Thursday, September 14, 2017

Gun Alterations

I found a video blog by Dave Spaulding.  The core of his message seems to be don’t worry about alteration to guns, especially cosmetic ones.  While acknowledging that lawyers will attempt to use any flea bag excuse … I’m off on the wrong foot, let’s start over.

In court each lawyer presents to the jury their version of reality and the jury votes on which version they think represents reality.  Will a silk screened image of a zombie having its brains blown out on your AR dust cover be a focal point of contention?  Sure.

But any alteration can be used to support some outrageous claim.  Red bumper pad?  So you can find that ‘special, more punishing’ ammo quickly.  Light on gun?  So you can momentarily freeze him like a deer in the headlights to shoot him easier. 

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to come up with five more examples.

Dave’s point is don’t be afraid of making alterations to your gun, because the lawyers are going to screw with it anyway.  At least I believe that is an accurate representation of the message.

My scoop is a little different.  Make any alteration that you can explain as a safety feature.

The grip reduction?  So you have better control and can shoot more accurately without endangering bystanders.  The gun light?  So you can clearly identify the threat you must stop to preserve you own life.  I think you can see what I’m suggesting.

Stupid gun ideas
Really?!?  This is what you send your disposable income on?

You want a punisher skull on your gun?  Sure, just be prepared to explain it’s a sporting range gun that was the only weapon available when you were attacked.  Engraved barrel with “Wait for Flash”?  Same as before.  It’s a special purpose gun and you had no other choice but to use it.

You may need to explain that a criminal finds his potential victim as he is and the victim may not have the opportunity to select the optimal defensive weapon.

Of course you can simplify the problem by avoiding gun alterations that can’t be easily explained as enhancing the safety or reliability of the weapon. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bouncing Bullets

The concept of frangible bullets is probably older than we think, much older.  Imagine the Roman Soldier with his sling realizing that every stone he flings at the enemy is ammo they can fling back at him.  But what if the stone broke when it hit a man, or the ground?  That would turn ammo into scrap.  Google ‘frangible.’  I googled frangible ammo and got 37,200 hits.  Certainly suggests interest out there in cyber space. 

Glaser Safety Slugs wasn’t the first to worry about collateral damage, but it was the first one I’m familiar with. They were introduced in 1975 and used by Federal Air Marshals in the 70s and 80s over concern of excessive damage to an aircraft in flight.  Over the years Air Marshals have attempted to walk a fine line between stopping power, over penetration and ricochet hazards.

The problem is Glasers can expend most of their energy destroying a heavy winter coat, a bicep or some non-critical area leaving a violent criminal offender (VCO) still functioning.  They do work well for training close to steel targets.  I use them to demonstrate penetration through plaster board walls to highlight concerns about invisible bystanders in other rooms.

Since then, frangible has taken on a second marketing meaning: lead free.  Only a fool would refuse to admit that there is a potential hazard of lead inhalation and digestion at ranges.

I am aware of at least one trap club closed down because of potential lead hazard to their impact zone (a shallow swamp) used by migrating water fowl.  This new aspect of frangible creates a market and opportunities for lead free rounds.  Most of the frangible rounds are lead free.  I have a box of Remington’s Disintegrator cartridges.  The bullet is a skin of brass holding a core of “compressed” iron.  The rounds I have are partially scored at the tip to increase the frangible nature.

Winchester Ranger frangible takes a different approach.  They use a nylon matrix filled with copper and tungsten powders to reduce lead and reduce ricochet hazards.

Both of these look like the traditional bullets we know, but ARX by Polycase breaks that mold.  The shape of the bullet looks like something out of science fiction.  The idea, I’m guessing is to cause more tissue damage while retaining the more frangible nature of the bullet.

So why aren’t we using these?  Fired rounds that don’t ricochet, or at least loss enough mass to become harmless would eliminate a major concern and legal nightmare.  To my knowledge or at least to my google search, the military uses frangible rounds in training, but not combat.  It appears that not a single police department issues them to their officers as a duty round.

There are some concerns. Are they effective in stopping a VCO?  Neither police nor the armed civilian wants to end up in court because we had to shoot someone 8 times to stop them.  It seems excessive.  The opposing lawyers would point out to the jury that you used frangible rounds because you want to punish the person you shot, otherwise why would you not use a simple hollow point that so humanely stops people?

