My colleague Melody Lauer posted an interesting question on Facebook.
What malfunction to shot ratio would you accept on a carry gun (without said malfunctions being purposefully induced)?
Since this had been a topic of conversation with another colleague only a few days before, I posted the answer we both agreed on.
“How many magazines come with the gun? … It needs to be 100% reliable for the number of rounds in the magazine(s) that come with it or how many a person carries, assuming the person even bought a spare magazine. More than that is superfluous. For many autoloaders now that means one magazine plus the round in the chamber.
The multiple thousand round reliability tests that the ‘cognoscenti’ are in love with are meaningless except in a very narrow context. The desire for those kind of tests is generated by training junkies who want to make it through 2-5 day 1500+ round training classes without having a single malfunction. Their applicability in the real world of peoples’ lives is nil.”
I was unsurprised when many folks responded, in generally polite ways, that I was crazy. Most of the cognoscenti want to run at least 1,000 rounds through a carry gun before they ‘trust’ it. My comment relating to ‘Arbitrary Reliability Assessments’ was pure heresy. There was also a considerable amount of mathematical ‘logic’ in the discussion that I found obtuse. For instance, if a gun could be expected to have 5 malfunctions out of 1,000 rounds, it could also be expected to have 1 malfunction per magazine. That was difficult for me to understand but I was told that I just don’t understand math and statistics. If I’m going to have one malfunction per magazine, I’ll just keep carrying a revolver.
Let’s think about the issue in some depth. My questions are:
- 1,000 rounds of what kind of ammo?
- Under what conditions?
- With which magazines?
- With which guns?
- Number 1 carry gun?
- Backup Gun?
- Spare carry gun?
Addressing those questions in order brings some other thoughts to mind.
- Ball or duty ammo? Often, guns shoot well with some ammo and other ammo, not so much. Because of that fact, running 1,000 rounds of ball through a gun and then a box of duty ammo through it doesn’t seem to me to accomplish any more than shooting the box of duty ammo alone. So, in the case of a Glock 19, 15 times 3 plus 1 = 46 rounds. Three magazines for those who like to carry two spares. That leaves 4 rounds out of a box. Always save the last one for yourself. Some folks are such terrible shots they better save two.
- Under what conditions? Unlike wheelguns, autoloaders are subject to the vagaries of the person/machine interface. That’s largely the crux of the reliability question.
- Is the 1,000 rounds to be shot in casual range shooting with no pressure? I can’t count the number of people shooting IDPA matches who have said to me “I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.” Even small amounts of stress can have an effect on how the shooter holds and fires the gun. Perhaps it would be a good idea to involve at least some significant percentage of the test under conditions that might induce a malfunction, such as a State or Area Championship? Yeah but shooting competition will get you ‘killed on the streetz.’ Or maybe all 1,000 rounds should be shot under extreme pressure, such as the first two to three days at the elite Rogers Shooting School?
- Is the 1,000 rounds going to be shot with both hands? One of the things I noticed at Rogers was how many more malfunctions occurred during one handed shooting. Should the 1,000 rounds involve some shooting with Dominant hand only? How about the Support hand only?
- Since ‘everyone starts moving after the first shot,’ how much of the 1,000 rounds is going to be shot while shooting on the move? It’s probably a good idea to shoot some Box Drills and Figure 8s as part of the testing process. Perhaps including a 50/25/25 percent mix of Freestyle/Dominant hand only/Support hand only during at least half of that 1,000 rounds should be the protocol.
- With which magazines?
- Magazines are often the weakest link in the reliability of any autoloader. Doing a reliability test with ‘training’ magazines and then switching to magazines ‘reserved’ for carry defeats the entire purpose of the test. It’s completely non sequitur.
- But if a person only has three ‘carry’ magazines, that means the test may involve dumping them on the ground somewhere around 20 times apiece. How comfortable are you with those magazines after they’ve been beaten up a bit? You tell me, it’s your decision.
- Which guns to test?
- How many people who carry a Backup Gun run the 1,000 rounds through it? Especially for those using small autoloaders such as an LCP, my guess is almost none. If you don’t run your Backup through the high round count protocol, do you still trust your life to it? If so, why is the main pistol any different?
