Category Archives: practice

Wheelgun Wednesday

For some reason, #wheelgunwednesday had never crossed my radar before yesterday. Viewing this as a serious deficiency on my part, I decided to shoot the IDPA 5×5 Classifier with some revolvers. It’s a 25 round Course of Fire shot entirely at 10 yards.

I like the 5×5 because it’s five shot friendly and is a demanding skill drill. As some shooters have observed, the IDPA 5×5 is not as easy as it looks. It shares this in common with the 5^5 drill that I designed.

Whenever a Course of Fire is shot repeatedly, there’s a ‘training effect.’ This means that simply understanding the sequence helps the shooter do better. Since I was shooting service revolvers down to Airweight J Frames, I chose to bias the training effect in favor of the J Frames, which are inherently harder to shoot. The order I chose to shoot the wheelies was:

  • Model 66, four inch (.38 Special)
  • Model 65, three inch (.38 Special)
  • M&P 5 screw, 2 inch (.38 Special)
  • Model 640-1, 2 ¼ inch (.38 Special)
  • Model 36-1, 3 inch (.38 Special)
  • Model 642-2, 2 inch (.38 Special)
  • Model 30, 3 inch (.32 S&W Long)
  • Model 432PD, 2 inch (.32 S&W Long)

Shooting the guns from heavy to light also helped keep me from getting beaten up by recoil early in the process. I’m glad I approached it that way.

K frames

For the K Frames, I used the KIS “Keepin’ It Sippel” holster from Leather Creek holsters. It’s a very comfortable holster that distributes the weight of a service pistol well on the belt and allows a quick presentation. For the reload on String 3, I used a Safariland Comp II speedloader and pouch. When I bought the M&P 5 screw, it had the half moon front sight that was commonly used in the pre-1950s era. This is not an easy sight to see, so I flattened the rear with a file, serrated it, and painted it fluorescent orange with a white undercoat. All of the K frames also have had the rear sight blackened with a Sharpie to provide more contrast and reduce glare.

J frame 38s

For the J Frame .38s, I used a Galco ‘Concealable’ holster. The forward molded design makes it very comfortable because it doesn’t press on my hip bone at the four o’clock position. Reloading was done with a Safariland Comp I speedloader and pouch.

J frame 32s

For the J Frame .32s, I used a Bianchi Model 57 ‘Remedy’ holster. This is also a comfortable forward molded design. Reloading was done with an HKS 32-J speedloader and Bianchi pouch.

The ammo used was mostly Tula 130 grain FMJ .38 Special. I can’t recommend this ammo. Probably because of the steel case, it’s very difficult to extract. Most of the time, I have to use a rubber mallet to give the extractor rod a whack to eject the cases. I bought a case of it and when it’s used up, that’s the last I will ever buy. When the stage required a reload, I started with Federal American Eagle 130 grain FMJ, which extracts easily.

In the .32s, I used Georgia Arms .32 S & W Long 85 grain Jacketed Hollow Point and Fiocchi 97 grain FMJ. They both shoot to similar point of impact and proved reliable in the .32s.

#wheelgunwednesday, it’s going to be more of a habit from now on.

Note that the holsters were provided to me at no cost by the manufacturers but I receive no compensation for my evaluation.

Practicing Awareness: An Interview

I’m very pleased to have been interviewed about Practicing Awareness in this month’s Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network Journal.

It was an interesting interview that touched on a number of subjects, some old and some new. The interview builds on the series of posts I’ve written about the topic of awareness and positioning.

Bringing worthwhile content like this to its members is yet another reason I’m a member and fan of the Network.

Snubby recommendation

I was emailed the following question. It’s a good question with an involved answer.

Which snubby do you recommend?

This was my reply:

It depends on the person, their ability, their needs, and their desire to achieve an acceptable standard of performance. The S&W 642 and Ruger LCR .38 Special have become the default purchases for people who want to carry a snub. They work for some people but not everyone.

Continue reading →

The ‘Wizard Drill’ and the J Frame

Ken Hackathorn created a very simple skill evaluation drill that he calls the ‘Wizard Drill.’ It only requires five rounds of ammo and can be shot on any range that allows work from the holster

Take an IDPA or IPSC (USPSA) target and place a 4 inch circle centered in the head of the target. You will shoot 4 strings of fire at 3, 5, 7, and 10 yards. Each string of fire has a time limit of 2.5 seconds with 2.7 allowable because of the length of the buzzer’s beep. The drill is shot from a concealed holster. If you use a pocket holster, you may start with the gun in your pocket and your hand on the gun. Otherwise, hands normal at sides, not touching the gun until the buzzer.

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Why think ahead and why practice?

