Sunday, September 9, 2018

Gun Games

Are matches important?

Jim Cirillo in his NY stakeout squad days shot every match he could.  Should you?

I’ve taken a position on this several times and rereading those and several other blogs is driving me to restate my position.    Ego aside, I think you should make this your position.  But I do have a few assumptions:

One (A):  You are serious about preparing yourself for one of the worst days of your life.  With the exception of the unexpected death of a spouse or child, few things can be worse than shooting someone in self-defense.

One (B):  Helplessly watching your child or spouse die at the hands of another because you are unprepared, untrained and un-equipped to prevent it is even worse.

Two:  If you are convinced that gun games are solely that and you have no further interest other than racking up wins, this blog post doesn’t pertain to you.  God bless and keep you safe. 

Matches are a great way to experience some of the physical and mental stress of an armed encounter.  They can put something in the subconscious that will remind you that you have dealt with a similar situation to your current situation and have prevailed.

Do you remember your first gun jam at a match?  Did you learn from it?  Did you fight through it and get the gun functioning?  Image this happening in the back end of God’s forgotten half acre with someone who wants you dead and your children in their van?  But now you know how to clear the jam.

Did you use your best tactics at the match?  Do you use cover for reloads and then come back out in a different location to reengage the sheets of cardboard? 

What about that new red dot reflex sight on your pistol?  Can you find the dot after recoil while lining up on a second or maybe sixth sheet of cardboard?  Would you like having that figured out before you’re dealing with three armed intruders in your house? 

How does that laser, gun light, echo locater work in a smoky environment?  Shooting a match with it will tell.  A friend of mine used his new laser at a rifle match only to find out it didn’t work on a cold day.  Good to know in advance.

So here’s a little fun match.  Let’s look at its problems and potentials.

Fun Match
Quick and easy, you can set it up on a range in half hour

If you start on the left side of the barricade and pie all five cardboards from 1 to 5 from the left side, when you finished on 5, S2 would have been the next logical target, but you are exposed to S1.  Fast but, not very tactical.

Let’s try the other side.

Start on the right side of the barricade and pied all five cardboards from the right side.  Start with 5 and you end with 1, S1 would have been the next logical target, but you are exposed to S2.  Also fast but, not very tactical.

Fun match
Shooter is going to pie all the way around from the left side and then has trouble deciding which of the tee-shirts to shoot first.

One of several better tactical solutions, start on right side of the barricade.  The outer most cardboard 5 is engaged first and then work inward to 4.  Move behind the barricade to left side and pie around that corner starting with cardboard 1.  You end ready to engage S1 with your last remaining round before reload.

Everyone should paste to speed thing up

Use cover and continue to pie the corner to add one round to S1 and then two rounds in S2.  I think it’s tactically sound, but slower.

There are three things I’m attempting to address with this blog. 
One, matches are fun and can be shot to win (shortest time) with tactics that are potentially fatal. 

Two, you can use your best tactical solutions, but don’t expect to win.  The corollary is when you review your tactics and those of the other shooters expect to find other usable solutions.   At a pick-up match at the range, you may be able to reshoot it with different tactics.

Three, you are engaging non-moving, non-dangerous sheets of cardboard.  Expect people to move to new locations as soon as the first shot is fired as well as shoot back!

We shot the above stage as a fun pick-up match.  Everyone did fine on the sheets of cardboard, but the tee-shirts caused people to falter as they realized they were exposed to a “live” shooter while engaging the other shirt. 

This dilemma isn’t strictly academic.  Can you image a similar problem in your home?  Forced to engage one person at the entrance to a room, you then pie the corner to find criminal 2 only to realize criminal 3 is coming in from a side angle? 

Yes, you should have moved out of that neighborhood years ago, but maybe its Mom’s home and she is determined to stay no matter what. So,what’s your solution? 

Matches give you a chance to test equipment, skill levels and solutions.  One blog I read explained how he used a three gun match to stress test a reloading technique.  That’s a great idea, as long as you don’t think that jumping out into the open to engage three targets with a shotgun is also a great idea.

Don’t confuse cardboard with real life.

