Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sniping Competition

I just finished watching “10th Annual International Sniper Competition” from LaRue Tactical.  I had the disc for a while and with the blowing winter snow outside, I was looking for an inside shooting activity.  Watching the DVD qualified.

shooting distance

This competition was, according to the disc, the first time they opened competition up to police and LEO snipers.  If you think you are a good long distance rifle shot, perhaps someone who is sniper good, watch the video.  You may be surprised.

I never thought I was sniper good.  I can hit a 12 inch plate at 200 yards from the prone position, but that isn’t much of anything.  This competition wouldn’t let me stand by the gate.  The video had some interesting ideas.

Both the sniper and scout often had the same rifle optics with the same reticle.  This is taken a step farther and the spotting scope had the same reticle as the rifle optics.  This is to facilitate communication between team members.  Many stages had a provision that if you missed you had 10 seconds to correct and take a second shot.

One of the better teams switched off roles as sniper and scout as needed.  Perhaps one partner is better at calling wind at 700 yards than the other while the other was better at night shooting.  They utilized individual strengths for the team.  I recommend this approach from my own practical experience.  Match each shooter’s skills to the task at hand.

All the competitors zeroed at 100 yards and then confirmed it at 300 and 500 yards.  At least one team took time to discuss PDAs and ballistic software to calculate ballistic coefficients from the data they obtained at different distances.  The bullet drop calculation allowed them to dial in the correction for each stage.  Most of the events were staged with a short time to shoot and an even shorter time to get back to the next shooting position.  Clearly this wasn’t an event where everyone just took their time getting set up and making calculations.

The video also had little commercials about sponsors’ products, chiefly LaRue, Leopold and Nite Hog.  Still, there was information available about reticles, wind calculations, night vision and its screen resolution.

All the winners were military.  LEOs were outshot.  Why?

One shooter explained that you have to have a passion for distance shooting.  You have to make the sacrifice and get out on the range and shoot non-standard distances under different weather conditions.  You have to be willing to keep looking for the new next great thing, then evaluate and use or discard.

I watched the military use thermal spotting scopes with IR lasers to indicate the target to the shooter with their night vision system.  If you don’t have this gear, you can’t compete effectively against teams that do.

And finally, at what distance do most police sniping activities take place?  As one LEO sniper team told me last summer, “…if we have to shoot farther than 100 yards everyone is having a very bad day.”  Reaching out to 500 and 700 yards is not normal activity for the police as compared to the military.

Also competition at that level requires an all in approach and deep pockets.  A LaRue gas gun with 0.7 to 0.5 minute groups currently runs over $2200.  Let’s not even talk about the cost of precision ammunition.

If you get a chance, watch the video or call up one on YouTube.  I think you’ll enjoy seeing what’s possible with practice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tactical Safety

Let's think about the tactics of safety. 

(Just in case the link breaks)

Christmas time pushes people to do crazy, frenzied activities as we rush to make it a perfect holiday.  Let’s talk about putting things in place so they are ready when we need them.

I’m not talking about bug-out bags, stashed guns or even determining lines-of-sight in your house.  I’m talking about smoke detectors.

So many of us use a cut Christmas tree to celebrate Christmas.  These trees were cut 3 months ago or longer and are so dry and are so filled with resin that they practically explode into a ball of fire with the touch of a spark.  Even the live ones you cut at the tree farm are very flammable. 

So put in fresh batteries in your smoke detectors for Christmas.  Most of them use a common 9 volt radio battery available at Mega-Mart and corner stores across the nation.  If you don’t have a smoke detector buy a couple.  Put a smoke detector on each floor. 

I suggest you put one on the living room ceiling near the area you normally put a Christmas tree.  This one will give you an extra 10-20 seconds if the tree catches fire.  Those seconds could be the difference between having an awful Christmas and not having one at all.

One of my favorite blogs suggests keeping a headlight on the fire extinguisher.  Not a bad idea, but here are the two main thoughts on using a fire extinguisher.

If you have any doubts the fire is too big for your extinguisher or level of confidence, it is too big.  Like DeNiro said in Ronin,  “If there is any doubt, there is no doubt.”

If you choose to fight the fire, get the fire department moving before you start.  You only get one extinguisher.  If you have to leave to get a second, the blaze is too big.

A few more words on smoke alarms and such.  There are two types, ionization and photoelectric.  Experts suggest installing both.  Then they talk about adding carbon monoxide detectors, and don’t forget the Bluetooth linked detectors …

Remember, perfect is the enemy of accomplished good.  Just get a couple of smoke detectors on your ceilings and keep fresh batteries in them.   Make sure everyone knows to meet a location in the house and what their job is during an alarm.  I think you should practice a drill. 

