More on “Every Shot Counts”

7-Mar-14 – 11:21 by ToddG

It’s always interesting to see how people with different focuses and backgrounds look at things in similar fashion. Here’s a recent Facebook post by USPSA Production Grandmaster Donovan Montross (reprinted here with permission) that sounds quite similar to the Fire for Effect PTC post a couple weeks back.

I do think that there are some differences (for example, from a defensive standpoint things like Bill Drills are good to practice because we’re not normally thinking about a short, set 2-round engagement per target like most USPSA stages). But the main message is the same and, in my mind, extremely well articulated. So, read on:

What is the time scale of your learning? Do you track your learning over the course of a season, the course of a match, the course of a practice session?

None of these are adequate when taken by themselves or in combination. They are still important, but we also need to learn on a moment by moment basis, and extract as much usable information as possible out of every repetition we perform, dry or live fire. Every step, every shot, every draw, every reload needs to be performed with our eyes open and our mind aware. I’m not saying it needs to be perfect. I’m saying we need the ability to immediately and objectively evaluate our performance inside of the greater context of our long and short term goals.

There is only a finite amount of practice available – ammo and range time for live fire, and physical endurance in dry fire. We need to treat this like money, and invest it wisely in areas that offer the best potential for return. The more we waste, the further behind we get. The smarter we are with our investments, the wealthier in skill we become. We can do this by constantly reevaluating our priorities in the context of what our personal strengths/weaknesses are vs. what is important for the game, and adjusting our training to match. Constantly – moment by moment, staying ahead of the curve instead of falling behind it.

Stop burning ammo doing Bill drills in live fire and shoot a 15 yard plate rack. When’s the last time you practiced strong and weak hand shooting, unloaded starts from the belt or a table? When’s the last time you shot while off balance, squatting, kneeling, or prone to see how the gun reacts differently? There’s a huge chunk of the game that can be learned in dry fire that we only need to verify and supplement with live fire, for instance don’t extensively live fire draws, reloads, unloaded starts and other gun handling stuff as 95% of the work can get done dry to save ammo for other areas. Similarly, a lot of the work for trigger control can get done dry as well, we just need to go to the range to do it with explosions going off in front of our face. 

The most important thing to work on in live fire is how to grip the gun to get the best sight tracking. The predictability of your sights returning to target directly impacts not only your split time, but your transitions between targets, not only the speed but the refinement needed to shoot good points while doing so.

Track what is best learned dry or live, and adjust your training program to suit. You will progress faster than what you thought possible. Good luck!

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Omnibus Good Stuff Collection: 5-Mar-14

5-Mar-14 – 04:48 by ToddG

Some great articles from around the web, a.k.a. I’m too lazy to write anything myself…

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

In Defense of the Traditional Double Action

3-Mar-14 – 03:50 by ToddG

P229hammer

The mere title of this post makes me sad.

I have come to accept, begrudgingly, that we live in a world where the perception “one trigger pull is better than two” isn’t likely to change any time soon. It’s a perception that kept the 1911 dominant for decades among shooting cognoscenti. Then Glock came along and made the consistent “Safe Action” trigger a key part of its marketing campaign. We have generations of shooters who have never really worked with a traditional double action (aka “double/single” or “DA/SA”) pistol because they’ve simply been told it’s too hard.

But let’s look at some facts and compare some numbers.

A typical Glock, unless you modify the trigger or put what the company itself considers a competition only part in the gun, comes with a trigger pull of about seven pounds (it may be advertised as 5.5 pounds, but check out this report from Modern Service Weapons). Many, if not most, Glocks issued to law enforcement in the United States utilize the even heavier trigger return springs that add another 2-5 pounds to that number.

black220stYour typical TDA pistol is going to have a first shot double action trigger pull around 10-12 pounds. But after that, all the rest of the shots you fire will be with a trigger pull of about four pounds, maybe five pounds. In other words, after you deal with that first shot, everything is easier than even a stock Glock with standard connector and springs! Even most out of the box 1911’s from major manufacturers like Kimber and Colt have trigger pulls above a typical TDA pistol’s single action.

Of course, plenty of individuals spend their time and money to get a lighter trigger on Glocks and 1911s. I can’t tell you how many students I see walking around with sub-4# triggers on such guns. Why? Because it’s easier to shoot. And if the only thing you ever measure is ease of shooting, that makes a ton of sense. It’s only when you start to think about the broader situation of when you might need your pistol and how you might need and what what you’ll really need to do with it that you begin to realize the a super short, super light trigger on a carry gun might not be so smart. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you take a look at Darryl Bolke’s outstanding The LEM As A Street Trigger reposted here last September.

