Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bottom Lines

Following the Nov 13 2015 Paris attack, claimed by Islamic terrorists, there has been a predictable rush of Facebook and Internet commandos expressing the desire to get the perpetrators in their gunsights.  It’s quite understandable, as I also would very much like to get these assholes and their entire ilk in front of my front site.

What if....when it happens here... What's your plan?

This outpouring of support and camaraderie is both commendable and futile at the same time.  There is little most of us can actually do. 
America is not isolated and immune from these attacks.  9-11, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the bombing of the Boston Marathon should demonstrate that both foreign and homegrown extremists can prey on us.  

Let’s not forget the spree shooters, self-proclaimed revolutionaries and Other Dickless Assholes (ODA) who can’t resist shooting helpless, unarmed victims.

It will happen again.  Are you ready? You’re going to dance with the devil, but are you going to lead or follow?

It starts with a plan.

Here’s a jumping off point for discussion.  Your plan may be to run towards the sound of gunfire or away from it.  I don’t know what is right for you.  The solution for a single man or woman could be quite different for anyone married or with children or elderly parents.  But if you want to help, here are some of the components that should be in your plan.
  • First aid
  • Skill with weapons/tools
  • Equipment/Plan
  • Willingness

I’m going to touch each one, some more than others.

First Aid
Every first aid course I’ve taken in the last 4 years has emphasized the importance of using a tourniquet to control bleeding and the need to keep an air way open.  A self-rescue aid kit containing a tourniquet, quick clot, latex gloves and two yards of duck tape can potentially stabilize life threatening injuries until the professionals arrive.  It may even save your life.  Do you carry a kit?  Can you use it?

Skill with weapons
A thousand words might not be enough for this topic. Don’t expect to stop six armed terrorists who have the element of surprise.  But if you are cornered and need to protect yourself and your loved ones can you?  If you can disrupt their plans, if you can make them wonder how many others like yourself are out there, that’s a step in the right direction. 

Can you hit your target under pressure?  What distances are you accurate at?  Can you reload, clear jams, use cover and concealment, formulate plan B through Z on the move?  Are you prepared to deal with the police?  Do you have a knife and flashlight?  Can you fight with fist, knees and elbows?  Are you physically fit enough to carry your child or injured spouse to safety, run a hundred yards, climb 60, 70 or 100 steps?  Can you kneel, crawl or jump?

I’m not suggesting you need to train like a commando, but do you know your physical limits and make an effort to stretch them a little? 

To Be Continued.

Monday, November 16, 2015


“Do you have a 38 automatic?” He asked

That was an interesting question.  Saying .38 to me and registers as .38 SPL and these fit in revolvers, not full automatic weapons.  While I’m sure there are .38 SPL semi-automatics in existence, but I didn’t think that’s what he had in mind 

difference between .380 and .38 spl
The little one is .380 ACP while the big one is .38 SPL.  I know you know that, but the clerk didn't.

“No, I do have a .380 semi-auto.  Are you talking about .38 Super?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

Let’s unwrap this onion quickly.  I’ve already wasted too much of my life on this subject.

I always thought it was an NRA myth.  You know, you go to Mega-Mart and the clerk behind the gun counter has just transferred in from shoes and training consists of being told, “Lock up the counter when you step away.”

You ask for 38s and he sells you .380 ACP.  Of course, you have no clue as to what your gun shoots but surely this highly trained sales professional wouldn’t steer you wrong!

Of course this mistake doesn’t get discovered until you attempt to load the gun and that’s pretty much what happened.  He went over to his sister’s so they could shoot in the backyard and discovered his box of .380 ACP doesn’t work in a .38 SPL revolver.

Back to the conversation still in progress.
“Oh, you want .38 Special not .380 ACP.”  I said

“Yeah.  I think so.”  He replied.

So never underestimate the level of ignorance in areas not germane to the fields of expertise.  This guy is a gardener par-excellence, but when I hear him discuss gun rights and self defense I leave the room before my head explodes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Basics 5: Cup Stacking

I never heard of cup stacking until recently.  Or if I did I’m sure it was a late night talk show stunt to fill air time.  I never thought there would be a tactical lesson from stacking cups into pyramids, but there is.  Give me 4.5 minutes and I’ll show tell you what it is.

