwik-E-Mart parking lot. Instead, this is because the part most likely to go wrong with your pistol is the magazine. The number of ways it can go wrong are legion, and range from double-feed malfunctions to simply falling out of the gun. The quickest and surest way to fix this malfunction is to insert a fresh magazine and drive on.

However, modern pistols are exceedingly reliable devices and the belt and pocket space of the average American who can’t dress like a tactical hobo is finite. There are plenty of other things that you will use more often than a spare magazine, and if it comes down to choosing between a good flashlight or a tourniquet neatly folded onto a PHLster Flatpack TQ carrier and a spare magazine? Take the flashlight or the tourniquet. (And if you’re carrying two spare magazines and zero tourniquets? You’re wrong.) So, no, not carrying a spare magazine will probably not get you killed in the streets.

What about mechanical safeties on pistols? I hear that these will get me killed in the streets, too, because I won’t be able to deactivate them under stress. (In fact, I’m aware of one situation reported by a local detective where a citizen was victimized for exactly that reason.)

Thing is, not all safeties — nor all end users — are created equal. There are safeties which disengage vary nearly automatically with a final firing grip, and there are shooters who practice using those religiously in daily or near-daily dry-fire sessions. Then there are miserable little tabs that you practically need to manipulate with a thumbnail.

If you’re going to carry a pistol with a mechanical safety, make sure it’s one you can deactivate smoothly and automatically as part of the drawstroke, and not some fiddly thing that takes two hands and a jeweler’s screwdriver to manipulate. This should minimize the whole “killed on the streets” factor.

Another surefire killed-on-the-streets cause is carrying a caliber that the dispenser of wisdom feels is inadequate, which is usually any one “wimpier” than what they’re carrying. They’ve got a .44 Mag. and you have a .45 ACP? Killed in the streets. A .40 S&W versus your 9 mm? Likewise.

To hear some folk talk, carrying a certain caliber of handgun bestows bullet resistance to projectiles from lesser calibers. “Ha-ha! That goblin was carrying a .380 ACP, and I had my .44 Spl. …” I have bad news: Just because yours is bigger, dude, doesn’t mean the bad guy’s bullets are going to bounce off you like a spring shower off a freshly Rain-Xed windshield.

Conversely, just because you have a 9 mm or a .327 Fed. Mag. instead of some big-bore wondermagnum, it doesn’t mean that yours will bounce off him. Shot placement works, and there’s no magic chambering that will cause or prevent your getting killed in the streets.

The list goes on and on: Flashlights or lasers giving away your position? Killed in the streets. Retention devices on your holster? Killed in the streets. I could go on, but I only have so much space here. Plus, I need to save some for that big, thick book.

SKILLS: Resolve to Improve Your Self-Defense Skills

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Start the year off with a review of your skills, and take steps to hone them: if you don’t use it you might lose it… Read on!

new years resolutions

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

As a general rule, I’m not a big one for making New Year’s Resolutions. However, for various reasons, I’ve been studying my own personal defense plan and feel the need to focus on improving it and making it better. When we neglect our shooting skills, they degenerate quickly. The same can be said of our personal defense skills. If we are to deal with a deadly encounter, we must stay focused and in practice. So here are some thoughts — resolutions, if you will — about improving my own situation.

I am going to make time to practice more. In most cases, that means practicing the basics. The basics of defensive marksmanship are the foundation that everything else is built upon. A smooth draw stroke and quickly and accurately hitting what I am aiming at will go a long way towards ensuring my safety. There is simply no substitute for regular practice.

Right in line with that, I need to practice what I preach and do a lot more Dry Practice. These winter days, when it may not be comfortable to get outside, are perfect for a few minutes of daily Dry Practice.

I also am going to book at least one defensive shooting school during this year. Good instructors always seem to be able to spot the little things that I am doing wrong and can’t seem to see for myself. Going to a defensive shooting school is just like getting the Jeep tuned up — things just run a lot better and a lot smoother.

I also need to improve my awareness of what is going on around me. The further away we see a potential problem, the more options we have for dealing with it. No one is at their height of awareness all the time but, if we really work at it, we can increase that awareness. A heightened awareness means that I may not get hurt and also means that I may not have to hurt another, and that’s a good thing.