- I’m a firm believer that anyone who carries a pistol should have a spare. Regardless of the circumstances of a shooting, the police will take the pistol as evidence. If you don’t have a spare, preferably identical to your carry gun, then you’re going to have to go buy one and run it through the testing protocol before you can ‘trust it.’ Back to Square One.
I don’t understand it, Claude, my gun never malfunctions when I shoot it for practice.
There are other considerations such as the effects of and on weapon mounted lights, lasers, or red dot sights, but that’s gilding the lily perhaps.
For those who only have one gun, such as the great majority of gun owners, how long is it going to take to conduct this 1,000 round test? Even at 100 rounds a week, the test will take the better part of three months to conduct. In the meantime, how do you feel about the gun? Do you want to have that “I’m still not sure I trust this piece” feeling in the back of your head for three months? How will that affect the person/machine interface?
In the end, if shooting 1,000 rounds before you ‘trust’ the gun makes you feel better, then go for it. But if you don’t design and follow a protocol that really relates to how you’re likely to use the gun in a situation where you have to protect yourself or your loved ones, the whole exercise is just an excuse to go shooting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
That question came up on a Facebook group I’m a member of recently. In response, I referenced my Armed Citizen database. The question was asked about my methodology, which is a fair question. I’ll address it my forthcoming eBook about the Armed Citizen but I want to first post the Introduction, which addresses the journey I have made about the Armed Citizen and my analyses thereof.
This book is the result of the overlap of several very widely different topics and experiences. As is often the case, as more information comes to light over time, perceptions can change.
During my time in the Army, I held several different intelligence (S2) positions. These largely involved information collection and analysis duties, not ‘spyguy’ stuff. The purpose of Intelligence in the military and government is always to facilitate decision-making. Having to provide and defend a cogent analysis of not only the information collected but the conclusions I drew from it was a formative experience for me. Information collection was only the beginning. From there, it had to be processed and turned into a usable product that decisions could be based on.
As I wound down my military career and entered the civilian world, I got into the commercial real estate business. As a Research Director for several different real estate firms, my S2 training and manuals were very useful to me. At the same time, the transition from mini-computer (Wang) to PCs in the business world was beginning. My boss was an extremely astute businessman and recognized the value of databasing information early on. Being able to construct my own databases allowed me to do several projects that were particularly influential in the way I looked at information.
One of the projects was to database the contacts that the brokers in our office used to develop business. Our firm’s business model was territorial with each broker having an assigned property type and area. To see how well this worked, my boss had me collect each broker’s contacts by Zip Code and create a map of where the contacts were in relation to the broker’s chosen territory. This process was very similar to the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (now Battlespace) products I had prepared in the Army. The results were surprising to everyone involved. In almost no case were the majority of the broker’s contacts in his or her territory. Some were nearby, which was understandable, but in many cases, they were widely scattered and even far away. The brokers themselves couldn’t believe it until I showed them the actual maps.
What this showed me was how inaccurate conclusions based on data that isn’t properly disaggregated can be. Their information was written down in their Rolodexes with every contact date annotated. That system told them very well what the level of their contact activity was. What it didn’t provide was much information about how well they were following their business plan. Aggregating the data and then disaggregating it by location instead of contact name and date told a much different story.
Another database I had to create was of proposed and completed deals. Creating this database gave me a much better insight into the numerous factors that make up a transaction. Proposed rental rate, length of term, size of the space, etc. were all captured when the brokers proposed a transaction. Eventually we would enter whether the deal closed or died. That database gave our company a firm understanding of what the market was actually doing across the city and in the various submarkets. Instead of speculation about what actual rental rates and terms were, we had a very clear picture.
Training I took impacted my thoughts also. I took Massad Ayoob’s Lethal Force Institute I in 1991. Having a measured and structured component to training was an eye-opening experience. Similarly, when I started training with John Farnam of Defense Training International, I got a lot of good information, both formal and informal. John was kind enough to give me a copy of W. French Anderson’s book about the FBI Miami Massacre. The book provided a superlative example of an in depth analysis of an armed conflict.
The next leg of my experiences developed when I started shooting IDPA in 1998 and then started an IDPA club. A number of Match Directors and I were discussing how to develop stages every month for our matches. Stage development is a constant pressure for any Match Director to keep the matches fresh and interesting. Someone suggested that The Armed Citizen column of NRA’s American Rifleman magazine might be a good place to start. I had been tearing the columns out of the magazine for years but never paid close attention to them. So I dug them out and looked through them in greater detail. My response to the other MDs was that almost all of the incidents were less than five shots and a lot were only one or two. Many of them had no shooting in them at all. The general consensus was the round count wasn’t high enough and the situations weren’t complicated enough to make interesting scenario stages.
