Friday, December 30, 2011

Tactical New Year

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

I’d like to wish all of you a Happy and Safe New Year. 

Every year I hope for a better year than the last, but truth be told, I’m often disappointed.  So this year I’m going to work on more shooting, more training and more fun.  Life can be rich and rewarding if we pay attention and learn to make lemonade out of lemons.

I don’t, at least not yet, have a list of tactical New Year’s resolutions.  I do have a couple of ideas.

Have a safe New Year’s Eve!  Don’t drink and drive.  You could stay home and celebrate with your friends.  Have them spend the night so their year starts safe.  Better still, don’t drink to stupidity.  It takes away your tactical edge.  Being drunk is like a giant sign over your head saying VICTIM.

Avoid places you’re not wanted, especially over the holidays when everyone is knocking a few back and inhibitions are crashing to the deck.  And there you are with the flashing victim sign over your head.

Try to get off the roads as soon as possible on New Year’s Eve.  We can’t control the drunks who careen down the streets like a self-activated billiard ball. 
Does this sound like a buzz kill?  I don’t know, maybe. 

The truth of the matter is I want everyone to have a good year in 2012 and starting it in the hospital or morgue doesn’t bode well.

Stay safe, stay tactical in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Preventable Tragedies

Of all the tragic events that occur daily, can any be more tragic than the death of a child?  There is one.  The death of a child that could have been prevented.

Now I’m not hitting you up for money.  I am hitting you up to think things through a little more carefully, especially if you carry a gun. 

Rachel Yoder was 15 years old and she was driving her buggy home from a Christmas party at the produce shop she worked at.  Her family found her bleeding on the ground outside her house.  First thought to be a victim of a head injury, doctors at Akron City Hospital discovered a gunshot wound.  Rachel died December 16, 2011.

Police followed the blood trail to the intersection of Country Road 229 and Township Road 614.  There were no witnesses, no evidence, just a dead girl in a hospital bed.

By 20 Dec 2011, the police had a suspect.  This wanker apparently pointed his muzzle loader into the air and unloaded it by firing it.  Now firing a muzzle loader to unload it at the end of a day’s hunt prior to cleaning is not unusual.

“I shot a bullet into the air, it fell to earth I knew not where.”  Apologies to H.W. Longfellow. 

Did this wanker think the bullet would just evaporate?  Didn’t he ever hear of the expression what goes up, must come down?

Rachel was almost 1.5 miles away.  One-and-a-half miles.

I don’t know if there will be charges.  I think there should be.  Firing a gun into the air with no apparent safe impact zone is, in my opinion, gross negligence.

This is where you’re going to disagree with me.  

The NRA says a .22 LR will go over 2 miles.  An AD during your survival gun fight may kill someone a distance away.  Killing people you didn't mean to shoot is a good way to get set up for a gang banging in jail.

Pointing a gun up into the air and over the berm during a slide lock reload is almost as negligent as discharging a gun into space with no particular target in mind.

I don’t care what your department says.  I don’t care what the professional trainer says, having an AD during a slide lock reload is more than just possible.  All it takes is a finger in the wrong place, a gun that’s a little worn, a speck of dirt or metal shavings in the wrong place, and an AD will occur.

The odds that a person would be in the wrong place 1.5 miles away and intersect a random discharge are too big to have any meaning, but it happened.

Every professional firearms trainer knows they have to keep up with current thought as well as develop a hook for their continued employment.  It’s a tough business.  Training dollars can be scarce.  Many of our techniques come from the shooting sports and the look-through-the-trigger-guard reload sounds like one of them. 
Yes, you can see where the cardboard targets have moved to during your reload so you know what to shoot.  But in a real fight why would you have your head sticking out from behind cover, rubber necking about during a reload?  No cover?  Why are you standing still, reloading?  MOVE!!  Moving targets are much harder to hit.

During a reload I think your gun should be pointed at the object (person, steel, cardboard) you are trying to shoot.  Bring the gun up to eye level if you need to peek around cover to keep track of people trying to kill you. 

Don’t let someone with a photographer’s vest sell you his newest snake oil.  Let someone else be the poster child for bad ju-ju.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

When More is Nothing

I overheard it at Camp Perry a few weeks ago.  I learned it from my AR instructors.  I’ve even experienced it myself: Most guns don’t like be to loaded with a full magazine against a closed bolt or slide. 

The close tolerance designed into many weapons doesn’t let a completely filled magazine to compress enough to allow the magazine to lock into place when loaded against a closed action.

AR are notorious for this.  A filled thirty-round magazine doesn’t always seat against a closed bolt.  Glocks are famous for this as are Kahrs.  I’ve owned a few 1911 .45 ACPs that would spit out a filled mag loaded against a closed action.

Glock - 9 mm tool - useful but has limitations

The general gun battle assumption is you’ll shoot the gun dry, discover you’re empty and perform a slide-lock reload.  The tactical reload was reserved for game players on the safety of the range. 

But can you really be sure of that?  I can’t predict the future any more than you, so by some remote, improbable, extraordinary circumstance, could you need a tactical reload to save your butt?

I’ll grant you that at best the tactical reload is reserved for the lull in fighting in which a reassessment also takes place to determine if the battle would continue or not.  At worst it’s a tool gamesmen play on the safety of the range to insure that when they reach the next shooting box their blaster will be fully reloaded.