There is some possibility these rounds would strike a bone, disintegrate and result in years of painful surgery and costly medical complications.  Yeah, the lawyers and media would love that.

Other than training, are there any good points?  Frangible rounds are often used where potential combat and the resulting physical damage would be disastrous, like an airplane at 40,000 ft. or inside a petrochemical plant.

My own crude experiments indicate that frangible rounds will pass through at least one sheetrock wall and be able to endanger people in that room.  Many pass through a second wall where my experiment ends.

I remember when gun writers promoted .223 Remington as the perfect round for no-knock raids and home self-defense.  Supposedly, the round would tumble as soon as it struck wall board and this violent, chaotic tumbling would exceed the bullet’s tensile strength causing the bullet to fragment on the wall board on the back of the wall.

penetration of bullets
The holes on right are from .38 spl rounds, the two marked 223 are .223 rem rounds from an AR.

Only it didn’t.  55gr .223 FMJ punches holes in plaster board walls like it was designed to do so.

Recently I got my hands on Federal 5.56X45mm frangible rounds.  The round is an open tip 43 grain bullet and is reported to be all copper.  Let’s shoot a few.

I had two plaster board walls set up to demonstrate penetration of pistol rounds, but there was enough room for two rounds of 5.56 rounds.
shooting holes in plaster board
This is the front of the second wall.  It would be one room over from the room were guns were fired.  Again the holes on right are .38spl rounds  The other two are ..223 rem and the frangible round made the WTAF hole.  (I'm improperly using .223 rem for both 5.56X45mm and .223 rem as a short cut)

If each wall represented a partition of one room into another, this little demo represents three room in your home or perhaps work place.  The larger hole is the frangible round.

The full metal jacket was like a drill.  The round went in one surface and out the 4th wall board with complete impunity, just leaving round holes.  The Federal frangible went in smoothly enough, but blew a poker chip size hole of wall board out of the 4th wall board.

This is the back of the second wall or the 4th wall board.  There is a smaller hole below it, perhaps the bullet is fragmenting.

The first wall entry and egress looked normal, so I’ll speculate the frangible round experienced wobble around its spinning axis.   

The third wall board was enough to push it complete off axis.  I assume it hit the last plaster board sideways.  In any case, you wouldn’t want to be in its path beyond the 4th wall board.

Well, the dream of reduced penetration is scrapped.  What about fragmentation on steel for up close training.

I had access to some damaged pistol grade steel, backed off about 20 yards and left two rounds fly.  The results were impressive.

Hollow point all copper rounds and the damage

The rounds gouged out a pit in the half inch thick AR300 steel.  The copper was pressure welded with raised ridges like some lunar crater.

shooting pistol steel with .223 rem.
Yeah, I'd call that damage.

Let’s rule out in close training, unless your steel replacement budget is huge, I mean really huge. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017


It’s hard for me to watch police camera videos of car chases and shootings.  You want to root for the police, but still the understanding that someone ends up dead, even if it is at his own instigation, is disturbing.

It was first brought to my attention at  It’s mostly about the car chase, but even here, the armed citizen can scrape up a little knowledge.  Get out of the way.  Get off the street if possible as soon as possible or at least pull over and stay there until the parade is over.

The excitement of the chase, the adrenaline dump will cause even the most trained driver to drive reckless.  At about 9:50 our car takes a shortcut on the wrong side of the road around a monument so he can get in front of 4 other police cars.  Do you think there’s potential for tragedy here?  You see the flashing lights, get off the road!  You don’t want to be a bumper in this game of dodge ‘em.

At 10:52 something goes out the window.  What it is isn’t made clear, but I suspect drugs.

At about 11:06 the fleeing car attempts to cross an intersection against the light.  A black SUV neatly clips the fleeing car and spins it out of control.  It has been a called an almost perfect PIT maneuver.

The car rolls to a stop and at 11:18 we see our first police officer, out in the open, essentially naked to incoming rounds.  I hope he was wearing his vest.  As the armed citizen involved in a road rage or spree shooting, we don’t have to take a person into custody.  We can and should stay behind cover and concealment.