I know I’ll never convert the hordes, of course, who learned “this is my safety” watching Blackhawk Down and feel empowered by the words of a fictional character on a movie set to behave in a manner contrary to what the actual men of the actual unit depicted in the film seem to teach when it comes to safety (see, e.g., Paul Howe and Pat McNamara). But as I’ve been ranting lately around here, the reality is that under stress it’s far too easy to trigger check and drive that short, light 3.5# DIY five cent Glock trigger job straight to the frame with resultant Unwanted Noise.

So what are the trade-offs? If TDA is so awesome why do so many people choose otherwise?

The number one issue, obviously, is that long, heavier first shot. What was once considered the norm when police officers carried DA revolvers is now a trigger that many find unmanageable. It’s not. It’s simply something you need to learn how to manage. But when so many instructors have little to no real experience with TDA guns, it can be very hard to find good technique.

92GVertec

I’ve taken classes from some very big names in the training world who absolutely had no idea how to run a TDA pistol properly. One famously told a group of us in a private class that he recommends just firing the first DA round into the dirt to get the gun cocked for “real shooting” … this to a closed group of students who were all running TDAs (Beretta and SIG) for the entire three day class! Don’t let an instructor hiding his own ineptitude dictate what works for youIf you expect the “everyone should carry a Glock and if you don’t your’e an idiot” guy to be the ideal instructor to help you learn how to shoot your Beretta 92FS, you have chosen poorly.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to get instruction from, as well as train and compete along side, some of the best TDA shooters like Ernest Langdon, Rob Haught, and “Super” Dave Harrington. Learning how to do it the right way from experts imparts a lot more skill and confidence than trying to learn from someone who’s more interested in telling you that your chosen pistol sucks because it’s not the same thing he carries on his hip every day.

vertec-grpI’m not suggesting that a long 12# trigger pull is as easy to score hits with as a 3# tuned 1911 trigger. But with some proper training neither is truly difficult.

The only other real hurdle with a TDA pistol is the need to decock before holstering. Under stress this can become trouble because holstering a cocked TDA gun is like holstering a cocked 1911 without putting the safety on. Or like holstering a Glock that has been modified to have a light trigger. 8-) If you’re going to reap the benefit of that hammer-down condition you need to make decocking the pistol part of your ritual. Again this comes down to simple training. I had the great fortune to learn a lot of my shooting techniques from TDA experts and their range commands always included “decock/safe and holster.” That simple mantra is all it takes.

Even in the competition world, where the safety/street considerations are often completely ignored, the TDA pistol is seeing a resurgence. Having to deal with that one trickier first shot simply gets outweighed by the ease of a smoother, lighter, shorter trigger pull for the next twenty-plus rounds in a course of fire. The top two finishers (and half of the top ten) at the past two USPSA Production National were shooting TDA pistols. Clue.

Don’t think me hypocritical. I’m not saying you have to shoot a TDA pistol or you’re wrong. There are downsides to the TDA. Heck, some people due to injury or hand strength genuinely cannot manage a 10-12 pound trigger. For them obviously it’s a horrible choice! There are benefits to a 1911 or a striker-fired gun and DAO type guns just as their are benefits to the TDA. Make an informed decision. Choose what works best for you… but not simply what shoots best when you’re slaying cardboard & steel. Think about what really happens when it’s not on the range but in a dark parking lot late at night when your family is with you and a couple of shady looking characters start to ping your radar.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

SIG P229-1: When Will It Stop?

1-Mar-14 – 09:17 by ToddG

hillpeoplerunnerskitbag(Riehlized SIG P229-1 and Hill People Gear Runner’s Kit Bag)

When will the P229 have its first stoppage?

We’re going to do this a little differently this time. The gun will be purposely abused by doing no cleaning and no lubrication unit it finally has its first stoppage. And it’s already had 640 rounds through it since it was initially cleaned and lubricated.

Rules:

  1. One entry per person. You cannot guess again once your number has been surpassed, or before your number is reached, or under any other circumstance. If you pick a number that has already been picked by someone else, you lose; you cannot guess again.
  2. Entries are submitted via comment to this post only. No comments on Facebook or elsewhere will be considered.
  3. Posting anything other than your guess disqualifies you permanently.
  4. The email address you use when posting the comment must be valid. If we cannot reach the winner, the next closest guess wins.
  5. We’ll use Price is Right rules. Whoever guesses closest without going over is the winner.
  6. For purposes of this contest, “stoppage” will apply to the first instance in which the SIG test gun fails to go completely through its normal cycle of operation, except for stoppages which are determined by pistol-training.com to be ammunition-induced or shooter-induced. Essentially, anything that earns stoppage, malfunction, or breakage in the tally being kept each week.
  7. Guesses must be numerical, you cannot pick a date or “never.”
  8. No purchase necessary. Contest and offer void where prohibited by law.
  9. Keep in mind that the gun has already fired 640 rounds without flaw.