You spend hours practicing head shots on cardboard, but you think it’s silly to run a drill to make sure you and yours get out safely?  Really?

Here’s a link to the article that sparked this rant.  I hope you enjoy it and take it to heart.

I want you have a Safe and Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Basics 6: Public Bathroom

Let's get gritty. (just for men edition!)

CCW and modern plumbing
So...Which are you going to use?

That’s your third cup of coffee.  Nobody ever owns coffee.  We just borrow it and input equals output.  Time to head to the john.

You’re carrying, that’s why you’re drinking something non-alcoholic.  Let’s assume you carrying strong side and someone has made you.  They want your gun.

Their plan is to be a half a dozen steps behind you into the john and when you step up to the urinal, unzipped and pre-occupied, they are going to rob you.  This is just a variation of one popular mode of making a felony warrant arrest and extraction from a public place.

Let me tell you how I would do it.  I’d start to walk past you and then slam your head in to the wall, hard!  Hard enough to knock you unconscious.  I’d scoop the gun out of your holster and be out the door while you were still falling to the floor.

So what’s your plan?

You’ve got a couple choices.  You could use the urinal on the right.  That’s a sturdy partition on your right that protects and limits access to your gun.
You could use the center one which gives you room to move either left or right during a fight.

The left one, that’s not so hot unless you’re a lefty.

So what’s the answer?

Use a stall. 
Nothing like almost complete privacy, with a door locked behind you to protect yourself.  Take care of emptying your bladder and when you’re ready, you open the door and step out.  Anyone waiting has to react to your timing.

Sure you can dream up other scenarios that invalidate the protection of a closed door.  How about two of them waiting for you outside the door?  Or maybe one will climb over into the locked stall after you. 

Really?  Maybe someone will simply teleport your gun away from you.  

Not very likely you say, and I would agree.  Lingering around in a bathroom always attracts attention.  That’s the last thing he wants.

It’s a basic tactic.  Use a stall.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Basics 5

I’ve seen something I’ve never seen before.

predator and prey  criminal and victim  same thing!!!
Victim and Predator    Image from Jim Burns
A small hawk had found a pigeon separated from its flock and managed to crash it in traffic in front of my car.  The hawk took a second or two to regrasp the pigeon, look around and then drag the injured bird off the road and on to the glass berm, out of sight.

The hawk was lucky on several accounts.  Traffic was slow and I recognized what was happening while they were still a flying tangle of feathers heading to the pavement.  I could stop and wait the 10 seconds it took.

There is a tactical message in all of this.  Let’s ignore the implication the pigeon was unarmed and the hawk armed with sharp talons.

The hawk cruised around until it found an isolated pigeon, a victim of opportunity.  It struck with maximum force to disorientate the victim.  He then took a second to make sure a bigger hawk would not steal his victim, made sure he had control of his victim and then took the victim to a secondary, more private location.  Needless to say the pigeon lost more than his wallet and watch.

What do we get out of this?

Armed or not, it’s safer in a group.  Pay attention to the surroundings.  If that pigeon knew about the circling hawk, it would have taken cover with the rest of the flock.  A criminal attack will be violent and unexpected.  See your attacker approach and start your counter before he arrives.

No, I don’t mean drawing your gun.  That’s dependent on the circumstances and may be appropriate.  But opening your coat to make access to the fighting tools easier, emptying your hands, moving to cover, moving back to the store entrance, getting the family to safety, all start the process.  This sends a clear message to the predator that they have been seen and you are not surprised.

Final observation.  Never let yourself been taken to a secondary site.  There is a reason the criminal wants to take the time and risk exposure and possible capture to move you to a move private location. 

Remember that pigeon.

Any comments?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More Lessons From The Damned

Ray Tensing is in a lot of trouble.  July 19, 2015 while working for the University of Cincinnati police he stopped Sam DuBose.  What should have been an ordinary traffic stop went bad.  Very Bad.  Tensing shot and killed DuBose while he attempted to drive away.

Those seem to be the facts.  There are some questions about exactly what happened, what Tensing thought and what Tensing feared would happen.  They are in trial now to determine the outcome.

Tensing’s body cam has been examined and an expert claims it doesn’t support Tensing’s claim.  Tensing claims his hand was caught in the car as DuBose drove away and he would have been dragged.  Such a dragging could result in serious injury and perhaps death.
Powerful stuff.

What’s the lead paragraph in the Akron Beacon Journal and others about this revelation?  Not that the cop cam doesn’t support his claim, but that Tensing was wearing a black shirt with a Confederate flag and the words “Great Smokey Mountains” printed on it.  Kind of paints him as a racist, doesn’t it?

I couldn’t believe that any police force would allow a uniformed officer to discard the uniform top and just wear a tee-shirt while on duty.  A little more digging revealed the department requires a black tee-shirt be worn under the uniform top during the summer.