My conclusion was different though, so I started designing what I called Armed Citizen Scenarios for my matches. There were several ways to adapt the incidents into stages. One way was to put multiple strings into a stage. For instance, if a Citizen was wounded in the arm in an attack, I would have one string shot with both hands and a second string shot with the Dominant Hand Only. Or, when only one shot was fired at one criminal in the actual incident, I would specify a failure drill (two shots to the body and one to the head) on all the targets.
The Armed Citizen topic interested me enough to create a database all 482 of the incidents from the column for the period 1997-2001. The incidents were remarkably devoid of ‘ninjas coming from the ceiling’ and ‘face eating meth-heads.’ As I had done with the deal database, I broke out as many different characteristics (at home, in a business, number of shots fired, etc.) as I could. With the database populated, I ran a series of pivot tables and produced a short study of what the characteristics and outcomes of the incidents were. Although there were methodological issues with it, fifteen years later, it remains the only study of its type I am aware of. Like a vampire that won’t die, it continues to be widely referenced and reproduced on the Internet.
One of the criticisms of my 1997-2001 study was that the NRA ‘cherry-picks’ the incidents to portray the actions of Armed Citizens in the most favorable light. Although the nature of what the Citizens might have done wrong was never really specified, I accept that as a valid critique. Only Positive Outcomes are reported in the Armed Citizen.
Flash forward more than a decade to the 2014 Rangemaster Tactical Conference, where I am an annual presenter. My colleague Craig Douglas threw down a challenge to me. “You should do a presentation on ‘Bad Shootings’ next year.” It was a virgin topic and gave me an opportunity to counteract the ‘cherry-picking’ aspect of the Armed Citizen. I accepted the challenge and casually started gathering information.
Be careful of what you wish for. The broad array of what I came to call Negative Outcomes really surprised me. The categories I broke them out into are:
- Chasing after the end of a confrontation
- Downrange failures (shot an innocent while shooting at a threat)
- Intervention (Proverbs 26:17)
- Lost/stolen guns
- Mistaken identity shootings
- Negligent discharges, including self-inflicted gunshot wounds and Unintentional shootings
- Police Involvement, e.g., getting needlessly arrested
- Poor judgement
- Unauthorized access (generally by small children)
- Unjustifiable shootings, including warning shots
The categories are far from being the lurid list of ‘gunfights lost’ that those who objected to the 1997-2001 study probably expected. Rather than being tactical failures, most are simply the result of poor gunhandling, lack of familiarity with the law, or out and out carelessness and negligence. My list of such incidents is shockingly long. The only really noticeable category of tactical failures was what my colleague Tom Givens calls ‘forfeits,’ i.e., not having your gun when you need it.
- There is a process to data collection and analysis.
- Information that isn’t written down and then analyzed in written form is prone to error. The human mind has a remarkable capacity for memory but that capacity can be disorderly and easily misinterpreted.
- Defensive Gun Uses by Armed Citizens tend to be uncomplicated affairs.
- Defensive Gun Uses have discrete characteristics that can be broken out for broad analysis.
- Negative Outcomes rarely consist of ‘gunfights lost’ but more often are negligence related Unintentional Shootings and Unjustifiable Use of Weapons. The exception to that rule being not having a gun when it’s needed.
The Rangemaster 2015 Tactical Conference is over and I am processing the things I observed and learned from it. The Conference has a long history, dating back to the early days of IDPA in 1998, when it was a sanctioned IDPA indoor Championship. Over the years, it has evolved into the foremost tactical training conference for private citizens in the United States. It is held annually, early in the year, in the Memphis area. The venue for the 2015 Conference was the Memphis Police Training Academy, a truly fine and modern facility.
This year, three dozen of the top personal protection trainers in the country, many of whom are referred to as “T-Rexes,” came together to present or conduct training blocks of two to six hours over a period of three days. The agenda has grown so large that it’s not possible to take in all the training that is available, since sometimes five blocks are going on simultaneously. Some of the training is classroom lecture, some is hands-on with sterile weapons, and some is livefire. There is also a shooting match, for those who choose to participate.