Prizes:

  • Pick the exact round count at which the stoppage occurs and you win a certificate good for one free complete gun refinish in either silver or black using Riehl’s new next-generation gun finish ($400 value).
  • If no one picks the exact round count, whoever comes closest without going over will win a pistol-training.com hat and a gift certificate good for one free application of Riehl’s self-lubricating anti-corrosion finish to the internals of his pistol just like the test gun has ($100 value).

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Facebook

28-Feb-14 – 07:24 by ToddG

For those who haven’t figured it out already, I have succumbed to Facebook and there is now a pistol-training.com/pistol-forum.com FB page. You can find it at:

https://www.facebook.com/pistoltrainingforum

There’s a ton of overlap with this site but the FB page also has a lot of things I find on other folks’ pages and pass along quickly. Consider checking it out and subscribing or liking or twerking or whatever the kids are calling it…

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Shooting is Easy, Thinking is Hard

27-Feb-14 – 14:27 by ToddG

One of the first force-on-force (FOF) scenarios I ever went through as a student back in the mid-90’s: I walk around a corner and se two guys, one in a camo jacket and one in a red jacket, basically slap fighting. The guy in the red jacket — short, overweight — draws a gun, shoots camo jacket, and runs around a corner so fast I don’t even really process what’s happened.

Then a few seconds later, a guy in a red jacket — tall, skinny — comes running back around the corner with his empty hands stretched out in front of him. I shoot him in the face three times. Because: red jacket.

He rocked backwards enough that I got the mental signal to stop shooting but, instead of doing the typical “fall to the ground dead” role-player thing he just stopped with three blue paint marks on his face mask and yelled, “why did you shoot me?” I was completely stunned. There he is, clearly unarmed, and I have just made a life-destroying mistake. Actually, I destroyed multiple lives. The guy I shot. Mine. My wife’s.

So I read the following account about Craig “Southnarc” Douglas‘s experiment at the Rangemaster Tactical Conference with more sympathy than surprise.

Polite Society 2014 – Southnarc Force on Force AAR

Read it. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that you’re too good to make the same mistakes.

Huge thanks to Karl Rehn and Dave Reichek of KR Training for taking the time to put this information out for the rest of us to chew on.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

When To Safe

25-Feb-14 – 09:29 by ToddG

One question I get asked frequently in class is, “When do you use the safety?

Now obviously you switch the safety off before firing. I think we’ve all got that covered intuitively. The question revolves more around when should you put the pistol back on safe. There are generally two schools of thought, and I am very deeply encamped in one.

  • School of Never: once the safety comes off, it stays off until you’re ready to holster the gun again.
  • School of Always: whenever the pistol isn’t being fired, the safety should go back on.

If you’ve been reading this website for any length of time, you can probably guess that I’m a huge practitioner of the latter approach. The same rules apply to a double-action gun that is normally carried in a hammer down, “decocked” double action condition. If the gun isn’t pointing toward a target, it gets deocked (or put on safe).

What exactly does that mean, “pointing toward a target?” Essentially it covers two conditions and only those two conditions:

  1. I’m actively firing rounds at a target.
  2. I’m actively driving the gun toward a target that I intend to shoot.

That’s it. Under any other circumstance, if the gun has been taken off safe (or a double action gun has been fired and left in the cocked condition) I’ll safe/decock as part of my return-to-ready ritual. When I dismount the gun, when I’m not aiming it at a target, it gets put on safe (or decocked).

If I’m going to move with the gun in my hand, it gets safed/decocked. If I’m going to scan past the immediate downed threat, I safe/decock. And obviously if I’m going to holster, it gets safed/decocked.

Why wouldn’t you do it this way? If you’re scared that you’ll forget to take the safety off when you need it, what you need is more and better training. If you’re intimidated by the double action trigger pull on your pistol, what you need is more and better training. Running around with a light, short trigger increases the odds that you’ll have an accident if you trip or simply perform a subconscious “trigger check” under stress… something I’ve seen experienced special operations and law enforcement veterans do countless times. You see it all the time in competition, too. This is a Master-class IDPA shooter running between shooting positions at a major match:

trigger-check-combo

That dedicated competition gun probably has a 2-3 pound trigger pull in single action. How little effort will it take to cause an accident? (If you answered “2-3 pounds” you win)

Obviously, not all guns have an option to be put on safe or be put in double action mode. Most striker fired guns such as Glocks and (most) Smith & Wesson M&Ps are that way and people choose them in part because they don’t want a safety and don’t want to deal with a double action shot. That’s a personal choice and I can’t say it’s a bad one. If you look at the endurance test guns I’ve used in the past, the first four (S&W M&P9, HK P30 LEM, HK45 LEM, and Glock 17) made this whole discussion immaterial because they had no manual safeties and they couldn’t be decocked. Of course, none of them had trigger pulls below five pounds. And regardless of what some folks might want to tell you, a five and a half pound trigger pull is substantially different in terms of inadvertent contact accidents than 3.5#.