The shirt was also described by others as the kind you might buy at a souvenir shop.  Also not mentioned in the ABJ article was the shirt also had the numbers 1 9 3 4, the year the Great Smokey Mountains became a national park on it.

Oh!  Doesn’t sound so racist anymore does it?

I’m not here to rag on the ABJ, or on Tensing’s actions.  I want to talk about perceptions.  The jury saw that shirt.  DuBose’s death happened more than a year ago and now it’s at trial.  The prosecutor had a year to work on the case, make connections, try out different fact interpretation and find experts who agreed with his theory. 

That shirt doesn’t help Tensing.  The tragedy of one man killing another isn’t enough.  The news media paints him as a racist, that sells papers.  It is also what the DuBose family wants.  Their father/son/husband/brother/buddy was killed because he’s black, so they claim.  Bigger rewards that way.  (Yeah, I’m that cynical.) 

I’ve said this before; don’t stack the deck against yourself.  Personal ornamentation meant to shock or point out the hypocrisy of society, the clothing statement that you’re a rebel and loose cannon can and will be used against you by the media and the justice system.  Don’t make your defense harder than it has to be.  Beside, do you want your neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members, relatives thinking you were looking for trouble?

My firearms have descriptive names - the second model 66 revolver I bought, not the widow maker.  It’s a Glock 17 with a light, not Zombie Slayer.  I don’t have skulls on my guns, little tombstones, or crossed out stick figures.

Save the statement tee-shirts for the backyard cookout and if you do wear a gun shirt that make sure it says something like “Quality since 1911” or “Proud Sponsors of Make-A-Wish” and not “Mess with me and Die with the Rest.”
I had a Springfield Arms shirt that listed all the matches Team Springfield shot in.  That was enough of a statement for me.


Tensing’s trial is in the hands of the jury, that collective organism with a IQ over 1000, more than 500 years life experience and 12 separate BS detectors, some of which are always working.  I wonder what the outcome will be?

New Flash!
A deadlocked jury results in a formal mistrial for Ray.  But he's not off the block yet.  Prosecutor Deters plans to refile and take Ray back to trial.  Deters wants to move the trial to a new location, I'm assume somewhere he thinks he can get a better outcome.  

Also remember, not guilty is not the same as innocent.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Sniper Match

GTA’s sniper/spotter team match was a success.  17 teams of men and women worked through a variety of stages including a boat and shoot house.  A central tenet of my belief system is training and lessons can be found at the heart of all activities if you look for them.  As Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by just watching...” or words to that effect.

What did I learn?

boat sniper stage
Row, row. row your boat, life is but a dream.....

Most snipers used .308 rounds.  A few fired the classic 30-06 round.  One other round was represented, a .243 Winchester.  Let’s unpack this a little. 

Don't confuse the reflection with the real targets...

The .243 is considered an entry level deer hunting round.  A 100 gr bullet typically has a speed of 2960 feet per second.  The Los Angeles SWAT teams used this round in their early years.  I suspect if it will stop a fully grown white tail deer, it will work on a man.  In some countries, civilian ownership of rounds used by the military like .308 is forbidden and the .243 Winchester finds a role as a replacement for the .308.

rifle hogan's alley
Any bright alley for the spotter in all of us!

The .308 was invented in 1952 as a replacement for the .30-06.  It’s not quite the same with the 7.62x51 round but the difference is so minor that SAAMT classifies it as a safe substitute.  One of the reasons the military dropped the .30-06 for the .308 was size and weight.  A 125 gr bullet typically has a velocity of 3100 feet per second.  Following WWII, the need for a more mobile and self-sufficient soldier was apparent.  This hasn’t changed for the soldier, police or deer hunter.  The smaller shell meant more ammo for the same weight.

shooting positions
Sniper take aim...

The .30-06 was a surprise to me.  First invented in 1906 the round is often thought of as a 1000 yard round.  Also known as 7.62x63 the round has gained the reputation for being suitable for any North American game including apex predators like polar bear.  If you’re going for elephant or Cape Town Buffalo, you need a bigger gun.  The .30-06 is reported to be at the upper limit of confortable, recoil manageable round.  The brass case has room to hold more powder, assuming your rifle and shoulder can deal with the increased load, to produce higher performance.

Every sniper I talked to zeroed his or her weapon at 100 yards.  As one deputy sheriff told me,”If I have to shoot farther than 100 yards, it’s a very bad day for everyone.”  Every professional sniper knew their bullet drop at different distances and if time allowed, dialed in the correction into their scope before the stage started.  Only when there is insufficient time do they depend on hold over.
This is very interesting.  At Camp Perry the rifle pop-ups are out to 300 meters and there is no time to dial the correction, so hold over is the order of the day.  I believe that if time allows, dialing in the bullet drop into your scope produces a better, more accurate hit as compared to estimating the hold over.