The suspect starts to leave the car, the officer fires at least two rounds and realizes he and Gypse Rose Lee have something in common and retreats.  The next second the suspect, a big man, leaves the car and the gun in his right hand is apparent, but he’s holding something in his left hand too.  It looks like he’s fired a gun before.  He’s got the gun in line with his eye, so I suspect he has a flash sight picture.  The time is 11.25.

It looks like the gun is recoiling in his hand.  He doesn’t care about the backstop, whoever that might be.  It appears the police don’t either.  Take this as a reminder on several levels.

  •                 Incoming rounds have right of way. Use cover when possible
  •                 Rounds from the police don’t care who you are either.  Get behind cover.
  •                 Big fat people can be dangerous and quick on their feet
  •                 Criminals use quality, reliable handguns just as we do
  •                 While it may be difficult for a criminal to practice, they can and some do.
  •                 Don’t assume that seeing one gun means only one gun.

Our suspect has maybe a minute to live.  It’s hard to think about that.   In under a minute a life will expire.  What must that do to the police officers and witnesses?  Somebody cared for, maybe loved that big guy and now he’s gone.  There’s another message for the armed citizen.  Don’t let the finger on the trigger become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  We are never required to shoot.

He goes down around 11:27, almost at the same time a puff of smoke appears rising from the street behind him.  It doesn’t matter who fired that shot, him or a police officer.  It’s going down range looking for a resting place.

After that time your guess is a good as mine.  You still see puffs of smoke on the payment suggesting the police are still shooting. He’s still moving and what’s in his left hand is still unclear to us.  Occasionally the body jerks, was that another round or a death spasm? 

I’m willing to give the police the benefit of doubt.  I wasn’t there and we have only one video to look at.  My dialog might be significantly different from another point of view. 

The armed citizen faced with a lethal force encounter must be aware of the backstop, options available to them, and the constantly changing escalation and descalation.  Remember that down is not the same as out.  Immobile is not the same as helpless. 

If this had been a road rage confrontation starting at 11:06 and the shooter just popped out of his car and started shooting at you, the driver behind him, would you have shot him after he was down?  The answer depends on the totality of the situation.

I like watching these police videos, until I realize they are not actors.  They’re men and women who have to live and die with their actions and results.  Spend a little time thinking about what you, the armed citizen, would have done in that conflict.  Then say a prayer it never happens. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's More Than Noise

It’s was a bang-bang kind of week-end.  Saturday was our women’s intro to handguns.  We focus on safety foremost, then shooting, safe storage, transportation among other things.  Is there anyone who never picked up a gun and wondered if they could defend themselves with it?  I doubt it, so we covered it.  It’s not a CCW course, but self-defense is at the core. 

I’ve always believed that the biggest stumbling block to self-defense is not the mechanics, but lack of surety that you are justified.  We spend time discussing the factors that justify lethal force; tactics involved, anticipating problems and solutions.

What tactics?  How about the Ohio Castle Law, for example?  It’s a hot button issue for me and I advise people:
  • To determine if lethal force is appropriate,
  • To identify the suspected intruder enough to know they don’t belong there,
  • When possible, retreat to a position of strength in your house.

To help them find positions of strength we shoot up their house.  We use real, factory rounds.  It’s one of my favorite demos.  TV teaches us a person can duck behind an interior plaster wall and be safe from multiple gun shots.  

Home shooting with plaster walls
The spacing between the walls is reduced but really, air has stopping power?  The thickness of the walls is correct.

We come in with two sections of a stud wall covered with sheet rock and punch holes in it using the rounds they are shooting , Glasser Safety Slugs and several hollow points.    We propose that the space between the walls has no contribution to stopping power and it’s only the wall board that means anything.

Front of wall with bullet holes
The unlabeled hole on the bottom was a .38 spl Hydra-shok.  The Glasser is the middle and it's punching a small hole in the second wall.

Everything goes through the wall board.  The only thing that might not make it through the second wall if it was more distant was the Glasser Safety Slug.  By the time it leaves the back of the first wall, I’ve seen evidence it’s breaking apart, but it’s not consistent.

