The Editor of a publication I occasionally write for asked me to participate in a project about comparing different handguns. Being the revolver guy I am, he asked me for some input about how wheelguns fared. His concept is:
[R]each an objective: identifying a short (20-rounds) base of standards for defense handguns to (1) compare similar format guns, one to another, (2) compare formats of handguns (small, single stack or subcompact), (3) “shoot out” duty/defense ammo for replacement while evaluating personal skills, (4) yet another “cold course” of fire to identify skills areas that need attention.
This is the Course of Fire he developed.
- Basis: 3-second strings
- Lots of draws
- Few reloads (on the clock)
- Limited Vickers: use a target, feature .5 second added for 1-down; shortest time “wins.”
- 25 yards – singles from holster – 5x – 5 rounds
- 15 yards – single from holster – 1x
- single from guard – 2 x — 3 rounds
- 10 yards – Pair from holster – 1x 2 – rounds
- 7 yards – Failure from holster – 1x – 3 rounds
- 5 yards – Pair SHO from holster – 1 x – 2 rounds
- Pair WHO from guard – 1x — 2 rounds
- from holster, 1-Reload-1 – 1 x – 2 rounds
- from holster, 1 head – 1 x – 1 round
Total: 20 rounds
- Draws – 7
- From ‘ready’ (guard) – 3
- Singles – 6, one to ‘brain housing group’
- Weak Hand Only – 2, Strong Hand Only – 2
- Shots to smaller target – 2; one is transition from larger target.
- Pairs – 4
- Reload – 1 (under time)
All in a 20 round box of ammo.
It’s an interesting concept, so I shot it with four different revolvers and two autoloaders.
- Smith & Wesson Model 65 – one of my favorite wheelguns and what I shot at the 2018 Rangemaster Tactical Conference
- Smith & Wesson Model 642– perhaps the most ubiquitous revolver encountered today
- Ruger LCR – another commonly carried wheelgun
- Smith & Wesson SD9VE
- Beretta PX4 Storm Compact, modified to G configuration
- Smith & Wesson 43C – a nice little .22 snub revolver
All were shot from Appendix Inside the Waistband carry except the SD9VE. The centerfire revolvers were reloaded using a speedloader carried in a centerline carrier. The 43C was reloaded using a QuikStrip carried in the watch pocket of my jeans. I used Remington Golden Bullet bulk ammo in the 525 round box for the 43C. Despite it having a 9 pound mainspring, which I have been told will get me ‘kilt in da streetz,’ there were no Failures to Fire.
We were free to use any target we wanted, so I used the printable target from my ebook Concealed Carry Skills and Drills. Per his instructions, the scoring was Vickers Count with ½ second added per point down. I used the Circle as the -0, the paper target as -1, and the balance of an IDPA target backer as -3.
An interesting aspect of the Course is that every shot or two is scored individually. This involves a lot of walking, especially for the five shots at 25 yards but gives a lot of feedback about the efficacy of one’s shooting. In the spirit of the analysis, I marked the target at every distance change to keep track of where the bullets were hitting.
Here’s how the results came out.
It’s a demanding benchmark analysis. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the other testers.
If you would like to purchase Concealed Carry Skills and Drills, the link to the downloadable ebook is here. http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
Dot Torture is a well known practice regimen among skilled shooters. Its origins and evolution are less well known, however.
Shooting on dot targets, i.e., small filled in circles from 1.25 to 5.54 inches in diameter, as a speed shooting training and practice exercise, was originated by John Shaw, a World Champion shooter, in the early 1980s. In his book, You Can’t Miss: The Guide to Combat Pistol Shooting, he explains the training standard he established for his students. Until they could consistently hit the black bullseye (5.54 inches) of an NRA B-8 bullseye target from the holster in two seconds at seven yards, he didn’t allow them to move on to more advanced drills.
Shaw’s school, the Mid-South Institute of Self-Defense Shooting evolved the concept of dot shooting to a high level. Combined with shooting at steel targets, as originated by Bill Rogers, founder of the elite Rogers Shooting School, dot shooting became a standard component used in the practice regimens of knowledgeable shooters who aspired to a higher level of competency.
The concept of dot shooting was so effective at teaching shooters to hit the target, it quickly became part of military counter-terrorist pistol training. The US Army Special Forces developed a course called ‘Special Operations Training’ [SOT] during the 1980s to train its personnel to use the 1911 pistol at a level not seen before that time in the military.