Thursday, August 23, 2018


On the competition range shooting a building clearing stage will get your heart started.  There’s a lot of information on room clearance and building searches.  The entire spectrum of knowledge and experience is available.  The question important to you is what’s real or phoney?  What’s an informed opinion and what’s some troll with too much time on his hands?

Here are a few examples.  I’m not saying any of them are good or bad.

Room and building clearance can be an interesting and exciting academic activity as long as nobody is shooting at you.  It is one aspect of what I refer to as the ”thinking person’s shooting sport.”

In a real situation it’s a good way of getting shot or killed and requires training and experience.  Utilizing a team and body armor would not be out of place

Let’s define two terms.

The first is ensconced.  It means in place, secure, snuggled in.  The second is its opposite.  The best I can find is mobile, exposed, constantly on the move.

Building searches could be defined as a mobile person looking for the ensconced person.  Let’s flip the paradigm on its head.  You’re the ensconced good guy defending yourself in the building against deadly invaders.  Isn’t that plot to “Home Alone”?

The advantage is yours.  You’re going to nullify the next person through the door.  You might have a fallback position for the next encounter or maybe you have a buddy to act in your behalf making a trap even more lethal.

Let’s set the paradigm back on its feet.  What’s our real concern?  That you might have to search a building for one or more ensconced invaders who will unhesitatingly use deadly force to avoid capture.  If they planned in advance or are graduates of one of our universities of higher criminal learning, they will seek a hiding place what gives then the advantage over anyone who comes into range.

The professionals who train civilians tell me “Don’t do it.”  But they admit if it’s your spouse, your child, your parent in the building, you’re probably going in.  To this they add:  “Do it the least stupid way possible, and speed kills.”

If you can’t take a class there are a few options but the first thing to remember is even among professionals there are differences in opinion and their tactics will be shaped from their experience.

For example:
Distinctive hats or ball caps for members going in?  The funny silhouette from the hat marks then as cops to both good and bad guys.  Of course bad guys are going to shot anyone coming in the door.   But it may help cop A to be recognized by cop B.

Rifle muzzles up or down when stacking outside a door?

Rifles or pistols as primary weapon?  Or is it mixed?

How many people stacked outside a door?

How do you exit the room/area you just cleared?

One book I like is:

Excellent graphics to explain the mechanics of entering and sweeping a room or area, but still it’s just a primer.  Once you get the basics down you need expand your understanding and experience.

Here's a building from the outside.  What can you tell from this view?

You must be able to 'read' a building or room and extract all the possible information

 No windows means anyone inside is as blind as you are.

The door position makes it corner fed so the majority of the room is to the left.

The hinges tell you the door opens outward and to your left. 

Taking a few seconds to move around it will confirm that it is a garage and doesn’t have any windows and that the garage door is down.  The absence of an overhead electric line feeding the garage doesn’t eliminate the possiblity of internal lights.  You could also assume it’s one big room or several small rooms.  Not much help, right?  Is there enough room for an attic?  So, is there a car in there?  Is it running?  Are the room lights on or off?  Is it empty of full of obstacles?

Most important: Are there people in the garage who would kill you and if so, how many?

 You’ll never see an illustration that matches what could be in that garage.

Here’s a second one.

You’re in some kind of room.  There a hallway to your left.  A doorway with the door closed in front of you and what looks like a doorway with the door off on the right.

What do you know?  Not a lot.  It looks like a scientific area, maybe a lab or classroom. There are blinds on the one door.  Is someone watching you?  Could you peak in and find out more or will your shadow against the glass and blinds trigger an outpouring of gunfire.  You don’t see any hinges and there’s a push plate on the right of the door.  The door jamb also tells you it opens in.

Are there back doors?  Maybe a false wall and pipe chase that people could use to leave, enter or flank you?  What’s in the door-less room?  There appears to be something big and gray preventing easy access to opening.

The hallway seems to open up behind the room with closed door.  How deep is that room?  Is the hallway a trap?  Will someone step out with their hands up and get you to move forward to one pre-selected spot where a second shooter opens up blindly through the wall board?  Or will several shooters wait till you’re just about at the end of the hallway before they lean around the wall and open up?

