Accuracy Matters

17-Jan-15 – 01:41 by ToddG

The Burton 9mm Commander averaged 1.507″ five shot groups from a foam rest at 25yd. Ammunition is Federal 124gr +p HST. This is the best of the groups at 0.776 inches.


Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

All or Nothing: Unsighted Fire

14-Jan-15 – 04:10 by ToddG

Hackathorn’s Law: under stress you won’t try to do anything you’re not confident you can accomplish.

Lately I’ve seen quite a few discussion about sighted vs. unsighted fire both at and on Ballistic Radio‘s FaceBook page. And like so many internet discussions it seems to devolve into an all or nothing binary only my way works debate.

Ken1Coincidentally, last week I was talking to Ken Hackathorn about sighted vs. unsighted fire. Ken, as anyone could tell you, is an absolute tyrant when it comes to accuracy. That’s me in the red at Hackathorn class in 2009. Ken stresses accuracy above all else in terms of technical shooting skills.

So why does Ken have everyone tape over their sights during a major part of his class when students have to hit multiple targets while shooting on the move? That’s a question worth exploring, and one that gets back to the problem of seeing (pardon the pun) sighted and unsighted fire as two extreme and mutually exclusive skills.

Unsighted fire doesn’t have to mean you’re shooting with your eyes closed. It doesn’t have to mean hip shooting. It simply means you’re not focused on the front sight. The gun can still be up in front of your face providing a reference — both visual and kinesthetic — of where the muzzle is pointed. Let’s face it, even if your eyes are closed, the gun is still pointed somewhere. As people learn quickly during Ken’s drill, you can still get pretty good torso shots while moving even if you aren’t using the little bumpy things atop your pistol.

So, that brings us to the 800# gorilla in the room: most people won’t focus on their sights under stress. It’s something we all know (often from personal experience simply doing stressful practice drills) but many “serious” shooters want to ignore. We’ve all been taught “front sight, trigger press” as a mantra and it’s essentially a sin to do otherwise.

Reality, however, is different. Many folks simply don’t want to accept it.

So,” the unsighted fire advocates ask, “why bother practicing with your sights in the first place?

There are two main reasons. They’re both pretty obvious once you think about it for a little while.

First, there’s the kinesthetic benefit. The more you practice putting the gun in the right spot in front of your face, the more natural it becomes. Your brain and nervous system literally start building connections that turn that practice into habit until it becomes preconscious. Even with your eyes locked onto the target, the gun appears right there in line with your eyeballs because that’s what you’ve practiced time and time again. You may still be focusing on the target but you’ve gone through the motions so many times that you’re still putting the gun where it needs to be and, ideally, you’re still aware of the gun’s position to some extent or another.

ToddKbarrelSecond and most importantly, the only way you will ever reach the point where you can see the sights under stress is if you practice it. There was a long time between when I thought I was using my sights in force-on-force scenarios and when I actually saw my sights consistently. Since then, I’ve been very conscious of my sights in FOF training (and just as conscious the times I screwed up and didn’t use them). My performance in terms of being able to maneuver and get hits on a moving target improved dramatically, as did my ability to get good hits from awkward impromptu positions behind cover.

So there are three takeaways from this:

  1. Unsighted fire happens, and more often than we often like to admit.
  2. Practicing sighted fire helps improve your shooting ability even if you don’t focus on your sights under extreme stress.
  3. Practicing sighted fire diligently can maximize your potential to see and use those sights under extreme stress.

As I’ve said many times in class, practicing sighted fire will improve your unsighted fire, but it doesn’t work the other way around.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(photo of Ken Hackathorn class used without permission because the guy who took it has a stupid screen name on ARFCOM)

9mm 1911s Coming to a SHOT Show Near Your

13-Jan-15 – 15:40 by ToddG

Springfield announced last week that it would be adding some 9mm 1911 models to its regular lineup, 9mm Compact and Champion models.

More exciting to me are the new 80 Series models coming out of Colt this year. There will be a Lightweight Commander XSE, a Stainless Government Model XSE,  and a 1991. I know the 80 Series thing is unattractive to many, but as someone who carries aiwb it’s one more redundant safety that I’d rather have than not.

Other makers are also including or expanding 9mm into their catalogs. It’s a great time to be a 9mm 1911 buyers!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

The Heirloom Has Landed

10-Jan-15 – 22:12 by ToddG


And because I know someone is going to ask:

  • Retail price including base gun ~$7,500
  • Current wait time is 18-24 months

Call Jason Burton at 480-804-1911, mention the codeword “DeadOwl” and receive 95% off and delivery in one week. Though you may not get quite the same gun as the one pictured above.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(thanks to SLG and Julie G for the incredible gift)

Bill Wilson’s 5×5 Test

5-Jan-15 – 20:40 by ToddG

Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat posted another great skill test (the 5×5 Test) at last week and it has been added to the Drills page with his permission.