Unless you’re behind sufficiently large cover, you should be making every attempt to shoot people trying to kill you.  But since lulls in a gun battle can be so temporarily transitory, the need to quickly refill your weapon is critical.  Having the gun spit the magazine out after the next shot is a recipe for disaster.

Solution?  Down load your carry magazine by one.

What!  Heresy you say!  I know, yes, you spent extra for high cap magazines and mag extenders to get extra rounds.  But let’s think about this.

Kahr P9 with "glock' sock

Your AR with an administrative (that’s the first magazine you put in the weapon at the beginning of your day) load of 30 rounds and one conservative reload of 28 rounds gives you 58 instead of 60 rounds available to you.  That’s a 3% reduction in potential fire power.  Which odds are best for your survival:  a 3% or a 50% reduction caused by dropping the magazine after one shot?  

With your 1911 and seven round magazines, one reload with six rounds gives you  13 rounds or a 7% reduction.  Compare this value to dropping a filled 7-round magazine after the first shot following a tactical reload.  Again that’s a 50% reduction in fire power.

The message seems clear, if down loading a reload magazine by one round increases your weapon’s reliability and therefore your survival ability, isn’t it worth it?

“But,” you interrupt. “What if I need that extra round?”

If you’re convinced the 14th round of .45 ACP is significant to your survival, carry an extra magazine.  That gives you 19 rounds. 

Carrying a second reload is like inexpensive life insurance.  Even if you’re a high cap Glock shooter, a second reload is a gift from the gods.

But what if someone with authority prevents you from carrying a second magazine?  I don’t have all the answers, heck, I don’t have all the questions, but I would consider a second magazine in my pocket hidden from that authority. 
A second option might be an aftermarket mag extender and fill the magazine to its original capacity using the “add-on” capacity to ensure I can reload against a closed action.  Again the question to answer is how reliable is it?

If you’re of the mindset that since you didn’t get a third magazine when you bought the gun, so you’re not going to pay for a third magazine, buy life insurance ‘cause you’re dead anyway.  The certificate just hasn’t been served.

It’s something to think about.  If your gun and magazines have no problem loading a filled magazine against a closed slide, great.  Fill’em up.

But if your weapon doesn’t like filled magazines, then down loading by one could save your life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful for the Camp Perry Rifle Match

Tactical Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving means more than just family, friends and turkey followed by early morning Black Friday shopping.  For me Thanksgiving means family, friends, and turkey followed by the rifle pop-up match at Camp Perry.  This fun match benefits Friends of Camp Perry and is run by the Ohio Rifle and Pistol Association. 

The CoF involves 40 pop-up targets from 50 to 300 yards.   Excluding military and police I don’t know any other match that has reactive rifle targets.  It’s a blast and I look forward to it all year long
Pop-up rifle range - Camp Perry

The targets are half–size plastic humanoids.  They are colored either blue or red to prevent accidental cross-over.  You can choose your politics as you wish.

Pop-up in its foxhole.   

This year the CoF was a little more difficult than previous years.  All the pop-ups were either doubles or triples.  Triples will stand up for 9 seconds while doubles will be visible for 5 seconds.  The computer that controls the match puts 3 seconds between each group. 

Scoring is either hit or miss and the computer detects the bullet passing through the plastic and takes the target down.  It is by far the fastest and most fun rifle match I have ever shot.  

There are no winners or losers.  Your identity is simply your relay number and firing point.  But you can learn a lot from the print-outs which detail the distance to the target and if you’ve hit or missed.

The Tactical Side
If you can consider the possibility that you might need to engage multiple targets to protect yourself or others, shooting paper or steel isn’t enough.  I’m sorry, but it’s not.  It’s the fixed nature of the targets that prevents you from maximizing your potential.  Sure, Perry pop-up targets are located in specific locations, but you don’t know which ones will show up next.

There are several ways to shoot the match depending on your equipment.  If you’re young and your eyesight is still crisp and eagle sharp, you can use iron sights.  The rest of us need dots and scopes.

I’m shooting a 3x variable scope on an AR platform.  The first thing I learned is higher power means you can see the 300 target easier, but the smaller field of view prevents me from seeing other closer targets in time to engage them.  My scope only dials down to 3x, but 2x might be better as would a more expensive scope with large field of view.

You don’t shoot with a spotter, so it’s easy to miss the 150 yard target on the other side of your shooting lane while engaging another at 300 yards.  I can speculate that two shooters per lane, one with scope and other with a dot or iron sights, could very effectively control the lane as well as pick up the slack while the other reloaded.  That sounds a little like a sniper team, doesn’t it?

Since only one shooter uses a lane at a time there are several options on order of engagement.

Tactical Only: Engage each group of targets from near to far.  This makes several assumptions.  They all have the same weapon, that the 300 yard guy isn’t shooting an RPG.

Easy First: Quickly shoot the nearest, allowing accuracy to slide in the favor of speed.  The time you save is then used for the more difficult targets.

Hard First: The theory is take your time to hit the far one, then confident with the reassurance of your ability, speed into the easy one.