For a long time, I’ve wanted to do a comparison of two very popular pocket pistols; the Airweight J Frame and the Ruger LCP. This #wheelgunwednesday, I made it happen. In this case, I used a S&W 642-2 for the Airweight.
The test I used for the comparison was the Nevada Concealed Firearms Permit Qualification Course. I used this as the graduation exercise in my Snub Nose Revolver Classes many times. It’s still one of my favorite CCW qualification courses. The course goes as follows:
The humanoid target, B27 or B21 or equivalent as determined by the firearm instructor shall be utilized.
For 6 shot or higher capacity:
3 yards 6 rounds No time limit Freestyle
5 yards 12 rounds No time limit Freestyle
7 yards 12 rounds No time limit Freestyle
For 5 shot or lower capacity:
3 yards 5 rounds No time limit Freestyle
5 yards 10 rounds No time limit Freestyle
7 yards 10 rounds No time limit Freestyle
A total of 30 rounds for 6 shot or larger capacity, 25 rounds for 5 shot capacity must be fired. A 70% minimum (18/25, 21/30) must be scored to pass.
Notice that as with the majority of State Qualification Courses for Private Citizens, drawing from the holster is not required. Nevada is not one of the States that forbid drawing from the holster, so I include a little holster work.
The way I did the test was to:
- Use the -1 zone of the IDPA target. Then, I fold the bottom tapered part up behind the target. This gives an area approximating the FBI QIT target, which I like.
- Shoot 25 rounds with both guns, even though the LCP would fall into the ‘6 shot of higher capacity’ category. This gives an apples to applies comparison of the two guns.
- Conduct the first Stage as five individual one shot draws.
- Do the second and third stages as two individual strings of five shots each.
- Carry the 642-2 in an AIWB holster, concealed under a polo shirt.
- Carry the LCP in a pocket holster.
- Start the draws with hand on gun.
- Start the Five shot strings with the gun at Low Ready, aimed below the base of the target.
In the end, I was able to achieve slightly better results with the 642-2 (19.87 seconds) than with the LCP (20.71 seconds). I’m not sure a 4% difference is worth writing home to Mom about, though.
Both guns were mostly stock. The front sights on both are painted with Fluorescent Orange paint. The LCP has a Hogue Hybrid Handall installed. This makes the gun much more pleasant to shoot and I highly recommend it. The 642-2 wears Sile rubber stocks, which are no longer made, unfortunately. No special trigger work has been done on either, other than a fair amount of dry practice.
In the end, either of these in your pocket will provide more personal protection than some big honking clunky autoloader that gets left home. What’s the best concealed carry handgun? The one you have on you.
The timer and the target sometimes tell interesting and unexpected tales. A long held opinion is that a longer barrel is easier to shoot, both in terms of accuracy and shot to shot recovery, than a shorter barrel. For #wheelgunwednesday, I decided to put this theory to the test. Several different revolvers of varying frame sizes, weights, and barrel lengths were used to shoot a standard drill and compare results.
Justin Dyal wrote an article for SWAT Magazine about a drill he created called Five-Yard Roundup. It was used as the semi-final test at the Rangemaster 2018 Tactical Conference. Especially in the context of snub revolvers, it’s a good test of skills that may be required for personal protection.
Zeroing any firearm is the process of understanding the relationship of Point Of Aim (where the shooter aims the firearm) [POA] to Point Of Impact (where the round actually strikes the target) [POI].
For Soldiers to achieve a high level of accuracy and precision, it is critical they zero their [sighting system] to their weapon correctly. The Soldier must first achieve a consistent grouping of a series of shots, then align the mean point of impact of that grouping to the appropriate point of aim.
–Appendix E – Zeroing, Department of the Army Training Circular 3-22.9 – Rifle and Carbine, May 2016
This is the process most shooters are familiar with regarding zero. However, zeroing a fixed sighted handgun is different than zeroing a rifle.
Bottom Line up front: With rifles, we zero the sights to the ammunition. With fixed sighted handguns, we zero (adjust) the ammunition to the sights.
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.
The famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is quoted as having said:
The journey of a thousand miles [li] begins with one step.