Today’s news contains an article with several lessons in it for the Armed Private Citizen.

Police: Man outside Walmart shot [his gun] in self-defense

The lessons cut across an array of topics relevant to Personal Protection. Let’s use the CAN/MAY/SHOULD/MUST paradigm as a basis for the discussion.

Continue reading →

Free Books for download

via My Paladin Press books available now for free download

Caveat Emptor

Know what you’re buying. This is even more important when you can’t see it in person. When it’s an intangible, such as information, you must be especially careful.

As part of my research for The J Frame Project, I was perusing eBay last night for J Frame stocks. One of the items I came across was a ‘Hogue Tamer‘ for a very low price. It didn’t look quite right (a color I didn’t recognize Hogue ever making) so I czeched into it a bit further. I realized that someone had replaced the stock on their Polymer Bodyguard with the Tamer and then put the Bodyguard stock back in the Tamer package.

faux hogue tamer

Continue reading →

Friday Fundamentals – Ball and Dummy

What is ball and dummy?

Sometimes, we instructors take our subject matter knowledge for granted. A friend posted that she was pulling a few of her shots low and left. She’s right handed. My reply was ‘ball and dummy.’ She then asked me what that meant.

Ball and dummy means interspersing dummy (inert) ammunition among your live ammunition during a practice session. It’s a key training tool at the elite Rogers Shooting School. The dummies can be random, e.g., three or four dummies in a 15-17 round magazine. They can also be alternating; i.e., live, dummy, live, dummy, live, dummy, etc. for the entire magazine.

The purpose of ball and dummy is to watch the sights when the dummy round is clicked on to learn how smoothly, or not, you are pressing the trigger. Ball and dummy for marksmanship training is NOT the same as an Immediate Action Drill. For an IAD, you want to clear the malfunction as quickly as possible. With ball and dummy, you want to observe the sights for at least 300 milliseconds (about 1/3 of a second) after the hammer or striker falls to see what your trigger press was like and THEN clear the malfunction. A useful benchmark is to count ‘One thousand’ after the hammer/striker fall and then clear the malfunction. That’s called ‘followthrough.’

Alternating ball and dummy is both the most soul crushing and, at the same time, the most productive marksmanship drill you can do. You’ll see just exactly how smoothly you’re pressing the trigger when you do this drill. For most people, the answer is about as smoothly as Stephen Hawking, the genius theoretical physicist who has had ALS for decades.

With a revolver, for instance the iconic J frame, this exercise is extremely easy. Load a cylinder of ammo. After each shot, followthrough for one second. After you have completed your followthrough, open the cylinder, spin it, and then close it. Press the trigger smoothly until another round fires. Then open, spin, close, and repeat. Do this until you have fired all the rounds in the cylinder. Continue doing this for about four cylinders.

649 on CFP

Whether using a revolver or autoloader, you gain useful visual feedback about what a good trigger press feels like. There’s a reason we refer to ‘hand-eye coordination.’ The visual process teaches the tactile process as to what works and what doesn’t. After a while, you will become annoyed with seeing the sights nosedive and begin to press the trigger smoothly. That’s the point where you start to become a marksman.

A Day at the Range – I

As always, a good day at the range erases the ennui generated by Internet goofiness.

As I mentioned in my post about Structured Practice (Part II), many people have no plan and use no structure when they go to the range. That’s only because they’ve never been introduced to the concept of structured practice in any activity. I always have two or three objectives in mind for a range trip and I write them down to help me keep on track.

Yesterday, I had two principal themes for the trip.

  • Test the CMMG .22 Conversion Unit I bought for my AR.
  • Test the functionality of the Model 30 Improved I Frame revolver I bought. It had been abused at one time and subsequently reblued so I wasn’t 100% sure of its mechanicals.

For the CMMG unit, I had three things in mind.

Testing the Model 30 was a little simpler. My plan was to shoot the LAPD Retired Officer Qualification Course. The Course isn’t extensive but it allowed me to test the revolver’s reliability and see if it shot to the sights.

Fortunately, the CMMG shot fairly close to the rifle’s current zero. It just shot a little low, so I fixed that. The Alt-C course is a precision course shot at 25 meters. The targets are scaled from 50 meters to 300 meters.

25 m scaled target firing tables

Foxhole supported is simply a benchrest shooting position. There are benchrest positions available at my club so that’s how I shot Table 1. Even though I was using the iron sights, I was still able to shoot Sharpshooter. That made me happy because I haven’t fired a rifle in almost a year.