Another important resolution is to seek out ways to help all of the folks who are just getting into defensive shooting. They feel the need to improve on their personal protection but often don’t know exactly how to go about it. They need a kind word, a friendly smile, and a helping hand. I can do that and you can, too.

In line with that, I need to find more and better ways to preach the important message of gun safety. Improving gun safety and reducing negligent discharges — along with resultant injuries — is a critical task that we all should be involved in. “How can I do it better?” is a question that I am going to spend a lot of time pondering.

While not a direct personal defense resolution, I am going to spend more time with the two fine .22 Smith & Wesson revolvers that I have but rarely shoot. Most of us got into the shooting sports because it was fun. Sometimes we forget that simple fact. A day spent plinking charcoal briquettes and other safe targets is good for my soul. It would be a good idea to invite some young shooters along, too.

3 Ways To Talk To Parents Who Fear Guns

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Education, not confrontation, is the best way to handle a communication problem, and that’s what irrational fears and misunderstandings about firearms in a family setting revolve around. Read a few ideas on how to resolve it. MORE

nervous parents

SOURCE: NRA Family, by Brad Fitzpatrick

When I brought my newborn daughter home from the hospital, my wife and I received a lot of advice, both solicited and unsolicited, on topics ranging from sleep cycles to feeding to treating diaper rash and colic. Most of the advice was thoughtful, and it helped me wade through those first few exhausting weeks of fatherhood. But one particular directive struck me: A woman that came by the house to give my daughter’s cheeks a squeeze, stuck a bent finger in my face, and said, “You need to do something about all those guns. Keep them locked up, at least.”

Admittedly, I know precious little about diaper rash or colic, but I know guns. And I could read between the lines when she said keep them locked up, at least. Translation: You really should get rid of your guns because you have a kid.

I grew up in a house with guns. Maybe you did too. If guns were innately dangerous we wouldn’t have made it this far in life. But there are those that feel that all guns are dangerous, in large part because the only exposure they have to firearms comes via news outlets that paint all guns and gun owners with a broad, bloody brush. There will come a day when my daughter will climb onto the school bus for the first time and step out into the big world. And I know too that she will make friends with kids whose parents don’t want their child hanging out with that gun writer. So, how do we handle those parents? How do we help them to understand that just because I own guns does not make me irresponsible? Here are a few key points that you need to keep in mind when talking to parents who don’t want their child playing in a house with guns.

1. Find Common Ground:
The parent who refuses to allow their child to come to a house with firearms doesn’t want their child to be hurt or killed. Guess what? I am a parent, I have guns, and I don’t want to see my child or anyone else’s hurt or killed, either. Guns are like automobiles, votes, or gasoline and matches in that their use — good or bad — depends on the merit of the individual who controls them. Frankly, there are people with whom my daughter doesn’t ride in a car, not because cars are inherently bad, but because I don’t trust the driver.

2. Educate:
The first key to dealing with a parent who is anti-gun is not to engage in a war of words but rather to explain to them that the myths perpetuated by anti-gun outlets are not true. Tell them that, as a gun owner and a parent, you are acutely aware of the fact that irresponsible gun handling can lead to injury, but help them understand that groups like the NSSF and NRA are working to help educate people about safe gun handling. There’s a widespread notion among anti-gun forces that groups like the NRA are somehow against gun safety, which could not be further from the truth. Tell these parents that gun groups are at the forefront of gun safety, leading the charge toward better security for firearms and gun education for all. Ask them if they’ve ever shot a gun and invite them to the range, or invite them to review NRA safety programs designed for kids, like Eddie Eagle.