This is only partially correct. The journey really begins with knowing where you are in the first place. This is also true about the journey to proficiency with firearms. Especially for newer gun owners, it’s important to gain an understanding of what their current capabilities are, if they want to improve. Many people who have purchased handguns made the purchase with the intent of personal protection. In this light, a good first step in gauging proficiency is the Michigan State CCW Basic Pistol Safety Training Assessment Course of Fire. It is a simple course of fire that can easily be done at any indoor or outdoor range. It’s also extremely manageable with a J Frame revolver. The Michigan course of fire is the first evaluation in the Indoor Range Practice Sessions program. It also can serve as the basis for a more challenging evaluation.
The target consists of three 11 inch x 8½ inch letter size pieces of paper stacked vertically. The combined sheets of paper are quite close to the FBI Q target both in area (280.5 square inches v. 275 square inches, respectively) and in general shape (a target much taller than it is wide). The target is placed at 4 yards,
Four yards happens to be the boundary between Public Space and Social Space in the study of proxemics. Proxemics is a subject that is worthy of study by anyone interested in the Art of personal protection.
There is no time limit. Shooting is done with both hands. You will shoot 5 rounds in three separate sequences. Start with the handgun loaded with five rounds and aimed below the target.
- When ready, aim at the target and fire all 5 rounds.
- Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence.
- Reload with five rounds and repeat the firing sequence one more time.
- At this point, you should have fired five shots at the target three separate times.
- To successfully complete the assessment, at least 2 out of 3 of the sequences must have had five (5) hits within the 25½ inch by 11 inch outline of the three pieces of paper.
While experienced shooters will consider this course quite easy, for new owners of J Frame revolvers, it frequently is not. This course can also be used as a measure of the effectiveness of Indexed Shooting (shooting without using the sights) by taping up the sights of the gun, in this case a Model 36 S&W snub nose revolver.
To use this method, bring the gun into the eye-target line and then place the outline of the cylinder or slide on the target. The great NYPD gunfighter Jimmy Cirillo taught this technique to NYPD Officers as a way of effectively using their revolvers at close range in situation where the sights could not be seen. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘metal on meat.’
If the group shot in the first three sequences meets the requirement, then try reshooting the exercise with only one piece of paper. Taking the tape off and using the sights may yield better results.
While this course of fire is simple, many newer gun owners may find it challenging. As can be seen in the pictures, the target is smaller than the silhouette target that many Private Citizens and POlice Officers are accustomed to shooting at. It also has the requirement of a 100% standard for the sequences. The 100% standard is the start of having a mindset of being accountable for every round.
What do you teach the students in your classes, Claude?
That question was posed to me recently by an older gentleman at my gun club.
I teach them how to handle guns safely and how to hit the target, Ray.
He looked at me quizzically when I said that. He’s a competent shooter who can hit a six inch plate at 50 yards with a handgun. I could tell he didn’t understand so I told him a story.
I received a call a while ago from a range I used to teach at, which has subsequently burned down. The call was from the guy working the counter where they sign people into the range. “Can you come down right now and give a lady with a snub nose revolver a lesson right now? She will pay you and she’s willing to wait for you to get here.” It was 20 minutes away so I grabbed my gear and went.
The lady had a very nice 2 inch Model 15 Combat Masterpiece. She had purchased it at a gun shop when her husband died. This was her second visit to the range to ‘practice.’
In the firearms training industry, butthurt is a common condition. There’s quite a bit of it going around right now. The current crop of butthurt, as usual, revolves around equipment, technique, class organization, and philosophy.
Yesterday, I was able to take Training Day 2 of the Rangemaster Advanced Combative Pistol course. Both Mindset and physical skills are part of the course. This is the third training class I’ve taken in the past two months, in addition to attending the Rangemaster 2017 Tactical Conference. The others were Law of Self Defense and NRA Personal Protection Outside The Home.
One of the things I get the most out of when I attend training classes is the side discussions I have with my colleagues teaching their classes. We’re all willful individuals with strong opinions based on our own experiences. More often than not now, I listen to the other trainer’s opinion without expressing much of my own. This allows me to think about not only how we might differ but also how we might agree.
Upon returning home last night, I reflected about common standards within the firearms training industry. Even those trainers who say they don’t espouse Standards actually do, without realizing it. Standards aren’t necessarily numbers on a piece of paper, they can also be messages that we send to our clients. Sometimes, those messages are even more important than the numbers. One of my Father’s maxims to me when I was a boy was:
Try to get along with everyone, Son, but don’t let anyone hurt you.