Okay.  I find it incredible.  The plastic cups seem to flow out of his hands like magic.  I’m amazed.

Austin wasn’t born that fast.  When he started it took over 2 minutes to do what he now does in 5 seconds.  To achieve that speed he practiced 3 or more hours every day for several years.  Now he doesn’t think about it, he just lets his body/mind do it.  The narrator explains how neural pathways have grown to allow this speed and skill.

Here the tactical side.

All skills are learned.

We have four levels of achievement.

  • Unconscious incompetence     We don’t know what we can’t do.
  • Conscious incompetence         We are aware of our limitations
  • Conscious competence         We know how to do something if we pay close attention to doing                                                                                                       it.
  • Unconscious competence     We don’t have to think about it, just recognize it and let the body                                                                                                         respond.

Back to stacking cups.  Austin is demonstrating unconscious competence.

So, reloading, clearing jams, drawing, moving from target to target and so many other skills can be expressed at unconscious competent levels.  This lets you focus on things like tactics, target assessment and the variables of self-defense.

How do you reach that level of performance?  You can’t buy it in a bottle or purchase it over the internet but it is available.  It’s practice. 

Sure, better equipment can make it easier.  An instructor can speed the process, but ultimately it’s time spent in repetition.

You don’t need to spend hours everyday.  How about ten repetitions?

Ten good draws from the holster.  Don’t worry about speed, work on smoothness and consistency.  Bored?  Okay, alternate days with 10 slide lock reloads.  Build on each by adding a perfect dry fire click with each draw.  Change your reload to include some variation of reload with retention.

That’s all it takes, 10 nightly repetitions until the skill is automatic. 

My friend’s daughter had an appointment in New York City, but had lost her bearings in the city.  So she jump into a cab and asked:
“Do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Of course, miss,” he said while starting the meter.  “Practice.”

See, it’s so well known the jokes are even corny.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hittin’ Steel

shot up pistol steel
Pistol grade steel damaged by .30 cal rifle

We all make mistakes.

It’s relatively easy to mistake pistol grade steel for rifle grade.  Thickness of the plate isn’t the sole determiner.  It’s a matter of thickness and hardness as well as strength of the steel, bullet configuration and bullet energy.

Bounce back is a serious problem.  I’ve seen a double ricochet (off the steel target into the rock backstop) strike an observer standing behind the firing line.  She was lucky the bullet fragment found her arm and didn’t crack her skull.

Up close drills using steel require armor.  At a minimum face, head and neck protection is required unless frangible bullets are used.  With frangible ammo, the bullet should shatter into a fine powder and low weight fragments with very little energy to cause damage.  That’s damage to both the steel and the shooter.

back of shot up steel plate
Back of damaged steel plate
Somebody managed to shoot up four steel pistol plates at my favorite range.  This is both a financial loss and a serious safety problem that needs to be corrected.  The four plates are $300 of targets turned into scrap steel worth 59 cents a pound.  There is also a shooter who at best is ignorant or at worst unconcerned, and is willing to place himself and others in danger.

Fortunately nobody was hurt and none of the club members were involved.  The miscreant was someone from another organization using the range.  Corrective action has been taken to educate the shooter and make him a safer shooter.  The range is taking a few additional steps to insure this problem doesn’t happen again.

Let me give you some simple guidelines for shooting steel.  In the absence of special frangible rounds, all steel found on a pistol range should be considered pistol-only grade.  Normal rounds like FMJ, lead, softpoint or JHP are fine but no armor penetrators, no Max Max loads.  You should stay at least 10 yards away and wear safety glasses.  All spectators should also be wearing safety glasses.

Steel found on a rifle range, in the absence of other notifications, can be considered rifle grade at distances of 100 yards or more for most rounds up to.30 cal.  If you’re shooting some hot little wildcat or a massive moose annihilator load or armor piercing .50 BMG (you know who you are) you need to get permission or bring your own steel.

Pistol teel damaged by .30 cal rifle

Shooting sports, regardless of their nature, are dangerous and potentially fatal activities.  It is only our strict adherence to safety rules that enable us to enjoy these activities.  Make sure you know the range rules and follow them.