I Spy Method:  Shoot the target closest to cross hairs when the targets pop up.  Don’t waste time moving to the hard or easy target, just shoot what you see and then move to the next.

For me, I Spy worked the best.

The Weapons
The AR platform was the most common. 
With bells and whistles and a dot.  Note the black rubber block provided for support.
Basic model - skill provided by the shooter

I didn’t see any bolt action rifles this year.   

The venerable M1-Garand was represented as was the M1 carbine and the civilian semi-auto version of the M14.  

M-14 - Note the shooting glove - slings aren't just for carrying.
 I saw both FN Scar and FN FAL.   

Mono or bi-pod - - Stability is king at 300 yards.

 The former Soviet Union was represented with at least one AK47-type rifle.  

AK set up as a scout rifle. Shooter told me this made it almost too easy.

 I’m sure I missed all the other possible semi-autos.

The Garand was seriously handicapped by the 8 round N-block and the difficulty of reloading.  

Garand in 30-06    8 N-blocks plus one in the rifle - Busy shooter

 The M1 carbine has a reputation of being inadequate for distant killing power.  Still, in combat or in self-defense, a wounded man becomes a liability.  Few people choose to be shot with any caliber. 
M1 Carbine

Ability to pour fire into an area or target has always been significant.  One can only wonder that a Minute Man with his musket would have thought of a lever action 30-30 or the doughboy with his M1903 examining an AK47.

Quite possibly the most tactical aspect of the Perry Pop-up Match is learning your limitations.  And it’s fun too!

I hope to see you there next year!

For more information go to:

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Ohio Castle Doctrine.

Some things are so important to your survival that you need an understanding of it and a copy.  The Ohio Castle Doctrine is now part of the body of Ohio CCW law, but its interpretation is critical for any claim of self-defense in the home and quite possibly your personal car. 

Why am I excited about this?  One sentence:  The perceived reality is the legal reality.

Any good sentence needs Ricky to say, "You got some splainin' to do, Lucy!"  I don't want to get into that here, but WKYC (Cleveland) had an interview with an Ohio district attorney about the Castle Doctrine. 

You must have a copy of this to demonstrate what you knew before you protected yourself or loved ones with lethal force.  Here's the link:|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|featured

Here's the video:

Final Words - This is one person's, an important person I grant you, opinion and a sound bite.  Until case law is established and upheld in court, things can change.  Don't be the poster child for stupid mistakes.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Keeping Your Distance

A smart fellow once told me, “A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of another.”  That made an impact which I’ve never forgotten. 

So I’ve got a story from my best friend, my wife, in her own words to share with you.

Every knife has a story.

Dexter bread knife - soft rubber handle and eight inches of teeth

I was on my way to my favorite restaurant/janitorial supply store.  No, I don’t run a restaurant nor am I a janitor.  This store has some neat stuff and they sell to the public.  I’m at a red light right behind a semi.  He must have realized he didn’t have enough clearance to make the right turn, so HE STARTED BACKING UP. 

Into me! 

I’m driving a little (comparatively) VW Jetta.  Did he know I was there behind his 53 feet?  In that split second that comes with years of experience, I checked my mirrors and threw it into reverse.  All while blowing the horn (which I’m sure he couldn’t hear).  I was lucky.  There was no one behind me and I was able to evade his oncoming motion.  The light changed to green and he went merrily on his way.  I continued straight through the intersection and into the parking lot of my destination store.  I was shaking.  All I could think of was what if there had been someone behind me? 

Moral of story (here’s the tactics part): always leave enough maneuvering room in front of your vehicle.  (I remember when my dad was teaching me to drive and telling me to see the rear tires of the car ahead of me.)  Lesson learned, and now refreshed after all these years.

So, what does the knife have to do with this?  When I got in the store, I told the woman behind the counter what almost happened, and there in front of me was a display of very unusual knives.  I don’t really need another bread knife, but as my knife guy likes to say, this one ‘spoke to me.’  As a reward for not being in an accident, I treated myself.  And boy, what a knife!  It cuts like a dream.  It even beats my beloved (and discontinued) Spyderco bread knife.  

That’s all for now.  Maybe you’ll hear from me again.

That’s my wife’s story.  I don’t like realizing how close she came to being injured.  But it’s an important message.  Tactics aren’t always about reloading before you go through the door, or FBI cant compared to straight drop holsters.  Tactics are about anticipating problems and having options available.

And every time I see that knife, I’m reminded to make sure my tactics are grounded and give me options.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Zombie Max

I just want to get it on the record:  I’m not immune to merchandising.  A pretty girl, an interesting box or a commercial that makes me smile can get me to buy something.  

In this case it was Hornady Zombie Max.  The green and purple box with the alert “Warning:This Is Live Ammunition. This Is Not A Toy.” was too much to resist. 

The bullets are tipped with a sickly green plastic. 

Twenty rounds of .55gr .223 rem, and I paid too much, but it’s still pretty cool!  The box gives you some quick ways of IDing zombies.  Key indicators include:
                Waving their arms around to distract you,
                Table manners have disappeared,
                Dragging their feet.

Hmmm.  Makes you think.  Sounds like some of my co-workers before their first cup of coffee each morning.  Could it be??  Naa, I don’t think so, but I’ll keep an eye on them from now on.

The box has some ballistic data.  Bullet weight 55gr. Muzzle velocity, that’s 3240fps.  The bullet drop data indicates a 200 yard zero and 46 inch drop at 500 yards.  I don’t know, 500 yards with a 55gr .223 seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s too far for head shots, the only sure way to stop a zombie.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Autumn always finds me racing the weather.  All spring, summer and early fall finds me shooting, but not cleaning guns.  Come the time change, I always have to squeeze in my cleaning so my wife can get her car back in the garage.

My garage goes from summer “wood butcher” shop to gun-cleaning station.  I set up saw horses, lay sheets of plywood over them and drag out my dip tanks, cleaning chemicals, patches, good screw driver set and rubber gloves.

It’s a one-man production line; dirty guns enter, shed their grips, are field stripped to my reassembly confidence level and are dipped, scrubbed, wiped, oiled and re-wiped.  Each gun gets disassembled to a different level.  Glocks get completely taken apart.  My 1911s get field stripped to the frame (pins alarm me) while the slide gets detailed stripped. 

I was cleaning my first .22 Ruger many years ago when disaster struck.  I turned it sideways and a pin fell out of the frame followed by several components.  I was afraid I would have to buy another Mark II so I could figure out how to reassemble the first!  I finally doped it out.

Sometimes things don’t go together quite the way you think.  I’m not one to pry, hammer or file, thinking I can make it better than the factory or a professional gunsmith. 

So when I had a little trouble getting my .380 Beretta Cheetah back together I stopped for a few moments and studied the parts.  It’s a little tricky. The blow-back barrel isn’t fixed to the frame, but slips out with the slide like its big brother, the 92F.  The barrel has to line up with the frame just right in order to reassemble the Cheetah. 


The surprise came when the gun locked up and the hammer was frozen in the cocked position.  I looked at the parts diagram, checked the dip tank for dislodged parts, made sure everything was where I thought it should be.  Checked, rechecked and doubled checked but no joy.  Time to turn to a professional.

I called Dave Laubert at Defensive Creations and arranged to come down to his shop.  I’ve known Dave for several years both as a shooter and a gunsmith.  A professional machinist turned gunsmith, Dave has a reputation for high quality work and customer satisfaction.

It didn’t take long. Dave zeroed in on the magazine safety spring.  It looked like it was in place, but the right hand grip didn’t fit as tightly to the frame as it should.  He moved the spring so it dropped into its channel in the frame and the gun works fine.  I still have to fire it, but the rest of the functions - safety, magazine safety, double/single action - work fine dry.

The spring was still attached, but had come out of the frame channel and sat next to the grip screw.  This was enough to prevent the gun from working.  The spring is now in the correct position.

I want complete confidence in my self-rescue tools.  I get that from having the professionals work on my guns when I’m out of my comfort zone.  My mind will be on solving the problem and not on “Did I fix it right? and “Will it go BANG?”

Random crap: 
According to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon, a Brown Bess musket will shoot a candle through a barn door.  Believe it or don’t!

I can’t help wondering how someone figured that out.  Was someone trying to waterproof a black powder load or lubricate the barrel and had to shoot the stuck candle out of the barrel?  Did someone reach into an ammo pouch and mistakenly pull out a candle stub and not know it?  Today I would suspect beer was involved, maybe then too.

I know!  It was an early step in the development of the tracer round!

Ripley didn’t indicate if the candle was lit after the test.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Learning From Others

Let’s get two things clear from the start.  One: a CCW permit doesn’t make you a police officer or give you police powers.  This is big, so make sure you remember that.

The second thing is: Police are charged with using necessary force to take someone into custody or to stop a violent criminal.  Civilians are limited to equal force to defend ourselves and prevent a violent criminal from harming people we choose to protect.  While there are lessons we can learn from the police, sometimes they focus on what not to do as a CCW holder.

Take the Akron Beacon Journal story, “Reserve Officer Is Investigated,” published 21 Oct 2011.

The off-duty reserve officer saw a four young adults drinking in a car.  He attempts to take them into custody, they rabbit, but he’s got a grip on the steering wheel or the driver and gets dragged 100 feet until he lets go.  He’s injured (I’m trying to take out all the adjectives that color the story), but he gets to his feet , draws his weapon and attempts to shoot the driver, through the back window, to stop the potential danger to the public at large.  I want to note the officer was aware of the two females in the back seat.  Fortunately nobody was killed.

Now, there is a special relationship which exists between the prosecutor and the police which will never exist for civilians.  Simply put, without police cooperation the sound you hear is the auto destruct warning of the prosecutor’s career.  And the police know that without the cooperation of the prosecutor the jail cell doors might as well be revolving.  

These two entities are connected.  The prosecutor will cut the police some small amount of slack that you and I are unlikely to experience.

Back to our story.  The officer stopped firing as the car pulled out into cross traffic as innocent people or no-shoots got in the way. 

I’m not going to rehash the entire article.  I don’t trust the veracity of the news media.  I wasn’t there and have no idea what the perceived or legal reality was for that officer when he pulled his weapon.  I will say I suspect that if a civilian attempting to stop a drinking driver from driving by shooting through the back car window the legal outcome would be significantly different.

Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh has one good piece of advice for all armed individuals: “His use of force was acceptable since he ceased firing and innocent persons were not injured.”  In other words stop shooting when you are endangering bystanders, especially when the danger to you has been removed.

One final note: the driver pleaded guilty to a felony charge of assaulting a police officer and receiving stolen property (where did that come from?).  A drug and obstructing justice charges were dismissed and the city never filed drunk driving charges.  The driver left court with probation and did not go to jail, did not become a guest of the state for 10 years.
I don’t know.  This entire affair isn’t quite kosher.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bitter Lessons

“I trust my equipment and my training.”  That quote was in the newspaper.  I believe him.  He’s still alive and, well, what else can he say.  

There was a near fatality Saturday morning at Bridge Day in West Virginia.  Point of fact, I don’t know if he’s still alive or not.

The story?  Hard to say exactly what happened.  About mid-morning a fellow in a 'squirrel suit' and chute jumped off the platform like so many before him.  A squirrel suit has cloth panels under the arms and between the legs like Rocky the Flying Squirrel, hence the name.  Me, I think they call them squirrel suits because you’re nuts to wear one.  The suit is supposed to give you more glide or slow your descent or something that gives you an advantage over other BASE jumpers.  People who wear them tend to open their BASE chutes late ‘cause it’s really a crowd pleaser. 
To jump off the New River Gorge bridge you need 100 skydives in your log book.  That’s a lot of training.

Your equipment has to be checked the day before, followed by a visual inspection on the platform.  I understand there are other routine inspections.  You can trust the equipment.

So what happened?  He had the training, had the right equipment, right?  He opened late, too late according to witnesses in the landing zone.  His chute never completely opened, its lines were still stretching.

We’ll never know what he was thinking but it should be clear, training and equipment aren’t enough.  You need good sense.

Take a lesson here.  Tactics is about applying skill with weapons, your training and good sense to solve a problem.  Surviving is the measure of your success at this.

Nobody is going to be impressed if you give up an advantage because of your knife or gun or last school attended.  Giving up an advantage because you have the certificate from the newest Super-School or own the hottest new gun tricked out with laser, light and echo-locating sonar is a mistake.

Just because he’s holding a $99 POS shooter and has the junkie shakes doesn’t make you invincible.  Give away your advantage and you could still end up on a slab in the morgue.

Well, Saint Peter, he was a kid with some Chinese junk knife and I figured my Cold Steel and I...

Remember, there are no style points in survival.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Gunshow Observations

Airsoft fans already know this but for the rest of us:  Glock has taken out an injunction against the airsoft manufacturers from making airsoft Glocks.  It’s not about safety or concern that you’ll paint the orange safety muzzle black.  Glock wants a cut of the profits.

I was told you could sell your airsoft Glock online for big bucks, but then you wouldn’t have it to practice with.  

If you anticipate ever needing your Glock for self-defense, you should be training and one great way is force-on-force.  Police and high-end schools can use Simunitions, but many police prefer airsoft because you can use it anyplace and clean-up is sweeping the floor.  

Civilians can do the same with eye protection and airsoft.  Don’t surrender your training options to make a little money unless you have no other options.

I was at a gun show this weekend and saw a fellow with a police shield issued by the S&W Collectors Association.  He was wearing it on his hip like police do.  I have always thought this is a mistake. 
What do the police think?  Do they wonder if you’re a wannabe cop?  Or are you one of those strange rangers trying to fool people? 

Me?  What do I think?  I think most police associate phony police badges with child molesters.  I’m not LEO, but that’s what I think too!  I’m a little horrified that the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) issues Texas Ranger-like stars to their members and some of them wear them on civilian clothes.  The last thing you should want is that people think you’re impersonating a police officer.

Bad Juju all the way around!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tactics and Reality

The new cop shows have arrived on television and with them new tactical ideas.  I sometimes wonder if these ideas are worth anything. 

We still laugh about the “Sabrina Carry” position from the original Charlie’s Angels.  Oh, you remember.  That was carrying the gun, safety off, finger on trigger, next to your ear.  The muzzle is pointed up and makes for dramatic entrances when the actress jumps into the room and pulls the gun down and commands “Drop the gun, scum-sucker!”

Of course, it’s not the best position for retention, and your finger is on the trigger so that future AD will destroy your hearing and the muzzle blast may leave you with a permanent tattoo.  That’s almost as funny as the police arriving outside a building and having to rack their slides to load their guns before they rush in.  Good drama, poor tactics.  At least I haven’t seen anyone rack their revolver yet.

The one tactic that I have been seeing from legitimate trainers and police forces is the high slide-lock reload.  In this tactic the gun is shot dry and it is rotated so the palm side of the shooting hand faces the shooter held in front of the face.  This position allows the shooter to look through the trigger guard and keep an eye on the down range activity.  One underlying assumption seems to be that you’re in the open.

If you had cover or concealment you should be using it.    Keep your head down to make sure it isn’t shot off.

With the gun in this position you can see the reload and still watch your target.  The muzzle is pointed up and away at a 45 degree angle.  Top Shot recently touted this as one of the secrets of America’s Ninjas, the Navy SEALs.  I truly feel they deserve that title.  I mean them no offense. 

My red tinted targets visible during the reload as is the top of the berm

The problem is accidental discharge.