That’s a very concise Standard in the form of a message. I’ve followed it ever since.
So, what Standards, in the form of messages, do almost all firearms trainers have in common? The following list occurred to me. There are probably even more. It applies from the most newly Certified NRA Pistol Instructor to those of us who have been teaching for decades.
- Think ahead
- Acknowledge your own value
- Know what you’re doing
- Be a Success
- Avoid Negative Outcomes
- Criminal events start with the intended victim behind the power curve
- Stress inoculation
1) Implicit in the very concept of training is the goal to think ahead. Whether we’re talking about the physical skill of operating a firearm or tactics to avoid becoming a casualty, we want you to think ahead. Trying to learn a skill or tactic in the moment can be a very disconcerting experience. Having operable equipment is also part of thinking ahead. I have twice encountered situations where ladies owned a gun, in one case for years, without having any ammunition. That’s not what I would call thinking ahead.
2) “I could never shoot someone to protect myself.” Every trainer has heard that at some point in their career. The person saying it has not yet “Proclaimed their own Magnificence” as John Farnam puts it. Contrary to the current Politically Correct thinking, everyone does NOT have the same value to society. A Violent Criminal Actor who would callously murder a six year old child strapped in a car seat has no redeeming value to society and never will, period. Nor does someone who would rape two young girls and murder them by burning them alive, after having raped and murdered their mother and beaten their father to a pulp with a baseball bat.
The many many many good people of our society should have no compunction whatsoever about protecting themselves by shooting loathsome criminals of such ilk. We as trainers want our clients to understand that they have a lot of value as human beings and deserve to continue living their lives without being victims of such vicious attacks. Someone once told me I give my clients ‘permission to be rude.’ That’s true of the entire industry.
3) Although we may interpret it in different ways, we all want you to know what you’re doing. Firearms are complex mechanical devices. Some aspects of their operation are either not instinctively obvious or are even designed in a way that requires an explanation or procedure to operate safely. For instance, all firearms are designed so that you can instinctively place your finger on the trigger. Consequently, that’s what people do if they are not trained otherwise.
4) We want you to Succeed. Although our methods may differ radically, I cannot think of a single trainer in the industry who sets out to make sure their students fail. Success breeds confidence. Confidence leads to Proclaiming Your Magnificence. We’re all trying to move our students in that direction.
5) Avoiding Negative Outcomes is a goal of all training. Although I may have coined that particular phrase, it has been the goal of the training industry from the beginning. Trainers don’t want you to shoot yourself, your family members, people around you, and we don’t want you to have to interact with the legal system because you made a mistake. Knowing what you’re doing and knowing the rules goes a very long way to avoiding Negative Outcomes.
And Negative Outcomes don’t just occur in the moment either. Survivor’s guilt can be a terrible thing.
6) Unless you’re an Assassin, all criminal events start with the protagonist behind the power curve. Whether it’s beginning from ‘the Startle Response,’ being on the bottom of ‘Initiative Deficit,’ or simply using a timer or whistle, we want you to understand you’re not going to be the one who starts the action. The criminal is going to do that.
To paraphrase Tom Givens ‘You don’t get to choose when you’re going to have to defend yourself, the criminal does. And they are only going to notify you at the last possible moment.’ A fallacy that many firearms owners fall into is thinking that the sequence of a violent criminal attack is going to parallel the order of shooting at a range where the shooter decides when to pick up the gun and shoot. That’s the opposite of the way it really works.
7) Being victimized may well be the most stressful event of a person’s life. The first time we encounter a stressful situation is always the hardest. Trainers are all trying to provide you with a low level stress vaccine so that you can more easily cope with a real situation if it ever occurs. That’s not to say dealing with it is going to be easy, but it will probably be easier the second time. That’s the best we can do.
We trainers all have Standards, too. They may just look a little different from behind the firing line.
“If you don’t know where you’re starting from and you don’t know where you’re going then any route will get you there, but that doesn’t mean you’ll end up in the place you want to be.”
–The Tactical Professor
John Johnston and I discuss standards on his latest Ballistic Radio show and podcast.
- what a standard is
- the different kinds of standards we have in:
- gun handling and,
- performance with firearms
- the difference between training and education
- the importance of the firearms community and its educational efforts
- the difference between Personal Protection and Self Defense
- where to start in your own progression of standards.