3. Shoulder the Responsibility:
I don’t know your kid. I don’t know if they’ve had any exposure to guns save the endless theatrical violence they witness in television and movies, but I’m certainly not going to allow my guns to reach your child’s hands. The responsibility of safe gun handling lies on the shoulders of gun owners, and we need to accept that responsibility. That’s a powerful message to advocates of strict gun control; I don’t believe that this responsibility lies with the government but rather with the individual, and to preserve that right I intend to take care to see that my guns are safe and secure. Parents ultimately have the right to allow their child to go or not go into anyone’s home. But it needs to be understood that if you don’t allow your child to come to my home for fear that there are guns then that is an attitude of ignorance, and it perpetuates the belief that all guns — and all gun owners — are bad.

gun with lock

EDITORS NOTE: I have been through this raising my sons. I got them involved in 4H Shooting Sports as soon as I could, and even had a couple of “converts” come join us after accepting an invitation to attend an event. I was a stay-at-home dad and came into contact with many concerned parents. My general response to “Aren’t you afraid of your kids being around guns?” Was: “No. I’m afraid of your kids being around guns…” Point clearly made. It’s all about education and experience.

3 Great Drills for a Home-Defense Shotgun

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As effective as one might be, just owning a shotgun doesn’t mean you’ll be prepared to use it! Here are 3 great practice drills to make sure you are! Keep reading!

shotgun drills

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Jeff Johnston

Thinking you’ll come out on the winning end of a home invasion just because you keep a shotgun by your bed is wishful at best. When the adrenaline surges, you’ll revert back to your training, and if you haven’t had much training, you can easily revert back to the way it was before you were born. Point is, you should practice shooting, reloading, and moving with your shotgun, all while under pressure, until those skills become routine. Here are three drills to help you survive an attack.

You’ll need your home-defense shotgun, a couple boxes of shells (birdshot will suffice, but it’s always best to practice with the loads you intend to actually use, if possible), a large cardboard box or other portable barrier, and a shot timer. (If you don’t have a dedicated shot timer, there are a number of apps that will work, such as the IPSC Shot Timer app, on your smartphone.)

Note: While all of the following drills are intended for those who are already proficient at mounting and shooting a shotgun, drill Number 1, “The Pointing Drill,” is intended for those who intend to become masters of the shotgun. If you have no illusions of practicing until you master this arm, then skip to drill Number 2. That’s because pointing the shotgun rather than aiming can be detrimental, and result in a miss, if it’s not practiced until it becomes second nature.

1. Standing 5 yards from a silhouette target, load one round in the shotgun’s chamber. From a high-ready position, and while keeping both eyes open, look at where you intend to hit the target — center mass. Start the shot timer. On its beep, and at about half-speed, smoothly push the shotgun’s barrel out and level it so that the gun’s stock comb comes up to your cheek. Do not lower your head and cheek to the gun, or shoulder it like a rifle. Without consciously looking at the shotgun’s bead sight, but rather the target, pull the trigger as soon as your cheek and shoulder make contact with the stock, your mount is solid and the shotgun’s bead intersects your line of sight to the target. When the trigger is pulled, keep the gun up, but look around to assess the situation. Check the target to make sure your pattern was center mass. (If not, it means you were either going too fast and pulled the trigger before your head was down on the stock, or the shotgun is not printing where you look. If the latter, seek advice on proper shotgun fit and consider adjusting its stock.)

Finally, check the timer, then make ready to repeat the drill. Try to beat your previous time. If you begin missing, slow down. After hundreds of rounds over multiple training sessions, your mind and hands will learn to point the shotgun exactly where the eyes look, and you’ll become very fast and accurate, all the while increasing your situational awareness. Once point-shooting is mastered, shooting a shotgun becomes easy, and you can always revert back to aiming when necessary.

2. Shooting a shotgun while moving is one of the toughest things to do, because most of us seldom do it, and because shotguns really kick hard. But moving, sometimes as much so as shooting, is often a key to surviving a gunfight. For this drill, set up a barrier (a refrigerator box works great) 10 yards from a target. Starting 10 feet behind the barrier, start the timer. On the beep, shoot the target as you walk forward to the edge of cover behind the box. (Remember not to get so close to the barrier that your barrel sticks past it.)

When you reach cover, shoot twice more without pausing. Then, from a high-ready crouch, walk backward from where you came, keeping cover between you and the target, while reloading your magazine with your weak hand. (Remember to pick your feet up and not slide them to minimize your chance of tripping.)