Check it out, give it a try, and post your results!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


29-Dec-14 – 17:24 by ToddG

It arrives. Oh yeah.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

One Size Does Not Fit All

26-Dec-14 – 04:28 by ToddG

After being offline for so long this year, I’d forgotten just how often people insist that there is only One Way when it comes to shooting. It’s not the guy who says “this pistol works best for me” that bothers me. It’s the guy who insists it will work best for everyone if they’d just give it a try. The same is true for techniques from drawing to reloads to pressing the trigger.

NoBlurb_atheists2For some crazy reason, there are enthusiasts out there who go from being shooters to being apostles. They’ll proselytize their One True Whatever to the point where they care more about creating converts than they care about stuff like, you know, shooting better.

It’s even worse when it’s an instructor trying to shove his personal favorite down his students’ throats. Hey look, if you love the Zippenfaster 9000, shoot the heck out of it and show your students how awesome you are with it. But if you spend more time bugging them about changing guns than you do teaching them how to shoot the ones they brought to class, you might be a moron.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your gun, your grip technique, your preferences are the same as someone else’s. Maybe your eyesight, your grip strength, your lifestyle is different than the guy standing next to you on the firing line. It’s perfectly ok to have your favorite. It’s awesome that you’ve figured out what works best for you. For you. But unless you really understand why it works for you so well and unless you understand why it might not be the best solution for other people with different gear and different priorities, don’t be so quick and so sure that it’s universally the best.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

(cartoon from

Happy Holidays!

25-Dec-14 – 00:01 by ToddG


Hardware vs Software

24-Dec-14 – 03:25 by ToddG

Does hardware or software matter the most, Todd?

Yes they do, Other Todd. Yes they do.

An accepted truism among shooters is that it’s better to use software (skill building) than hardware (changing equipment) to solve problems. And usually, that’s true. Beginners in particular are too quick to jump from gun to gun and widget to widget trying to buy skill when they don’t even have a strong enough grasp of the fundamentals to know what they need to improve. That’s why they end up with a safe full of different guns and a closet full of holsters and sights and accessories… without really becoming any better at the basics of making bullets go in the right direction with speed and purpose.

But we can get so trapped in the mindset of “don’t solve a software problem with a hardware solution” that we ignore facts: sometimes it really is the hardware causing the problem.

Earlier this year I decided to re-dedicate myself to shooting traditional double action (aka “DA/SA”) pistols as I did for all the years before I started doing the endurance tests. I settled on a brace of SIG P229s and happily prepared for what looked like a very fun year of rebuilding and improving the software.

Then life intervened and I was thrown a little curve in terms of shooting. But I stuck with the amazing P229s I had with hopes of accomplishing everything I’d wanted to at the beginning of the year. But things were harder than I expected and after almost two months of trying to make the P229 work for me it was clear that manipulating the double action trigger was just something I couldn’t yet do effectively.

Will it come back in time? Eventually, sure. But for now, if I’m going to carry a gun every day it needs to be something that works now, not eventually. So I’m falling back on a hardware solution — switching to a different type of pistol — because that’s what I need if I’m going to depend on a gun in an emergency.

But for two months I walked around with a gun that I could barely make function. I was as hardheaded about “software not hardware!” as a lot of serious shooters can be. And most of the time, that’s the right attitude. But sometimes, alas, changing hardware may be the only practical solution. At the end of the day it’s more important to have something that works for you.

So how do you figure out whether it’s hardware or software holding you back? I’ve said for years that 95% of shooters think they’re in the top 5%. It’s very easy to convince yourself that you’ve maxed out on the software side. My advice if you reach that point is to give the hardware one more chance. Take 500 rounds or one month (whichever takes longer) with your current setup. Make a genuine commitment to get better with it. And if you still find yourself at a plateau you can’t break through even after you’ve played with your technique and tried to find a way to solve the issue with software, then ask yourself if there is honestly a limit being hit because of the hardware. If you determine that yes, it’s the hardware that’s holding you back then go ahead and see what changes you can make to break through that plateau.

Worst case scenario, you’ll end up with an addition to that safe full of guns and that closet full of widgets and accessories. You know you want to…

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


20-Dec-14 – 01:33 by ToddG


He gets out the driver’s side front door, goes back in through the driver’s side rear door, then hangs upside down out the passenger side rear door. Because being in the driver’s seat would be too dangerous. Words escape me. 

Watch the entire video. There’s even an honest-to-God tactical roll.

Free hat to the funniest comment left by 11:59pm EST Sunday 21-Dec-14.

Thanks to Eli for posting the video at

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG