Tag Archives: JEFF JOHNSTON

3 Great Drills for a Home-Defense Shotgun

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutube

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.

HUNTING: The 26-Yard Hunting Zero

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutube

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 

SKILLS: Top 6 Public Range No-Nos

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutube

There’s a lot for a new shooter to learn, and a lot of it is learned at the shooting range. But learn first  about the range!

by Jeff Johnston, NRA Family

So you’re heading to the range for the first (or maybe the second, or third) time. Here’s what NOT to do, both from a safety and a common courtesy perspective.

DON’T…
…Bring a shotgun and shoot it with anything except slugs. In most public range settings, lanes are set mere feet apart from each other. While a shotgun loaded with any pellet-type load might hit only your target at 10 yards, at 50 yards the spread of its pattern will turn your neighbor’s pristine new target into Swiss cheese. For this reason most ranges don’t allow shotguns on the range for anything except slugs. You should know this beforehand, so you don’t buy everyone new targets later.

DON’T…
…Place your finger on the trigger before your sights are on the target. This is the quickest way to tell everyone in the range, “Hey, everyone! Look at me! I don’t have the foggiest clue what I’m doing! Ha! Ha!” You may notice people begin to look at you like you’re wearing a Bin Laden costume as they back away slowly. Why? If you don’t know the second NRA rule of gun safety, you are obviously not safe. So keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. Perhaps you can’t hit a bullseye to save your life, but at least everyone around you knows you’re  trying to be safe.

This one is for indoor ranges that max out at 50 yards:
DON’T…
…Bring your .338 Lapua Mag. (or .300 Win. Mag. or any other high-power rifle that’s equipped with a muzzle brake) to “sight it in.” To zero your rifle for hunting you should shoot it at 100-200 yards anyway, so why kill people’s ear drums at the range by getting in on paper there? A muzzle brake sends sound waves and hot gases backwards, and many times the long, 26-inch barrels of magnum hunting rifles extend past the side barriers, sending those unfiltered sound waves and gases directly back at your neighbors. Think the opposite of the Nike commercial and just don’t do it.

DON’T…
…Place your target above or below eye level. Some ranges clearly post rules against this, while others do not. Regardless, consider what your bullet does after hitting the target: It continues on its merry way at its given angle, and if that angle is steep, it will stop in the floor or the ceiling, not the backstop as it should. Wood and debris from the floor or ceiling will fly, and the range officers will begin eyeballing you like buzzards above a bloody road kill. So place your targets at eye level so your bullet goes into the backstop where it should.

DON’T…
…Give unsolicited advice to complete strangers. Sure, it’s OK to politely point out or correct a major safety violation if someone is clearly being unsafe (if the range officers are non-existent), but if the good-looking girl on lane 14 would’ve wanted your advice, she’d have given you some type of signal. That’s right, like a “Hey, you” from across the range complete with “come ‘ere” wave and a tractor-beam eye hook. But 100 times out of 100 she just wanted to shoot her new Springfield a few times without being hit on as if it was closing time at Hooters. And see that cool dude with her? One of the reasons she’s with him is because he’s not always telling her what she’s doing wrong. So go back to your lane, make happy face targets with your .357, then go home and make yourself a few bachelor burritos.

DON’T…
…Let some Magnum PI-looking yahoo on lane No. 13 tell you how to shoot your own gun. I’ve seen it all too often. The minute you try to be polite by saying, “OK, thanks for the advice,” Magnum thinks he’s Steve Spurrier with a renewed license to coach. So instead, just say, “If I wanted instruction, I would’ve hired a professional,” and turn away. I hate to sound crass, but the shooting range isn’t the place to put up with this kind of nonsense. Of course, if he or she is offering good advice in a non-creepy way, and is in fact Tom Selleck, feel free to listen.

What are your public range pet peeves? Tell us in the comments! 

 

 

EVALUATION: Which is Better For CCW, 9mm or .380?

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestyoutube

For the ultimate in concealment and also comfort, a small-framed handgun is great, but consider caliber selection carefully. Here are a few thoughts on a common debate…

Jeff Johnston, NRA Family

9mm vs .380

So, you want a gun for concealed carry, but you can’t decide between the venerable 9mm and the handy .380 Auto. While I’m not going to solve the debate for everyone, I will provide you with some facts and insights to make your choice easier. Before we get started, however, there are some points you should know:

Water capacity is the standard measurement for case capacity comparison, because powder volumes vary.

Due to the laws of physics, any given cartridge will produce less perceived recoil if fired from a heavier gun, while a lighter gun will result in more.

Less recoil, in general, means more accurate shooting and faster followup shots. Gun writers call this “shootability,” although it’s definitely a very subjective term.

9mm Luger
The 9mm Luger (aka 9mmX19, 9mm Parabellum) is likely America’s most popular handgun cartridge because it offers a balance of power, shootability, reliability and concealability. Because of these traits, the cartridge has become so popular that it has gained another advantage: options. If you choose 9mm, you are immediately granted myriad options in loads, handgun models and accessories for your new gun.