Check the timer. Repeat the drill, and try to get faster each time. Eventually, you’ll be able to shoot on the run and reload on the retreat.

3. There are many techniques to reloading a shotgun, but all of them take quite a bit of practice to master. For the “move and groove drill,” load spare shells in a bandolier, sidesaddle, or the back pocket of your weak side if that’s all you have. Then ask a friend to load your gun’s magazine with any number of shells without you knowing. Keep the chamber unloaded. When you get the gun back, rack the slide to chamber a round. (If you don’t have an assistant, load the gun yourself.) Facing two targets 7 yards away, shoot one and then the other center mass, back and forth, until the gun goes dry.

When you realize the gun is empty, take a step toward cover while lowering the gun to low ready with your strong hand and reaching for a shell with the other. Load a single shell in the open port by going over or under the receiver with your support hand — whatever you prefer — so long as you quickly shove a shell in and rack the action forward as you step from cover to shoot the next target. (If your shotgun is semi-automatic, practice punching the bolt-release button with the support hand while on its way to the fore-end.)

After the next shot, repeat the single shell-reloading process as fast as possible. Then repeat the drill. Notice your split times on the timer and try to make them faster with each repetition. There are a lot of things going on here, so start out deliberately slow, and build speed with practice.

When you master shooting, moving, and reloading your bedside shotgun, surviving a home invasion will become more than just a pipe dream. In addition to providing confidence in your chosen defensive firearm, it will also become somewhat of a nightmare for any attacker who dares to breach your domain.

SKILLS: Using a Single-Action Revolver for Self-Defense

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Really? Yes really! Sheriff Jim examines some facts, not myths, about defensive handgun use surrounding one of the best-known (and effective) handgun designs. You’ve got to read this!

SAA

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Far from being antiques, modern single-action revolvers are extremely popular among today’s handgunners. In this day of higher-capacity semi-autos and double-action revolvers, it’s difficult for some to consider the single-action as a viable choice for personal defense. But, single-action revolvers were originally designed as fighting guns and they did an excellent job of taking care of defensive chores for many, many years.

Today, the modern semi-automatic pistol and double-action sixgun have the old single-action beat in capacity and speed of reloading. But, center hits stop dangerous attacks, not the amount of ammo your gun carries or how fast you can recharge it. Let’s look at some who favor the single-action and examine some of the techniques that make the single-action a viable choice.

A large number of hunters and outdoorsmen choose a single-action because it is tough, sturdy, and can be relied upon when you are on the backside of the Rockies and miles away from the closest gunsmith. In addition, many find the single-action sixgun the most comfortable handgun to shoot when fed a steady diet of heavy .44 Spl., .45 Colt, .41 Mag., .44 Mag., or .454 Casull loads. The Colt-style single-action grip frame tends to roll in the hand and absorb a good deal of the recoil these big-bore loads produce. This reduction in felt recoil minimizes the tendency to flinch, and heavy handgun loads are mighty important when dealing with an angry bear.

Outdoorsmen and trail riders are often concerned about a predatory animal attack while enjoying a day in the woods. Today, however, they are almost as likely to encounter some two-legged predators. When properly managed, the single-action revolver is perfectly capable of dealing with either kind of threat.

Another group to become huge champions of the single-action revolver is cowboy action shooters. I was recently told 300,000 shooters participate in some form of the sport. Many of these folks fire hundreds of rounds a week through their single-actions. Naturally, a person is going to do his best work with the handgun he shoots the most. It makes sense to consider the same single-action as a personal-defense gun.

A few years ago, a group of us gathered at Gunsite Aacademy for a defensive single-action class sponsored by Ruger, XS Sights, and SureFire. We examined shooting techniques designed to make the best use of single-action revolvers.

Some years ago, the fast-draw craze gave single-action revolvers a bit of a bad name. This came about due to the tendency of the fast-draw boys to cock their handgun as it was drawn from the holster. If you were a bit faster on the trigger than you were on the draw, the gun could easily go off before it cleared the holster, which tends to send a heavy lead slug down in the vicinity of your feet.

Well, a better and safer method can be found.