Moving through the hallway as fast as possible might be an excellent idea.  But I’ve also played the role of the ensconced shooter waiting for a team, and I’ve got to tell you, time weighs heavy on you.  You want to get this done and get going.  Hiding spaces are cramped and you want to move to a different location.  Maybe you give up your position and move closer to the person searching for you because you want it over.  You’ll make mistakes.  Peak out and get seen or move to a place of less tactical importance.  Frankly, if there’s was a second way out I would have been gone after the first five minutes.

A lot of questions to answer, some of which I didn’t think to ask.  A thinking person’s shooting sport, I told you.

You want to learn room clearance?  Take a course.  Read, study other people’s ideas, draw diagrams, look at your church, office, school and other building and ask where you would hide and how you would clear it.  Then go play hide and seek games with your kid or gun range buddy.

You’ll probably unlearn more stuff then you learn.  That’s the real path to knowledge.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Death in a Parking Lot

Before we go any further let’s make sure we understand two things.

The license to carry a concealed weapon is only that.  It is permission by your state government to legally carry a handgun concealed in public in specific locations.  That feeling that you should do something to improve your community or ride to the rescue because of that permit is wrong and possibly dangerously illegal.

Let me go forward and state your permit does not allow you to enforce even minor parking regulations in the absence of LEO.  I don’t believe you can be “deputized” by an LEO in any but the most extreme circumstances. 

Stand Your Ground laws are not permission to shoot.  They simply eliminate the legal requirement that you need to prove you could not safely retreated.  All the legal requirements for a justified self-defense shooting still govern your actions. 

To flog this horse just a little more, in any self-defense situation the legal system will look at the totality of the situation, what lead up to the shooting, the shooting and your actions afterward. 

Florida shooting
Captured image from Markeis McGlockton shooting

You’ve seen the video from Clearwater, Florida so let’s talk.

Markeis McGlockton (age 28) and his partner Britany Jacobs stop at a convenience store and park in a handicap space.  Markeis and a child leave the car and enter the store.  At some point Michael Drejka (age 47) gets in a confrontation by arguing with Britany about their parking space.

Britany exits the car and engages in the argument.  Markeis exits the store, approaches Britany and Michael.  They appear to be still arguing.  Markeis shoves Michael to the ground.  Markeis remains standing in place, neither advancing nor retreating.

At this point, still seated on the ground, Michael draws his legally carried handgun.

Markeis takes a step back.

Michael fires one shot, hits Markeis who retreats into the store.  Michael remains seated on the ground tracking the retreating Markeis with his handgun.  No additional rounds are fired.  When Markeis enters the store Michael lowers the handgun.  Markeis later dies.

Now dying over a parking space is surely one of the worst ways to end up at St Peter’s gate.  Arguing over the use of a parking space in what appears to be an empty lot is stupid.  By starting this action, Michael failed to remember that in any confrontation he gets involved with there is always a gun present, his and the potential for escalation is greatly increased.  CCW holders should always avoid arguments when possible.  It’s just a fact of life.

Markeis pushes Michael to the ground.  This by itself would be difficult to be consisted an application of lethal force requiring you to defend yourself.  Even a medical condition that made your bones as brittle as glass may not provide you with sufficient justification.  After all, you have survived the initial attack.  Your goal is to prevent a second or continued attack now that you are in a vulnerable seated position with reduced mobility.

Markeis does not step forward with a kick or makes any apparent movement to suggest he was going to further the attack.  It doesn’t not appear he intended to escalate the conflict to lethal levels.

Michael draws his gun and Markeis retreats a step. 

Michael shoots Markeis, who staggers into the store.  Michael stops shooting.

It is interesting to observe that a witness, as soon as he sees the gun makes a hasty retreat.  It’s been observed that crowds vanish like magic as soon as a gun is drawn.  Witnesses, especially ear witness who heard the verbal exchange missing on the video may be hard to find and have faulty memories of the conflict.

The what ifs……..

Frankly, I don’t see how the Stand Your Ground law makes any difference in this case.  Michael was knocked to the ground.  To retreat would have required him to stand up.  The process of standing up is slow and exposes yourself to additional attacks.  Years of playing martial arts has taught me the difficulty of trying to get to your feet when you’re physically attacked.