In a gun fight there is only one safe place to point your gun: at the person you’re shooting at.  On the practice range an AD will leave the range and I’ve seen it happen.  Crowding cover, numb fingers from the adrenalin rush, mind focused on long term survival and not on reloading, fingers in the wrong place, a worn or defective gun, and when your slide goes forward, your round leaves the barrel.  You will have no idea who or if you have shot someone.

That AD maybe acceptable in Yemen or Afghanistan, but do that in downtown Cleveland and trouble will find you.  
What has caused the change from pointing the gun down range, rotating it on the barrel axis so you can see the mag well to pointing the muzzle up and over the berm on the range or into an apartment and offices in the city?  I don’t know.

One thought is crowding cover.  You pushed yourself into the safest place available and now you don’t have room to manipulate the pistol.  Maybe you don’t have any cover or concealment and your only path to safety is to get the gun reloaded and back into the offense. 

More likely is the tendency to look down at the pistol and no longer scan the battlefield.  And it is a battlefield.  I was just at the range practicing moving and shooting.  Of course I shot the gun dry.  Reloading is an important aspect of all handgun training.  I dropped the magazine as soon as I confirmed I had a reload.  Brought the pistol in and locked my elbow to my side for that felt index and looked down at my gun, saw my feet and gave my steel targets the gift of invisibility.  Good thing they couldn’t move.   It’s a bad tactic.  

Ayoob’s Law of Necessary Hypocrisy :  Do stupid things the least stupid way possible.

But if I have an AD during a reload, I want it to go toward the person I’m trying to shoot and not toward anyone else.  So my new training regimen includes one dry fire activity where I bring the gun up to eye level, rotate my elbow in, my gun wrist outward giving me the maximum rotational motion and freedom.  From there I slide the reload home.  Any AD is going down range.

More red tinted targets, but no berm tops.

I wouldn’t say the current “look-through-the-trigger-guard” tactic is wrong.  I will say let’s make sure it’s not an answer looking for a question.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nation Defense Match at Camp Perry

I shot the NRA’s new National Defense Match last weekend at Camp Perry, Ohio, and the day was brutal.  Perry has little or no shade and temperatures were in the 90s.  The only saving grace was the occasional zephyr of wind.  We were out in the sun from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  I took 90 ounces of water and brought back 10.

How was the match?  I’m still thinking about it.  (In all honesty, I came in last in my classification.  That has to color my opinion.)  I expected the shooters to have “gun-show” grade rifles, you know, AR, Rugers, and AKs, maybe even the venerable M-1. With inexpensive optics, scopes and sights.

What I found were free-floating barrels, high-power scopes, bipods, custom grips, micro-dots on scopes and suppressors.  (The shooters claim the suppressors give them longer barrels, higher velocities and tighter groups… I like the less noise factor.)

Supergun - bipod, sandbag, free-floating barrel, high power scope, surppresser with thermal wrap (no heat shimmers!) and custom trigger

I expected a more tactical match emphasizing using cover, reloading behind cover and moving off-line before going prone.  I didn’t expect air-gunning.

The match’s reality was gamesmanship to the max.  It’s hard for me to see shooting as a game with rule bending strategy.  I stopped following football in mid 70s ‘cause I got tired of the rule changes.  Just let 'em play, I always said.

Clearly rules are needed.  Shooting is a sport with boundaries and procedures.  But if the goal is, as the match title indicates, to measure and improve the national readiness, should air-gunning be allowed?  I know some shooters will push the limits and find that fun.  I’m not one of them.  

I don’t know if I can totally accept a game which tolerates 2-minute discussions on how to legally sit in a chair, or what kneeing is.  But I do understand it.  Some shooters came to win prizes while some came to shoot and evaluate themselves.

I like improving my skill set and this was the first time I could shoot farther than 200 yards.  I now realize my 4 MOA dot covers 12 inches at 300 feet, which eats out the center of the NRA D-1 target.  Add my natural wobble and the center of the tan tombstone becomes invisible.  That’s something to think about if I want to hit things at 300 plus yards.  There were also a lot of very good shooters who shot well and were worth watching. 

So yeah, the match was a good experience for me and I recommend it to the club level shooter.  Shoot it a few times at your club before coming to Perry and work the kinks out of your system.  Learn how to gain max stability prone, kneeling, sitting and standing with or without support.

The CoF can be shortened to accommodate 100-yard ranges and scoring is simple.  You either hit the target or miss.  What could be easier?  Well, there is a plot complication; the penalty for missed rounds is higher at long ranges than short ranges.  For me, the distance shooting is a lot harder than 60 yards and in.  I suspect the full course of fire is inspired by high power shooting.

Would I shoot it again?   I don’t think so.  I would need a lot of specialized equipment, a lot of long distance practice not available to me, and time.  Plus there’s always Camp Perry weather………

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Just a little stuff that keeps sloshing around....

THE Akron Beacon Journal (July 29, 2011) reports a wire story from Kosovo captioned, “OK given for retaliation.”

Sounds ominous, but it appears that NATO has given French and American peacekeepers on the northern border with Serbia the okay to fire their weapons in self-defense if attacked.  The article is troublesome on two levels.

One, what the hell?  Armed forces need permission to defend themselves?  And two, given the first restriction, it occurs to me NATO didn’t say anything about having ammo in the guns.

YOU'VE seen the 17-odd minute tape of the Canton police officer going off the deep end on a driver with CCW.  How could you not have seen or heard about it?  I was listening to the early evening news and it appears another Canton police video has surfaced.  Same LEO?  I don’t know.  But I do know every police officer takes it on the chin when one cop goes over the edge.  I like the police, and there is no nice way of saying it, but some departments have a well deserved bad reputation.  It’s only through the release of these videos that the community can force a change.  

But it is a warning to CCW holders.  Not every LEO will treat you professionally.  I’m not the first to say don’t go to bad neighborhoods.  Don’t stand out.  Don’t draw attention to yourself.

THERE is so much I don’t know about shotguns.  So, the first thing I thought I would do would be to zero my 20 gauge for slugs.  I normally put my ammo in a steel ammo can, pack some sand bags and scope, water, tools, ears, targets, pasters, measuring wheel, staple gun and anything else I might think would be useful into my traveling gun bag which I call my car.   

The first and last half hour at the range is spent lugging stuff to and from the firing point and my car.  This time I left the metal can and a few other things at home.  I took only one small sand bag and a gun case and told the Sherpas I didn’t need them that day.

I planned on using my hard-sided rifle case and the small sand bag to support the shotgun.  However, I discovered the combination was not only too low but the case flexed up and down while I was shooting.

The low shooting rest positioned me so that only the butt’s heel contacted my shoulder.  Every time I pressed the trigger, the recoil slipped the shotgun butt down and the barrel up.  I had no confidence I was accomplishing anything.

Hit much?

I was down to my last round, so I piled a plastic bucket used to collect unwanted empties on top of my rifle case, added my sandbag and discovered I could almost stand up and shoot the gun!  So I did.  Here’s the result.

Honest to God!  My last shot.

Ain't it grand!   Proof that even a blind hog finds an acorn every once and awhile.  

IT seems Pfc. Naser Abdo discovered Islam and these beliefs made him a conscientious objector.  He must have been pretty committed to these beliefs as the Army accepted his request for CO status and recommended his separation this spring.  Along the way the Army discovered his beliefs don’t exclude child pornography.  The Army withdrew the separation and was investigating the kiddie porn charges when Naser went AWOL on July 4th.  The FBI just arrested him for planning an attack on Ft. Hood.  I guess killing some people but not others is acceptable.

Guess who turned him in?  A gun store!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Terror Comes To Oslo

Terrible news coming out of Oslo, Norway.  If we believe the newspapers, not what I would consider a totally reliable source, one radicalized man planted bombs and went on a shooting spree.  He was assisted in the shooting spree in that he wore police garb.  His acts caught the police and the civilian population off guard and unable to cope.  The resulting carnage is so horrible the government darkly hints at unknown accomplices to explain the devastation. 
We can pin all kinds of labels on him, second guess why he did this, study his mind, dissect his brain for abnormal brain structure, but in the long run we’ll never really understand what causes a person to do this.

Unfortunately, it was predictable with broad brush strokes.  Hardened government and military sites make poor terrorist targets.  They require time, extensive detailed planning involving many people, any of which can be become a weak link unraveling the plot.  

The self-motivated terrorist maybe an individual or a small cell of like-minded individuals united by a common complaint or belief.  They could put together an attack on defenseless people, the so called “soft target.”  Such planning is simpler; security is lax; physical barriers can be overcome or circumvented.  

Don’t believe me?  

Really, do you really think the no-gun sign on store doors keeps criminals out?  I was at large public activity and discovered the metal detectors run by the police weren’t even plugged in.  Hmmm, do you still want to hand over all responsibility for your protection to someone else?

Since such events focused on soft targets are more likely, we should concentrate on what our response should be.  I mean you, not the Red Cross, not the police, not the CIA/NSA.

Even if you’re not directly affected by a localized terror attack you may still be involved.  The temporary vacuum caused by the withdrawal of police, fire, or activation of the National Guard will create criminal opportunities.  Be ready for them.

Surviving the event, your response might be to assist the walking wounded to get out of danger or to assist first responders so they can address the more pressing needs. 

Self-rescue is certainly a possibility and requires preplanning on your part.  Do you know where the stairs are?  Which doors lead out?  Where could you barricade yourself if you needed to?   Starting with the first burst of gun fire, the first shock wave of an explosion, getting out of the danger area, out from under terrorist control, should be a priority.  Remember promises made to hostages for safety in return for obedience are lies.  Any delay a terrorist has in killing you is purely for his or her convenience.  

Escaping, avoiding seizure, finding shelter and protection are viable options.  Ignore instructions by hotel staff or police safely on the other side of the barricade, or any officials on the radio and TV.  They are safe and have little to lose.  Get out as soon as possible.

The least likely possibility is engaging the terrorist.  Do you have the skills and tools needed on you?  It isn’t likely you’ll be able to retrieve equipment from home, your vehicle or locker and return to disrupt the mayhem.  It’s only in the movies that agent X-1 can get the drop on someone and slowly accrue weapons, communication and other operational supplies.  Good drama, poor reality.