There were a wide variety of topics, ranging from psychology and communications to contact based skills to firearms manipulation. I was able to attend nine sessions.
- Yes, I Shoot Like a Girl, Would You Like a Lesson?
- Surviving Lethal Encounters
- The Law of Self-Defense
- Practical Small Knife Principles
- Performance Under Fire
- Rehabilitating the Experienced Shooter
- The Training/Reality Mismatch
- Kneeling Positions and Combining Them with the Use of Cover
- Women’s Holsters and Accessories
In addition, I was able to make two classroom presentations.
- Tactical Communications for Couples, with my co-presenter Linda Hoopes, President of the Resilience Alliance.
- Negative Outcomes of Firearms Ownership
Upon my return, several people have asked me what my most significant takeaways were. As usual, I learned a great deal, so it’s difficult to say what were the most significant, but here are a few that stand out in my mind, in no particular order.
- A conversation with a mentor of mine, John Farnam, elicited from both of us the experience that when approached for help in a parking lot, it’s almost always a scam or criminal ambush. Fellow trainer Melody Lauer pointed out that there are a few legitimate exceptions, but John and I both feel they are the exception rather than the rule. This indicates that a default response should be formed to immediately and firmly decline the invitation to be a victim and then rapidly vacate the area. Exceptions to that rule should be based on specific articulable reasons and conscious decision-making, rather than by default.
- The T-Rexes are constantly working along the path to excellence. That path includes attitude, skills development, tactics, and a host of other areas. Recognizing that there is an element of chance in every encounter, we work hard on stacking the deck in our favor. ‘Doing the work’ means training regularly and practicing on a daily basis. ‘Good enough’ is never good enough for us. That’s probably why we’re regarded as T-Rexes.
- There is an enormous amount of erroneous, misapplied, or misinterpreted information floating around in the broad firearms and personal protection community. This is especially true in relation to prioritization, legal issues, and skills development.
- The community has a lot to learn about integrating women into it. There was a record turnout of female attendees and women trainers at the Conference this year, my co-presenter being one. Conversations with them, as well as the presentations, were highly enlightening. Many male paradigms either don’t apply at all or don’t work particularly well when used by women. My own presentation was an eye-opener to me in that regard. The Women’s Holsters and Accessories presentation, which was presented by a woman, gave several good examples. A pet peeve expressed by several T-Rexes is men who have women shoot excessively powerful firearms and then laugh when they fail. Our universal attitude is along the lines of the desire to give such jerks a knee lift in the crotch followed by a crack in the jaw and then laugh when they fall down writhing in pain.
I have several pages of notes but those jump out at me. Undoubtedly, more will occur to me as I reflect on the event. I will have more thoughts on specific topics in the near future. There is a photo gallery of the Conference training blocks available on the Rangemaster website.
So far, I have 175 rounds through the SCCY CPX-2 that they sent me for T&E. It had a Failure to Chamber on the fourth round I fired but no malfunctions since then.
I shot it at an IDPA match today and was able to do reasonably well (5th overall) against full size service pistols. One of the stages was a true El Presidente (10 yards with targets 2 yards apart). I finished 2nd on that one with an overall time of 11.73 (10.73 with 2 down).
The front sight now has 3M Reflective Tape on it and I was able to remove the horribly distracting white dots from the rear sight. The three dot system does nothing for me, especially the way most manufacturers implement it. One of my friends commented that the front sight is visible from behind the shooting line, i.e., in the peanut gallery.
The trigger takes some getting used to because of the length of pull and reset. Shooters used to riding the reset/catching the link will probably not care for it. Flip and press works well though. I am not wild about it being flat all the way across and may do something about that.
Although the gun has noticeable muzzle flip, as might be expected from a 15 ounce 9mm, it isn’t painful to shoot the way I found the PF-9. It’s definitely more pleasant than shooting an LCP.
I did several tactical reloads and did not get pinched at all.
Yesterday, I shot the old FBI Double Action Course with it and was able to make 96%. This is properly shot on a Q target but I used an IDPA -1/-0 scoring zone. The pistol’s accuracy seems to drop off quite a bit past 15 yards. That’s something I will have to verify further.
Most of my shooting with it has been with locally remanufactured ball ammo. However, I shot one stage today with Winchester 147gr SXT and had no problems.
So far, so good.