Markeis was unarmed, or was he?  Ask any LEO, they will emphatically tell you unarmed is not the same as not dangerous.  Society seeks to establish a level field in human interactions.  That’s why heavy weight fighters don’t box featherweights.  The difference in strength, ability and force is called disparity of force.  One of classic examples is the young man verses the old man.  In any conflict it would be reasonable to assume the young man would beat the old man all of the time.  Markeis was armed with disparity of force.  He had no trouble pushing Michael to the ground.

We don’t know what words were exchanged.  Words have a powerful input in this case.  If, and only if, Markeis told Michael seated the ground, “I’m going stomp your ass…,” things would change.  Assuming of course Michael took him at his word, and frankly what else could you do when you’ve been knocked to the ground?  Drawing the handgun seems appropriate.

However, the video doesn’t not support the need to fire.  Markeis does not advance, but actually steps back.  Seconds later Michael fires and you can see Markeis take the impact and grab himself before retreating to inside the store.

I suspect there will be charges, not because Markeis is black or his girlfriend looks good on camera and is demanding justice, but because, in the absence of exculpatory evidence, Michael Drejka wrongly took a human life and should pay of it.

Update:  Michael Drejka has been charged with manslaughter.  This will play out over the next year or so. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018


There are a few things in life I dislike.  Filling the gas tank is one of them; another is buying recoil replacement springs for my handguns.

I was going to say there are few things more important than replacing recoil springs, but any tiny amount of thought will clearly indicate that’s not true.  I would not even begin to list the things that are truly important.

However, for optimal firearm function, replacement of recoil springs is important.  Big, rich resource organizations and high speed/no drag organizations (FBI, SEALs, compulsive gun writers….) track the number of rounds each weapon fires and have a maintenance program which includes spring replacement.  A truly prepped survivalist would have at least two spare components for every replaceable component, including springs.  As Sven Olsen taught me, two is one, one is none.

So it was not a surprise that one of Karen’s 1911 .45 ACP pistols started having feeding problems.  I suspected it was probably due to a light recoil spring (after 11 years!).  I don’t keep a lot of replacement parts but a quick call to Wolff Company, got me a 16-pound factory load recoil spring. 

Two springs the longer on from Wolff
The bottom, longer spring is from Wolff.  The top shorter one is the old one.

I replaced and even without testing, I’m confident the spring will solve her feeding problem.

It’s part of being an armed citizen.  Knowing what the maintenance checks are and knowing where to get replacement parts.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Double Vision

One has to change with the times, especially with those areas of technology that can improve our lives.  The question is does that technology actually improve our lives and what is just a ploy to liberate funds from our wallet.

The only true answer is try these things out, preferably on someone else’s dime.  Of course you need to reciprocate and let others try your new toys so they can decide if it will really improve some aspect of their lives.

With this in mind I’ve taken advantage of any offers to try someone’s miracle blaster with reflex dot.

Reflex sights aren’t anything new.  They were invented in 1900 and didn’t see much use in WWI.  During the Second World War they were used on attack aircraft as well as tanks and other heavy weapon systems where the operator needed to engage fast moving targets.
Early pistol and rifle models had drawbacks, chiefly power consumption.  The Weaver Quik-Point attempted to get around the battery problem by relying on sunlight, but you had to depend on perfect weather conditions for reliable performance.  Despite these problems Bull-eye shooters quickly adopted the dot.  After all, everyone was already lugging a telescope around in their gunbox, so what’s a few extra button batteries? 

And it was worth it!  When I shot bulls-eye Aimpoint and Tasco were leading the charge and simply using one added 10 points to your average. 

The original dots were big and bulky, but the discovery of light diodes changed things.  Today's small reflex sights could be mounted on defensive pistols.  These dots are durable and hold their zero very well.  Some of the early ones were set up so the dot would come on when you drew the gun and stay on until you turned it off.  Just a battery saving option.  The new ones sip electricity and run continuously for over a year.  Give yourself a button battery every year for Christmas and you never need to worry about turning your sight off.

