Reload Reality

26-Jan-16 – 08:11 by ToddG

tlg-reload-middle.jpgRecently, the importance or lack thereof surrounding reload practice for defensive use has become popular discussion.

To me, the point is fairly moot. Do reloads happen often in fights? Statistically no. Sure, you can come up with an outlier story and show that it was a critical need somewhere but you could say the same of other uncommon needs like Weak Hand Only malfunction clearances: someone will have one story where it made a huge difference and spin it off into a belief that everyone needs to master it “just in case.”

But reloads are kind of different. Unless you have a Hollywood gun with infinite bullets, you’re going to reload during practice anyway. And if you’re going to do it, you might as well learn to do it as properly and effectively as you can. Why waste the training opportunity when putting bullets in your gun?

You may not need the world’s best reload, but since you’ll be reloading a lot anyway when you’re on the range, do it right and try to do it better each time.

Train hard & stay safe! Toddg

Jason Burton 9mm Commander

23-Jan-16 – 16:26 by ToddG

IMG_1083-2Many people have asked for specific information on the 9mm Commander that Jason Burton of Heirloom Precision built for me. Mostly all I can tell you is that the gun was intended from day one to be built from the ground up as an ideal appendix carry (AIWB) pistol and that I chose Jason because of his reputation and genuine demand of excellence in what he does. Jason doesn’t put a gun in a FedEx box unless he’s willing to trust it in his own holster. We’re talking about a guy who regularly shoots with Rob Leatham. Jason’s high standards obviously don’t stop at the “shoot straight and look good” level.

Most top gunsmiths collect guns from other smiths. Jason is someone whose guns they carry. That says a lot about his quality and what he expects from his own work.

Since I’m as far from a 1911 expert as you’ll ever find, Jason had to fill in a lot of the details:

caspianThe frame, donated by Caspian Arms, is a Series 80 Commander frame. frontgripJason contoured and re-shaped the existing high-cut, hand checkered the frontstrap 25 lines per inch, and also dehorned the frame by hand.

The slide, also provided by Caspian, is for a 4.25″ and obviously Series 80.

backofslideJason hand serrated the back of the slide to 50lpi . The ejection port was lowered and then a file was used to dehorn it by hand. The rear of the slide was also dehorned by hand.

The top of the slide was flattened and then serrated with Jason’s signature 30LPI arrow point. Lightening cuts were made on either side of the cartridge pickup rail. The final step was machining the ball cuts… that is done last to ensure the match fit barrel has completely seated so that the position of the ball-cuts relative to the frame’s dustcover is perfect. All of that work reduced the overall weight of the slide by more than 1.6 ounces which is quite substantial. That, in turn, results in a pistol that recoils faster and flatter.

barrelThe barrel is a Kart National Match that Jason crowned to a 45 degree angle on a lathe to guarantee concentricity and then gave a high polish. Jason used an EGW bushing that was dehorned by hand. In addition to its aesthetic appeal the barrel as fitted to the slide and frame is capable of producing three-quarter inch groups at 25yd. After some experimenting, I’ve settled on a Wolff  twelve pound variable recoil spring which provides the flattest recoil while still cycling with 100% reliability.

magwell-supportmagwellroundThe magazine well is a Smith & Alexander, shear pins were added to prevent the part from being able to shift on the frame and it checkered by hand to 25LPI. Then, with appendix carry specifically in mind, Jason radiused the bottom edge of the part. This has two benefits. First, it breaks up the normally sharp shape, improving concealability. Second, a rounded surface is less likely to snag on clothing during the drawstroke.

The grip safety is an EGW. Jason dehorned it by hand to provide for the highest grip without discomfort. Jason’s approach to tuning grip safeties is a bit different than most. Rather than simply reducing the amount of tension on the part, Jason actually increases the tension but shortens the amount of depress needed to disengage the safety. This means that it goes off-safe easily but also pops back on-safe very quickly as soon as your grip lightens up on the frame. Again, it’s another safety benefit especially applicable for appendix carry.

slidecatchThe slide stop was also from EGW, a flat & serrated model that Jason modified by contouring the pad (making it shorter from back to front) so that it doesn’t interfere with a high grip.