Alt C course

Next, I shot the MQP Tactical Rifle Pro-Marksman. My plan for that is to shoot one level each time I go to the range. Pro-Marksman has three stages; 7, 30, and 100 yards. The targets are expensive and hard to find but six inch circles are an acceptable substitute for the Program. The lid from a Cool Whip container happens to be six inches.

This was my 7 and 30 yard target. I like to mark the hits with different markers for each distance.

Pro-Marksman tac rifle

This was my 100 yard target. Any silhouette can be used for the 100 yard stage. The sun was in my eyes during the kneeling and prone shots so I was glad I hit as well as I did.

Pro-Marksman tac rifle 100 yard

I write my scores on the sheet and scan it for record and future reference.

Pro-Marksman results

Finally, I shot the LAPD course with the Model 30.

Mdl 30 LAPD Ret

Having a plan when I go to the range helps me stay on task while I’m there. It also gives me a feeling that I’ve accomplished something when I leave. Next time, I’ll probably shoot the MQP Marksman level and the .22 Home Defense Course that I based on the old FBI [Sub]Machine Gun Course.

22 HD course

NRA Personal Protection Courses

Last weekend, I traveled to Florida to take the NRA Instructor Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home Course (PPOTH). I was asked by several people why I would want this particular “Basic” Certification in light of my background and training experience. It’s simple,

I like training new shooters.

My colleague Grant Cunningham made a pertinent blog post about this shortly after I took the PPOTH Student Basic and Advanced Student Course. Experienced instructors often shy away from training the newest students. There has been a massive increase in people licensed to carry firearms over the past few years. In addition, several States have adopted Constitutional or Permitless Carry. That market base probably needs experienced trainers and coaches.

And I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. It’s unfortunate that the NRA Training Department’s best marketing statement for its Personal Protection training is contained in the PPOTH Instructor manual. “The NRA Basic Personal Protection Series is based on the building-block approach, moving from the simple to the complex.” The most effective training courses I have taken over the past two decades have used a step by step approach to skill building.

The Training Department sees the progression of the courses for new gun owners interested in learning how to defend themselves and their loved ones as follows.

  • NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting Course, the first course, develops the basic skills of handling, shooting, and cleaning the firearm, as well as a thorough grounding in firearm safety.
  • NRA Basics of Personal Protection In The Home Course, the second course, teaches:
    • the defensive or flash sight picture,
    • firing single shots and/or aimed pairs from various shooting positions
    • shooting using a center-of-mass hold,
    • effectively using cover and concealment,
    • employing point-shooting and multiple target engagement techniques.
    • techniques for improving awareness and promoting mental preparation,
    • methods of enhancing home safety without a firearm, and
    • legal aspects of the use of deadly force in self-defense.
  • NRA Basics of Personal Protection Outside The Home, the third course in the series, covers:
    • Introduction to Concealed Carry Safety and The Defensive Mindset,
    • Introduction to Self Defense and Concealed Carry,
    • Legal Aspects of Concealed Cary and Self-Defense,
    • Carry Modes and Handgun Concealment,
    • Presenting the Handgun from Concealment, and
    • Presentation, Position and Movement.
  • Another offering in the series is the NRA Defensive Pistol Course. This is a shorter course than PPOTH. It teaches:
    • How to apply the NRA Rules for Safe Gun Handling when carrying a concealed firearm,
    • basic principles of concealment,
    • drawing from a hip holster
    • levels of mental awareness,
    • developing the proper mindset when using a pistol for personal protection,
    • flash sight picture
    • reloading
    • clearing common stoppages,
    • shooting a qualification course,
    • use of pocket pistols,

In addition to the Courses themselves, the Training Department provides additional Skill Development Exercises for NRA Instructors to use with students after PPITH and PPOTH.

PPITH Skills Development

And the NRA Marksmanship Qualification Program has even more exercises that interested shooters can use to increase their skills and earn awards from the NRA.

DPI table

Looking at all the topics covered, that’s a really comprehensive training program. Those who are interested in a defensive firearm as more than a talisman to ward off evil can really get a lot out of such a “Basic” program.

There are a number of aspects of the NRA’s series that I really like. First of all, the classes are between 4 to 9 hours long. Because they’re constructed in modules, even the 9 hour classes don’t have to be conducted in a single day. Most people’s lives are quite busy and asking new shooters to take an entire weekend or even week of training is both difficult and sometimes counter-productive.

The NRA’s program is really the only one in the industry that is built around the student’s capabilities and time constraints rather than a trainer’s weekend convenience. Mea culpa; I’ve done both the traveling trainer and hosting trainer routines, so I’m as guilty of it as any of my colleagues. It’s something I want to try a different approach to.

There’s a place for both newer trainers and experienced trainers in the NRA’s Personal Protection Series. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how I can implement that.