After this demo we talk about considering where your missed rounds will go.

shooting indoors
You are in the third room looking at the wall separating you from the second room or three rooms away from the gunshot.  The middle round, a Hyda-Shok might be bigger, but it and all the other rounds are still dangerious!

By the end of the day, the women leave with a better understanding of shooting.  The women tell me they had fun shooting paper plates on a sheet of cardboard.  I tell ‘em I have fun doing that too!

The following day was a pistol match at my favorite range, Greenport Tactical Association.  We still have a minor flooding problem on one ranger, but the match director was able to work around the swampy parts.

I was lucky.  I got assigned to the squad that wanted to have safe fun.  Almost every stage had to be partially re-pasted and re-started because of gun jams, improperly inserted magazines and the occasional brain fart.   It was fun.

The other squad shot all three ranges and was finished by 11:30 in time for lunch and cake, celebrating 15 years of matches at GTA.  They were nice enough to stick around and tear down their last stage which really helped.

Head shots, Baby!
Some bloggers criticize matches as poor training.  I admit I have a foot in that camp.  I would rather have barricades that require me to shoot from any two different positions with a reload in between than 15 head shot targets.  But I’m willing to accept that the trigger control you have to demonstrate to put a round in 15 five-inch paper plates at varying distances and heights is an important skill.  My strongest objection is to those of us who think a match with paper targets represents reality.  Remember, cardboard doesn’t scatter at the first gunshot and paper targets don’t shoot back.

What else can I say!

Still, the match was great fun and we had cake!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Running Target

The nice thing about rifle night, at least from the activity director (big title for the guy who sets it up), is you do things you’re interested in.  Sometimes it doesn’t have to involve rifles.

At our last rifle night we started by timing in with our pistols at about 5 yards.  Of the six participants, only a few could draw an unconcealed weapon and hit the target center of mass with one round under 2 seconds.  We cycled through the drill a few times and most of us got it under 2 seconds.

We'll shoot these with both pistol and rifle to time in.
We use paper plates as replaceable centers,

We backed up another 5 yards for a total of 10 yards, slung our ARs and repeated the drill.  While we fired three rounds, I was only interested in the time to first round.  To my surprise, despite holding the weapon in the low ready it took most people almost the same time to bring the rifle up and fire as drawing the sidearm and fireing. 

I had them back-up as I thought it would be too easy at 5 yards, just point and pull. 

I made a few observations on timing in:
Several people, drew their pistol and then repositioned their bodies or moved their feet.  This always took extra time.  Learn to shoot with your feet where they are.

Some had trouble with their operating controls.  That includes safeties and sights.  One shooter using a dot sight on his pistol showed improved time simply by switching to iron sights.  He is still in the learning curve of finding the reflex sight’s dot.  A dot sight could be the answer to several age related problems.  There are several ways to shoot a dot sight, including using the entire sight as a giant ghost ring.

Many of us shoot several guns.  Why?  Because we can, but we don’t get the benefit of shooting the same gun over and over again.  Speaking for myself, I suspect we’re having trouble with our sights.  This can be cause by several factors.  We may not be able to see them sharply.  We aren’t bringing up the gun with the front sight visible in the rear, or we’re trying to get the front sight level, even and perfectly symmetrical in the rear sight.  A perfect sight picture will never happen outside of a ransom rest.

Dry firing and practice drawing will help that with all of these.

One of the best local shooters has natural talent.  He really shoots better than any of the other local shooters.  He doesn’t practice, he’s that good.  Watching him you realize he makes no unnecessary motion.  His draw doesn’t look that fast, but his time is.  Again, it’s because he doesn’t waste time with unnecessary motion.  I suspect he has a well developed sense of proprioception, but in any case reducing unnecessary motion will improve your time.

I expected rifle time to be faster since the gun was already out and in your hands, so I was a little surprised it took about the same time.  I suspect since the rifle was heavier than a pistol, with different balance and requires two hands so it took longer to mount the rifle and crack off a round.  The rifle bridges hands, shoulder, eye and target so it may actually be more complicated than shooting a handgun.  Here too, practice would improve performance.