A 9mmx19 cartridge features a bullet that is 9mm, or .355 inches in diameter. Bullet weights range from 80 to 147 grains with 115- and 124-grain bullets being the most popular. Its case is .380 inches in diameter, 19mm long and can hold a maximum of 10 grains of water. A typical 9mm Luger load contains about 6 grains of powder used to propel a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 feet per second (fps) out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. energy while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a pistol weighing 1 pound.

Walther CCP
9mms are available that are just about as small in size as .380s, like this Walther CCP, but keep in mind that the smaller and lighter the gun, the harder it’s going to kick.

.380 ACP
Firearms chambered in .380 Automatic Colt Pistol (aka, .380 Auto, 9mmx17, .380 Browning Court, 9mm Short, .380 Corto) are continuing to grow in popularity. That’s because the cartridge, with its very short case, can be made to function safely and efficiently in extremely small-framed guns. Because the pressures produced by the little cartridge aren’t excessive, the guns don’t require pounds of steel reinforcement, like, for instance a .44 Magnum. Yet the cartridge is more powerful than other small-framed guns such as .22 LR, .25 ACP and .32 S&W. Yet even in a lightweight gun such as the 10-ounce Ruger LCP, recoil is mild thanks to the .380’s modest ballistic data. Consider the following specifications:

The .380 Auto features the same diameter bullet as the 9mm and the same diameter case, yet it is shorter at 17mm in case length. It can hold a maximum of 5.3 grains of water. A typical load carries roughly 3 grains of powder that propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm.

So, when compared to the 9mm Luger, the .380 is smaller, lighter in recoil but not as powerful when it strikes a target. Now let’s take a look at the numbers in more detail.

WALTHER PPK
The venerable Walther PPK is a well-proven and very concealable .380 that still maintains great shootability.

Head to Head
While 255 ft.-lbs. of bullet energy from the muzzle of a 9mm Luger is not a lot in the firearm world — consider that an average .30-06 deer rifle produces around 2,500 ft.-lbs. energy — a 9mm’s energy is far greater than a .22lr’s piddly 105 ft.-lbs. and many other smaller calibers. It has about 68 percent more energy than the .380 Auto. The question then: Is this extra power worth the 9mm’s extra weight and recoil?

If all things are equal, more velocity means greater penetration. A 9mm Luger typically out-penetrates .380 Auto bullets, but not as much as you might think. That may be due to the fact that the 9mm’s extra energy causes its bullets to expand to a slightly greater diameter, and expansion retards penetration due to greater surface area. But if two bullets penetrate the same distance, the one that has greatest surface area is best because it produces more tissue damage. No doubt, due to its advantage in velocity and energy, the 9mm Luger is the clear winner in terminal performance.

But for the same reasons, the .380 wins in shootability, with one caveat. Because the .380 has 94 percent less recoil (if fired from an equal-weight gun), it’s easier to shoot. But, you must consider that 9mms are typically a few ounces heavier than guns chambered in .380, and so the extra weight reduces that 94-percent figure considerably. Also, the smaller the gun, the smaller its grip and the more recoil it has. So a .380’s advantage in shootability is somewhat negated when fired from the smallest guns available in that chambering. You should also remember that “shootability” isn’t everything, or we’d all carry peashooters. Carry caliber choice, until the laws of physics are altered, boils down to finding a tradeoff between shootability, gun size, and power that works for you. It’s important to remember that the bigger gun you get, the tougher it is to conceal, but the easier it is to shoot.

Some of the smallest and most concealable guns made –which still maintain the prerequisite features for serious carry consideration — are chambered in .380 Auto due to the cartridge’s diminutive size. Examples are the 8.3-ounce Kel-Tec P3AT, the 9.97-ounce Kahr P380, and the 8.8-ounce Diamondback DB380. (All these guns weigh just under a pound when fully loaded.) On average, 9mm versions of these guns weigh 4 to 5 ounces more. Five ounces doesn’t seem like much, but for most people it’s the difference between a true pocket gun that you can wear in your front jeans or shorts pocket without it pulling down your pants, and a 20-ounce (fully loaded) gun for which you probably need a belt and a holster. In terms of pure concealability, the .380 is the clear winner.

For options and choices, the 9mm wins again. More gun models at all price ranges, holsters, ammo and accessories can be found for it than perhaps any handgun (with the possible exception of the 1911). One notable option here is ammunition. The 9mm, because of its larger case capacity, can be downloaded to a .380’s velocity if needed, or uploaded to +P status where it can produce velocities of 1,200 fps and energies nearing 400 ft.-lbs. if called for.

Lastly, while there is no discernible difference in reliability between the cartridges themselves, bear in mind that, in general, lighter-weight guns are less reliable than heavier guns of equal quality. So, if you choose a .380 in a 10-ounce gun, while it shouldn’t jam often, it will likely experience more malfunctions over time than a full-sized handgun would. That’s just how it is.

Hornady .380 ammo.
With a round as small as .380 ACP choose the ammo wisely. The newer breed of specialty loads such as the Hornady Critical Defense series adds some security to a decision to choose a smaller handgun for defense. See Midsouth offerings HERE.