So when my friend Rich offered me a filled magazine and his new pistol with a dot, damn straight I shot it.

The first couple of shoots worked like a charm.  Put the red dot on the target, press the trigger and get a resounding BONG! from the steel.  After two rounds I got cocky.

Starting at the low ready I brought the gun up, place the red dot on the steel and proceeded to shoot over the top of it.  Let’s try that again.

Up, dot on steel target, press trigger and shoot the backstop over the top of it.  Must be jerking the trigger.  Do it over.

Up, dot on steel target, carefully press trigger and shot the backstop again.  This isn’t going very well.
reflex sight,
There it is.  A red dot as clear as day and centered in the reflex housing.  Or is it?

And then I figured it out.  Rich has a red dotted front sight and I was holding the gun so the front sight was centered in the reflex sight while the red diode dot was over the top of the target….Haaa!  I got it now.

reflex sight
The lower red dot is the front sight while the upper dot is the true aiming point.  No wonder I was shooting high!

The rest of shots were rewarded with a clang.

Rich tells me that using a suppressor front and rear sight (they are taller) will be coaxial with the red dot.  This makes using the dot easier to find.  Rich also tells me most competitors don’t use the suppressor sights as they fill about a third of the reflex sight.

I got to admit I use a dot on my rifle as it makes hitting easier, and I’m likely to add a dot to one of my larger carry guns.  I just got to find the right one.

Now for something completely different!

I’m also prepping for Greenport Tactical Association’s single stack classic.  It’s open only to 1911 .45 acp single stack pistols.  I replaced my old grips for a set of Magpul MOE grips and I think this will give me a better grip.  We’ll see. 

I suspect the groove will also assist you reaching the mag release, but I like locking my thumb into it.
One thing for sure I’m using one of Ricky’s kydex holsters and mag carriers in that match.  Ricky makes very nice holsters and he’ll work with you to get it right.  Check his facebook page for more.

Ricky's kydex holsters
I like the way he's curved the mag carries so they hug you waist better.  The workmanship is excellent!

I spend about an hour and 100 rounds, practicing magazine changes from slidelock.  I also threw in a little drawing and remembering to take the safety off and I don’t think I’ll embarrass myself too much.  The purpose of shooting matches, besides the fun, is dealing with the stress.  It’s good practice.

Thursday, June 21, 2018


We, and I include myself, talk about CQB or CQC, but few of us understand its origins.  The origins of modern close quarters combat as well as many modern police tactics start with the policing methods pioneered by Assistant Commissioner William E. Fairbairn in Shanghai in the 1920s.

At the time Shanghai was acknowledged to be the most dangerous port city in the world.  The heavy opium trade run by the Chinese Triads and the Chinese Civil war in the background made corruption and crime a world class sporting event.  Policing was almost impossible.

Into this hell hole fell Willian E. Fairbairn who joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in 1907.  Over the years he had studied fighting in a variety of forms: boxing, wrestling, savate and Kodokan judo in which he gained a 2nd degree black belt, as well as a loose umbrella of techniques called Chinese martial arts.

After the May Thirtieth Movement riots and its police massacre, Fairbairn was charged with developing an auxiliary squad for riot control and aggressive policing.  He was charged by the British with essentially cleaning up Shanghai.  One can almost hear the old blue nose at the club saying “By the by Willian, old man, could you solve our Shanghai problem in a fortnight?”

To accomplish this he needed to develop a CQC system he could quickly teach his men to give them an advantage in the deadly raids to come.  He condensed these arts into a practical combat system he called Defendu.  This form had both grappling and striking techniques, but little if any blocking techniques.  These skills also included pistol craft, the genesis of the much confused “point shooting.”

CQC, close quarters combat

This combat system was simple and could be learned and mastered by recruits relatively quickly as compared to the years required of traditional martial arts training before you can “...snatch the pebble from my hand…’.  It was as brutally effective as possible. The method incorporated training in point shooting and gun combat techniques, as well as the effective use of more unconventional weapons such as chairs or table legs.

Simple, direct "dirty fighting"
He and his police team field-tested these skills on the streets of Shanghai effectively in over 2000 documented encounters, including over 600 lethal force engagements.

During the Second World War, Fairbairn was brought back to Britain, and, after demonstrating the effectiveness of his techniques, was recruited to train the British commandos in his combat method.  It is difficult to imagine the need to emphasize that combat was not a gentleman’s sport and that these techniques were gutter fighting designed to cripple and kill effectively.  Many of the social elite of the time still saw combat as a chess game played with real men and that gentlemen never cheat.

Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife
Entry from rear next to spine, out on opposite side of windpipe and push all the through.  Nothing sporting about it.
During this period, his 'Shanghai Method' evolved into 'Silent Killing Close Quarters Combat method'. This became standard combat training for all British Special Operations personnel.  He also designed the pioneering Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife, which was adopted for use by British and American Special Forces. In 1942, he published a textbook for close quarters combat training called Get Tough.

Dirty Fighting
I'm sure the photo is posed, but the knife's use is well documented. 

 U.S. Army officers Rex Applegate and Anthony Biddle learned Fairbairn's methods and adopted the program for the training of OSS operatives.  Applegate published his work in 1943, called "Kill or Get Killed" and I have a reprinted copy of this classic on my bookshelf.  During the war, this training was used by British Commandos, the Devil's Brigade, OSS, U.S. Army Rangers and Marine Raiders.  Some of this remains the basis taught to CIA, FBI and police officers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


One of the few blogs I try to read regularly had an entry on pain.  Matt points out that pain is outside of our traditional training. 

Experiencing pain
Hurts to think about it.

 We can measure speed, accuracy, response time, bullet penetration into “jello” and so many other parameter, but cardboard targets don’t feel pain.

This is unfortunate.  Ammunition manufacturers could advertise their product as “Gun dropping painful!” as a way of promoting a “safer” round.  This would be turned around by lawyers claiming “… wanted to shoot and punish someone several times so they used a less painful bullet…”

Pain is also not a component of the holy grail of self-defense, stopping power.  A motivated person could soak up several rounds without too much notice even when they die later.  The 1986 FBI Miami Shoot-out demonstrates that.  Both Platt and Matix soaked up an impressive amount of firepower before dying.

Pain, like all sensations, is perceived by the brain.  The thalamus, part of the primitive brain, receives the nerve impulses and communicates this to the thinking part called the cerebral cortex.  Its here that pain is interpreted and emotions like fear, anxiety and pleasure are experienced with a wide range of responses.

Instructors try to approach the concept by attempting to increase anxiety and fear hoping to vaccinate the student against the paralytic effects of these emotions.  Massad Ayoob used to take students one at a time to the range after frightening warning them about the effects of being zapped with a stun gun on their backside.  Of course he’d first do this to his line officers.  I remember getting zapped, jumping while screaming in fake pain, hitting the ground and then drawing my gun to complete the course of fire.  

This of course produced the desired effect in the students who were told to stand behind a berm and not to watch as it was too terrifying to witness.  Of course all of them found some location to take in the range theatre.

Even training in normal attire (no armor) with Simunitions, being tagged doesn’t approximately the pain of being shot. 

Or does it?  

I’ve gotten spectacular bruises from Simunitions which were painful hours later, but all I remember of the hit was impact and not the pain.  I met a fellow in one class who had been shot with a .45 ACP while in the service and his description had more to deal with fear of death than pain.

We have anecdotal evidence that pain is blocked out when the survival of the organism is at stake.  The zebra that can’t ignore the lion’s painful clawing and bite isn’t likely to survive the attack.  While the animal may die later from complications, immediate survival depends on escaping.

Read the parable Matt starts his column with.  It’s insightful.  The carjacker doesn’t talk about pain as much as he talks about:
  • Fear
  • Paralyzing effects of fear
  • Not having a plan.

We know that fear and pain have a relationship.  As teachers and students, at best we can only introduce levels of discomfort.  Few CQC courses would prosper if most of the students exited the class with torn rotator cuffs and broken fingers.  The same applies to firearm courses.  Shooting students through the ass, or an in-out through the bicep will land you in civil court at best.

But fear, we can learn to deal with that.