With few exceptions, the rest of the parts were donated by Wilson Combat and for the most part needed only typical fitting:

  • magcatchmag catch is Wilson Bulletproof™ hand checkered at 25LPI by Jason after he cuts it to an angle to provide better leverage. I’m using a Wolff reduced-2 mag catch spring because my right thumb doesn’t have enough strength to get reliable control with a standard spring.
  • extractor is a Wilson Bulletproof™ tuned by Jason and hand serrated 50lpi to match the rear of the slide.
  • The hammer, sear, disconnector, firing pin, thumb safety, ejector, and plunger tube are all Wilson Bulletproof™.
  • The firing pin stop is an oversize Wilson Bulletproof™ 70 Series flat bottom that Jason fitted and modified to work in an 80 Series gun.
  • safetyThe link & pin set as well as the screws, pins, and other springs are all Wilson.

The trigger is a Wilson medium solid and the 80 Series parts are factory Colt. Every part of the action, even the spring ends, were polished to a mirror finish by Jason. When I told Jason I wanted a Series 80 system for the redundant safety it would provide in an appendix carry pistol he didn’t even blink. Contrary to internet lore, Jason was able to tune the trigger to a perfectly consistent 3.5# (as measured on my NRA Weight Set) with a very short reset and exactly the amount of “roll” I asked for as I’m not a fan of the glass rod break that some prefer on a 1911. A number of experienced 1911 aficionados have shot the gun and not one of them could tell it was a Series 80.

frontsightThe sights started out as ordinary Heirloom Precision Professional Grade… which means an oversized front post and a solid (no notch) rear. The front sight was cut to proper length and then machined with an inlay so that Jason could apply a permanent orange line covering most of the front post’s face which is 0.125″ wide. The notch on the rear sight was cut and widened by hand to 0.165″ per my request. The rear sight is specifically shaped to allow for easy one-hand manipulations on a belt or holster and then radiused and dehorned by hand. I also asked for a 3-dot tritium setup which Jason drilled himself to guarantee that the dots lined up properly and provided a point of aim, point of impact using the front dot. For more details on why I asked for this particular sight design you can see my prior post.

For the moment, the finish is a simple parkerizing as a base layer that is then blued to results in a matte black finish. In the near term it will get a more permanent durable flat black DLC finish. Or I’ll break down and get it chromed. Or I’ll go with a flat black DLC. Or I’ll get it chromed. Or … well, now you know why it hasn’t had the final finishing step yet.

Jason shipped the pistol with Wilson ETM magazines and modified Dawson Precision magazines. While stock Dawsons (and the ones made by their supplier, Metalform) had a difficult time in my Warren/Sprinfield Custom Shop 9mm, Jason tuned these by modifying the followers and strengthening the magazine springs. They continue to be something we’re experimenting with. The Wilsons serve as my actual carry magazines, their only real deficiency being an unwillingness to eject when partially full.

Grips have been a prototype thumb cut-out style from my friend David at VCD Grips. These continue to be the most effective grips I’ve found for recoil control on a 1911.

Because I know you want to know the mundane details, you can have one just like this for about $7,500 and a 18-24 month wait. Inevitably this leads to the question of why?

This gun wasn’t built on an assembly line and put together by a set of people who assemble hundreds of guns each day. Each piece was examined, polished, and fitted one at a time by just one master gunsmith. Building this one gun took over one hundred hours of labor not including test firing, packaging, and literally dozens of hours of email and telephone conversations between Jason and me. In fact, Jason told me that once the work is done and the gun is ready to ship to the customer it takes him three hours just to assemble it. He slowly and meticulously verifies every single piece for both form and function before he declares it good to go.

So hurry up, before the rush is on, and order yourself a couple.

And once again, thanks to SLG and JAG for a gift far too generous and wonderful than I could ever hope to put into words. Not that I didn’t kind of deserve it. I mean, I did let Julie stay with me all night long in the out of control emergency room at a Las Vegas hospital in the middle of SHOT Show. What could be more fun than that? Hashtag Nothing. Or whatever the kids say.muzzle

Thanks as always to the Heirloom Project sponsors:



21-Jan-16 – 13:31 by ToddG

A definite worthwhile read from Tim Lau of MSW:

9mm“Skill at arms is a much more significant determining factor than ammunition or even pistol selection. Keeping that in perspective, I select my caliber based on terminal performance, capacity, cost, and my own ability to perform. So bust out that shot timer, hit the range, and choose accordingly.” — Tim Lau

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Emerging Threat

6-Jan-16 – 14:36 by ToddG

The world — and the U.S. in particular — is changing. There is no denying or arguing this point.