So if you do decide to choose a cocked & lock or traditional double action pistol, the safety or decocker on your pistol is there for a reason. If you find it a hindrance to your ability to shoot well, the answer isn’t to ignore it or run from it. Learn to operate the gun properly and benefit from the advantages it gives you.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Are You Too Cool for School?

21-Feb-14 – 08:13 by ToddG

In the comments section of the recent “Lamentations and Hope” post, my friend nyeti said something that really resonated with me: Up until recently we were taking more classes than we taught, and still consider ourselves lifetime students, so we see both sides.

I’m always interested to see the difference between instructors who take classes and those who don’t. The personality types are pretty distinct and, at the end of the day, so are the teaching methodologies. The more “my way or the highway” an instructor is, the more likely he either never trains with anyone else or he only trains among his own core of clone instructors.

I try to take at least one class every year. Sometimes I take something basic, like a level 1 tactical pistol class or something else that’s just a step past “get your CCW here.” Why? Because it’s good to hear how other instructors present material. Great example was July 2012, I took Tom Givens’s Combat Pistol course. Tom had a way of adding a little stress to some drills that I stole immediately because it was bloody brilliant. And Tom is an outstanding instructor who could watch me and find mistakes I was making and make me better. I walked away a better instructor and a better shooter. It didn’t matter that it was a level 1 class. I got the benefit of Tom, not the benefit of a class name.

Then there are times when I’ll go to something more advanced, like Rogers Shooting School. I try to go down there every few years because there’s a level of pressure and performance demand that you don’t see anywhere else in the training world. And every time I go, I get access to a cadre of excellent instructors. I walk away a better instructor and a better shooter.

Probably the best example I can think of, though, is Greg Hamilton of InSights Training based out of Washington State. Greg once took a GOPLAT assault/rescue class. Don’t feel bad if you have to Google that, I had no idea what it was. Greg didn’t take the class because he thought he might get called in to assault an oceanic platform some day. He took the class because he thought there might be one small tidbit they’d figured out operating in complicated spaces that would apply to the broader body of work he cares about… because then he could bring that small tidbit back to his students who’d never, ever, get a chance to take a GOPLAT assault/rescue class. Or probably even want to. 

I always ask instructors where they’ve gone to school themselves, and when. Someone who hasn’t stepped out of his own square range in twenty years might not be as cutting edge high speed as he thinks.

 Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

SIG P229 Test Gun: Fully Riehlized

20-Feb-14 – 23:26 by ToddG

right

To read about the process to get there: P229 Thoughts by Bill Riehl

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Ken Hackathorn Signature 1911

20-Feb-14 – 04:06 by ToddG

How much would you pay to have none other than Ken Hackathorn himself personally design your Wilson Combat Government Model?

HackathornSpecial

When asked to develop his dream Wilson Combat custom 1911 pistol Ken drew upon decades of practical experience and his vast collection of custom handguns to develop the “Hackathorn Special”. This model is geared towards the needs of the serious defensive shooter and has “Everything you need and nothing you don’t”. The “Hackathorn Special” is destined to be a Wilson Combat classic handgun selection.

  • Full-Size Carbon Steel Frame
  • 30 LPI High Cut Checkered Frontstrap
  • Concealment Bullet Proof® Beavertail Grip Safety and Hammer
  • Fluted Chamber
  • Countersunk Slide Stop
  • Medium Trigger
  • Ball Endmill Cuts
  • Bullet Proof® Tactical Thumb Safety
  • 3 ¾# – 4# Crisp Trigger Pull
  • Bullet Proof® Magazine Well
  • Bullet Proof® Magazine Release
  • 5″ Carbon Steel Slide
  • Battlesight with Fiber Optic Front Sight
  • 5″ Stainless Match Grade Barrel & Bushing, Hand Fit
  • 30 LPI Slide Top Serrations
  • 40 LPI Serrated Rear of Slide

I know Ken has considered the Wilson CQB to be a gold standard in the 1911 world for many years. I’ve seen CQBs in his holster and in his hands more times than probably any other gun. And now there’s a Hackathorn signature model so you know you’re getting what Ken considers the ideal upgrades to an already incredible gun. Like the Wilson website says, destined to be a classic.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

photo courtesy Wilson Combat, used with permission