We also ran a reverse Tueller drill.  What’s a Tueller Drill?  The short answer is it demonstrates how fast a person can close on you while you are drawing your sidearm.  You can read more at:

This time we placed the ‘armed’ humanoid target at 21 feet and attacked them with a target on a mover.  It’s a simple system, you pull a rope as fast as you can, the shooter tries to get at least one round off before they are run over by the oncoming target.  By placing the puller behind the shooter, the movement is surprise.

An easy to make mover, the wheels are the most expensive part

The rules were simple.  When the mover starts, you react.  Even with piece of paper on a wood frame, many shooters found it intimidating.  Most of us instinctively moved sideways from the moving target.

We discovered most of us were point shooting as the target was on top of us by the time we fired.   Weapon retention was called for, not sight picture.

Even practicing it several times didn’t drastically change the outcome. 

Because of the layout of the tracks of the mover, all the shooters moved to their left so any misses and shoot throughs hit the ground to the shooters right.  Not only do you need to look at what’s the backstop behind the shooter, but to the left and right. 

We repeated the experiment with the rifles. We moved the shooters back to about 36 feet and discovered the same thing.  It takes longer for a person with a rifle to raise the rifle from the low ready and discharge one round.  Assuming that at least one of the 8 or 9 people shooting was a competent rifleman, this is astonishing.

The drill indicates you can run over 10 yards ( a football first down!) and stab a rifle man before he can get his rifle up and discharge one round.  That’s true for 7 yards with a pistol in a holster.  This implies you need more reactive gap with a rifle than a pistol!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Match Thoughts

The 1911 .45 ACP is been described as the premiere gun fighting tool to which all others are compared and king of the feed ramp jam.  That is why I don’t carry a 1911 .45ACP.  

But they are fun to shoot.  There are few legal pleasure greater than hammering steel plates with a 1911 .45.

1911 Only
I recently shot a Single Stack Classic at a local range.  Considering the difficulties, it was a great match.  The difficulties?  Recent renovations and a very wet spring and summer have left one range too swampy to use.  But that’s another topic.

.45 ACP match
Everything you could ask for, steel,  hostages and shoot targets

Most of the targets were relatively close, just over 10 yards in distance.  These are distances most of us non-law enforcement and non-combat citizens will find our conflicts limited to.  Still, it’s not a bad idea to assure yourself you can hit at longer distances.  While I don’t expect to slug it out with a rifleman at 100 yards, 20 yards isn’t unreasonable.  Next time you’re at the range see what kind of group you can shoot at 20 yards with your carry gun.

.45 acp match
Weak hand only

The match had a variety of CoF which were at times complex.  For those of us who routinely double tap every target we see as we pie a corner, the instructions could trip you up.  One string required that each target of four targets get one shot before returning to the first target to shoot it a second time.  This was the reef I kept sailing into.

Despite my poor performance, I like it because forcing your mind to step outside your habits is good for the armed citizen.

.45 ACP match
Shoot three targets off each star and knock over the tombstone poper

 Double taps vs boarding house rules (Everyone gets one before seconds)
I once watched Ken Hackathorn demo the timed difference between shooting a double tap on two side-by-side targets or shooting each one once and then a second time.  Both strings resulted in two rounds in the center of mass and the time difference was in the hundreds of a second.  Not enough to affect your survival.

But Ken knew there were only two targets.  What if there were four? Would the time difference become significant?  Would the elapsed time required to giving two rounds to each of three assailants, as compared to one round each, make a difference to a fourth assailant?  One of the question you want to ponder is "Does an armed and wounded assailant become easier to deal with or not?"

What if you didn’t know how many, but suspect more than one assailant?  What if you dropped your reload going out the door and all you had was what’s in your fist? 

I’m suggesting, especially to myself, don’t let ridged concepts involving tactical shooting prevent you from seeing opportunities and potential.

The things you see

Just wrong
Do what you want dude, but that's just wrong.
I’m a little dogmatic on some things.  Extra magazines should be carried weak side, base plate up and bullet tips forward.  Experience has taught me that a second (or third) magazine carried on the strong side has advantages, like when your weak side is jammed against cover and those magazines are blocked.  Still, I ran into a shooter who carried them facing backwards bullet tips down.  You can do whatever you want, but that’s just plain wrong.

Kydex holsters
My newest holster   Anyone who doesn't have several holsters for each gun just doesn't get out enough!
I just got new holsters from Ricky’s Holsters.   I got one for my Springfield Champion 1911 in gray Kryptek Kydex as well as a double mag carrier.  They are very cool and Ricky does amazing work.  There is a high level of attention to detail and a deep interest to make sure you get what you want.  I wanted blue rivets and that’s what I got.  I purchased one in black earlier for my Glock with a gun light.  It’s larger than most of his holsters, but it really fits my need.

Translucent holster for Springfield 1911
Translucent!  It really shows off the gun!

My wife is an early adopter (well, maybe not) but she had a holster and double mag carrier made for her Springfield 1911 from transparent kydex. 

Translucent magazine carriers

They are stunning!  It sure answers the question “What’s in your holster?”

Visit Ricky at:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Life Preserver

Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile following a traffic stop (  A jury recently found him not guilty.  You’ve probably seen the video taken by Castile’s girlfriend seconds after Castile was shot by Yanez. 

Following the trial which found Officer Yanez not guilty of manslaughter, the St. Anthony’s police released the voice and cam recorded video of the shooting.  In retrospect, the girlfriend’s and police department video make for a unique inside view of the razor edge of stress created in any shooting. I'm sure you can find it on You Tube or at "Breach Bang Clear" .

I think it’s a bad shooting.  I firmly believe the girlfriend’s videoing and on-line posting kept her alive.  I can’t help wonder if Yanez had wondered if it would be better if nobody survived in the front seat.  But these are just my opinions, a third party internet quarterback.

I can’t help suspect it would have gone better if Castile had handled the stop better. 

I’m not blaming the victim.  The Minnesota’s CCW training may have let him down.  The text I saw of their dialog has Castile attempting to explain he has a license and is carrying concealed.  He starts his explanation too late in the interview and seems to be attempting to follow previously given instructions when he is shot.

I want to tell, recommend, suggest, command you to follow this dialog and behavior as close and as soon as possible in any traffic stop.  It can make a difference between getting shot and getting a ticket.

When stopped, roll down the driver’s window an inch.  Leave your seatbelt on.  If it is night, turn the interior lights on.  In any case, grab the top of the steering wheel with both hands.  This is your life preserver so never let go until you are instructed by the police officer.

Your passengers should be instructed to sit quietly with their hands folded in their laps and resist the urge to:
Inject themselves into the conversation,
Make any movement.
They should respond to questions with the simplest and shortest answer possible.  Be polite, it is free and goes a long way.

The police officer will approach and most will stop behind the car’s pillar or behind you, the driver.  Just look straight out the front window.

As some point the officer will either inform you why you were stopped or ask you do you know why you were stopped.  Answer him with the truth and then add:

“Officer, I have a permit to legally carry a firearm and I am doing so.  How do you want to handle it?”

I strongly urge you to say almost the same thing if you have a license but are not carrying, because your license plate is linked with that information.  The officer will be wondering about your gun status and why you’re not informing him of it.  Say:

“Officer, I have a permit to legally carry a firearm, but I am not doing so.”

Honestly, you will run into wiseass cops who will jerk you around at some point.  Just put up with it with your hands on the steering wheel until he tells you to do something.  Follow his instructions.

I carry on my right side, so my wallet goes into my left rear pocket. Follow that pattern.  The wallet goes on the opposite side as the gun.  Don’t dig for wallet, insurance card, or vehicle registration while you’re waiting for the officer to approach you.  It makes them nervous and increased tension can kill.

When I take the wallet out, I do so slowly, holding it with my finger tips and take it slowly to the steering wheel so it and my hands are highly visible.  Using the wheel for support, I open the wallet, remove what the officer has asked for and place the wallet on the top of the dash.  Hand him the card through the inch opening in your window.

We could go through all the important features, why I leave my seatbelt on, why I don’t make eye contact, why I use the words I do.  It’s pretty simple.  Just remember the first rule of police work:
“The officer gets to go home at the end of his or her shift.”

Anything you can do to assure the person standing on the other side of the window that this rule will remain unflexed and in pristine condition will simplify your encounter with the gatekeeper to the legal system.

Remember, you’re being recorded and you don’t want to be the star of the next don’t-do-it video.   Think about it.