All the spotters had AR platforms.  Many of the spotters used a bipod as well.  The snipers used bolt guns with limited box magazines and almost without exception used a bipod.  This works well when the paradigm of sniper-equals-fewer-shots is valid.  Previous matches required the sniper to fire 9 rounds in under a minute, making those 3 and 4-round box magazines a disaster.

It should come as no surprise that prone shooting position produces the best results.  Unfortunately, prone is one of the slowest to move in and out off.  Several shooters had trouble shooting from un-orthodox positions, like behind a small cable spool or from inside a culvert.  That’s also not surprising.  Most amateurs don’t have the facilities to practice these positions.

If I had to make recommendations for next year or other matches, I would suggest forming a shooting team at the beginning of the season.  I cannot stress communication drills between sniper and scout, determining actual bullet drop and shooting from unorthodox positions enough.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sometimes New is Better....

It’s easy to find yourself chasing technology in an effort to have the latest tacti-cool accessory.  This is very apparent with bulls-eye shooters with their constant search for the dot, muzzle brake, oil, barrel, trigger job, or special start up ritual that will shrink their group and add 15 points to their average score.

Nor are IDPA or other action shooting games immune from tungsten guide rods, special sights, dot optics and the rest, all of which are attempting to reduce time and improve score.  Many pistol smiths make a good living selling superior performance.

Step out of the game world and into practical self defense and we’ll find these gismos waiting for us as well.  Some are potentially dangerous.  Trigger jobs that reduce the trigger weight to values not defensible in court, for example.  Some are just misleading like dry oils or dirt repellent lubrication.  Others actually improve your shooting ability and increase your survivability.

Accommodations must be made to age.  I just put Truglo TFX sights on my Glock 17.  The sights glow in the dark thanks to tritium, a slightly radioactive isotope of hydrogen.  The use of plastic light pipes that seem to suck up every extra photon helps me see them at dusk or in dimly lit surroundings.  The increase contrast is just what my old, hard to focus eyes need.

For gun games I wear special glasses, cheaters if you will, that help my eyes focus on my front sight.  Everyone shoots better when they focus on their front sight.  But I can’t really wear them for everyday wear.  Too many things, like traffic control signs, are out of focus.  It is very likely I’ll be wearing my normal prescription glasses when I’m forced to defend myself. 

Therefore, I want sights that will help me line front and rear sights up properly.  Truglo TFX does this for me.  As a chemist I like to test my assumptions, so I shot the Dot Torture target with my normal glasses.  It was noticeably easier to see my sights using the Truglo TFX.  I scored 50 out of 50.  Yes, the sights were a little out of focus, but these were easy to quickly line up.  I recommend them to you.  I have them on my glock .380 too!  They aren’t cheap, but missing or shooting the wrong person in self defense to too expensive not to invest in Truglow TFX sights.

No, it's not a very long slide, it's a function of the closeup camera lens.  Still, rear sights slightly fuzzy and front sight crisp and sharp that's perfection.

The other thing I changed was my Streamlight gun light.

My new Streamlight TLR-1s and my older M-3
This is one time newer is better due to upgraded technology.

Years ago I purchased an M-3 tactical gun light for that same Glock.  It was great.  Press down on the momentary switch with my left thumb and darkness would retreat from me.  I’ve used all the flashlight techniques with different degrees of success and a gun light beats them all.

Even with a gun light you need small tactical flashlight.  Use a hand-held light to illuminate areas you don’t want to point a gun at, but need to see.  I would suggest a light with a lanyard you can slip over the wrist.  You just drop the hand held light and grasp your weapon when you need more grip.
But technology has changed.  LEDs (light emitting diodes) have a higher efficiency and produce more light.  They also sip electricity.

Let’s go head to head:
M-3 Illuminator
TLR-1s Illuminator
80 lumens
300 lumens
Run time
2.5 hours
2 – 3 volt CR123
2 – 3 volt CR123
Focusable lamp
a little
Light source
Incandescent bulb
Illumination modes
Locked on and momentary contact
Locked on momentary contact and strobe
3.1 oz
4.1 oz

With the exception of the focusable lamp and weight, the TLR-is wins hands down. 
I recently was out on the range about an hour before sunset and noticed a clump of trees and bushes.  This little cluster of forest created complete and total darkness beneath it.  Several people could have easily hidden in the shadows.  The M-3 wasn’t bright enough 20 yards from the brush to illuminate shadowy undergrowth.  The TRL-1s did a great job!

My next step is to get a carry holster to fit the Glock and TRL-1s mounted.