2016-2015-new-year-580x358The threat likelihood that we, as citizens, face is changing, too. While there are still muggers and rapists and thieves aplenty in our society, this year has seen a rise in organized, trained, well armed, and fearless teams of ne’er do wells who are all too happy to kill their victims. Murder for them is a goal, not an inconvenience.

“They’ll run from the sound of gunfire” doesn’t really apply to a group of AK-wielding religious zealots willing and eager to die for their cause.

So what does this mean? The idea of just showing or firing a gun is not a solution. It’s time to make sure the gear you are carrying is capable of more than scaring a kid trying his first robbery. Sure, that j-frame might be very comfortable but is it the tool you’re going to need if things go sideways? I’m not suggesting you run around with a dozen guns like Neo from The Matrix. I myself just switched from a 15+1 pistol to a 10+1. But I did so with thought and perspective and thinking through what was gained and lost by the switch.

It also means that it’s time to throw away the “defensive/offensive” line that some like to pretend exists. There is only one line that matters: the line you cross to start shooting. Once you’ve crossed that line, you don’t know what is happening, or how many threats might appear, or what kind of weapons, or explosives, or who knows what?

Now is the time to start taking things seriously. What can happen? What can you do to affect it? What do you need to learn? What do you need to get better at? Are you training for an easy fight, or a real fight?

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


17-Nov-15 – 02:36 by ToddG


All easily concealable on the belt and in pockets of a pair of jeans and an untucked polo shirt. What’s in your wallet?

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Basic Holster Development 101

16-Nov-15 – 07:19 by ToddG


Almost ubiquitously taught: get a complete grip on the gun before you draw it. So why do people still develop holsters with sweat guards that block you from getting as high a grip as you can? I see something like this and I don’t even need to try the holster. It was obviously crafted by folks who have a different set of priorities than I do.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


11-Nov-15 – 21:45 by ToddG

13Congratulations to Sergeant Ward Smith of the Kansas City Police Department for earning F.A.S.T. Challenge Coin #13 during a gathering of some alumni under the watchful eye of SLG who was given permission by Ernest Langdon to put Sgt. Smith through the test.

Sgt. Smith shot the test using his issued Glock 22 pistol, duty ammunition, and his issued Safariland 295 holster.

The drill was shot three times, completely cold (no previous shooting that day). His scores were 4.68, 4.73, and 4.89 seconds all clean. The current rules require the first and at least one other run be clean under 5 seconds, but Ward did all three just to make it look easy.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

FBI Procurement Bias

2-Nov-15 – 09:39 by ToddG

Screen capture from Blue Sheepdog.

Read this blog post on Blue Sheepdog.

Even when the writing is on the wall, it shouldn’t be this obvious. The FBI procurement specification for its new 9mm pistol(s) is so specific that only one company’s product is even eligible. The staff at Quanitco knows what it wants, and it is bending a whole lot of procurement regulations to make sure the fix is in.

Many of the companies being affected are probably in the midst of planning for the (possible) big Army procurement, so making some changes to their designs probably isn’t the end of the world. For example, Glock could probably make frames without finger grooves (now, according to FBI, finger grooves of any size or shape are intolerable) with just a minor mold change. It wouldn’t cost HK a million dollars to make a VP9 with a button mag release. But why should they have to? Why does the FBI want to prevent the guns as-is from getting a chance to prove themselves in a fair and open competition?

fbiheirI’ve got absolutely nothing against the SIG P320. I know quite a few squared away shooters who really like it. What bothers me is a procurement that doesn’t need to go past the go/no-go stage for testing because only one gun, no matter whether it’s the most reliable or shootable or best choice for thousands of agents, has a chance of winning. Not only is that bad procurement, it’s bad officer safety. If the P320 is the best gun, let it prove itself in fair & open competition.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG


27-Oct-15 – 16:44 by ToddG

We have all heard the saying: “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” While attending classes that focus on handgun skills are both helpful and enjoyable, it sometimes leads to people thinking every problem can be solved with a hammer (pistol).

gregTwo well known instructors, Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training (Ohio police officer with 20 years of experience) and Dr. William Aprill (Doctor of Psychology with extensive experience in criminal & juvenile psychology) have banded together to offer a class called Unthinkable that could easily be thought of as “everything but the nail.” The class is two days of facing things that — fantasy aside — you won’t be able to solve with a pistol and a bad attitude.

The class focusses on all sorts of things we know could happen but often ignore because they don’t involve our favorite hobby. For example, Greg gives an extensive lecture on understanding and identifying improvised explosives and bombers. William offers ample experience regarding VCAs (Violent Criminal Actors) such as offenders with antisocial personality disorder, sociopathy, and psychopathy — including ways to identify and distinguish among the three, and understanding the differences and dangers of each.

aprill2Other covered issues were the psychology of being a hostage or kidnap victim; Greg’s extensive lessons on escaping from bonds ranging from duct tape to handcuffs (some of which were much easier than most of the students expected); disarming a criminal who has you at gunpoint; self-aid in the event of a gunshot wound or similar serious injury; and William’s excellent “5 W’s of Risk.

Both instructors also recommended extensive libraries of worthwhile books and websites for further study.

While it’s fun to pretend that your response to five AK-wielding men invading your home by surprise is to gun them down heroically, it’s worthwhile to understand what they’re thinking, how your own brain is likely to react, and what you can & should do, including how to break out of the industrial zip-ties they use to bind your wrists and ankles. One of the most interesting parts of the class (for me) was William’s extensive discussion of pre-determined “GO” signals — conditions under which you will immediately and ruthlessly respond a threat. Many people have vague ideas about when or why they would react, like “someone tries to hurt my kid.” But are you really going to draw your gun and start shooting because an older kid at the park punches your daughter in the arm? Really? If the answer is “no” it may be time to think about more specific lines in the sand. You don’t want to be making those decisions in the middle of a catastrophic event.

As serious as the class topics were, the students had fun. The class is very interactive, and students cheered each other on to succeed against new challenges.

The typical student came to Unthinkable with a similar attitude: “I’ve taken a class on how to shoot someone who is trying to rape me; I’ve taken a class on how to stab someone who is trying to rape me; now I’m taking a class on how to remain sane and escape if someone kidnaps me and probably intends to rape me.” It’s far from the typical class popular among shooters. But it’s about facing the reality of things that might happen that most shooters don’t want to think about.

Unthinkable was hosted by John Murphy of FPF Training and help at Elite Shooting Sports in Manassas, Virginia.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG

Honesty: How Good Am I?

18-Oct-15 – 17:02 by ToddG

bestalone.jpgI’ve said for years, 95% of shooters think they’re in the top 5%. They’re not honest with themselves and fall into a spiral of self-congratulatory behavior for being mediocre while pretending it’s excellence.

I’ve realized recently that I fall into that same category. I’ve spent much of the past year telling myself that I was “starting from scratch” but repeatedly saw myself going too fast, whether we’re talking about a single drill or improving in general. And things felt like they were flying along smoothly. Then a couple weeks ago I took a pistol class from Ernest Langdon. This was a class I’d spent a lot of time preparing for. But it proved for naught because I was hands down the most horriblest shooter on this entire planet of Earth. And that’s no exaggeration. I was by far the worst shooter in the class. Embarrassingly so. Like, slowest one shot draw in the class (and I missed the target when we shot for score). It wasn’t just that I was worse than before: I was bad.

After some weeks of soul searching, what I’ve realized is that I’m not ready for the kind of practice I’ve been doing. I still don’t really have my grip automatic on the draw. Heck, I foul my concealment garment on the draw sometimes. These are things that shouldn’t be happening to someone who has over 10,000 rounds of practice under his belt over the past six months.

But it happened. Why? Because I wasn’t being honest with myself about where I needed to be practicing. My reload speed didn’t need improvement. My grip on the gun did. My trigger press did. I was so desperately trying to be better than I am that I flat out ignored something I know very well as an instructor: too many people try to run before they crawl.  There is only one person who can fix that.

Train hard & stay safe! ToddG