The first step is to take a shooting grip on the holstered sixgun, with your trigger finger straight and outside of the trigger guard. The second step is to draw the gun straight up and out of the holster. The third step is to rotate the handgun until the barrel is pointed toward the threat.

At this point, the support hand (which has been flat against your body) comes out to meet the gun and a two-hand hold is secured. Make sure your support hand is never in front of the muzzle. Shooting your support hand will certainly ruin your day and nearly always spoil your aim.

With the muzzle pointed downrange (or at the threat) and a two-hand hold secured, the support thumb is used to cock the handgun. Throughout the draw stroke, the trigger finger is still straight, out of the trigger guard and along the gun’s frame. It is only as the gun is thrust forward and the sights go onto the target that the trigger finger goes to the trigger. Throughout the shooting sequence, the strong hand maintains a secure grip on the sixgun and the support thumb is used to cock the hammer.

Finally, the defensive single action shares two traits with the defensive shotgun: It just doesn’t hold very many cartridges and both are slow to reload.

The single-action revolver should be reloaded when there is a lull in the fight. Learn to flip open the loading gate, punch out the empties and top the gun off as quickly as possible.

If a single-action revolver is the handgun you shoot the most, you owe it to yourself to be as proficient with it as you possibly can. And, as with any defensive practice, it is important to work for smoothness, not speed. Speed results from smoothness.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Folks I just had to step in on this one… It struck a chord and rang a bell I hadn’t thought about much for years. Most know me as a competitive rifle shooter. That’s where my “credentials” are and also where I’ve focused my editorial attention over my career as a writer, well, that and handloading for those rifles. But! I’ve had a long life of guns, all kinds of guns, and all kinds of shooting. At one much (much) earlier time in my life I was obsessed with Single-Action-Army Colt’s-brand handguns. SAA’s. Based on my best recollection and a calculator, I’ve fired well in excess of 50,000 rounds through a few of those. I had a beloved mentor in my youth who shot competitively with rifles and helped me along there immeasurably, and also put on his own brand of “Wild West” shows for rodeos and what-not. And I learned all about that (I never quite got the rope tricks down…) Yep. One of those “fast-draw” guys that Sheriff Jim just suggested we not emulate. I strongly agree. However! What I learned about SAAs, what I know about SAAs, is that (after putting in the time, and it’s some time) to develop handling skills unique to these guns, they are daggone fast to the first hit. Reasons abound, but simplicity, balance, and “pointability” lead. Would I recommend anyone go out and purchase a Peacemaker for defensive use? NO! Would I carry one? YES! I can also tell you that a hit with one counts a little (or a lot) extra than anything rimless… Underneath all this, this blizzard of words being written in every publication about defensive handguns and their use, the topic of this article called back the basics: the winner of an armed encounter is almost always the one who hits first hardest.
— Glen Zediker

4 (More!) Weird Questions People Ask Women Who Carry Guns

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If you enjoyed Tamara’s last article, you’ll love this one! Get ready for a chuckle! (But one with an important message.) Read on…

stupid questions

It’s just after Thanksgiving as I type this, and as the turkey dinner’s tryptophan haze wears off, one of the things I’m thankful for is all the friends I’ve made working in and around the gun industry. The reason I’m thankful for them is they don’t ask all kinds of weird questions about the hows and whys of me carrying a gun.

When I get away from my circle of gunnie friends, though, oh how do I get those questions, and they really put my ability to bite down on snarky answers to the test. Reading an earlier column put me right into story-time mode, because let me tell you, I have fielded some of those same kinds of questions myself. Let me share some with y’all…

Weird Question #1:
“Wow, do you carry your gun to the grocery store?
Snarky response I want to use: “Only on days I’m planning to be robbed in the produce aisle.”

Actually, you can substitute “mall” or “doctor’s office” or “church” or pretty much any other commonly visited location for “grocery store.” It never fails to amaze me that people think that I would only carry a gun to places where I “expect trouble.” If I expect trouble someplace, I generally solve that problem by not going there at all.

Part of carrying a gun, at least for me, is carrying it every day, and everywhere I legally can. It’s not like I drive my car with the seat belt off on Central Avenue because they don’t have many wrecks there, but plan to put it on when I turn on to 54th Street, because jeez have you seen those wreck statistics?

Weird Question #2:
“So, you carry a gun because you think you’re a vigilante? Like Batman?”
Snarky response I want to use: “Yup. You want to see my vigilante badge? I got it in a box of Frosted Flakes.”

First off, let’s address the Batman angle: If Martha Wayne had a CCW permit and a gun, there wouldn’t be a Batman and Heath Ledger never would have won a posthumous Oscar.

Secondly, no, I don’t think carrying a gun makes me any kind of freelance junior cop. I carry a gun for the immediate protection of me and mine. I don’t carry it to go looking for trouble, but rather just in case trouble finds me despite my best attempts to avoid it.

Weird Question #3:
“But…what do you do with it when you have to go to the bathroom?”
Snarky response I want to use: “Oh, I just hand it to someone trustworthy-looking standing by the sinks and ask them if they’ll hold on to it until I’m done.”

A friend recently quipped in an online discussion group that CCW training courses should be a seven-hour block of instruction on legalities and safety and a one-hour block on what to do with your gun in the bathroom. (Note: That thing on the back of the stall door is NOT a triggerguard hook!)

While some styles of carry, such as belly-bands or purse carry, avoid this problem, if you carry a gun in a belt holster, the question of what to do with it in the bathroom will arise. And the answer should be “Nothing.” If you are wearing a quality holster, the gun is not going to fall out even if the holster should inadvertently flop upside down, and the possibilities of the latter even happening are reduced by wearing a belt that is intended to support the weight of a holstered pistol in the first place.

Weird Question #4:
“Is it…loaded?”
Snarky response I want to give: A long hard stare, followed with, “Well bless your heart.”

While I’ve no doubt an unloaded gun has been used to successfully bluff a bad guy before, that’s a thin thread on which to bet one’s life. Of course my CCW pistol is loaded, else it wouldn’t be very useful!

Further, the mere act of pointing a handgun at someone in my state, absent the reasonable fear of an immediate threat to life and limb, is a crime, so it’s not something done lightly. If the gun is coming out, it’s coming out under circumstances that justify its use, and that’s no time to have to say “Oh, hang on, let me load this thing.”

I could go on and on in this vein, but I see the bottom of the page getting closer. How about you? What weird questions do you get? Share them in the comments!

SKILLS: Did the Single-Stack Nine Kill the Carry Revolver?

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As goes the duty gun so goes the concealed gun… Are small revolvers a dying breed? Read more…

single-stack 9 vs. snubnose revolver

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated

Once upon a time, police officers who patrolled our streets carried revolvers on their hips. Guns like the Colt Police Positive and the Smith & Wesson Model 19 were their primary defensive firearm, and they toted .38 Spl. snub-nosed carry revolvers like the Detective Special and J-Frames for backup guns and when they were off duty.

They carried those small revolvers because they were easy to conceal and had a manual of arms that was more or less the same as the guns they carried for a living. The snub-nosed carry revolver also had the advantage of using essentially the same type of ammunition as their service revolvers, so the transition from full-sized service revolver to compact concealed-carry gun meant dealing with more recoil and less accuracy from the smaller gun, but that was about it.

Today, though, police officers are far more likely to carry a Glock or a SIG Sauer or a Smith & Wesson M&P semiautomatic pistol for a duty gun than they are a .38 Spl. or .357 Mag. revolver, and guns like the Smith & Wesson Shield, Ruger LC9s, and the Glock G43 are reflecting that new reality. Smaller, lighter and easier to conceal than their full-sized cousins, small single-stack 9mms are becoming a popular option for people who want to carry a pistol with them, but find that carrying a larger gun like a Glock G19 or SIG P320 is just too much to deal with on a day in, day out basis. I myself prefer carrying a larger pistol whenever I can, but there are times when the occasion demands more discretion than firepower, and that’s where the thinness and light weight of a single-stack 9mm really comes through.

A miniature 9mm also offers you the advantages of the same manual of arms your larger gun. If you’re used to a striker-fired gun, the operation of the Ruger LC9s or Glock G43 will seem like second nature to you, just like the operation of snub-nosed revolvers mimic the operation of their larger cousins. My fingers goes naturally to the magazine release on my 9 mm Smith & Wesson Shield because that’s where it is on the large semi-automatic pistols that I occasionally carry, and the methods I use to clear malfunctions are pretty much the same between those guns as well.

The reasons to carry a subcompact, single-stack 9mm over a larger pistol are also essentially the same as reasons to carry a small revolver instead of full-sized gun. With the right holster and appropriate cover garment, it’s fairly easy to discretely carry a full-size 9mm on a daily basis without tipping people off that you’re carrying a pistol with you. However, it’s even easier to conceal a smaller gun, and a smaller gun also opens other options, like pocket carry, that are even more discreet.

When it comes to defensive applications, the subcompact single-stack 9mm has several advantages over snub-nosed revolvers. The thinner, slimmer design of the semi-automatic means it can slide into locations for concealed carry that aren’t available to thicker, bulkier revolvers, although, counter-intuitively, I’ve found that unless you pay attention to holster choice, a small .38 Spl. revolver forms an indistinct lump in a front pocket that’s easily mistaken for a wallet and keys, while the flatter, more angular form of a mini 9 mm sticks out and says “gun” more readily.

Another advantage of a mini-9mm over small revolver is ammunition capacity. Subcompact single stacks typically have at least six rounds of ammunition in the magazine and one more in the chamber, and extended magazines that pack in eight rounds or more are common. By comparison, six rounds is the maximum amount of ammo in most pocket revolvers, with five rounds being the more common option available.

Firing a full-power cartridge from a pint-sized frame, sub-compact 9 mm pistols can be a handful to shoot, just like their smaller, lighter weight revolver cousins, and there are many factors working against shooting a small 9mm quickly and accurately. The short sight radius of a pocket gun can affect accuracy and their smaller size means there is less of the gun to hold on to as it recoils. Also, the lighter weight of a subcompact gun means there is less gun mass to soak up recoil, slowing down follow-up shots, and less mass to resist a bad trigger pull, which can dramatically influence accuracy.

Whether or not a subcompact single-stack 9mm is a good choice over a small revolver is up to you and your set of circumstances. For myself and many other gun owners in America, though, those trade-offs in accuracy and firepower are worth having a small, easily-concealable defensive pistol with features and functionality that mimic the larger, full-size defensive pistols we use in competition and in our jobs.

HUNTING: The 26-Yard Hunting Zero

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Unsure of the correct zero range for different shots out in the field? Here’s an idea to help end the confusion! Read all about it…

riflescope

SOURCE: NRA American Hunter, by Jeff Johnston

Much has been written on the ideal distance to zero a hunting rifle. There is no best sight-in range for everyone, because the range at which hunters expect to shoot their quarry differs considerably. For example, if you hunt exclusively from a ridge top that overlooks a food source that is 150 yards away, you should zero for that distance. But if you hunt various terrain that offers both short- and long-range shots, here’s a technique that’ll allow you to hold the crosshairs on the vitals of deer-sized game or larger and keep your bullet inside the vital zone out to 280 yards, give or take a few yards depending on your caliber. It’s called point-blank range, and to maximize it you should alter your sight-in range for a particular load, rather than letting your traditional sight-in distance dictate your rifle’s zero.

“Point-blank” range defined is the range of distances at which you can hold your rifle on the center of a bullseye and never fall in or out of your target’s kill zone. The point-blank range for a deer, for example, is generally regarded as six inches. In other words, if you hold dead center on the vitals, your bullet can be 3 inches high or 3 inches low before it misses the vital zone. An elk’s vital zone is larger of course — we’ll say 8 inches. But I like to stay with the 6-inch rule of thumb because is allows for some shooter error, an occurrence that you’d be naive to assume doesn’t happen while in field positions shooting at wild game.

So many hunters zero their rifles at 100 yards that it’s almost become standard practice. But the following examples will illustrate why that’s not a great zero for a rifleman who wishes to be able to take shots quickly, without calculating, from point-blank to nearly 300 yards.