Still, it is within the realm of possibilities you could be the only thing standing between evil and innocent people.  Experts indicate the longer a situation goes on the more control the terrorist has.  If you’re going to act, you need to act as soon as possible.  But how is the question.

Leave aside the question of skill with your tools, what do you do?  I remember reading about the recommended Israeli tactic for suicide bombers and terrorist attacks.  Shoot them dead.  Move in and shoot them in the head to make sure.  Holster your weapon, so security forces would not confuse you with other terrorists and move rapidly to a safe place.  This is all based on the presence of other undisclosed terrorists waiting to react to rescuers and police.

A similar model could work for you and me.  Shoot anyone killing unarmed people.  Kill them dead right now and reload.  Holster your weapon and move to the safe edge of the event.  Again, let’s not confuse the already chaotic police arriving on the scene.  God only know what arriving police or military know, but I know they will not see the good guy halo over your head. 

Terrorism depends on creating fear driving social change.  At its heart is a blackmail scheme: give me what I want and I will leave you alone (until I want something else).  Paying off blackmail never works.  Giving into terrorists will not work either.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tribal Knowledge: A to Zins

There’s a lot of undocumented information in the shooting community.  You know, knowledge that one group collects from their experience and shares with others.  In the engineering community we call it “Tribal Knowledge.”  It’s the kind of thing Jim Croce sang about in “You Don't Mess Around With Jim.” 

Lemme clear my throat….
“…don’t tug on Superman’s cape,
 …don’t spit into the wind,
 …don’t pull the mask of that old Lone Ranger…”

You get the idea.  The problem is how to know what part of Tribal Knowledge is true and valuable and which part is just dross.

You could try everything you read and hear, but then what’s the advantage of learning from others?  And that’s the answer to this little problem.  Learn from the person who, as Jeff Cooper said, “...has seen the elephant.”

I had a chance to talk, but mostly listen, to Brian ‘Gunny’ Zins.  You should recognize that name: 10-time NRA Pistol Champion and one of the final four on the 2011 season of Top Shot (History Channel).

The conversation was about the 1000-yard phase of shooting the Barrett .50 BMG.  If you watched that episode, you may have noticed the independent spotter helping each of the participants.  Brian talked about riding the Barrett recoil back and then down onto the target in time to see the bullet impact, making a correction and finishing the trigger pull before the spotter could score the impact.  

That's right, finishing the pull.  During the recoil he prepped the trigger so the last fraction of the squeeze occurred as soon as the correction was made.  This let him walk the impacts onto the target with impressive speed.  His success comes from his educated trigger finger.

Being able to control your trigger finger is critical to bull’s-eye shooters.  It may be more critical to the tactical shooter.  The Top Shot .50 BMG range was selected to have a safe, suitable backstop.  I can almost guarantee you that in a self-defense shooting, the backstop will be the worst possible.

Trigger control will assist you with keeping your rounds on target when conditions degenerate into a shoot or be killed situation.

Want to develop Zins’ educated trigger finger?  Look into bull’s-eye shooting with all the associated practice and work.  Of course, it helps to have the hand/eye coordination and reflexes the top shooters have, but every one of us can improve.  Remember, only hits count and misses carry a frightful cost.

Zins has also introduced his own line of match grade .45 ACP.  Here the tribal knowledge has broken down.  We all know FMJ ball is the best.  We all know that a bull’s-eye load should have a velocity of about 600 feet per second with a 185 gr. lead semi-wadcutter.  We all know this is true. 


I expected Zins’ match grade ammo to be 185 FMJ semi-wadcutter with a muzzle velocity of 550-600 fps.  Was I wrong!  The round is a 185 gr. JHP with a muzzle velocity of 821 fps.  For someone grown up in a bull’s-eye culture that spoke of lead bullets (to protect the backstop), low velocity (to protect the shooter’s joints), and semi-wadcutters (to enhance scoring), this is incredible.

A great review can be found at Tony’s Blog.  He has researched it better than I could.  Bottom line, this ammo has tighter tolerance, is extremely reproducible, and produces remarkably tight groups.

Nothing is said about the more traditional concerns of JHP: expansion and penetration.  Zins’ bullets are made by Nosler, so I called them with a typical reloading question: “What velocity do I need to get your 185 gr. .45 ACP JHP to expand properly?

Nosler told me the bullet will start opening up at 600 fps, but they recommend 800-900 fps for expansion and penetration.  That fits Brian’s specifications.

In my world, the hierarchy of needs is:
  • Total reliability of gun and ammo,
  • Shot placement,
  • Stopping power performance based on bullet design, and
  • Micro accuracy.

Brian is at Camp Perry this week introducing his ammo (  It’s a good price ($425 per thousand) compared to other high-end ammo.  If you’re a bull’s-eye shooter and you think you are being held back by your ammo, this could be your answer.  Try a couple hundred rounds and find out: is it you or your ammo?

If you’re a tactical shooter who’s learned the lessons of bull’s-eye shooting and needs tighter groups, I think this ammo may also solve your problems.

Both shooters still need to answer the question: will it feed flawlessly in my .45 semi-auto?

Now, what about us 9 mm shooters?  I don’t know, but Brian mentioned a brand and weight of a 9 mm round that had great inherent accuracy.  So you never can tell what’s on his mind.

Anyway…We wish him good luck and success!