As an example, let’s use a common hunting round, a .270 Win., loaded by Remington with a 130-grain Premier Accutip boattail bullet that has a .447 Ballistic Coefficient (BC). It’s got a muzzle velocity of 3,060 fps. Ballistically, it falls in line with a whole class of moderately fast calibers. The scope (line of sight) is mounted 1.5 inches over the center of the bore. Zeroed at 100 yards, the bullet will impact 0.76 inches low at 25 yards (this is just fine for hunters), and will be 2.98 inches low at 203 yards. But after 203 yards it falls below the 6-inch vital zone. (That’s missing the 6-inch circle, 3 inches below the center, or point of aim.) At 250 yards, it will impact 6 inches below the point of aim, (3 inches out of the vital zone.) So, with a 100-yard zero, a hunter can simply aim at a buck and expect to hit it in the vitals anywhere from 0 to 203 yards.

Other riflemen who routinely hunt areas where shots of 300 yards or more are common sometimes opt for a 200-yard zero. This places that same .270 bullet 0.4 inches low at 25 yards, 1.41 inches high at 100 yards, 2.51 inches low at 250 yards and finally slips below the 6-inch vital zone at 257 yards. So with a 200 yard zero, a hunter can hold dead on from 0 to 257 yards and kill the animal, assuming he does his part and fires an error-free shot. As you can see, the 200-yard zero is very effective, and if your target range will accommodate it, great. But many hunters don’t have the luxury of zeroing at 200 yards. No worry, there’s a better zero anyway…

Using ballistic software downloaded from Remington.com, I manipulated the zero range input data until it was optimized for the greatest point-blank range. I found that by zeroing my rifle in at 26 yards, the .270 will deliver its bullet 2.81 inches high at 100 yards, 2.80 inches high at 200 yards and 2.12 inches high at 250 yards before finally falling out of the 6-inch vital zone at 310 yards. This means that with a 26 yard zero, I can hold dead-center of a deer’s vitals and kill it cleanly from 0 to 310 yards without adjusting my hold.

Of course, this is an on-paper estimate, and until you actually shoot your rifle at those distances, you can’t be sure, but I’ve found it to be pretty close. For most rifles, a 25- to 28-yard zero (depending on the caliber’s velocity and bullet’s BC) will maximize its point blank range. My technique for shooting is to zero at 26 yards (if using the .270 noted above), then shade slightly low (an inch or two) when shooting at 100 yards, and hold slightly high at 300. This increases my margin of shooting error, while allowing me to not have to calculate or hold off the animal at 300 yards. I simply see the animal, range it and shoot — out to 310 yards. Any further than that, I can either use my scope ballistic reticle, or know my caliber’s ballistic data and hold over appropriately.

If you choose to employ this 26-yard technique, beware that when zeroing at close range, you must strive for perfection. Place a dime-sized spot on the target and do not deem your rifle “good” until the bullet actually punches that dime on a consistent basis. If you are an inch high or low, or to the left or right, you will be way off at longer range, and it defeats the whole purpose of zeroing in at such a specific range. If you can’t hit the dime at 26 yards, it indicates that your rifle (and/or you) probably isn’t accurate enough to be shooting at long range anyway, because if your rifle is grouping 1-inch at 25 yards, for example, it will likely be 4 inches off at 100 yards and off the paper at 300. But with the technique mentioned above, you can simply aim for an animal’s vitals out to 300 yards and concentrate on a smooth trigger pull.

The Data

100 YARD ZERO
.270 Win. at 100 Yards:
This graph illustrates that with a 100-yard zero, your bullet is on at 100 yards, then starts falling rapidly, and is 3 inches below the point-of-hold at approximately 200 yards.
26 YARD ZERO
.270 Win. at 26 Yards:
The graph shows that your .270 Win. bullet, when zeroed at 26 yards, angles above the line-of-sight 2.81 inches at 200 yards, crosses the line of sight (zero) again at approximately 275 yards, before falling beyond 3 inches low at 310 yards. Therefore, with a 26-yard zero, you can hold on the target and expect to hit a 6-inch vital zone from 0 to 310 yards.

 

 

SOFTWARE